Academic journal article
By Swami, Viren; Tovee, Martin J.
The Journal of Sex Research , Vol. 46, No. 1
Over the past several decades, there has emerged a relatively large and varied body of work relating to anthropological, psychological, and sociological aspects of body fat (e.g., Bordo, 1993; Crandall, 1994; Hesse-Biber, 1996; Longhurst, 2005; Probyn, 2000; Stearns, 2002). One particular aspect of this literature relates to the idealization of various body sizes within particular socioeconomic (e.g., Swami, Knight, Tovee, Davies, & Furnham, 2007; Swami & Tovee, 2005a,b, 2007a,b) and historical contexts (Swami, Gray, & Furnham, 2007; for a review, see Swami & Furnham, 2008). Specifically, many authors have documented the stigmatization and denigration of body fat within contemporary (Western) societies (Swami, Chan, Wong, Furnham, & Tovee, 2008; Swami et al., 2008), partly as a means of serving hegemonic interests (Bordo, 1993; Campos, 2004; Lebesco, 2004; Lebesco & Braziel, 2001; Swami, 2007; Wolf, 1990). As Brown and Rothblum (1989) argued, this "fat oppression" represents the following:
[a] hatred and discrimination against fat people, primarily fat women, solely because of their body size. It is the stigmatization of being fat, the terror of fat, the rationale for a thousand diets and an equal number of compulsive exercise programs. It is the equation of fat with being out-of-control, with laziness, with deeplyrooted pathology, with ugliness. (p. 1)
Beginning in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a number of authors and groups began to challenge this fat oppression, and more recently there has developed a substantive body of work based loosely on "fat studies" (see Ellin, 2006). Although this literature is highly varied, a number of specific strands can be discerned, including antidiscrimination research (e.g., Crandall, 1994; Crandall & Martinez, 1996; Puhl & Brownell, 2003), public health and social issues surrounding fatness (Saguy & Riley, 2005), and fat acceptance (e.g., Howells, 1993; LeBesco, 2004; Oliver, 2006). In terms of the latter, for example, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance in the United States has reclaimed the word "fat" to promote its use as a positive signifier (Howells, 1993), whereas others have discussed social aspects of "fat pride" (Probyn, 2000).
Related to the discussion of fat acceptance is the phenomenon of "fat admiration" (i.e., a sexual attraction to heavier partners; Blickenstorfer, 1996; Fabrey, 1972; Wachtel, 1976). Fat admiration is difficult to define precisely, but is usually used in relation to individuals (typically, heterosexual men) who find attractive someone considered clinically overweight (a body mass index [BMI] higher than 25 kg/[m.sup.2]) or obese (BMI above 30kg/[m.sup.2]). The issue is complicated by the fact that some fat acceptance authors reject terms such as "overweight" and "obese," which are considered to stigmatize fat (e.g., Schroeder, 1992; Wann, 1999). Moreover, the preferences of fat admirers (FAs) themselves can be wide ranging, and the targets of those preferences can range from being slightly overweight to morbidly obese. Even so, a consistent thread among FAs appears to be their rejection of the thin ideal as an unnecessarily prescriptive societal construct (Swami & Furnham, in press).
Perhaps surprisingly, there has been little discussion about fat admiration within academic spheres, particularly within the psychological literature on interpersonal attraction. This is noteworthy given that supportive fat acceptance communities now exist in the United States, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand and have developed to combat weight discrimination and stigmatisation. Less frequently, these communities act as avenues for the development of relationships between FAs and overweight individuals. Much of this development has taken place online and there now exist many dating and matchmaking Web sites for "big beautiful women" (BBWs) and "big handsome men" (BHMs), and it is also possible to find specialist erotica dedicated to overweight and obese women and men (cf. …