Body Image and Fat Shaming in Relationships

This piece originally appeared in the No Experience Newsletter Issue #282 (Aug 19, 2015) Starting this month I am the sex columnist for No Experience with a new column out every week To subscribe and get it in your inbox 3 times a week send your email address to noexperiencenewsletter [at] gmail [dot] com. If you have a sex question you want answered in an upcoming issue, email me at rachels1088 [at] gmail [dot] com.  

Dear Rachel,

I guess its not really a sex thing so much as a lack of sex thing…

I’ve been going through the steps of having weight loss surgery (gastric sleeve) and at first my boyfriend (I’m female), Fred*, was super supportive and came to all my doctors appointments and was super excited.

Originally, we were tentatively scheduled for a July surgery, but my insurance requirements changed and I have to wait until November or December.

About a week after we found out I’d be delayed, Fred said that he’s no longer attracted to me and doesn’t want to have sex anymore, but he wanted to stay together. He said he was ok with everything before, but that I should have tried harder to lose weight in the 10 months we’ve been together and it’s not fair to him and he’s lost his patience.

He said it on July 12th and we’ve only had sex once since then, and the whole time I felt so uncomfortable. He can’t finish and says it’s because I’m a turn off and it’s just become such a negative thing in my life.  I feel horrible, like I ruined everything.

He said it’s just sex, but now even when he wants to cuddle, I feel awful about myself. Or when I’m changing clothes or something and he walks in, I try to like cover up real fast, but he says he doesn’t care or like going to the beach… he doesn’t understand why I dont want to wear a bathing suit around him.

We ended up with we should probably take a step back, that maybe I should open myself up to meeting other people but he still really cares about me and wants to spend time together, just not as much, and he’s fine with not having sex.

I feel like a lot of my reaction is my shit and my depression and anxiety and I have no one else to blame for how I feel but my stupid brain.

We don’t talk or hang out as much anymore and I have zero interest in trying to date or sleep with anyone now until after I have the surgery…if it still happens…but now I’m just scared to be alone and don’t think anyone would want me anyway I mean, if he says he loves me and doesn’t want to sleep with me, why would anyone else?  

Sexless

Dear Sexless,

There are a lot of things at play here. First of all, if you want the surgery then it’s great that you’re getting it, but you should only do it for your health and your happiness, not anyone else’s including your boyfriend’s. You do not owe to him or the relationship to lose weight. You don’t owe it to anybody. The good news is, if you do decide to have it, most people report returning to sexual activity rather quickly, like only a few weeks. AND women’s sex lives often improve post surgery thanks not only to improved body image but also hormonal changes. So, if you do decide to get it, sex is still an option, perhaps an even better option than it was before.

Secondly, there must be some sort of a disconnect on Fred’s part if he doesn’t understand how his words are affecting you. It’s incredibly insensitive for your partner to call you a turn off and he should be able to understand why it’s hurtful and why it would make you uncomfortable around him. If he’s unable to come now, when your body hasn’t changed, but was before, then that’s an issue with his mind and body, not yours.

Thirdly, and this is the harshest bit, the above doesn’t really matter because it sounds like you’ve basically already broken up. If he’s not sleeping with you,  doesn’t want to hang out with you and is encouraging you to see other people then it sounds like he’s not your boyfriend anymore. And frankly, good riddance. He was cruel and hurtful to you and doesn’t seem to possess the basic interpersonal skills to comprehend why it upset you.

I understand how this experience can be scarring and can make it harder for you to date. So take some time to date yourself. You need some personal self care, because your sense of self has been completely fucked up by this guy.

Larger women are shamed everyday about their bodies (in fact virtually all western women are shamed everyday about their bodies)  and are told they’re too big to be loved or desired and that they cannot, or should not, be sexual beings. This is simply not true. Many women find men who love and want to fuck them because of, or, more often, regardless of their size.

I say, so long and good riddance to this guy. He’s another cog in the American body shaming machine. If he loved and wanted to fuck you before, he shouldn’t stop loving and fucking you now.

In the meantime, learn to love yourself. Don’t let his or anybody else’s words affect how you value yourself. Date yourself, do what you love to do.

Rachel Love

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