I Clearly Have Spent Too Much Time Looking at Porn

If there’s one thing the internet will teach you, it’s that, if you have specific enough search terms, you can find just about any type of body doing anything you can think of to any other type of body.

Shoot, I spend most nights perusing sights that specialize in BSDM comics where a cute liberal girl pegs “unwilling” libertarian boys while those boys are wearing only kilts and have honey (or perhaps sweetened rosewater) smeared all over their manly chests. And I have about eight thousand of those sites to choose from.

And so, I feel compelled to ask, is “being thought of as desirable” different than “being desired”?

I think it must be and yet, how fucked up that being desired doesn’t always do much to assure us women that we are thought of and should think of ourselves as being desirable.

Via Kactus this morning, I learned about this site, adipositivity, which has, as its mission, “Trying to change attitudes about the aesthetic validity of big women, one fat fanny at a time.”

I’ve also been checking out Bessie Lee Mauldin (see here and here) because it just drives me crazy with delight to think of her, that dumpy blonde, as someone’s lover.  I mean, shoot, look at her and know that’s what a lover looks like.  It makes me want to take up a clandestine romance right now, just so that folks can gossip about me being someone’s lover.

Promise me, folks, if you’re going to gossip about me, you will say, “Oh, you know, Aunt B. is his/her lover.”

Ha, I got all sidetracked by Bessie Lee.  Um.  Where was I?

Yes, okay, the aesthetic validity of big women.  I want to call that “being thought of, even by yourself, as desirable.”  You look in the mirror and you’re like, “Oh, yeah, look at this curve, that soft spot, these tits, that ass.  Who would not want that?”

Does seeing pictures of women looking desirable help that?  I kind of feel like it does, but I don’t know.

But then does seeing pictures of fat women being fucked help that?  I don’t know.

Here’s the thing.  It’s not as if there aren’t pictures of fat women being desirable or having that desire consummated out there.

What we want, I think, is more complicated than that and it’s not something you can see in “aesthetic” pictures, though you can see it in porn; we want assurance that the gaze that falls on us will desire us.  For straight women, then, it’s not how we look that’s the whole issue; it’s whether what we look like elicits from the people we desire desire in return.

If a photo shows the face of the person who potentially wants to fuck us (us being the women who identify with the women in the pictures), it’s clear whether he is motivated by our or his own humiliation or by real desire  Once we’ve been assured that the woman looks attractive, I think it’s easier to settle down and enjoy what we’re seeing, two.  But if the women are being humiliated, it’s nearly impossible.

But in these photos?  Who knows?

And, as Twisty often says, do we want to even be in that type of contest, let alone trying to win it?


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16 thoughts on “I Clearly Have Spent Too Much Time Looking at Porn

  1. My thing about adipositivity dot com is that there are no faces.

    It’s objectification, and I’m not sure I’m all eager to be like “oh, please objectify me, too!”

    I’m good in bed. I’m someone’s lover. I do wish that my mad lover skillz weren’t such a well-kept secret sometimes…that random men would look at me and think “yeah, I’d like to do her”

    And I don’t know why I wish that. I guess for the same reason some people wish they were wealthy or ran countries–the power of it all is heady.

    I wish that I didn’t sometimes feel ashamed to be sexual just because society tells me I shouldn’t be.

    But at the same time I wish more of the fat girl body-positive sites showed the WHOLE person–not just some random breast or belly curve or thigh.

  2. But here’s the thing. How do you know they don’t want you? I mean, we’re not twenty any more. The time of our peers shouting about how much they’d like to fuck us is past.

    But you look like Clara Bow. I’m sure men pass you in the street and think “yeah, I’d like to do her.”

    But I take your point. And I, too, am creeped out by the lack of faces, because I’ve got to tell you, I’d rather have 100 naked pictures of my body taken than one picture of my face. I’d be much more comfortable with that.

  3. Ugh. Meaning that I assume other fat women have the same issue and I don’t think, if we want to talk about “empowering” us, that indulging our resistance to recognizing ourselves in our own art is really helping.

    I mean, shoot, I have posted pictures of my naked boobs here and I can’t think of one picture of my face I’ve ever liked enough to post. Not even Chris Wage has shown me my own face in a way that doesn’t make me want to die of shame for inflicting it on the world.

  4. I can’t think of one picture of my face I’ve ever liked enough to post.

    Not even that hooker one from last week? That was pretty rockin’.

    Not even Chris Wage has shown me my own face in a way that doesn’t make me want to die of shame for inflicting it on the world.

    Which kind of sucks because you have those luminous blue eyes and that infectious smile.

    How do you know they don’t want you?

    I don’t. I’m going under the societally-programmed presumption that No Man Wants To Have Sex With A Fat Girl.

    That’s why I’m at conflict with myself over Fat Body Positivity. Because I want us Fat Girls to be body postive and sex positive, but it seems like most of our mainstreamed attempts at that focus on a breast or thigh or a labia. It reminds me of that whole joke-y “you don’t look at the mantle when you’re stoking the fire” and it bugs me. It’s like we don’t want to involve our eyes and our smiles–the keys to our PERSONhood–in our body positivity. I think that’s why we all (or most of us) seem to hate the pictures of our faces. We can be dispassionate about hips and toes but when we see our own eyes looking back out of these bodies They keep telling us are unsexy it breaks our hearts.

    It’s like it’s gonna take us another 50 years to get comfortable with the idea of fat sexy bodies before we comfortable with the idea of fat sexy women.

  5. I’ve always been under the impression (maybe a very wrong one) that guys who look at me on the street and think they’d like to have sex with me have no clue about my skillz or lack thereof, and they don’t think they do. They think that my body will give them pleasure; i.e. it will be suitable for their skillz, or maybe enhance them. But it is my confirmed belief that guys start fantasizing about “how a woman is in bed” (i.e. think of sex with me as reciprocal in even the most basic way) only after conversation has taken place.

    Of course, this may have a great deal to do with the fact that I’ve been known to stumble a lot while walking down the street, which doesn’t give the impression of a high level of any physical skill.

  6. At least you can blame Akismet. Whereas I forgot to turn off the italics in my comment all by myself. Sheesh. The italicized word was s’posed to be ‘and’. Nothing more than that.

  7. That’s why I’m at conflict with myself over Fat Body Positivity. Because I want us Fat Girls to be body postive and sex positive, but it seems like most of our mainstreamed attempts at that focus on a breast or thigh or a labia. It reminds me of that whole joke-y “you don’t look at the mantle when you’re stoking the fire” and it bugs me.

    I think there’s an element of, mmmm…. I can’t think of the word I’m looking for here. “Look! We have all these things that the people you think are pretty have too!” It’s not saying “so we don’t look like those women – we’re sexy too,” it’s saying “we have all the things you find sexy about those women, so we should be sexy too.”

    Which, on the one hand, is a pretty pragmatic suggestion, and one that makes a certain amount of sense. I love curvy women, and *ahem* I find the usual bits to be pretty damn awesome. So to the extent that I (or your target audience) like(s) breasts, butts, curves, etc. in general, well, it’s a pretty decent tactic.

    On the other hand, it seems pretty backwards. Like all those iPod clones out there trying so hard to sell you on feature sets that have already been done and are already well-put-together. (I know this is a clumsy analogy. I don’t mean to imply that bigger women aren’t well put together… or even that most iPod clones aren’t well put together. I mean to point out that they’re selling themselves by how much they’re like [something different], rather than how cool they are on their own.) The bits that aren’t boobs or butts or thighs are beautiful too,* and it would be nice if body positivity (or size acceptance, or whatever you want to call it) would address that too.

    * Which, of course, goes for everyone. A nice rack will make me look, but a nice face will make me swoon. And so on and so forth.

  8. Substantia addressed the question of why her pictures focus on specific body parts. First, because that is her asthetic style:

    For as long as I can remember, when looking through art books, I’d focus on the “detail plate,” where an editor extracts a single element from a painting and enlarges it as an inset on the opposite page. The needlework in a queen’s bodice. The way the light hits a milkmaid’s hand. The hammered pattern in a conquistador’s sword handle. I’d find myself staring at the smaller image far longer than that of the full painting. In galleries and museums, I’ve often wished a single panel of a triptych could be viewed separately. Even when I make portraits, the subject’s cheek or forehead is usually spilling off the edge. The most personally successful painting I’ve ever done was of half of a man’s face. The composition of a head-to-toe image generally does not please my eye, and if forced to create one, I feel limited. And pissy.

    The other reason, and the one I relate to the most, is that

    If one sees the aesthetic appeal of a subject, he or she cannot then say, “This 300-pound woman is lovely, but this is not the 300-pound store clerk we make jokes about.” Without physical identifiers such as a face, it could be the clerk. Or their beloved auntie. Or the next fat woman to apply for a job at their workplace.

    The aim is not to make the observer better accept the women in the images here, but to better accept all fat women. Especially the ones with whom they have daily dealings.

    I was drawn to these photos precisely because, absent faces, I could be looking at myself. I can relate to those bodies because they are mine. Somebody felt strongly enough that my body is beautiful that they were compelled to take a photograph of it and preserve it.

    The lack of faces doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t want to get distracted by the old history of, “but you have such a pretty face!” followed by the usually unsaid, “too bad about your body.”

  9. That is a good point, kactus. I guess we get into one of those “what are we doing, and who are we doing it for?” things. The logic you quote makes perfect sense for the audiences you laid out. Mine was aimed more at people like me, and perhaps people who focus more on the ‘caring about this specific fat person (who is probably standing next to you right now and has a face above those tits)’ bits than the ‘caring about fat people in general (whom you might not have even noticed, but for those tits)’ bits.

    I like it. I have an absurd desire to run about yelling something about “to the both/andmobile, robin!” Perhaps I’ve been reading too many comic blogs.

  10. Don’t get me wrong, Kactus, I can indeed see where you’re coming from. And I think Substantia is right on in her strategy and why she’s doing what she’s doing. I don’t mean to take away from that.

    I guess I want to be in the both/andmobile with Mag. I want her to do what she’s doing AND I want to love my face attached to my body and really understand why others love it. I mean, me.

    I don’t know how that would work.

    Also, I love the way you talk about your thighs in your post.

  11. “…we want assurance that the gaze that falls on us will desire us.”

    What this made me think of for one thing is my experience with the difference between having that gaze versus being the one the gaze falls on. I don’t know if this will illustrate what’s in my mind around it but maybe:

    When I used to do BDSM sessions for a living, it had two – sometimes simultaneous! – effects for me around the desirability issue. One, I felt way more confident about how I looked naked than I ever had before, partly because of clients saying things like “you’re beautiful” and partly because for some reason, the money exchange imprinted on my mind in such a way as to mean “he must think I am hot, if he is willing to part with money in order to see me naked, so I do not need to worry about what this particular dude will think in that moment when I first disrobe.”

    Two, the acquisition of that kind of attention/validation/desire from others was really a bottomless well that could never be filled, for me. Any time business was slow, or if I heard about someone else who was doing exactly the kind of thing I was doing (it was a tiny niche for a while) and getting more business or something, I would instantly go to, “sweet Jesus I’m old and ugly and it’s over!!!” And that first feeling, that feeling of not worrying what someone will think of me when I’m naked, and even of feeling turned on by *being seen* because of how good it felt to feel desired – it was such a fucking high, and so nice compared to a lifetime of fear that I was somehow physically disgusting. And, as compelling as that feeling was, at the point when I felt the most successful in that business, and the most “desirable” to the most amount of people, it was anticlimactic. Sort of a bored shrug more than a Julie-Andrews-turning-circles-in-pure-joy-atop-a-pretty-mountain-in-Sound-of-Music thing.

    Then, there was this other thing. I had this one client who was super young and who looked like a male model, just knee-knockingly handsome in the face and an exquisite body, to my eyes. And at first I felt like, oh fuck, I cannot see this guy, I cannot be sexual and especially not ever be fully naked around him, because he is way better looking than I am and I feel self conscious and this feels horrible. Then this thought popped into my head, about what it must be like to be, for example, Donald Trump. Not physically beautiful to my eyes, and from his view he is totally worthy of getting to enjoy being with beautiful women – it is about the pleasure it gives *him* to get to look at, touch, have sex with, be seen with, women he thinks are beautiful. It makes him feel better in some way, not insecure, to be with them. It is a confidence booster to him. Setting aside only for this one point the fact that it’s about using women as status objects instead of whatever else – I challenged myself to be able to interact with that client from some vantage point of, “it is pleasurable to be the person getting to look at, touch, kiss, and otherwise mess around with someone I am this physically attracted to.” And it was super fucking hard to pull off, mentally. I would definitely have moments where I was really into what we were doing physically and not conscious of he’s-beautiful-but-I’m-a-solid-cute-at-best, but mostly my heart would be pounding with nervousness and my head would be pounding with how I looked to him while we were together.

    So for me, my answer is more and more…I want to know what it’s like to feel an absence of the gaze-ability factor. Not that I don’t want others to figure out their own stuff around it or talk about it or whatever, just that I found this post interesting (I like your writing about all kinds of things, Aunt B.) and this is what my experience has been with it.

  12. Wow, Joan, what a rich comment and I’m not sure I can do justice to all the tangents it sparks in my mind. So, I’ll just start babbling. One thing I like about BSDM, as an outsider, is that it seems to give folks a vocabulary for talking about sexual desire and consent and safety and all that good stuff. Second, I’m glad you brought up that being paid is a great way, at least sometimes, of feeling validated. And that relying on others for your validation can be a hole that can’t be filled.

    And I guess that’s what I’m circling around here but don’t know how to talk about. What would it take for me to feel worth being desired, whether or not anyone actually did.

    I’m not sure.

  13. Ah, but many men like having sex with fat women; they just don’t want their buddies to know it because skinny women have been deemed desirable (Don’t ask me who does the deeming). In the Middle Ages and before, fatter women were desirable because the rank and file were really rank and skinny. In these days, skinny women are desirable because the rank and file are fat. Same thing with tans; white used to be desirable because the peasants worked in the fields and were tan. Whatever indicates wealth and power is what is desirable and what the guys want their buddies to see them with. It has little to do with who they’d really like to fuck; they just won’t admit it. I always think of the Mayans and their flat foreheads. You know all those men really wanted one of the flatheads to show off to their buddies, and all the women worried about whether their heads were flat enough for the guys to think they were fuckable. If you want to feel good, look up that painting Rubens did of his young mistress. She’s fat, and you can feel his desire in the painting.

  14. “One thing I like about BSDM, as an outsider, is that it seems to give folks a vocabulary for talking about sexual desire and consent and safety and all that good stuff. Second, I’m glad you brought up that being paid is a great way, at least sometimes, of feeling validated.”

    And bless your heart for the kind words, thank you. My views of BDSM are a little different…maybe anything you do a lot gives you a chance to see less positive patterns? I don’t know. As far as getting paid being a great way to feel validated sometimes…I had such a knee jerk reaction when I read that, of wanting to say in a polite way that I hadn’t found it to be a great way to feel validated. But, then I read what you said again and I thought, as far as validation itself goes, the money-making part was effective towards that end. My reaction was at how uncomfortable I still am with having wanted/needed validation, with how it’s withheld so much from women in general and certain women in particular, and how much I hate all of it. And I know you talk about that stuff too.

    I have noticed, when it comes to the idea of feeling “worth being desired, whether or not anyone actually did,” that when I can apply even a fraction of what I personally feel towards other women towards myself, I feel pretty fucking hot.

    Like, I have always disliked my upper arms. Fat Irish peasant arms, I have thought. Leaving aside any other banal criticism I’ve had about my physical self, when I think about the women I am most attracted to (I am mostly gay with a pinch of sex-with-cute-guys-is-fun-sometimes thrown in), they don’t have the beautiful lean upper arms that I covet so much. I *do* think those kinds of arms are beautiful, but how I’m personally wired is to crave touching fleshier soft women, women with lots of softness for touching. And that softness appears to me, visually, as super desirable. It is hard for me to translate that to what I look like, though. But when I can, when I’m like, hey maybe there’s someone(s) out there who sees me the way I see so-and-so or even that stranger over there, and if so than there is someone who is super fucking hot for me right now.

    Maybe all of that is nonsense and/or irrelevant to someone who is self conscious about being a specific size but who only finds people attractive who look nothing like her. To me the big picture is, what the fuck with how I’m brainwashed to worry about what I look like in the first place. It’s horseshit. And, on a practical level, this is what I live in, and what are ways for me to have some relaxation while I’m waiting to reformat my whole fucking way of thinking…

  15. See, and this is why I want to talk about new ways of judging… I want to say “ethical” behavior, but I don’t like that word. Maybe we need a new word.

    I don’t think it’s wrong or invalid to say that it can be validating and powerful to be paid for sex. In fact, I think it’s important and crucial that we recognize that.

    Just as it’s important and crucial to listen carefully to what you’re saying, about how it wasn’t, for you, the kind of validation that could sustain itself.

    These are important bits of information.

    I think because, in part, it tells us two things. One is that there’s something incredibly powerful about being desired and knowing yourself to be desireable. And, since money has currency (ha) at levels other than just economic, getting money in exchange for sex can prove your desireability in ways that are validating, especially if you can command a high price.

    Having a sense of your own worth is incredibly powerful.

    However, and this is the second thing, relying on others for that sense does, in time, either feel hollow, or start to be a sucker’s game. No matter how great a shape you’re in, no matter how good the plastic surgery, eventually, we’re all going to be sixty years old and the demand for sixty year old women as aesthetic pieces in our culture is not very high.

    If we don’t have something else to count on, if there’s not some inner knowledge of “This is my worth, this is my value, this is what makes me special” that doesn’t rely on others to give it to us, we’re in big trouble.

    Can I talk about Irigaray without knowing what I’m talking about, just for a second, because this discussion also reminds me of her. Because it seems to me that what we’re talking about–validation coming from something external to us–is phallocentric (ha, I love this blog, all talking about french feminism). We have this lack, this hole, that others fill, either literally, with themselves, or with words or whatever. But then the stimulus is removed and we are a/have a hole again waiting to be filled.

    Okay, okay, here’s the Irigaray quote I’m thinking of, “Thus, for example, woman’s autoeroticism is very different from man’s. In order to touch himself, man needs an instrument: his hand, a woman’s body, language . . . . And this self-caressing requires at least a minimum of activity. As for woman, she touches herself in and of herself without any need for mediation, and before there is any way to distinguish activity from passivity. Woman ‘touches herself’ all the time, and moreover no one can forbid her to do so, for her genitals are formed of two lips in continuous contact. Thus, with herself, she is already two — but no divisible into one(s) — that caress each other.”

    Such good stuff in here and I feel barely competent to talk about it. I mean, we are talking about pleasure here and how it brings us pleasure to be desired and validated, so I think Irigaray’s talk of auto-eroticims is right on topic.

    And in that quote is the heart of what I want to know and want other women to know at a soul-deep level–“she touches herself without any need for mediation.”–that we don’t need others to bring us pleasure, or even define for us what pleasure is, because that is a knowledge we have already, just as a course of living in this body. We are in a constant state, in fact we are designed (to use a problematic word) to bring ourselves pleasure and it’s only because we’ve been so deeply fucked with and so deeply fucked up and alienated from our bodies/our selves that we accept this definition of us being lacking or being holes that need to be filled.

    Maybe that’s one of the reasons that pleasure is so key to me and figuring out how to talk about pleasure and experience pleasure and use pleasure that does not hurt others as a guiding force for how to live our lives–because what brings us pleasure, lasting pleasure, is body knowledge. If you have a body, you can know pleasure and use it as a guide for good behavior.

    I don’t see how else we can really talk about feminism as a paradigm shift. If we want to see women free, we can’t just replace one set of rules for another. We need to say, “Here’s an entirely different way of thinking about what to do and how to judge whether or not you should do it.”

    It’s hard work. I believe in it with all my heart–that ethical pleasure is an important guiding tool–but I don’t exactly trust myself enough to make it work.

    But I keep trying.

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