Anyone who’s watched MTV’s True Life: I'm Fat and Happy or read about upcoming series More to Love, a Bachelor-style dating competition for women who aren’t thin as rails is likely familiar with the term Chubby Chaser. Obnoxious as it may sound, it’s a label for men who are attracted to overweight women. Sometimes they’re called "fat admirers" and I suppose I can’t speak from personal experience as to whether I find that term offensive, so plus-sized women out there, speak up and let me know.
Insulting or not, these CCs are apparently quite inspiring to researchers. So much so that a recent study published in The Journal of Sex Research focused on them. And study leaders found that not only do these guys like the plumper women out there, but they’re more likely than the average man to find a wider range of body sizes appealing. Such feminist-minded, equal-opportunists!
Here’s what happened: Researchers recruited men from Fat Admirer events (sorry but the image of a scientist in a lab coat lurking in the back corner of a “Large and In Charge…In the Bedroom” panel discussion kinda creeps me out) as well as non-FAs and had them rate black-and-white photographs of 10 female body types. Turns out, the FAs were most attracted to a woman with a BMI of 29.24. (Your BMI, or Body Mass Index, is your weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. Find yours here. According to the CDC, a BMI of 29 -- a 5’6” woman who weighs 155 pounds -- renders a person overweight.)
But the researchers also found that FAs had a wider range of what they considered attractive…including two emaciated women with BMIs lower than 15 (for comparison, in September 2007, it was announced during Madrid’s Fashion Week that models with a BMI below 18 would be banned. A 5‘9’’ model weighing 125 pounds would have a BMI of 18.)
Non-FAs – ie most of the men we know - found the photographed woman with a BMI of 18.45 — underweight by CDC standards — the most appealing…and they rated the overweight and obese women more negatively than their fat-admiring counterparts.
My first thought when reading this study was, “Oh, shocker. Men who objectify a certain subset of women for being heavy – going so far as to actually attend a conference on them – are also open to objectifying crazily skinny girls. And the rest of the “normal” men out there like their women with jutting hipbones. Will wonders never cease?” But check out the way Viren Swami, a psychology professor at England's University of Westminster and a lead researcher on the study, interpreted the results…he says these findings suggest a rejection of the "sociocultural norms of attractiveness":
"Most [FAs] understand that their ideals of beauty are not 'mainstream,' but I don't think it's really perceived as something rebellious," Swami told LiveScience. "'Natural' is a word that often crept up in my conversations with FAs, i.e., they viewed their preferences as normal; it was just that mainstream society didn't 'accept' those ideals."
Whaddyouthink? Do you buy it? Are Chubby Chasers actually stereotype-busting body image pioneers, championing the rights of all women, obese and anorexic, to look hot and get some action? And please do let me know what you think of the whole Chubby Chaser/Fat Admirer term – alienating and pejorative or inclusive and redefining?