Fetishisation & Feelings: The Fat Girl’s Guide To Plus-Size Dating Apps

Photographed by Lucy Cartwright.
When it comes to dating, I was something of a late bloomer. Around the time my friends started losing their virginities and acquiring partners, I alternated between feeling too ashamed of my fat body even to consider letting anyone else see it and presuming that no one would want to look at me naked in the first place.
Fast-forward to early university and the discovery of fat acceptance communities online, and I started dipping my toe into the metaphorical hook-up pool. I also met the person who’d become my long-term partner, though we’d keep our relationship open while navigating a long-distance relationship for several years. I realised fairly quickly that finding people to be intimate with wasn’t necessarily going to be a problem. Finding people who seemed totally at ease with the nuances of my fatness, on the other hand, might prove a little trickier. 
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I encountered folks who seemed to avoid any contact with my stomach, as if my belly were the Loch Ness Monster arising from the ocean (or from under my shirt) to eat them whole. There were people who disappointedly noted how much fatter I was undressed – something I still can’t wrap my head around, considering no item of clothing can truly make someone fat look not-fat. No one ever ran away from me screaming but after countless microaggressions, I’d had enough.
In 2013, I began making profiles on fat-specific dating websites and apps. That is, platforms specifically targeted at fat people and our 'admirers'. Since then, I’ve had accounts on WooPlus, Feabie and Fantasy Feeder. There are others out there (like Beesize and Peach) but these three seemed to have the largest, most diverse communities whenever I’ve been most active online. 
I knew the stereotypes and concerns surrounding these apps. Even within fat-positive circles, there sometimes runs a deep distrust of fat fetishism. Fat fetishists are often branded as individuals who want nothing more than to, well, fetishise a fat person (usually nonconsensually). Many fat people have experienced dehumanisation in this context. Unfortunately, being thought of as a body and nothing more is something most women – regardless of size – have likely experienced.   
There are undoubtedly fat fetishists on all the plus-size dating apps I’ve tried but I wouldn’t define the whole of fat fetishism in such a limiting, vilifying way. Yes, there are feeders (people who enjoy feeding a partner and sometimes seeing them gain weight), feedees (people who like being fed and sometimes gaining weight) and gainers (people who want to get bigger, whether they have a partner or not). Within these categories are also plenty of consenting adults, of all genders and sexualities, who find these sexual expressions genuinely affirming. 
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There are also lots of 'fat admirers' who don’t necessarily have any of those kinks but are simply attracted to fat partners in the way that so many people are attracted to thin partners. The only difference is that no one calls people who exclusively date thin humans 'thin fetishists'. I believe fat fetishism is only demonised because fatness as a whole is demonised; if fatness is 'bad', so too must be the people who are attracted to it.
Finally, there is a lot of fat people – some of whom self-describe as BBW (big beautiful women) and BHM (big handsome men) – who, like me, aren’t interested in dating people who are attracted to us 'in spite of' our bodies. I found myself exhausted from trying to make it work with folks who kind of thought I was cute but were mostly settling for the fat chick because it was better than being alone. These apps definitely provided an alternative, for which I’m grateful.
As is probably to be expected given the title of this dating website/community, many users do subscribe to 'feeder' or 'feedee' sexualities. If that’s not your thing, this one might not be for you. It isn’t to say that everyone is going to message you asking for close-up pictures of your belly (like how on Tinder people might ask for close-up pictures of your boobs). You’re just likely to see a lot of commentary around the beauty and sensuality of fatness, sometimes in great detail. Again, if it’s not your thing, you can add a note on your profile explaining your own preferences (hopefully, people will respect that – but as with all dating, fat-specific or otherwise, online or IRL, there are no guarantees). 
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My favourite thing about this app is the potential for fat friendship, though. I find it extremely empowering to see other fat people of all genders owning their bodies in raw, unapologetic ways. FF is full of radical fat babes who post 'unflattering' and magnificent photos and clips in which they celebrate the figures that society generally considers unworthy. It isn’t just about getting off (though sometimes it is). Often, it’s just about having a safe space in which to be totally fat-positive. I’ve had some great conversations on here which have helped me grow more secure in the knowledge that my fat body is a beautiful, sexy thing.
WooPlus is the self-described "dating app for curvy people to enjoy dating and find love". In my opinion, it’s the least fetish-centric platform of the lot. My experience is that it’s largely full of plus-size people who don’t want to deal with the fat-phobia that’s so common on Tinder or OkCupid, and would prefer to narrow the dating pool to include only those who are also fat or who genuinely appreciate a fat body. 
If you’re more interested in finding a long-term relationship than a one-night stand, this app is, IMHO, the better platform. I might go as far to describe it as the most wholesome among them.
Feabie calls itself a "social network and dating site for feeders, feedees, fat admirers, and BBW/BHM". In terms of usability, it really does feel like a social network, with a grid-like home page similar to Instagram on which you can browse through people who are nearby.
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The site’s description also rings true in that Feabie arguably has the most diverse community. There are members who identify with certain fetishes; there are also plenty who don’t. For that reason, it’s probably my favourite of all the apps.
If I just want to chat to potential fat friends, it’s a great space in which to do so. If I’m interested in talking to someone who will tell me all about how goddess-like I am, I can do that, too. If I just want to talk to people who prefer dating or hooking up with fat babes (again, not unlike how so many people seem to prefer thin babes), then it’s a good place for that as well.
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My personal preference when it comes to my romantic life is to find folks who are specifically into bodies like mine. Quite frankly, I spend enough time navigating fat-phobia on my social media feeds and in day-to-day life to want to risk even more of it in an intimate setting. I’ve also had enough pleasant experiences in fat fetish communities to feel comfortable in these spaces, though I recognise that this isn’t the case for everyone.
Successfully finding partners on Tinder or in the real world is still totally possible when you’re fat. I know plenty of fat folks of all genders who’ve had great sex or found fulfilling long-term relationships like this. Heck, my partner and I met the good, old-fashioned way: at a bar.
Still, my experiences across these apps have been predominantly joyful, and I hate the thought of people avoiding them based purely on the notion that they’re full of 'creepy fat fetishists'. Firstly, not all fat fetishists are creeps. Secondly, every dating platform out there has at least some creeps. Lastly, I’ll always stand by a space that celebrates fat bodies in a world which rarely does the same. 
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