Panelists respond to a listener who feels shame after gaining weight and doesn’t want to be touched by a long-term partner.
Wild & Sublime Podcast Transcript
#S3E6 | Bonus Episode: Fat Shame
[Wild & Sublime theme music]
Jason Best : I think that dismantling fatphobia is very similar to the process that all people go through when they're trying to dismantle homophobia, transphobia, racism — like, these toxic things that we've been given by our culture to believe in. It is not immoral to be heavier.
Karen Yates : Welcome to Wild & Sublime, a sexy spin on infotainment®, no matter your preferences, orientation, or relationship style, based on the popular live Chicago show. I chat about sex and relationships with citizens from the world of sex positivity. You'll hear meaningful conversations, dialogues that go deeper, and information that can help you become more free in your sexual expression. I'm sex educator and intimacy coach Karen Yates.
This week, a bonus episode, as our Patreon panel gives tips on how to enjoy yourself more in your body during sex. If you have shame about your weight, keep listening. Do you have trouble expressing your desires in the moment with your partner? I work with couples in Chicago, helping them increase pleasure, learn the basics of erotic communication, and become more connected to one another, all through dynamic, body-centered coaching sessions. Go to the show notes or karen-yates.com to schedule your free consultation with me. Daylong immersions are available as well for out of town visitors.
How do you feel in your body right now? And how do these feelings influence your enjoyment of intimacy? This is a conversation that doesn't happen enough. But fortunately, a Wild & Sublime Patreon supporter wrote a question to our monthly panel of sexperts a few months back, and a great conversation ensued. And if you're interested in partaking in our monthly dialogue and getting other cool benefits, go to patreon.com/wildandsublime. Today we'll be joined by Peter Navarro, sex-positive and somatic-oriented therapist; Jason Best, sex-positive therapist and the founder of Best Therapies Incorporated; and Cassie Porter, somatic sex educator and sexological body worker. I'll jump in now with the questions.
"Hi, panelists. I will get to the point. I gained a bunch of weight during the pandemic, and I feel really fat, and this is affecting how I feel during sex. Whenever my partner touches me in my 'fat areas,' — ass hips, stomach — I don't like it. I kind of tense up, and he has even commented on it. I used to work out a ton at the gym before things closed down, and it's been hard getting back. What can I do to not get tense while I am with him?" A common problem for a lot of people right now, just having maybe not worked out during the pandemic, body's changing, and all sorts of things. Who wants to jump in first?
Cassie Porter : I will.
Karen Yates : Awesome.
Cassie Porter : Yeah, I've actually had my own journey with this, you know, around that sense of being desirable, just how you feel in your body. And, you know, my response to this is that what's important is developing eroticism from the inside. Because when we are thinking about oh, how are we looking? How's my partner perceiving me? Like, you know, am I thin enough? It's like, you're not actually in your body, enjoying all of that sensuality and pleasure. And so, what I would suggest to this person is just start to just develop, like, a sense of appreciation for your body, and also start to practice — you know, really, I see it as a practice of self love — of starting to focus on, how does my body feel? What pleasure am I experiencing? What does my body do for me? And then also, you know, this other larger piece of, like, unpacking, like, internalized fat phobia, that I think is really prevalent in our culture. And, you know, I just want to say, like, I went from, before the pandemic being overweight, to starting to identify as a fat person. And it's like, I still feel sexy as fuck. And sexier than I did when I was like 100 pounds lighter. So, I just really want to, you know, affirm that eroticism is from the inside, and you can cultivate that with connecting with your erotic energy and sensuality, and the developing a sense of juiciness and your own pleasure, and what you experience in your body.
Karen Yates : So give me one tip, that would be, like, a great intro thing for someone to do.
Cassie Porter : I think stepping into a mindful erotic practice, which is one of the tools of somatic sex education, of putting aside even just a few minutes a day to connect with your body and move towards sensuality in ways that feel good. So, setting a time container that's doable, that's uninterrupted, where you simply follow what feels good to your body. And it might be like, I'm going to put on my silky robe today, and caress my breasts and my belly through my robe. So just spending that time to connect to your own eroticism from the inside.
Karen Yates : Hmm, fantastic. Peter, what do you have to say,
Peter Navarro : Okay, I'm gonna start with a breath. And what I'm gonna invite this person to start with is a breath. Let's just get right into our body in a nice, soothing way, that's really going to ease some tension here around this person's question, about when they're in the bedroom, and they're feeling fat, and they don't want to be touched. I mean, that can bring up a lot of feelings. And so, we need to breathe. Anxiety is going to be very much inside at that moment, when we're feeling that shame. And I think you were saying, Cassie, about self-love, I think absolutely, you're spot on here. And to double down on it, body love. And what is that like for this individual? What's it mean for this person to really love themselves in their bodies? And to kind of just bring it into a community oriented mind-place, I wonder, too, when we do that self work, how can we start to look at other people's bodies as beautiful, so that we can also work on that external source of loving other body, therefore, I can love my body? I love my body, therefore, I can love other body. And having that interplay between the two can be very healing.
Karen Yates : Can you say a little bit more about that? Because I think that is a really juicy idea. Because it's one thing saying, I love my body, you know, I've gained weight, I love my body. But it's another thing to actually shift our perspective as we look at other bodies, especially when we are submerged in media that has been manipulated.
Peter Navarro : Absolutely, absolutely. It's work. It's hard. Because of all the signals that we receive from the world, from ourselves, from our families, from our cultures, it's a lot to hold. And so, when we're doing identity work, I think it's important to name that this might be a bias. I'll name it as that. Identity is very much co-created. So if we can start to bridge our connection to other people, we can deepen our connection to ourself. So, start seeing other bodies as beautiful. And that will help to see yourself.
Karen Yates : And it sounds to me like it's really an ongoing exercise, where you're not going to simply see all bodies as beautiful one day, make the decision. It's tempering your gaze over time. It's a slow journey. That's how it seems to me, at least, when I look at — you know, being raised reading fashion magazines that are so, they're so specific about what is, like, the right way to look, right? And then, over time, just seeing like, wow, this is really not good for me, to be looking at material like this. You know, sometimes I wonder — I know some folks take breaks from looking at that type of media, because it can be so pernicious in how it affects how we look toward other people.
Jason Best : I think that when I first read the question, it just broke my heart. You know, you can see this as a person who is feeling shame. And I think that there's shame there and it's tied into fatphobia. And I, you know, I absolutely want to piggyback on what everyone else has said about that. I think that dismantling fatphobia is very similar to the process that all people go through when they're trying to dismantle homophobia, transphobia, racism — like, these toxic things that we've been given by our culture to believe in. And it's all horseshit, right? Like, there is no special morality for a thin person. It is not immoral to be heavier. Like, we as humans, have bodies, and those bodies will go through changes, and sometimes we might be thin and sometimes we might be heavy. Sometimes we might always be heavy. It's about accepting, like, who we are. And we get to accept that. And part of being human also is letting go of who we were.
And I think that that's part of what I'm picking up from this question, too. I think there's a grief of, "I was a gym rat. I was a person who was always at the gym." I know pre pandemic, I was at the gym a minimum of four days a week, and I was never going to be a fashion model. Like, I was always a bigger person, but I was mostly muscle, with a bit of a tummy. And since the pandemic's hit, it's not been that way. I've got a, you know, a 16 month old. I couldn't go to the gym, I couldn't do any of that stuff, we've been staying away. We haven't even gone on walks a lot of times, because, especially during the early parts of the pandemic, we didn't know what was infectious and what wasn't. And so I think a lot of people are grieving those changes of, I was this person, and now I've gone through hardship, and now my body looks different. It works different. My wife, after pregnancy, you know, her hair changed from straight to curly. And it didn't change back. And that was, you know, it's a relatively benign thing, but she grieved that. She was sad about that. She had liked her straight hair. She had to learn how to cope with her hair now, and deal with it differently.
I work with a lot of folks who have chronic illnesses, and who have been injured. And oftentimes the similar road. Oh, well, my buddy used to do this, this used to be so easy, and now it's not. And I think that when your body changes in that way, you have to let yourself grieve some — I think, removed from the toxic, fatphobic elements, I think we have to say, like, my body was great then. And it's also great now, but I get to be sad about the fact that I used to be able to run a five-minute mile, and now I can't do that. Or, I used to be able to pick up a heavy weight, or, I just liked the toned look that I saw in the mirror, and that's not here anymore. And then we also have to embrace that our responsibility as a human, I think, is to look into the mirror and say, like, what can I love about me now? Like, what can I really appreciate about me now? Like, yeah, I don't have that super-firm muscle tone. But I do have a soft, squishy belly, which is pretty awesome for cuddling. These really lovely moments. And I think in terms of concrete steps, part of it might be like, I might even have someone write a letter to their former self, or think about things that they're going to let go, and maybe give themselves a timed period to feel sad, to cry, feeling anxious, whatever they need to feel. And then I would say get up, go have a good meal, go for good walk, do something "wholesome" — if wholesome is getting spanked hardcore, and then, you know, ridden like a pony, awesome. Do that wholesome work. And that might be a different type of whole. But at the end of the day, do something that's going to feel good to you, that's going to help you get back in you.
And then that embracing work, I think would be things like, maybe you masturbate, you take it really slow. And you really just try to let yourself feel those things that you're constantly on edge for with your partner. You know, if you're worried about your partner feeling your breasts, maybe you take the time to feel your breasts and enjoy what they feel like now. Think about what you can kind of tune into — like, rub your own hips, rub your own ass, feel what that feels like. It's different, but it's not bad. It's different. And as human beings, we're going to be constantly changing in life. And this is what you have to grieve in process now. But tomorrow it'll be something else, and 10 years from now it'll be something else. And I think one of the things that's really fundamental to being a human is that we're always changing. Change is hard. But that, you know, that kind of wisdom of getting to know ourselves better and better through these processes is really incredibly valuable. Like, is it worth it? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But it is a benefit, and it's something we can hold on to even in tough times.
Karen Yates : Yeah. And I also think — and thank you, Jason. That was really lovely, what you said. There is the building of intimacy and bringing your partner into this. Because quite honestly, the partner might not have known the struggle of being a gym rat, that maybe it had to do with exerting control over the body. You know, not just the exercise component, but I want to look a certain way. And suddenly I don't look a certain way. And can I communicate with you, and say, I'm having a lot of trouble right now, and I just want to let you in on what's going on inside my head when we're rolling around in bed. This is what's going on. And yeah, there's a lot of stuff that's in here.
Cassie Porter : Yeah, it was just kind of resonating with what Jason was saying around the grief piece. And I was just thinking about an exercise I recently did with my client, and my client actually created. They were like, I kind of feel like I want to explore this thing with you. And so I said okay, and so we explored this thing, and it was so beautiful. And they wanted to have different parts of their body be addressed. Of like, what's it been like to be your shoulder? What's it been like for your shoulder? And like, having that part of the body tell its story. So I was just thinking about how this person could be like, "Belly, what's it been like to be you? What's your story? What's happened for you?" And then the next piece was like, what do you hope for? What do you want things to be like? And so just like, directly asking the body, right? So that's just what was coming up for me.
Karen Yates : That's wonderful. Peter, did you have a thought?
Peter Navarro : Yeah. I mean, I love what you said there. Directly asking the body, and the body will tell. The body is very knowledgeable. And so, I love what you said there, Cassie. I think that's wonderful. I think something else I would add too is, I wonder where the pleasure zones on this person's body are, where they are right now. It doesn't seem to be the ass or the hips, or I forget the other places—
Karen Yates : Stomach.
Peter Navarro : I wonder where on the body there is pleasure, there is joy, there is soothing. And when they're having sex with their partner, if maybe one of the zones that doesn't feel so safe right now gets touched, they can go to the the safer, pleasurable zones of the body. Then you add on the breath, and then you add on the love. And then you add on the talking with your partner, right? These are all the ingredients of the soup to address this.
Karen Yates : Yeah. To contact Cassie Porter, Jason Best, or Peter Navarro, go to our show notes. Wild & Sublime is supported in part by our Sublime Supporter, Full Color Life Therapy. Therapy for all of you at fullcolorlifetherapy.com. Well, that's it, folks. Have a very pleasurable week. Thank you for listening. If you know someone who might be interested in this episode, send it to them. Do you like what you heard? Then give us a nice review on your podcast app. You can follow us on social media @wildandsublime and sign up for newsletters at wildandsublime.com. I'd like to thank associate producer Julia Williams and design guru Jean-Francois Gervais. Theme Music by David Ben-Porat. This episode was edited by The Creative Imposter studios. Our media sponsor is Rebellious Magazine, feminist media, at rebelliousmagazine.com.
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