Gender, Sex, Fat Acceptance and Other Weird Stuff

Gender, Sex, Fat Acceptance and Other Weird Stuff June 25, 2012

Buckle up. This is going to be a rambler.

All across my social media I’m finding really interesting ideas about gender politics, sexuality, and fat acceptance. And all these posts seem to be connected in tenuous ways that I don’t have the mental bandwidth to explore deeply today.

The first post is by the fabulous Jonathan Korman, who shares my deep love for comedian Louis C.K. You seriously need to take time to read the entire thing. It’s fantastic:

When I was a young fella I lived an op-out ethic explicitly and deliberately. Recall that I alluded to reading a lot of feminist theory as a teenager? Being young and naïve, it did not occur to me that other people were not thinking about things in the terms I was, informed by that, approaching consent as deliberately as I did. This helped make dating and sex even more awkward and confusing than they already are when one is young. And one day a young feminist with whom I discussed these things took me to task, saying, “So you have decided that when women have an exchange with you, they should be able to discern that you’re operating from a different ethic and using different communication patterns than the whole world they’re accustomed to? Isn’t that a lot to ask?” Because like Louis CK, by trying to date women in a way that took clear consent seriously, I was confusing and surprising and mystifying and frustrating the women I was interacting with. I had to find better solutions.

Along with this is the ongoing issue in atheist communities where women are apparently receiving a lot of unwanted attention at festivals and events, and are receiving some backlash for speaking up about it. I’ve already had some great conversations regarding some of these incidents, and it has certainly made me appreciate the respect and safety inherent in the Pagan festivals and conferences I have attended. Far from sex-less events, they still embody a sense of community and decorum an outsider might not expect from a large group of sarong-clad bohemians. But apparently things are bit more tense for atheists:

A real, and important, but not earth shattering issue (as in, nobody died) was brought up and was being dealt with effectively, like one might close a window to keep out a chilly breeze, or fix a roof to manage a leak. But those who prefer the status quo for their own reasons have recast the expressions of concern to be planet-killing comets where they were really just storms or they’ve recast the players such as the complainers and their allies to be the worst kinds of people or worthy of being the object of physical threats, instead of just being people who are often annoyed and occasionally feel threatened.

Lastly, I was updating my fashion blogs and looking for new inspiration when I ran across a post advising large, curvy women not to post their images on the internet:

I very rarely post photos of myself from behind on my blog anymore. I very rarely post photos of myself in short shorts anymore. I still wear them, but I don’t take outfit photos. You know why? Creepy men. I got sick of having to block dudes on Flickr who would add photos of me in shorts to their ‘favourites’. These men would usually have completely blank profiles with no photos they’d uploaded, no profile information filled out, just a favourites gallery full of photos of fat women who they did not know, these guys were clearly using Flickr as their personal jerk-off spank bank. At last count I had 147 of these guys blocked on Flickr.

While I don’t have any deep thoughts regarding the first two posts, this third one hits home for me, and so I’m going to wax opinionated all over it.

I am a large lady. Larger than I personally care for, and I am working on getting myself back to where I am happiest with my body, but I will never look like Kate Moss. I won’t even ever look like “Curvy Kate” Winslet. In all likelihood I will always be insanely voluptuous, and I am ok with that. I have made peace with my body. I have accepted that I will in all likelihood have relationships and sex with men who prefer larger women, or who find my sparkling wit sexy enough that they come to lust after my body as well.

So my readers may or may not be surprised that I have an interest in artistic nudes. I’ve drawn them and photographed them. For drawing, I used other models. For photography, my model was me. It was a creatively satisfying endeavor, and one which helped me come to peace with my body. For awhile I had an online profile on an art community that got some good feedback. It also attracted the attention of some creeps, and more than one person who felt the need to tell me that my art was perverted.

I removed the profile for personal and creative reasons, although since I did post artistic nude images on the internet I’m certain some images do exist somewhere in personal collections of artistic nudes, or erotica. Just as I’m certain former lovers may have images or letters that despite our parting they may have kept. Somewhere out there exists an image of my bare ass, and there’s a possibility that someone has, is, or will masturbate while viewing it.

I think the “proper” feminist reaction to this should be horror, but I am completely unconcerned. My art was about me, and upon showing it to the public I lost control of it. I was perfectly aware of that. If people are using my art for sexual purposes it doesn’t affect me. To be honest I am far more concerned that my writing be misconstrued than an image of my body land in some file marked “BBW.”

Sex is a part of life. You can’t escape it. If you limit yourself because someone might take something you create and have a sexual response to it, you might as well stop breathing right now. I can guarantee that at some point someone has had a sexual thought about you, or a sexual response to something you have done. It’s simply human nature. You can accept that and go on to live your life, or you can limit yourself and become obsessed with whether or not something you do has sexual connotations. Here’s the secret: Life by its very nature has sexual connotations.

One day I will have a better camera and a space with good light, and I will experiment with photography again. I will likely create images that contain artistic nudity, with varying levels of sexuality intentionally implied. Since I’m likely to be on hand, I will likely act as my own model again at some point in the future. Maybe when I’m a bit more wrinkly. I look forward to that. And the art that I choose to share with the public will be little birds that have flown the nest far from my reach. That’s ok.

So my advice to budding fashionistas, regardless of size, is to be brave and bold. Create the art you want to see in the world. People will take it and interpret it how they will. There is nothing you can do to control their reaction to your art. But not creating art for fear of it being related to in a sexual way isn’t feminism. It’s cowering beneath the shadow of a boogeyman you have created and only exists in your own mind. Your art will go out into the world and people with react to it in a million different ways and, unless they are trying to sue you or pay you scads of money, how they react to your art literally has no effect on you.

Take it from me. For years now, there have been anonymous images of my body artfully photographed existing beyond my control, and I’ve never once had a creepy feeling that someone was using my image for sexual purposes. No sudden feeling of doom or disgust. I am completely unconcerned, and also unconcerned about my own sexual responses to the artwork of others. I don’t think that Mickey Rourke wakes up in a cold sweat worried that I may have made a sexual comment about him while watching Iron Man 2. Take a lesson from me and Mickey: make good art, and ignore the rest.

Because y'all know I would NEVER do that...

(At this point I should note that my taste in men has been criticized by most of my family and friends, but I still stand by using Mickey Rourke as an example. I will not pretend to get the vapors over Tatum Channing to please my readers.)

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