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Online Love? More Like Fatphobia
By Ghia Vitale
A fat person like me faces fatphobia almost everywhere. Online spaces are no exception. I no longer use dating sites because I’ve had too many fatphobic encounters on them.
Online dating has always had this intriguing allure to me. When I was about 12, I didn’t have many friends offline, so I mostly interacted with online friends. This lead me to my first online relationship with first-ever boyfriend. When this happened in the early 2000’s, my peers often said online relationships were “fake” and online dating was only for desperate people. However, my online relationships gave me a sense of connection when I was otherwise limited.
Now, online dating is de rigueur. So far, nearly 50 million Americans have tried online dating. However, 1 out of 10 people who try online dating sites quit after 3 months. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever lasted 3 months on a mainstream dating site or dating app. Most of the time, I quit not due to lack of interest, but because of the fatphobia I experienced in online dating spaces.
I started using online dating sites after I graduated high school in 2008. I was 18 years old. My boyfriend and I had just decided to have an open relationship and pursue polyamory, so I was eager to try out online dating sites. However, I only felt comfortable joining online dating sites that cater to BBW (big beautiful women) and FAs (fat admirers). Now, I understand why other fat women find the BBW label to be fetishizing, but I found confidence in self-identifying as a BBW. I enjoyed flirting with people on these plus size dating sites and even hooked up with a guy from one. However, I never made any lasting connections. At one point, the members of one site voted me as the most attractive woman on the site. I found this to be incredibly flattering. It boosted my confidence so much, I eventually decided to try mainstream online dating sites like OkCupid and Plenty of Fish.
Let me put it this way: Nobody on OkCupid nominated me to be considered one of the site’s most attractive members.
Whenever I’ve been on mainstream online dating sites, I’ve always posted full body pictures and face pics alike. I did this with the hope I’d find someone who appreciates my appearance as well as my personality. (Also, let’s face it: When fat people don’t post full body pictures, we’re accused of being deceptive.) However, for big people like me, simply existing in any public space is enough to attract ridicule from others.
When I started out on OkCupid, I used to message someone if I found their profile interesting. After many rude replies, I stopped messaging people first and started limited my interactions to people who made the first move. Still, I didn’t respond to many of the messages where guys made the first move: Despite mentioning that I wasn’t looking for hookups in my profile, many men still asked me if I wanted to hook up on the first message.
If I were simply ignored by other online daters, I would be fine with it. I recognize that nobody owes me their time or even a message. However, other people went the extra mile and sent me mean, fatphobic comments. The fatphobia I experienced on dating sites varied in terms of severity. Sometimes, the first message I would get from a person would be a question about if I was working on a diet and exercise routine. Other times, people issued outright verbal attacks on my appearance. For instance, they’d call me a pig or cow.
(For the record: I think pigs and cows are both amazing animals. The fact that people use their names as insults is so uncool.)
The worst comment I ever received was from a person who told me to kill myself because I’m so fat. That bothered me because in the past, the way I’ve been treated as a fat woman has fueled suicidal ideation in me. I know I don’t deserve to die simply because I’m fat. Telling people to kill themselves is always wrong, but it’s especially wrong to say that to a person with a suicidal past.
For me, my outcome with most popular dating sites I’ve used was the same: Eventually, I’d no longer be able to take the verbal abuse being flung at me, so I’d abandon my dating profile. The last thing I need in my life is more ridicule.
It seems like people don’t want to talk about fatphobia, especially when it pertains to online dating. When I tweeted out to the world that I was going to write an article about the fatphobia I experienced on dating sites, someone responded to me with the following: “So you’re blaming everybody else for what you did to yourself? Nice move.”
However, I think we need to talk about the prevalence of fatphobia on dating sites. Many people think I deserve to this abuse and discrimination because I’m fat. Others think fat shaming will help motivate me to lose weight. Meanwhile, fat shaming has harmful effects. I had an eating disorder in high school because of it. Fat shaming is a form of bullying. Bullying is never okay.
A few months ago, I signed up for a plus size dating site out of curiosity. However, the free version doesn’t let you message members, so I didn’t experienced the site fully. As such, the site didn’t hold my interest, so I stopped checking up on my profile. I didn’t experience fatphobia there, but I did see one obvious troll profile there. I wish fat people could have spaces for ourselves without trolls infiltrating them.
Screw the haters. Fat people deserve basic respect like everyone else does.
Now, I’m not using any dating sites or apps. I’m focusing on embracing fat positivity. I fill my social media feeds with fat babes like Lilly Rose, Rachel Wiley, Virgie Tovar, and more. If you want more fat babe energy in your life, follow me on Twitter or Instagram.
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