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Nov 29, 2022
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder (A Feedist Book Review)

An informal analysis of Kathy Charles' study on "feederism." Please feel free to share your own reviews and thoughts/first impressions of her book in this thread, I'm curious to hear what other feedists think!

(A/N: This thread may contain discussions of painful and triggering subjects, such as - but not limited to - institutional discrimination against fat people, the mainstream hatred for fat itself, and sexual assault. I haven't posted a book review so I'm not really sure how to format this, wish me luck.)

Recently, I finished reading Feederism: Eating, Weight Gain, and Pleasure by Kathy Charles - all 114 pages of it. In all honesty, it was fascinating to read about the feedist community through the eyes of a sympathetic outsider (though, to her credit, Charles remains fairly impartial for the sake of professionalism and academic objectivity).

Thanks to a friend, I was lucky enough to procure a PDF of this book for free.

I'd like to discuss a few quotes that stuck out to me, so I'll write them out below, as well as attach screenshots of pages where the quotes in question are highlighted. I'm partially doing this for your convenience, but also because I want to document proof that these quotes do indeed appear in the text (and that I haven't taken them out of context).

The first of three quotes is this:

"[... Also implicit in this statement is that gaining or losing weight is done within a coercive power dynamic.] The gaining body is only gaining in an effort to “win” the desire of a partner. The language used here is particularly striking; it is not a consensual dynamic where a partner is gaining in a consensual relationship where desire is shared. Desire is understood as a singular entity that is obtained or won like a prize by fulfilling a set of body obligations."
Kathy Charles on misconceptions about the feedist community, PP. 25.

Here, Charles describes the tendency for academics, medical professionals, and even activist associations such as NAAFA to "pigeonhole" feed(er)ism and all of its practitioners into categories such as "sexually deviant (on par with bestiality)", "patriarchal sex", and "predatory behavior" as a knee-jerk reaction to learning about people with affinity (and/or feelings of arousal) for fatness and fat bodies, whether their own or others'.

As I mentioned before, Charles does her best to be impartial in her analysis of our kink and overall community, but throughout the book she frequently winds up having to defend us from the torrent of unwarranted hostility towards fat-centric kinks and fetishes that percolates pop culture. This is one of many examples where she explains an argument before dissecting it for the casual reader.

Next up, she presents an argument for how and why feed(er)ism can often play an important - necessary, even - role in some people's lives:

"[... there does seem to be good evidence that happiness and sex are linked on some level.] If those involved in feederism are content with their choices, and it allows them to have fulfilling sexual relationships, then this should be seen as positive. A potential side effect of being overweight or obese is depression and low self-esteem. There should be greater awareness that for some individuals their size is a source of contentment that can have positive implications for their wider health."
Kathy Charles on the connection between sexual pleasure and mental health, PP. 95.

Charles does a good job of "staying in her lane" medically and not speaking over or chiding medical professionals whilst also making some really good points here.

Part of me wishes she had dedicated a paragraph or two to the differences between subcutaneous fat (visible on a person's body) and visceral fat (not visible; surrounds organs), since doctors and scientists are starting to believe that the presence of subcutaneous fat not only has few to no health-based repercussions, but can actually be much more beneficial to have than not in the long run. But then again, perhaps such a broad new subject barely in the same ballpark as feed(er)ism would be difficult to justify discussing in a strictly feedist-oriented academic study.

For the final quote I selected, Charles delves into themes of roleplay, fantasy, and consent:

"[... Another participant-related limitation, which can affect any research focused on sexual behaviour, is that individuals who are in abusive and controlling relationships may have been unable or unwilling to take part is this study.] None of the participants recruited for this research said that they were in genuinely coercive situations. Some described circumstances of coercion that they had orchestrated for their own pleasure, but none described a situation that could be considered abusive. The conclusion drawn from this is that the reality of feederism does not meet the mainstream portrayal of coercion and domination, but this could be an artefact of the sample obtained. Researchers should continue to be mindful of the potential unheard voices in feederism."
Kathy Charles on the connection between sexual pleasure and mental health, PP. 93.

This quote is probably my favorite of the bunch, to be honest. So many media outlets would have you believe that all feedists are monstrous villains who spend our days wringing our hands in the darkest corners of society, perched like hawks while we wait for an unsuspecting victim to come along so we might fatten them up against their will to cartoonishly absurd sizes. But like with almost any other kink community, the vast majority of us are able to tell the difference between fiction and reality, and as such tend to have more realistic expectations for ourselves and others.

The more researchers out there who are like Kathy Charles, the better chance our community has of building a better reputation for ourselves.


I've said my piece, but what about you? Do you agree with my thoughts and interpretations of these quotes? Are you disappointed that the author didn't discuss elements such as race, gender, and the categories for other such demographics? Is there anything you want to discuss related to this book and the issues it touches on?

If so, please don't hesitate to leave a reply below!


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