The internet is crowded with ruins. From abandoned Tumblrs and Livejournals to the Flash and Geocities pages of yore, it’s really one big graveyard — death all around us. And while some sites get a proper sendoff, many more are left to rot in obscurity.
BigGuts.com is one such site. Established in 2004, it’s a forum for the appreciation, comparison, expansion, and general discussion of men’s enormous bellies. It hosts nearly 50,000 posts and more than 11,000 members. At the peak of its popularity, on December 10, 2010, nearly 4,000 of those members were simultaneously active on the site. Two days later, user “Big_fat_kiddo” announced his resignation as moderator. In the years that followed, the bustle of big-gutted men tapered off sharply; by 2012, users were basically there to ask if anyone else was still around. User “litlgut” wrote the final posts on April 26, 2016, replying to five different moribund threads, one of which was titled “Why a Big Gut?” He explained that having a big gut was a “turn-on,” but that wasn’t all: “One of the big things (no pun intended) is the restrictions,” he wrote. “I love the feeling of barely being able to fit into a Denny’s booth seat, and I’m barely 16.”
Migrations happen every day online — clicking restlessly, we find new shores and sanctuaries. What’s unusual about BigGuts.com is not that people eventually drifted away; it’s that they seemed to disappear into thin air, like some collapsed civilization. The final hangers-on lamented that even as their numbers dwindled, similar forums like GaiNrWeb and Growingguys were shutting down as well. The only hub of the sort that still sees robust traffic is Grommr, which caters more to the gay “chub” subculture and fetishes as basic as “feeding” (thinner men helping their partners gain weight) or as niche as “mpreg,” the fantasy of male pregnancy. Sexual video chats are common.
BigGuts.com had men looking to hook up, too, and a few would share fanfiction or autobiographical stories about the erotic pleasures of having and chasing massive male midsections. But they were just as likely to get excited about an episode of Family Guy in which Lois Griffin gets fat, upcoming trips to Disneyland, Call of Duty, and what kind of cars everyone drove. And while they were few, there were women on the forum. A
ccording to users, the site had a heterosexual bent early on. “I think when it first started out it was actually mainly straight,” wrote Freecell5671. “But now it is like 95% gay.” Nevertheless, hetero dudes went on happily contributing well into the site’s slowdown.
One fascinating thread addressed “gaining and sexuality.” The author questioned why a “disproportionate number of gainers are homosexual or bisexual” and found out that certain users had only discovered their sexual preferences through an interest in growing a gut alongside other beefy guys. “I have learned some about myself from being a member of this site,” wrote agb1998, while blargh127, a 15-year-old, had begun to wonder whether he wasn’t asexual. “Frankly before visiting this community and just.. letting loose with my desire to gain weight, I was almost positive I was straight.. now I’m very confused,” he wrote. It would appear that while an interest in the human figure and self-image is fundamentally inseparable from the currents of lust, developing a boulder-like belly is a lifestyle in its own right. Sometimes a gut is just a gut.
I’m most curious about those dudes for whom significant weight and distended shape sound like purely aesthetic goals. “When I was a kid I used to pad with towels or pillows, I had the ideal that a man should be fat with a huge hog gut,” said Gainerguy30. “I’ve always been ‘the thin guy’ among my friends and I’ve always wanted to be bigger,” TheSitarPlayer explained. When all the Google results for “big gut” and “beer belly” are about how to get rid of them and the health risks they carry, it can’t be easy to find a place where other rotund fellows encourage one another to keep packing on the calories. Compared to women, men are sorely lacking in body positivity movements.
All of which is to ask: Where have these paunchy pioneers gone? Clearly, BigGuts.com still serves a need. Each time I navigate to the page, I notice that around 100 other people are also reading it — all of them guests, none of them members. I have to believe they are searching for a haven where displaying the flesh that overhangs their belts is not necessarily an invitation to arousal, but a way to mark progress toward their personal ideal. It’s possible that the lost legends of BigGuts.com have offloaded their community to a private channel; maybe some have found support in real-life friend groups or decided to work on washboard abs. The rest of us will have to live with the mystery, though we’ll always know that once upon a time, in a hidden corner of the web, big guts had a moment of innocent glory. The world shall await their renaissance.