men_in_full: (daniel lambert)

From a woman reader:

I find the contents [of your journal] extremely fascinating, particularly because I find myself more attracted to larger body types than mine.

As I was going through some of your journals latest entries I found myself curious. In your time maintaining this journal, have you ever come across anything that explains why or how a gentleman's abundance of body fat is considered attractive to some women? I've done some research on it before, but what I tend to find most is related to homosexual "bear" types and not really to hetero attraction.

At first guess, I would guess that the attraction might be based on our conception of abundance and fertility, and perhaps even related to older times when fat storage was essential to human survival, but I'd like to see what experts think. If you have any ideas yourself, I'd also love to hear them.

It's so amazing to me that in this media centric culture, we still find people who deviate from the chiseled physique that we're bombardedly told we're meant to find attractive.

Thank you for your insight and for creating a community in acceptance and love for an alternative form of beauty.

My remarks ... )

What say you, readers? Can this be explained? And if so, how?

men_in_full: (opera goers)
“If you want to change your body, does it mean that you hate yourself? If you want to change the world, does it mean that you hate the world?” That's the fundamental question posed in Glenn Gers' film, Disfigured, in which women question what they've been taught about their bodies, and how they live in them in a world that expects and rewards thinness.

The film opens in “documentary style” with a fat acceptance group, where the large-bodied Lydia (Deidra Edwards) struggles for recognition. Every group is in some small way a microcosm of society, of what the participants bring to it, and this mostly-female group is no different. And this one is based on conformity – only in this case, the body to which one conforms is a fat one. When recovering anorexic Darcy (Staci Lawrence) asks to join because she thinks she's “fat” and wants to learn to “accept” that, the atmosphere at once takes on the quality of middle school. It's as if the unpopular kid had the gall to walk up to the popular kids' lunch table, and the emotional temperature in the room drops precipitously. To this group, at least, fat isn't “just a construct.” They know what fat is, and Darcy isn't it.

Both Darcy and Lydia are rejected in their own way, and thus their friendship grows. It's rare in film to see women intensely interact; form friendships; suffer; work things out. The relationship between the two women emotionally resonates because the issues with which they struggle are fundamental to not only their identities, but to their very lives.

Lots more ...  )

(Many thanks go to Glenn Gers for kindly providing a copy of Disfigured for this commentary.)

ETA: Disfigured is not, to my knowledge, going to have a wide theatrical release. It is available on DVD for rent in the USA here and at other rental outlets; for USA purchase here, and for UK purchase here (PAL format.)
men_in_full: (Default)
Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices. - Song of Songs, 8:14

Kate Harding has an interesting combox discussion going on in response to the question, "Do I Have to Find Fat People Attractive?"

Some people just aren't going to, period - just like some people don't find thin people attractive. That doesn't make them bad - doesn't make them "unaccepting." In the realm of the senses, in the realm of my senses, there is and will be discrimination in several different directions. In sexual love I prefer men to women; and I strongly prefer fat men to thinner ones. Even within the vast range of bodies subsumed under the umbrella of fat men, not all will strike within me the peculiar chord of desire. Should I "retrain" myself to respond to that which normally does not move me? I don't think so. It doesn't matter whether my desire is "natural" or not - but it is integral to me, and has been for some time.

At bottom, those first few moments of attraction which coalesce into desire are a mystery. I can't tell you why I find fat men aesthetically beautiful and erotically compelling. In some ways I don't want to know. Malcolm Gladwell in Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, talks about the "adaptive unconscious" - that part of the mind which we simply cannot know. We know it's there; it can be studied through psychological experiments, but to attempt to know our own through cognitive self-examination doesn't seem to be possible. There are whole vast reaches of ourselves that seem to be perpetually off limits to the conscious mind, and yet we seem to do much of our thinking and reacting there. While Gladwell doesn't talk about this much, I wonder if some of our aesthetic and emotional judgments also possibly are drawn from this unconscious well?

We rely heavily on visual images; visual processing takes up a substantial portion of the sighted person's brain. (I am not sure how it works in those who do not have sight.) One can focus too much on visual images, though, especially those with which we get saturated through the media. Sexual attraction and response aren't all visual. A lot of desire has to do with the other senses. Some people can seduce with only a few words, given in the right husky tones, close up against the ear. Some can seduce with a song, with the richness of their voice. Some, when you stand near them and breathe in deeply, fill your whole body with their scent. However, for many, it all begins with the eye.

The eye links to the thinking brain. In other creatures that is not necessarily so. When a frog sees a fly, for instance, the virtually instantaneous response of its tongue to catch its prey bypasses its tiny brain entirely. So does the escape response of the fly (which is why they are almost impossible to swat.) With people, though, we can learn to be inspired by images deemed "sexy" by society (or at least pretend to be inspired, even if our attractions lie elsewhere.) It's not clear when these associations are formed - some are probably genetic; others are formed in early childhood, perhaps others at puberty. But no matter what their origin, the skin probably plays a big part in desire, too, and perhaps the thinking brain isn't so much involved as we think. Perhaps the skin is the conduit or even the repository for at least some of the "adaptive unconscious," at least as far as desire is concerned.

A fat man's body especially appeals to me aesthetically because of the circular beauty of roundness - of the face, of the shoulders, especially of the belly. Visual appeal, though, isn't an end in itself - it points to the possibility of other sensual delights.

To paraphrase the French painter Henri Matisse, love may come in at the eye, but erotic love expresses itself through the skin. To lie up against the fat flesh of love is the fulfillment of that which the eye only suggests. The eye is a path which leads to the foot of a mountain, but to remain at the foot, staring up at the summit, is not to experience what that vast hill of love has to offer. We climb the "mountain of spices" not with eyes alone, but with skin alive with desire and heart inflamed with love.

For love, which comes in through the eye and is felt through the skin, is lived in the heart, in the mind, and in the will. It is a great gift to love someone so much that even if their body brutally, radically changes (think of the late Christopher Reeves before and after his accident which left him quadriplegic), the love is still there, even the sexual love. None of us knows if we have that gift, not until we are tried by fire.

This is not to slight the role of the eye, or the visual "decisions" we make every second of every day, without even knowing it. Some of our "gut responses" of what is desirable or attractive are no doubt conditioned by what we see in the media. But there are also deep reasons, too, for all these permutations of love and desire buried below the surface, the sum total of a whole personal history of thoughts, feelings, experiences. Some will love fat; some will not. It's just how the magic of desire works.
men_in_full: (Default)
[ profile] didodikali is an artist and fanfiction writer who has a special love for two of the "big boys" of JK Rowling's Harry Potter series. One is Potions Master Horace Slughorn, an overstuffed older man with the ability to transform himself into an expansive and comfortable armchair. The other is Harry Potter's nemesis, his large and overbearing cousin Dudley Dursley. Dido illustrates her fanfiction with whimsical line drawings gentler and softer than what the original characters and scenes suggest.

On drawing bigger male characters, Dido says:
I have lots of big friends and I'm married to a big man, so I suppose it was inevitable that an assortment of body types show up in my art. I definitely see the beauty in all different kinds of shapes.

Didodikali Gallery, all SFW )

men_in_full: (opera goers)
Cornelis de Vos (1584-1651), an assistant and collaborator of Peter Paul Rubens, created the Triumph of Bacchus from which comes my icon. He also did a few other paintings featuring larger men.

Cut for your bandwidth pleasure, some NSFW )

men_in_full: (pensive)
Jean-Michele Gregory's essay, Enormous, starts out, "I am in love with an enormous man." It's brief, but worth reading. Her imagery is lovely:

Enormous, NSFW image )

ETA: LJ cut added.
men_in_full: (Default)
In Greek mythology, Ganymede was in Homer "the loveliest born to the race of mortals." Love-smitten Zeus either transformed himself into an eagle, or sent his eagle to steal the young Phrygian shepherd from his father and brothers, conveyed him to Olympus, and gave Ganymede eternal youth and life. The young man came to serve as cupbearer to the gods, mixing the nectar with water. Legend has it that Zeus's wife Hera always withdrew her hand in anger, and out of jealousy would not drink.

Euripedes called Ganymede "the dear delight of Zeus's bed" in Iphignia at Aulis. The youth's Latin name, Ganymede Catamitus, gave us the old phrase "catamite" for a young man who has a sexual relationship with an older one. Another name given to him is "Himeros," or "desire."

While the Greeks portrayed Ganymede as a slim youth of the kouros type, later depictions showed him as fuller-bodied.

Ganymede gallery )

I'm not sure why some of the Roman and later Western images showed Ganymede as plump. Perhaps slimness was associated with youth in Greece, but not in Rome or Christian Western Europe. It might be that Ganymede's plumpness was a subtle allusion to his status as Zeus's lover, as a way to "feminize" him somehow, as if Zeus's attraction "required" some explanation.

(Ganymede lore from
men_in_full: (IZ with hand)

Sigrid Jakob is a woman artist who photographs large, fat men of the gay "bear" subculture. She says:
"We are rarely given permission to look at large bodies, and when we do we are trained to look at them critically ... I want to unsettle our viewing habits and make us see them with a lover's gaze, as deserving of our desire."
It sounds similar to what I am trying to do here in this LJ.

Ron Suresha, who wrote Bears on Bears: Interviews and Discussions and several collections of bear erotica, speculated on the appeal of Jakob's treatment of the bear aesthetic:
[Suresha] admires her photographs not just for the men depicted but because he feels she appreciates and romanticizes bears the same [way] that someone who loves bears does.

"Her appreciation of the bearish form is - I wouldn't say identical to that of another bear - but her appreciation is such that I know she gets it," said Suresha ... He is intrigued by her work, he said, finds it strangely erotic, though the men depicted are doing nothing that could be considered erotic.

"I'm having an interesting time trying to distinguish between how her photography differs from the gay male photographic depictions or erotic descriptions of bears," said Suresha. "There is this erotic quality that comes across that I find very compelling. The fact that it's difficult to distinguish what might be different in her rendering of the gay male bear form from that of a gay photographer, or even a male photographer, is compelling to me."

The gallery shot from the Tobaksgaarden Assens exhibit (Odense, Denmark, left) shows a few more photos as they appeared in exhibition. I think that from a woman's standpoint, the figures in the portraits are indeed doing things that could be construed as erotic. One stands posing, showing off his shirtless chest. The other gazes at the viewer from inside the tub, where his pale flesh contrasts starkly with the dark shower curtain. The fabric folds around him, revealing him like an ivory carving displayed on a field of dark velvet. The effect is appealing indeed.

Perhaps to Suresha, the subject has to be directly sexually engaged to seem "erotic." It may be this is simply a sexual difference. For many women, it's not necessary for a man to be posed in an explicit sexual way in order to look inviting. Sometimes the revelation of the desirable body alone suffices.

Jakob herself explains:
I do this because I find them beautiful, and hope that appreciation and desire show in the pictures.
That should be explanation enough.
men_in_full: (pensive)

Over in "another part of the forest," to quote the Bard, I wrote about my recent viewing of the 1977 movie Equus. One of the major themes in that film (based on Peter Shaffer's play about a troubled youth who mutilates six horses, and the psychiatrist who treats him) is the personal sterility and lovelessness of Dr. Martin Dysart's life, shown in the film by his nondescript, literally all-beige office. Presumably designed that way to soothe troubled patients, it also reflects his colorless and passionless existence.

The recent revival of Equus on the London stage created a bit of hoopla over Daniel Radcliffe ("Harry Potter") being cast as the imprisoned Alan Strang. But something occurred to me about Richard Griffiths being cast as Dr. Dysart.

In the film, Dysart is played by the still-handsome if slightly faded and world-weary Richard Burton. His blankness and timidity are a mystery to us. Why should this slim middle-aged man live such a life of "quiet desperation?" Unveiling the mystery that is Dysart is just as much the challenge of Equus as trying to understand why Alan has committed his dreadful crime.

What I fear is that Richard Griffith's been cast as Dysart as an oversimplistic form of "body characterization." In other words, is Dysart more believable to a modern audience as "sexless," "world-weary," or "passionless" because the actor who plays him is a fat man?

Personally, I'd love to go to London and see Griffiths in the role. He would do it justice, certainly. But I'd hate to see "the doctor's dilemma" reduced to a simplistic, "Well, he's fat, what else do you expect?"


men_in_full: (Default)

September 2013



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