No, Your Reliance On External Validation Is NOT Sexy

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

(NOTE: This essay was originally published on FetLife, the Facebook for Kinksters – but I thought it was sufficiently interesting to port over to my “Real” blog, even though it has a couple of Fet-specific references in it.  Because it deals with fatness and pride and attraction, and though I’m writing this in response to an essay that some of you might not be able to read, the essay is summed up and I don’t think I’m distorting it too much.)
Inside the community and out, us normal people and skinny people are getting pretty damn tired of being told what and who we should find sexy.”
Here’s a trick to dissecting arguments: when someone starts off by telling you that they’re a “normal” person, you can safely assume the rest of their argument will be, “Here’s what society tells me, and I’m not going to bother for a second to contemplate whether that’s good or bad.”
And lo, that’s what we have here.
The story, as summarized in @MPsHoneyDoll’s essay, is:

  • People don’t like fat people, so:
  • I hated fat people myself:
  • I hated myself so much that I changed myself
  • Now people like me.
  • So I like me.

 
And that is perfectly cool if you don’t find fat people attractive. Anyone who tells you that you are obliged to find any particular set of features attractive is an insecure git who needs the weight of numbers before they can relax.
You may be attractive to a small number of people. That’s cool.
The question is, are those people attractive to you?
If so, then awesome! Who cares if only one in 100,000 people wants to sex your bones up? If that one person is the dud/ette you wanted, then run rampant in the fields of glory, motherfucker!
If not, then you have that icktacular quandary of deciding how much you feel like changing for them.
Because here’s the ugly truth and the truth of ugly: you’re not going to have a 100% success rate at attracting the people you want. You just won’t, not over the course of a lifetime. And so you eventually have to make the decision of “Yes, if I changed my sexual identification and got a tattoo of a capuchin humping a watermelon and had bone-extension surgery to gain six inches in height, I could probably have them bed me. Is that worth it?”
And if you’re not processing too heavily, and these watermelon-humpers are in the majority, what you come to mistakenly believe is that there’s something wrong with you that you don’t naturally fit their mold of attractions.
There isn’t. There’s something wrong with your approach, presuming you want to date these people.
But if you’re just sort of skimming past all that, you don’t draw that vital difference between “This is a poor strategy for my goals” and “I am a failure as a human being,” and then come to think that cauterizing that hideous Thing They Do Not Like out of you is the only way to true happiness.
Not just for you.
For everybody.
Look, I’m neither pro- nor anti-fat. I actually find chubby women more attractive than skinny women. I think that my wife, who is overweight, can be actually healthier (she runs triathalons at her weight) than many skinny women who are more concerned with dress sizes than actual health. I believe that weight is merely one axis of many health considerations, and one that we demonize because we as society have decided that fat people are fucking disgusting.
But still, as a heart patient, I’m carrying forty extra pounds that endanger my well-being, so I’m trying to get it off. People who are 600 pounds are highly unlikely to be in the prime of health.
There’s a balance here. Sometimes, what society hates actually lines up with some genuine problems you have, and for God’s sake don’t do the nerd “reverse the polarity!” thing of going, “Well, if they hate it they must be wrong!” and then forever wrestling every conversation to be about your deep love of Transformers.
Maybe you’d be happier and less lonely if you bridged the gap and learned some common social skills – the moral equivalent of losing enough weight that you’re no longer at risk for coronary disease, but still chunky enough to appreciate a good sundae every once in a while.
“Normal” society, yes, rewards skinny people disproportionately. But it also rewards white people disproportionately. And straight people disproportionately. And men disproportionately. And if I’m not fucking careful, I can internalize those irrational hatreds and come to believe that there’s something wrong with me instead of society.
What @MPsHoneyDoll is regurgitating without thinking is the vomit that everyone poured onto her, all that societal hatred of fat people, which she drank up and internalized and now she can’t feel attractive unless she’s thin.
And hey, I’m not casting too many aspersions here: we all have our weak spots. I myself think I can’t be attractive unless I lure you in with words, which is equally dysfunctional.
The difference is that I’m not telling you all that really, being a poet is the only thing to do in this situation.
If @MPsHoneyDoll can only feel good if she’s thin, great! That’s an end-run around unthinkable pressures pushed onto you by thousands of people, and it may well be easier to give into that than to fight the power. I actually support that. Not every gay person needs to come out of the closet, not every kinky person needs to parade their slaves around the workplace.
(It helps if you do. Helps a lot. But it’s something I think is purest selfishness to demand of you, because fighting societal expectations takes a serious toll, and we trivialize people’s struggles when we forget that fundamental truth.)
But please, please, don’t not just cave to the pressure, but actually add to it, by telling folks that “normal” people find fat kiiiinda loathsome and implying heavily you’d be better if you just gave it up.
Because I’m willing to bet if we took you out to a crowd of “normal” people and showed them just what you loved on FetLife, most of them would think you were a fucking freak. And would you then tell me that yes, to make these generic people happy, we should give up our specifics?
No. Fuck that. “Normal” is not what we should be concerned with, especially in a fucktastic kink-saturated masturbationapocalypse like FetLife.
“Happy” is.
And yes: You will appeal to a wider variety of people if you lost weight. That’s the numbers, man. You’d also appeal to a wider variety of people on Fet if you were female, white, bisexual, and had big tits.
But it does not then follow that to be content, everyone should conform to what makes Kinky and Popular, the place where the most-loved photos wash up on FetLife. My wife has a shirt that says “I’m Someone’s Fetish,” and what matters is whether you can find the people who appreciate you for what you are.
And I’m perfectly within my rights to look at you and go, “Guh. You’re unattractive.” But that “unattractive” must always be accompanied with the properly-implied “to me,” and with the self-knowledge that just because a lot of people dislike something doesn’t mean it is actually wrong to be that.
I’m glad @MPsHoneyDoll is happier the way she is now. I am sad that she’s chosen to take a stance that heavily implies that anyone who doesn’t do what she did is fundamentally lacking on some level.
And I’ll tell you the truth: what makes me happy is not what will make you happy. Your job is to find what makes you happy, and then recognize this is not a one-size-fits all solution.
All I have ever written about is one path. I think it’s a pretty wide path, which is why my writings tend to be popular on Fet. But there are people who speak really beautiful and telling truths who never make it to K&P because those truths apply only to a narrow subset of people.
That makes those truths no less valid. Just less popular.
There is a difference.

3 Comments

  1. Mishell Baker
    Jul 9, 2014

    Kind of a tangent, but I realized a weird thing about me: I have a different standard for my own body than for other people’s. I can’t stand carrying even an extra pound, and I actually sort of like myself a bit thinner and more waifish than the absolute medical average would be for my height.
    But unlike most people who desperately want to be thin, it has nothing to do with what I personally find attractive, or even what society finds attractive. I just like to be able to feel my own bones. I have no idea what that’s about. In my lifetime I’ve been desperately in love with (and in bed with) two different decidedly obese guys, and had a massive crush on an obese woman, as well as having similar feelings toward skinny or average people. I feel absolutely no sense of revulsion at the sight of extra fat on other people, and am in fact more likely to be repulsed by feeling someone’s ribs than getting a handful of squishy stuff.
    But on myself? Can’t stand it. Hate the feeling of things jiggling when I jog. Hate the feeling of poking my finger into my flesh and feeling a layer of fat between my fingertip and what I think of as “me.” Maybe it comes from spending 25+ years being a touch underweight and forming my identity around that so strongly? I dunno. But it’s occasionally psychologically troubling to me, because I know if people knew I thought “ugh I need to stop eating so much pizza” when I see my reflection they’d probably check me into a hospital or something.
    Sorry for the tangent, but I think out loud whenever given half a chance, so there you go.

    • Yet Another Laura H
      Jul 13, 2014

      I can’t read the essay (okay, I won’t sign up for a website I’m not interested in to read an essay that seems not my cup of tea, especially given the constant turning-off-of-spam I get from LinkedIn), but I’d be curious if she now finds fat people more attractive now that she doesn’t think of herself as fat.
      I also wonder what it was about fat-ness that made her dislike herself. The cathexis of it, fat=lazy=greedy=unperson? Feeling like she was making long-term life choices and being reminded of it by her shape? A feeling of “frat boys find me mockable, so I hate me, too”? Is this person shallow enough to dislike the one person who is going to stick with her all her life based on looks, or is it something less sad?

  2. JR
    Jul 11, 2014

    I saw a post on tumblr (yeah, I know, tumblr) and, to restate it, it said “It’s okay to like whatever you like. You can prefer women who shave; you can prefer women who don’t shave. [in a romantic sense] But regardless of your preferences, you have to look at what you like and how it’s been influenced by society and our culture’s standards of beauty.”
    Personally I don’t think people should change their physical appearance just because they think it’ll make them more “conventionally attractive”. If you want to be more fit, or if your doctor tells you you’re unhealthily under/overweight, sure, go ahead and have a “goal weight”. But your decisions about yourself should be predicated on your physical, mental and emotional well-being, and the truth is that being “conventionally attractive” isn’t everything when it comes to relationships with other people.

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