Big Game Hunters

They're men who chase chubbies for sport and pleasure. They call it hogging.

It started with Rick's dad, who was never a big presence in his life. His mother raised him; his dad, Rick says dismissively, was your typical West Side drunk. But he could talk. And he liked to talk about "sweat-hogging." A college friend, a good-looking guy, had been into it. "Let's go out and pick up some pigs tonight," the guy would say. He homed in on fat girls, demanded oral sex, then kicked them out of the car when he was done. "He'd literally boot 'em out with his foot," Rick says, telling the story just as his dad told it to him.

When Rick and his friends headed out for the night, his dad would inevitably ask, "You guys going sweat-hogging?"

In high school, Rick lost his virginity to a large woman. It only escalated from there. He eventually dropped the "sweat." But hogging -- that was something he got good at. Good at doing, good at talking about, just like his dad.

Rick is sitting at the Treehouse patio, drinking bottles of Bud with his roommate Mark and talking about hogging. Rick is tall, broad, 23, a salesman who looks like a construction worker. Mark is three years older, shorter, with a shy grin that women love.

At first, both are hesitant to discuss the subject. Hogging, after all, is something men talk about with men, not women, and certainly not a woman taking notes. But they can't help themselves. After just one beer, they're egging each other on, jockeying for time, trying to top each story with something bigger and better.

Rick explains the attraction bluntly: "Everyone knows that if you want to get belligerent with your friends, hogging is the way to go. It's not something you aspire to, but no one decent is going to talk to you when you're at the bar with your friends, doing shots of Jaeger. Sometimes you just say, 'Fuck it, let's get a pig.'"

It's not that they prefer fat women, they say. It's just easier.

"You're not embarrassed getting shot down by them," Mark says. "You're not embarrassed when they leave."

Mark's had nothing but big women for a long time. On a woman of average height, he'll go up to 160, 170 pounds -- 225 if it's St. Patrick's Day or New Year's Eve.

"I wake up and see monsters in his bed," Rick says, feigning horror.

Mark doesn't dispute their size. But he resists the "monster" label. "The problem is, sometimes they're really nice people." He feels sorry for them, sorry for using them, sorry for being a jerk. If his friends don't find out, he'll call them. Do it again.

Rick will have none of it. "I just talk to them like they're complete disgusting pigs," he says. "You gotta break 'em down with insults. Comment on their fat -- 'You're a dirty little pig.' They call me a dick, an asshole, but after a few beers, they're into it."

"He's good because he has no conscience," Mark says mournfully.

Rick runs through his Rolodex of hogging adventures with little prompting. There was his ex-girlfriend's sister: "She was a little porker, and I violated her every way." The secretary, with her big white breasts. "She was a perfect hog." Beautiful face, big soft body.

Then there was the girl who gave him and a friend oral sex in the front seat of a Ford Explorer. His friend wanted to take it further, but Rick dissuaded him: "Most of the time, you're not going to bang 'em," he explains, disgusted by the thought.

Few hoggers take such obvious delight in degrading women. But all have stories they're dying to tell, so long as their real names aren't used. "My mom reads Scene," one guy explains.

Scott, a 30-year-old from Broadview Heights, met an obese woman at Knucklehead's in Parma on St. Patrick's Day. He'd been drinking since 8 a.m. They made out at the bar, then he took her home. The next morning, he made up an excuse to get her to leave; he actually circled the block in his car until she left. But when he ran into her two weeks later, they did it again. His friends gave him a hard time: "You went home with a hog."

His ready answer: "I got laid. What's your point?"

Jake, a 35-year-old bartender, had just broken up with his girlfriend when he met a big girl. Took her home. Got some. "The next day I was, like, how did this happen? Well, it just happens."

Bryan, 29, met his hog at karaoke night. One minute she was applauding his performance, the next they were singing a duet. Soon they were making music of their own in the parking lot. "I might see her again, I might not," he says, adding, "If I do, I hope none of my friends are there."

Sometimes hogging is a group activity. Chris and his friends use a strategy they call "the scud missile." Confronted with a group of hot girls and one heavy, they designate their drunkest comrade as the missile. "We'll say, 'It's 11 o'clock, we're going to launch him!'" The drunk is deployed to woo the big girl; the rest of the posse follows five minutes later and moves in on her friends.

Sometimes the drunk closes the deal; sometimes he doesn't. His friends are always grateful. "Hey, we scored, too," Chris says. "We don't say nothin'."

Some guys claim that hogging is a "slump-buster": Sex with a fat woman, they say, can break a string of bad luck and lift morale. (As the Arizona Diamondbacks' Mark Grace once explained, even pro athletes have been known to do it.) It can also be an act of selflessness: A guy "jumps on the grenade" by taking the fat friend, clearing his pal's way to the skinny one.

The common denominator is extreme emotional detachment. Scott tells the story of a friend who slept with a hog. Scott called the next day to taunt him. "You didn't cuddle with her in the morning, did you?"

He repeats his friend's answer with glee: "No, I stepped over her fat ass and left!"

Mark and his friend Alex go to the Fox & Hound in Parma, a city Mark considers hog heaven.

Sure enough, Mark manages to find a potential hog while he's buying the first round. She might as well have "eager" tattooed on her back. She's poured into a red halter top, faux leather pants that lace up the side, and chunky stacked-heel boots.

They banter, and Mark buys her a shot. He returns to the table, excited. "She's perfect," he says. "A perfect little pig."

"Ask her to join us," Alex suggests.

"I did," Mark says. "But she's waiting for her food. How novel."

A few minutes later she sidles past the table, then slips and wipes out. "Another shot!" Mark cries.

"You're supposed to catch me," she says, giving a sidelong glance as she heads toward the bathroom.

"This is going to be great," Mark hisses. "I might get a blow job out of this. Right here in the parking lot."

"If you wake up with that the next morning . . ." Alex warns.

"I've done worse," Mark says blithely.

Leather Pants invites the guys to ladies' night at a bar called Quotes. They follow. The place is packed -- with men.

Then darkness falls: Leather Pants is with another guy. A big guy. She accepts a light for her cigarette, but that's about it.

"You can't just go out with the mindset that you're going to get a hog," Mark explains. "You can't."

They end up at a cop bar called Dina's, drinking Budweisers and talking about hogging. Mark sheds no tears for the hog who got away. "I think she might have been strung out on crack anyway," he says. "Did you see how her hand was shaking?"

Still, he wonders about his own track record: "When's the last time you've seen me with a hot chick?" Mark demands, then answers his own question: "You probably haven't."

If hogging is a long-standing tradition, as Rick's father seems to indicate, it's passed down strictly as oral history. As far as anyone seems to know, it's never been the focus of a sitcom or a movie. Even in that repository of all things strange and elusive, the internet, it barely has a presence. It takes the right kind of dad or college roommate to explain the rule book.

Not everyone is grateful for the lesson. Some men react with horror, others distant amusement.

But for certain men -- typically guys in their 20s and 30s, boozers all -- hogging tales are like their grandfathers' fishing stories: oft-repeated and always embellished. There's the one that got away. The one who capsized the boat. The biggest whale of all.

From Parma to Mentor, the themes are the same. So are the jokes. "Fat women are like Mopeds," they'll say. "They're fun to ride, but you wouldn't want your friends to see you."

"Slap her thighs and ride the wave in."

"Roll her in flour and find the wet spot."

One universal truth: The boldest hogging stories always happened to someone else. The more savage the act, the better the chance that the guy telling the story didn't do it -- his buddy did. And the buddy, just as frequently, is impossible to track down.

One grad student explains that a friend participated in a hogging ritual at the U.S. Naval Academy. Sailors going on leave would throw money into a pot; the one who displayed the biggest pair of panties the next morning took all. But when the guy surfaces who supposedly participated, he says he wasn't actually involved: A friend had told him the story about his friends.

Another guy, an architect, tells of some bored college kids from Medina who drew straws; the loser had to pick up a fat woman and bring her home. The two then had sex while his pals watched from the closet. (In hogging parlance, this is known as "logging closet time.") "He knew his friends were watching, so the guy would be like, 'Call me Mr. President,'" the architect explains. "She did it, too."

But when he finds the Medina man who told the story, it wasn't his crew after all. It was one of his friend's friends; no one is sure who or where they are today.

It's tempting to attribute all hogging to braggadocio and the fine art of B.S. Indeed, even some guys who've hogged insist that it's no more than a way to justify drunken actions the morning after. "Take home a big girl, and the next day, you say you went hogging," Jake, the bartender, explains. "It's not like it's the plan. It's the backup plan."

Indeed, much of the fun seems to come in the telling, in recounting the tale that can top all others. Even for Rick, who relishes the act, part of hogging's appeal is knowing he can tell his buddies later. "He loves it," explains his roommate, Mark, "and he loves telling the story."

But even Rick is smart enough not to share his affinity for hogging with just anyone. He has a foolproof way of sussing out his audience: He'll wait for a fat woman to walk by, then make a comment about how he'd like to "stick it to her."

His companion's reaction is everything, Rick explains. "If he's disgusted, I'll say, 'Oh, I'm just kidding.' If he's like, 'Oh yeah, I'd do that,' you know he's with you. He's not afraid."

Rick Gilmour, the WTAM radio shock jock, prides himself on being a misogynist -- or at least a man who can appeal to misogynists and their prized 18-to-36-year-old demographic. In person, he's more gangly than his radio voice would suggest; he looks like the guy who ran the school audiovisual department, not the one who partied with the rugby team.

He's been known to refer to "hogging" on the air. He just assumes that his listeners know what he's talking about. His usual fare is politics or music or cars. Disparagement of fat women fits right into the mix.

One of Gilmour's regular haunts, Backdraft's, is a hole-in-the-wall tucked into a Lorain Road strip mall. Gilmour knows most of the guys here; the only woman is a tired fortysomething giving full attention to her drink. "You'd never know it from this sausage fest," he says, "but this is Ladies' Night."

Gilmour has been told the topic of conversation, so he comes suitably prepared with a steady patter of hogging jokes. "If you wake up and say, 'Thanks for the lovely evening, Ms. Oakar,' then you know you've been hogging,'" he says. Rim shot.

Then he tries the roll-her-in-flour line. His audience groans. "There are no new jokes, just people to hear them," he says, a little defensively.

A mustachioed Army vet on the next barstool lights up a smoke. "Hey, you know what they say: more cushion for the pushin'."

"Any port will do in a storm," Gilmour agrees.

The Mustache leans in. At Ohio State in the '60s, he went to something called a Green Dot party. "Whoever brought the ugliest girl got the prize," he says.

What did the women think? someone asks.

"Who cared?" says The Mustache.

Gilmour admits he's been with some heavies. He professes not to like it. "In polite society, they call 'em Rubenesque. Some people say it's softer, it feels better." Not him: "I'll take a chance with a woman where our hip bones are knocking together." The Mustache laughs.

Gilmour's friend Bryan sidles over. At 29, he's got a house in the 'burbs and one of those job titles -- tech-support specialist -- that could mean he's anything from a software programmer to a janitor.

Gilmour explains the topic, and Bryan sips his MGD thoughtfully. "It's a situation where you could either play golf with a high handicap or a low one," he says philosophically. "Sometimes you just feel like winning the game."

When it gets to be 12:30, there are only two hours left in the evening, "unless you count Denny's, which I don't," Bryan explains. So he takes what he can. "Fat chicks may be just as lonely and bored as you are."

Last time he did it: a month ago. Worst time: a 220-pounder, sister of his pal. Fortunately, he was at a friend's college campus at the time, not his own. "This was the perfect situation," he says. "I was in Toledo; I knew one person."

But, Bryan adds, he would have done it even if his entire college had been there. "The fallout just would have been greater," he says.

Or he could lie, someone suggests. Claim he didn't really do it.

"You don't lie about it," Bryan says, horrified.

"You just say, 'Fat chicks need loving, too,'" Gilmour says.

Bryan takes a long swig, then confesses, "Really, I think the prettiest women look like Marilyn Monroe, Bettie Page. They had meat on their bones."

"Jayne Mansfield," Gilmour agrees, in almost a reverie. "We're talking real meat."

The bartender supplies another round.

"Women want a man big enough to protect them," Gilmour says. "Nobody cares how fat Alfred Hitchcock was."

"But no one wants to bang Alfred Hitchcock," Bryan points out.

Hogging almost always starts in college. Scott's friends used to declare "No Pride Night" whenever they hit a dry spell. The call of the evening: "Let's just go find anything."

"In college especially, you're just too lazy for a good-looking girl," Scott says. "So you find the ugliest, most disgusting one you can find and take her home. Then it's a joke. And if your friends give you a hard time, you say, 'I got a blow job. What about you?'"

Jamie, who grew up on the East Coast, first heard of hogging at the University of Michigan. He uses "coyote arm" to convey the horror: "You'd chew off your own arm in the morning to get out of there without waking her up."

Growing up in Bay Village, Chris and his football pals only joked about hogging. In a town where most of the girls were pretty, there wasn't much more to do than talk.

Then he went away to college in Minnesota. There was a tight group of 14 guys on his floor, and the ones returning for their sophomore year explained the drill to the freshmen: They'd each donate $100. Then they'd go barhopping. If one of the guys found a willing hog, everyone would hurry back to the dorm to surreptitiously watch the guy usher his prize into the room -- and neglect to lock the door behind him.

The pack of 13 would wait outside.

With cameras.

Inside, Chris says, the guy would mount his woman doggie-style. "We'd be outside the door . . . And he'd yell, 'Hi-ho-rodeo!'" Chris pauses for dramatic emphasis. "And then we'd all run in and take a picture."

At the end of the year, the guy who'd rodeoed the biggest girl collected the pot, all $1,400 of it.

Competition was fierce. "Eight of us did it," Chris says. One guy did it three times. "Mine was 250, 260 pounds. And I didn't win. The guy that won it, she was large. Probably 280, 290.

"It was very hard, because you're not attracted to them," Chris adds, laughing. "It was difficult, because you get her clothes off, you see the side rolls. It just turns you off. You gotta suck yourself up and just do it. You got to."

Even today, Chris doesn't feel guilty: "It was one of my college classics." His friends, he says, all think it's funny. "Yeah, it's bad, but you're not thinking about that. You're thinking it's hilarious -- and it is."

The average hogger has little sympathy for his prey. "Fat chicks need lovin', too," is often the closest they come to acknowledging the woman's needs.

Many guys claim the hog should be, and often is, grateful for their attentions. "Fat chicks never get laid, because no one wants to see 'em naked," Scott explains.

"They feel appreciative just because a guy will let them give him a blow job," adds his friend Justin.

"They understand their place," Rick says. "They know they're pigs. They don't get it like a normal girl could. They're desperate."

Women aren't exactly clamoring to tell their side of the story. Some may be oblivious to the way they're being discussed; "hogging" is a term few women have even heard. Others, like the women at Chris's college, may be too embarassed to tell even their closest friends. No woman wants to think of herself as a hog, much less let her girlfriends see her that way. The victims are silent.

And many hoggers admit to having few female friends. They see women as alien creatures whose motives are suspect. It's only a small leap to rationalize their piggish behavior by insisting that women are just as bad.

The excuses are many: Women are all hunting for a sugar daddy anyway. They mock men for their small size or limited stamina. In a hogger's way of thinking, it's only right that men return the insult. "You've got the other end of the coin, too," explains Mike, who owns a Lakewood bar. "'He only lasted thirty seconds!' Stuff like that."

Some guys even admit they go for hogs because it's the only door open to them. "Sure, we could hit on good-looking chicks, but we're such West Park retards, it doesn't happen," Rick says.

"We've lowered our standards so low, they're no standards at all," Mark adds.

He says he's genuinely "remorseful" about his behavior. "It just happens," he says. But if he can keep his friends from finding out, he'll keep seeing hogs on the side. He likes them. "They don't expect anything. They're just cool."

Hogging's appeal is clear to Michael Broder, a Philadelphia clinical psychologist. "Some of these guys may be really intimidated by asking out the type of woman they really want to go out with," he says. "But if they get turned down by a woman they consider unattractive, there's no loss."

That, however, doesn't make it forgivable. "If you have to do that to feel good about yourself, you don't have much going for you," Broder says. "I feel sorry for everyone involved."

For years, Donna Jarrell was so self-conscious about her weight that she avoided the bar scene entirely. She wasn't even willing to try it until she was a divorcée in her mid-30s. "I hated going to clubs," she says.

So when Jarrell heard of hogging, she wasn't particularly shocked. It only confirmed the fears that she'd long struggled with. "If men were really nice to me, I just assumed they were trying to exploit me in some way," she admits. She wouldn't go near dances for "big and beautiful" women, for example; she was convinced that they attracted a certain type of predator who assumed "big" meant "desperate."

Life provided good reason for her caution. After Jarrell's divorce, she met a doctor in a chat room. They had great conversations, typing back and forth for 10 days. Then he sent The E-mail. "This is the most heartfelt communication I've had with a woman in 10 years," he wrote. "Please don't tell me you're fat."

Almost a decade later, Jarrell has perspective. "It just captures the confusion and ambivalence of men who want a wonderful relationship -- but also want a trophy," she says.

A lecturer at Ohio State, Jarrell co-edited a collection of fiction, What Are You Looking At?: the First Fat Fiction Anthology. She's a self-described "fat American" and says the words proudly. She hates the way they've been co-opted to mean "ugly."

A big part of Jarrell's confidence stems from a casual comment her son made: "Mom, who cares if you look fat, as long as you look good."

It changed her life. "Fat" and "good" coexisting had once been unthinkable. "What I think a lot of people, not just men, don't recognize is that our attraction or our revulsion to fat has a lot to do with our culture," she says.

Hogging, then, becomes something sad -- for the woman, certainly, but also for the man. "There's a stigma so extreme that even if men do get more pleasure with fat women, how do they admit that?"

And, if they don't get pleasure from the hookup, there's no point in doing it, she says. "I'm so unfamiliar with the idea that you wouldn't be real with somebody. It's just such a waste of your time. But for some people, I guess, that's what their life is."

Night is falling back at the Treehouse, and the conversation is growing windy. "Perfect hogging is big fat tits, fat thighs, but a good-looking face," Rick explains.

"The hogs don't think they're hogs, ever," Mark says.

Rick is getting philosophical. "It's not the way my mom said I should be to women, but it works. I don't make the rules, I just play the game."

When the time comes, Rick says, he'll pass down the rule book, just like his dad did to him. "When my kid's in college, sure I'll say something," Rick says. "Of course."

"If he was going to Homecoming with a big cow, I'd say it to my wife: 'He likes hogging,'" Mark says. "But not to him."

"I wouldn't tell my wife," Rick says. "Some things you keep to yourself."

Mark doesn't buy it. "He can't keep it in," he taunts.

"They are great stories," Rick protests, "but to tell your dudes!"

The patio is pitch-black by the time Andy and Ben join the group. Both Mark and Rick are thrilled: Ben, they explain, is the perfect guy to talk about hogging. He always has a heavy woman on his arm. He dates 'em. He revels in 'em.

But Andy quickly sets us straight. Ben, he says, doesn't hog. "But he likes hogs."

Ben explains that he likes a woman with a big butt, a firm fat shape. "I don't care how big it is, as long as it's firm. I think even you would be shocked at how big you can get and still be firm," he tells Rick.

"But she's still a hog to me," Mark protests.

Ben will have none of it. "I know what I like. These guys find something I like to be a joke. They like to laugh about it and retell it. But they may find it gives them some reserve of pleasure. They're expanding their definitions of what is attractive."

Rick has grown quiet. "In a certain sense, he has a point," he says. "It's fat women I usually masturbate to. Because they get me off. . . . I can't get Tyra Banks, nor do I want to. But there's something about violating this little pig that makes me happy." It's almost an epiphany.

Still, the moment of reflection can only last so long. Within a minute, he and Mark are back to talking about how fat women give better oral, how they're disposable, how the hookup is fun because the woman is willing to be degraded.

Most important: It's a hookup and only a hookup. Never a girlfriend. Never wife material. "If it's a fat bitch, I don't want to see her afterward," Rick says.

"You're hogging," Andy says.

"I'm hogging," Rick agrees. "You don't want to have a hot bitch blow you off because she can. You want a fat bitch who'll suck your cock. Last call, I like to get my dick sucked rather than play euchre all night."

Rick takes a long swig of his beer. "That's the bottom line," he explains to the darkness. "That's hogging."