Online Dating in a Fat Suit

Actual SizeRecently a site dedicated to “the fine art of picking up girls” decided to see what happens when men and women get dates online using pictures of them thin, and then show up at the date with fat suits on.

According to a piece in the Huffington Post, when men showed up looking fatter than their photo for five dates the women were reported to be “nice,”  one woman mentioned that he looked different, three were willing to move forward with this date or go on another one, and one kissed him.

Women who showed up looking fatter than their photo had very different experiences.  Men told them that they were angry, that the date was a waste of gas and time, that they were married, and in one instance the guy went to the bathroom and didn’t come back.  Keep it classy dude.

The Huffington Post piece points out that a study has shown that women who date online are afraid of meeting a serial killer and men who date online are afraid of meeting someone fat, that definitely seems to be playing out here.

Before we get too far into this, the problematic nature of the fat suit still applies – we have plenty of credible reports from actual fat women about what it’s like to be fat and date on the internet, and we should be careful about putting more stock in the reports of thin people pretending to be fat than the actual experiences of fat people.  Still there are things to be learned from this.

When I broke the cardinal rule of being fat on the internet and read the comments, the most common justification for the men’s behavior was that the women lied.  One man compared it to being “breach of contract” which I think is pretty telling – the idea that how women look is a contract for services that they should not breach and that a reasonable response to the breach of that contract is a complete suspension of basic human decency.

[Edit:  Added to address some comments]  I think it’s interesting to discuss what constitutes “lying” about one’s appearance.  If my picture showed me as a brunette but I showed up for the date blonde would that be a “breach of contract?”  Would it be reasonable to say that since I lied about my appearance I obviously can’t be trusted?  Would the men’s behavior be considered an appropriate reaction?  What if someone had makeup on, or a padded push up bra, or shapewear in the picture but not on the date?  What constitutes lying about appearance?  Or is this really more about the social stigma that is placed on being fat, especially as it relates to being a woman. Do we believe that if everything in the profile is correct but the picture is out of date that person is “lying”?  It wasn’t a picture of a different person after all, it was a picture of the same person looking different than they do now in one aspect. I don’t necessarily have answers to these questions but I think they are worth asking.

I can also tell you from experience that even stating clearly that you are fat, complete with pictures of you hanging out being fat, will not protect you from going on dates with fatphobic jerks. I’m lucky to be in a fabulous relationship now (Hi Julianne!), but when I was dating I always considered this a good weed-out tool.  Regardless of my own weight, I would never date someone who wouldn’t date a fat person (or who would only date a fat person, or who would rule out entire groups of people based on physical characteristics.)

To be clear (and to avoid hundreds of e-mails misrepresenting the First Amendment) I’m not saying that people aren’t allowed to have these requirements of potential mates, I’m just saying that not being that kind of person is part of my requirements for a potential mate for the following reasons:

  • If someone has a specific body size or physical appearance as a relationship requirement, I have to wonder what happens when time or circumstance changes the superficial?  I never count on a tiger changing their stripes so if they are only willing to date me based on how I currently look, I assume that things like illness, accident, or aging that change my appearance will destroy the relationship, quite possibly when it would be most critical for me to have support. I’m not about to set myself up for that.
  • This person is either saying that they are comfortable dating based on superficiality, or   insisting on what I think is the implausible idea that their attraction is something that is objective, isn’t affected by the cultural bigotry in which they are steeped, and isn’t changeable, and I don’t think that any of that is true.
  • I think that eliminating everyone with a certain physical characteristic as a potential mate is bigotry, plain and simple, and I would have concerns about this person displaying bigotry in other realms.

People are allowed to do what they want including only dating people who look a certain way and using less than accurate pictures on dating profiles.  Neither of these is for me because, to paraphrase George Washington, I learned a long time ago that I would rather be alone than in bad company.

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Published in: on September 27, 2014 at 9:34 am  Comments (36)  

36 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. *Just kidding and has nothing to do with fatness:* What if being alone – like me – is being in bad company?😛

    • Then you have what we from the South call “A Sit-chee-ay-shun.”🙂

  2. So the gents have no worries about dating a serial killer?
    Hmmm, good to know. Heh, heh, heh.

    But seriously, yes there are plenty of examples of men who divorce when the wife is ill (and presumably incurred physical changes as a result). Don’t have to go far to see this- Newt Gingrich is but one example. About his first wife he has been quoted as saying:” She’s not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of the President. And besides, she has cancer.”

    • Well, to be fair on the serial killer angle, the vast majority of serial killers are male. While there are female serial killers on record, they are pretty darn rare…. but I would think online dating would certainly be a good ruse to find victims for a serial killer of either gender. Of course whether it worked for them would also depend strongly on their trigger/motivation. And as it happens, fewer female serial killers do so from a sexual motivation.

      What? I find the subject interesting.

      • You and my roommate. He loves reading about and learning about serial killers. I worry about him sometimes.😉

        • I’d be more concerned if there was a decided DISinterest in serial killers. Ya know?

      • LOL!
        Odds aside, what’s the worst that could happen on a date with a large woman?

        And the worst that could happen on a date with a serial killer?

        Telling. **wink!**

      • You’re not alone in that.🙂

  3. They only proved that women are nicer after being lied to. I would have a problem with someone using an inaccurate picture not because looks are soooo important but if they are dishonest before meeting, they will continue to be.

    • That’s my thought exactly, Cindy… they intentionally lied to people. For me, while yes, of course weight bias is coloring this story, it’s not really a story about weight bias. It’s a story about lying.

    • As Ragen said, why does that only apply to body type? I have five different pictures in my profile, all with different hair colors and styles, none of which are identical to what my hair looks like now. If I went on a date and the other person reacted this way, would that also be OK?

      • First off, I don’t approve of the reactions, at least not the obnoxious and rude ones. Being lied to doesn’t justify that. I do not, however, think the person has any obligation to continue with a date once they realize there’s been a lie told (and that’s true whether it’s a physical appearance lie or if the person reveals something they lied about on their profile… like, for example, saying he is employed when he isn’t. Saying she was never married when she was).

        In your example, you provide pics that demonstrate you change your hair color and style frequently.Anyone who sees your profile knows you enjoy changing your appearance, and if it matters to them they can ask for a current pic. And you have every right then to say, why does it matter? and walk away if you dislike the answer. Or just walk away for being asked the question in the first place.

        The point is, you’re not presenting yourself as a blonde with long hair by featuring only one pic where you have long blonde hair, when in reality you’re currently sporting a hot pink pixie cut. Which may just not be to everyone’s taste.

        I don’t object to people having preferences. We all have preferences about a wide variety of things. I do object to them being rude and obnoxious about it, or to letting those “preferences” become hard and fast “rules.”

        When my husband & I met we were 22. We both had “types” and neither of us fit the others “type.” But a. we knew going into the date that this was true (he had a shaven head, which never really appealed to me, for example), and b. we were open minded enough to date outside of our “type.” Not everyone is, and no one is required to be, either. And frankly, for those who won’t, they probably miss out on what could be fabulous relationships, which is their loss. But it’s also their right to make that choice.

        I don’t know if the guys’ in this experiment have their profiles shown anywhere, or if they specifically said they were only interested in certain body types… but it’s sort of irrelevant to me because they online dating is often even more visual than dating that just happens organically in the physical world. It’s based on initial interest in a photo, which is obvious even before you read the person’s profile. One can hope the photo isn’t all that matters, but when you do not look like said photo in some dramatic fashion, and give NO indication that’s the case, that’s going to cause problems for most people.

        And frankly, for the reverse situation, where being thinner than the pic is seen as a bonus, it should STILL cause a red flag… because again, the person is misrepresenting himself or herself and you have to wonder why, and what else they might be misrepresenting. Or at least I do.

        But again… honesty freak.

        • Ugh I wish I could fix typos. Guys and not guys’ (I don’t know where that apostrophe came from) and “it’s sort of irrelevant to me because online dating,” I don’t know where that random “they” in that sentence came from, either. LOL.

  4. I was talking about this with my boyfriend and we decided it proves that women are taught (in general) to be nicer to men than men are to women. I’ve not watched the videos so I don’t know how big a difference there was between the pictures and the costumed date but if someone did that to me I’d wonder what else they lied about and I’d be angry, but not necessarily show it.

    I’d hope I’d be kind enough to give the person the benefit of the doubt and treat them fairly, but if I went to a lot of effort to meet someone and they lied about themselves then I gotta assume it’s not the only thing they lied about and I’d be checking for ring marks and looking for other warning signs.

    There is no need to be rude to a person, but if they lied about something as obvious as their appearance it’s not a good start to a date, it’s a red flag for any kind of relationship, even a one night stand as how could you trust them about birth control/condom use/STD status if you can’t trust them on one of the simplest things to check?

    • I wonder how these same people would react if someone turned up significantly thinner in person.

      Spoiler alert: it wouldn’t be the same

      • Sadly, that’s probably true in a lot of cases, unless the person has a body type preference for someone heavier… but it SHOULD be the same because it’s still misrepresenting themselves and you should still wonder what else they’re lying about or holding back.

  5. I do think the guys generally behaved like jerks in response to what I do believe is a lie. If they’re not into fat women, at the very least, I expect them to act like gentlemen, finish the date, and let that be the end of it. Even as a woman, if I see a picture of a guy online and he shows up to a date looking completely different, my first thought is going to be: “What else is he lying about?” I don’t have time for BS. It’s one thing to be a little plumper than the picture (or thinner, too) — at that point, it’s, “OK, it’s been some time since the picture was taken, no problem.” But if it is glaringly obvious that the picture’s outdated or something, I admit I would not be happy about it. My feelings basically echo Pyctsi…so many people play games and if I already know you’ve lied about one thing as soon as the first date starts, I don’t want to know what else is a lie!

    And I have *no* problem dating fat men. I’m married now — as it turns out, to a thin guy — but have been attracted to fat guys.

    The women handled the deception much better, though, I must say. MUCH better.

    I wouldn’t date a fat hater. It doesn’t matter if they only hate women “bigger” than I am or not. It shows a class of character that I’m not comfortable with.

    I met my ex-boyfriend at 19 and it was clear shortly into the relationship that he was deeply insecure and had been taught that fat girls are easy, compliant, etc. He wanted a girlfriend and “settled” for me. And at that time, I believed that I had to settle too: I had better expect bad treatment, at least to a degree, for daring to not be thin.

    He would walk way ahead of me out in public like he didn’t know me. He once told me he was “happy” I was fat because it meant other men wouldn’t look at me, so no competition for him. And he honestly presented this as though it were a compliment.

    What did my dumb butt do? Paid for almost all of our dates, carted him around to everything he needed to do (work, school, etc.) for a year. If not for some amazing friends who pointed out how badly he treated me and how much I was putting into the relationship, I may have stayed with him, believing he was all I could get.

    My husband has always been thin, but thankfully, has never given me the impression that my weight has caused him to treat me any differently. When I was in the dating world, honestly, it seemed like the bigger guys often projected their insecurity — they wanted to get a thin girl to “prove” that they weren’t so bad, and reacted poorly toward women like yours truly showing an interest in them.

  6. As I understand it, a lot of people ‘put their best food forward’ in online dating profiles. The couple people I’ve known who actually use online dating sites have done things like go out of their way to find a picture that makes them appear thinner, or hides a receding hairline. It’s still the same person.

    So what does it say about a person who freaks out when they discover the person they thought looked good in the photo turns out to have been editing in the hopes of getting someone to actually bother to meet them? And would they be this angry if the ‘lie’ was that she didn’t disclose that she was a wheelchair user? That she is deaf? That she had recently lost a lot of weight? That she wore colored contacts in the picture? That she plans to wear the colored contacts on the date?

    I can understand looking askance if the picture was of someone else, or is the one form their high school yearbook, and they graduated in 1973. But anyone could suddenly gain a lot of weight over the course of a year or two and truly believe they will look like their old picture again one day.

    Besides, I thought the point of online dating was to meet people, not waistlines.

    • I would be very angry if someone failed to mention they were deaf or in a wheelchair. Not because I wouldn’t date someone who was deaf or in a wheelchair but because that is a HUGE thing to omit before going on a first date (and not the sort of thing you won’t know if you meet in person first, either).

      I wouldn’t be rude or obnoxious about it, of course… but I don’t care for being lied to and as others have said, if someone lies about these sorts of things, the immediate thing I wonder is “what else is she/he lying about?”

      Not a way to start a relationship.

  7. I am kind of hardcore about honesty… so if someone used a picture in a dating profile, and did not make it clear that they no longer looked like that, I’d be really annoyed and probably wouldn’t want to continue the date. Even dramatically different hair styles or hair colors would probably trigger a personal red flag for me, but I will say I don’t think it’s quite the same thing as a dramatically different body size. And here’s why. Those are things that can change very easily and quickly(the person could’ve had it done the day before the date, or even that very same day) but as most of us here know, body size doesn’t change quite that easily. It’s always possible someone is unaware of weight gain (or loss)… it happens. But since *generally* speaking neither happen that quickly, and certainly not on par with hair dyeing or hair cutting, I’m reluctant to think the person doesn’t know the picture isn’t an accurate representation of his or her current self.

    Maybe there are good reasons for that, or at least the person feels there are good reasons. And depending on the specific situation, I might be inclined to listen to an explanation, but it clouds a potential new relationship in an aura of mistrust, which to me is just not a good way to go. I know myself well enough to know I’d wonder what else he or she might be lying about.

    I met my husband before internet dating was a popular thing (1999) on a telephone dating line, so before the era of instant photo swapping. It was a true “blind” date. I went on a lot of first (blind) dates, and though I was honest about how I looked, I apparently have some stupidly sexy voice or something and guys decided I was lying because I “sounded so hot” (and ofc you can’t be fat AND hot)… and then met me and were disappointed because they didn’t believe me (and in no small part I suspect this is because we live in a culture where women who ARE thin feel they are fat and say so). I always avoided all the men who listed a specific body type, even if it fit my own.

    I don’t think being lied to in any way, shape or form excuses rude, obnoxious and intentionally hurtful behaviors. However, I do think if you go into a date having misrepresented how you look, you are very naive if you expect the other party to just be okay and accept that.

    At the end of the day, whether you’ve dyed your hair since your picture was taken, cut it dramatically, lost or gained 50 pounds, to me it’s really irrelevant. If you don’t look the way the person expects you to, they might very well be upset by it… maybe in some cases irrationally so, but I get it.

    And this is where I run into particularly irritating issues with the fat suit stunts… I have plenty of stories I can share of men who knew, from me telling them I was fat, and did not listen to me, and then they acted like assholes as if I was to blame for their inability to hear what I plainly said.

    One guy I met through a friend as a teen didn’t believe me OR her about what I looked like… he showed up, saw me from about 200 feet away and rode off on his bike. Yep. Not even kidding (this, btw, after telling me for 2 weeks on the phone he loved me… we were 15 so I’m very, very slightly more willing to cut him a bit of slack, but I know a couple of grown women who’ve experienced the same sort of thing with grown men).

    Plenty of fat men and women are dating right now. I know, it’s shocking. But it’s true… so why can’t they just talk to us and get our ACTUAL experiences? Oh yeah. It’s less sensationalistic that way. Oh, and… they may stumble on happy stories, like my own, where I eventually DID meet an amazing man, for whom how I look is really irrelevant. He loves me for who I am. Which means, even if something horrible were to happen to me to affect my physical appearance? He’d still love me. So many of my thin friends worry about gaining weight and losing their partners. I don’t live in that state of constant fear (and am not really sure why anyone is willing to, but that’s just me).

    It’s very freeing, and it led to my finally being able to get off the dieting merry go round that had made me so unhappy for so much of my life. But they don’t want that story. Because they don’t want the stories of happy fat people… it might, after all, encourage obesity. *insert eye roll*

  8. I have to wonder if these people are so concerned about honesty, would they react the same way if the date was thinner or taller in person? My guess is no. Because we’re taught that someone being thinner in person would be a bonus, or the mark of having lost weight (for now), so they wouldn’t be such sudden boy/girl scouts about “lying.”

    • For me it would be the same because a lie is a lie.

      Also, if this is about a personal preference (which people are allowed to have), and the online dating was aimed at someone with a preference for fuller figured, curvier bodies, then yeah, they might be as upset and not see thinness as a bonus.

      I’m saying that you aren’t right about the vast majority of people… but this still doesn’t make it okay to have intentionally misrepresented yourself.

      • I am *not* saying you aren’t right. Way to proofread. *facepalms*

  9. First, I love your blog🙂 Its very inspiring, it opened my eyes and you are just a great person🙂 I also do agree on this post mostly, ruling ppl out generally because they are fat/skinny/brunette/blond etc is kind of close minded at least and very shallow.
    But there are cases where ruling out groups of ppl based on phyisical characteristics (not only but too) ist in my opinion ok.
    I’m a lesbian and I don’t find men sexually attractive, wich means I rule out aproximately half of earths population as potential mates. And yeah part of my lack of attraction is the way male bodies look (like a male chest, penis etc)…
    I don’t think you can change sexual orientation, but I also think thats not what you meant, I just wanted to point it out, because it is important to me, because I have to explain and defend it a lot to ppl in real life, that as a lesbian, I’m just not attracted to men.

  10. I met someone who had noticeably less hair than his profile picture. I wasn’t rude and I don’t think he was a liar per se. It just made me think about how visually specific we have become about dating.

  11. Here’s something else: the woman in the fat suit looked very unnatural, with her neck padded out in a strange way. That might have had something to do with the men’s reactions, too. They just possibly could have had the sense they were being played for some stunt.

    I didn’t watch the video of the guy, but judging from the picture, his makeup job looked a little more natural. And of course women are generally nicer in social situations anyway.

    I’m not saying there is not a double standard, because there certainly is, and I’ve experienced it for sure. And not dissing anyone who is shaped like her, either.

  12. So, I get that there are some people out there who are absolutely militant about honesty. My aunt is one. The concepts of “stretching the truth,” “lying by omission,” “telling a white lie,” etc., simply do not exist for her. She is fastidiously honest and rule-following in every aspect of her life, even when it makes things more difficult for her. I really think that if she were doing online dating, she would be just as irritated, disappointed, suspicious, etc., if a guy put photos on his profile of him in a fat suit and showed up with a stereotypically “attractive” body as the other way around. And if I believed that every guy in those videos was like that, then I would give them a pass on, or at least be sympathetic to, the way they treated the woman in those videos.

    But the thing is, I very, very strongly doubt that they’re like that. Because most people in the world are not like that. I know I’m not like that. Sometimes if I’m late to something I use bad traffic as an excuse, even when the truth is that the traffic is always bad in my city at that time of day, and if I’d left when I knew I needed to leave it wouldn’t have mattered, but I was really tired and just hit “snooze” a few too many times. I’ve pretended to understand things I didn’t understand in order to avoid looking ignorant in front of people I wanted to impress. The pictures on my dating profile are all recent and not retouched in any way, but they’re also pictures that I think I look pretty in (one could argue that if I were really being “honest,” I’d include some super unflattering candid shots, or a picture of what I look like when I first wake up in the morning or something). So when I go on an online date and it’s immediately obvious that the guy lied about his height, I find it very silly (I’m 5’8″, bro, if you show up to our date and you’re only an inch taller than me, it doesn’t exactly take genius math skills for me to figure out you’re not the six feet you said you were in your profile), but I get why he did it, and I don’t consider it so egregious that it justifies me being rude or ending the date. Similarly, if a guy showed up looking significantly fatter than he did on his profile, or if he had a large facial scar that wasn’t visible in any of his photos, or if he hadn’t revealed that he used a wheelchair, I might not be thrilled about it, but I would understand why he did it, and I would, at the very least, be courteous for the duration of the date.

    The bottom line is that this isn’t really about honesty at all. When you order an outfit online and the outfit that shows up at your house is a different shade or color than what was in the pictures you looked at, do you return it because the company wasn’t “honest” with you? Of course not. You return it because it wasn’t what you wanted. And, at a basic level, that was the guys’ problem with the woman in the video: she wasn’t what they wanted. And they were too shallow, and too incapable of exercising basic courtesy, to look past that for long enough to drink one cup of coffee.

    • Well said. I know that if someone showed up looking in a way that wasn’t expected, but was attractive to me, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

  13. I was not impressed with the fat suit dates. I wish it had been more realistically done. The woman who wore the fat suit really didn’t look at all like the photos- they showed a photo on tinder of her in a bikini without the fat suit and she claimed at one point the pictures were not very old. I think it would have made a stronger point if the photos on tinder could have been her as she looked in the fat suit.
    One thing I’ve heard from men is that women “lie” via dating profile pictures because they post flattering angles, crop photos, use filters, and post only head shots were you can’t tell until you meet them that *gasp* they are fat! This is a common thing I hear men complain about. So I think it would have been interesting to actually look at the reaction to that.
    I am single and have an online dating profile. Do I choose photos that are from flattering angles? Yeah. Duh. I’m not going to post photos I consider unflattering! But they are also still photos of me, they are what I really look like (from one still frame angle), they are me at my real, current weight. If someone thinks I’m uglier or fatter in person and that bothers them… well, that sucks. But there is something fucked up in the idea that this means I’ve lied to them if they think I look better in photos than IRL. (I’ve never actually had anyone say anything like that, but who knows if there is someone whose thought it.)

    • Oh, I think it’s also worth noting that a lot of the examples in this post are things that are considered “lies” for women even it’s the same in person. Wear a push up bra or one with padding? “Lie”. Wear makeup? “Lie”. Wear shapewear? “Lie”. Wear heels? “Lie”. It is incredibly ridiculous the things women are accused of “lying” about regarding their appearance and the ridiculous beauty standard that goes with that. My boobs are still my boobs push up bra or not, wearing a bra isn’t lying about anything. I’m still me whether I put concealer on to cover a pimple or not. To suggest that doing these silly little things means one is a liar, and untrustworthy is absurd. And yet, some people do because the most important thing apparently is that a woman be physically attractive and it’s a no win scenario where we are expected to hide any “flaws” but also deceitful liars if we do.

      • Yep. As women, we can’t ever really win.

        • And btw Ragen, great post. Keep fighting the good fight!!

  14. So here’s my thing: I’m pretty much too insecure about my own appearance to (I think) ever be really comfortable dating someone way more attractive than me.

    Does that still count as having a terrible bias against people with certain physical characteristics? Setting aside the question of trying to raise my self esteem (which is, admittedly, a valid point), is that something I should try to get over for its own sake?

    • It doesn’t sound like what you’re dealing with a bias against others so much as a fear towards them. For example, I feel MUCH more comfortable dating someone who’s about my size or even larger than someone who’s smaller than I am. There are a number of reasons for that, but a big one is my own personal fear that in this society where bodies are a kind of cultural currency, my partner would view me as “less valuable” since I’m bigger. She could tell me endlessly that she thinks I’m beautiful, but I’m unlikely to believe that if she’s smaller than I am.

      I think that’s a reasonable thing to be concerned about, especially if you’re seeking a relationship based on equality. If you don’t feel equal in worth to you partner, it’s hard to actually be equal.

      Of course, at the end of the day it’s easy to forget that this is a carefully-weaved story, designed to make me feel worthless. Society may have started it, but I’ve internalized it. If you have a partner that truly loves you, then they won’t care what size you are and they’ll stand up for you when others try to put you down. But it’s hard to trust, especially when you’re with someone who hasn’t experienced the hate firsthand.

  15. WELL, since people are really going all out on the “this picture is a lie” front, I’m going to swoop in as a photographer and point out that literally EVERY PICTURE EVER TAKEN IS A LIE.

    I am not being hyperbolic. A basic understanding of photography teaches us that a camera is not and never has been (though maybe someday it will be) capable of capturing what the human eye is capable of seeing. Therefore, any picture, no matter how recent or unretouched, is essentially “a lie.” Suddenly it’s not so shocking that people don’t look exactly like their pictures, no matter how “honest” the angles and lighting are. By the mere act of taking a picture, you are manipulating the image of the subject of your photo. And 99% of the time we accept photos as an approximation, or sometimes as artistic or beautiful even in their “dishonesty,” but apparently when it comes to online dating suddenly it’s “lying.”

  16. http://www.whataboutourdaughters.com/waod/2012/3/5/happy-fat-black-woman-appreciation-day-youre-not-single-beca.html
    This is written by black female blogger who is overweight like us. Her blog kind of reminds me of you Raven.


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