Fat Shamed to Death

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I write an advice column for a website dedicated to sexual health and pleasure for women of color. I recently received a letter that really struck a chord from a self-described “overweight, Black woman in her late 30s”. She admitted being aware of the dangers of unprotected sex, but kept finding herself in situations where her male partners refused to use condoms. Because of her age and size, she believed her dating options to be severely limited and so she felt pressured to oblige these men, worried they might be her only chance for love and intimacy. In other words, she felt that “beggars can’t be choosers.”

I’ll admit that my first reaction was shock. It’s the 21st century, AIDS is over 30 years old here in the U.S. and we’re still talking to grown folks about using condoms?

According to the Center for Disease Control, in the United States, African Americans are the demographic most affected by HIV. And in 2010, among African American women, most new cases of HIV (87%) resulted from heterosexual contact! Why any Black woman in this day and age would have unprotected sex is beyond me.

That was my first reaction. Then, I really thought about where this sister was coming from. Being a single, full-figured diva myself, I understand the struggle. It’s real in these dating streets. We live in a world where a size 2 has a better chance of getting a date on a Friday night than a size 22. Men are visual creatures, and no matter how great your personality is, they all want a certain “type”.

Even though studies show that Black women tend to be more accepting of our bodies than our white counterparts, “Fat Shaming” still affects us. We see the snickers of derision we get at restaurants. We hear the whispers as we walk past strangers on the street. We know all the fat jokes and have probably told a few ourselves. And it hurts. So I get it. I feel my sister’s pain.

Still, I’d rather spend the rest of my Friday nights alone than spend 10 seconds with an idiot who’s too dumb to protect himself, and too disrespectful to protect me! I am far too precious for that! The average female orgasm only lasts between 10 and 30 seconds. That short-lived burst of pleasure is not worth my life.

However, the crux of this sister’s problem is her low self-esteem. She thinks so little of herself that she’d actually risk her life for a few moments of intimacy. She truly believes that because of her size, she doesn’t deserve the same respect and consideration as someone thinner. She’s been “Fat Shamed” into risky behavior, and that is sad.

I reminded her that there are lots of men out there who prefer a woman with “meat on her bones.” And I’m not just talking about those “chubby chaser” guys who only get off on fat girls. Not that I’m hating on the “chubby chasers”, though. After all, there’s someone out there for everyone, and I’m not one to judge!

I’m talking about real men who find curves comforting and a soft compliment to their male hardness. I’m talking about men who love to grab ahold of every wiggly, jiggly inch of a woman and take her for the ride of her life! Yes, my full-figured friends, these guys are out there. You may just have to look a little harder to find them.

But my most important message to her and all my Big Girls is this: no one will love you unless you love yourself. Yes, there are some “Shallow Hal’s” out there who will reject you at first glance. But most people are attracted to confidence. Wearing confidence and self-love is better than make-up, designer clothes, or a new hairstyle … it’s even better than Spanx. Heck, I can’t think of too many things better than Spanx! When you go out there fully armored with self-love and confidence, you’ll attract the guy you’re supposed to have.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t work to improve ourselves. We know what we need to do to lose weight. We know we need to move more and eat less. We’re well aware that we must make healthier lifestyle choices. The healthier we are, the better we feel. And the better we feel, the more confidence we have. Confident, healthy women are beautiful, plain and simple.

So, keep working on yourself. Do what you need to do to feel better about yourself. But don’t let a weight-loss goal or a dress size determine your self-worth. Remember, we’re all works in progress.

In the meantime, embrace your curves, Big Girls! Think of yourself as Full-Bodied like a fine wine! And if you value yourself as the beautiful work of art you are, then it will be easy for you to walk away from those fools who don’t think enough about themselves or you to use protection.

You have every right to be choosy about who has access to all of your fabulousness. Big Girls aren’t “beggars.” We’re full-bodied temples deserving of love and protection, just like anyone else. So don’t allow yourself to be “Fat Shamed” to death. Love and respect yourself enough to demand love and respect in return. You deserve it.

Janice Fuller-Roberts is a freelance writer, novelist and essayist living in the Detroit area. You can read more from her in “Ask Janice”, her advice column at www.SuzyKnew.com. SuzyKnew is a site dedicated to health and pleasure for women of color, with a focus on women from the African diaspora.

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