Feederism
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Feederism

Eating, Weight Gain, and Sexual Pleasure

Kathy Charles, Michael Palkowski

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eBook - ePub

Feederism

Eating, Weight Gain, and Sexual Pleasure

Kathy Charles, Michael Palkowski

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About This Book

This book explores the controversial and misunderstood world of sexualised weight gain known as feederism. Conversations with over 20 feeders and feedees are analysed through a psychological and sociological lens. The implications for health professionals working in bariatrics are discussed along with directions for future research.

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Year
2015
ISBN
9781137470461
1
Feederism in Context: Mainstream Depictions, Psychology, and Sociology
Abstract: This chapter explores mainstream depictions of feederism and erotic weight gain, alongside an analysis of psychological and sociological research in this field. Mainstream portrayals come from documentaries, films, journalism, and websites. Psychological analysis encompasses studies on masochism and other paraphilia, evolutionary mechanisms, and addiction. Sociological work to date has often taken a feminist perspective regarding feederism as part of a patriarchal power dynamic. The feminist perspective is critically appraised alongside studies into stigmatized identities and framing. This chapter also highlights some of the methodological limitations in previous feederism research.
Charles, Kathy and Michael Palkowski. Feederism: Eating, Weight Gain, and Sexual Pleasure. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. DOI: 10.1057/9781137470461.0005.
Introduction
This chapter provides a systematic review of the academic literature available on feederism and outlines connections that can be made with other fields of inquiry, such as the sociology of the body, fat studies, the psychology of addiction, and paraphilia. The chapter also describes the online spaces where feederism is talked about as a lifestyle and reflects on the gendered diversity of the community. Attention is paid to providing a historical background to sexuality and considering the issue of fat in other cultures. Feederism is placed within a wider context – out with the individual – by recognizing the macro social and cultural issues surrounding it. It is also considered at the individual level by looking at psychological issues relating to paraphilia and evaluating briefly the literature which links feederism to masochism. The literature discussed here acts as context for the present research and themes that are discussed in detail in Chapter 2. To date there have been no attempts at a comprehensive review of the literature available on feederism, so this chapter addresses that gap by critically discussing and evaluating the main theories and methodological work available.
It is necessary to outline some of the terminology used within the feederism community. The range of terminology associated with feederism varies depending on the perspective, role, and sexuality of the person using it. For the purposes of this book, “feederism” refers to a sexual interest where individuals are sexually aroused by either gaining weight themselves (feedee) or by helping another person to gain weight (feeder). A person may adopt both of these roles simultaneously (mutual gainer) or at different points in their lives and relationships. The word feederism itself is contested, with some individuals preferring feedism. For some, feederism suggests that the feeder is dominant and that the feedee is simply the recipient of another person’s wishes, whereas feedism suggests a more equal relationship between the feeder and feedee. The word feeder is also shunned by some who may prefer “encourager” or “feedist” – again reflecting a more consensual situation rather than one where the feeder is dominant. Equally, feedee is sometimes replaced with “gainer” which suggests a more active role on the part of the person gaining weight. Although feederism, feeder, and feedee are all used in this research, this by no means undermines or rejects other terminologies. The considerable range of terminology that is used in indicating sexual preferences for erotic weight gain is indicative of the different types of people engaging in feederism. These terms can also overlap into other sexual fetishes such as financial domination (e.g. niche forms of financial domination where feedees have “pay pigs” fund their extravagant calorific meals). It is also helpful to acknowledge that feederism is referred to variously as a fetish, a subculture, a kink, and a sexual preference. While these terms can have very different meanings, they are often used interchangeably by researchers and people in the feederism community. As such, the same terms are used throughout this text.
Mainstream representations of feederism
It is worthwhile to briefly outline the ways in which people involved in feederism network and engage with the ideas and lifestyle of the fetish online. Fantasy Feeder is a website that is commonly used as an entry point for those interested in feederism and is immediately accessible. The site has forums and photographs and the aim of the site is to offer a welcoming space for those engaging in feederism. The site caters to a much larger audience than sites such as Dimensions Magazine (Dimensions was a print magazine initially and had an early online presence), which has lots of user generated fiction on a whole range of different scenarios and fantasies. Weight stories are a significant part of the community and are a way of exploring and testing out new kinks and identities that might not be possible in real life. Dimensions was once considered an entry point into feederism in much the same way that Fantasy Feeder currently is today. Old magazine columns and postings are saved in an online library, which is accessible to everyone. Dimensions also has a page called The 900 Club, which is a hall of fame for the world’s fattest people. The list features 28 people who have gained extraordinary amounts of weight and provides brief biographical descriptions of them alongside photographs and sources. The website has a variety of interesting pieces of fiction which will be discussed more in depth in Chapter 2.
The blogging site Tumblr has an impressive amount of personal pages with people discussing feederism. These are mostly photographic, but they include a wealth of diary entries, goals and lists. There are also user-generated gif images and videos of people showing their fat. Some of the photographs are essentially soft-core pornography. Many of the photographs feature before and after shots with a smaller-sized stomach growing larger. The Tumblr posts usually reflect a wide range of gendered identities and ages, and the diversity of the community is evident. The pages available also feature Photoshopping of popular celebrities to have larger bodies. Many of the themes that are shared are ideas of excess and being gluttonous. Information-sharing and discussion on feederism is extremely active and receives many reposts. This impressive diversity is not reflected in mainstream portrayals of the fetish, and Tumblr has not been discussed in previous feederism research.
Alternative sources exist that focus on other aspects of the community, such as HORNGRY (tenderlovingcares, 2015) an online magazine which caters to women who want to be or are feeders to men, and ExtremeFeeding, a site dedicated to more extreme feederism, such as the use of equipment to maximize the amount of food a person can ingest. HORNGRY is discussed further in Chapter 2. The website extremefeeding.com (run by “Ruben”) contains photographs, blog posts, podcasts, fictional stories, poems, and links, all relating to feederism. People can comment on the website and share their own experiences. This site has been referred to by other researchers in this field (e.g. Prohaska, 2013). One of Ruben’s blog posts covers the topics of force-feeding and tube-feeding (ExtremeFeeding, 2012a) in detail. He describes how to insert the tube, how to feed the feedee so that permanent damage is not caused, and how to establish safe words or a system of pointing at traffic light colours to indicate whether the process should stop or continue. Ruben claims to have experienced forced tube-feeding himself and emphasizes the need to have a profoundly trusting relationship between the feeder and feedee (who is sometimes tied down during the feeding). This description is very similar to what one might find regarding more typical sadomasochism practices, such as bondage. Masochism is also evident when Ruben claims, “to call a person that is hot for tube feeding a lard tub, a sack of fat or fat sow, or jiggling sagging fat porker is not offensive or insulting, many people that are into such extreme weight gain love to be called things like this, it underlines what they really are and already know” (ExtremeFeeding, 2012a). There are obvious parallels here with the messages a dominatrix might use when dominating a client.
Ruben identifies himself as male feedee, yet he also writes extensively about the feeder role and feeding a woman to immobility. In his poem “Immobile” he describes the process of eagerly feeing a woman to immobility and how she wants the same thing. As with other extreme material on feederism, the focus on fattening eclipses the focus on food in every instance, with Ruben preferring to concentrate on seeing a woman grow “And now you are, a sculpture of fat, something to admire and worship” (ExtremeFeeding, 2012b). The many animal (cow, pig, sow) and inanimate object (tub of lard, lard bucket) references in feederism writing are interesting. The feedee becomes a thing rather than a man or woman with a personality or their own wishes. They are transformed into an object that can be altered by the feeder. The ExtremeFeeding site is full of examples of wanting to attach equipment to a feedee like an animal or to feed them in an industrial environment so the mechanized aspect of feeding can be heightened. The goal of immobility clearly adds to this dehumanizing by taking away the feedee’s ability to move or fully express themselves.
Returning to the mainstream representations depicting feederism, television documentaries are a popular medium for showcasing the fetish, and they have had a significant impact on forming attitudes towards the behaviours associated with feederism. These portrayals, often negative, have generated press coverage focusing on the deleterious and damaging effects feederism has on health, with links being made to domestic violence. In 2003 Optomen Television released the documentary “Fat Girls and Feeders” in the UK. Now more than 10 years old, this documentary is still broadcast occasionally and is relatively well-known as a depiction of feederism. It has also been screened widely outside of the UK. The documentary is described by the “Really” channel as “a look at the sub-culture of ‘feeders’ – men who continue to feed large women to encourage them to gain more weight to the point where the women become immobile and risk their lives. Featuring interviews with both the male feeders and the women they feed” (Really, 2014).
This is an accurate description of the film, which mainly focuses on the relationship between Mark and his wife, Gina. Mark’s desire is for Gina to become the world’s fattest woman, and he appears to become sexually aroused at her increasing immobility. She eventually reaches more than 800lbs and requires constant care. When Gina eventually begins to lose weight Mark’s disappointment seems palpable. The documentary provoked a strong response from many people who wrote damning evaluations of Mark and the implied sinister motivations. A highly comment-yielding blog post by Martin (2010) illustrates this: “feeders prey upon vulnerability and insecurity ... their goal is to literally trap someone in their own body and this is a form of kidnapping. It is absolutely Machiavellian ...”
Each time “Fat Girls and Feeders” is screened, it provokes a similar response from a new audience. The portrayal of Mark is difficult to like, and the helplessness of Gina is difficult to watch. Yet while this documentary is well-known, and often referred to in journalistic writing on feederism, to what extent is it an accurate portrayal of the subculture of feederism? In 2008, Donna Simpson declared that she wanted to become the world’s fattest woman and set herself a target weight of 1000 lbs. She received global media coverage. The relevance of Simpson is that much of her eating was broadcast online, where men would pay $19 per month to watch and encourage her to eat – including the consumption of a 30,000 calorie Christmas dinner. She also had male partners who are reported to have found her weight gain “sexy” and facilitated her goal. After separating from her partner in 2011, Simpson decided to close down her pay-per-view website and go on a diet. She wrote an announcement on her website suggesting that her time in the feederism subculture was a mistake “I was in a relationship that was based on a fetish that exists only in a fantasy” (Simpson, 2014). This appears to be another highly publicized example of feederism in which a woman became the victim of a man or men who wished to feed her to destruction.
In the discussions that follow online postings about the kind of feederism depicted in the cases of Gina and Donna Simpson, there are typically a range of reactions. There is disgust that a person could become so large, anger and distress at the apparent abusive nature of the relationship, attempts to understand the psychology of the relationship, speculation that the feedee may be mentally ill and/or the feeder maybe psychopathic/sadistic, and sometimes anger at the financial cost of feederism. In the UK, this is expressed through rage at the National Health Service (NHS) treating obese individuals, whilst in the U.S. it causes speculation that such individuals raise the cost of health insurance.
These factual depictions of feederism have inevitably been used and exaggerated to inform fiction. The Australian film “Feed” (2005) is an example of this. The film’s plot focuses on two police officers who decide to investigate a heavily protected and secret feeding-fetish website featuring obese women. The site is shown having the kind of encryption normally associated with child pornography. When the owner of the website is tracked down, it transpires that the women on his site have been abducted and are deliberately being fed to death for the benefit of the website’s owner and users. By the end of the film it is apparent that the owner of the website had a disturbed childhood and murdered his own obese mother. The portrayal of feederism in this film is an exaggeration of the already extreme mainstream depictions. “Feed” represents feederism as a fetish in which coercion takes place that is synonymous with domestic violence and suggests that it has developed from an unhealthy family situation. It is presumed that the fetish developed from an earlier pathology. Michael (the feeder), who is holding women captive in his cabin, is the prototypical feeder in the mainstream. He is someone who has nefarious intentions and someone who is ultimately in need of psychological treatment. A closer scrutiny of the feederism community paints a different story.
The ways in which the media has chosen to explore feederism has been to focus on the most extreme end of the subculture. In doing so it has enabled and legitimized a kind of voyeurism and criticism which otherwise appears unseemly or cruel. Being confronted with a sexualized fat woman such as Gina or Simpson (or fictional characters) allows the viewer to look at, and voice their disgust of, the fat female body in a way which may normally seem unacceptable. Fat women are invisible in Western society (Murray, 2004, 2008). They are not seen as sexual beings, and they are viewed as failures and morally weak. Fat women are seldom seen on television or in films except as devices for humour or to be pitied (the excruciating film “Shallow Hal” is the epitome of this (Burstein, 2001)). They are rarely seen in conventional women’s magazines unless their image accompanies a success story of becoming thin. To desire a fat woman is deviant because to be desirable is to be thin. To be fat is to adopt a stigmatizing role.
Psychological research
Given the response of the general public and the media to feederism, it is surprising that there has not been more psychological research on this subculture. Lesley Terry is one of the few psychologists who has published specifically in the area of feederism rather than fat fetishism. Analysing Terry’s (2007) thesis on “Food, Feeding, and Female Sexual Arousal,” along with the articles (Terry & Vasey, 2011; Terry, Suschinsky, Lalumiere, & Vasey, 2012) that developed from it, provides a detailed picture of the limited published psychological perspective on this topic. Terry provides a brief cross-cultural context for the status of fat women in Western society by highlighting that the modern Western beauty ideal of a svelte woman is atypical if a global perspective on beauty is taken.
Larger women are seen as preferable to slim women, particularly in African countries such as Mauritania and Nigeria. LaFraniere (2007) describes Mauritanian fattening huts where women are sent before marriage to be fattened. Women almost immobilized by fat are seen as an ideal in Mauritania, and LaFraniere outlines the over-feeding process: “Girls as young as five and as old as 19 had to drink up to five gallons of fat-rich camel’s or cow’s milk daily” (p.1). If girls resisted this practice or vomited they were tortured by the village “weigh gain specialist.” Although the practice of torture is in decline, deliberate over-feeding of young girls and women is still common. Appearing slim can lead to being regarded as poor and therefore undesirable. As the human gavage aspect of this ideal recedes, LaFraniere reports an increase in the sale of pharmaceuticals designed to encourage weight gain (e.g. steroids and antihistamines). Thompson (2014) highlights how the disabling levels of obesity admired in Mauritania effectively exclude women from taking part in their communities or being involved in politics. She also adds that overweight girls will have early onset puberty and therefore appear more mature and with longer reproductive potential than their thinner counterparts, thus allowing earlier marriage (Kaplowitz (2008) reviews a number of articles linking body fat in girls with pub...

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