Big Big Love, Revised: between the sheets of plus-size sex with Hanne Blank

Hanne Blank: The Internet changed the whole picture, in terms of fat folks and the people who like them finding ways to connect. You wouldn't think it would be so difficult—there are fat people everywhere, and there are people who like fat people everywhere—but there is a certain security to be found in making connections in an environment where it's already been established that your identity and your desires are acknowledged and appreciated. The Internet gave people countless ways to create those environments, and made it easier than ever before to find those environments. That has made for a sea change in fat dating and sex. Once upon a time you would've had to see an ad for a BBW dance or a Girth and Mirth meeting or a bear bar in an ephemeral print publication, or maybe hear about it word-of-mouth. Now you can just Google it. Along with that has come an explosion of visibility: not just websites for groups or event listings but blogs, forums, FAQs, and all manner of resources that would've been difficult to produce and nearly impossible to effectively distribute in a print-only world.

* * *

SA: With the Internet has come porn that caters to every preference imaginable. In your experience, do larger people actively seek porn that reflects their own body type, or, like many people, do they seek porn that offers an alternative to their real life?


HB: The answer is yes. I'm sure they do both, as indeed you will find is true of the general public at large. This should come as no surprise since fat people are the general public at large. There are millions and millions of people in the USA alone who are fat. There is absolutely no way to characterize the porn preferences of millions and millions of people, especially when no one, to my knowledge, has actually done any research on the porn preferences of fat people as a specific demographic.

* * *

SA: In A Billion Wicked Thoughts, the authors found that men specifically search for erotica with “fat” models three times as often as they search for “skinny” models. With that said, do you think there is a discrepancy between what body types our culture considers fashionable or classy and what we consider sexy?


HB: Yes. Leaving aside my own thoughts on the validity of the research done for that particular book (it is highly problematic and the authors claim institutional affiliation but had no academic IRB approval for their human-subjects research), I do think there's often a big difference between what we pay lip service to and what we get off on. This is a complicated question and could honestly be its own book or six, but the shortest version of the answer that I can give you is that just as reproduction doesn't always drive the bus of our sexual desire, neither does status. Human beings have the capability of being attracted to a huge variety of things, and not all of the things that we are attracted to are things that are considered high-status.


One factor here that cannot be dismissed, too, is the degree to which this is about breast size and hip/butt/thigh size. "Fat" in porn is often a code word for "big breasts that have not been surgically enhanced" and "round, fleshy hips/thighs/butts." Not all of the people who are looking for "fat" models in porn are looking for fat women. They're looking for organically-grown tits and ass that come in quantities larger than a handful, and the women who have that in porn are often identified as "plumpers" or "fat" even when that's not really accurate.


And that kind of curviness is a status issue too: female bodies that are "too much," whether that's too top-heavy or too hippy or whatever, are often considered lower class and their bodies and appearance described as "trashy," "slutty," or "cheap-looking." Big-name fashion designers don't cut their clothes for women built like that. You don't see many models or actresses built even remotely like that (although there are a few exceptions like Crystal Renn and Christina Hendricks). People simultaneously desire these bodies and have a lot of difficulty admitting their desires. You see a lot of conflicted reactions. For instance, right now, there are people out there slagging the hell out of the singer Adele because she's not thin enough, no matter that she sings like a conquering angel and is so beautiful that even British Vogue has had to put her on the cover.


Being built like the proverbial brick house can be a liability, as far as status is concerned... no matter how many people would slap their own mothers for a chance to take you to bed.

* * *

SA: What are some of the advantages of being large, or dating a large person, when it comes to relationships and sex?


HB: If it's what you like, then the benefits are obvious, and inestimable! There are quite a lot of people out there who are attracted to big partners but don't let themselves date the people to whom they're attracted, simply because they're afraid of how other people will react to it. It's not so unlike how sometimes people are attracted to same-sex partners but don't let themselves go there because they're afraid of how their friends and family will react. Finally letting yourself go after what you really want can change your life.


As a fat person myself, I have to say that one of the benefits for me—and this is something I have heard echoed from a lot of people I've talked to about this—is that I don't have to be in a constant state of panic about what a partner might think or do if my body seemed somehow less than perfect. My body has never been anything remotely like what the culture I live in considers "perfect" or "sexy" in a mainstream way and my partners know that. (If that were what they wanted then they probably wouldn't have chosen to be with me. They're with me in part because my body happens to be what they like.) So that hyper vigilance about whether my body matches up to some arbitrary standard of "sexy" is just not there, and that frees me up to invest that energy in things that I think are more sexually interesting anyway, like responsiveness, creativity, and enthusiasm.


Another thing that's awfully nice about big lovers is that they're substantial. I'm far from the only person who likes feeling like I have someone solid and strong to hold onto, and to have them hold on to me is lovely and enveloping. Warm, soft, solid, substantial... what's not to like?

* * *

SA: Big Big Love begins by debunking some myths in regards to size and sex. What are some of the truths about sex for larger couples?


HB: Some of the truths about sex for larger couples: that you can have a great sex life regardless of what kind of buzzkill idiocy people have tried to force-feed you in the past. That you can get on top if you're big without hurting anyone. That you still need to pay attention to things like safer sex and contraception—don't fall for the old "but they're fat, they couldn't possibly be sexually experienced enough to have an STD" thing or the "but I've heard that it's really hard for fat women to get pregnant" shtick. That the kinds of positions you see in porn might not work well for you, but there are plenty of other possibilities that will, so being willing to be a little creative helps a lot. That there's every reason in the world you can do or at least try whatever sorts of sexual things intrigue you, just like any thinner person could. That the most important ingredients in any sexual relationship are enthusiastic consent, good communication, a sense of humor, and lube.


Oh and: that not all fat people in relationships are in fat couples. Some fat people are in relationships with other fat people but some fat people are in relationships with thinner people. And not all fat people in relationships are in couples, for that matter. Some fat people are polyamorous. Others just don't do the couple thing.

* * *

SA: In Tampa we have a very active and visible club called the Tampa Bay Bears, which celebrates large, hairy men. Gay men seem to have a much stronger culture of creating niche groups that cater to their specific sexual interests. Why do heterosexuals seem to have a hard time doing the same? Are heterosexuals simply not as practiced at being out and proud in regards to their sexual preferences? Do you think we will ever see a group of fat and fat admiring heterosexuals riding high in a city parade like we do with the Tampa Bay Bears?


HB: Gay men, in particular, have a long track record of forming sexual community based on specific types of erotic desires. This has to do with a lot of things, but primarily it's that gay men don't owe a whole lot of allegiance or even lip service to the whole hetero-normative sexuality structure and agenda. They've declared their disinterest in the whole program that limits sexuality to a marital relationship and ties that to a whole huge socioeconomic structure, and that huge socioeconomic structure, for the most part, has returned the favor by making it illegal (or at least quite difficult) for men to form the kinds of culturally and economically enfranchised relationships that are expected of male/female couples anyhow. Gay men have little to lose by prioritizing their own erotic interests and forming community around them. And so at least some of them do.


This is not the case for straight people. Straight people's sexuality, historically speaking, has been yoked very tightly to huge powerful socioeconomic and religious structures. It is in many ways fundamentally about economics—the formation of families and the generation and use of resources—and even though we are, at least in the first world, starting to move away from that, erotic pleasure is still very much suspect in straight culture and is most often considered appropriate only if it is subordinated to some other agenda, like those of "true love" or marriage.


Will straight-identified people ever achieve the same latitude to form community around erotic pleasure as queer-identified people? Possibly. There are some inklings of it to be found in things like the Folsom Street Fair, "lifestyle" swingers' conventions, communities of polyamorous folks, and other places where erotic desires are prioritized and celebrated, even at-home sex toy "fuckerware" parties and things of that nature. But these are still considered pretty fringy in the straight world.

* * *

SA: Do fat admirers have a higher frequency of using the objects of their affection for sex as opposed to say someone who has a thing for tall women? If so, why?


HB: I think douchebags will be douchebags and it really doesn't have a whole lot to do with their partners' size. I think that on the whole, there are a lot of people out there who want to get laid and they're not all above behaving badly in order to get what they want. God knows that fat people aren't the only people in the world who wait and wait for the "I'll call you later" that never comes.


That said, a lot of fat people are an easy mark because they've been taught since childhood that no one will want them because they're fat, that they're unlovable and undesirable and undeserving, and that kind of insidious undermining brainwashing takes its toll over the years.


So there are a lot of fat people who are very vulnerable emotionally, and who will leap at the first chance that shows up for a sexual relationship, especially if it comes with a lot of lovely romantic stuff that seems to contradict all that "fat-and-unloveable" indoctrination.


Couple that with the problem of fat admirers who haven't grown enough of a spine to be public about their attractions, who love it in the sheets but want to act like they hate it in the streets, and you have a stage that is immaculately set for some truly douchetastic love 'em and leave 'em antics.


I can't say that it happens more often with fat folks than it does with any other particular demographic. I don't know of any statistics on that. I do know that it is one of the characteristic problems that fat folks face. But honestly, I suspect that it happens a lot in any segment of the population where people are made to feel like they are sexually and emotionally unworthy. Which means, if I'm honest, that it happens a lot to women, across the board, and particularly to women whose appearances do not conform to what the mainstream validates as sexually worthwhile.

* * *

Hanne Blank
  • Hanne Blank
  • Hanne Blank
SA: You mention how the medical community is quick to blame sexual dysfunction on obesity. You also mention how some forms of biological impotence are a result of low blood flow to the penis, which can be caused by smoking, neurological problems, drugs, and alcohol. Do you believe obesity has no connection with the poor circulation associated with some forms of biological impotence?


HB: Circulatory problems happen for many, many reasons and while body weight and fatness are a factor in some cases, they're not a factor in all cases. It's not a one-to-one relationship. Not all fat people have circulatory problems and not all people with circulatory problems are fat. I would advise people who do have circulatory problems to talk in depth with their doctors, and to do their own research, before assuming that fatness is necessarily the cause or the primary cause.


It's also worth talking honestly to doctors about whether a change in weight is likely to affect cardiovascular symptoms, and if so, how much weight change is likely to create changes in symptoms and how much symptom change you can reasonably expect. The answers can be surprising.


Get your own copy of the revised edition of Big Big Love and check out some of the author's other work at HanneBlank.com


Follow Alfie on Twitter or Facebook and email him if interested in writing about Sex & Love.

click to enlarge Hanne Blank - HANNE BLANK
Hanne Blank
Hanne Blank

click to enlarge Hanne Blank - HANNE BLANK
Hanne Blank
Hanne Blank

Admittedly, I am one of those jerks who sees a corpulent couple and is a bit confused by the physics of how they have sex. As the author of Big Big Love: A sex and relationships guide for people of size (and those who love them), Hanne Blank reveals that being or dating a person of size does present some unique challenges when it comes to sex and love, but it also offers a breadth of possibilities.

* * *

Shawn Alff: What has changed in the world of sex and love for big people since the first edition of Big Big Love came out in 2000? What impact has the Internet had in terms of dating for people of size?

Scroll to read more Local Arts articles
Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected]