Jessie Sage / Photo credit: PJ Sage

What Being Labelled a 'Big Beautiful Woman' Means to Porn Performers

Independent performer Jessie Sage writes about the nuanced—and often discriminatory—world of BBW porn.

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Jun 5 2018, 1:00pm

Jessie Sage / Photo credit: PJ Sage

I am at my computer and a message from a stranger pops up: “I am embarrassed to say this, but I really love curvy women like you.” This is not unusual. I am a DIY porn producer, so I get a lot of messages from fans or viewers commenting on my body. It is part of the job.

In fact, this message stands out only because it is so ordinary—an elegant summary of messages I so often get. It acknowledges that there is something about me as a performer that doesn’t easily fit into what this person thinks that he is supposed to find attractive in porn (or in women more broadly)—hence the embarrassment. While other performers may get this kind of message for other reasons, in my case, they are almost always in relation to size.

Fans often write to me to tell me that they love curvy women, that they think thick thighs and soft bellies are hot, and that they are big fans of BBWs (a porn genre that stands for “Big Beautiful Women”). When I started in the industry, I found this confusing because I didn’t think of myself as a BBW. I’m a size 12, larger than average, but not what I thought of as plus size. (Though the fashion industry considers anything size 8 and above to be plus size).

While BBW is a very often searched term on tube sites like Pornhub, it is not entirely clear who counts as BBW or what people are searching for when they search this term. So, I decided to ask other models who often get tagged as BBWs for their impressions of how this term was being used.

“Everyone has a different sense of what BBW is,” porn performer and cam model Dahlia Dee told me over Skype.

Courtesy of Dahlia Dee

“I use BBW and plus size hand-in-hand to describe someone who is larger than the average size model,” Taylor (also known as housewifeswag on social media) who was named 2018 BBW of the Year by both Manyvids and XBIZ, told me over the phone. But she quickly added, “Whatever you want to be, you can be that. I am cool with that. There are not a lot of options for curvy or thick models.”

“I think girls should call themselves whatever they want to call themselves,” Kyra Kane, a cam model, clip producer, and host of The SexWorkBB Podcast, told me over Skype. “It is all a matter of perspective.”

What came out of these conversations is that there is no clear consensus as to what counts as BBW. Not only it is unclear as to how big you have to be to be considered a BBW, but also it is unclear as to whether you need to be big in particular sorts of ways (eg. breast, butt, belly, etc.). For example, some customers believe that only women with large breasts count as a BBW (which would disqualify me), and even interpret the acronym to be ‘Big Breasted Women.’ This ambiguity sometimes leads to issues that Taylor describes as “drama and gatekeeping” within the model community.

Courtesy of Taylor / @housewifeswag

Dee told me over Skype, “I got so much heat for running for Manyvid’s BBW of the Year,” an annual contest held by the most popular site for selling self produced clips.

BBW model and content creator Jayla Klymaxxx told me over Skype, “I consider myself a BBW but a lot of people tell me that I am not big enough.”

"I learned that I was desirable as I am.”

Taylor told me she experiences discrimination and confusion about her category: “I get push back from people, it mainly comes from other models, they tell me that I am not a real BBW because I only focus on my boobs.” And this is the opposite of the experience that I have had, being told that without big breasts, I am not a BBW.

Kane says that she is working on losing weight for her health, but that this in itself causes her some anxiety. “I am trying to lose weight in an hourglass way and that makes me worry that I am abandoning the BBWs,” she told me.

Courtesy of Jayla Klymaxxx (left) and Kyra Kane (right)

Yet, given the popularity of the search term, there is a certain advantage to using it (even if it remains ambiguous and somewhat contentious). “I resisted BBW but when I finally embraced it, my sales went through the roof,” said Dee. She attributes this to the fact that there are less BBW performers, making it easy to distinguish yourself from others in the category. “If I was a skinny chick, I wouldn’t stand out.”

In addition to marketing advantages, others report personal advantages. Kane said, “When I first started in porn, I thought I would never do feeding [a subgenre of BBW porn that involves eating large quantities of food on camera, resulting in purposeful weight gain], but when I embraced it I realized that the things I hated [about my body] were the things that other people loved. Learning to embrace that became a really positive experience. I learned that I was desirable as I am.”

“Body positivity is pushed more now, it is more acceptable to like a certain sort of woman. This is a big step for us,” Taylor said.

Industry veterans report that this acceptance and embracing of BBW models in the industry is relatively new. The advent of amateur/DIY porn created a space for greater diversity than did the mainstream industry. “Mainstream porn wouldn’t give us a chance,” Dee said.

Queer pornographer Courtney Trouble recalls their earlier attempts to enter into the industry.“I auditioned to be a Suicide Girl and was rejected,” they told me over Skype.

“In the last 10 years it has become more acceptable to be all sizes, shapes and colors,” Klymaxxx told me. “There are a lot more fans now who aren’t as underground.”

Trouble agrees. “Fans are becoming more and more comfortable with their desires.”

Klymaxxx described this as a marked different from when she first entered the industry decades ago, recalling that fans used to say things to her like, “I only like BBWs in the fall and winter. In the summer and spring you have to turn on your fan because she is gonna be sweating like bacon grease.”

“We are like a throwaway category... they don’t seem to realize that we are marketable"

Although demand is high, the larger, more mainstream platform managers and owners themselves have not fully embraced this cultural shift. There now is space for BBWs in the amateur porn scene, but that space has been carved out by performers who created their own audiences and brought sales to the platforms they work on.

Dee explained that, while BBWs are frequently searched on the site, Pornhub itself does not tend to promote its BBW performers. In fact, she told me that the times that Pornhub has featured her, it has only been to local viewers, despite the fact that she drives a lot of traffic.

Taylor, who does the majority of her sales on Manyvids, has similar concerns about that site. As the first BBW performer to be featured in Manyvids Magazine, she points out that she was featured in the 11th issue. Despite the fact that is consistently one of the top ranked models on the site, they put out 10 issues before considering featuring her. “We are like a throwaway category, despite the fact that we make a lot of money for them, they don’t seem to realize that we are marketable,” Taylor said.

Courtesy of Jessie Sage (photo credit: Dawn Hartman Photography) and Courtney Trouble (photo credit: Chelsea Poe)

Widespread disregard for BBW models is also apparent at industry expos such as AVN and Exxxotica. “It is unreal how different the treatment is at conventions. Skinny girls get preferential treatment. Merch fits them, they get invited to exclusive parties,” Dee said.

“The only item for sale at Manyvids that fits me is a hoodie, but I don’t want a hoodie,” said Taylor.

Similarly, after the XBIZ Awards in Miami last week Vera Sky, who was the event co-host, tweeted, “Hey @MyFreeCams @chaturbate @XBIZ @ManyVids something we should really start doing is having more size inclusive merch at conventions. BBW’s are just as much a part of the community and should be considered when buying mech and lingerie, let’s STOP sending them home empty handed.” In a follow up tweet she added, “I’m a size 8/10 and NOTHING I got this weekend fit…”

In spite of the industry dragging its feet on BBW inclusion, what I have discovered as I look through comments and messages from my fans is that they want us here. They are happy for the increased diversity within porn, they want to see imagines of women who look like their real-life wives and lovers, and they are willing to pay to keep this market alive.

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