Sex Work Diaries

Sex Work Diaries: On Being a Fat Woman in the Industry

April 24, 2018

In this edition of Sex Work Diaries, London-based Amelia Swann discusses how working as an escort has changed the way she sees herself and navigates the world as a fat woman.

In the Western world, we’re frequently told that the worst thing a woman can be is fat. Trailing just behind that is being a slut. If you want to be beautiful, desirable – if you want men to fuck you – you must be thin, and unattainable. Your body needs to be controlled, contained, maintained. Men don’t want to fuck fat women, and they don’t want to marry sluts – we are the side-kick, the butt of the joke, the tragic friend; never the love interest. From films to advertising, the fat female body is coded as undesirable and in desperate need of change.

We are told that men who are attracted to fat women are perverse, deviant, that it’s something you should be embarrassed about. Fat women are told that men are doing you a favor by having sex with you anyway, because who else would? The sexuality of fat women is often portrayed as out of control, over the top and grotesque, as are their appetites in general. We are too much. So what does this mean for the fat sex worker – failing to control her body in the two most crucial ways?

I’ve had a complicated relationship to both my body and my sexuality since adolescence, and when I started working as an escort I was the largest I’ve ever been in my life. My body confidence was pretty good: thanks to generous lovers, supportive friends, and online body positivity. But, still, I was concerned I’d struggle. I was worried that the constant scrutiny from all angles about every curve would be too much for me, and I’d descend into a spiral of self-hatred.

Via Amelia Swann

We all know by now that sex workers don’t sell their bodies, no matter what Megan Murphy tells us – trust me, I finish the day in full possession of all my limbs, but undeniably, my body is a business. Working as an independent escort means I have to think about my body almost constantly.  I am more aware of myself, and the physical space I inhabit, than I ever have been, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

In no context was this more apparent than my first photoshoot. The body in the mirror and the body on screen are worlds apart. I loved the former but the latter was a shock to my system – was my ass really that big, my thighs really that wobbly? Why had I never noticed that weird thing my shoulders did? Going through the pictures, all four hundred of them, was a pretty bleak experience, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t knock my confidence.

I was lucky to do my first few shoots with other sex workers, colleagues who were also my friends, and who helped me navigate this process. For that, I’m forever grateful to them. Being forced to confront your own physicality, to truly look at your body with a critical eye and think about it from a branding perspective, is at times a brutal process, but it has made me think honestly about aspects of my shape, which I had never done before

Writer and fat fashion icon Bethany Rutter writes that if you want to get to a positive place with your size as a fat woman, you need to have

a super frank relationship with your body. This is literally the only long-term answer…put yourself in a position where you cannot be surprised by your body. Get a good look at yourself naked, often. Know what you look like sitting down or from the back or next to your petite friend. Don’t shy away from those changing rooms with mirrors on all sides: this is essentially how people are seeing you all the time. And that’s because this is what you look like.

My work as an escort has forced me to do this, because I could no longer avoid the realities of my body. I had to look at ‘unflattering’ pictures to find those which ‘work’ best. I am no longer surprised by my body, and while this was at times a painful process, it’s one I’m grateful to have been through.

I have been working as an escort for about a year and a half now, and upon reflection I’ve realized that this industry has given me a renewed, if not improved, outlook on my body. We exist in a world where people who have my body are generally dismissed as too much, too fat, too unattractive, but it is these qualities which set me apart from my colleagues, which give me a unique niche in which I can work. This niche can sometimes feel limiting – plus size escorts are often forced to brand themselves in a particular way, playing into stereotypes about being excessive, over the top — it’s rare to see a fat sex worker branding herself as the ‘girl next door.’ We have to be decadent goddesses, not playful nymphs.

It would be a lie to say that the sex industry doesn’t suffer from an image problem. Unsurprisingly, thin white cis women can still command higher rates than anyone who doesn’t conform to this narrow idea of what is attractive, and fatphobia is rife amongst both clients and colleagues. Hierarchies exist even within the category of BBW sex workers – while I’m very much a plus size woman, I still fall into the category of an ‘acceptable’ fat body – I’m white, I have an hourglass figure, I carry most of my weight on my tits and ass, and so have more privilege than those who do not.

In the long run, I’d like to see more engagement from my thinner colleagues with the issues at hand, by supporting and promoting the work of fat sex workers, especially those who are also women of color, trans women and others who fall outside of “acceptable” beauty standards. Changing our definition of what is sexy can seem like an impossible task, but it’s crucial if we want to create an industry we can be proud of.

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