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THE REACTION IS THE REASON: my fat body and the slut (r)evolution poster

I mean, look at that bedhead! I clearly have been having a good time, AND THAT'S UNACCEPTABLE.

I mean, look at that bedhead! I clearly have been having a good time, AND THAT'S UNACCEPTABLE.

A friend of mine told me the other day about the time they were helping to put up some Fringe marketing posters that included my slut (r)evolution image on it. As they were getting the posters in place, several young men passed by, noticed my picture, and stood there for several minutes making quite crude and not-complimentary remarks about me and things that I might do with them.

My friend had been shocked by this incident; they seemed taken further aback by the fact that I was not shocked at all. The slut (r)evolution picture is challenging, and that's why I use it.

Well, that's not why I originally started using it. When I sat for the photo shoot four years ago, I knew that I wanted naked as a metaphor, for all the sharing that was going to be happening in the show. I also knew that I wanted an image of me coming into my sexual self-knowledge, and having joy in it. Normally when I try to put on a knowing grin, it ends up a smirk, but this shot just stood out from the short list as the one that captured it all. (Originally I wanted to have a picture without the sticky-outie bit of hair, but the photographer, Caleb Cole, and my unofficial advisory committee all said no, leave that in. Total bed-head. Of course they were right.)

Besides all that, the photo is beautiful, with really high production values, so much so that people often ask if I'm promoting a movie. I know I want it, or something very like it, to be the cover shot for my eventual autobiography. It's one of my favorite photos of me in existence.

So when I started using this picture in marketing materials for slut (r)evolution in 2011, I was shocked when it started being vandalized out in Fringe campuses. I can recall two fringes off the top of my head where I had placed slut (r)evolution posters in the middle of giant walls of posters for other fringe shows, and coming back in the next day or two to find my posters slashed through with a blade, while all the surrounding posters were unscathed. Not the result of random drunken vandalism, in other words; this was targeted destruction of my image. Of course I replaced those posters as quickly as I could, and kept an eye on them for the remainder of the fringes. But it left me thinking, what was it about that image that provoked such hostility?

Actually, let's expand that question out a bit: what is it about ME that provokes such hostility? Nobody has tried yet to inflict bodily harm on me in quite that direct a way, but I think I am in person very much how I present in that photo, and I get a lot of side-eye in person, for what I think are the same reasons: my fat, sexual body presents a challenge to people on multiple levels. I walk around with a strut and my tits up, people get confused and/or angry, and slinging an insult at me, or slashing a picture of my near-naked torso and face, is an easy outlet.

The intersection of sex and fat is still very much not a place that our culture wants to spend much time in. Fat people are not seen as sexy OR capable of being sexual. If we are in sexual relationships, it's assumed that the people fucking us must be fetishists. Fat women who are sexual are the embodiment of greed; we obviously can't control ourselves or our appetites. If we dress "sexy"—that is, anything showing our body at all—we are perceived by many as ridiculous. An image of a self-confident, naked, and obviously sexual fattie… that is just too much for people to process.

I sometimes wonder, too, if there's not some subconscious resentment on the part of people being hostile toward me and my images. I am not thin, therefore I must not be following the same lose-weight-or-else obsessions in our culture as almost everybody else. These hostile observers, on the other hand, they've mostly bought into it, the pursuit of thinness, and the deferral of happiness until that ever-shifting goal has been reached. My not going along with it, and having the sheer AUDACITY to enjoy my life and go out and look for love when and where I want it, that's just a slap in the face to all of their hard work. They've suffered, and my happy, sexy, fat body implies that their suffering was unnecessary.

Yeah. I can see why that realization would suck. I just wish they go see a counselor about it, rather than taking out their insecurities on me and my posters. I get tired of fending that shit off, and posters cost money. But I will keep (un)dressing the way I want to, and using that image anyway. The fact that it draws the reactions it does, tells me that it's needed.

*****

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