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.