Desireable objects and desiring subjects

So I’ve been reading and writing and thinking and talking a lot about fat and sex lately.

Well, ok, I haven’t been reading a lot, exactly, because there’s not a lot of academic work on fat and sex to read and some of what there is, is frankly appalling.  I have been reading what Samantha Murray, Jana Evans Braziel, and Laura Kipnis have to say on fat and sex, though, and it’s most interesting.  It’s got me thinking.

There’s so few images of fat women as sexual beings in mainstream representation.  Most of these representations are set up as parodic, absurd, carnivalesque, grotesque.  Images from fat porn occasionally find their way into the mainstream, where they are recontextualised as objects of ridicule rather than desire.  Any fat woman who dares to desire sex  is cast as oblivious to the disgust and repulsion her body must engender.  She must be delusional to think anyone could possibly want her.  As Murray says:

as a ‘fat’ woman I am expected to deny my own sexual desires and identity because my body stands as an ’embolism’, to use Sedgewick’s term, between  my sexuality and my society (p123)

Yeah, I fucking love Sam Murray.  But that’s not really the point I’m trying to make.

The point I’m trying to make is that what this suggests to me is that being able to conceive of ourselves as a desirable object is integral to constituting ourselves as validly desiring subjects.  Extended out to the cultural level, it is necessary to be able to conceive of a body as desirable in order to conceive of its desires as valid or real.  In order for desire to be intelligible as desire.

What do you think?


Samantha Murray, The Fat Female Body, 2008

Laura Kipnis, ‘Life in the Fat Lane’ in Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America, 1996

Jana Evans Braziel, ‘Sex and Fat Chics: Deterritorializing the Fat Female Body’ in Bodies Out Of Bounds, Desirable objects 2001