Does Fat Talk Affect Relationship and Sexual Satisfaction?: Adults' Perceptions of Fat Talk in a Fictional Romantic Relationship

Document Type


Publication Date



Little is known about how fat talk - a verbal expression of body image concerns - functions within romantic relationships. This study used vignettes about a fictional couple to examine how varied levels of a woman's fat talk were perceived by participants as affecting a fictional couple's relationship and sexual satisfaction. Participants were recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk and included 239 heterosexual people (127 men, 112 women) with long-term relationship experience. Using a 3 (Level of Body Talk: Excessive vs. Minimal Fat Talk vs. Self-Accepting Talk) × 2 (Participant Gender: Male vs. Female) × 2 (Perspective: Husband vs. Wife) between-subjects design, participants read a vignette where the target woman used varying levels of body talk when speaking with her partner. Afterwards, participants completed a series of questionnaires to report on their perceptions of the couple's relationship and sexual satisfaction. Supporting hypotheses, results indicated that participants in the Excessive Fat Talk condition perceived lower relationship and sexual satisfaction levels than the Minimal Fat Talk and Self-Accepting Body Talk conditions. No differences emerged between those exposed to the Self-Accepting and Minimal Fat Talk vignette dialog. Male participants reported lower perceived relationship quality and sexual satisfaction than women participants. Research in this area is in its infancy, and more is needed (especially with actual couples) to better understand how fat talk, as a behavioral function of poor body image, impacts relationship functioning.