anorexia, obesity and sex – a discussion

there are some interesting comments on the anorexia and sex article (part of a series, the thread of which can be found at the end of this post).

one commenter is “dude with a mission”. normally i’m a bit hesitant to engage in conversations with people who don’t leave a valid email address, but dude has some points that are worthy of consideration, so i’ll dedicate this post to continuing this conversation.

is “hideous obesity” the norm?
dude had said that “hideously obese is now the norm” and gave this example

about two-thirds of u.s. adults are overweight or obese.[6]

all adults: 133.6 million (66 percent)
women: 65 million (61.6 percent)
men: 68.3 million (70.5 percent)”

i don’t know what is meant by hideously obese – i can only infer that what is meant is morbidly obese, which is typically defined as more than 100 pounds overweight. this is not contained in the statistics above, and it is not the norm. (of course, we’d need to come to an agreement as to what “the norm” is, but most likely it’s one or a combination of the statistical averages of mean, median or mode.)

having said that, yes, morbid obesity, along with overweight and obesity has risen dramatically – it would be silly to disagree with that.

fighting obesity
dude says

people do have a choice when it comes to being fat or thin. i lost about 60 lbs. eight years ago and have kept it off. it is not beyond our control. it simply takes getting fed up with our situation and a significant lifestyle change.”

my sincere congratulations. i know how hard that is (have done it myself). so of course it is possible to lose weight and keep it off. however, for some people, overeating is truly an addiction, and addictions are very hard to overcome, as we know.

we also might consider forcing our politicians to act and institute zoning requirements so we are not being tempted by fast food with no alternative every block.

i agree with dude 100%.

what exactly is meant by “anorexic”?

people are now so used to seeing fat people that they have begun to call the chubby people thin and the thin/healthy people epithets e.g. “anorexic.” it seems pretty clear that porn marketers have picked up on this and labelled their content thusly.

whether “people” do that is a matter of discussion but let me tell you that i personally don’t automatically think of thin people as anorexic. anorexia is a mental illness, not necessarily a state of weight. however, when i go back to those posts, i see that i talk about “very slim” and “very thin”. i did that because i wanted to speak a language that makes sense to everyone, including people who feel ambiguous about the term “anorexic”.

this brings to the fore a problem with language and labels, and particularly with words that have a strong emotional connotation on the one hand and have a specific professional label on the other. the word “anorexia” can broadly refer to a condition that has the hallmarks of unhealthy thinness, brought about by intentional and obsesessive 1) lack of caloric intake and/or 2) purging and/or 3) overexercising

(sidebar you can also look up the DSMIV definition here; this definition is quite circumscribed and talks about anorexia per se as well as some anorexia-like phenomena that are then gathered under EDNOS. in that sense, btw, it’s unclear that calista flockhart was truly anorexic ; not eating enough for a period of time because of stress is not the same as anorexia).

so there are slightly different uses of the word “anorexic” and i think that’s where the original disgreement between dude and myself stems from. would it have been better if i had only used the word “anorexic” and clearly defined it? i honestly don’t know.

the science of it all
in my first response to dude, i said “i’m not suggesting that people who like anorexic people are perverts”. dude replies

but you state above: “…things and ideas that mainstream community sees as – what would the word be? unwholesome? unhealthy?”

it is presumptuous at best (junk science at worst) for you to make your statements based on a conclusion that people searching those terms are in fact looking for actual anorexics.

there’s that question of that word “anorexic” again. while i agree that we’re dealing with something very ambiguous here, i think the best thing we have going for us is that people used the word “anorexic” – so let’s just assume they meant it!

dude then explains how this little investigation could have been done better. good ideas. but it looks like he didn’t read my disclaimers all over the place that i didn’t say this was a scientific study : )

… begin with a hypothesis stating simply that “anorexic porn” searchers intend to receive results displaying images of actual anorexics engaged in sex acts … let’s assume that you prove the hypotheses. your next step should be to identify whether the searchers of actual anorexics engaged in sexual activities are searching for said images to gratify sexual desires or if it the searches are based on curiosity about a topic they saw/read/heard …

you seem to have taken it as red that the first two hypotheses have been proved. this is irresponsible.

i don’t think i said that anywhere. and it’s important to point out that i didn’t go into this with a hypothesis. i went into it with a number of questions. i didn’t know what was going on. of course i had my little ideas and judgments (just like dude has judgments about “hideously obese” people) but i sincerely hope that that didn’t distract too much from the investigation. then i did the investigation and now i think we have a little bit more information about this. by the way, that’s how all science goes. “amazing scientific breakthroughs” are often overturned later on. and that’s good. we just keep on learning.

bad, bad pornography
earlier on, dude felt that i had said that people are bad for looking at pornography. as an example, he points to what i said here: “one thing that was almost absent was an understanding that the interest in these images is a type of objectification. it is, after all, a form of pornography. only one reader addressed that as an aside.” dude argues

now unless you plan to tell me that you intended to use “objectification” in a neutral or positive sense, you are implying that there is something objectively distasteful about the viewing of pornographic materials.

dude, thanks for bringing this up. my wording there was poor. “the interest in these images is a type of objectification” is wrong. part of the interest may have a connection with objectification but i don’t know that. also, there is no question that large parts of pornography are about objectification but one should not conclude from the part to the whole. so what i should have said is that what was absent was an understanding of the connection between pornography and objectification.

dude then goes on to say

while there is certainly a large group of pornography subjects who do not wish to be involved in the industry, there are also healthy, self-confident individuals who are proud of the way they look and unashamed of their sexuality. the enormous volume of home-made amateur pornography testifies to that. if i am an exhibitionist and want to have others watch me engage in intimate acts — neither i, nor my gender, race, etc. is being “objectified” in any negative sense of the word.

to a large degree i agree with dude – the only doubts i have about some of the home-made pornography because not all of it may be truly consensual and not all of it truly home-made.

9 thoughts on “anorexia, obesity and sex – a discussion

  1. Althea

    I agree totally: obesity is a sure sign of an eating disorder and an eating disorder is an addiction. I have the blog, the website and the book on addiction to food . Its not the addiction that makes you miserable its the deep seated misery that leads you towards addiction.
    Keep up the good work,

  2. Rachel

    You wrote: “so of course it is possible to lose weight and keep it off. however, for some people, overeating is truly an addiction, and addictions are very hard to overcome, as we know.”

    I’d like a clarification on the above statement: Are you saying that the reason fat people are fat is because they have an addictive problem with overeating?

    I don’t disagree that some fat people (as do some thin people) have classifiable problems with binge eating or compulsive overeating, but I would hope that you would also recognize that there are many, many people who eat a healthy balanced diet and exercise regularly, and yet are still fat. Fitness, not fatness, should be the best marker of good health.

    having said that, yes, morbid obesity, along with overweight and obesity has risen dramatically – it would be silly to disagree with that.

    Not so silly if you look at the numbers. Americans, on average, have gotten heavier through the years but the average increase is 5 to 7 pounds. Women today are no heavier than they were in the 1990s.

    As well, lobbyists who have a financial interest in making people feel they have to lose weight have continued to push for a lowering of the overweight bar defining who is and who isn’t overweight. In the late 1990s, the government arbitrarily changed the definition of overweight, thus turning 35 million Americans overweight overnight.

    And as for Althea’s very misinformed comment: “I agree totally: obesity is a sure sign of an eating disorder and an eating disorder is an addiction.”

    Obesity in and of itself is not a sign of an eating disorder. Those who have researched eating disorders and who have had personal experiences with an eating disorder will tell you that it’s one relationship with food and weight that forms the basis of an eating disorder. And this relationship is something that cannot be assumed on the basis whether one is too fat or too thin.

  3. isabella mori

    hi rachel, and thanks for visiting!

    re the clarification: i really did mean that overeating is an addictive problem for SOME people (i.e. not for ALL).

    there are many reasons why people weigh more than they would like to; compulsive overeating is just one of them.

    you may want to refer to this post on research on obesity.

    so i would agree with you, rachel – obesity MAY be a sign of an eating disorder but it is not a SURE sign. it’s best not to go around diagnosing people – although i also get it that people who are recovering want to help others so much that sometimes they can see a problem where there is none (or point one out when the person in question isn’t ready to hear about it).

    and yes, it IS about the relationship with food. i know numerous people with eating disorders whose difficulties are compounded by the fact that they don’t “look” like they have an eating disorder. in the same vein, not every thin person has anorexia and not every overweight person is a food addict.

  4. keith

    Anorexia is essentially a self image problem which stems from low self esteem. This can commonly be attributed to emotional abuse at a young age, non – acceptance by peer groups and / or a lack of support at an emotional level. Other causes can be sexual abuse from peers within the family, peer pressure from social groups such as hollywood, the ‘in crowd’ at school or prospective partners. As for sex in relation to anorexia the attraction to super thin people has been genrated on the big screen and is largely responsible for the massive following which was taken up by the fashion industry. It is interesting to note that, prior to the 1950’s and early 60’s anorexia nervosa did not even exist. This can be evidenced by looking at who WAS popular then. Body shapes. the likes of marilyn monroe and Betty Davis, were rounded out and what we, today, in our politically correct, perfectionistic, minimalist society, would call ‘plump’ or ‘fat’. There is also the matching phenomenon. This relates to how we see ourselves. If I am a big person there is a good chance that I do not think I will be accepted by a small person. I will then go and search out another, equally big person as a prospective partner. The same applies if I am super skinny. This comes back to self acceptance and self esteem. For more answers or other marterial please contact me at

  5. isabella mori

    hi dohfiddle – short comment, and to the point!

    hi keith – thanks for your well thought-out comment. i agree with you, issues such as self esteem, cultural/media influences and family history definitely play a role. however, as dohfiddle says, there’s more to it. the book “gaining” by aimee liu paints a very good picture of the numerous factors that may be the cause of anorexia, and one of them that you haven’t mentioned yet is genetics.

    the attraction to people with anorexia is also based on a number of different things. as i mentioned, this post gives a bit of an overview. again, it’s a bit of a mystery. the difference between saying one is attracted to someone very thin and actually BEING with someone like that is one of them.

  6. payday loans online

    Having government step in and zone fast food locations is about as ridiculous as it gets. People that have no self control should instead be government mandated to get a manual labor job, move out of the city to farm and do at least 1 hour of exercise per day. Instead of punishing businesses and responsible consumers why don’t you go after the people that ruin it for everyone?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *