Fat and Not Afraid

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Sexuality and Obesity, a Gender Perspective (Study/Survey)

June 25, 2010

A French study was recently released that smashes the myth that fat women don't have sex, and shows that their BMI has little or nothing to do with sexual dysfunction.  As an obese woman who's read in the Fatosphere over the years much the same thing, I'm glad to have one more piece of evidence to the growing pile showing being fat doesn't automatically make you unhealthy (or sexually inferior).  From the conclusion:  "Given the social and gender related sensitivities, obese women and men will certainly benefit from tactful guidance and advice on preventive sexual health matters."  Bolding is mine 'cause tact? That's so important for patients, especially fat folks!

However, the study isn't all sunshine and roses, keeping in mind this was a random sample done via survey of 12 364 men and women aged 18-69 living in France in 2006, with only about 10% of those surveyed actually identifying as obese.  The purpose wasn't to identify sexual behavious of obese persons, but to highlight and

"compare sexual health behaviours and risks between obese and normal weight individuals on the one hand, and between overweight and normal weight individuals on the other hand. Our hypothesis was that overweight individuals, especially obese people, could be at greater risk of negative sexual outcomes compared with normal weight individuals because of social stigma and lack of adequate medical follow-up. We further hypothesised that the effect of BMI on sexual health outcomes would be different between men and women because the social stigma of overweight and obesity is stronger in women." 

This is AWESOME.  Someone has been paying attention!  Someone has noticed that it's different to be fat as a woman than as a man, and that there is serious social stigma against fat people that might prevent them from getting adequate medical attention.  Here's where the not-fun occurs:

"There was no difference in sexual dysfunction (lack of sexual desire, arousal, painful intercourse) between obese or overweight women compared with women with a normal BMI (Well, this is actually pretty good). Nevertheless, results show a significant trend towards decreasing sexual desire with increasing BMI. Data also show a significant increase in erectile dysfunction with increasing BMI for men. Compared with normal weight men, the odds of often experiencing erectile dysfunction in the past 12 months were 2.58 among obese men and 2.69 among overweight men."

Honestly, it makes me go 'hmm, I wonder why that might be?' not 'omg obesity epidemic!' but then again, I've become quite the cynic.  Unintended pregnancy and abortion is also 4 times more likely to be reported by an obese woman surveyed.  Obese women surveyed are also 70% less likely to use the pill and rely on unreliable birth control methods like withdrawl.  Again, why might that be?  Fat shaming gynocologists might be the answer, intimidating enough that said women might not want to go in for their pills, IUD, depo shot, or annual checkups. I'm only a small fat person and I find the gyno intimidating, and she's amazingly sweet!  It's not her fault I have ptsd about medical tables.  I can't imagine what it might be like for someone who's MUCH larger than me to get their yearly checkup in order to get their pills or whatever and have to sit through an annual speel about their weight.  I've read enough horror stories over at Do No Harm (which I miss so much! Please update again soon!) to know that it happens way too often.

So, this French study; kinda nifty in some ways, and definitely NOT in others.  What do YOU think?

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