Writer, fashion blogger and fat-acceptance advocate Stephanie Yeboah pens an essay for Jameela on her personal experiences with the dark side of today’s dating scene.
As I paste my Instagram handle into the textbox of the dating app conversation I’ve been having over the past three days, I make a private bet with myself to see how long it will take before the guy blocks or unmatches me after seeing my full-length photos. The record, as it currently stands, is four minutes.
You see, dating as a fat person in today’s society kinda, sorta sucks. Having only ever been in one relationship, and after being exposed to a roster of some of the most disgusting, dehumanising comments one could ever dream of while single, it’s safe to say that my experience (or lack thereof) has been a bit of a shambles.
I now send any potential matches my Instagram account (which features loads of full-length body shots, me without make-up and bikini shots) for them to peruse before taking the discussion any further. Le sigh.
I am one of those women who adds the ‘Fatter IRL’ disclaimer to online profiles. I upload full-length, fabulous photos of myself in all my fat glory. I also tell my matches that I am indeed ‘a fat’. Regardless, upon meeting them, I’m always met with the same pushbacks, from: “You’re not really my type physically” to the fetishising “I’ve never been with a big girl before”, “I’ve heard fat girls are better at oral sex,” and the old favourite, “More cushion for the pushin’!”
Now I know how silly it is to have to declare our fatness; we shouldn’t have to apologise for, and warn others of, our appearance because we are worthy and deserving of the same love, respect and basic human decency that others are entitled to.
Society, unfortunately, still has an issue with those of us who do not fit into a size 16 or 18, and I’m sorry to say that it gets absolutely worse when you add things such as race and gender into the equation. As plus-size women, we are not afforded the same humanity, care, love and respect as our thinner counterparts. This can force a monumental drop in confidence and either put us off dating for life or lead us to more casual dating to try and prove our worth through sex.
The number one question I am asked when talking about plus-size dating is: “Why are you specifying the fact that you are plus-size? All women get played!” and I agree! But I believe that there is a special type of humiliation and trauma within dating that plus-size women can experience which completely ignores our personalities and instead focuses totally on our body shapes.
What a lot of non-fat people don’t know is that to date while fat means you’re put into three camps: being humiliated, being ignored or being fetishised.
A great example of weight humiliation would be the utterly vile ‘pull a pig’ dating prank. In February I spoke about being the subject of such a prank on Bumble, in which I went on a couple of dates with a seemingly nice man and never heard from him again, only to later find out from a friend of his that they had bet him £300 to date a fat girl – a bet he evidently won.
I initially felt humiliated, ashamed and completely dehumanised. I like to think that now I am confident enough and maybe numb enough to not let it define me as a woman, but for those of us who are still on our journey to finding self-love, going through an experience where you are basically seen as an experiment can be battering.
As well as being humiliated, we also have to go through the daunting experience of being unmatched or blocked as soon as we send over a full-length photo of ourselves, or be resigned to being the fat best friend or the wingwoman who gets to watch all their thinner friends be chatted up on nights out.
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Then the pièce de résistance: fetishisation.
Depending on how you feel, fetishisation can either be extremely empowering or incredibly isolating if you’re someone (like me) who is looking for a nice, long-term relationship with a relatively normal bloke. Fetishisation is taking a well-rounded human and limiting them to an aspect of their physical being that they don’t have control over.
I am constantly fetishised for being black and plus-size; I am not noticed for being the multifaceted, intelligent, talented, creative, funny, awesome lass that I know I am. I am stereotyped as an extra-curvy, sexually aggressive black woman, and am supposed to be forever grateful that white men find me remotely beautiful.
This stereotype does not exist in real life. Don’t get me wrong, I assume there are men out there who are more open-minded towards bigger women. Where they are located, who knows? But in my experience, the three examples above happen on a frequent basis and are why I find dating so traumatic. You don’t get to have the variety of weird and wonderful opportunities pass by when you’re a larger plus-sized woman. Maybe some of you have, but I’m still waiting for my moment – if it ever arises. Only time will tell.
Photography: Sarah Brick