David Wraith: Without going into specifics, what makes your sex life amazing?
Hanne Blank: Getting clear with myself on what I wanted sexually made all the difference to the quality of my sex life. It helped a great deal, for me, to think separately about what I wanted sexually and what I wanted emotionally and romantically, and also about the ways that I wanted those three parts of the equation to inform one another. Doing this thinking helped me figure out what my priorities were, and the order of those priorities. My sex life is much improved by my knowing which ingredients are actually the most important to me, which has improved my ability to communicate those things, and also improved both my ability and my willingness to say no to sexual situations that don’t seem like they have the potential to give me the things I’m looking for. This is so useful. You know that old saying about “sex is like chocolate cake, even when it’s bad it’s still pretty good”? It’s not actually true. If the chocolate cake has an ingredient to which you’re allergic, or if you are not a big fan of chocolate cake and would vastly prefer apple pie, then it might not matter how good the chocolate cake is! Life improved greatly when it dawned on me that it doesn’t matter what I’m supposed to like if I actually like something else.
What advice do you have for fat women who want to improve their sex lives?
Don’t get too hung up on what other people are supposed to like, especially where body types, shapes, weights, et cetera are concerned. It is pretty common that people don’t actually prefer what our society says they’re supposed to. So don’t rule yourself out. It’s a pretty safe bet that at least some other folks out there are totally counting you in.
How do you feel about the way fat women’s sexuality is treated [or ignored] by the media?
I pay next to no attention to to the mainstream media and commend that approach to everyone who will hold still long enough for me to do so. If you are not willing to ignore the mainstream media, at least remember this: it will never love you back. Don’t be surprised, don’t be devastated, don’t be hurt by this. It is just a fact. It does not matter how much you love mainstream media, it will never love your fat body back. Stop hoping it will and put the energy elsewhere. Create your own media that does love you back, perhaps.
What inspired you to write “Big Big Love?”
I have a bad habit of wanting to read books that don’t exist. I end up writing them, as a direct consequence. I needed something that spoke to who I was and to this part of my life and my experience that meant a lot to me, and I didn’t want to be an aside, a footnote, or a joke. That book didn’t exist. So I first put out a fat and sexuality ‘zine called Zaftig for a while, in the mid-90s, and then I did Big Big Love as a result of a publisher being interested in Zaftig and asking me if I’d ever considered writing a book. I had not, as it happened, but as I often joke, I side with the British composer Arnold Bax who famously said that a person should try everything except incest and folk dancing. So I wrote the first version of that book and it came out in 2000. The second version — not an edition, but a second version, completely rewritten — happened a decade and change later, in 2012, with a different publisher that wanted to pick up that torch.
What impact do you feel the book has had?
I honestly have a hard time evaluating that. I think that it helped open up a national, maybe international, conversation about fat people and sexuality, but that happened in a lot of places for a lot of reasons as the internet made fat activism and fat community so much more accessible and visible. It wasn’t just Big Big Love that made that happen, but I think Big Big Love spurred a lot of thinking and talking that helped that happen. Sometimes people come to me and want to talk to me about their experiences with Big Big Love and they say “this book changed my life.” What I tell them is always the same: Thank you, but: You changed your life. If I gave you some tools to help you do that then I am really happy that I could help. But a book doesn’t ever change someone’s life, an idea or set of ideas someone gets from reading a book doesn’t change their life. What a person does with the idea is what changes their life. I’m so happy you could change your life for the better and I’m glad I could be part of that.”
Anything you want to highlight or promote?
I am currently working on a Ph.D. dissertation that deals with feminist women’s health in the U.S. South between 1965-1995. If any of your readers were active in the feminist women’s health movement in the South during those years and would be willing to talk to me about it, I urge them to be in touch at hanne.blank @ emory.edu.
Big Big Love Revised A Sex & Relationships Guide for People of Size & Those Who Love Them is available for check out from the library at Shameless Grounds. You can purchase it from Powell’s Book by clicking here.
Hey, are you a fat woman with an amazing sex life who’s comfortable talking about it? Email me at davidwraith at yahoo dot com, with the subject line “Fat Women with Amazing Sex Lives.”