Navigating Fatphobia on Dating Apps
Society has made existing while fat a challenge. Though plenty of research indicates that size isn't always an indication of health, a vast stigma surrounds bodies that are anything other than "ideal." This stigma can present itself in almost any aspect of daily life, including professional, personal and in dating.
Dating apps in particular require users to swipe or match with people almost solely based on their pictures, creating a breeding ground for fatphobia. But don't worry: There are still safe ways to navigate this often-toxic landscape.
Watch out for bullies and body-shamers
As horrible as it may be, the fact is you might match with people who actively use the plausible anonymity of a given app to bully and body-shame others. It may be tempting to fight back or argue with these detractors, but this is largely a waste of time. If someone's opening message is a dig at your body, save yourself the energy and immediately unmatch or block that person. They aren't worth the time of day.
Backhanded compliments and fetishizers
As with bullies, you may encounter people who "mean well" yet undermine your existence, whether intentionally or unintentionally. These people say lines like, "You're hot for a big girl," "I don't usually go for fat guys" or "I can show you some workout tips." Lines such as these are often an example of negging, or insulting someone to lower their self-esteem so as to make them attracted to the insulter. This is a form of emotional manipulation, which may not be as obvious to spot as outright bullying. If you catch a whiff of this behavior, run, don't walk, in the opposite direction.
On the other end of the spectrum are fetishizers, who aren't interested in you, but rather in satisfying their own compulsion or fixation. Akin to negging, these fetishizers may be tougher to recognize, but if interactions with them leave you feeling weird or uncomfortable, even if they have nothing but positive things to say, unmatch.
Dropping the 'You know I'm fat, right?' line
Of course, not every person you match with on a dating app is out to impose their societal standards on you. Chances are you'll find some worthwhile candidates you hit it off with and will eventually want to meet in person. When you reach this point, before meeting up, you'll likely be tempted to confirm your date knows you're not conventionally slender, regardless of how many full-body pictures you have on your profile. This way you won't have to face the awkwardness of an in-person rejection if they aren't interested.
While you don't owe anyone an explanation or apology for existing as you are, if it eases some of your anxiety regarding meeting someone for the first time, don't be afraid to drop the line above: "You know I'm fat, right?" How your potential date responds to this line will tell you a lot about how they perceive others and if meeting up in person is worth your time.
Check on your mental health frequently
Regardless of how comfortable you are in your body, dating apps that rely heavily on physical appearance can be a gauntlet for anyone who isn't a straight size. Frankly, it can be exhausting to constantly put yourself at the mercy of other people's judgment or prejudices. Therefore, it's important to check in with yourself frequently while using dating apps.
If you find you're having more negative experiences than positive ones or it's becoming too much, give it a rest and try alternatives to finding romantic partners. Also, shutting down bad or weird interactions quickly can help you preserve your mental health. Dating can be fun and exciting, but it's not worth sacrificing your mental well-being or self-confidence.