The 21st century brings a new twist to the old question, “Does size matter?” For African-Americans, the question may now refer more to our weight, and there are several myths and stereotypes about the sex lives of overweight and obese people.

It’s no secret that African-Americans are disproportionately more likely to be overweight and obese than other races and ethnicities. The Office of Minority Health finds that among African-Americans, 80% of women and 70% of men are overweight, and 54% of women and 38.3% of men are obese. While there are challenges to the Body Mass Index (BMI) as a measuring tool for overall health, the truth is that we are generally larger than other races and ethnicities, mainly due to our cultural traditions, standards of beauty and (perhaps mainly) our approaches and ideas about general diet and exercise.

I’m a large woman who was once much bigger. I’ve encountered partners who claimed to love women with “meat on their bones,” and I’ve felt my size was a fetish for “chubby chasers” (people who are only interested in plus-sized people). I’ve also had times when I felt approached for sex primarily because people assumed I was a desperate fat woman. So how does weight and size affect the sex lives of larger individuals? I asked a few people to offer some insight with the hope of setting the record straight.

The Myths

CeCe Olisa focuses on the lives and lifestyles of plus-sized women at The Big Girl Blog, and says there are a few persistent myths about the sex lives of larger people. These myths can, unfortunately, limit the dating and sex lives of both larger people and those who are interested in them. CeCe says, “The overall myth is that a plus-size woman rarely gets approached by men, so her sex options are limited.” She says this general belief leads to bigger women being stereotyped as desperate and willing to do any- and everything with anyone, just so they can get some action.

A recurring stereotype is that a big woman “will do ‘freaky’ things in bed to keep a man interested because she doesn’t get many offers,” CeCe says, reiterating a stereotype I’ve heard often: that bigger women perform oral sex better. I was surprised when she told me some men believe bigger women are “tighter,” because it’s assumed they don’t have a lot of sex!

CeCe also notes that many plus-sized women feel like potential partners focus less on courtship or dating, and more on getting in their panties, because they believe they’re doing them a favor by even paying any attention at all.

Jerel believes the stereotypes aren’t just for women. He says that while people assume big women are lazy or less limber, bigger men are sometimes thought to be able to “tear it up” in the bedroom. He adds that he’s also felt people think he’s desperate for sex, but acknowledges he doesn’t have as hard a time finding partners as larger women might have. Derrick* says one stereotype of larger men is that they’re not as well endowed as other men. “I’m tired of hearing women say that bigger guys have small [penises]. Not all of us do, and being judged based on a stereotype makes it hard to get with a lot of women,” he adds. I agree that it’s not true for every man, but for any man who finds this to be an issue, Dr. Mehmet Oz has said that if men lose 35 lbs, they can add up to an inch of length (because men tend to carry more fat in the groin area).

What’s Done in the Dark…?

One thing I’ve noticed being plus-sized and sexually active is that many Black men [act] like they don’t find plus-sized women attractive, but they’ll have sex with us,” says Nayasia, who is  plus-sized and currently losing weight to get healthier. CeCe also reflected on this paradox, saying, “Because there are so many myths swirling around that stem from big girls being undersexed, we are treated like we are oversexed. Men are approaching us assuming that we’ve done everything that big girls are rumored to do.”

Loryn adds that because some make fun of larger women (sometimes joking that a woman might “crush a smaller man”), some men feel weird about admitting to their friends that they enjoy having sex with big women.

Culturally, African-Americans have celebrated curvier women with ample proportions, considering them more attractive and sexier. We’ve also loved our “teddy bears” like Barry White, Luther Vandross, Gerald Levert and others. Nayasia has an issue with how it plays out with some men, who “will justify liking a woman that’s plus-sized by calling her ‘thick’ instead of plus-sized, like that changes anything about the way she looks.”

There also seems to be more focus on spewing negativity towards women of size than towards men of size. Because of this shaming, many remain somewhat sneaky about having sex with plus-sized people, which can be rather demoralizing for those struggling with weight-based insecurities.

Be Encouraged

Guess what? Big people have sex. Given the statistics of how many of us are overweight and obese, as well as our birth rates, someone is having sex somewhere and somehow. CeCe offers encouragement. “Don’t let people convince you that a fat life is a miserable life. Become comfortable with your own body so that you can comfortably share it with others. Stand naked in the mirror, take a yoga class, embrace who you are right now so that others will do the same. You have nothing to apologize for!”

Loryn adds that you should “come into your own beauty and embrace your sexuality.” You definitely should not wait to be a certain weight to enjoy life and go for yours. There is someone for everyone, and right now, there is someone out there who thinks you’re sexy as hell and can’t wait to get with you. Confidence is contagious, and in this case, one size truly does fit all.