Entertainment

05.03.14

Penthouse Forum’s Kelly Shibari and the Rise of Plus-Size Porn Stars

For the first time in more than 40 years, there’s a plus-size model on the cover of ‘Penthouse Forum.’ It’s about damn time the BBW genre got some attention.

“BBW,” or Big Beautiful Woman, is a frequently Googled phrase in porn. Men find big girls sexy. And, as porn viewers grow tired of the same tiny plastic blondes, these bigger women are coming into demand. And now, for the first time in over 40 years, there’s a plus-size model on the cover of Penthouse Forum.

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Kelly Shibari

To be a plus-size porn star demands courage, confidence, and the unwavering commitment to love one’s body as is. Not everyone wants to strip down in front of a lover with the lights on, much less strip down in front of a camera for all to see. Yet, in part due to the daily barrage of perfect looking people in the media—thanks, Photoshop—there are a number of women out there with body image disorders.

“I noticed slut shaming and body dysmorphia and image problems are getting a lot more attention these days,” says Penthouse Forum managing editor Eric Danville. “So when the time came for us to start kicking feature articles back into the magazine the first thing I thought of was that I'd like to do something on not your typical porn star. And while she is very beautiful and talented, Kelly [Shibari] is not your typical porn star."

No, she isn't. Shibari is one of a small group of women in the adult industry who work in the niche BBW genre. Thanks to the fan demands on social media, that niche is getting bigger and receiving more attention than ever before.

“When you have been told that you are less than attractive because you are overweight and then you get into the adult industry, and then to have guys say, 'hey not only do I find you attractive I also seek you out online to masturbate to,' that's extremely empowering," says Shibari.

Shibari is also working on an instructional guide to plus-size sex with jessica drake (intentionally lower case, she prefers it) at Wicked Pictures. Shibari says that while there are numerous blogs and books devoted to BBW sex, there is a real lack in educational DVDs for the plus-size purveyor. “I wanted to make sure I covered communication and body confidence," says Shibari. It's not just plus-size women who can benefit from a film like this, but anyone who suffers from weight related bedroom anxiety. (According to the CDC, almost 70 percent of adults in the United States over 20 are overweight.)

“I noticed slut shaming and body dysmorphia and image problems are getting a lot more attention these days.”

April Flores, recipient of the AVN 2014 BBW Performer of the Year award, has seen the plus-size market change since she her debut in 2005. “There is more awareness, more that people are being exposed to,” she says. “I think women that look like me and other plus-size people want to see themselves represented in the media as a whole and also specifically in porn.”

Not everyone finds the quintessential porn star attractive, with a slender body, big boobs, and blonde hair. For some that can be intimidating, or even a turn off. Flores says she continues to be an adult entertainer to “show other plus-size women that we can be sexy and sensual and enjoy life now, not put it off until we lose X amount of weight. You can be whatever size, but the most important thing is to have self-love and self-esteem."

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Kelly Shibari

Like many young girls, Flores used to idealize a thinner body. “I grew up equating skinniness with happiness,” she says. “I always thought if I lost weight I'd be happy, life would be easy, people would be nice to me and all my dreams would come true. And then I lost a lot of weight. I was skinny but I was still really unhappy. I realized happiness is not based on my weight it's in my head, so I had to make a choice to be happy. Once I made the decision to be happy then confidence followed."

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but in the case of porn it's really in the hands of producers. And it’s only in recent years that the media has taken note of the BBW genre that's been there all along. Despite being a genre that's existed for well over a decade, this is the first year AVN (the porn Oscars) has had an award for a BBW performer of the year.

XCritic.com reviewer Rob Perez is quick to point out that this rise didn't happen overnight. "It's been a long time coming. The first wave of BBWs to really put BBW porn into the forefront came around 2005, 2006," says Perez. “The industry can no longer say the porn audience only wants this specific type of girl. The industry now has to figure out how BBWs fit into their business model.”