Brothers! Let’s talk about what it means to be a man in the feedism community.
The community can sometimes feel like a paradise just on the other side of a glass wall, an oasis of wonderful fat and growing folks all at your fingertips, but still on the other side of the world. It can feel intensely validating but just as lonely, with messages going unanswered and people you admire vanishing without a trace. It doesn’t help that toxic behaviors are rampant within it, which can create an off-putting barrier for normal, understanding folks of all genders who just want to share their passion for consensual feedism. But for most of us, it’s the only community we have.
One thing to remember is that a lot of these behaviors are perpetuated by a loud minority who, in their extreme behaviors, warp the standards of what’s allowable in the feedist community and set the tone for many other users’ experiences. And unfortunately, a lot of these people are men. So as a man in the community, you’re often going to be left dealing with a shield of initial distrust. It can’t always be avoided, but at least you can make sure you’re not making it worse.
So how can you acknowledge concerns about the behavior of men but still participate in a kink space that you have as much of a claim to as anyone of any gender?
First, take a step back! It’s not uncommon to read “men are bad” posts in the community. These are are almost always written as shorthand to express the frustration felt by women and non-binary people (and sometimes other men!) with their experiences with the guys in that loud minority. Don’t take it personally: Unless you’re one of them, it’s not directed at you.
The most powerful tool you have for navigating the community is empathy, the ability to put yourself in the shoes of other people, so let’s try to understand the common issues raised about men in the community and engage with them:
- Men don’t view this as a community. Interestingly enough, there seems to be a near-unanimous understanding that people who join the feedism community just to get something for nothing is a bad thing…so long as we’re talking about women. TikTok scammers and newsfeed beggars are rightly criticized for treating this kink community as something which only exists to benefit themselves, but a lot of guys here can’t turn that lens on themselves. If you have a greyface profile, no pictures, no info, no posts, no nothin’, and are mainly here for what you can get out of the community, be it pictures or fat chats or even a relationship, you’re playing the same game, even if you have a genuine interest in the kink.
- Men don’t understand how women and femme people experience the internet feedism community. The experience of being a woman on Feabie was once described to me as “drinking from the fire hose:” Women are every bit as kinky as we are, but their participation brings waves of attempted communication from men. Time is a finite resource, and if most of those men have the blank profiles mentioned above, it’s easy to see how it all blends into a deeply frustrating experience.
- Men don’t respect the agency of women and femmes in conversation.
- Men don’t respect copyright. Liking something, or appreciation, does not create entitlement. You don’t own the content of someone just because you like it, and you have no right to do anything other than to interact with it under the terms of whoever does own it. Don’t keep content you aren’t supposed to keep, don’t access pay content through piracy, don’t share content that isn’t yours to share.
- Men don’t respect privacy. Routinely, women in the community are doxxed or their privacy is in some other way violated. Again, liking someone’s shared photos doesn’t entitle you to try to find out their identity outside the community, or harvest their pictures from social media or obtain them through some other underhanded means.
- Men don’t respect boundaries. Feedists are, relatively speaking, rare. We get a lot of non-feedist fat people interacting with our communities, and most of them aren’t ever going to be feedists or comfortable with feedist play. If you’re a feedist, be upfront and open about it, and for the love of gosh don’t try to fatten someone else up without their consent. This is a common complaint in fat lib communities, and contributes to the perception that feedists are just constantly scheming to entrap fat people in non-consensual kink.
Some of these issues can apply to everyone in the community, and some of them are overwhelmingly likely to involve the behavior of men. If you recognize yourself in any of these behaviors, again, take a deep breath. There are reasons that help explain why men are more likely to feel entitled that have very little to do with you and a lot to do with toxic masculinity, and how men and boys are socialized. That said, explanations are not excuses. Even if you have the best of intentions, if you see some of your behaviors lining up with these common criticisms of bad male behavior, the good news is that you can do something about it!
- Before sending a message, always take time to read profiles and make sure that the recipient is open to it (some people need a break, and some people are lesbians). And if you don’t get a response, try to remember that dozens of messages a day are not uncommon for women here. If someone doesn’t respond to you, that’s it, it’s over. You don’t need to send follow-ups and you have no right to a response. Anyone, yourself included, can stop talking for any reason, and while it’s definitely understandable that someone would be frustrated by their conversation partner not responding once a rapport has been established, they (like you) are still allowed to walk away. If someone doesn’t respond to your message, you don’t have to block them or never talk to them again, but don’t keep bugging them. As a guy, it’s very easy to look at your empty inbox and wonder why nobody is responding, but even in that situation, it’s still likely not personal. Keeping twenty conversations going at once is a full-time job
- Take some time and use that empathy we all have to think about what your presence is offering to the community. Be honest and open instead of concealing your intentions: Think about how to tell prospective partners that you’re a feedist upfront.
- Spend time filling out your profile so you are more than a headless torso or greyface.
- If you offend someone, apologize. Apologies are tough, but there’s a formula that works pretty well if you’re having trouble with one: Acknowledge specifically what it is you did that you’re apologizing for, take responsibility for having done it, show that you understand how it caused harm, don’t make excuses, and be willing to listen to a response and take corrective action.
- A note on apologies: Some people move on, and many won’t want to hear from someone who reposted their pictures a decade ago. Don’t try and track down people who have left the community, and use discretion as to whether or not approaching someone is going to be beneficial for them. Your apology will help unburden you, but that’s not the purpose for it, and if it would be unwelcome, just resolve to be better in the future. Being forgiven feels nice, but don’t see it as a requirement for “redemption.”
- Participate in transformative justice. Feedists for Fat Liberation has launched a transformative justice campaign precisely because it’s tough stuff healing harm in the community. There’s a lot of gossip, a lot of blocking, and a lot of unresolved bad feelings years down the line, all confined to a community that is small enough where just avoiding one another forever isn’t always an option. Transformative justice seeks to both provide a measure of healing for the harmed and a path to reintegration for the person who’s done the harm, and to foster a strengthened sense of understanding and community among those parties. Reach out to the FFL TJ group info (at) fatliberation (dot) org if you are interested in exploring TJ as a way to address harm you might have caused.
- Do better. People respect the opinions and input of people most like themselves. That isn’t a perfect situation, but use it! If you see another guy begging for women to message him on every post, let him know that there’s a better way to go about it. If a friend shows you a stash of pirated material, start a dialogue over why they think it’s appropriate to have and share. You can be part of the solution, and good male behavior will go a long way to rehabilitating all feedists in the eyes of the greater fat liberation and fat interest communities.
So why should you do any of this? The easy answer is that it’s the right thing to do. But if that’s not enough, then self-interest.
If you, like both of the people writing this, are a cishet man in the feedism community, you probably joined because you wanted to talk to other feedists, meet them, and maybe even have a relationship with one. To be very clear, I’m not making the argument that you should do any of these things purely because they will increase the chance of those things happening, but imagine a community without piracy sites or chans or greyfaces blowing up inboxes and calling any woman who doesn’t respond to their one-word message a scammer. It doesn’t take a leap of logic to realize that a community where women and femmes feel secure and comfortable is going to be beneficial for men too. If you’ve been here a while, you’ve absolutely seen one post about leaving and cite one or more of the issues above as the reason why. How much more even would the gender ratios be if they were comfortable enough to stay? Does the bad male behavior in the community contribute to why the community is disproportionately male compared to the general population? You betcha.
Put yourself in their shoes: Remember how wonderful it felt when you realized you weren’t the only feedist on Earth, then think about how awful it would be to have that feeling crushed in short order because people didn’t respect you as a person.
Not all men in the community are part of the problem, but they can all be part of the solution. If you’ve done any or even all of the above things, fat liberation is committed to meeting you where you are if you truly want to do better. Fat liberation is for all people, and there is a path back from bad behavior. If you’re interested in taking it, please reach out.