Dancing Resistance?: Charting Some Politics of Fat, Feminine Sexualized Performances
My very first moment inside Divine Curves, a BBW (big, beautiful
woman) Club in Southern California, I encountered a 350-pound woman,
smiling warmly while balancing atop a spindly barstool. She'd piled her
long, artificially-platinum hair high on her majestic head, and
her tightly-wrapped waist channeled her curves upward in a cascade of
"Ten dollars, please," she said to me, her bright pink lips smiling.
Smoky-black, half-inch-long eyelashes framed her blue eyes.
It wasn't as though I had never before thought of how fatness and
heterofeminine sexuality would intersect, but seeing it performed quite
literally in the flesh was an entirely different matter. Like most
Americans, I had been raised in a culture in which fatness stands
primarily in stark contrast to sexiness, desire, and pleasure. For most
of us, in fact, constructions of fatness serve as warnings or boundary
markers that separate sexiness from asexuality, beauty from ugliness,
"normal" sexuality from queerness.
I am certainly not the first researcher to examine the overlaps of
fatness, femininity, and sexiness.
In fact, it feels difficult for
me to address the topic of fat without noting how it so frequently
intersects with discourses surrounding gender, sex, and sexuality. It is
somewhat of a truism for fat researchers that fatness frequently serves
as pop cultural shorthand for considerations of "normal" and acceptable
gender and sexual performances. At the very least, many of the same
notions (think morality, excess, health, duty, identities, appetite,
shame, and, of course, propriety) inform the constellations of forces
comprising fatness and sexuality.
Three years ago, I walked into Divine Curves for the very first time.
As I watched, engaged with, and danced various performances of fat and
feminine sexiness, it became clear to me that this site was rife for
analysis into the possibilities, however realized or not, of
counter-discursive discourses surrounding fat, gender, pleasure, and
This is not to imply my foray into this subculture landed me in a
"Fat Wonderland" of feminine empowerment. Instead, I encountered a much
richer and more complex site for negotiations with fatness and sexiness
that, at the very best, de-centered thin, hetero-feminine sexiness. But
this does mean the space was uncomplicated. Indeed, I find these contradictions
and ambivalences the most intriguing. What began as a question of
fat resistance led me instead into considerations of the discursive
contradictions inherent in performances of fat, hetero-feminine
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