Sociologist and sex pedagogue Barbara Rothmüller this time about being fat and body positivity in society.
People with bodies that do not conform to the classic ideal of beauty have a hard time in society. Well-meaning counselors recommend that you just feel beautiful yourself, regardless of what others say. That can work, but it is a bit much to ask. Who is independent of other people’s judgment?
A few years ago I researched beauty practices, that is, what women and men from different social classes do to beautify themselves. Interestingly, many women said in the interviews that they put on make-up, style, etc. – not for others, but only for themselves. They try to approach the current beauty norms in order to be beautiful in their own eyes. The others supposedly play no role in this. I think that’s only partly true. The others are always inside us. Heterosexual women have internalized the male view of female bodies. It then suddenly seems to be one’s own devaluations, one’s own claims, against which they are measured – and perhaps fail. Eating disorders are just one extreme example of the struggle that many people, women in particular, are waging against their bodies.
Society is not exactly squeamish about bodies that are not so beautiful compared to the ideal of beauty of the time. Sometimes people utter the devaluations of fat, large, small, black, or crooked bodies, which is particularly hurtful. More often, however, the negative judgments are only visible in the deeds, for example if you are refused entry to a club, if you haven’t got the job again, if somehow nobody starts sexually, or nobody wants to play with you. Over time, those affected often exclude themselves from social life because they no longer feel like these microaggressions.
Tinder visual culture has made images and looks the sole foundation of getting to know each other. Weight, skin color and body shape are actually irrelevant, especially when it comes to sex and love. Sure, some people are looking for a person who above all makes their high social status visible to the outside world. Most of the time, it is professionally successful men who show other men that they can afford a beautiful young woman. But most people are actually looking for someone with a sense of humor, with similar values and interests to talk to in a partnership. Sex is also not a matter of sight alone. Sexuality lives from touch, from skin contact, from how someone feels, how someone smells, how body movements interlock to create a shared experience of pleasure and desire. What does the fat roll and cellulite have to do with it? Relatively few. Too much attractiveness can even be intimidating when looking for a partner. In my sexuality survey last year, 18 percent of respondents said they found it difficult to talk to an attractive person.
After all, there are also those people who do not correspond to the common ideals of beauty, but who are extremely sexy because of their charisma. In order for as many people as possible to be able to relax in such a body-related self-confidence, they must also be able to reflect positively in the eyes of others.
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