Turn the eater on: Fat fetishes and feederism

Many years ago when I was just entering my teens (well, 1979 since you ask), I heard a song by Adam and the Ants called Fat Fun which at the time completely passed me by that it was all about fat fetishes. I should have guessed given that so many songs written by Adam Ant at the time were about fetishes and paraphilias (something that I have written about in an essays at length elsewhere (you can check them out in various places here and there).

Over the last few years, fat fetishism and fat admiration have come into more into the public domain through national press and television documentaries (I was interviewed by The Times on the topic back in June 2010)

Fat fetishists – mostly heterosexual and sometimes colloquially referred to as ‘chubby chasers’ – have an overwhelming (and often exclusive) sexual attraction towards very obese individuals of the opposite sex. (As a number of researchers point out, there is no widely held consensus in defining a fat admirer (FA), but the term is typically used in relation to individuals who find attractive someone considered clinically overweight). However, a recent paper by Dr Lee Monaghan (University of Limerick, Ireland) also noted and described aspects of the small gay fat admiration community through the use of qualitative data he collected online.

Fat fetishism also includes both ‘feederism’ and ‘gaining’ in which sexual arousal and gratification is stimulated through the person (referred to as the ‘feedee’) gaining body fat. Feederism is a practice carried out by many fat admirers within the context of their sexual relationships and is where the individuals concerned obtain sexual gratification from the encouraging and gaining of body fat through excessive food eating. Sexual gratification may also be facilitated and/or enhanced the eating behaviour itself, and/or from the feedee becoming fatter – known as ‘gaining’ – where either one or both individuals in the sexual relationship participate in activities that result in the gaining of excess body fat. This may not only involve eating more food but also engaging in sedentary activities that leave the feedee immobile. Some fat admirers may also derive pleasure from very specific parts of the body becoming fatter. A recent paper by Dr Lesley Terry and Dr Paul Vasey (both at the University of Lethbridge, Canada) in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, also claim that feedees are individuals who become sexually aroused by eating, being fed, and the idea or act of gaining weight.

Even if a fat admirer does not have direct sexual access to someone grossly overweight, there are other activities that fat admirers can encourage their sexual partners to engage in such as ‘padding’ (where individuals wear padded or layered clothing in a way that the person appears to have a distended abdomen) and inflation (where individuals inflate their abdomen with air or liquid so their abdomen is distended).

There has been a lot of psychological research showing that attractiveness of women is related to both low body mass index (BMI) and low waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). However, there has been a great deal of debate the universality of the findings and there is a lot of research that body shape attractiveness is determined by other factors including cross-cultural differences and gender-role stereotyping. There has also been research on physical attractiveness among ‘subcultures’ such as those people with eating disorders or in relation to sexual orientation. For instance, a study by Dr Viren Swami (University of Westminster, UK) and Dr Martin Tovee (University of Newcastle, UK) found that lesbians appear to idealize a heavier body weight in a potential partner than do heterosexual women or men.

One of these relatively unexplored ‘subcultures’ is the FA community. A study by Dr Viren Swami (by this time at the University of Liverpool, UK) and Professor Adrian Furnham (University College London, UK) and published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior (2009), examined the body weight WHR preferences of 56 heterosexual ‘fat admirers’. They claimed that the “relative scarcity of studies on the preferences of FAs can probably be traced back to the misperception that it is inconceivable that an individual could be attracted to obese others or that such a preference is somehow ‘’deviant’”. Unsurprisingly, their study – which was the first published on notions of attractiveness within the FA community – reported that FAs preferred heavyweight individuals and rated those individuals with high WHRs as the most attractive. The results predictably suggest that heterosexual male FAs hold very different ideals relating to attractiveness when compared with heterosexual men from the general population. Although some of the participants were fat themselves, there was no difference between these individuals and those FAs who were not overweight. The authors conclude that:

“It seems plausible that male FA is paraphilic in the sense of it being a non-mainstream sexual practice without necessarily implying dysfunction or deviance. For instance, it may be that hunger or food was involved in the behavioral imprinting of a fat fetish in early childhood, a hypothesis favored by some psychoanalysts…A related theory also based on the principles of behavioral imprinting argues that when young men masturbate, the objects that are frequently nearby at the time of masturbation become objects of arousal in the future. The individual is thus associating the object with sexual orgasm, and this may include either eroticized images of overweight individuals, food, and so on” (p.206).

It is also worth noting that in the Journal of Sex Research, Dr Swami repeated the study comparing FAs with a control group of non-FAs and found the same results. Despite these studies, there is still little empirical research on fat admirers and feederism. The recent paper by Dr Terry and Dr Vasey reported the case study of a 30-year old female feedee (‘Lisa’).

At the time of the study, Lisa was 30 years of age, married and Caucasian. She was recruited by the researchers from a feederism website (FantasyFeeder.com). By age 13 years (at 5 feet 11 inches tall) she was mildly preoccupied with her weight. She weighed 120-130 lbs and had BMI of 16-18 (i.e., underweight). However. Like many girls, she viewed herself as fat and became self-conscious about her hips, thighs, and belly. She claimed to experience sexual thoughts about weight gain and fat from a very young age. Because of her sexual fantasies about fat women during adolescence, she experienced some confusion about her sexual orientation (but deemed herself heterosexual).

As an adult, Lisa said she was still sexually aroused in response to fat women but that it was limited to visual images found on the internet. Her ideal website would be where there were several pictures of the same woman getting fatter over time (and which she would masturbate over). Lisa also fantasized about being forced to gain weight by a dominant male who would became sexually aroused by making her gain weight. She also reported that all of her orgasms involve fantasizing about some form of feederism and that sometimes all she needs to reach orgasm is to fantasize about being a little bit heavier. Although she has actively engaged in weight gain for a four-month period in 2008, she has never been in a feedee/feeder relationship (as she doesn’t want the negative health consequences of becoming extremely overweight). She also reported her sexual arousal had significantly declined after the weight gain period.

In their discussion of Lisa’s case, Terry and Vasey made the point that as with many paraphilias, her pattern of sexual arousal was characterized by intense and repetitive sexual urges, fantasies, and behaviours involving unusual activities (i.e., the intense focus on eroticizing body fat). Terry and Vasey also questioned whether Lisa’s behaviour represented a form of morphophilia (i.e., peak erotic focus on a particular body characteristic – in this case body fat). They also speculated that some of the behaviour was sexually masochistic and that this supported their view that feederism had paraphilic elements (although Lisa reported that masochistic behaviours generally repulsed her). As with any case study, it may not be representative of the entire feederism community. Terry and Vasey also assert that more research needs to consider if, and how, feederism is taxonomically distinct from the various forms of morphophilia.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Griffiths, M.D (1999). Adam Ant: sex and perversion for teenyboppers. Headpress: The Journal of Sex, Death and Religion, 19, 116-119.

Monaghan, L. (2005). Big handsome men, bears, and others: Virtual constructions of ‘fat male embodiment’. Body and Society, 11, 81-111.

Murray, S. (2004). Locating aesthetics: Sexing the fat woman. Social Semiotics, 14, 237-247.

Swami, V. & Furnham, A. (2009). Big and beautiful: Attractiveness and health ratings of the female body by male ‘‘fat admirers’’. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 201-208.

Swami, V., & Tovee, M.J. (2006). The influence of body weight on the physical attractiveness preferences of feminist and non-feminist heterosexual women and lesbians. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30, 252-257.

Swami, V. & Tovee, M.J. (2009). Big beautiful women: the body size preferences of male fat admirers. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 89-96.

Terry, L.L. & Vasey, P.L. (2011). Feederism in a woman. Archives of Sexial Behavior, 40, 639-645.

About drmarkgriffiths

Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Distinguished Professor of Behavioural Addiction at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He is internationally known for his work into gambling and gaming addictions and has won many awards including the American 1994 John Rosecrance Research Prize for “outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research”, the 1998 European CELEJ Prize for best paper on gambling, the 2003 Canadian International Excellence Award for “outstanding contributions to the prevention of problem gambling and the practice of responsible gambling” and a North American 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award For Contributions To The Field Of Youth Gambling “in recognition of his dedication, leadership, and pioneering contributions to the field of youth gambling”. In 2013, he was given the Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 800 research papers, five books, over 150 book chapters, and over 1500 other articles. He has served on numerous national and international committees (e.g. BPS Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and is a former National Chair of Gamcare. He also does a lot of freelance journalism and has appeared on over 3500 radio and television programmes since 1988. In 2004 he was awarded the Joseph Lister Prize for Social Sciences by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for being one of the UK’s “outstanding scientific communicators”. His awards also include the 2006 Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology Award by the British Psychological Society and the British Psychological Society Fellowship Award for “exceptional contributions to psychology”.

Posted on March 15, 2012, in Compulsion, Eating addiction, Eating disorders, Obsession, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Psychology, Sex, Sex addiction and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Quote “It seems plausible that male FA is paraphilic in the sense of it being a non-mainstream sexual practice without necessarily implying dysfunction or deviance. For instance, it may be that hunger or food was involved in the behavioral imprinting of a fat fetish in early childhood, a hypothesis favored by some psychoanalysts…A related theory also based on the principles of behavioral imprinting argues that when young men masturbate, the objects that are frequently nearby at the time of masturbation become objects of arousal in the future. The individual is thus associating the object with sexual orgasm, and this may include either eroticized images of overweight individuals, food, and so on” End Quote

    You are born with it. As far back as I can remember I have been attracted to larger women, although I didn’t understand it when I was a kid. Every other FA would agree with me.

    These ‘studies’ are so unhelpful and misleading.

    • Thank you for your comment. I’ve never carried out research in this particular area (i just reported what the empirical evidence says) but no paper has ever put forward the idea that fat admiration is genetic. Mark

      • I second @Bjm Bgr, both in that these ‘studies’ are unhelpful and in that adipophilia as I like to call it (=fat fetish) – is inherited, and there is some anecdotal evidence circulating within the adipophiles’ community (one female feeder – yes, some females are also feeders, lean and slender and having obese boyfriends – so one female feeder for instance found some adipophiliac porn on her father’s PC and speculates that her grandfather also was an adipophile).

        Being an adipophile myself, I have devoted one whole post on my blog to describing adipophilia best as I could. It’s in Polish, unfortunately, but it’s extensive and detailed and I’m willing to translate it, should such need arise.

  2. I can confirm that. From my own experience, thoughts of FA and feederism are felt as far back as you can remember. This has also been confirmed through the hundreds of female or male feedees and feeders I have come in contact over the last 11 year period over my website. It is interesting, but not once have I heard that there was a trigger or onset of the fascination for FA or feeding later in life. I have thought about the subject for years, compared conversations with others, my own experiences and I doubt very much that there is any imprinting at work. My mother was rake thin, my father was a little heavier, but I was also rake thin as a kid. It seems to me that this fetish does not really care what size you are, you could be fat, very fat or thin, the way the mind is has nothing to do with that. The difference might be in metabolism: some women that are feedees gain a lot easier and become fat through their fetish, while feedees with a fast metabolism eat a lot, but don’t gain and stay thin. The behaviour is the same in both cases, they binge eat and have period where they want to gain and get fatter, but one actually gains, the other stays thin. To phrase it another way: the holding back, the feeling of losing all acceptance in society that is due to the rampant intolerant hate towards all things fat that oozes out of the mainstream media, is possible in the fast metabolism case: she stays thin. But in the case of the slow metabolism, she starts gaining and no matter what she does, she gets fat.

  3. Feel free to contact me over my website if you need more info about the whole feederism thing, I’m probably one of the most knowledgable feeders out there, have been doing that for over 12 years. AND I’m scientifically minded 😉

  4. After searching for a cause to this fat fetish, I have to agree that I discovered this as young as 7 and had no significant life experience that I can remember that would cause this. It is honestly very frustrating to live with, as I can only feel sexually fulfilled and enjoy sex if its with a feedee partner. I truly feel it is genetic for me.

  5. Hello I just had to leave a comment briefly kind of adding my hat in the bin of other people that seem to be like me. I’m 37 and as far back as I can remember even before I was seven or eight I was always interested in Big guys and the incredible feat of transforming into a big guy when you were born thin but as years went by if became evident that I was simply a fat boy Born in a skinny boy‘s body I struggled with wanting to be big my entire life and I kept putting it off only from fear of the social stigma when I finally decided I should do it for me I spent a couple of years researching meeting people that Chad can you experiences and trying it at first for a little bit to see if it really was something that could hold that much joy for me or was it a curiosity that would scare me once it started well it started and I’ve never once have one regret I went head on into gaining and I’ve never looked back I put in 100 pounds in last year and I’m going for 100 more this year and then who knows and it is the happiest I’ve ever been with my body and a matter what anyone says I feel incredibly sexy beautiful inside and out I never feel self-conscious people can call me fat and actually makes me happy because I look at I am fat and I was always meant to be I just don’t think of it as derogatory and I don’t get depression over at a lot of studies have sad they worry about the effects it will have it just made me happier so for sound like me I truly feel we were born with it and things are coming to light where other people are going to come forward. it is my own choice and I just wanted the others that you know are there that there are a lot of people like me I mean you don’t have to look far you can Google for sites like Grommr or BiggerCity or fantasyfeeder and there’s companies out there for us, these sites don’t seem to advocate doing anything against your will unless it’s some kind of fetish thing and some people are in that but for others like me it is actually something we enjoy and it’s not just sexual we want to be big, some only need to have a sexual release, but people don’t pressure others who are not interested So it makes me happy just want to let you know we’re out there and if you ever want to talk to someone who’s been this way my whole life and have TRANSFORMED myself from a real skinny guy into a super obese guy and still going Ive never been happier or as confident in my life. hope you have a great day

  1. Pingback: Dr Mark Griffiths’ site on compulsive behaviours and paraphilias | curiousfeeder

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