But if you want to understand how far behind society is in understanding that, just try to find a stock photo of a plus-size woman and a thin man posing together in a romantic setting.
A little background for any of you who don’t know what a stock photo is: It’s a picture that is available to anyone who wants to pay for it. I formerly worked in advertising, and we used stock photos constantly for client websites and ads. Today, I write romance novels on the side, and believe it or not, most of the covers you see out there use stock photos.
Society’s New Stigma: Picturing Curvy Women with Skinny Guys
I’ve spent hundreds of hours in my life looking at the collections on various stock photo sites, seeking just the perfect photo. You can find anything. Need a picture of a car crash to go on an insurance company’s site? There are thousands. Want a picture of a bride for a wedding caterer’s ad? You can find one in your sleep. Want a dancing possum to punch up your blog post for some reason? I literally found seven images on my first try.
Now try to locate a picture of a curvy woman posing with a slender man.
When I was writing the novel “Perfect Fit,” which is about a plus-size young woman named Julie and her thin boyfriend, Nick, I scoured every stock photo database I could find. So did my book cover designer, who does this all day everyday and can normally lay her hands on any kind of image she wants.
Here is what I found: Hundreds of steamy pictures of thin women and thin men posing seductively. Hundreds of sweetly romantic pictures of slender women and slender men posing adorably. A small selection of pictures of hugely pregnant thin women posing with thin men.
I did find a few pictures of beautiful plus-size ladies posing seductively in lingerie. Alone. In not one instance were these ladies posing with skinny guys. Nor, for that matter, with plus-size men, although that wasn’t the image I needed for my cover. What is the message there? That plus-size ladies can be very sexy but they will still be sexy alone?
If you want a picture of a plus-size woman looking sad as she prepares to eat a salad or an apple, you’ll find plenty to choose from. You will also see any number of plus-size couples working out at the gym together. Apparently, these couples must sweat themselves into thinner bodies before they’ll be allowed to pose in tangled bedsheets while staring into each other’s eyes. Pity.
You’ll also see lots of pictures of plus-size women staring mournfully at a slice of pizza or a doughnut. What is the purpose of those photos? Don’t ask me. I do not waste time staring at my food before eating it. (Is that why I’m not thin? Am I supposed to stare at my food before taking a bite? For how many hours? I guess if I were to stare at my dinner for 12 hours before eating it, I’d indeed be thinner.)
In the end, my cover designer had to digitally manipulate the female model for “Perfect Fit” to make her appear heavier. It was that or shoot a custom photo, but hiring a good photographer and models is a major expense usually undertaken only by best-selling novelists, which I am not. Yet.
If you’re a photographer, you could probably make some money contributing stock photos of gorgeous plus-size ladies posing seductively with slender men. Or plus-size men with thin ladies. Or curvy ladies with plus-size men.
We’ve made such great strides in showing diversity in other ways. Same-sex and interacial couples are no longer rare, and neither, thankfully, are stock photos of such couples. But where are the couples in which one or both partners are plus-size?
My husband is thin and I’m not. I wondered, when I first met him, if my weight would be an issue for him. It never has been. Countless other couples love each other regardless of how thin or not thin their partner might be.
Hey, professional photographers and stock photo companies, catch up. It is 2020. You’re supposed to be trying to reflect real life. Get out there and take some pictures that do so.
Sophia Sinclair is Curvicality’s sex and relationships writer and the author of the Small-Town Secrets romance series, available on Amazon. Reach Sophia at firstname.lastname@example.org.