“After we were shooting it, the camera guy came over, and he said, ‘I’ve never shot a scene like this. And I’ve never seen a scene like this.’ ” Sidibe said. “I was really happy to be part of something that’s never been seen on primetime television before. And you don’t notice it because you don’t have to notice it, but there’s never been someone of my skin color, my size, with somebody else of the same skin color in a love scene on primetime television.”
“It’s never happened,” she added, laughing again. “Just go through the books, it’s never happened. And I’m not sure why it hasn’t happened, but I hope there’s more to come.” — People Magazine
I don’t watch Empire. Until Sunday, all I knew was that Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard star in it (they do star in it right?)
But then I heard that Gabourey Sidibe’s character had a sex scene on the last episode, and I saw who she did it with, and I thought that maybe I need to start tuning in and catching up (how did we even get to this point? Somebody betta fill me in).
So yeah… apparently there has been some backlash.
“It was like they were more comfortable with the rape scene in Precious than the love scene in Empire,” she told BuzzFeed News.
That’s a damn shame.
Some people aren’t used to seeing zaftig people getting hot and heavy (no pun intended). I honestly think that the hooplah is a result of people trying to reconcile plus-sizedness with sexual desirability.
But why would they even have trouble doing this? It’s because, as a society, we have been taught that a fat body is not a sexy body.
It starts from when we are young. I noticed this when I was watching cartoons and fairy tales with my nephew. In Cinderella, the ugly step sister is usually fat, and she is not the one chosen by the Prince. The Prince falls in love and marries beautiful, dainty (read: skinny) Cinderella. The people who are chosen by Prince Charming or the good-looking, leading male character are always thin, with their impossibly slim waists, perky breasts and ample cleavage (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel, The Frog Prince). In the Little Mermaid, Queen Ursula is fat. She is also evil. So from an early age, we associate fatness with evil and ugliness, not sexiness and desirability. We are taught to bristle and recoil at the sight of fat.
Eating too much and loving sweets — you know, things that only fat people do — land Hansel and Gretel in trouble.
It’s reinforced when we get older. Fat girls are the ones who get asked out just for fun. My father used to tell my sister and I that men want women who are slim (the inference being that we would not be wanted).
And we plus-sized women wallow in our own self-fulfilling prophecy as we forecast this myth and perpetuate the lie in our own lives. Thus, we have generations of women who believe the lie that no one will love them — no right-thinking, red-blooded, intelligent man would be attracted to them, let alone sexually, because of their girth.
In the Broadway film and play Dreamgirls, Jennifer Hudson’s character, Effie, is left for Beyonce’s skinnier (and weak singer) character Deena. Hudson emphasizes the emphasis on her size with the song, “Heavy”:
You got so heavy babe….
You got so heavy on me…
You use to be so light and free
You use to smile just lookin at me.
Now all you give is jealous hate.
Come on baby, baby lose some weight..
We’re subtly taught that we must lose weight or else we’ll lose our man. We are taught that we are not lovable as we are and we are certainly not sexual beings.
The fat one is never the Prom Queen. She’s never the princess. She is a type — she is the friend, the side-kick, the co-star, the ugly duckling, the ugly one who lets her prettier co-stars shine forth.
The chubby people always have trouble in their personal lives or have to “overcome being fat” in order to save their love life (Shallow Hal, The Nutty Professor, Real Women Have Curves, to name a few). If they do find love, they find it despite being fat.
Rarely do we see fat women chosen because of their curves. Rarely, if ever, do we see fat women being chosen period.
If they are chosen, it’s not by the handsome, toned main character. It’s by some homely, nerdy, average-looking guy or another fat guy — you know, someone on their level. If not that, they’re wanted by some weird guy who fetishizes fat. Fat women are “wanted” but their fatness is always a central theme in them being wanted. They’re never just treated as normal, sometimes horny, human beings.
And if they are chosen, the most progressive thing in which they are involved is a lackluster love scene (and I can’t name many… Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray maybe?). They certainly aren’t having sex on screen, or participating in a scene that insinuates that that is what is going to happen. They certainly aren’t allowed to revel in their sexuality.
That’s why this scene had people feeling some type of way. It turned all of our preconceived notions and stereotypes on their heads. People watched that episode of Empire and thought, “Hold up — what’s Gabourey doing on her back? She is having sex with him? And I can’t even get a text back?!”
In this unprecedented scene, we had a good-looking, smooth-skinned, built, handsome, dark chocolate of man (is it me, or is it getting hot in here?) straddling someone who many would say is the exact opposite and doesn’t deserve such attention.
Hip to waist ratio and evolutionary biology aside, I’ve always wondered why fat women wouldn’t be considered desirable… I mean, they have more cushion… They usually have bigger boobs and a larger butt if you’re into those things (’cause small boobs and small buts or no boobs and butts are cool too). There are more places to hold onto, if holding on is your thing. I could never understand how bone on bone could be fun.
We need more scenes like this — you know scenes where fat people are treated like normal consenting adults having sex and not scenes where fatness is the sole focus and the fat person is some kind of social pariah — to normalize the fact that fat women are sexual beings too, to educate people that it’s okay to love and desire a fat woman, and to dismantle this idea that fat women don’t deserve attractive sexual partners and are not sexually desirable by them or anyone else.
And if we have more scenes like this, then maybe, you know, just maybe, we may socialize a generation of young men to be comfortable with wanting a fat woman (not because she is fat but because she is a woman), or to consider having sex with a fat woman as a viable and perhaps even pleasurable option. You know? Just sayin.’
I long for a world where sexy ≠ only thin (fat people need not apply), but rather sexy = tall, short, fat, thin, curvy, flat, big-boobed, no-boobed, bubble butt, concave arse, disabled, abled, black, white, yellow, brown, red, green, purple, lavender, lilac, maroon, magenta, cerulean, mauve, and everything in between.
“I, a plus sized, dark-skinned woman, had a love scene on primetime television. I had the most fun ever filming that scene even though I was nervous. But I felt sexy and beautiful and I felt like I was doing a good job.”
It is my hope that young women everywhere, but especially voluptuous ones, will be able to proclaim similarly — that, although nervous, they are able to feel sexy and beautiful within the context of their own private love scenes. Scenes like Sidibe’s help attend to this aim.
We’re all sexual beings. We all want it. And we all deserve to have it, no matter our size.
 Perhaps we don’t all want it. I do not want to cause any offence to asexual people here.
Photo credit: Buzzfeed and Christopher Fragapane / Fox