#metoo: The dark reality of the relationship between plus size women and sexual assault.
You wouldn't be alone if you felt like currently we were having a little bit of a Boston Tea Party moment when it comes to outing big wig perpetrators of sexual assault. Weinstein? Throw him in the ocean. Andy Signore? Throw him in the ocean. That shitbag gymnast guy? Definitely get that dude in the water. Kevin Spacey? Throw that dude in the ocean asap. I mean, we still have a turd president, but we’re working on it.
#metoo has been trending for the past week or so, and while I did post the hashtag, I was vague. This time last year before we elected this literal dildo I shared a considerably tame story on my Facebook page about something that happened to me on the subway of NYC 4 years ago in order to encourage men in particular to consider how commonplace assault is in this day and age. The specific story I shared was, uh, to be blunt: not exciting. A man purposely pushed his groin into my ass on a busy subway train, following me and continuing to do so when I moved to make more room for myself. When the train let out and most of the people got off, he continued to press himself against me. I shook him off me, glared at him and went to the other side of the train but didn’t say anything to him. I’ve always regretted not saying anything.
I’ve personally had a lot of experiences like this. I’ve always chalked it up to spending years 18 to 22 in the NYC with all the freaks and weirdos and just like every kind of person in the world, but it’s not a good excuse. I remember walking down a main road of my hometown with a friend at the age of 16 and having multiple cars honk and scream at us. I had another man on the subway express his interest in me, and despite a very quick and quiet “i’m not interested” response from myself, he wouldn't let me off the train until he had watched me put his phone number in my phone. This is not a good pick up tactic for the record, in case you missed the mood of this post.
If you follow me on this blog or other platforms you may know that I read a lot of memoirs, mostly from women. I had been starting a collection in my mind of plus size women who experience assault based on these memoirs and also based on the stories told to me by friends. It started with Lindy West’s memoir Shrill (which is a must read in general. amazing book) when she was recounting a very specific relationship she felt with men as a plus size woman.
This statement really got to me when I read her book. The idea that you- that I- could be a sex object that was also a shame. I had always placed “beautiful” and “sexy” on the same shelf on my head. If you were one you were also the other. I really genuinely had never considered that men could be attracted to something, they could want something, and also despise it.
This statement kind of rocked my entire world when I thought about it too hard. All the men who I had dated who had hated themselves so vehemently, had they been dating me to hurt themselves also? Was dating or hooking up with a fat girl on the DL just another act of self harm to men who had secretly thought we were disgusting?
Since the social media vocalization of women’s experience of assault, I’ve been thinking about this contradictory impulse of attraction and hate towards fat women as an excuse to commit violence against them. It’s something I’ve been mulling over in my mind. From my experience, and hearing the experience of other plus size women, I find that we don’t have trouble finding men who are sexually interested in you, the problem is in finding men who are earnest in their intentions to respect you and also comfortable enough in themselves to be kept in the orbit of a fat woman.
As much as I thought about this phenomenon, spewed rants to my lovely and understanding boyfriend in half formed sentences on the topic, I had no proof or greater understanding on the topic besides my knowledge of myself and those around me. I googled around for scientific data on the topic and wasn't coming up with anything, so I made my own anonymous survey on the subject. I posted it on facebook, instagram, and reddit and got 66 responses. Not exactly an earth shattering amount, but a data pool none the less.
Of the women who answered my questions, 43 of the 66 women identified as plus size. 34 of these plus size women said that they had experienced an assault that felt sexually motivated in their lifetime.
While these statistics are interesting, I was mostly interested in hearing what these women had to say. I left a space at the end of the survey for women to elaborate on their experience if they were interested.
A lot of these women referenced the idea that they felt like “an easier target” not due to their body or stature, but because they identified as having low self esteem or poor image of themselves. I also saw a lot of responses from women who felt they wouldn't be believed if they came out about their assault because of their size.
On an equally disgusting note, a number of the women who took my survey said that when they did speak out about their assault, peers assumed they should be “thankful” someone bothered to touch them at all.
Here are some other responses I got that felt important to include:
After performing this small litmus test, I feel like I’m on to something. Like i’ve dug up the first bone in the long buried skeleton lying silently under our understanding of women and their experiences with assault. When you boil down the unwanted advances of men upon women, it is not about the manner of the aggression, but about the violence of it. If you perform an unwanted act upon a person, your reason is always deviantly motivated. It doesn't matter if you want to fuck, hurt, maim, kiss, or kill the person who you are acting upon: if they do not want you to perform a physical act against them and they’ve expressed this to you, you are performing this with hate in your heart and you cannot respect the person you are acting upon. Plus size women are such a commonly disrespected group that it should not come as such a surprise when we hear about their experiences with assault, but for some reason, it always does.