Editor’s note: Ari LeVaux is a freelance food writer whose syndicated column, Flash in the Pan, runs in a number of papers around the country and on his website. He also writes food stories for the Atlantic and several other publications. I met LeVaux a few years ago at an Association of Food Journalists conference and have been impressed with his columns, which tackle everything from canning and processing his own chickens to food safety legislation and genetically modified pigs. But this column, about a sexual fetish called feederism related to obesity and overeating, really caught my eye, especially in light of the much more widely known fat acceptance movement. I asked LeVaux if I could republish the column here as a guest post for Feminist Kitchen readers interested in the connection food and sex, and he agreed. If you are interested in writing a guest post, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From time to time I like to cook my lady friend a nice meal and tell her “I’m gonna fatten you up for the slaughter.” But since I began researching the fat fetish known as feederism, in which weight gain is eroticized, I haven’t been able to keep a straight face while telling her my special sexy line.
In the feederism community, the gluttonous acts that produce fat are as alluring as the sagging, bulbous rolls of cellulose they produce. At the heart of feederism is the relationship between a gainer (or feedee), and a feeder (aka the encourager).
The feeder’s job is to help the gainer become fat, an arrangement that gives both parties satisfaction. A common aspiration among gainers is a state of immobility, where he or she is too fat to move around without help. At this point the assistance of the feeder becomes crucial. Immobility, according to many feeders and gainers, is the sexiest thing ever, though it’s rarely attained.
While the feeder/gainer relationship defines feederism, it’s but one of many ways people get off on weight gain. One self-identifying gainer named “Lisa,” who is married to a man, told researchers that she looks at pictures of fat women online several times a week, and masturbates.
This research appeared in an article “Feederism in a Woman” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2009) by Lesley Terry and Paul Vasey of the University of Lethbridge. Lisa’s testimony is consistent with firsthand sources widely available on the many feederism websites, forums and chat rooms that exist.
During a period of active weight gain Lisa claims to have enjoyed great erotic pleasure, especially when weighing and measuring herself, but she ultimately gave up her gains over health concerns.
As I learned in a chat room on the website Fantasy Feeder, some gainers are terrified of doctors, thanks to the obesity-related diseases that plague the feeder community, including heart and circulatory problems and diabetes. One chatter with swollen ankles lamented, “my doctor says I have the feet of someone 200 lbs heavier.”
Lisa knew the risks, but when she experienced compromised immunity and extreme loss of energy she knew she had to get out. She slimmed down, got married, and started nourishing her inner feedee online.
“Lisa’s ideal website would have several pictures of the same woman over the course of the model’s weight gain so that she could see the progressive changes in the model’s shape and size. She said she was aroused by ‘the shapes of their bodies,'” wrote the researchers.
While sitting around and being fed, or stuffing your own face, might seem to be the epitome of sloth, many successful gainers describe their practice as hard work. Forum discussions about how to pack it on and keep it on are mirror images of the diet tips and theories shared in forums for people who want to get and stay thin.
Before her stint as a gainer, Lisa had a bout with anorexia. This is not uncommon. Feederism and anorexia share an obsession with body image and food, and both have their erotic elements.
Online gainer forums are filled with people discussing their weight gain goals. “I’m still testing this out but my preferred weight is somewhere between 250 and 300 pounds. Ideally I would like to be heavy enough to have a belly that touches my thighs when I stand up,” wrote one.
Another: “I would sell my soul if I could weigh 1500 to 1600.”
There are also recipe forums, where tips on 3,000-calorie smoothies are shared. And there are forums for lactose- and gluten-intolerant gainers, as well as diabetic gainers (of which there are many).
It’s tempting to look for a link between rising obesity rates and feederism. And maybe one exists. Certainly, the availability of cheap junk food enables those with obese intentions.
A man who goes by Dr. Feeder (and runs a website called Ask Dr. Feeder) told me via email that there aren’t good statistics on how widespread the practice is. “In a survey I did on Fantasy Feeder many feedees claim that their decision to gain weight and/or the amount of weight they’ve gained was strongly influenced by weight-gain sites on the internet. As a practice I’m sure it’s growing, for both those reasons and because it’s easier to find like-minded people.”
In his syndicated column Savage Love, sex advice columnist Dan Savage notes:
“We live in a society that’s deeply conflicted about fat and food: we’re not supposed to be heavy, but many of us are; we’re not supposed to eat junk food, but many of us do. Intentionally getting fat, or “forcing” someone to get fat, violates taboos about what we’re supposed to find attractive; since being fat isn’t healthy, “forcing” someone to gain weight is subtly sadistic. By “forcing” someone to eat a lot of crap, you’re pleasuring him and hurting him at the same time.”
Dr. Feeder considers being a feeder or a gainer is inborn, much like one’s sexual orientation.
“Many of us are aware of this from childhood (under 6 in my case) and whatever percentage of us that is, that probably hasn’t changed,” Dr. Feeder wrote.
“Lisa” also had early feelings on fat. At “7 or 8 years old,” according to Feederism in a Woman, she became fascinated with larger people and would pretend her Barbie dolls were gaining weight. When she was 13 years old she had a dream of a fat woman wearing a crop top dancing, her naked belly shaking around, and this was the inspiration for Lisa’s first orgasm in her sleep. “She also fantasized about being forced to gain weight and being teased for being overweight.”
I’m no psychologist, but I find it telling that Lisa’s fantasy about being teased for being fat was an early element of her sexuality. Even if it had never happened to her, it speaks to her early awareness that fat people exist, and they are teased. Perhaps developing an attraction to the thing she feared might happen to her – her mom was fat – was a coping mechanism. Might that be happening on a widespread basis?
If it is, and with obesity rates growing faster than ever, especially in children, we can expect a lot more gainers in the next generation. That’s good news for feeders, and their institutional counterparts, the food companies that happily and greedily fatten us up for an early slaughter. And maybe it’s good news for the gainers as well. After all, if you’re going to be fat, you might as well be fat and happy.