hobart logo

March 20, 2020 Nonfiction

A Slim Sexuality

Chelsey Clammer

A Slim Sexuality photo

After I was sexually assaulted, I lost 22 pounds and finally felt skinny enough to fuck a man. I had been a 137-pound lesbian since I came out at the age of 16 and although not a single one of the gagilion body measurement scales, charts, tables, gauges, devices, calipers, apps, trackers, tapes, calculators, gurus or bod pods[1] would consider my weight “fat” for my height, I felt fat and decided to be all butch about it to survive the awkwardness that is a body. This isn’t to say my normal-BMI-ranged physique made me a dyke, but that dressing butch and wearing baggier clothes a) hid my body, and b) helped me to feel masculine-sexy in the world of lesbos. See? Someone’s gotta wear the cargo pants. I never considered my too-big-by-my-standards body could qualify to wear anything else.

***

In my head, dating women was a body competition. In size, that is. In measuring the steeper rise of her hips against mine as I spooned her, cupping her stomach in my hand and wondering if the little lump of her lower belly was larger than mine. Me hoping it was, but also wondering if the ridge of her hips was at a higher altitude not because they were bigger, but because I was heavier and dipping down into the mattress more than her bones, that the rise of my body was starting from below sea level.

Each night, a measurement. Each night, a failed attempt at reassurance because she always scored higher on the body assessment. Of course she did. I’m always the one who judges me most.

***

The assessment of scales. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being not at all, 10 being all the fucking time) how often do I think about my body, its form, its failure?[2] On a scale of 1-10, how often do I weigh my two options when it comes to what will make me feel more okay with my body in that moment—food or a cigarette?[3] On a scale of 1-10, how often do I actively attempt to scale the mountain of body hatred to reach the peak where perhaps I’ll get a peek of what body acceptance could feel like?[4]

I’m not strong enough for that accession to full-bodied acceptance.

This has to do with believing in myself.

Like how I never believe I’m skinny enough.[5]

***

Panic attacks dispelled my pounds.

During the time when the 22 pounds were getting themselves gone post-assault, I initially got offended when people admired my body and said, “You’re so skinny.” I wanted to scream that they shouldn’t praise the side effects of trauma. I wanted to be forthright and tell them that it’s easy to be skinny: “Just get yourself sexually assaulted and you’ll be set.” I never said that because social etiquette.

People didn’t expect me to say that like how now people don’t expect me to say that trauma made me skinny and I don’t necessarily mind it. Not that sexual assault is a healthy diet plan, but I stopped eating after a stranger grabbed me on the street, grabbed my pussy and said, “Hey baby what’s your name?” I stopped eating after that because I figured the smaller my body, the less me there would be for the next him to grab.

Plus, dizzy with hypervigilance and anxiety, I didn’t want to ground myself with sustenance. Dissociation is way easier to achieve if you’re already about to pass out from malnourishment.

So I moved on in life post-assault by leaving my body behind. I marched ahead with less of me and that’s when I started to feel skinny enough to wear tight jeans. Skinny enough to be kinda femme. Shed enough skin to shed the baggy clothes and be body-confident enough to meet social standards of femininity to fuck a man.

Four years later, I would.

***

But first, nine years before I date him, we were roommates in college and he fucked one of our other roommates one night and I yelled at him the next morning, spewed feminist rhetoric fueled by a hangover because I was jealous and was secretly super-attracted to him and wished I was the one he had fucked. Later, when we’re married, he’d tell me that he didn’t try to fuck me that night because he knew I was a lesbian. How I interpreted that: I was too fat to fuck.[6] Really, though, he was just that respectful of a guy which means that maybe it’s not that I wasn’t skinny enough to fuck, but not bisexual enough. But in my head, I was too fat and butch to be straight-girl skinny.

***

I heard more whistles after I was assaulted. Wearing tight jeans and halter tops, I got more comments. My body, un-hidden in tight clothes, started to feel like it was on display for praise.

And although I wasn’t fishing for comments, their attention was flattering as fuck. If I was attractive enough to harass, then my body confidence went up, and my caloric intake kept going down. Even though I wasn’t feeling anxious anymore because of the assault, I then had a body size I needed to maintain. But my desire didn’t change with my wardrobe. Women were still my preference, though then I felt like I could be with someone more butch. For once, I could be the small one of the pair. Feeling oddly empowered by tight jeans, I didn’t want to go back to being the baggy butch. And not once in all of my thinking did I realize that I didn’t have to be skinny to be femme, even though I saw plenty of voluptuous femmes out there who were gorgeous. Never did I realize that could be me.

***

The male college crush and I hooked up nine years later when, at 28-years-old, I admitted my long-standing desire for him, regardless of my previous staunch belief that I was the gayest gay that ever gayed. I let go of my gold star lesbian status and allowed myself to finally give in to my desire for this man.

He was a small man with slim hips. 30 x 32 pants measurements. And yet even with him, even with his male physique that my femaleness could never match, as we started dating, the nightly assessment of our hips’ horizons began.

I didn’t think I would do that with a dude. Apples to oranges, after all—women and their hips and men and their not-a-lot-there hips. But still, I measured our ridged horizons and we had equal altitude. Prior to the assault, I had bought men’s jeans for years. Then as I lost weight, my butch attire expired. But I remembered my size: 30 x 30. Looking at the tags on my boyfriend’s pants, I was horrified. Retroactive shame. I cursed my past self for being so fat—as large as a man! I know this thought is absurd. With my MA in Women’s Studies, I know there are many people of many sizes and of all genders and they are all beautifully majestic. I intellectually knew this, but I emotionally knew I was scared to gain weight and become larger than my soon-to-be husband. Were that to happen, were I to un-become straight-girl skinny, I wouldn’t be able to hide behind a butch identity because now I had already been deemed the femme. He wore the cargo pants, not me. If I gained weight, I was fucked.

***

We got married after six months of dating. It felt right, secure, stable. My love for the man even helped to ground me some and lifted the final bits of anxious residue from the emotional mess of being assaulted. I started to be good to my body, even gained 10 pounds. It felt okay because he felt okay to me—that he loved me and praised me and damn my neurosis, I didn’t have to be a size 0 to be attractive to him.

And then things changed.

He started to get controlling, started to have unpredictable bursts of rage. Throwing objects, pounding on the dashboard of his car, screaming at me when he felt like someone else had done him wrong. A year into the marriage, my role of wife changed from being an equal and respected companion to having to pad the world for my husband for my own emotional safety.

As I lost my grasp of the empowered woman I always considered myself to be, I started to do the thing I knew had worked for me in the past both to abate anxiety and increase the survival skill of dissociation—I stopped eating.

Back to the anxiety diet plan.

***          

At the four-hour mark, my body senses the countdown and my brain is consumed with anxious uncertainties. What mood will he be in when he gets home? Will he recognize I’m still working? Will he care? What office politics will he be pissed about today? How will he treat me tonight because of how he perceived others have treated him that day?

This is my marriage.

In four hours, he’ll be home from work.

The countdown.

I can’t concentrate with the anticipation of another dose of emotional abuse I know is soon to be served to me. It is always there, waiting.

Always. There.

Always there with the:

  • Screaming
  • Mocking
  • Shaming
  • Gas-lighting
  • And, once, kicking

As his abuse strengthens, I continue to lose what little appetite I had. I stuff my fear of him deep inside my body, letting it fill me up instead of food. Anxiety hidden within a size 0. Again.

Three hours, now.

Dissociation further settles in with my empty stomach. It’s year three of our marriage and I’ve lost 18 pounds.

Countdown to the putdowns. What did I do wrong this time?

I gave this man my love and he took away 18 pounds of my body, squeezed them out of me with his skillful and expert role of anxiety-inducing enthusiast. The daily diet of emotional abuse.

At year five of our marriage, I’ll be 33 years old and finally feel free.

***

Text I sent to my friend when I received the email that contained a picture of the finalized divorce papers: “This might be TMI, but when I saw my divorce was finalized, I got really horny.”

In fact, within four months after my divorce, I broke two vibrators. Freedom from emotional abuse felt gratifying. I could be me again and not worry about how I would be treated at the end of each day.

Free from the abuse, I could date whoever—the 7-11 cute butch clerk or the Shell Station tall strong dude clerk.[7] But again free from anxiety, I worried about gaining weight, fearful that I’d have to re-buy baggy clothes. Worried that without trauma helping to keep me skinny, I’d return to having to hide my 137 pounds of body.

***

I give numbers a lot of weight. Lucky numbers that are more random than reasonable. Objective numbers outside the context of my neuroses. We measure up the world numerically.

Then I measure myself up. The scales. Numbers have value, of course. Though now it is two years after my divorce and there is one number that doesn’t mean anything to me: 65.

That’s my boyfriend’s age.

You might be thinking that doesn’t add up. I mean, really. It’s a 30-year age difference.

Even though I usually give hefty significance to digits, the fact of his 6 and 5 that tell me he’s been breathing for three decades longer than me doesn’t hold much weight.

65 is just a number. 

Like how 137 is, in reality, just a number.

Unlike my ex-husband, my current boyfriend is enjoyable to be around. I feel seen by him, not seen as a thing he can let his frustrations out on. What a difference it is to want to stay present in every moment when the person you’re around is making you feel like an actual person. One who’s worthy of respect, of joy, of experiencing the poetry of skin when it’s touched by hands that are in awe of it, not taking advantage of it.

In his presence, the weight is lifted. Numbers become numbers again, un-signifying themselves and shedding the judgements and I am no longer a woman with a never-light-enough body, no longer letting physique steer my sexuality and self-acceptance. I am simply a woman with a body that she uses to tell his body that this here is love.

He tells me I’m beautiful and at first I tell him he needs to stop objectifying me. I consider the fact of my body, its slim size. He clarifies. It’s not about that. Shows me the definition of beautiful.

It’s about excellence.

Like what it is to be present in my body, to not have to hide anxiety or flesh, but to arrive in each moment with a yes. Yes—I want to be here with him, but more important, I want to be here with me.

This is beautiful.

***

Fucking my three-decades-older-than-me boyfriend makes me feel good about my body. I worry this thought will make my boyfriend feel bad about his body. But I love his form. Every bit of it. Every way that every pore, mole, wrinkle, white hair, line and curve and angle and all of him is something I can smash myself against.

With him, my body shifts from shame factory and becomes its own language for us to connect with. Body comparisons are impossible.

I know it seems like this shift in me happened quickly. Like, bye abusive husband, hello new awesome boyfriend and BAM! Eating disorder cured. But disorders aren’t something to be cured. They’re to be navigated. And with a respectful and Chelsey-positive boyfriend at the helm of this current sexuality journey, the insanities of my own mind/body split have calmed the fuck down a bit. This man isn’t some solution, but the love he has for me and the care with which he treats me has helped me to see that my body isn’t a problem. Not that I totally believe that, but his believe in it lessens some anxiety, helps me to feel safe in my skin again—to see my body as a thing that can be shared and explored, not a tool of emotional protection. All of this means my body’s mass no longer a strong obsession. Rather, it’s just a part of me. Like those lingering insanities.

And so I feel safe. Even after surviving a sexual assault and an abusive marriage, I have finally found safety. And in this security, a sense of a strong body grows, regardless of a number.

***

First, I came out as a lesbian at 16. (137 pounds)

Then I came out as a trauma survivor at 25. (115 pounds)

Then I came out as a lesbian who married a man at 29. (125 pounds)

Then I came out as a divorced woman at 33. (107 pounds)

Now, at 35, I don’t know how much I weigh but I do know that I come a lot because my 65-year-old boyfriend is a champ in the sack and part of that is because our relationship is excellent—like me, apparently—and this isn’t to say that I’m “cured” or that I’m telling the truth when I say I don’t know how much I weigh,[8] but just that I’m now starting to see that my body isn’t a thing I have to measure, isn’t something I have to survive. It’s a guide. So now instead of ditching my body and letting it declare my desirability, I’m inhabiting it, letting my body show me the way to where respect and pleasure—regardless of gender, regardless of numbers—get me to un-measure.

 

[1] It’s a thing. Google it.

[2] 10—all the fucking time.

[3] 12—more than all the fucking time.

[4] 0—never ever will I attempt to love this mass. This mess. I’m lazy. And stubborn. And that’s my size—0—which confirms I’m skinny regardless if I believe it, which, in a weird way, is a type of body acceptance. I accept I am actually a size 0. I don’t accept—and cannot see—that my body is small enough to fit into it.

[5] Odd how I approve of my clothing size, though not the size of my body. Welcome to my brain.

[6] Before you hate me, let me make this clear: it’s not that overweight people aren’t desirable. I find all body types gorgeous and amazing. But my head doesn’t feel that way about my own body.

[7] All smokers know their gas station clerks pretty well because we interact with them on a daily basis as we support our pack-a-day habit.

[8] 122 pounds—of course I own a scale. I have an eating disorder.

 

image: Laura Gill


SHARE