DEAR SUGAR, The Rumpus Advice Column #89: The Thing That Turns You On

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Dear Sugar,

Ever since I was small girl of about six, I have delighted in the idea of growth. And I don’t mean spiritual or emotional or mental growth. I mean literal growth. The idea of expansion has always excited me. I liked the idea of women growing. Usually it was something to do with eating.

I’m a teenager now. Over the years, as I started using the Internet, I began to see that I was not the only one out there with desires related to this. There is even a name for us: Female Fat Admirers or FFAs. Of course, there aren’t a whole lot of women preoccupied with inflation or expansion or feederism, especially when it involves other women, but communities are out there.

As I grew older, I realized that what I was doing with these thoughts was masturbation. Soon after that, I realized that my thoughts were not only simply strange, but utterly bizarre and mildly horrifying. I figured this out through tests with my friends—for example, I’d link to a drawing of an obese girl that I found intoxicating and say “Oh my God, look at this!” and watch their reaction. I’ve begun to worry more and more about what my parents and friends might think if they ever found out.

The logic of it doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t find fat in real life to be attractive, on myself or most others. I don’t like the idea of myself masturbating, and I don’t like the idea of anyone ever knowing about my desires. I’ve tried to stop, but find that I can’t.

This is the first time I have ever admitted my fetish to anyone, which I thought I would never do. But, Sugar, I need help. I want this to go away. It doesn’t rule my life, but every second of enjoyment I get out of it just feels dirty and wrong. It makes me sort of sick sometimes. I’ve tried chalking it up to being a horny teenage girl, but I don’t sense that this kind of thing is normal.

I don’t know what to do, Sugar. I don’t know what to think. Is it okay? Is it normal? Am I just another one of those freaky people who spends too much time in the deep, dark places of the Internet? Please help.

With love,
Worse Than A Furry

Dear WTAF,

What a letter. I’m so glad you wrote it. I know it wasn’t easy to do. Before I say anything more I want to tell you that it’s okay. Everything you wrote about the way you feel about your inexplicable sexual desire is everything that everyone feels who has ever had an inexplicable sexual desire, which is just about every one of us. What you’re doing right now—in writing to me, in searching for a deeper understanding of your sexuality, in spite of your fear and self-loathing—is courageous and important. It’s work that many people never do, no matter how old they get to be, and they are miserable for it. You won’t be one of them.

So you are turned on by images of fat women. That’s interesting. You ask whether it’s “normal” or not, but I can’t rightly answer that. If by normal you mean common among the populace, I’d say no. But then you need to remember that what is common among the populace when it comes to sexual fantasies entails things such as raping others or being raped, fucking one’s big daddy or pretending to be him, having threesomes that involve the neighbor/postal carrier/local grocery store cashier, being tied up and whipped or tying up others and whipping them, performing sex acts in view of others or watching others perform sex acts, doing strangers in back alleys and bar bathrooms, and so on.

Is any of that normal? Most people wouldn’t think so, at least not when viewed through the lens of our actual, moral, practical selves.

But sexual desire exists in another realm. Our fantasies reflect not who we are, not how we live, but what we need to get us off. The vast majority of the people who fantasize about rape would never, under any circumstances, be turned on by actual rape. Oodles of people who are aroused by power dynamics in their erotic lives do not remotely condone or romanticize child abuse, violence, or cruelty. There are a whole lot of people fantasizing about things they don’t, won’t, and never want to actually do, and another bunch of people who are actually doing those things, but only in the very specific context of their bedrooms or dungeons or showers or cars.

Sexual desire is just weird like that. Your desires are no weirder, WTAF. They’re simply more unique.

This is the pinch you’re experiencing, sweet pea. The thing that’s sickening to you is you. But that doesn’t mean you’re sick. You’re only ashamed that your surprising sexual psyche runs counter to your better wishes, the values of the culture at large, and even the generally accepted parameters of garden-variety kink. No wonder you’re freaking out.

So let’s talk you down from at least a couple of these trees.

The part of your letter that concerns me the most is the part where you tell me you need help because you want this desire for the big ladies to go away. The thing is, I’m about 99.5% sure that it won’t, at least not in the shazam way you’re hoping for. Your fantasies don’t have to rule your life. They may change slightly over time. But they’re there and they’ve been there from the very dawn of your sexual self, which tells me that they’re core and they’re powerful and the sooner you make peace with them, the better off you’ll be.

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Because being a Female Fat Admirer is not common among your peers, I feel a little afraid for you in the same way I’d feel afraid for a gay or lesbian teen living in a hostile environment. You’d benefit from support that extends beyond this letter—an adult who will listen and offer guidance as you articulate and grapple with the complexities of your sexuality. The best person would be a psychotherapist, who will provide you with unbiased information and unconditional positive regard. If your parents’ financial situation is such that you can see a therapist and if you live in a community in which a therapist with whom you feel comfortable is available, I implore you to make an appointment soon. If either or both of those things are not the case, please write to me and I will do my best to find a therapist for you—one who can see you in person for no charge if money is the issue or consult with you over the phone if access is a challenge.

You say that you’d be mortified if your parents knew of your proclivities, but I want to assure you that just about anyone would be mortified if their parents knew about such things. One’s parents’ reaction to one’s fantasies, no matter the details, is not the barometer to use to determine whether one is a crazy sex fiend or not, so rest easy on that front, sister. Having said that, I encourage you to take measures to secure your privacy. Be careful, be discreet, and be smart when it comes to your Internet wanderings. And for the love of god, if you don’t know already, learn how to use the “clear history” function on your browser.

As for the Internet itself, I think it’s wise for you ask yourself whether you’re spending “too much time in the deep, dark places of” it. You might be. I’m going to sound like someone who could be your mother here because I am someone who could be your mother, but there was no Internet when I was a teenager, and when it comes to my budding sexual self, I don’t think that was a bad thing. I had the dirty passages in my mom’s James Michener novels (which were fairly disappointing in the area of dirty) and my own hand. Both of which I made extensive use.

The Internet has offered you something valuable I didn’t need because I got it from the culture all around me: a definition and validation of your more unique sexuality. But it also allows you a private and anonymous portal into which you could go further than is healthy. You told me what you absolutely do not desire in your “real life”—the very thing you most desire in your fantasy life, it turns out—but you made no mention of what you do desire. There is the photograph of the obese woman when you click that link, the masturbatory dream that both intoxicates and repulses you. But what is it you really want in your living, breathing sex life? Have you even allowed yourself to imagine a partner or the things you’d like to do? What if it turns out to be the obese woman? What if it doesn’t?

Some fantasies are just idle thoughts one doesn’t wish to act out with another, but most find their way into our metaphorical bed, to a greater or lesser extent. If they don’t, they often come out twisted in the lives we feel compelled to keep sadly covert instead. You never thought you’d tell anyone that you are a Female Fat Admirer, but you told me. Who’s next? And who after that? Your fear of your desires gives them more power than is their due. The way to normalize this kink of yours is to accept it for what it is: the thing that turns you on. Once you stop attempting to push it away, you can figure out what you’d like to do with it and how it might be placed among the diverse facets of your life.

When I was a teenager I had two main sexual fantasies. I was profoundly ashamed of both of them. The first was that I would be a stripper at a bachelor party and my estranged father would be in attendance at this party and I would see him and recognize him but he would not recognize me because I’d grown up since he last saw me and I would strip in front of him and the other men and be paid for it. The other was that I would be at a Superbowl party at a rich person’s house, working as a cocktail waitress, serving drinks to a bunch of men in business suits. I would be wearing something incredibly slutty that was nothing like I owned—some impossibly short skirt, with high heels and a tight top that showed off the bust I didn’t actually (then) have. I would be carrying this tray of drinks around the room while the men watched the game, indifferent to my hospitality, until they noticed my body and leered. Pretty soon, they would stop ordering drinks and instead they’d order me to do things like take off my top and I would.

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I vividly remember the first time I ever told anyone about these fantasies. I was walking with Mr. Sugar down a quiet lane in Taos, New Mexico a year or so into our relationship. I can still feel the same sick, queasy feeling I had when I stammered my way through them, my whole body burning not with arousal but embarrassment. It was so humiliating, so not reflective of who I am, so contrary to everything I want or believe or seek or honor or trust or have in my life. I’d spent years feeling sickened by myself the way you feel sickened by yourself, WTAF, always trying to purge those fantasies from my head.

But the strangest thing happened once I told Mr. Sugar about those first fantasies of mine. I realized that I’d been wrong all along when I’d believed they had nothing to do with the woman I actually was. I realized instead how very much they belonged to me. I understood at last that these two truths could be contained at once—that my sexual self and my actual self could live together ever so contradictorily as one. It was true that those sad and basically despicable things I thought about to get myself off were not in any way a definition of who I was in the world. And it was also true that those things were an accurate report from the darkest underworld of my most primal longings. Much as I wanted to deny it, those shameful desires of mine could be traced back to my deepest traumas when it came to men on both a personal and a cultural level. How profoundly my father had failed me. How totally I’d internalized the message that I was here to service the great white American cock.

I don’t know why, from the age of six, you’ve been attracted to the combination of women and expansion. But I know there’s a reason. And I know that someday you will know what it is if you are brave enough to let yourself know. What is it you’re hungry for, dear one, and why? Root it out. Put it in a pot. And feed it to yourself. It will nourish you.

Yours,
Sugar

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