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
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.
Posted on March 15, 2012, in Compulsion, Eating addiction, Eating disorders, Obsession, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Psychology, Sex, Sex addiction and tagged Eating, Fat fetish, Feederism, Fetish, Paraphilia, Sexual deviation, Sexual perversion. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.