If you’re like me, you grew up with a very limited view of what sexiness is, of what sexiness looks like. I always found it perplexing that what was considered sexy was so narrowly defined. As a young girl, the women that surrounded me did not look like the so-called ideal and yet they were all partnered up. Obviously, they were having sex too! Yet everything I learned from television and fashion magazines told me this could not be so. More than 30 years later I am still searching for positive images of sexy fat women in the mainstream, which has happily led me to FAT SEX.
Author Rebecca Jane Weinstein’s book FAT SEX affirms what I have known intuitively all along — women of all sizes and shapes are sexy, passionate, desirable creatures with romantic and sexual lives. A seasoned lawyer and social worker, Weinstein recently took some time to talk with me about her inspirations for her revolutionary book, FAT SEX.
Jennifer Jonassen (JJ): Tell us about FAT SEX. Where did the inspiration come from?
Rebecca Jane Weinstein (RJW): FAT SEX is a book in which large-size women and men tell their true stories of social and self-acceptance in romantic and sexual relationships. Though they sometime face bigotry and experience shame, they are often heroic and live remarkably fulfilling lives. The stories are compelling and told with sensitivity and humor, connecting people on profoundly important aspects of their lives.
If there are two subjects that are universally fascinating and rife with controversy, they are sex and fat. Though our culture is obsessed with both, the notion of the two comingling is sometimes seen as offensive, obscene, or grotesque. There is an undertone in our society that fat people are not sexual beings, or shouldn’t be. This is, of course, far from the truth: fat people have normal and peculiar sex lives, just like everyone else. FAT SEX is a compilation of true stories, cultural references, and narrative commentary.
The inspiration for FAT SEX has come from several places. I have been fat, off and on, since I was four and my parents got a divorce. A pediatrician put me on my first diet in first grade and my teacher told the entire class I was not allowed to eat birthday cake. In Girl Scout Camp my bunk-mates would chant “here comes the tub” when I would walk by. I did many things to not be fat. Many of them dangerous, and none of them stuck. Though there were periods of not-so-fat, like after two summers of fat camp and later a lot of uppers — in the end I got progressively fatter. In law school one supposedly kind and caring professor told me I would never get a job because of my body. Every aspect of my life, since before I can remember, was punctuated with what was apparently the most important aspect of my being: My fat body. Especially love.
If my own life experience wasn’t enough, when I started working on http://www.peopleofsize.com/ I saw the pain and that I was not alone. And it was not actually about body size, it was about shame. Fat people can’t hide their bodies in the closet, but their shame is tucked neatly away. Fat people are mere mortals, and they need a voice. I am just one person trying to give that voice to those whose shame keeps them from speaking. It is me, my computer, and the wonderful people who tell me their stories, which I try to tell with compassion, empathy, honesty, and enough humor so we all don’t jump off a bridge.
JJ: How many stories are featured in the book?
RJW: There are about twenty stories in the book, but they interweave and represent so many more stories and people. They represent all fat people in some way or another. And not just fat people, other people who have body issues and food issues, or just live in this society and are conflicted about all the mixed messages that drive us insane.
Each chapter will delve into a different topic related to romance, relationships, and sexual practices. Subjects will include heterosexuals, gay men and lesbian women, those who have gained and lost a great deal of weight, the sexual “underground” such as cybersex and pornography, also alternative perspectives such as “fat admirers” and “chubby chasers.” Experiences, thoughts, and feeling about being a fat person in a sexual culture, sexual situations, and intimate relationships will be explored, explained, and validated. Through shared understanding people find the best in themselves and others.
JJ: Why is this book so important?
RJW: Research shows that weight discrimination is currently more prevalent than race and gender discrimination (Yale). According to the Council on Size and Weight Discrimination people who are larger than average encounter discriminatory attitudes and are denied equal opportunity in many areas of their lives, including prospective employers refusing to hire large size people; physicians and other health-care professionals advising fat patients to lose weight no matter what their medical condition; large people being systematically denied health insurance and life insurance; and landlords, housing agencies, and real estate agents denying larger people apartments.
But for my purposes, this book is about the human element: The day-to-day crap that large people go through; the insecurities they feel simply because of the size of their bodies; the personal rejection and loneliness; and the misguided notion that no one will love a fat person. The fact is, fat people can be and are loved. They can and do have great romances and sex. We are so brainwashed to believe we are undesirable that it often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. These stories tell not just fat people, but the world at large, that fat people humans, and extraordinary humans at that. That is very, very important.
JJ: Tell us a little bit about your site PeopleOfSize.com.
RJW: PeopleOfSize.com is an online community that provides information, support, and interaction for “people of size” of all ages. We are not a diet site, though health and fitness are part of what we address. We focus on all aspects of life, from medical [issues] to fashion, relationships to daily living, entertainment to emotional well-being.
We provide comprehensive information and access from many perspectives and offer a forum for discussion and social interaction. All subjects include a social networking function. People of size can communicate about their favorite plus/large size fashions, size-friendly vacation spots, health questions and concerns, job, family, and relationships, political and social issues, and everything in between.
The PeopleOfSize.com e-community is a welcoming place for all people of size, recognizing everyone should have the opportunity to live life to the fullest, learn and grow, be healthy and happy. We are a community with no judgment, just opportunity. Of course, PeopleOfSize.com is totally free. We also have a very active community on Facebook.
JJ: What would you tell a young person who is struggling with body image?
RJW: I would tell a young person not to do what I did. Don’t confuse your body size with your self-worth. Don’t let people mislead you into thinking you will be alone and unloved because of your size or shape. That’s easier said than done, but it’s the best advice I’ve got.
Then do seek out size acceptance groups. Look into Health At Every Size. Understand there is a big difference between health and weight, no matter what else you hear. Stand up for yourself. Be a proud person, not because of your weight or despite it, because of your inner-strength. There are a million slogans I could yammer, pep talks I could give, platitudes and clichés I could proclaim. The truth is young people are saturated with negative body image messages constantly. Know you are not alone. You are not alone! There are young people and old people and people in between that struggle too, and we need to support each other because things do change. We change. Our attitudes about ourselves and the world change all the time. I have changed a lot and I am still changing, and I am pretty old, though these days I feel like I am living some of the youth I missed.
JJ: What has the funding process been like and how have editors responded to the material?
RJW: I attempted to sell this book the traditional way. First I sought out an agent, which I understand can be a grueling process, but I found a great agent in about 24 hours. I thought I had it made. We were both anticipating a bidding war from publishers. My agent has been in the business a long time so that wasn’t just my fantasy. But it didn’t work out that way. I have been turned down by every major publisher in the country. We believe, from what we have been told that the material is too cutting edge, and right now mainstream publishing is all about celebrities and dieting. I am not a celebrity and this book is certainly not about dieting. The publishers and their editors are afraid there is no market — that not enough people will by the book. For them, of course, it’s about the bottom line.
This is a bit ironic, because the public interest in this book (and not just from fat people) seems to be great. My agent and I decided the best strategy would be to self-publish on Amazon and hope to get picked up from there. It’s a reasonable strategy but there is no advance or publishing and distribution support, so I am on my own. I started a Kickstarter.com campaign for FAT SEX. I am trying to raise $5,000 by January 14th. The money is trickling in slowly as this is a difficult economy and time of year. However, the number of “likes” for my projects is relatively astronomical. I have more Facebook “likes” on my Kickstarter.com page than most of the tech projects that have raised hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars. I still have 28 days to raise money, so we will see. I don’t think there is any question there is a market for the book. When more people “like” your page than the one for the iPad mini keyboard, it says something. Still, raising that money would really help.
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