Sex and Intimacy When You're Fat | Connecticut Public Radio

Sex and Intimacy When You're Fat

Nov 10, 2014

Credit Tiffany Bailey / Creative Commons

According to statistics, one in every three Americans is obese and two of every three are overweight.

While we know that extra fat may set us up for heart disease, diabetes, and musculoskeletal problems, we don't really know how fat affects sex and love.

Sarah Varney, a senior health correspondent for Kaiser Health News says in her new book, "XL Love: How the Obesity Crisis is Complicating America's Love Life" that fat is complicating how we date and mate, prevents us from fining happiness, and tips otherwise happy couples into divorce. And, that doesn't include the physical limitations fat imposes on the sexual act itself. 

But, isn't there another side. While fat may contribute to physical and mental health problems for people who are fat, how much does societal fat-shaming contribute to those problems. Maybe, we shouldn't accept the premise that the problems of fat are purely phyisological an not the result of a culture entrained to think fat people are too gross to love or be loved. And, how does the media contribute to the problem. 

Sex and love are not the same. One speaks to the physical, one speaks to desire. 

There were two Rorschach tests about how we think about overweight people and sex. The first was an award-winning and much discussed episode of Louis CK in which a fat, but pretty waitress confronts the character played by Louis CK, with his unwillingness to date her when in every aspect she can think of, they're a perfect match.  Her point is that maybe Louis, or especially Louis, doesn't want to go out with a fat girl even though he himself is kind of fat. 

The second was an episode of Girls, in which Lena Dunham's character Hannah, has a sex weekend with a wealthy young man played by Patrick Wilson. People debate about whether Dunham is fat, but she's certainly fatter than Wilson and the incident kicked up an internet backlash from people who said the hook-up is just not believable. 

Today, we explore both sides.

What do you think? Comment below, email, or tweet @wnprcolin.

This show originally aired on August 27, 2014.


  • Sarah Varney is the author of "XL Love: How the Obesity Crisis is Complicating America's Love Life," and is senior health policy correspondent for Kaiser Health News. She's appeared on NPR and the PBS News Hour and her work has appeared in several publications including the NYT, Washington Post, and The Atlantic
  • Laura Bogart is a freelance writer and editor who whose work has appeared in several publications including Salon, The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown and DAME magazine
  • Dan Weiss is a music critic, author of the blog, “Ask A Guy Who Likes Fat Chicks,” and plays in the band dan ex machina. He’s also contributed work to several publications including Deadspin and Village Voice and Hairpin