BDSM, Body Image, Obesity and Health

I went to the dungeon this past weekend and I noticed, not for the first time, that there are some very heavy people, mostly women, in the scene. When I say heavy, I mean in the 80-100 overweight range.

I think we can skip the part where I call out industrialization and the objectification of women, the colluding forces of big ag, fast food, fitness and diet mixed in with a big dose of big pharma. We know that women get the shaft for looking like anything other than a beanpole with boobs.  I assure my readers that I am a feminist and opposed to body shaming anyone.

What I don’t think most people know is that there is a direct link between obesity and trauma.  I find myself patiently explaining to lots of men and women that obesity isn’t a question of laziness, lack of willpower, or greed.  It’s often an indicator of Adverse Childhood Effects (ACE).  Kaiser stumbled upon the correlation in trying to find out why so many participants in their weight reduction program had initial success and regressed back to their original size.

It turns out your chances of suffering from diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer linked with obesity go up exponentially if you were abused as a child, neglected, lived with a substance abuser or suffered some other kind of physical or emotional trauma.  Each trauma earns you a point and the more points you have, the more likely you are to be obese.

Why? Because fat is protection from intimacy.  In fact, out of the study came the term: soft armor. Fat above the 30-40 lb range is a way of disassociating from the body, and BDSM is a way back into one’s own skin.  As many trauma survivors in the scene will tell you, BDSM is a way to reprogram, to safely play out the traumatic experience. It’s a way of transforming the pain and while no responsible psychologist would recommend only managing trauma this way, it can be a tool in transcending our suffering.  Here’s a good study on rape survivors and the practice of BDSM:  http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1357034X13477159

But at the dungeon the other night, it occurred to me that someone who is 100 lbs overweight and deep in subspace for an hour could have a cardiac event.  We place a lot of emphasis on safe play, but are we addressing overall health as a safety measure within the community?

It is awesome that the BDSM scene accepts all kinds of bodies and aesthetics. Fetlife has a few groups that support health and it’s worth it to check out the discussion.  https://fetlife.com/groups/682

Overwhelmingly in my experience, when people talk about why they are in the lifestyle it’s always with growth mindset: I want to learn, I want training and want to try new things.  Taking care of ourselves needs to be part of that, and I urge you all in the community to apply the same level of support and encouragement when it comes to health.

ashley-graham-modelling-the-essentials-collection-for-addition-elle

                      And here’s a yummy picture of the vivacious Ashley Graham for you.  

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6 thoughts on “BDSM, Body Image, Obesity and Health

  1. Spot on post Ms. Cypher. You’re absolutely correct that the community places a very big emphasis on safety and obesity and play is an area that gets overlooked and could use more awareness. The hard part I see in that is just bringing it up could lead to accusations of body shaming but it should be taken seriously in the community.

    I do appreciate the patience you’ve shown me in explaining the correlation between obesity and past trauma, until you did I was guilty of assuming obesity was a result of either two things in general – overeating combined with laziness or a thyroid condition. Thank you for educating me further on this issue.

    Btw Ashley Graham is yummy! I like my women with curves and a bit of meat on their bones. Makes them more durable 😉

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  2. I appreciate the comments you made about the connection between trauma and obesity. Trauma seems to be a common thread among many kinky people in general, which is something the community is also resistant to acknowledging. The charge that kinky people were abused as children is one that we understandably refute, because kink is not an affliction. However, I do believe that for many of us, kink is a protective factor and a coping mechanism. And the research seems to indicate that it’s a healthy one.

    Personally, I’ve been in the scene for over 15 years and while I have known several people who passed away from overall health issues, I have never witnessed an obese individual having an adverse effect from play due to their size. There are many people in the scene who choose to address their personal health issues, including obesity, as they see fit, so I don’t believe this is something the scene needs to address for them.

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    • Greetings, Princess Bee, and thank you for this thoughtful comment. I agree that there is certainly a fuzzy line between community support and personal responsibility, but my point is that if trauma is the root cause of obesity, it falls into question whether or not being morbidly obsese is a lifestyle choice vs. a destructive defense mechanism. In our culture, we tend to do a lot of victim blaming and heap responsibility on the individual, i.e. “you are fat because you are lazy and have no self-control”. But in an atmosphere where abuse is rampant, where our self-governing mechanisms have been largely hijacked, I think it bears more discussion, particularly in a community like kink that prizes self-awareness, safety and growth. Thanks again for your thoughts.

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  3. Pingback: BDSM, Body Image, Obesity and Health | Betina Cipher – blackwidowfetish

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