My 'Fat Girl Complex': A preliminary investigation of sexual health and body image in women of size

Sonya Satinsky, Barbara Dennis, Michael Reece, Stephanie Sanders, Shaowen Bardzell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Women of size who inhabit non-normative bodies may have different experiences with body image and sexual health than women of average body size. In this exploratory study, we interviewed four women of size recruited from a larger mixed-methodological study of body image and sexuality. Each woman was interviewed twice on topics of body image, sexuality and sexual health. Reconstructive Horizon Analysis was used to analyse the content of the interviews. Women who expressed that their bodies had inherent personal and social value regardless of size did not articulate connections between body size and their sexual health. However, those women who looked externally for validation of their attractiveness struggled with acceptance of their sexuality and bodies and spoke of ways in which their body size and appearance hindered them from having the sexually healthy lives that they wanted. Findings highlight two important components of women's sexual health as participants related them to body image: the right to pleasure and the right to engage only in wanted sexual activity. Participants described how negative body attitudes affected both of these aspects of their sexual health. Interventions targeting weight-based stigma may offer a means of indirectly promoting sexual health and autonomy in women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)710-725
Number of pages16
JournalCulture, Health and Sexuality
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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