Time for plus-sized intimacy on TV, says academic.

When it comes to sex on television, it would appear size does matter.

Fat people are rarely seen being intimate on screen and this reinforces negative attitudes towards them, says Dr Cat Pause, a senior lecturer and fat studies researcher at Massey University. She believes, given that people are getting heavier, sex between larger people should be part of normal television viewing.

"You rarely see fat TV characters, especially women, involved in normal human activities like having sex," she said. "But fat people do have sex and a lot of them have really hot sex."

Pause — who estimates her own weight to be about 140kg — has contributed a chapter to an upcoming book about fat sexuality called Fat Sex: New Directions in Theory and Activism.

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During her research she found fat sexuality was regarded as being abnormal.

"We are a fat-hating society," she said. "If someone is sexually attracted to a fat person it is looked at as being a fetish or some other form of deviant behaviour."

Hit TV show Homeland drew controversy with a sex scene between hunky CIA operative Peter Quinn and a big and beautiful redhead known as "landlady", played by Emily Walker. Plus-size actresses Rebel Wilson and Melissa McCarthy are no strangers to our TV screens and should be considered bombshells, but they are exceptions — and still not cast in sultry roles.

Pause said fat people were usually only featured on shows like The Biggest Loser, where they are exploited and portrayed as actively hating themselves.

"New Zealand television doesn't do a better job than anywhere else in stopping perpetuating these negative stereotypes.

"Usually, only people with slim body types are shown having sex. It is time this changed."

Dr Cat Pause, a senior lecturer and fat studies researcher at Massey University.
Dr Cat Pause, a senior lecturer and fat studies researcher at Massey University.

Last year, New Zealand was named the fourth-fattest country in the OECD, behind the United States, Mexico and Hungary.

Boyd Swinburn, professor of population nutrition at the University of Auckland, said overweight people being portrayed as unattractive on television did little to tackle the growing obesity problem.

"The situation is similar to the fashion industry where models are traditionally stick-thin," he said. "If all people see on television is beautiful people having sex, it could encourage further low self esteem among those with weight issues."

Pause, who hosts a fat-positive weekly radio show called Friend of Marilyn, added she would like to see fat people in significant TV roles.

"Too often they are relegated to sidekick parts or objects of fun," she said.