The act of sex is simple, but the spectrum of what turns people on is complex and varied. For some people pleasure comes from being in a certain position or engaging in a certain type of foreplay, for others it is more to do with the visual. For feeders and gainers, pleasure comes from food and weight gain. ‘Ball bellies’ are the aim and they couldn’t care less about Western society’s slim ideals of beauty.
We live in a culture that largely discourages being overweight and praises dieting. This is why it is not unusual for women to feel a sense of freedom during pregnancy, as it is the one time in life where most people (minus internet trolls) don’t judge you for gaining weight. For gainers, it is more than just being able to eat whatever you like without judgment; being big is beautiful and eating makes them feel good. An anonymous gainer told the Telegraph that, even as a child, she had fantasies about inflating to the point where she could float away. She also spoke about stuffing pillows up her dress to look bigger and seeking out pregnant and plus size women in magazines and artwork.
The fetish known as feederism or gaining involves gainers/feedees who put on weight and feeders/encouragers who motivate them to reach their size goals. Their enjoyment comes from the journey to obtaining their target weight and not the weight itself. How to gain weight is often a hot topic on gaining dating sites. A common misconception is that it is centred on unhealthy eating practices and gaining to the point of immobility, but their joy comes from variety and balance. Their diet does not always consist of junk food and most gainers dip in and out of scene to maintain normal working lives. Ultimately, they just want to like what they see in the mirror when they are completely bare and vulnerable, which is something we all aim for.
Another misconception is that it is all about dominance and power, when in fact ‘submissive gainers’ tend to only factor as a subgroup within the fetish. Submissive gainers allow the dominant to control how much they eat and how much weight they need to gain. Like other dom/sub relationships, this arrangement is based on trust and the submissive allowing the dominant to have the power. It is not forced. However, as this fetish has filtered into the porn industry, the power dynamics have become skewed and poor health is often encouraged for a bigger payday.
According to AlterNet, in the world of gaining being branded a ‘piggy’, gluttonous or lazy can be a turn on and the power of being a feeder can be alluring. Foreplay can include ‘bloating’, which involves consuming a large amount of food and drinks to expand your stomach or, if you don’t want to actually gain weight, water can be a good alternative. ‘Paddling’ is the art of putting cushions under your clothes to appear bigger and the act of ‘squashing’ your partner with your weight in front of an audience can be highly erotic. Another pastime is known as ‘inflation’, where air is forced into your body via your mouth or anus like a balloon to make your tummy swell.
Like everyone else, gainers and feeders just want to feel loved and accepted for the way they are. This is partly why niche dating sites and feederism-related social media hashtags are so popular, for their sense of community. Dating apps like Fantasy Feeder, Gaining Fetish, Dimensions, Grommr and Curvage connect like-minded people and allow them to share images, videos, recipes and fantasies. They also encourage debates about size politics. The sites take away the stigma of being overweight and allow people to feel safe enough to share their desires with people who will appreciate them. Lots of gaining videos have gone viral with positive commentary and related hashtags and FB groups are used by thousands. Anonymity is an important aspect of these websites, as it grants members the freedom to really be themselves.
Fatima Parker, the President of the Size Acceptance Association believes that the fetish is “dangerous and exploitative”. She goes on to explain that “there is a difference between someone accepting you for who you are and someone trying to make you actively bigger.” She believes that people engage in these partnerships from a place of insecurity, which is taken advantage of. However, in some cultures being slim is associated with poverty and poor fertility. In some African communities, women are encouraged to thicken up before marriage to become more attractive to their husbands. It could be argued that some people indulge in this fetish because they don’t subscribe to the Western beauty narrative and don’t necessarily have a self-esteem problem.
For gainers, putting on weight is something to be celebrated and is the key to sexual satisfaction. Psychology Professor George Pranzarone, from Roanoke College Virginia, likens the fetish to morphophilia. This condition is defined as having a sexual interest in a partner who has a very different body to you. Basically, a feeder’s orgasms are dependent on their partner being a lot larger than they are. With the emergence of curvy celebrities like the Kardashians, Adele, Nicki Minaj and Meghan Trainor, it is officially cool to not be a size zero. Watching the number on the scale increase without consequence feels naughty and that adrenaline rush is all part of the fun.
For those who engage in the fetish due to insecurity, bullying and fat shaming is an everyday battle, especially with the current financial strain on the NHS. Obesity has been linked to diabetes, heart disease and cancer, but studies show that inactivity is a bigger problem than physical size. In extreme cases, being overweight can restrict your movement and destroy your quality of life to the point where you are completely dependent on other people. It is important to remain active and listen to your doctor if the fetish is starting to negatively affect your health. For those who are not used to getting positive attention, their new sex appeal can be addictive. This then becomes a vicious circle wherein their target weight continuously increases to meet the demands of their fans and their health serves as collateral damage.
Feminism has opened the door for a number of rebellions against the Western ideal of beauty, including allowing your armpit hair to grow and #freethenipple. Gaining is another counter attack on the media’s prototype. However, gender roles are still at play within the gaining community, as female feeders are seen as a rare phenomenon and are largely underrepresented on the scene’s websites. The overwhelming media coverage of women being the submissive gainers has created the stereotype that women are normally the passive victims within this fetish, which again is untrue.
Anything taken to the extreme in a relationship can cause it to become dark and abusive. It is important to set boundaries and stick to them, in order to put your health first. With submissive gainers, an equal power balance is key and neither party should ever feel uncomfortable. It is easy to put on weight when you have someone spurring you on and taking over your everyday domestic responsibilities, but what happens if the relationship ends and you’re faced with independence again? As long as you are still able to take care of yourself and those around you in these circumstances then there’s no shame in weight gain, as long as it’s done in a healthy way. Curves are beautiful after all.