The characters in the 20 short stories that make up advocate, writer, and businesswoman Rebecca Jane Weinstein's new book are many and varied. Meet Elizabeth, a flirtatious artist who came to terms with herself in her 20s; Cathy and Paul, a married couple struggling against the adversity of chronic illness; Elisa, who worried that she was pursued by men for her looks rather than her personality; and a veritable ton of other very real people whose stories were carefully compiled by Portland's Weinstein following hours of interviews. What makes them different from the people in every other book stacked on your bedside table? They're all fat.
Despite its jump-off-the-page title, Fat Sex: The Naked Truth is much more of a pleasant surprise than a shocking one. Sex is a prevalent topic throughout the book, but it's also filled with genuine romance and forays into the complicated world of self-love. While each tale is centered in one way or another around a character's experience with sex, the book as a whole is most definitely focused on the complex and stigmatized world surrounding obesity — whether obese people are discriminated against; whether overweight people should be required to lose weight; and whether it's society's obsession with thinness that is killing people, rather than their weight.
Through these true stories, of all different types of fat people's struggles, successes, and relationships, Weinstein weaves tidbits from scientific studies about obesity and weight loss, definitions of psychological conditions, and excerpts from all manner of medical research, as well as expert opinions taken from assorted articles. The result is an engaging group of stories that makes the reader think as much as empathize; it's never simply a dramatic story, but it's never simply dry statistics either. This combination has proved popular — though Fat Sex was released only a month ago, Weinstein has made an appearance discussing it on The Today Show, has had gotten online buzz at Huffington Post, the Good Men Project, and Writing Raw.
Fat Sex: The Naked Truth tells the tales of heterosexuals, homosexuals, men, women, swingers, porn stars, couples, singles, the oppressed, the abused, and the confident, all of them fat people or people who find themselves attracted to fat people. They go through things that most people will never experience in their lifetime — dangerous surgeries, blatant emotional abuse, and public shame. Yet perhaps Fat Sex's greatest charm is its heartbreaking relatability. Underlying the book is the innate need to love and be loved, intrinsically human regardless of size. You may never have been told by your father that you were definitely "the ugly twin" (see Chapter 6), but the chances are pretty high that you've worried about looking ugly before. Your weight may not be in the multi-hundreds, but you probably understand being nervous about showing your partner your naked body. And you may not label yourself as someone who's "into fat chicks," but you may relate to being ostracized for whom you're attracted to.
So, although the book is undeniably centered on people who are large, Weinstein hopes to target the book at those who aren't necessarily fat. "I wanted the book to be a catalyst for conversation," she says, noting that while everyone seems to be talking about preventing obesity, no one discusses accepting people who are obese. She states the point perhaps more succinctly in the book's epilogue, where she details her father's reaction to the first few chapters of the book. "You are teaching people a moral lesson," he said: "Don't be an asshole."
FAT SEX: THE NAKED TRUTH | by Rebecca Jane Weinstein | 248 pages | $17.95 | self-published | fatsexthebook.com