Recently a site dedicated to “the fine art of picking up girls” decided to see what happens when men and women get dates online using pictures of them thin, and then show up at the date with fat suits on.
According to a piece in the Huffington Post, when men showed up looking fatter than their photo for five dates the women were reported to be “nice,” one woman mentioned that he looked different, three were willing to move forward with this date or go on another one, and one kissed him.
Women who showed up looking fatter than their photo had very different experiences. Men told them that they were angry, that the date was a waste of gas and time, that they were married, and in one instance the guy went to the bathroom and didn’t come back. Keep it classy dude.
The Huffington Post piece points out that a study has shown that women who date online are afraid of meeting a serial killer and men who date online are afraid of meeting someone fat, that definitely seems to be playing out here.
Before we get too far into this, the problematic nature of the fat suit still applies – we have plenty of credible reports from actual fat women about what it’s like to be fat and date on the internet, and we should be careful about putting more stock in the reports of thin people pretending to be fat than the actual experiences of fat people. Still there are things to be learned from this.
When I broke the cardinal rule of being fat on the internet and read the comments, the most common justification for the men’s behavior was that the women lied. One man compared it to being “breach of contract” which I think is pretty telling – the idea that how women look is a contract for services that they should not breach and that a reasonable response to the breach of that contract is a complete suspension of basic human decency.
[Edit: Added to address some comments] I think it’s interesting to discuss what constitutes “lying” about one’s appearance. If my picture showed me as a brunette but I showed up for the date blonde would that be a “breach of contract?” Would it be reasonable to say that since I lied about my appearance I obviously can’t be trusted? Would the men’s behavior be considered an appropriate reaction? What if someone had makeup on, or a padded push up bra, or shapewear in the picture but not on the date? What constitutes lying about appearance? Or is this really more about the social stigma that is placed on being fat, especially as it relates to being a woman. Do we believe that if everything in the profile is correct but the picture is out of date that person is “lying”? It wasn’t a picture of a different person after all, it was a picture of the same person looking different than they do now in one aspect. I don’t necessarily have answers to these questions but I think they are worth asking.
I can also tell you from experience that even stating clearly that you are fat, complete with pictures of you hanging out being fat, will not protect you from going on dates with fatphobic jerks. I’m lucky to be in a fabulous relationship now (Hi Julianne!), but when I was dating I always considered this a good weed-out tool. Regardless of my own weight, I would never date someone who wouldn’t date a fat person (or who would only date a fat person, or who would rule out entire groups of people based on physical characteristics.)
To be clear (and to avoid hundreds of e-mails misrepresenting the First Amendment) I’m not saying that people aren’t allowed to have these requirements of potential mates, I’m just saying that not being that kind of person is part of my requirements for a potential mate for the following reasons:
- If someone has a specific body size or physical appearance as a relationship requirement, I have to wonder what happens when time or circumstance changes the superficial? I never count on a tiger changing their stripes so if they are only willing to date me based on how I currently look, I assume that things like illness, accident, or aging that change my appearance will destroy the relationship, quite possibly when it would be most critical for me to have support. I’m not about to set myself up for that.
- This person is either saying that they are comfortable dating based on superficiality, or insisting on what I think is the implausible idea that their attraction is something that is objective, isn’t affected by the cultural bigotry in which they are steeped, and isn’t changeable, and I don’t think that any of that is true.
- I think that eliminating everyone with a certain physical characteristic as a potential mate is bigotry, plain and simple, and I would have concerns about this person displaying bigotry in other realms.
People are allowed to do what they want including only dating people who look a certain way and using less than accurate pictures on dating profiles. Neither of these is for me because, to paraphrase George Washington, I learned a long time ago that I would rather be alone than in bad company.
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