As a lifelong fat person, I’ve spent decades desperately trying to conform to the toxic beauty standards ingrained in me by a society that insists, no matter how healthy I actually am, that I should be thin. I've followed doctor-approved diets and spent several hours a day working out. Despite everything, I am still fat. My round belly hangs low, my thick thighs look like they're filled with cottage cheese, I have a double chin, and my strong arms wobble like jello when I excitedly wave hello.

From an early age, I was constantly reminded that I was fat, but also received confusing compliments about my appearance from family members who'd make snide comments like, "You could be a plus-size model if you lost some weight." I saw the same narrative reinforced on my favorite TV shows. On Friends, "Fat Monica" is shy and submissive, but becomes sexy and just "Monica" once she’s thin. Simply swapping genders using the same fat-shaming playbook, Schmidt on New Girl depicts sex between fat bodies as sloppy, uncomfortable, and repulsive. From these interactions, I learned that "fat" and "sexy" couldn't coexist.

So when I was 23 years old and ready to have sex for the first time, everything I’d seen and heard about fat people throughout my life echoed in my head. Why would anyone want to have sex with me? Would it be awkward and gross? Would anyone be able to see beyond my fat?

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I made my sexual debut without clear answers to these questions. In fact, every time I was intimate with a partner, I felt so insecure that I could never relax into the pleasure. All I could think about was whether or not my partner was looking at my big bouncing belly. I was so stressed about it that I began investing in as many bodysuits with snap closures, nightgowns, and skirts as possible. But wearing these outfits required planning, and eventually, I got tired of trying to anticipate every time I would be intimate with someone and wearing outfits just for the sake of concealing my body. I started to wonder: Are other fat femmes going to such desperate lengths to hide their big bellies?

They took off their clothes to reveal their glorious bellies, thick thighs, and fat vaginas.

I didn’t have anyone to ask, so to answer my own question, I came to the conclusion that I needed to see how other fat women were having sex. I opened my laptop, went on Pornhub, and typed BBW (short for big beautiful women) into the search bar for the first time. What I found pleasantly surprised me in more ways than one. I saw fat women with bodies exactly like mine have hot, steamy sex—the exact opposite of what the media and society had ingrained in me. When they took off their clothes to reveal their glorious bellies, thick thighs, and fat vaginas, their partners enjoyed every squishy and delectable inch, and I felt myself getting aroused as I watched.

I already knew from watching lesbian porn as a teenager that I’m bisexual and attracted to women, but it wasn’t until I started watching BBW porn that I realized I was attracted to women whose bodies resembled mine. If I can be attracted to my body, why can’t someone else be?

I scrolled down to the comments section. I had to know what my fellow online wankers thought of these bodies—of my body—actively reminding myself that I was on a porn site and to expect the worst from the trolls. But to my surprise, I saw comments mostly from men describing how much they lusted over the performer’s “sexy” body and “beautiful” belly. Everything was positive—not a mean word in sight. Through porn, of all things, I realized that I’d been deceived into believing that fat bodies can’t be sexually attractive, and it gave me the opportunity to rewrite the narrative in my head that convinced me that I couldn’t be, either.

Now, I turn to BBW porn every time I feel my intrusive thoughts come in, and it’s worked wonders for my mental health and confidence. Recently, just hours before going on a first date with a dating app match, I was nervous. If I took off my clothes, would he like what he'd see? (Old habits die hard.) Despite all the times I’ve had sex with partners who’ve proclaimed their attraction to me, I’m still not always sure whether or not new dates will feel the same way. This fear spiraled into whether or not he would be turned off by my FUPA (fat upper pubic area), specifically. So I pulled out my trusty laptop (I swear I do at least a few other things on my computer) and searched for "BBW with FUPA.” Sure enough, there they were, not just having sex, but relishing it and putting their bodies confidently on display. After watching—and wanking—to a few videos, a wave of relief washed over me. I felt less alone and more comfortable with the knowledge that, yeah, I have a FUPA, but that doesn’t make me any less sexy.

I gave myself permission to live freely with my body, not despite it.

Later, when my date showed up, I felt ready for my body to be seen, tasted, and explored—every sexy, squishy bit. As we started making out and removing each other's clothes, he begged me to take off my dress so that he could enjoy me. Just as I'd seen in the porn scenes hours before, I had nothing to fear.

I’ve also started taking this newfound confidence outside. (Ahem, no, not by having sex in public. Well, once, but that's a story for another time.) A few months ago, I attended my first “clothing-optional” bike ride as part of Pedalpalooza, a summer celebration of independently-run bike rides in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. As a daily cyclist for several years now, I had been wanting to participate in a naked bike ride, but was terrified at how I would feel about my body. Finally, I felt ready to say, "Fuck it!" and decided I was going.

As I rode up to the meet-up site with a friend by my side, I realized we were surrounded by mostly male-presenting riders with thin bodies. Despite still experiencing some intrusive thoughts, I took off my top, revealing my flabby arms, large breasts, and a skirt that lightly clung to my belly. In that moment, I shed something far more important than pounds: the burden of society's fat-fearing bullshit. On that moonlit night, as I felt the rush of the wind caress my skin, I gave myself permission to live freely with my body, not despite it. I no longer need to hide. My body is worthy (and frankly, a fucking joy) to be seen, both in and outside the bedroom. Ultimately, I have the power to rewrite my own story as a fat femme, and I’m just getting started.

Headshot of Claire Rischiotto
Claire Rischiotto

Claire Rischiotto is a freelance journalist whose work has been featured on KBOO-FM Radio, Eugene Weekly, and Street Roots. Through writing about her own personal experiences, Claire wants to dismantle fatphobia and provide positive representations of fat femmes expressing their sexuality. Based in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, Claire can often be found riding around town on her lime green e-bike in search of the best gluten and dairy baked goods.