The conversations we have about sex as we grow up rarely include anything about pleasure. To make matters worse, many of us have been raised with unhealthy attitudes about sex and body image. The result can make us feel like crap, especially for those of us whose bodies don’t conform to a conventional beauty ideal. But sex positivity is for every person and every body type, and we shouldn’t let a fat-phobic culture dictate our worth or ruin our sex lives. Fat, plus-size, curvy, chubby—however you choose to refer to your bigger body type, remember that these are not bad words. All bodies are good bodies, and your body is worthy of love, affection, and pleasure.
Here are some things to keep in mind when having sex if you’re a plus-size person with a vulva.
Never apologize for your body
You might have grown up in a plus-size body, or perhaps you’ve only recently put on weight. Either way, you may have developed a tendency to apologize for your body.
In the past, I have apologized to partners for gaining weight. I’ve apologized for having lipedema. I’ve even apologized for not being super-confident, since confidence is oh-so-sexy. It’s one thing to be vulnerable and admit your insecurities about your body; it’s an entirely different thing when you apologize simply for having a bigger body. Apologies for your body have no place in your sex life.
Consider that your partner is just happy to be there
You may have heard this expression when you’re nervous about your body before sex. People sometimes say, “Relax. Your partner is just happy to be there.” There’s a lot of truth to that. Why should we worry about our physical “imperfections” when our partner is excited to be intimate with us? At some point, we’ve got to trust the connection between our bodies and the people we choose to share ourselves with sexually.
Go with your gut, not your insecurities
Sometimes, we need a gut-check when a partner isn’t treating us right. Perhaps a sexual partner treats us in a way that makes us feel uncomfortable. Maybe they treat us poorly and blame it on the size of our bodies. In some toxic relationships, a partner will target plus-size people, as if they should be happy for any little bit of attention. If we’re hung up on our insecurities about our bodies, we may be more likely to choose partners who try to use us.
Personally, I won’t have sex with anyone who has an issue with my body. If they wish my body were different, or if they are overly attached to me looking a certain way, they are not the partner for me.
I don’t want anyone to fetishize my fatness, though that’s just me. We all have our individual needs and preferences for how we want our partners to treat us and our bodies. Always advocate for yourself and speak to your partner about what matters most to you.
Give your partner space for their own body issues—especially if they’re a cis man
Culturally, we tend to expect women to have all the body image issues, and then we overlook those same issues in men. If you have insecurities about your body, you know how frustrating that can be. Please make space for your partner to have their own body issues, too, regardless of their sex or gender. Give them the same consideration and grace you want for yourself.
Wear what makes you feel sexy—not what’s “flattering”
Over the years, traditional advice for fat folks has been to wear certain styles of clothes to help minimize unwanted curves or fullness: Avoid horizontal stripes, gravitate toward solid colors and darker hues like black or navy—no white.
The problem with that advice is that it’s all about hiding our fat and trying to “pass” as someone thinner. If a healthy sex life is rooted in self-confidence, we can’t become more confident by trying to hide our bodies.
This is your body. You get to wear the clothes that make you feel your best. Pick the pieces that make you feel sexy, not the pieces you think you’re supposed to wear. You don’t have to avoid clothes or lingerie that show off your entire body.
Make sure you’ve got plenty of pillows
One of the best tips for having sex as a plus-size person is to have plenty of pillows to help support yourself and your lover(s). Pillows can be a real lifesaver when you’re having oral sex, whether they’re there to cushion a partner’s knees, raise the hips or butt, or to provide back support.
Place a bolster pillow beneath your knees to help avoid a backache. Try a wedge pillow to elevate your head. Pillows may be extra-crucial if you’re having sex on a memory foam bed as these tend to have much less bounce than traditional spring mattresses. Which means you or your partner might need to work harder on thrusting.
While you’re building a helpful collection of pillows, be sure to add towels to the list, as well. A sturdy, rolled-up towel can easily stand in for a bolster pillow, and it’s easy to toss into the washing machine.
Decide what positions work best for you
According to sex and relationships writer Nicole Bedford, position is incredibly important when you’re having sex as a plus-size woman, especially if the sex involves penetration. She shared with me a few of her favorite positions for p-in-v intercourse (or strap-on sex):
- Missionary (but not your grandmother’s missionary)
“I’ve always remained flexible because I danced growing up,” Bedford says. “Legs pushed to my head is great if he wants to go deeper and hit everything. One leg down with one up works well with him on top, too. Or legs around his waist or up on his shoulder as he pumps is really pleasurable and allows for deep penetration.”
- A variation on doggy style
“I don’t do table top or all-fours position,” Bedford says. “I prefer upper body on the bed and ass high in the air. That way he hits my g-spot and I can reach under and rub my clit. I end up having g-spot orgasms this way and squirting.”
- On top, in a chair
The traditional woman-on-top position can be “too much pressure on my knees,” so Bedford recommends trying it while a partner sits in a chair—preferably one that’s “low enough that my feet touch the ground and I can ride him that way.”
Of course, there are plenty of different positions to enjoy when a partner is plus-size. You might also try sitting on a counter or tabletop to give your partner easier access to your vulva. I highly recommend Elle Chase’s Curvy Girl Sex: 101 Body-Positive Positions to Empower Your Sex Life for more ideas.
Don’t be afraid to experiment
The best thing about sex is getting in touch with ourselves and our partners. But we can’t do that without plenty of experimentation. It all starts with the firm belief that you are worthy. You deserve pleasure. Do what feels good. Experiment to discover what that is. Quit looking at your body as a limitation, and instead delight in everything it can do.
Shannon Ashley is a top writer on Medium who's known for covering awkward, honest, and occasionally cringeworthy tales. When she's not writing, she's a single mom, dreamer, and blogging mentor.