Fat is my shield
by Mx Ruby-Rouge
Trigger warning: rape, mental health, sexism, misogyny, fattism
This is one of the hardest blogs I have ever written for public viewing, and it something I’ve pondered over doing for a long time. But sometimes you need to be brave and show the world your scars and insecurities, to be able to grow, to repair, to move on. As a side note, if you are going to be a dick about anything you read in this blog, I reserve the right to remove your comments/block you/disembowel you when I next see you.
The first thing you should know about my story is that I’m rape survivor. Saying that sounds really dramatic, corny and very difficult to actually say. But I am a survivor. Not because I survived the attack, the knife at my throat or running into my attacker many years later when he tried to drag me into a waiting car. Because I’m still here. Because I continue to live, breathe and be.
Shortly after my 13th birthday, I was raped by the boy I was currently dating. Despite my mind’s best efforts to protect myself, I am painfully aware of what happened on that day, yet to some extent, even now I’m still realising the impact it has on me. What actually happened in somewhat irrelevant, the key is the transgression of trust between two people, and lack of consent ignored, violently, and in an intimate way.
Clearly such an attack has a significant impact on a person. I withdrew, refusing to do anything other than attend school, and locked myself in my bedroom where I was safe. I told no-one. I avoided flirting and sexual interaction until I met my future husband at 16. The idea of sex both intrigued me and terrified me, I found it both erotic and disgusting in turns. It is also around this time that I struggled to imagine what consensual sex looked like, instead imagining an aggressor, and a victim.
The rape affected me in ways I’m only now beginning to comprehend. It made me shrink away from the world, and shut people out. It made me hold people at arms length, and to stop trusting. I suspected everyone of treachery, and kept my own counsel. I did not engage in physical contact, hugging or cuddles, and put up literal barriers, either physically, or verbally by being nasty to everyone around me. I hated the world, and everything in it, and I let them know. I also put on a lot of weight, and hid in oversized jumpers, baggy dresses, jeans. My weight became a physical and mental protection – a safety net, a way of creating distance. I wanted to appear attractive (and hence at that time, femme) yet the attention this garnered frightened me. I retreated into the safe guise of a chunky goth teenager.
Fast forward many years, and mid-divorce from my abusive ex husband, I attempted suicide. With lots of foot stomping I managed to get the therapy I desperately needed. Over time I managed to knock down some of my barriers, to let go of some anger, and to open up. I also lost a lot of weight, and ended up a size 10-12. Suddenly I was getting stopped in the street by men asking for my number, my inbox on dating sites was full, and for once, I felt attractive. I also felt vulnerable, and afraid. I realised that being fat and unattractive had been my shield, keeping me unnoticed and the unlikely target for predatory people.
During this slim and attractive phase of my life, I experienced more sexual harassment and inappropriate touching than ever before. I had men shout things after me in the street. I had people touch me as I walked past in a club. I got lots of things for free in bars. What did all this unwanted and unsolicited attention do? Made me scared, and when I get scared… I fight, not flee. The young man in Corporation who decided to touch my ass as I walked past with EGB was very surprised when I pull punched him, and the guy on the train suddenly backed off and left me alone when I put my hair back in a ponytail and told him to fuck off or I’d deck him. With sadness I realised my default reaction to feeling sexually intimidated was to fight, because I wished I had fought all those years ago. I’ve put myself in danger for other people, where I saw them being harassed or intimidated.
Over the years I’ve lived a happy life with my husband and other partners, I’ve developed some joint injuries and I’ve put on weight. I’m now plus sized. I’m not happy about it, my self esteem suffers and physically it’s not great for my injuries. But there’s an element of the weight that isn’t just about not exercising, or liking too many cakes. It’s a shield, that protects me from the world and it’s attention. Most people don’t glance at me twice, even dolled up, wearing a dress and DMs. The majority of the world finds plus sized people unattractive, and in that is my greatest safety net.
My sex life and relationships have also been dramatically affected by the rape. I’m a mostly dominant switch. What has happened to me makes me a very cautious bottom, feeling much safer and empowered as a top, despite my desires for (consensual) physical overpowerment and violence. I live in a world where consent, respect and open communication is key. Everything I do with my partners is with their agreement. Consent is sexy. So is playing the role-play of a mean abductor who holds a knife to your throat and threatens to gut you if you scream. I’ve found safety and comfort in a world where ignoring someone’s wishes is a most heinous crime, and where my appearance or presentation is less important than what is between my ears.
Last weekend I was going on a date with a lovely chap I met on OKC. In a rare fit of femmery, I decided to wear a pencil skirt and heels. Nothing outlandish, and considering I’m plus-sized, you’d think that I’d go fairly unnoticed. Hair and makeup my usual going out style, I set off. Unfortunately there was a football match on a mile or so from my house, and as I stood waiting for my tram, I was kerb crawled by every pathetic slimeball in a car. Some of them just looked, some nearly broke their necks trying to see my face, and some actually shouted things at me.
Sexual harassment of anyone by anyone is unacceptable to me. It is totally out of order to make anyone feel objectified on grounds of their presentation, appearance, orientation or gender. Sexual harassment of women seems to be an everyday, accepted thing – just read the posts on https://twitter.com/EverydaySexism to see examples of that. I’m not saying sexual harassment of other genders doesn’t exist, it certainly does, just that femme sexual harassment by males is possibly the most prevalent.
So what’s the point of this post? To share my story, in the hope that somewhere, someone will read this and it will help them in a struggle they may have. I hope that writing this will help me in my struggles; help me to drop my fat shield yet still fight misogyny and harassment whenever I encounter it, but also to stop me sometimes pushing people away if they get too close, to not be afraid to feel and be attached, and to not treat people with suspicion. To be confident about my body, whatever shape it is, because it is mine, and I am strong. To be sexual without guilt, fear or repression. To truly feel that beauty is not dependent on what size label is in my clothes, and that loosing weight is about health, and nothing more.
Most importantly I hope that you, dear reader, will think about sexual harassment and yourself. Have you ever wolf whistled someone? Or been wolf whistled? Have you ever slowed your car down to gawp at a hot person on the street, or had it done to you? Have you ever touched someone inappropriately, without their consent? Have you ever heard a rape apologist talk about what someone was wearing as some kind of defence, or claim a partner can’t be raped? Ever stared at two lesbians walking down the street, or felt grossed out by two gay men kissing? Whether you’ve ever fallen foul of these behaviours, or suffered them yourself, I hope you will think carefully about what that says about you and our society.
We currently live in a world that objectifies and sexualises people, and this is seen as acceptable, a bit of fun, or excused on the basis of being drunk. This is not acceptable. Don’t do it yourself, and if you see it being done to others, stop that shit. Tell that dickhead to stop hollering at the young lady walking down the street by herself. Tell your idiot friend to stop gawping at the gardener with his shirt off, or at least have the guts to go talk to him directly. Until we have a society where the stupid Diet Coke adverts objectifying men, and builders wolf whistles are a thing of the past, we will always have sexual harassment, and terrified people either fleeing, or fighting, or hiding behind some form of shield. Sexual harassment is just a short step away from rape, so lets give a clear message that none of this is what we want or expect in an apparently civilised society as ours. Let’s stop it. Let’s stop it now. Let’s build a world based on dignity, respect and consent for everyone. Let’s value people for their qualities, rather than their appearance. Let’s have a world where sexism, rape, misogyny and misandry are a thing of the past. Wouldn’t that be wonderful.
For anyone suffering from the issues raised here, or wanting further help or advice, here are some useful links:
Or see your GP to access local NHS mental health services