Where's Trish?: The Blight of Feederism on the Size Acceptance Community
November 1, 1997
(UPDATE: It took five years, but I finally got a feeder response!)
In 1987 I first earned the wrath of some in the Size Acceptance movement (though it hadn't really been christened that at that time) by coming out against the concept of "Feeding". It was supposed to be a quick and dirty article that would be published in this small regional NAAFA newsletter with a total readership of maybe a hundred people.
I hadn't figured on the un-written NAAFA rule that once it's in ONE newsletter, it's fair game for re-printing in any newsletter that felt like it. I guess people were pretty desperate for material back then.
To make a long story short, my article came to the attention of the newly formed "Dimensions" magazine, recently spun off from what was the NAAFA FA-SIG (Fat Admirers Special Interest Group) newsletter by it's editor, Conrad Blickenstorfer.
Conrad didn't take to my assertion that Feeders were (if memory serves me correctly) sub-human nazi like scum no better than rapists. What can I say...I was 23, and far more prone to inferior hyperbole then.
Anyway, he pretty much insinuated that I wasn't a "true" FA, despite the fact that I carefully made the distinction between eroticizing food and force feeding. He said other things, but that's the point that stuck in my mind the most: That strange concept that feeding and Fat Admiration was somehow synonymous.
Ten years later and the battle for the soul of the size acceptance movement is once again on, only this time it looks as if Conrad, through his editorship of Dimensions, is firing the first salvo. In the October '97 issue Wilson Barbers, a Dimensions favorite, writes a piece that dares suggest that people in the size acceptance movement haven't truly accepted either their own or others size if they didn't accept weight gain fantasy and feeders.
While so tautologically fraught with flawed logic as to be almost comical, this piece illustrates the war that has been waged in various corners of the size acceptance movement for the last ten years. Feeders have insisted that their lifestyle is a valid form of fat admiration, while those of us who have "squicked" are equally adamant that they are not.
While Dimensions has always been more or less open with it's pro-Feeder stance, this new confrontational approach is an attempt to redraw the battle lines to include the feeder's fetish with my personal preference for the fat human form. I find that idea physically nauseating in the most literal sense.
Of course, I can't have that strong a reaction without asking myself some really hard questions: Right off, is this reaction similar to the homophobic reaction of a closet queer? In other words, as that homophobe bashes gays he, deep in his soul, knows that perhaps he *is* queer, did I harbor some secret fantasy that involved weight gaining, either as a feeder or feedee?
Not an easy question to ask oneself. Nor is it an easy question to answer. But I had to wonder, why was it I could be so accepting of so many sexual lifestyles well outside the mainstream, both in myself and others, and yet be so disturbed by this one?
In that original article my main objection to feeders was the manipulative nature of inducing a woman, so used to forced restraint to eating, into a lifestyle of out of control consumption. To me, it was no better than insisting that someone lose weight in the name of love. Since that time I encountered the concept of non-consensual feeding, something that I hadn't even vaguely imagined then. Ironically, the writings of feeders such as Wilson Barbers and Karl Niedershue provide vital clues as to how someone might find themselves eating unhealthy amounts of food, gaining weight to the point of near death, all under the guise of the consent of the "feedee".
It's a simple approach, and insidious: You convince your target that they aren't truly accepting their size if they resist eating anything put in front of them. It can start gradually, so that the target isn't really aware of the progression until they start to feel ill, or their weight begins to effect their mobility. By then, it's usually too late for the target to truly object: The feeder has complete control of the feedees life. Access to the phone, hygiene, and (of course) the feedees meals are all at the mercy of the only person left in the feedee's life -- the feeder.
Almost every form of sexuality that, whether I wish to indulge in it or not, has a strong element of OPEN consensuality to it. When I consider the ones that I DON'T approve of (pedophilia, for example) there's a clear lack of consent, or consent is (at best) fuzzy. A forty year old might convince a 16 year old to have sex, but it's still unethical (and in a lot of places, illegal).
Even where feeding seems 100% consensual, there's an element of furtiveness that I find disturbing. In the article written a decade ago, I discussed what I saw as the feeders pattern. Ten years have filled in a lot of the blanks I had then, so here's an update in hopes that I can spot the place where the feeder lifestyle diverges from so many of the others I accept:
1) Acquire a target.
Easy enough: you go to dances, conventions, anywhere where you can find someone who's new to the movement. Ever see the sight gag where someone is trying to break down a door tries harder and harder, pulling themselves back for one last try...only to have the door open at the last second? Years of cultural criticism of one's weight and body can lead to a vulnerable condition where someone could be swept off their feet and gaining weight before they're even conscious of the decision made for them. Steps 2 through 5, illustrated here, pretty much sum the process up:
2) Insinuate themselves in the targets life.
3) Make themselves emotionally necessary to the target.
4) Begin to alter the target's lifestyle in a way that encourages weight gain.
5) At a critical point (usually after the weight gain is substantial enough to be more than a normal fluctuation) he target objects: Either the feeder is successful in convincing the target that everything is fine, or the feeder (or feedee) leaves. Some of the common arguments (based on actual feeder dialog):
"You're only now accepting of your body to eat 'normally'...you're finding your true [higher, of course] weight set-point."
"If you loved me, you would gain just another x pounds"
"I worked all day to make that dinner/desert for you...the least you could do is finish it"
6) If the feeder is successful in his or her arguments, the target requires more and more assistance from the feeder.
Another approach here is to start doing the shopping, an apparently gallant gesture -- except the store is suddenly "out" of diet soft-drinks (I know people who prefer the sugar-free taste...it certainly isn't a weight loss approach for them!), healthy snacks, low fat foods, and so forth.
Communication with anyone who might intervene on the behalf of the target becomes limited in almost direct correlation with the target's increasing size (and decreasing health).
So, the feedee continues to gain weight, until:
7a) The target wises up and gets out.
This isn't as easy as it sounds. The problem is that the feeder begins to take a proprietary approach to the target, almost a to the point of considering the target their property. It's remarkably similar to chronic domestic violence, where someone attempting to escape the clutches of the abuser often winds up back in the same situation -- to be abused again.
7b) The target can't gain anymore weight.
The ultimate tragedy of the feeder pathology is simple human endurance -- eventually the target can't put on another pound. Assorted weight related problems, exacerbated by immobility and hygienic breakdowns, results in a case of diminishing returns. Sometimes there's no way around it -- the target HAS to start eating healthier and exercising, thus losing the weight. Mind you, they'll probably always be far larger than average, even "super-sized", but that's a factor of where their true set point for their weight is.
There are two possible outcomes, sometimes simultaneous:
8a) The feeder leaves, either before or after acquiring a new target.
And yes, this sometimes include some affairs and "cheating". Sometimes, it's with the full knowledge of the feedee, though, unlike the polyamorous lifestyle, it's more out of resignation over their own inability to satisfy the feeders needs rather than a true open relationship. Remember, we're usually talking about someone so desperately lonely that they'll consent to gaining weight in the first place to keep their "lover" -- why stop there?
8b) The target dies.
In either case, the feeder moves on.
Even as I write these steps out, I'm trying to think of the best possible scenario for a feeder/feedee dynamic, and I simply can't find it. Even if you assume complete and utter honesty and communication between the two elements of the relationship, even if you assume complete consensuality, you still run into item 7b eventually. Then what?
There is no "goal" in gainer fantasies. It's an open ended system being applied to human physiology, something essentially close ended in nature. There's only so far you can increase a human beings size, yet the sexual gratification in feeder fantasies and reality are based in the ongoing and continual process of weight gain.
When I think about my preference for fat partners, I have a specific fantasy in mind. The reality is actually fairly simple to fulfill...I like someone who's strong, large, independent, has a sense of humor and intelligence. I tend to leave a lot of the details open, as you never know who will fulfill those criteria and when: A lot of times I'm surprised by the people I develop relationships with.
Other Fat Admirers do have specific sizes they fantasize about (the bigger is better mentality), where they dream of making love to a woman who weighs X number of pounds. A bit of a simplistic approach to attraction, in my opinion, but still valid...and one that doesn't set of the same alarms that Feeder fantasies do.
As I examine other fetishes I have encountered on and off the net, I see a pattern throughout most: There's a goal in mind that involves a specific set of criteria to be met, with full consent, and usually both parties walk away intact afterwards (or, in the case of even the most extreme S&M, with superficial damage in the forms of welts, cuts and bruises, which is usually healed in about a week).
So that divergence I spoke of occurs at step 7, where we find a one severely damaged or dead human being. I realize there is at least one other fetish that squicks me just as much as feeding, regardless of whether the act is consensual or not: Feeding is essentially a form of time delayed snuff, only the feeder usually finds a cowardly way of avoiding the end result of his work.
So my strong reaction isn't tied to some sort of submerged desire...it's simply the same outrage that any feeling person would feel at the abuse of one human being by another. While I am a strong believer in the ideal of self-responsibility, there are too many parallels between the feedee and the domestic abuse victim to easily dismiss the situation with a simple shake of the head and a muttered "They made their choice".
But before we get lost down that particular black hole, let's return to the document that started this whole debate in the first place, Dimensions Magazine. For one thing, I'm sure a lot of you are asking "Who the hell is Trish?".
Trish is one of the first two members of Conrad's special section on the Dimensions web site, known simply as the 500 club. To get in, you simply have to weigh in excess of 500 pounds and pose in scantily clad outfits.
There are now a total of 3 members in this exclusive club...only Trish is no longer one of them. Thus the title. The answer is perhaps the strongest motivating force behind this article, even more so than Wilson's foray into newspeak journalism.
Trish was a feedee in a traditional weight gain relationship. Details of the situation are sketchy at best, but it appears that, a few months after her significant other left her, Trish died of weight related causes. While I would hope that the removal of her pictures was a sign of respect, no comment on her death can be found anywhere on the Dimensions web-site. Word has it that Conrad is trying to keep news of her death quiet. However, the lack of even a simple memorial page is as loud a condemnation of the lifestyle as any I could possibly write, even before I discovered that, of the three remaining members of the "club", one has reached step 7b and is dieting to lose the weight she was so proud of.
Members of the size acceptance movement should really think about how they stand in the face of this feeder/feedee lifestyle, and consider what it's place is: Is it, as Wilson Barbers insists, a valid part of the work we're doing as fat people and their allies to end size discrimination? Or are they an embarrassment on the level of NAMBLA (the NAtional Man Boy Love Association) insisting that they were a valid part of the gay rights movement?
My own position is pretty clear to me. I reject Feederism as the stubborn recurring wart on the movements backside that it is, and hope that, as the queers rejected the pedophiles, that we all can band together to eliminate this disgusting form of predatory behavior from our midst.
In the meantime, I hope that this article serves as the memorial to Trish that no one in the pro-feeder camp bothered to write.
Last Modified: 7-Feb-06