Attraction, Bigotry, and Al Roker’s Wife

Design by Kris Owen

Design by Kris Owen

In my blog yesterday I said that when Al Roker’s wife told Dateline that she wanted him to amputate his stomach because “I just wanted to feel more attracted to him.” it was her “fat bigotry getting in the way of being attracted to her husband.”  Commenter Jill responded:

I think it’s perfectly fine that his wife was not attracted to him fat becasue attraction is a personal thing. I don’t necessarily think the lack of attraction is fat bigotry.

For example: My mom thinks Viggo Mortensen is the hottest thing on two legs and, while I objectively agree that he can be attractive, I find him too… pointy and angular. I don’t think I have a bias against pointy, angular Norwegians the man just doesn’t do it for me.

So I don’t see the fact that Mrs Roker was not attracted to the fat Al as a problem. The same way I don’t see someone not being physically attracted to the fat me as a problem. It is what it is.

Shaped by society or not, if you’re not attracted to someone you’re not attracted. There is absolutely ZERO shame in that and I don’t think anyone should be called to task for their personal preference – no matter what the source.

I think that this is an interesting discussion and, as always, there are lots of points of view on this, and mine is just one of them.

I understand not finding a specific person attractive.  But if someone finds every single person with a single specific physical attribute unattractive, does that not constitute a form of bigotry?

I believe, for me, that the ability to perceive beauty and attractiveness is a skill, not something that is ingrained and unchangeable.  So, for example, while I may find a specific man who is bald unattractive, if I notice that I find all men who are bald unattractive because they are bald, then I believe that constitutes a prejudice.  I would choose to examine that (does it come from what society tells me about  men who are bald? Unpleasant experiences with certain men who are bald?  etc.) and work to expand my ability to perceive beauty and attractiveness to include bald men, rather than insisting that it’s just a personal preference and no matter why I feel that way it’s just how it is.  But, of course, I can only speak for myself.

So while I am happy not to date someone who finds all fat women unattractive, I believe that they are operating from a state of bigotry and that they have the option to examine that and work to change it if they choose (preferably BEFORE marrying a fat person).  The Mirriam-Webster definition of bigot is “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.”  That, to me, includes stubbornly insisting that nobody who is a member of a group with a specific physical characteristic is attractive to them.  Or, in Mrs. Roker’s case, that she dated and married her husband fat, yet was certain that she would find him more attractive if he were thinner.

I think this is important because the idea that fat people are subjectively unattractive is used as a method of oppression – we are told that we shouldn’t be seen in certain clothes – patterns, colors, shapes etc. – and sometimes that people don’t want to see us at all.  We are told that we should value our bodies based on whether or not stereotypically beautiful members of the opposite sex want to have sex with us (regardless of our own sexual orientation.)

We are told that proof that being fat is “bad” can be found in the “fact” that the majority of people in our culture aren’t attracted to us, and that they should not be called to task for that, and that there is nothing that they should do about it.  That it doesn’t matter if it stems from a (very profitable for some) social construct of beauty, or the bigotry of our current society, it just is and there is no shame in that.  I think the source of what we find attractive is worth examination – as is the resulting concept of attractiveness, and the way that concept is used against those deemed “unattractive.”

I think it’s also important for those of us who are fat to realize that when someone says that they could never find a fat person attractive, what they may be saying (either consciously or subconsciously)  is “I’m operating my love life from a base of bigotry, and I’m cool with that.” At any rate, we are not the  problem and we don’t have to look to anyone else to validate our beauty an attractiveness.

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Published in: on January 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm  Comments (113)  

113 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Right on! As usual. And besides, Viggo is half Danish, not Norwegian. ;)

    • I wondered if I would be the first person to point this out. Although his grandmother is Norwegian so she’s not entirely wrong.

  2. I just skimmed this, and I still want to hug you. YES. I have been unable to articulate for so long why having a physical type, and being prejudiced in one’s personal life was still prejudice and this is the best I have read on the subject so far… then again, I haven’t been privileged enough to read much on it that didn’t make me want to claw my eyes out for one reason or another. This is one of those topics that reaches waaay beyond just fat bigotry, although fat bigotry is one place were it happens quite a bit.

    While I am passable as “average” in some contexts like work (I am not fat enough to experience fat bigotry, but I am pretty far outside of other social norms) I wouldn’t want to date some one who was only dating me because I am or am not [insert physical trait here].

    Anyway…. THANK YOU FOR DOING WHAT YOU DO. SERIOUSLY. This made my night.

  3. I think society has a lot to do with what we preceive as “beautiful/ugly”. For example, as a young person, I had long, naturally wavy golden blond hair – everyone LOVED it and asked me various questions such as “what color” or “what perm” I used (this was in the 80s). The answer was “none” – it just grew that way. On the other hand, I was told repeatedly how much prettier I’d be if I lost weight. Then we moved to Africa where one day at an event an elder of a particular village came up to me and patted my cheeks and said “You’re nice and healthy” and smiled at me. Her smile quickly turned into a frown when she held up a bunch of my hair and said “but your hair looks like a dirty sheep!”
    We as a society are taught to value certain characteristics which, if left unquestioned, can leave us limited in our appreciation of other characteristics.

    BTW – For me personally, I liked Al when he was fatter. But that’s MY personal preference.

    • AWESOME anecdote! :D

  4. Complex issue. When a whole class of people are excluded or demonised on the basis of their looks, that’s bigotry, whether it’s fat people or the growing (and strange) aversion to red heads that’s happening in the UK.

    But what I personally feel is sexually or romantically attractive or unattractive is up to me, and doesn’t necessarily say anything about being a bigot. I’m not a lesbian and I don’t find other women sexually attractive. I can see why other people might find them attractive, but so far, I haven’t felt any need to work on my feelings – yet that hasn’t stopped me being involved in gay rights.

    What is not acceptable would be me acting against lesbians, or trying to change them into people who I might sexually desire, simply because I personally don’t want to sleep with them as things stand now. It would also not be OK for me to expect that society as a whole should adopt my preferences or even agree with them.

    And it’s not OK for partners or parents to try and change people physically. Encouraging someone to have surgery to become more attractive goes beyond obnoxious into somewhere darker.

    • I am a fat woman and am personally attracted to skinny men in general, all 3 of my serious relationships have been with very slim men. Preferably with floppy hair… I started with River Phoenix and went on from there LOL. No idea why and it’s nothing to do with any kind of prejudice or idea about them being better in any way.
      But I can’t imagine stopping finding my husband attractive just because he gained weight, or whatever happened to him, he’d still be the same person and he is attractive to me because he is him. What about if someone had a car accident or brain tumour or whatever? I do suspect that ideas about what the weight gain means, and about the social aspects of it,. may be part of it. My mum told me she stopped being attracted to my dad when he gained weight in middle age, she is very weight conscious in general.

      I don’t think it would be fair to call me a bigot because I for some reason just happen to find slim men appealing. funnily, I am bisexual and generallyfind myself more attracted to fatter women rather than thin ones. I wonder, would we call a man who is predominantly attracted to fat women a bigot?

      • Possibly…or if such a person would stop being attracted to a fat woman if she lost weight, I would call that fetishism, at least.

      • well, it seems that you are trying to say two things that don’t make sense when put together- that you don’t know why you’re attracted to thin dudes, but it can’t POSSIBLY be because you “are a bigot,” as you’re putting it. It doesn’t make sense because if you don’t know you don’t know- you can’t say what it is or what it isn’t. The whole point that Ragen is making is that if we want to live in a different world we have to learn to question everything instead of just taking things as “given.” People hate fat people and they say it’s just “the way it is,” they want us all to believe that. You might think it wouldn’t be fair to call you a bigot, but I’d argue that what’s not fair is your insistence that you’re not one, given your lack of willingness to question your own presumptions.

        • So you are suggesting that the reason my body tends to respond sexually more often to skinny men may be because I am prejudiced against men who aren’t skinny? And yet I have no awareness whatsoever of any such prejudice. Really?

          And not only that but I am being “unfair” in stating that I know I am not bigotted against non-thin men? Riiight….

          Yes I don’t know why I am attracted to thin men. I don’t know why I am attracted to men at all, or why I am attracted to women, or why I find curly hair, or brown eyes sexy either, do those things make me a bigot too? Oh my god, maybe I am also a bigot about blue eyed, straight haired people too!!!

          You don’t know anything about me. How do you know I have a “lack of willingness to question my own presumptions”? You can tell that because I stated that I am not a bigot and not prerjudiced against men who don’t have skinny bodies? That’s some pretty impressive mindreading there. You know more about me than I do about myself, from one post on a blog?

          Quite frankly, what I really wan tot do right now is just tell you to p**s off. I have spend all day fielding emails from my closest friend about how my weight is the cause of the symptoms of my chronic illness. I came to Ragen’s page to get away from that and spend some time in a friendlier, saner environment. Next minute I am being called a bigot by a total stranger. Thanks for that.

          I don’t hate anyone for their size, but what I do hate is people who mindread and judge others.

          • K, I feel your pain. I’m sorry about your “friends.” I hope they can learn to respect your feelings and your sovereignty.

            • Thankyou Helena. It’s been a long day! My friend has the same chronic condition as I do, and says she was told she was not referred until now because she was overweight (a UK size 16) and now she has dieted her BMI below 25 and “done all that she can for herself” they will refer her to a rheumatologist. I’m not convinced this is quite what has happened, as I know she has been obsessed about her weight and it affecting her health for a long time, years before we were both diagnosed. But it is upsetting how she is talking to me, and worrying because I (as a size 26) need to seek further support for my condition, and I am already concerned that I will be told I have not “helped myself” and so cannot have further help from the NHS. She’s a dear friend but a bit lacking in the empathy department, she means well and is very caring but sometimes just doesn’t get it or see how her comments relate to me or affect me. Anyway, enough of that LOL…

        • Lack of attraction is not the same as intolerance or hate.

          • Quite. I have been attracted to men of others sizes, but have noticed a tendency or preference for a thinner, more boyish (not boys lol) body. I can’t even really imagine how that could be due to bigotry to be honest- like I am prejudiced against all men who are not underweight? I guess that’s possible but I think I am capable of recognising whether it is true of me or not.

          • i don’t recall ever saying that lack of attraction is always due to intolerance or hate. i think it’s actually been said that it’s not quite a few times in this blog post as well as in the comments, etc. so i don’t see what you’re getting at with that comment. what i was commenting on was the logical fallacy of saying “i don’t know why i only like thin men” and then saying ” it can’t possibly be due to bigotry.” on the one hand you are saying you don’t know and on the other you are saying you definitely know and that doesn’t make sense to me. i’d venture a guess that lack of self-examination usually comes from a deep and kinda gross fear of what’s down in there. i mean, that’s what every therapist i’ve ever been to has told me…. so why doesn’t that kind of analysis apply to things like “attraction” or “aesthetics?” The same need for self-examination applies to any number of different behaviors. When you link it up to the bigger picture, I believe that folks who refuse to examine the reasons behind their desires and attractions do so out of fear, and they try and hide behind the “desire is completely random and uncontrollable and impervious to influence” trope, which is abject bullshit, in order to not have to feel bad about themselves.

            • Firstly, I did not say “I only like thin men”, I said I “am personally attracted to skinny men in general, all 3 of my serious relationships have been with very slim men. Preferably with floppy hair”.

              I think what you are saying is the logical fallacy. Because I don’t know why I am attracted to thin men, I can’t know that it is not because I am a bigot? That seems illogical to me.

              Are you seriously suggesting that I am bigoted against all men who are not “underweight” with floppy hair? Because that is hilarious quite frankly.

              I also did not say anything resembling “desire is completely random and uncontrollable and impervious to influence” and am not hiding behind anything. I have nothing to hide and nothing to hide from, that’s not how I choose to live anyway (not that I have any reason to justify myself to you). I am not refusing to do anything, except to jump when you say I should jump, like some kind of lapdog, and allow you to overide my own self knowledge and inner wisdom.

              As I said, you know nothing about me and certainly are in no position to judge how self aware or willing to examine myself I am. You seem to be projecting quite a lot of stuff onto me for some reason. Maybe this would be an appropriate time for you to do some self examination.

              • Well said.

              • I like this response very much.

            • It’s perfectly valid to say, “I don’t know the reason for this, but I know it’s not this.” For example, we could say, “We don’t know exactly what causes breast cancer, but we know it’s not caused by sex.” Or we could say, “We don’t know what causes gun violence in America, but we know it’s not caused by Wicca.” Or a doctor could say, “I don’t know why you have a cough, but it’s not caused by the flu.” Even if you don’t know the cause for something, you can still rule stuff out.

        • Bumping my answer out a few levels.

          You did not say it specifically, but I felt it was implied in the suggestion that everyone needs to examine their attractions for bigotry.

          You make a lot of assumptions about what choices mean in others’ lives based on your own experiences. I want to remind you that your experiences are just that – yours. They do not necessarily match mine or K’s or anyone else’s. While it’s fine to say that you think it’s best if we all examine ourselves intimately for our attractions, prejudices, bigotries, etc., you look with contempt on those who do not choose to do the same for whatever reason, and I don’t find that OK. That is a bigotry in its own right. Ironic.

          • In addition, how does a complete stranger on the internet know how much self examination someone has done, from a few lines they have written which aren’t even on that subject? I do not agree that saying I don’t know why I am more likely to be attracted to skinny men means I have not done, and refuse to do, any self examination with respect to my attractions, prejudices and so on!

          • There is a difference between, bigotry/oppression and prejudice. prejudice is a more neutral word, i agree. some folks do it out of self-preservation. i have to be able to determine who it is or isn’t safe to hang around. when you state emphatically that you’re “not attracted to” an entire group of people, especially when that group of people is an oppressed group of people (and part of their oppression comes from the fact that folks mindlessly don’t question why they’re “not attracted to them”) that’s a reinforcement of domination, and it’s a WILLING reinforcement if you go on refusing to question why you agree with the rest of society about the issue. if i make a judgement to not trust in someone who does this, i do it out of self-defense and self-preservation. I’m not being oppressive, I don’t have any desire to tell other people what to do with their lives. I’m just pointing out how I feel about that and telling you how I deal with that.

            That said, I’m leaving this conversation. It doesn’t feel like a safe space for fat people anymore. There’s too much gatekeeping going on, even when there are patronizing attempts at intellectualizing it attempting to cover it up.

            • I’m truly stymied by how this discussion could not “feel like a safe space for fat people” anymore when no one in this particular discussion has actually discussed fat attraction at all either positively or negatively. But whether or not I can see it, that’s how you feel and I can respect that.

              The one thing I will say is that I just went back to read the entire transcript of our discussion and there was not one mention anywhere (emphatic or otherwise) of being “‘not attracted to’ an entire group of people.” In fact, the only thing we talked about in that direction was what we ARE attracted to.

              It sounds to me like something has triggered you badly. I’m sorry that happened because I know what that feels like. Kudos to you for being able to walk away from something that doesn’t feel safe to you.

        • “It doesn’t make sense because if you don’t know you don’t know- you can’t say what it is or what it isn’t.”

          Not true. Even if you don’t know what causes something, you can still rule things out.

    • bodycrimes, you summed up one of my feelings really well. Jill has a point as well.

      I agree with Ragen in that I do believe we can train our eyes & mind to appreciate many different kinds of beauty. It is an amazing gift to yourself to do so; more sources of pleasure! I didn’t appreciate modern art until my art history classes exposed me to a lot of different works in a new context. Now I can look at modern art & consider each piece in its own right. Sometimes I can find the beauty in it, some pieces still elude me. I’ve gained a lot, either way.

      However, I can see beauty & not feel drawn to the source (attraction, by my definition). Some beautiful, amazing people & art leave me appreciative but generally unaffected. Appreciating beauty is not the same as attraction, especially sexual or romantic attraction. I think women are incredibly beautiful. I love looking at them, all different kinds. I’m not usually sexually attracted to them, though. And I don’t feel like this reflects on my morals as long as I don’t project my lack of attraction onto them or anyone else.

      My great appreciation of a variety of beauty in men has also not changed the number of men I am actually attracted to. I have fussy hormones, apparently. I’m not sure how much more I can broaden my palette, and it hasn’t had much effect on my attraction levels to date.

      I do not owe anyone sexual attraction. I can’t create it where it doesn’t exist. (I’ve tried. They were spectacular failures.) I refuse to do this to please anyone else any more, either.

      I do think it’s worthwhile to look at why we are attracted (or not) to anything, though. (Argh! Words are rebelling on me.) It can lead to a deeper understanding of ourselves. We Might find hidden bigotry at the root (& repressed desire?). It’s not impossible. And then we have something to work on. It would be so interesting to see what would happen then! I don’t apologize for being straight, but I have looked at it, just to see if there was anything else going on there. I’m comfortable that there isn’t. And, like bodycrimes, it doesn’t stop me from participating in gay rights either.

      Maybe the bigotry is in this distinction; I am allowed to have preferences, & my own attractions. But if I lose track of the fact that they are My preferences, and project them as universal qualities (“All who possess green eyes are Hot, the rest are Not!”) then it becomes bigotry.

  5. This made me think of the start and end sections of this post [Trigger warning for fat bigotry, and then in the middle section for discussion (and calling out of) rape]: http://kateharding.net/2009/08/21/let-me-fix-that-for-you-e-jean/

    If you’re in a relationship with a fat person and are not attracted to them on account of their fat, and an important part of your relationship depends on your finding them attractive, either re-frame how you see them/attractiveness so that you *can*/*do* find them attractive or, if you really think that’s not possible/something you’re willing to do, get out of the relationship. Don’t assume that they should change themselves to suit your preference (even if it were possible, which most relevant research would dispute).

  6. Of course, the post at the link refers to someone whose partner got fat while they were together. I find the idea that someone would date and then marry a fat person whilst obviously having strong issues with their fat.

    • ‘Even more baffling’ should have been the end of that sentence…

  7. I think that because our society is set up to judge us not only by our own accomplishments and appearance, but that of our partners, having the most conventionally attractive partner is a symbol of high status. (This is particularly true for men, while for women, having a wealthy partner is a sign of status.) Because having a non-conventionally attractive partner would give rise to social stigma (who hasn’t heard “he can do better!”?) I believe that many men train themselves to feel disgust at partners who aren’t what society deems beautiful, and much of that has zero to do with the actual attraction their brains or bodies might feel, and much more to do with what they perceive to be the social consequence of having a “less desirable” partner. It’s unhealthy for everyone, and based (to my way of thinking) in sexism, since in this transaction women are viewed not as individuals, but as symbols of status, and desirable objects. (I realize I am speaking very heteronormitavely here, I think these issues occur, but in different patterns in the the LGBT community as well.) Anyway, my point is that this type of bigotry is not only rewarded, but almost demanded by our society, and has a whole bunch of people insisting that they find things disgusting/unattractive just because they can’t imagine letting themselves be drawn to an object of low social worth.

    • YES.

  8. In Sallie Tisdale’s *excellent* and *gorgeous* essay “A Weight that Women Carry” she writes:

    A man who is attracted to fat women says, “I actually have less specific physical criteria than most men. I’m attracted to women who weigh 170 or 270 or 370,. Most men are only attracted to women who weigh between 100 and 135. So who’s got more of a fetish?” We look at fat as a problem of the fat person. rarely do the tables get turned, rarely do we imagine that it might be the viewer, not the viewed, who is limited.

    How sad for Al Roker that he is married to someone who is limited enough to visit her limits on his body. And how sad for society as a whole that we accept and encourage that.

    • That is an excellent way of looking at the issue.

  9. 1. I did not say that attraction was set in stone. I said it was a personal thing and that I was NOT going to fault someone for not finding a fat person attractive. It is also a very complex thing and implying that it is solely a social construct is a cop out. There are multiple factors that go into why someone is attracted to another.

    2. I said NOTHING about a person who isn’t attracted to ALL people of a specific type.

    3. For fuck’s sake! SOME people have a type that they are drawn to. They are more likely to seek out that type than any other. They may find other types not as appealing, or even ignore those other types, when the type they prefer is present. I do not believe that actively seeking a specific type, that you find appealing, is bigotry. If you do NOT have a specific type, bully for you. But SOME people do.

    I have already said this before, and this is the last time I will say it:

    Having a type, or not being attracted to someone because they aren’t that type, and even NOT being attracted to EVERYONE of a specific type is NOT BIGOTRY.

    What IS biogtry, is looking at that type that you are not attracted to and BELIEVING THAT THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH THAT TYPE and with ALL PEOPLE OF THAT TYPE because they don’t appeal to YOUR PERSONAL PREFERENCES.

    In other words, blaming the person you are not attracted to for somehow failing to appeal to your preferences, rather than realizing and understanding that the lack of attraction is YOUR issue, and YOUR problem, YOUR fault, not theirs.

    Vigo Mortensen: Norwegian, Danish, what the fuck ever. That is so not the point.

    • Oh gosh, you’ve used so many caps here that you’ve totally swayed me to your point of view! – No One, Ever.

      • Wow, Regan didn’t accuse you of some of the stuff you reacted to.. she was continuing on with her thoughts. Your intensity seems extreme. I don’t think she was attacking you.

        • If someone is called out in some fashion on a public blog that they frequent without knowing it beforehand, I can see why she might feel attacked. I don’t think that was what Regan intended to do, but I can understand that reaction.

      • She made a number of well-illustrated, fair and valid points. Given that Ragen posted a well-received blog post just the other day about how it’s ok to swear when you’re angry or passionate, I’m surprised you should haul Jill up for a few capitals. I’d feel pretty passionate in her shoes. I happen to agree with everything she’s saying.

    • I think rather than getting extremely angry (which, without visual clues, it seems like you are), you might consider how cool it is that your comment inspired further discussion. I can see both sides to this, and I suspect Ragen was just extrapolating and expounding on not _just_ your comment, but rather also where connected ideas _could_ lead in some circumstances.

      I think we all thought your points were absolutely valid, yet wanted to clarify where the boundaries might be between having a “type” that we find attractive (and what the underlying reasons for that might be), and having a particular quality that we absolutely find unattractive (and again determining what the reasons for _that_ might be).

      Please, know that your words touched off more examination of the subject, and inspired a lot of us to take a closer look at these issues in general. Or at least that’s how I saw it.

  10. i love that you speak of the ability to see beauty as a skill. I think it’s both more and less than that, in that it is clearly more innate in some people than in others, but it is also very definitely both train-able and will-able. I have an exquisitely conventionally beautiful friend who has always stunned me with her luminous conviction that nearly every human she looks at is truly beautiful. I am not so generous by nature, but decided years ago to work at learning to look through her eyes instead of my more judgey ones. Without even intending it, she has given me a great gift, even though it is a process that I have to work at. But then, she’s that sort of person…

    As for Mrs. Roker–oy. That’s a marriage, which is an infinitely complicated beastie, so what causes attraction to wax or wane is probably well beyond the scope of anything that can be discussed reasonably well by people who don’t know the marriage well. That being said, I do admit that I tend to act a bit like a pissed off feline when I read that someone has stopped finding a spouse attractive because the spouse is rounder than he or she started out to be.

  11. We had this discussion in one of my gender women studies classes, If you say you are not attracted to or wouldn’t date a black person or an Indian person that is discrimination and flat out racism. It is often hard for people to come to terms with this but it is so. This is saying that you wouldnt go any farther than looks as a means to decide whether or not to date someone. This is the same for not being attracted to those who are fat. Lots of us are not intially attracted to those we chose to be with but after you get to know someone things can change and attraction grows. If you make a blanket statement like all fat people are lazy, all black people steal or I am not attracted to short men you are a bigot.

    • This is silly, and by its logic holds that anyone who’s not pansexual is a bigot. Did your gender studies class go on to follow the logic of this statement and point out that your reasoning would hold that all lesbians are anti-male bigots?

    • I am not attracted to short men.

      There. I said it. What you will never hear me say is that short men are objectively ugly, that they are stupid, that they are rapists, that they are thieves, or anything else offensive and ridiculous that is patently untrue and unfair and relates to their worth and characteristics as humans rather than my personal, subjective preferences of what I like to jump. I’m pretty sure that if we looked, we could find a few short men who wouldn’t jump me either.

      I am not attracted to short men. I do not like the taste of meat. I don’t like lime green or mustard yellow. I think The Lord of the Rings is the most overrated work of fiction in the English language.

      Burn the witch.

      • *lights torch and burns textbook instead.* ;-)

      • >”I think The Lord of the Rings is the most overrated work of fiction in the English language.”

        *Lights torch.*

        I jest; (otherwise) great post. I agree that there’s a huge difference between recognizing beauty and experiencing attraction. I don’t think a person can be faulted for who they do and do not find attractive, so long as they treat everyone, including people they are not remotely attracted to, with dignity and respect.

    • There’s a huge and obvious difference between those statements, just look at them. Two of them are about other people, making bigoted generalisations, one of them begins with ‘I’ and states a personal preference that says nothing about other people. ‘Black people are unattractive’ is a bigoted statement. ‘I find black people unattractive’ is not. You just state a position and then say ‘it is so’ with no explanation other than that your class said so. I don’t see why anyone has an obligation to try to change who they are attracted to, just as people have no obligation to try harder not to be gay. It’s not the same, obviously, but it’s not entirely different. I’m bisexual but have had periods where I exclusively found women attractive. Had I ‘tried’ harder, maybe I could have found men attractive during those periods, but I don’t think most open-minded people would think it was cool to ask me to do that. I think that would be considered a bigoted thing to ask someone to do.

      • Sorry, if it’s not clear, this is a reply to Cristina. I couldn’t agree more with Holly. Though I personally think Austen is more overrated ;)

  12. I think the key difference is between thinking “All fat people are gross and unattractive” and “I personally am not sexually attracted to fat people.” I personally don’t find some races sexually attractive–Asian/South Asian woman just don’t interest me that way. That doesn’t make me a racist. I find redheads more attractive. That doesn’t make me a hair color bigot.

    On the other hand, if my attitude was “Of course I’m not interested in Asians–Asian women are all ugly and annoying,” that would be racism. And bigotry aside, it’s incredibly wrong to marry someone you don’t find attractive and then try to change his or her identity. But a mere sexual preference isn’t a sign of bigotry, any more than a heterosexual or homosexual’s preference for one gender is a sign of gender bigotry.

    • I have to agree with that. Nicely said.

    • Yes!! This!

      I can love someone of any race, creed, color, size, gender, etc. but my personal attractions may be for “XYZ”.

    • Except for the fact that a lot of racial prejudices are actually ingrained in a lot of cultural racism and bigotry. According to research done on popular dating sites, white women are perceived as the most physically attractive across the board by men. And our culture certainly reflects this (Google search “beauty” and tell me how long it takes to find a woman of color).

      Why do you think this is? Is it because white women are simply the most attractive? Please. When you live in a culture that promotes a certain trait as crucial to physical attractiveness (be it whiteness, thinness, being able-bodied etc.) than it makes sense that a large amount of people will be conditioned to see these as the most attractive traits.

      So while to some degree certain preferences aren’t out-and-out “bigotry,” it’s fairly naive to think that “oh, well we’re just all attracted to who we’re attracted to and that’s the end of that”. Which I think is the point Ragen was getting to with this additional post.

      • The first sentence should have “racial preferences” instead of “racial prejudices” ;)

  13. I went out a couple of times with a guy who only wanted to date me because he wondered what sex with a fat woman would be like. I actually thought he had a lot of personal attraction to me and other fat women, but that it wasn’t socially acceptable so he’d never followed up with that before.

    Needless to say, when I ditched him he STILL didn’t know what sex with a fat chick was like. I am no one’s “token fat chick.”

    • I love your comment: I am no one’s “token fat chick.”

      Good for you to send that guy packing. Whatever his issue, it was his issue and you definitely didn’t need to get involved in it if you didn’t want to. You may have felt used afterwards. That is not a pleasant feeling.

      I had not been considered attractive growing up–I think it had more to do with the fact my family was deemed “unpopular” in my tiny little hometown than my actual looks. After moving away I had several very short relationships that ended after finally going to bed with them. At the time I didn’t recognize my own beauty and I would go out with the 1st guy who showered me with attention. I did actually “date” each of these guys for a considerable amount of time before going to the next step and I didn’t recognize how shallow their attention was. I later learned that I intrigued a subset of guys because of my “one of the guys” mentality. I wasn’t a fussy “girl” about things and I was a curiosity.

      For at least one guy he hid that he was engaged to a girl back home and I was his “last hurrah.” Man, did that make me feel used. I didn’t date again until I moved away from that place.

      • Um. This. >< I have long wished for someone who was just plainly interested in me, not just caught up in the thought that fat = desperate and so maybe I could be an easy lay.

        • I learned a lot about myself and others.
          Namely:
          –I am a wonderful person regardless of looks.
          –I actually am pretty (although that is in the eye of the beholder I do have *some* of the preferred characteristics in our society)
          –All people have the capacity to be jerks, but they also all have the capacity to be wonderful people.

          So I started to “vet” people based on those with whom they associated and the thoughts of trusted friend(s). After a while I figured out I actually had a bit of a jerk-meter and slowly started listening to and trusting my own insticts.

          In the grand scheme of things it wasn’t but a few bad apples and I’ve since found an awesome guy with whom I’ve shared 17 years. :-)

  14. Has been said, but she married him when he was fat. Was she not attracted to him then? If so, there are some words for her, the initials of which are “g” and “d.”

  15. I think there is a difference between having a “type” you are more drawn to than others and not being attracted to people because of a physical characteristic, all people of that characteristic. And saying that such prejudices should be examined is fine, but saying that we somehow owe people to be attracted to everyone is different (and not, I think, what Ragen is saying). If Mrs. Roker thinks she is not attracted to her husband because he is fat she should think about why she married him in the first place, if something else is going on in their relationship, etc. I very much do think, though, that you should never ever say that kind of thing in public at all, because it is disrespectful to your spouse to criticize them or discuss intimate details of your relationship with the general public.

  16. I actually don’t agree with parts of this; i think finding some traits consistently sexually unattractive isn’t bigotry, because I honestly don’t believe people control what makes them horny. You can see examples of this throughout human history. Claiming that not being attracted to something means you hate people who have it is like saying that being consistently attracted to something means you love people who have it. I think all the people attracted to fat people who still don’t treat them with respect prove that that isn’t true. How you feel about someone sexually has nothing to do necessarily with how you feel about them as a person; gay people don’t hate people of the opposite sex.

    That said, there is fat bigotry here – the fact that Al Roker’s wife thinks he should change his body in order to “make” her more attracted to him is definitely bullshit. If she isn’t attracted, then that’s an issue in their marriage – but it’s HER issue, and her responsibility to deal with it. It’s not his fault or his body’s fault.

    • I tend to agree with you, Maddi, and with you, Snowflake, about Al Roker’s wife. My girlfriend and I had a discussion about this and we both agreed that it is her issue. Mrs. Roker is 52 years old…a middle-aged woman. My girlfriend and I are both somewhat older than that, so we know about being in one’s 50s. We came up with the hypothesis that Mrs. Roker’s libido is on the wane (as happens to many, many middle-aged women) and rather than own up to what is happening to her own self, she has chosen to believe that she is no longer attracted to her husband (despite the fact that she once was, or we assume so) because of his weight. Whether this is or is not the case, her comments are indeed b*llsh*t and not the stuff that the whole world needs to know about, IMHO.

  17. I also have an issue with a wife who decides her husband needs to change to suit her measure of attractiveness. If it’s ok to demand a fat husband to starve himself to look a different way, what is the consequence? If he doesn’t, does she have a social and legal right to walk away from the marriage? Or to refuse his requests for physical intimacy the rest of his life? Do people not realize when they get married their partner might physically change over time? Just as in the bald man analogy: what’s next — a wife who abandons her husband because he went bald after the marriage?

    If a spouse can be so shallow as to dismiss their partner because the body physically changed a little over time, are we encouraging spouses to walk away from the relationship if they find aging not attractive? If people can be that shallow, why not walk away from a partner as soon as he shows a few wrinkles or grey hair, claiming those things are not attractive. What’s next, spouses who use this to force their partner to get plastic surgery? If Roker’s wife can force him to get invasive intestinal surgery, why can’t anyone just demand their partner get plastic surgery, hair implant treatments, botox, or anything else to suit their whim? Is the message “is ok to control people, as long as it’s our spouse and the control is important for our physical sexual gratification” ?!

  18. With respect, can’t agree and I’m surprised that a person who has an exclusive preference for one gender would feel this way. You are definitely not a bigot or expressing prejudice simply for not being attracted to men. There are some physical attributes I don’t ever find attractive but that doesn’t mean I think those people are inferior or should be treated with less respect and dignity. I simply choose not to sleep with them as I exercise my sexual rights of bodily autonomy. It’s ok – they don’t have to want to jump me either.

    By this logic, I should be able to train myself to find every single person in the world sexually attractive (not the same as appreciating diversity and individuality as a concept or even an aesthetic). That won’t happen. Nor will every person in the world be attracted to me. That is also fine.

    • While I agree that we all don’t have to be attracted to every type of person in order to avoid bigotry, Regan’s post provides an opportunity for a good exercise. We can take a minute and examine our own ‘types’ and try to objectively see the beauty in individuals of other types. We can mentally affirm the beauty that we find there. We will be happier people for seeing more beauty in the world than we thought was there.

      • I think the key word in your post is “objectively”. I agree with what you say, but sexual attraction is not an objective observation. It might be the most subjective judgement on earth.

        While we’re all conditioned to an extent, it’s also true to an extent that we simply are who we are. Most thin people are still not conventionally perfect but are found attractive by many. As a gay friend once said to me: “I was bombarded with heterosexual images growing up. It didn’t make me straight.”

        Given how much of size acceptance appears to be about embracing being who you are even when it goes against convention, I admit I am very very surprised to find that people won’t extend this to something as personal, intimate, unique and subjective as sexual attraction and will believe that any exclusive preference can only be a sign of sick external conditioning. Homophobes try to ban public displays of gay affection by this same logic.

        • “Given how much of size acceptance appears to be about embracing being who you are even when it goes against convention, I admit I am very very surprised to find that people won’t extend this to something as personal, intimate, unique and subjective as sexual attraction and will believe that any exclusive preference can only be a sign of sick external conditioning. ”

          This is how I feel, and you said it way better than I could.

          • I agree as well.

  19. I think that is one of the things love does is makes you more attracted to the person you are with even if they aren’t your general type. If you are with someone that you don’t really find attractive then you probably aren’t in love (this does not apply to people who are not physically attracted to anyone and base relationships on other criteria).

    • THIS! I absolutely feel this is at work more than we know.
      I often advise the young folks I know who are looking for a deeper relationship to think about this factor.
      If they enjoy spending time with someone, but find they are not attracted by that person’s big ears, they should still spend some time with them (being absolutely realistic about how involved they are or aren’t). If they continue to connect on a more meaningful level, they may start to find those big ears incredibly endearing.
      At least, that’s how it’s worked for me in many situations.

      I think this relates to the idea of exercising our appreciation muscles. That said, I do have a ‘type’, and wound up married to someone who fits it to a ‘T’. I sure had fun getting to know other folks as well, and think I learned a lot.

  20. Ragen, you describe a bigot as “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.”

    I submit that the key words of this definition are those that describe the nature of the actions related to an opinion rather than on the opinion itself. The key words are “obstinately”; “intolerance / intolerantly”; and “hatred.”

    Those terms hold the key to the argument. Holding an opinion on a person or group of people is not obstinacy; it is, perhaps, a prejudice, but prejudice is not necessarily negative. It simply means that you have a preconceived notion about another, good or bad. You can be prejudiced toward someone as well as against them.

    If you are not attracted to bald men, for example, it does not logically follow that you are bigoted. If, however, you think something is wrong with them or you hold them in negative esteem or if you treat them poorly because they are bald, then THAT makes you a bigot. Bigotry is not merely the set of beliefs we hold, but how we ACT on those beliefs.

    I tend to prefer white men because it’s my own culture and my personal tendency is to feel most comfortable with what I know and grew up with. A dear friend of mine, on the other hand, threw herself into a marriage with a man from halfway around the world in part because she loved the idea of learning and immersing herself in a new culture. I, on the other hand (oops, that makes three! oh, well) relish my trips back to my homeland of suburban Chicago where many folks bear names like Hlvacek, Zawojewski, Groth, Baumgartner, Hecht, and others of German and Polish origin. These are my people. This is where I find familiarity – in being among people who share my traditions and my culture.

    My preference for this does not make me bigoted against anyone of any other ethnicity whatsoever. Just because I love people of my heritage does not mean that I think we are better than the rest of the world or that I treat people in those German and Polish communities any differently than I treat the Huangs, the DeSalvos, the Menendezes, or the Lees of the world.

    To hold a belief or a preference does not make one bigoted. Acting negatively based on those beliefs or preferences does.

    • I second what you are saying….and wanted to emphasize that if you are not sexually attracted to someone, or even to a whole group, that is not the same as treating someone with hatred or intolerance. I do believe that people should be treated with respect and dignity. But no one owes anyone else sex, or even sexual attraction.

      Plus, how far should we extend the argument that finding “every single person with a single specific physical attribute [sexually] unattractive” is a form of bigotry? I have never been sexually attracted to an elderly person, so does that make me a bigot, or ageist? And why should we stop at physical (appearance-based) attributes? Since people who are intellectually disabled are discriminated against, shouldn’t we “work to change” ourselves if we find that we aren’t sexually attracted to developmentally disabled people? What about people with personality disorders? Are we bigoted if we aren’t sexually attracted to someone who is a psychopath, or a narcissist, or someone with multiple personality disorder?

      I think that just as we shouldn’t conflate weight with health, we shouldn’t conflate tolerance (or acceptance) with sexual attraction. Keep the two separate. If you work hard to become accepting of various groups of people, and your sexual preferences happen to change along the way, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s OK too. Just as weight isn’t an indicator of health, I don’t think sexual preferences are an indicator of one’s tolerance/acceptance. After all, there are people who are sexually attracted to a type of person, and yet treat that type of person like shit. Obvious example: Heterosexual male chauvinists. And of course, white slave-owners who had extra-marital affairs with non-white slaves (though admittedly, many of the “affairs” were not consensual, in which case power-hunger was probably more important than sexual attraction).

      Furthermore, what evidence do we have that people can consciously change their sexual preferences? We know that in many people, gender preferences are immutable. Some people have gone through intense therapy in an attempt to become heterosexual, and it hasn’t worked. Probably, many sexual preferences are more dependent on culture/environment than gender preferences, but that doesn’t necessarily imply that those preferences will be easy (or possible) to change.

      I think I feel strongly about this, because it’s too easy to turn the idea that a lack of sexual attraction is indicative of intolerance, into the idea that we *should* sexually respond to a wider range of people, and if we don’t, we should feel guilty about it and try harder. I also think that there is too much at stake for us to assume that we can consciously change our preferences, when (1) there isn’t evidence that it’s possible or likely, and (2) there is no need for us to be sexually responsive to every type of person, because we only need relatively few, or one, or no sexual partners during our entire lifespans. What is at stake? Another person’s feelings. How would you feel if you dated someone for a few months, and when you made advances, they said, “I really like you, and I really am trying to feel sexually attracted to you, but it just hasn’t happened.” (Or worse…what if they weren’t honest about their lack of sexual attraction but got more seriously involved anyhow?) Then they feel like shit, and you feel like shit. What would be better? How about not expecting everyone to be sexually attracted to you, and also feeling that your sexual preferences are valid and nothing to feel guilty about (unless they have the potential to harm others, e.g., pedophilia).

      • Bravo!! Very well said.

        • I agree! Very well said!

        • Absolutely! I think the idea that we don’t owe anyone sex or sexual attraction makes a lot of sense. We owe others respect. Not sexual attraction.

  21. That’s why I’ve never joined a large-size dating group. I don’t want to “have” to be any particular thing for someone to love me, other than being myself. If someone loved me because I was thin, or because I was round, or because I was young, or because I had long hair… it’s all the same. What happens if I get fat/old/thin/bald/sick/etc? Will they stop loving me?

    • That’s my thought exactly!

  22. I don’t think perceiving attractiveness or beauty and feeling attraction are the same. I can see beauty in almost anyone, that doesn’t mean I’m attracted to almost anyone. The roots of attraction are murky and complicated. Social constructs probably affect attraction (there have been times and places where fatter is considered hotter) but earliest sexual experiences probably do too (early enough that we don’t remember them).

    Attraction is not some steady state, either, as anyone who has started to lose respect for and correspondingly lost attraction to a partner can attest. And there is where Mrs Roker’s feelings may come in. If society keeps telling someone that their partner is a joke, or not a sexual being, or not worthy of respect because of his size, and those messages make inroads, the person might find their attraction to their partner starting to wane.

  23. Seeing beauty in something and being attracted to it are two different things. I find a lot of women beautiful but I’m only sexually attracted to men. Fat straight women, look for foreigners. Most of them think we’re gorgeous. My husband’s from South Korea, and he loves my big round bottom.

  24. I have noted a disturbing parallel between the way Black people were described in journals, letters, and news media of the Civil War era and the way fat people are described in contemporary fiction–lazy, sloppy, greedy (along with, sometimes, conniving), and stupid. And there’s a certain tone, dripping with condescension and revulsion, in both bodies of literature when both Blacks’ and fat people’s physical features are described.

    This leads me to the conclusion that obesity has become the new N word, fat-hatin’ the new racism, and that yes, rejecting fat people as a group and/or based solely on their fatness is indeed bigotry. Both, by the way, were/are in their heydays bolstered with pseudo-scientific factoids and accepted as the natural order of things. Bigotry almost always is, because of course nobody wants to think of themselves as bigots so we marshal “facts” and enlist “nature” to bolster our positions.

    Perhaps “not attracted to” is thinly-disguised bigotry when attached to it is the–implied or otherwise–assumption that this is because all members of that class are unattractive, and not just to me, because, I claim, They have a bunch of objectively negative characteristics. Preferences, in other words, may be just that, unless and until they have all this other baggage attached.

    If this is true, then the key to figuring out whether there’s bigotry involved in my preferences is to check inside to see whether I simply am not attracted to a certain group, or whether the group’s characteristics are an active turnoff. And I can ask myself whether this is a universal not-attracted-to/turn-off, or whether there have been exceptions over my lifetime. Third, I can observe whether I go around criticizing, condescending to, complaining about, making fun of, or otherwise disrespecting this group or trait. And finally, I might check whether I recognize my preferences as mydeal, or whether I think it’s something wrong with Them that They ought to change–or at least keep hidden from me to spare me discomfort. If I can pass these four tests, I’m not being a bigot. Or at least I hope I’m not–because the bigot her/himself is always the last to know.

    • I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here, *my* only problem is when I see people saying that “fat” is the “new”_______, mainly because whatever’s left to fill in the blank usually is something that exists AS WELL AS the problems/oppressions that come from hatred of fatness. IMO, there is no “new” N-word because the N-word is still around, white folks still use it to oppress Black people, and Black people who are fat experience oppression based on their Blackness AS WELL AS their fatness. I also feel that it gives white fat folks, who still benefit from white supremacy (though yes, intersectionality!) an “excuse” to try and say they can’t possibly be racist or oppressive simply because they are fat, which isn’t true.

    • Things rings true to me. For me personally, the key to whether I’m expressing a preference or expressing bigotry is to be found in the strength of the emotional reaction.

      I used to have a very strong, negative reaction whenever I heard a particular accent. It came from a time when I worked with a group of people of a particular nationality, who I found arrogant and sexist. My reaction to specific people turned into racism against a group.

      For years afterwards, whenever I heard that particular accent, my skin would literally crawl. It was racism, pure and simple.

      Later on I worked with others, and operating on a day-to-day basis torpedoed the racism, and now I don’t have an opinion. There are nice ones and nasty ones.

      But for the time I was a bigot, it was the emotional reaction that gave me away. People I’m genuinely not attracted to don’t get a reaction one way or the other, for the most part.

      I can’t speak for anybody else, just for me. But now I’ve learned that if I automatically react to a person or group with disgust or disdain, I need to look pretty hard at myself.

      People who just don’t float my boat, just don’t… and I forget about them and move on.

  25. For the most part, I don’t think intimate “attraction” is something we decide upon, but rather, is about chemistry. I find a lot of men aesthetically beautiful, but that doesn’t translate into a desire to be intimate with them. I think for most people, chemistry just happens or it doesn’t. I’ve known men whom I found decidedly unattractive, from a purely physical aesthetic, yet the chemistry between us was intense, and on a few occasion, we ended up involved in intimate relationships. The two things — chemistry and aesthetic attraction — aren’t necessarily synonymous. I think that judging anyone’s worth based on whether or not they inspire a sexual response in you is really, really, REALLY wrong. In fact, when an attorney I worked with commented that he found fat women “unattractive,” I felt the need to corrected him immediately: I said, “Oh, I see the problem. You are under the mistaken impression that it’s my job to make your dick hard, and that if it doesn’t get hard, that’s an indication of some failing on my part. Allow me to correct you. The state of your dick is entirely your job and has nothing whatever to do with me or any other woman.” He was creepy!

    • O. M. G. That is the most fantastic answer to that statement in the history of forever. i <3 you, Linda!

    • Excellent reply. I heard one once that I am looking forward to using — I’m not here to decorate your world. :)

  26. And the real point here, to me, is that Roker’s wife married a fat man to whom she was not physically attracted, then pressured him to have a surgery which could kill him & has had negative impacts on his health & body & may indeed cause him to die sooner than he otherwise would have, in order that she might find him more sexually attractive. She is perfectly within her rights to have a preference for thinner men. However, if that is the case, she should have left Al Roker alone & married someone to whom she WAS attracted. And Al should have (as indeed we all should but many of us do not) valued & respected himself enough to know that he deserved to be with someone who could love & desire him for himself, as he was. If your wife wants you to have the most dangerous surgery around, a totally unnecessary & elective surgery, so that she will want to have sex with you, what you need is a new wife, not surgery. I am a 63-year-old woman who has been married for over 40 years, & it is NEVER a good idea & it never really works out or results in a happy, loving relationship to marry a person hoping to be able to make that person into someone else.

    Therefore, the issue to me is not that Mrs. Roker does not find fat people attractive, though it would be if she were loudly & publicly proclaiming that we should all be shot or locked up until we lose weight & look more presentable. The issue is that she married a man she considered unattractive & not really good enough for her, then pressured him to risk life & health to become someone with whom she could stand to be seen & have sex. Call it bigotry or just being self-absorbed & insensitive & lacking in respect for another person, THAT is never okay. I am perfectly fine with you not wanting to jump my bones. I am NOT fine with you saying that I should make huge changes in myself so that you will want to jump my bones. We should never have to try to be who we are not in order to be loved.

  27. I forgot to add that it is NEVER okay to go on national television & tell the whole damn world that you are not attracted to your mate. That is just plain cruel, disrespectful, & ignorant.

    • Yep. All of this. Her commends were abusive.

  28. Wow this is a passionate discussion! About something that deeply impacts a part of ourselves that we don’t really want to look at too often. Because the feelings of attraction are pleasant and nice, generally, so what could be bad about that? Right?

    Well, here’s something to think about. We don’t just establish our ideas of attraction in a vacuum. I’ve always had a thing for skinny, socially awkward guys, it turns out. (Steven Buschemi…look me up!) I don’t know why, but here’s what I do know about this attraction of mine – no one considers it a fetish. I can like as many weird things about certain men or women, but the minute my attraction has to do with someone who is fat there is immediately an assumption that I have a fetish.

    I do know that my ambivalence with attraction to fat men has to do with the fact that my father is fat. And my attraction to fat women is something that has grown, as I’ve been able to look at my own body as an object of beauty and desire. Both of those attitudes, interestingly, seem less fetishized than the off-the-cuff OMG-soooo-HOT reaction I might have to a young, ripped, gymnast or cutie-pie movie star.

    The reason that they feel different is that they are examined feelings. They are feelings I pay attention to and want to impact. Mrs. Roker’s comments seemed not only unexamined, but she seemed completely uninterested in the idea that it might be controversial. We are either attracted or not. And even more, our cultural script will tells us, we are mostly not attracted to teh fatz. And that’s acceptable to everyone. No need to question, examine or take the time to do anything about that.

    Bah, humbug! It makes me all so mad.

  29. Attraction is a complex mix of chemical response and cultural conditioning. However, I do not think attraction, per se, is the issue here. The bigger problem is that Al Roker’s wife was complicit in encouraging him to feel so shamed by his physical appearance that he believed life endangering surgery was his best choice. Substitute any other physical attribute for ‘fat’ and how specious and disrespectful this is becomes self-evident. Would it okay, in the name of making them “more attractive”, to shame:
    – a short people into have leg-lengthening surgery?
    – a person with undecorated face skin into getting Polynesian-style face tattoos?
    – people with a full head of hair into submitting to electrolysis for permanent hair removal?
    – everyone showing the signs of aging skin into undergo multiple plastic surgeries to correct the ‘problem’?
    – people with naturally straight teeth into having them orthodontically altered to conform to some arbitrary standard of ideal of disarray?

    Why not? All of these would enhance a person’s physical attractiveness to someone somewhere. Like weight loss, none of the above will improve health. If you don’t find someone physically attractive, irrespective of the reason, it is never the other person’s problem. Shaming them to shift the responsibility for your response is never okay. Ragen’s “underpants rule” over-rides all else.

  30. I like what Ragen said about examining your “type” or prejudices in what you are and are not attracted to. I have never been attracted to skinny men. I always preferred stocky, barrel-chested men and thought that’s just what I liked. The man I’m about to marry has never weighed over 135 pounds and if I hadn’t examined this, I wouldn’t be with him. I was always anxious about being with a man who was thinner than me. Like that was a bad thing. But when we kissed for the first time, my body responded and I decided to listen to that rather than my head. Sometimes attraction can be found somewhere other than between your ears. And he just keeps getting better looking each and every day.

  31. People talk about themselves when they say they don’t find fat people attractive. They give advice based on what they’d want to do (maintain weight because they’re afraid of getting fat for ex). It’s basic psychology. You are not unattactive…they find you so because..well, because of bigotry.

    What’s more, I heard a guy say once that he doesn’t care about his size (he was and is fat) because he is not a woman and therefore should care less about his appearance whereas I should lose the weight because nobody likes a fat girl, right?

    There are many variables to this attraction problem, the only issue is that it brings wonderful people down, people who should be wearing bold colors, not be afraid to jog in the park because they’s be called names like cow and simply enjoy their life. Amazing people, generous people who are less appreciated because nobody cares that you have great taste in clothes as long as you don’t fit the ‘miracle all size fits all 0 dress”.

    This is unfair.

    • Self-loathing AND sexist? & You didn’t snap him up!?

      Well put. Society’s mandates on what we are “allowed” to find attractive cuts a lot of people off from other wonderful people. While I don’t think we can create attraction where there genuinely is none, I think a lot of people repress attractions that are less socially acceptable. This makes for a lot of people who are angry at the objects of their attractions for “making” them feel things they don’t want to feel. And deprives a lot of people of real happiness.

  32. Personally, I find bigotry unattractive.
    Does this make me a bigot as well?

  33. I agree with this post, Regan. I think attraction does not occur in a vacuum, period.

    Even if it is most likely not even something happening on a completely conscious level, racism, size-ism, ableism, etc. can ALL influence attraction. I think people are knee-jerk defensive about this because nobody ever wants to think of themselves as harboring ANY of those feelings – but prejudice is not JUST about thinking that you hate any group of people and want harm done on them. Little acts of prejudice and sometimes subsequent discrimination happen every day – and I do think that does include who you are and aren’t willing to date and on a more subconscious level who you are attracted to. (I don’t think this *necessarily* applies to sexual orientation, though it could potentially – I’d be willing to bet there are many people out there who are bisexual or gay and date only the opposite gender because of internalized homophobia).

    Do people think it’s purely coincidental that the media is dominated by thin, white, young people and that those are held up as the standard of attraction? Might that not influence many, many people on a subconscious level of what they are and aren’t attracted to? Are fashion models and actresses beautiful because being extremely and thin is the most beautiful way to be, or because we’ve been told that they’re the most beautiful? I find them extremely beautiful myself, but I know that their appeal does NOT exist in a vacuum.

    For me, one of the great parts of getting involved in size acceptance was because it allowed me to see my own bigotry I’d carried before against certain bodies (including my own) and learn to see the beauty in them. It’s not about “you’re a bad person if you aren’t attracted to X!” It’s about looking inward and asking yourself “Well, why aren’t I? Couldn’t everybody be beautiful?” …At least IMHO :)

  34. Whether we want to admit it or not attraction has a source. Every preference has a source that made you develop that preference. We just don’t prefer out of the blue. We have influences behind whatever we choose in life or whatever choices we make in life. There’s inspiration behind the motives that made you choose whatever it is that you did.

    Back on topic, I think it’s distasteful and very selfish of Mr. Roker’s wife to say that. He was fat when she met him, fat when she married him so why the sudden profession for a thinner Al Roker? Seems like societal influenced reason behind her commentary.

    I’m baffled on how people don’t find the blatant beliefs and dislikes towards fat people bigotry. Sure there’s a difference between saying “Hey I’m not attracted to overweight or obese men and women” but to say “Hey I’m not attracted to overweight or obese men and women because they look gross, they may smell, thinner people look better, fat people make us look bad as a country or I don’t want to be made fun of. It’s total bigotry and prejudice meaning you’re alienating this entire group because of your fucked up beliefs about them society has taught you. It’s disgusting.

    I also agree about the fat fetish bullshit and ironically it’s only applied to men who are attracted to larger women. I don’t recall seeing women who like bigger men having a fetish or men who like thinner athletic women being called a fetish. I hate the fat stigma attached to women which is why we have soooooooooooooo many eating disorders/body issue disorders and women dying from them left and right.

  35. I think this woman made a valuable point as well..

    http://fatheffalump.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/no-more-hoops/

  36. “So while I am happy not to date someone who finds all fat women unattractive, I believe that they are operating from a state of bigotry and that they have the option to examine that and work to change it if they choose (preferably BEFORE marrying a fat person).”

    I think sexual attraction is very personal and complicated. There is an entire group of people that I am not attracted to–women. That does not mean that I am bigoted against women. Similarly, I am not sexually attracted to old men, or men who are not quite physically mature (18, 19, 20, etc,). That does not mean that I am bigoted against old or young men. I think old people are super, duper cool. I adore and respect my 91-year-old grandpa. You can think someone is super-duper awesome, and still not be sexually attracted to him/her. I don’t think it’s anything I need to try to “work to change.”

    Furthermore, if someone has to put effort into finding me attractive, then I wouldn’t want to date him. If you are not naturally and effortlessly attracted to me, please don’t date me.

  37. I just wanted to mention I find Penn Jillette very sexy, because he’s smart. Also did you see the Bullshit episode where they discussed PETA, and Penn dressed as a biker, he seriously would make a sexy biker. Uh, my point is (yes there is a point aside from fangirling), that fat men can be really sexy. It’s a shame Al Roker’s wife can’t see that.

  38. This is an interesting discussion. I think that being attracted to someone should come effortlessly. I also think it is a very physical/spiritual thing that is very hard to change. That being said, I am appalled that Al Roker’s wife would want the man to amputate his stomach to please her. Attraction is one thing, love is another. I would love my husband thin, fat, bald, full bearded- whatever and I would not want him to give up an organ to please me. That is just nuts!
    Just my two cents!

  39. Al’s wife is one of those people who liked the personality, so she took up with him in spite of his being fat and thus not physically attractive to her.
    This is one of the kinds of people that I don’t want as a partner. The other is the kind of person who is only interested in me because of my body type. Either of those, do not want!

  40. This is a bit odd subject, but have you considered that the fat stereotype and everything that goes along with it is another hate crime? Or should be?

    • Personally, I abhor the idea of “hate crimes.” The issue is the crime committed against another person, not the reason for the crime. The rape of a gay man is a hate crime if the reason they raped him is that he’s gay. But what about rape against a woman? The argument could be made that she was raped because of her sex.

      We are not God. We cannot know the heart of another person, ever. We have the right to police their behaviors, but not their thoughts – EVER.

      A crime is a crime is a crime, and should be prosecuted as such. Anything less defies the Declaration of Independence and its assertion that ALL men are created equal. No exceptions.

  41. Off subject not odd

    • Regarding Mrs Roker. I don’t think that was actually the driving force to say why he had the operation. It is socially acceptable to say one is having WLS to look better, for one’s partner, or the grandaddy of them all, for health. I don’t think Roker could really say he desperately needed to loose weight because he was getting older and old and fat are totally uncacceptable on TV. I think he did it to hang on to his career. He may have been pressured by the people he works for directly or society in general. He may even have been accused of “being a bad example” given the horror of the “obesity epidemic.” He was also giving the message that one can be fat, happy and successful which is not something advertisers like either.

      I think it is so sad that someone of Roker’s accomplishments and popularity still needs to loose weight to be OK.

  42. I just wanted to add that I was surprised to se that some posts said that this blog/posts did not feel safe for fat people. I am loving the discussion, the different points of view, the acedemic, intuitive and creative ways thatthis subject is being discussed. I am so very happy to have found you all to share my thoughts with and to read yours.

    About bigotry against fat people being a hate crime, I am not sure I would couch it in those terms exactly- hate crimes are violent, terrible, excessive and cruel and so much more.
    I am thinking that it is more of a subtle (and not so subtle) brainwashing in society to have only a certain body type- of both men and woman- that is considered acceptable- this smacks more like a 1984- (does anyone here love Orwell?) – type of mentality. It is coded in our tv programs, by models, magazines, and every type of media. I feel so very bad for Al Roker to have gotten roped into this type of mindset against his own body.
    I am so glad to find here such an amazing people who are standing up for ourselves and are proud of who and what we are.

  43. I meant “an amazing group of people”

  44. Thank you for opening this discussion! I have a lot of reaction/thought/feeling/whatever on this subject. I doubt I can keep it as short as I would like. XD

    I find so many people seem to be convinced that attraction is somehow entirely carried in their respective lust-reactor body parts and not at all in their heads or colored by their social programming and I’m consistently flabbergasted that people can ever assume we leave our thoughts or social training out of ANY of our choices or interactions… that’s kind of, you know, how we function on a very general, basic level. The body, the brain, and the “operating system” all work together. Attraction is multifaceted.

    For me personally, not being attracted to fat men was very much a learned behavior. I was often bullied and ostracized socially myself so I was very conscious, in my sexually formative years, of the norms and who I might and might not be teased for associating with. I thought fat men were intrinsically unattractive, because that was what I was taught to believe, and I would have given you the stereotypical “ew!” as a teen at the prospect of dating a fat boy. But as I got older and my experience grew broader and I was exposed to a wider range of people and ideas, I eventually realized that I’m actually quite attracted to fat men, they tend to have a lot of traits I’m really drawn to (a broad chest and shoulders being chief among them, and a soft rounded belly for hugging). A shame for me if I’d missed out on that by clinging to what I was “supposed” to find sexy. Now I realize the beauty in lots of kinds of people. My current partner would be considered “too skinny to be attractive” by the Bullshit Standards (aka attractiveness norms). But he’s hot as hell, and I don’t give a shit about those who’d have a problem with my knowing so. So yeah, the social lens is a thing that happens. It’s not always about “just not my type.” It totally can be… but I think it’s fair to ask oneself if that’s what’s really going on especially wrt lack of attraction to peoples who are traditionally on the lower end of the social totem pole, and especially for people who are quick to defend how wrong it is for someone to call them a bigot when it’s just their personal preference when the conversation is specifically about people who think fat folks are just unattractive by default and/or go ahead and date/marry people they don’t find attractive and then try to blame it on the people for not being attractive enough.

    I have personal experience from that end too. As a fat woman, I found my unconventional looks didn’t stop men from seeking to interact with me intimately, but it certainly changed how they perceived and treated me. I went through several crappy boyfriends who seemed almost angry about me being fat (hooray low self esteem that I even ended up with them, blech). They couldn’t come to terms with the fact that they were attracted to me, and wanted me to conform so they would look more impressive to their peers and so they could resolve whatever inner conflict was going on from their dating a fat girl– I mean, I was fat! But they really liked me and they thought I was hot! But I wasn’t hot! The problem must be me, if I’d just change and get hotter, life wouldn’t be so confusing. I’ve also had men insult my fatness even as they tried to talk their way into my panties so yeah, I one million percent agree with Ragen there are some general convoluted bigotry issues tangled up in a lot of the people who say they aren’t attracted to fat folks, and absolutely bigotry is the order of the day for the wicked and insidious little idea that is so pervasive now that fat people are somehow intrinsically unattractive.

    One memorable afternoon, my mother absolutely hissed at me “you look like you’re pregnant, it’s disgusting,” in one of her then-daily attempts to shame me healthy or whatever. Not twenty minutes later she was rhapsodizing how “adorable” one of her friends looks now that she’s pregnant and showing. My exact body shape went from disgusting to adorable based solely on the perception of what might or mightn’t be in my uterus.

    So there’s a conundrum for you, Guys Who Try to Give Me a Shitty Evo-Psych Rundown of How You Are Right to Try Fucking Me But I’m Still Just Not ZOMG Hot Enough (no but really, please, you have to get with me, I’m so forward thinking and cool for gifting you with my presence anyway when you’re so ugleeeee): if it really was all about my looks going straight to your nether regions, wouldn’t sharing physical traits with pregnant women give me physical markers of fertility and thus make me even MORE attractive?

  45. When I hear about things like this the nasty part of my mind starts wondering things like what Al Roker’s life insurance is like and if his wife finds him so unattractive that she doesn’t care how dangerous surgery like that is…

    Then I spend about an hour looking at kittens and cute things so I can see something good in the world.


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