The taboo act of women enjoying food.
Cakes by Wayne Thiebaud
Content warning: This entry contains discussion of fatphobia (including medical, relationship, and workplace abuse) and a fatphobic image.
A fat woman sits in a doctor’s office wearing a surgical robe. Behind her there are informational posters - one titled ‘FAT FACTS’ that lists high-fat foods to avoid, the other titled ‘Do you need to lose weight?’ with a BMI chart underneath. Her doctor, a slender woman in white lab coat, berates her for gaining weight and warns of the damage she’s doing to her body.
The scenario is all too familiar for many fat people: the doctor’s office as a site of shame and humiliation, being weighed and shown how your body falls into the ‘bad’ categories on the BMI chart. What is different here, though, is that it is a video on PornHub. The slender doctor’s hands grab hold of the fat woman’s stomach and caress it as she tells her off, the fat woman feigns distress and shame in her black lingerie. Eventually the doctor proposes “seeing how much weight you can gain” and forces pizza and coke into the fat woman’s mouth.
A fetish for eating large amounts of food is known as feederism. The people who enjoy feeding others and facilitating weight gain are known as feeders, and the majority of feeder porn consists of a fat person being fed (or feeding themselves) junk food with the aim of getting fatter. The act of feeding can be devotional - some videos feature a fat person lying in bed being served food by a submissive partner. Others show a submissive fat person tied up and being fed cream through a funnel as an act of humiliation.
More cakes by Wayne Thiebaud
As always, porn cannot be separated from the society that produces it, nor can fetishes be analysed in a vacuum. Western society has a problem with fat people - we need only look at the many articles written about size discrimination to know that fat people are frequently subject to medical neglect, abuse at work, and sometimes even rejection by loved ones. Last week People magazine reported that when a woman went to the doctor about sudden unexplained weight loss, she was told it was a good thing she was losing weight and sent away. She was later diagnosed with stage three colon cancer by a different doctor.
The problem of discrimination against fat people, also known as fatphobia, is worse for fat women. Dr. Rebecca Puhl, professor of Food Policy and Obesity, stated in a New York Times article that ‘women who are obese report more than three times as much shaming and discrimination as men of equal obesity.’ Negative attributes associated with fatness are most often applied to fat women. Amy Erdman Farrell writes in Fat Shame, an analysis of fatness in US culture, that “fatness in the United States ‘means’ excess of desire, of bodily urges not controlled, of immoral, lazy, and sinful habits.”
Vintage postcard, likely 1930s. I have censored the measurements as measurement comparisons are a common eating disorder trigger.
The pressure on fat women to feel shame about their bodies is immense, and this shame is inevitably eroticised. One particular sub-genre of feeder porn is the ‘pig’ or ‘slob’ subsection, which in straight porn features a fat woman (it is nearly always a woman) being humiliated for her weight, called disgusting or repulsive, and made to eat food off the floor. While we may blanch at this, it of course usually occurs within a consensual framework of BDSM where the humiliation turns on the fat woman as much as the one abusing her. In some videos the women smile and oink for the camera or shake their fake pig tail.
As I have written before, much of kink involves people being ”forced” to do what they already want to do while negotiating their own social positions and power (or lack of it). Feederism is the eroticisation of the shameful act of women enjoying food. A woman shamelessly eating and pigging out represents a loss of control from the high amounts of self-regulation women are expected to invisibly perform on a daily basis. This loss of dietary control is inevitably linked to a loss of sexual control, and the eating woman is also always sexually available and willing to fuck.
Farrell writes that fatness in the 20th century “became a telltale sign of a ‘superior’ person falling from grace” - this analysis works along multiple axis including race, class, and dis/ability, but in the case of fat womanhood, the “fall from grace” is the fall from her invisible somatic control. The hungry woman who does not eat has sufficient mastery of her embodied desire, while the fat woman who eats voraciously and pleasurably has fallen from grace into the realm of uncontrollability and revolt, and therefore faces social punishment.
Headline from The Sunday Times.
This social punishment is fetishised in humiliation-oriented feeder porn, where the fat woman is berated for her weight gain and her love of food. Feeder porn is not necessarily liberatory any more than any other kind of porn, but is a result of the ‘war on fat’, a phrase popularised alongside the ‘war on terror’ through the 2000s that positioned food as enemy.As this ‘war on fat’ threatens to re-enter the cultural lexicon during the pandemic, it is likely the enforcement of fat shame will intensify.
As Farrell writes, “fat people are often treated as not quite human, entities to whom the normal standards of polite and respectful behaviour do not seem to apply.” Feeder porn takes this systemic marginalisation and eroticises it.
You can find Robin on Twitter @robin__craig. He is a PhD student and freelance culture writer. If you enjoy these essays, please consider buying him a coffee on his Ko-Fi.
I really recommend reading Fat Shame for a wider discussion of fat biopolitics, especially in relation to racial capitalism and imperialism. Farrell analyses the ‘war on fat’ that emerged at the same time as the Iraq War and how the valorisation of thinness in western cultures is tied to the construction of whiteness and nationhood.