Friday, May 20, 2011

from Rob Delaney this piece in Vice:
I talk about bushes, big thighs, saggy boobs, gaps in women’s teeth, big noses, and more. Sure, I think it’s funny, but the fact is, I really do dig that stuff. And I’m not alone. My guy friends and I have a much broader palate when it comes to women’s bodies than Maxim or Cosmopolitan would lead you to believe. And I’m not putting this forth to sound noble; what I’m saying is absolutely a variation on “Guys’ll fuck anything.” But I’d like to expand that and say, “Guys’ll fuck anything, and they’ll enjoy it. AND they’ll fuck it again. AND they’ll even be nice to it and tell it it’s beautiful and take it to dinner and listen to its dreams and fuck it exclusively and brag about how happy they are to be doing it to their other guy friends who reject the notion (as vehemently as any Women’s Studies major at Wesleyan) that women should fit into some unforgiving, unvarying Barbie mold.”

Thursday, May 5, 2011

it's tomorrow!

photo courtesy of the ever fanfuckingtastic Adipositivity

on weight loss surgery and Malissa Jones

This blog entry concerns a story reported in the UK's Daily Mail, a newspaper I've come to hate for its constant frieze, running up and down the right side of its web pages, of body-scrutinizing imagery of every kind. Women (celebrities) who are: too fat, too skinny, dressed wrong, dressed slutty, dressed right, have bunions (bunions; there have been at least two stories about Nigella Lawson's feet in recent weeks), stretch marks, unkempt's your worst fears about being Watched as a female come true. Whole separate pages with huge photos devoted to a woman's panty lines, back fat, sloppy footwear, whatever.

The story in question is more than horrible, though, and although it has a sickening, tabloid, over-reported feel--the girl in question has been a fixture in the media for a while and the screaming headline is horrid--it seems worth noting.

Malissa Jones is 21, and was called, in a gesture of sideshow freak labeling, "Britain's fattest teenager" when she had gastric bypass surgery three years ago. At that point she was around 475 pounds. In 2009, after losing around two hundred pounds, she made news in an interview in which she said wished she had never had the surgery. She was depressed from the hanging skin and wrinkles which she could not afford to fix, suffering from a severely compromised immune system, and discovered she was no longer able to carry a baby to term after a miscarriage (her inability to eat/lack of interest in eating was called the cause of the miscarriage).

Now she is diagnosed as anorexic. Her photo [same link as above] shows someone who looks like the battlefield of our body wars itself: fat, emaciated, ill, all at once. Starved in some deep-down, fundamental fashion. It's heartbreaking. It's also heartbreaking that we see so much of her--there is an invasive quality to the way the photos are used, as in all the stories I've read about her, as there often is pieces about fat/formerly fat people, who have to walk the perp walk and show their shame.

It also seems problematic to talk of this anorexia in the terms we usually do. Jones says:
I am not deliberately starving myself but, right now, I would rather die than force myself to eat. I'm too thin. My body shocks me. But swallowing is painful. Eating a tiny amount gives me stomach cramps or makes me sick. My consultant says, if I continue like this, I only have six months to live. I will most likely die of a heart attack, so I must persevere with eating. I am trying, but it is so hard.
To what degree there is an emotional root cause contributing to her physical inability to eat we can't know, but judging from that quote it sounds like it just hurts her body to eat. Her body's ability to handle food was (deliberately) taken away--why would we expect it to work correctly? That is how weight loss surgery works. According to the 2009 article, she had to give up work after suffering "stomach pains and constant diarrhea," which are common side effects.

This woman is young. Terribly young, far too young to be ravaged by so much brutal decision-making and unnecessary body trauma.  From the earlier pieces it sounds like Jones had problems with compulsive eating and learned at an extremely young age to match that with diets of similar intensity; her body has been in reaction, in extreme ways, to the world around her and its fear of fat for most of her life. She hasn't gotten to just be. If she is indeed an anorexic then it almost seems as if she's become prey to some new, extreme monster--an eating disorder that combines the strongest elements of both ends of the spectrum and the worst of all the physical effects. The Daily Mail being the Daily Mail, the focus is on superficial examinations of how Jones did the wrong thing (ate too much), then the wrong thing again (ate too little), and now her "fears" are keeping her from doing the right thing, but that doesn't feel like the whole story to me. Why do we disable people's digestive systems, then expect them to work? And why, when you've probably never felt like you owned your body, never even had the chance to (she was 17 when she had gastric bypass surgery at the urging of doctors), would you expect her to know how to do it now? We hobble people when we do this to them.

There are a lot of reasons why weight loss surgery exists, but medicine was its creator, and medicine needs to figure out how to feed the people who've had it: how to handle patients like Jones, who live with its effects--or die from them. The human body is an extremely complicated machine. We betray its design when we mutilate our insides in the name of weight loss; if we are going to do so, we have to be prepared to treat the damage, which comes back to us in exponential ways.

Monday, May 2, 2011

"What the Internet reveals about sexual desire"

A Q&A from an interview in Salon with the neuroscientist authors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts, a look at the Internet and human sexual behavior (I'm finishing reading Sex at Dawn right now; the article provides an interesting complement to that book, if you've read it):
As far as men's interest in pornography goes, what of your findings were actually surprising? Because a lot of it -- like the interest in large breasts -- is totally expected.

I'll give you the top three. No. 1 is that men prefer overweight women to underweight women. There are almost three times as many searches for fat women as there are for skinny women, and lest you think that's some way we treated the search data, this is also reflected in popularity on adult sites. There are many more video sites devoted to overweight women than underweight women. Now, I should say as a caveat that men prefer healthy weight women overall. But if the choice is between a woman with a few extra pounds or a few less pounds, most guys will choose more pounds.
I'm not choosing to see this as evidence that all men Really Prefer Fatties (although many more do than admit it or are aware of it, I think)--the images we ingest and fantasy we pursue is not the same thing as known physical preference--but it is quite interesting.

As somebody who spent a significant amount of time in recent months combing BBW porn sites to illustrate this book (there are just a few illustrations, but very specific ones) I can tell you that nothing about this fact surprises me. For a lot of reasons, but mostly because: more happens in fat porn. If what you want to do is look at (sexy) things, there is more to look at in fat porn. More movement, more shapes, more dangle, more jiggle, more flesh, more cause and effect, more postures, more difference in postures, more textures, more change in body shapes from moment to moment, more body size differences, more contrast, more kinetic energy, more finagling, more acoustical sound, more force, more More. More (I'll just say it) PHYSICS! Physics in action. Mmm...physics.

The illustration for the article (at left) is a MILF. It's interesting that Salon didn't choose to show a big girl, which maybe highlights (to my mind) part of what's being talked about here: because images of fatness are ritually excluded from the media, another reason men (who may not be that into fat girls in real life) like fat porn is that there is the jolt of the "unfamiliar" in it. You don't see naked fat bodies online/in print as often, so they seem more naked when they are. They look more unclothed. A naked thin body is more of a known quantity. The shapes and forms of the fat body depart from the iconography of Naked Lady and that can bring additional attention, good or bad. Fat bodies are going to lose some of their currency as unknown quantities once they get let out of the media cellar a bit.

Anyhow, the book looks interesting. Shall add it to the list.