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  • Writer's pictureVenus Van Gogh

A Melbourne Escort On Fatphobia in the Sex Industry

Updated: May 29, 2021

The sex industry is a wonderful community. Being on the fringes, we are forced to educate ourselves on marginalisation, stigma and discrimination in many different intersections. Sexism, racism, ableism, whorephobia, we're generally a pretty savvy bunch when it comes to those. The one that we tend to sleep on both as a society and as a community is fatphobia.

I'm in a bit of an awkward place in the industry with my current body. I'm not a BBW but I'm also not just curvy. It's hard to categorise me as I am, but my weight has fluctuated up and down 30kg or so and I have been both heavier and lighter than I am now. Some might call me mid-sized, some might call me plus sized, some might just call me big-boned. In my experience, the way society generally sees me is fat. That's ok. There's nothing wrong with that. I'm not skinny. I never will be, my body just isn't made that way. I'm happy with the way I look, I take care of my health and nutrition and get regular exercise. I lead a pretty healthy life while allowing myself to enjoy things and if this is where my body sits in doing that, I'm perfectly fine with it. You wanna call me fat? I'm fat. Cool.

I know there will be some people who think "you're not allowed to call yourself fat because you're not big enough". I hear you, but you should also hear me. I have been medically considered obese since childhood. Now, I'm tall, have hips and boobs and I paid for an ass to balance my proportions out and I look a little smoother, but I am still a big girl and was a size 20 less than 2 years ago. I understand women who are or appear larger than me need their space to talk about their issues, because even though they're similar I haven't experienced fatphobia to it's extremes. I've never struggled to fit in an airplane seat and now I have a few options for fashion in my size, but we don't exist in a vacuum and although you would like to claim the word, the reality is that the rest of society, medicine, clients AND the rest of the industry sees me as fat too even if I'm not as fat as some. I don't want to offend anyone, but saying I can't use the word that others use to describe me erases my experience of the world. You should definitely have your space to speak about your issues, but we do have a lot of crossover and it doesn't serve to gate keep a word that has a very broad and subjective meaning in society because I don't visually serve your personal opinion of what it means to be fat. So I will refer to myself as fat at times but that is not to undermine you, it's to accurately depict how I am viewed by others.

It has taken me weeks to write this blog because it can be really hard to describe and contextualise oppression for others to digest, but I think I have managed to say what I want to say and cover as many topics as I can think of.

Fatphobia in Clients

I won't say I was surprised when I started in the industry 7 years ago at just how much being fat made you "other" as a sex worker, but looking back on things now I am surprised at how much the "otherness" influenced my self image. I was a hot af size 16 when I first started as a stripper and although I was resilient enough to brush it off, the outright aggression I faced for being a fat stripper was utterly surprising at times. Just walking up to certain patrons was sometimes met with an angry "fuck off" and then the thin girls who walked up were met with an arm around their shoulder and a "why don't you give my buddy over here a dance?". Groups were the worst. The snickering and the joking and the "Go sit on Jimmy's lap. He'll love that". One guy even pretended that he couldn't speak English to get me to go away, and just happened to pick the one language I can have a conversation in, to his awkward surprise.

Don't get me wrong. I made my stacks and still do and there were and are plenty of men who appreciate both my body and my personality. The market for thick girls and BBWs is well and truly alive and becoming more and more mainstream, but for some reason, certain men were basically offended at that fact that I was there or dared to try to talk them into buying a dance. There seems to be this culture with men who aren't socialised properly. They seem to have this inability to be kind or respectful to women they don't find attractive. Rejection is part of the game, every stripper gets rejected constantly, but they couldn't simply say "sorry, sweetheart, you're not my type", they had to go that extra mile to make me feel like I was some kind of joke or not even human. Even when I got down to a size 12 there was a certain element that made me less viable than a size 6 and I had to work that much harder for every sale. It warped the way I looked at myself. I was 10kg or so lighter then than I am now and a size below the national average and yet I felt like I was this morbidly obese person because of how I was treated at times.

Being any sex worker can attract abuse, but being a fat worker can really attract an extra layer of awful. Once I had someone try to insult me when I refused to see them without a desposit by saying "I can see why you need deposits. You must get so many people booking you as a joke". I've had the rare email or text message full of abuse for daring to charge so much at my size and have been told that men in punter forums have remarked at my rates being high for a big girl. I was even raped because a man thought I should appreciate that he wanted to fuck me at all, and he shouldn't have to pay me after all despite payment being the condition of my consent - that was the time I learned never to provide any service before payment. Some fat workers experience unprovoked messages like "u fucking fat pig" "I hope u die while choking on a big mac u disgusting fat cunt" "ur a worthless fat bitch and no 1 would ever pay 2 fuck u". It's particularly common when we dare to turn a booking down or ask for screening or deposits. People can get really nasty really quickly when they sense we have a modicum of self respect that exceeds the amount of self respect fat women are allowed to have in their eyes.

Sometimes it's not even the abuse that can get under our skin so much. Sometimes it's the backhanded compliments like "you're so pretty for a big girl" or "I've never been with a big girl before". It can be the things like grabbing, jiggling and pinching our bellies or thighs. Some clients can be so thoughtless even if they're well-meaning. While I love that there is a market for smothering and weight fetish and adore those bookings, it can be a little triggering when I'm not feeling my best to be asked to provide my weight in an inquiry. The bottom line is that we don't want to be treated any different than our thin peers. We don't want you to constantly remind us that you usually find our bodies disgusting, but have some kind of special attraction to us in particular. It doesn't make us feel special like you think it does. It's just another reminder that you, too, don't value fat bodies. Our bodies. There seems to be this idea that fat women should just feel blessed that anyone is booking them and aren't entitled to the same boundaries or respect and basic human decency as thin workers. Some clients go out of their way to book fat workers for this reason. They believe we should put up with poor client behaviour because we have to. It's so harmful and shameful that people possess these attitudes simply because we have more fat on our bodies. That is LITERALLY the ONLY separating feature they are basing this attitude on... and for fat workers of colour, it's even more of a nightmare.

In the private escorting scene there's another layer of fatphobia because we set our own rates. There isn't a standard that everyone must charge. People charge what works for them based on various factors. It's actually pretty difficult to find sex workers who advertise over a size 12 that charge more than $500 AUD per hour. $500 seems to be the limit at which larger sex workers are financially viable as escorts and in fact most plus size workers who sit more into the BBW category charge less than $400 per hour. I have always hated this idea that I couldn't charge just as much as thin girls in this market and I have chosen to fight against it. I refuse to play that game. I've been a sex worker for 7 years, I'm incredibly skilled at what I do and I am worth every cent I charge and more. With thin women comfortably charging anything from $700 to $1200 per hour for the same or fewer services as larger women, private sex work is the most violent sector in terms of fatphobia and how it translates to potential income inequality. It's my goal to try - both in how I market myself and in being vocal about this issue - in some small way to dismantle this idea that big girls can't be high end. To end the expectation of clients that a bigger girl should be more affordable or do more to earn the same rate. To challenge sex workers when they sell their larger peers short by saying things like "I've put on weight so I have to drop my rates".

Thinness as the epitome of beauty is a new thing and it all comes down to advertising for the $70 billion dollar diet industry. If you're on my website, you're probably down with the thickness, but for the strays who don't find thicker women attractive, I dare you to look beneath your conditioning. Recognize that were you alive in 1890 your perception of ideal beauty would be stagnantly different. There are still many countries in the world that view plump women as the sign of health and vitality but in Western society we have to endure things like the size zero fad.

Yes, people like different things, all bodies are beautiful and variety is the spice of life, but if you are the type of person who only finds very thin women attractive and believes they are the superior ideal, I will remind you that you were conditioned to feel that way by gay men running the fashion industry in the 80s 90s and beyond. The size zero standard may be fading but a new unachievable standard of beauty emerged with the Kardashians. Women are now expected to have small frames with flat toned tiny waists and toned arms and legs while sporting voluptuous bosoms and derrieres and hips. The "slim thick" ideal. *eye roll*

Psychology has proven that the mind adjusts to what is reinforced. Constantly seeing a certain body type in magazines, in media, in porn conditions your brain to find that thing more attractive. This is why representation, not just of body types, but of skin colour and race is so important. You may think you find something unattractive, but it's simply because you don't see that thing presented to you constantly as attractive and valuable. Often fat people are depicted as a joke or a villain or a lazy donut eating slob. How many films or TV shows do you see where the fat woman is the love interest? How many films or TV shows do you see where there is a fat character who is happy, healthy and desirable? It's not because fat people can't be those things, but if you don't see that representation, it can be impossible for you to see those things in real life.

I don't know about you, but I enjoy seeing the beauty of the world and expanding that spectrum of what I find beautiful can only be a positive thing because, hey, MORE BEAUTY. You do yourself an utter disservice by not challenging what you see and not making an effort - you yourself - to expand your visual horizons. Start following more fat sex workers and models on instagram and twitter and ensure you include fat people of colour in there too so you can see their glorious bodies in your feeds. The more you see of them in that context, the more desirable they will become to you.

Amateur porn and onlyfans are doing wonders in this regard and catering to the market who WANT more body types that look like the women in their lives. And that's not to say any body type is more real than another, but the variety is important here. The stretch marks, the scars, the cellulite, the different sizes and shapes of boobs and vulvas. The jiggles and the wobbles. These things are important. Otherwise your view of reality is warped and you can't find everyday women attractive because they don't look like the size 6, bolt on titty, zero outer labia possessing women in mainstream porn. This is why some of you are single and will never find a woman to satisfy your standards - because your standards are unachievable for most women and you've narrowed your dating pool so drastically. You can change this. You can make the choice to value other body types and give yourself a better chance at romantic happiness as well as open yourself up to the plethora of sex workers who can offer you an unforgettable experience. Sex appeal is about much more than a body type, I assure you.

Another truth is that thinness as the ideal is pushed by patriarchal capitalism as a way to keep women submissive, compliant and disciplined. It also works to keep women spending their money on diet products. The idea of thin women as a symbol of status appeals to fragile masculinity. Having a thin girlfriend, wife or mistress in this society says to your friends and family that you managed to snag a woman who is subservient to the patriarchy and to you. Of course that's not the case for everyone, and it's perfectly fine to date, marry and or fuck thin women to your heart's content, but if thinness is a non-negotiable, analyse why your ideal is a thin woman. Is it a goal for you or do you wanna appear more successful to others? And do you wish to define your life by the standards of others or pursue your own happiness?

The most hilarious thing to me is that the same men who would ignore me or be rude in the strip club would come back and book me in private when their friends weren't around. Men actually love thicker women when their mates aren't around to poke fun at them for being into the fat chick. Fat women are stigmatised in part due to a dick swinging contest and it's really awfully pathetic. If your friends make fun of you for being into fat chicks, don't be a weak and miserable cretin. Grow some balls and get better friends.

Getting your rocks off to fat women of any degree is nothing to be ashamed of and there's absolutely nothing wrong with you, in fact you're programmed by evolution to find fat chicks hot. That girl with abs that you say you're naturally attracted to doesn't have enough body fat to maintain a period let alone birth your strong, viable offspring. Again, thin women are beautiful and valuable, but don't act like you're just NOT into fat girls, sir, I assure you, deep down you very much are. Don't let the patriarchal toxic male gaze blind you from reality. Just like women don't really idealise the macho, shredded, big, buff beefcake idea that was created by the male gaze, and instead prefer dad bod - you bet your ass that men are really into mum bod when they're being honest with themselves.

Fatphobia Amongst Peers

This isn't directed at any one person in particular, but I am exhausted from the constant barrage of people talking about covid kilos and shaming their own bodies because they've gained weight. Our relationships with our bodies are complex in a society that sets unachievable standards, I understand that. I understand this is a visual industry and that photoshoots are really really difficult for many of us - I'm a photographer, I see it in 9/10 of my clients. Many women have body dysmorphia and eating disorders and fat women are definitely part of that community. It is normal to feel some sort of way about your body and you are entitled to feel how you feel about it, but for the sake of others, it's important you watch how you speak about it.

I've been on the plus side since I was about 6 and have had skinny size 4-10 AU friends and family my entire life with body dysmorphia. You don't know how many times I've seen women with MAYBE 18% body fat pinch at the TINY amount of fat on their lower belly when they're bloated from their period and say "ugh, I'm such a whale." to which I respond with ".... mate..." and they say "oh, but I don't think of you like that, you carry your body so well!" And yeah, sure, I hit the height lottery and have had surgical redistribution. I carry my fat pretty proportionately so I don't really look to have as much fat as I do, but it just blows my mind how they can think that expressing their disgust with the size of their bodies at half my weight doesn't or shouldn't affect me.

It is my belief that we really need to take others into consideration when we talk about our bodies publicly, in front of our friends and especially in front of our children. When you shame your own body publicly, online or in front of your friends and family for gaining weight you perpetuate fatphobia and body dismorphia. I see so many people say "oh but I never think this way about anyone else's body. I'm not fatphobic!" and that's a flat out lie. Whether your fatphobia is internalised or externalised when you shame your own body for being larger than you want it to be or suggest that you should drop your rates because you're not as thin as you used to be, you are displaying fatphobia. That's all good and well to explore in private or with your therapist or even with your photographer, but publicly doing so screams to the world that you think your body is unworthy because it is larger than you find acceptable, thus you find fatness undesirable and unworthy. Your words mean something. They have influence. They impact on how others see their own bodies and the bodies of others. I'm not saying you shouldn't talk about your disorders in the context to which they apply, but we are smart enough and evolved enough to think a little beyond our emotional reactions.

The same goes for sex workers who publicly speak so negatively about their fat clients or peers. If a client is awful to you, attack the behaviour, not their body. It's not about respecting them at all and undermining your mistreatment, it's about respecting your peers and other fat clients - most of which are wonderful. If you choose not to see fat clients for your physical disability reasons that's also your prerogative, but if it's just because they disgust you, well, I'm not going to tell you what to do with your body, but I would like you to acknowledge your fatphobia. When you have beef with your peers, no matter what they've done or said to you it's up to you to choose language that isn't fatphobic. Whale, fatty, tubs, pig, porker, cow, lard-ass, fat cunt - remove these terms from your insult vocabulary if you care at all about your fat peers and loved ones, but that's not enough. Call it out when you see others fat-shaming.

Perhaps going forward, this blog can help you change your perspective on why you think fat women can't charge as much as thin women. Perhaps, if you are a thin woman the information I have provided can help you stop beating yourself up over a few covid kilos and stop throwing your fat peers under the bus. Perhaps, you might even reevaluate the importance you place on being thin and subjecting your body to literal torture and starvation to stay thin if it's not your body's natural state. You deserve all the love and respect and financial recognition in the world no matter your dress size, but so do your fat peers and you really need to show some allyship toward them because so much of the world does not.

Fat Phobia in Industry & Adjacent Bodies

I'm sure some of you have seen the drama around a recent industry award show where the Best BBW award was given to a woman that really doesn't have the BBW body type. It's the opinion of my BBW friends that BBW doesn't just mean chunky, it implies a certain type of appearance where plump bellies, thighs, arms and chins feature. It doesn't mean thick all over in a proportionate way, it specifically means a size 18+ with a large belly. This was something I didn't know when I was new to private escorting. When I worked in brothels as a size 12 I was once called a BBW by a client in a review, so I too thought it was just anyone over a size 10 until I was educated.

It can be so incredibly frustrating when certain industry bodies choose to completely ignore an entire part of the industry, especially one that IS so popular. Instead of having a chubby or curvy category for size 12-16s, awards shows really like to lump in everyone over a size 10 together, which is harmful because the 12-16s always win the category. It erases an entire part of the sex worker industry and diminishes their achievements. This isn't the first awards show to give the BBW award to someone who isn't a BBW and it won't be the last, but it's something that needs to change because it is blatantly fatphobic and hurts BBWs.

Another way industry bodies perpetuate fatphobia is in the way that many brothels and strip clubs won't hire fat workers. When I was a stripper at a size 12 there was only 1 club in Melbourne out of the half dozen who would hire me. No matter how good of a hustler you are, no matter how many regs you have to bring over, if you don't have a size 8-10 yoga body, don't even bother auditioning for Men's Gallery or Centrefold. Kittens, Bar 20, Spearmint and Goldfingers didn't mind if some of their girls have boobs or an ass, but don't count on being hired there either. At my Spearmint audition I was the only person who had clients tipping me on stage during their audition, but I got the "we're looking for more of a dancer's body" spiel when I got off stage. It can be so disheartening and it really fucked with my body image at the time. I wasn't even allowed to work at a club where I was already making money from the minute I arrived because even my smaller than average body size was too big to be considered worthy by management. Strip clubs especially are stuck in the 90s and really haven't caught up with the shifts in public opinion on women's bodies. And it's not just strip clubs, certain popular city brothels will turn people away for being larger because there is this mind-boggling, intrinsic belief in management that they'll make more money and attract more clients while completely ignoring that fact that clients have a wide range of tastes and preferences. It's SO, SO stupid and insanity inducing!

The fatphobia we experience isn't even limited to people who hire us, it can extend to our attempts to hire or purchase from others in industry adjacent fields. Do you know how hard it is to find a nice and affordable lingerie set in any size over 14DD despite the fact that 14C is the national average. That's a whole other topic for another time, but you get the gist. It always enrages me when I hear that this or that photographer won't work with any women over a size 12 - or even worse - will work with them and take their money, but treat them with disrespect or not share any images of people with larger bodies on any of their platforms. It can be so hard to find a safe photographer to work with not just because we're sex workers but the added bonus of our body types being seen as undesireable to the people we want to pay thousands to for our advertising. I could never imagine turning someone away from Goddess Photography for their body type or choosing to exclude them from my folio on the basis of their body type. At least half of my business is due to the fact that I am safe to work with and produce great work for a range of bodies. I'm glad I can be that safe haven for larger workers and of course the fact that it boosts my business, but it's so shocking and despicable that people can be so discriminatory. The bar is so low for how we treat larger sex workers.

So... there you have it. I know I haven't covered everything, but there is your breakdown on how the sex industry can be so fatphobic and just how stupid it is. I really hope that as we progress we find that fat women charging the same as thin women in this industry becomes the norm and becomes accepted and encouraged by clients. I hope that other sex workers can learn to monitor how their words contribute to fatphobia and go easy on themselves and I hope industry bodies smarten up and start exploring the fat and BBW economy. My last wish is that any fat, chunky, chubby, mid-sized, plus-sized, voluptuous, BBW and SSBBW sex workers feel a little validated and seen by this post even if our experiences do differ. Women at any size are valuable, worthy and damn sexy and it's time the industry caught up!

Kisses, Vx

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