Photo: Liora Kuttler
I remember the exact moment when the concept of someone finding me attractive became even a remote possibility. I was 20 years old (TWENTY), talking to a friend when they said with a snicker, “Can you believe Henry thinks you’re hot?”
This sentence was delivered as a question because being the object of Henry’s affections was not an enviable position to be in. He didn't have girls lining up to date him and he didn't possess typical ‘good catch’ qualities, but all this was lost on me. I was still shocked by the fact that ANY homosapien on this planet would find my body attractive.
Growing up, I felt so desexualised that the promise of any sort of physical appreciation was inconceivable, even in my future. Yet here I was. A male found me sexy. And I liked it.
The author, Jes Baker. Photo: Liora Kuttler
I really wish I could say that I never entered into a world of one-night stands based purely on attention toward my body. I wish that I grew up thinking that I was beautiful NOT ONLY on the inside, but on the outside as well. I wish that I was raised to celebrate, love, cherish and appreciate my body for all of the wonderful things that it does and is, but I wasn't.
I grew up feeling as though my body was my mortal enemy; so much so that I was completely and utterly detached from it. Me and My Body were separate entities all together; fused only by physical proximity. My body was the friend that people tolerated so they could hang out with the rest of me. My poor body. So hated, reviled, ignored, camouflaged, shunned, demoralised and loathed. My body was neglected and famished for attention and so I jumped at the chance to be with whoever would have me.
Self-esteem is complex, diverse and impossible to fully understand. What I do know is that our personal views of ourselves are comprised of every interaction we have had in our whole life. The associations from your early childhood (especially infancy) count more than the rest. If you learned, even subconsciously, that you were not OK, well my friend, it's an uphill battle for the rest of your life.
As writer Lesley Kinzel wrote on her blog, Two Whole Cakes, “Fat women learn early that they should take male attention wherever they can get it, because what self respecting man would want to f-ck a fat woman? Not only does this knowledge reinforce the idea that fat women do not deserve to be seen, but it also positions fat women as targets for men looking for an easy lay- she’ll take what she can get, regardless of what she actually desires, and consider herself lucky. The idea of such a woman saying no is inconceivable.”
When it comes to sexuality and body image, life is especially hard on women. Overweight women are taught that we have failed at something that is unforgivable, and that failure decreases our worth as human beings. And I believed it.
Thanks to the sh-tty self-esteem I accumulated throughout my previous 21 years, I was easily, and repeatedly, seduced and discarded by guys. But I had no idea that I should have been bothered. I was just amazed that I got so much attention.
I am not concerned about the number of people that I slept with. Grown adults can sleep with as many (or as few) people as they damn well like. This doesn’t make me ANY of the crass names that people like to call sexually active women. But I am concerned about the intent behind my escapades. I wasn't purposefully giving my awesome woman-ness away; I was letting anyone and everyone take it. I wasn't bestowing upon, I was being stolen from. I didn’t value myself and so therefore the interactions themselves had no value.
I don't like the way I treated my body back then. It has nothing to do with being perceived as a "loose woman" (being a loose woman can be fun!), but rather everything to do with the fact that I deserved better. Better intentions and better care. I wish I said yes when I wanted yes, and no when I wanted no. It’s that simple.
After those debaucherous years and the following few I started to catch on to the fact that I was being duped. When each rendezvous ended, I was left with just as much self-hatred as before. I started to see that physical lovin’ wasn’t the cure for my self-loathing. I slowly and consciously started to learn how to say yes and how to say no, giving both my psyche and body the chance to choose what they actually wanted. I started liking myself a little more each day.
I am still and will probably always be on the journey toward accepting my body. We’ve been enemies for so long that to expect an immediate truce would be asinine. I’m beginning to really feel that I am beautiful both inside and out. There are good days and bad days any given week, and when the former outweigh the latter, I call it a success.
Jes Baker is mental health professional, pastry chef, ex-art major, crazy cat lady, fatmodel and fiery advocate. She blogs at The Militant Baker.
Photography by Liora K.
You can read about Jes's latest body-positive project, The Body Love Conference, here.