Caroline Davis, 38, NYC
Sexual Health Educator & Director of Patient Engagement, SBH Health SystemTell me a little about yourself.
"So before my current position at SBH Health System, I was the director of teen services for six years
. I talked to teenagers about sex and ways to be healthy in making their decisions about sex and relationships. A lot of times I wind up preaching to myself. [Laughs.]
I'm not currently in a relationship, but I am dating. And it's been an interesting journey. I never really thought of it as a challenge as a plus-size woman. But there have been different expectations from men, and there have been a lot of different personalities."How do you typically meet people?
"I'm an old-fashioned type of girl. I have not been online. I have friends who do it, but it's just not for me. I'm a people person. I've done a lot of community work, and that's typically how I meet people. In many cases, I've met someone through work that turns into a friendship, which eventually turns into us dating. For me, I like that. I like the idea of building a friendship that naturally turns. It's also easier to meet people through work because, given the type of work I do, a lot of the things I talk about have to do with sex. So men will hear that, and they'll say, 'Oh, she's talking about sex all the time? She must be a freak!' So that's the way I have my guard up. On dates and stuff, once a guy knows what I do, he'll ask me questions like, 'Oh are you going to teach me all about sex?' Because I have to be this leader in talking to these young people, I have to practice what I preach."It's interesting, because you're actually the first person I've spoken to for this story who hasn't even tried online dating. One of the things I hear from plus women who do date online is that they deal with a lot of harassment because of their body type. Do you feel like you experience that in real life?
"Well I feel hyper-sexualized because of my job. But I'm also very curvaceous, and most of my weight is in my hips and my thighs. So I often hear sexual things about my thighs, especially if I'm out in an environment where there are drinks or whatever. But for the most part, I've heard that frequently, and I don't know why every guy thinks they're the first one to use that line. They think it's going to rock my world and they're going to get some, but it's so frequent. [Laughs.]
"Men also seem to like the fact that I am bigger and I am taller. They'll say things like, 'Oh, you're a big, tall, strong
girl.' And I'm just like, okay, you've totally disgusted me. I'm totally not attracted, because we can't have a conversation without you implying something about my body part and what you're going to do to it."So that's something that really turns you off?
"It depends on the setting. Because if I already have a foundation of where we're at with a guy, and we're grooving, and we have chemistry, then I'm kind of attracted to it. But if I'm walking down the street, it's a turn off. Especially if men yell at me on the street.
"And that's something that I actually talk to my students about, because a lot of them are plus-size, but they're also 14-years-old. So they have the body of a 25-year-old, but their mentality is a teenager. And in that situation, it makes me uncomfortable, because I think of the kids."Now you're in a unique situation, because you deal with young girls and you talk to them about their sexuality. Do they bring up how their bodies relate to their sexuality ever?
"Oh yeah. Wow. This is the heart of me. And one of the things that gets brought up is that a lot of young women don't necessarily feel comfortable enough in their bodies to consider having sex yet. So one of the things I say to young women is, 'If you aren't comfortable enough to walk around butt naked in front of someone, you probably shouldn't have sex with them.' And it's a way of saying that your comfort is so important when it comes to having sex. So if you're not feeling comfortable with a person, why are you having sex with them?
"And having those hard conversations with these young people really makes me wonder whether or not I'm having these conversations with myself. So as much as I help them out, they help me out. And in families of color, I've found that these things really aren't talked about as much as they should be, which is hard. The idea of body image and how it relates to sex isn't always spoken about."That brings up a good point, because there's always the argument that plus women aren't always represented as being sexy or being the romantic interest. In your community, do you feel like that representation exists?
"I feel like there's great representation in my community. But there's definitely a lack of representation like that overall. There's still a way to go. There are different types of bodies for a plus-size woman. Like me, I'm small on top, but I'm big on the bottom. And a lot of people don't realize that there are all these different kinds of plus bodies. And I feel like the more we see these different kinds of bodies, and the more young people can see these different types of bodies, then the more people will accept them and be more comfortable with them. And I'm proud to be that example for the girls who I speak to in the center — someone who is curvy and sex-positive and a kid at heart."This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.