Food Porn and Fat Porn

Sexy Girl

Did you know that YouTube offers over 12,000 items under the heading of “Food Porn”? It comes right through the computer screen, and a person can stare at food porn all day long without being ostracized by the community. The consumption of food porn has probably never been the grounds for a single divorce. It is not sent to the traditional mailbox in a plain brown wrapper, to frustrate the curiosity of neighbors and the postman, as was the custom in the days of relatively innocuous girlie magazines.

A couple of years ago, encouraged by the success of a campaign to require that tobacco products be sold in plain, rather than colorful, packaging, a group of Australian activists suggested doing the same with junk food. Generic packaging, they believe, should be more widely employed, along with yucky pictures of the end results of overindulgence in the product.

The Adam Smith Research Trust issued a report about all of this, noting that:

The most obvious targets would be alcohol, fatty foods and sugary drinks…

Imagine grabbing a can of cola, bringing its condensation-rimmed brim up to your mouth, and catching sight of the graphic on the side of the cylinder — bariatric surgery in progress. Would it make a difference?

While this topic was trending in the southern hemisphere, The Atlantic published a huge article by Marc Ambinder, which was a sort of “state of obesity” report. Among many other aspects and facets of world obesity, he demonstrated that people have different definitions of fat porn:

Obesity has become not just a scientific fad of sorts, generating intense research, curiosity, and public concern, but also a commercial gold mine that draws on the same kind of audiences that used to go to circus carnivals a century ago to peer at freakishly obese men and women.

Family TV Examples

The writer went on to describe various television shows and episodes that struck him as particularly objectionable, because despite their declared purpose of public service or education, they really seemed to be just presenting obese people as targets of ridicule. Ambinder wrote:

The impact of ‘fat porn’ on fat people is counterproductive… [T]here is little evidence that increasing stigma actually reduces obesity rates. And plenty of evidence shows that stigma makes fat people more likely to feel depressed, to experience stress, to receive poorer medical care, to experience discrimination in the workplace, to go on eating binges, and to duck exercise.

The sassy pop culture journalists of Jezebel have been on the case for a long time. Writer Irin Carmon was particularly interested in the fact that Marc Ambinder had bariatric surgery and noted:

[…] Ambinder does strike the delicate balance between raising concerns about obesity’s public and personal health repercussions, and staying away from fat-shaming. He also does a good job of clearly noting his class privilege — the money to sink into diet and exercise solutions, and then to have a $30,000 surgery not covered by insurance — and contrasting it with an analysis of the sociopolitical factors that contribute to childhood obesity in various low-income groups.

Real Fat Porn

But watching fat people bounce around trying to exercise, or struggling into and out of airplane seats, is only one kind of fat porn, the milder and socially acceptable kind. Out there in the wilds of cyberspace, the searcher can find every kind of fat porn subspecialty — pregnant, drunk, mature, hairy, even Australian. One website offers “chubby galls” [sic], typical of the general level of ignorance in the field.

Elsewhere, a young woman, Kelly Shibari, reveals how she is both a fat porn star and a role model. In Los Angeles, she was doing fine as a freelance production designer, until a major film industry strike caused jobs to disappear. A friend in the “adult” industry turned her on to the world of websites featuring overweight women glamorously dressed (or undressed) and made up like movie stars.

The rest is second-career history, and also where the role model claim enters the picture. Shibari writes:

[T]he number one thing I’ve always maintained is to be true to myself — and that means I’m a confident, brainy, nerdy, slightly dorky (okay, mostly dorky) fat Asian girl who doesn’t mind being naked… I’ve been able to use my status as a performer to run fundraisers, speak at marketing conferences, produce and direct my own projects… Where my ‘role-modeling’ comes in is to share the importance of being confident in yourself, to try as many things as possible, be open to life changes, and don’t let a little thing like what other people think of you get you down.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Beating Obesity,The Atlantic, 04/13/10
Source: “On Obesity: Fat Chicks And Fat ‘Porn’ As Entertainment,” Jezebel, 04/13/10
Source: “It Happened to me: I’m a Fat Porn Star,” xoJane, 11/16/12
Image by birgerking.

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