Fatten the Curve: 

How the Plus-Size Dating Community 

is Making the Most of COVID-19

When it comes to COVID-19, not everyone wants to flatten the curve. Some people want to fatten it.

As COVID-19 has taken most elements of life virtual, one online dating community is thriving because of the quarantine and some of its physical side effects. Feabie (pronounced like the name “Phoebe”) is a dating and social networking site that caters to communities whose members tend to overlap: fat admirers (or FAs), plus-size people (BBWs/BHMs), and members of the feederism community (feeders and feedees.) Currently, the site has more than 115,000 users worldwide. It functions as both a dating site and a community outpost.

An FA is a person of any gender who is attracted to fat or plus-size people, although most FAs on Feabie are straight men. Plus-size people themselves are divided into BBWs (“big beautiful women”) and BHMs (“big handsome men.”) Feederism is a fetish that involves one partner (the feeder) giving the other partner (the feedee) food to make them gain weight for both partners’ sexual gratification. Not all FAs are feeders, but the two groups often overlap. 

Fat-related fetishes –– as well as attraction to fat people in general –– are often pathologized and stigmatized. Even as wanting a “thicc” girl has become a mainstream meme in the last few years, the idea of the dating partner who hides their attraction in public is a very well-known trope in the fat community.

Rochelle Brockington, a plus-size photographer who goes by “Rochelle Fatleopard” professionally, posted on Facebook in 2017 that her skinny friends “get surprise dinner dates” overlooking the New York City skyline, whereas she and her fat friends “get paragraphs from dudes explaining why they don’t pay for dates then a text at 3am [sic] asking if you wanna come over.”

On Feabie and elsewhere, however, the community is diverse and eager. Members include a financial analyst in New Jersey, a higher-up at Twitter, a champion disabled athlete, a pediatric surgeon at an elite Upper East Side hospital, a competitive pinball player, and an up-and-coming playwright. 

While “the quarantine fifteen” has been one of the banes of many people’s pandemic experiences, many users on Feabie have embraced it, literally and figuratively. The site’s homepage functions as a public hub where, at all hours of the day, users around the world post paeans to various components of fat bodies: love handles, thick calves, sagging bellies, stretch marks.

Unlike the Facebook newsfeed, the Feabie newsfeed makes all status updates public to members around the world, although members can curate which types of users’ posts they see, according to their own interests.

In the last eight months, many Feabie users have written status updates celebrating their own or their partners’ quarantine weight gain.

“Biggest I have every [sic] been and still way more to go,” cheered a 26-year-old pharmacist in Indiana. “Several women I know have BALLOONED since March,” posted a 31-year-old IT professional in Georgia. “It’s a shame they aren’t comfortable with it.”

At the same time, even the most devoted FAs on Feabie often complain about how frequently fat women use the site –– and, more broadly, the fetish as a whole –– as a means of earning money. Women who do this will post links to various outlets in their profiles, including Amazon wish lists and payment services like CashApp and Venmo, usually with a coy mention of “tributes” or “getting spoiled.” Some women on Feabie make “clips” for male audiences. Sometimes these videos are directly sexual in nature, but often they reflect the interests of the niche community –– for instance, eating or posing in normal clothes that fit badly.

Plus-size model Mary Boberry, 35, is to the FA world what Kylie Jenner is in the mainstream world: an entrepreneur, celebrity, and outsizedly popular sex object. At the start of quarantine, she weighed more than 600 pounds, and she currently has more than 111,000 followers on Instagram, Reddit, and Feabie combined. A two-and-a-half minute slideshow on YouTube showing her weight gain has more than 47,000 views.

As a “verified creator” on Feabie, she earns a living through selling “sets” –– themed groups of 50-70 photos of herself in certain outfits –– through a website called BigCuties. She, too, is using quarantine to her advantage. One of her spring sets celebrates her for “doing what most of us are, hanging out at home, and socially distancing!”

Ultimately, Feabie is a microcosm of larger society, and it often filters sociopolitical issues through a fat-related perspective. Around Thanksgiving, a 29-year-old construction worker and saxophonist in California implored community members not to celebrate colonialism but to instead “celebrate overeating and togetherness.”

Shortly after the Associated Press announced on Nov. 7 that President-elect Joe Biden would replace President Trump, many users came to the site to express their glee at the news. In between all-caps posts of relief, joy, and support for Biden were posts more common to Feabie. A woman in Germany asked for recommendations on take-out food. Another asked for advice on gaining weight. One woman (who has since deleted her profile) said she was just interested in cuddling and “getting her booty rubbed on.”

Earlier that week, on Election Day, a 35-year-old feeder in Denver named Zach posted that he wanted everyone to get out to the polls in support of the Biden/Harris ticket. The only type of exercising he supported on Feabie, he said, was exercising the right to vote.

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