Writing Fat Characters In Erotica: Why It Matters To Me

As a heads up, this post contains brief descriptions of sex and detailed descriptions of the ways fat oppression intersects with sexuality.

As an adolescent, most of my peers thought I could not possibly be a viable sexual object, because I was fat. They made it clear that no one would ever want to date me, to fuck me, to touch me. Inherent in my teenage sexual experiences was the feeling of having something to prove. Proving that someone could find me desireable, that I could be a viable sexual object. A jut in my chin proclaimed my defiance as I knelt on bathroom floors in clubs for strangers who did desire me, who wanted my mouth on their cocks.

I could not imagine my own desire. The best I could imagine was that I could maybe, if I was lucky, and packaged myself just right, be desired.

Until I found fat activism. Particularly, until I found the zine FaT GiRL. This zine with the tagline for fat dykes and the women who want them was full of images and stories about fat dykes and their own desire. It was erotic content about claiming sexuality and desire for ourselves, as fat queers, and it was a fundamental force in my process of claiming my own desire as a fat person, of imagining myself as a queer fat sexual subject.

The work of the FaT GiRL Collective taught me how critically important it can be to integrate sexuality into fat activism, and how vital and radical erotic content can be, when it is created by marginalized people for ourselves. That understanding has shaped me for most of my adult life, and is central to my practice of writing erotica and erotic romance.

While FaT GiRL helped me see myself as a sexual subject, not just someone who could be desired but who had a desire of my own, it was Zaftig that helped me to take myself seriously as an erotica writer. I first read Zaftig when I was beginning to write erotica, grabbed it in the store like it was a miracle, right when it first came out. Just the fact of it, that there could be erotica that centered fat people that was not fetishizing, that it could be published, made things seem possible. Made it feel like I could write about fat queers like myself and the folks in my communities, and this genre would be big enough to hold me.

And it has been. For the last fifteen years I’ve been writing BDSM erotica that centers fat queers, and getting it published. I’m proud to say that the best of these stories are now collected in the same volume, instead of scattered far and wide in separate anthologies. So now, you can read a whole book of my fat queer kink erotica.

It’s titled Show Yourself To Me, because the stories are all about that, the vulnerability of being yourself, the glorious feeling of being witnessed and celebrated in BDSM play, the intensity of being met in your desire, because you had the guts to put it out there. They are all about openly being a sexual subject, someone who knows your own desire and is brave enough to seek it, even when it’s scary to reach out that way. (Read a sample story here.)

It started with FaT GiRL, for me. With learning that I didn’t have to fight to be seen and valued, sexually, because other people’s desire didn’t have to be at the center. That as a fat queer person, my own desire was possible, and hot, and that there was a fat activist community that would celebrate it. It started with claiming my own desires, knowing that I could. Realizing that naming what I wanted, seeking it, choosing it for myself, was a core part of my own liberation.

My stories come from that place. And from the kind of sex you can have from that place, the ways it can reach inside you and shake you up and make you feel solid and real and witness you in your power. That is what I work to put on the page, over and over. Fat queers who claim their desires. Who are not mired in the shame that fat oppression attempts to force on us every day. Who know what it’s like to be held and witnessed and met in their desires. Who often fuck and love and play with other fat queers.

These days I’m working on an erotic novel, Shocking Violet, a polyamorous BDSM erotic romance centering disabled fat activist queers, attempting to tell a story that shows us going about our lives, seeking our desires, doing our activism, risking connection with each other. I’m excited to be writing a longer form, to be showing fat people and our desires in the details of our lives. I can’t wait to share it with people. (In fact, you can find excerpts here.) I am particularly excited to center queer fat activists in this novel, to situate them in community, to offer that kind of story to fat readers, a story that more closely mirrors my own, that I’ve never seen outside the pages of FaT GiRL.

Fat representation is pretty rare in erotica and romance. We are mostly just not there. (That’s particularly true for fat cis men, who are often completely missing outside of gay bear stories. And even more true for fat trans and genderqueer folks.) When fat folks are present, it‘s not a story about characters who are politicized around fat oppression, or doing fat activism, or part of fat community. It is not about characters who have years of experience unpacking their internalized fat oppression and seeking their desires.

Instead, if the story is not fetishizing our fatness, it often feels deeply mired in internalized fat oppression. It reminds me of my teenage self, jutting out my chin and insisting that I could be desired, even though I was fat. Fat cis women characters (because representation of fat folks of other genders is extremely rare) learn to accept themselves and stop dieting from a lover who is hot for them (and often not fat). These characters struggle to see themselves as desirable. They are only hot because they fit a certain kind of fat beauty standard. They spend most (or all) of the book trying to figure out how not to be fat (and sometimes succeed in becoming thin, or thinner). They rush to cover up their bodies immediately after they have sex, or push to do it only when the lights are off. In short, the best we can often hope for is that a fat cis woman character will let go of enough of her body shame to believe that someone desires her. These books and stories cannot imagine the sexual subjectivity of fat characters, the most that they can do is imagine that someone could desire them, that they are in fact viable objects of desire. We can do better than this, as a genre.

I assure you, fighting to be perceived as a viable sexual object is a losing battle from the start. Because even if you get there, your sexuality is about someone else, not you. I want us to imagine a more liberatory outcome than this, a hotter, more electric, more intense and beautiful sex life for our fat characters than this. I have been there, have had the kind of sex that comes from being focused on being desirable, and the kind of sex that comes from being met in mutual desire. They are worlds apart, in the slow burn or quick flash of them, inside the flame of them, and in the shaking sweaty glow afterwards.

I care about writing erotica and erotic romance that centers the desires of fat queers because I want to illuminate the possibilities of that kind of sex for fat readers, hold that out in all of its shining sweet succulent promise and say: you can have this too, your desire matters.

I care about situating fat queer characters in the context of queer fat activist community because sexual experiences work differently in a context where we know and celebrate our own hotness and beauty and strength as a community.

I care about writing erotica depicting fat queers claiming their desires because it helps me be more solid in claiming my own.

I care about writing a diversity of fat characters having sex and seeking their desires because we do not need to be a certain kind of fat person in order to be hot and sexual and go after what we want, and it’s really hard to know that when this genre often only makes space for a certain kind of fat body. I especially care about writing stories that center superfat folks and fat disabled folks, because it is incredibly rare to see folks like that represented in this genre at all, and that needs to change.

I care about centering fat characters in my erotica because it is so damn hard to imagine fat sexual subjectivity in the face of fat oppression.

I care about centering the desires of fat characters in my erotica because reading erotica like that changed how I saw myself and my sexual future as a fat person in amazing ways.

30 thoughts on “Writing Fat Characters In Erotica: Why It Matters To Me

  1. i’m quoting this; aspects of your post feel applicable to erotic subjectivity from disabled folks’ point of view, and i’d say to other social identities too that get body-negating messages. thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Seeley,

      I’m glad you find it useful. I agree, there are pieces that resonate for me around disability too. I’ve got a whole post that I plan to write about my sense of how that aspect of it applies to trans folks & how I work to center trans sexual subjectivity in my stories.


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