Envy: The Deadly Sin of Female Bodybuilding

It's understandable to see why some people might be envious of Tatiana Anderson.

It’s understandable to see why some people might be envious of Tatiana Anderson.

Not many of us may be familiar with or sympathetic to the teachings of the early Christian church, but most of us have heard of “The Seven Deadly Sins” at some point.

Whether you’ve seen David Fincher’s classic 1995 film “Se7en” or you just happen to be well-versed in the ethics of medieval Christendom, The Seven Deadly Sins are:

  1. Wrath
  2. Greed
  3. Sloth
  4. Pride
  5. Lust
  6. Envy
  7. Gluttony

These seven vices are associated with self-indulgence and contribute to the fall of humanity. While changing social mores throughout time might knock a few of these sins off their perch, we still to this day regard many of these behaviors with shame.

Female bodybuilding, to switch gears just a bit, is in a position of both strength and weakness right now. On one hand, the popularity of CrossFit, Fitbit, hybrid workouts, customized personal training and fitness apps is making it less taboo for women to lift weights and exercise hard. These trends may not necessarily lead more women down the path of bodybuilding, but the doors are definitely more open than they were in generations past.

On the other hand, the sport of female bodybuilding is being more and more marginalized as the years go on. Elite, hyper-muscular female athletes are being pushed out of the industry while more watered-down “fitness” and “bikini” competitors are taking their place. Pretty soon, it’s not inconceivable that the Ms. Olympia competition may not exist anymore. Competitions involving highly muscular female bodybuilders will definitely still persist, but they’ll most likely receive less mainstream support than they did before.

The gorgeous Debbie Leung flexing her bicep.

The gorgeous Debbie Leung flexing her bicep.

For fans of female bodybuilding, this is a tragedy that feels both inevitable and sadly predictable. We hope this day never arrives, but one can certainly see which direction the tide is turning.

That being said, how does one explain this downgrading of the sport many of us love so much? One of The Seven Deadly Sins may offer a plausible explanation.

Envy.

Let us explore this issue in greater detail.

  1. Envy, in both men and women, is contributing to the assault against female bodybuilding

Unfortunately, the attack against female bodybuilding is coming from two different directions: men and women. Let’s first start with men.

Traditionally-speaking, men are considered to be the “stronger sex” while women are, by default, dubbed the “weaker sex.” There is biological data to back this up, as well as centuries of culturally imposed gender roles – spanning across the entire globe – that contribute to this well-entrenched social paradigm. The concept of men being naturally stronger than women is something we didn’t have to learn in school. Most of us know this by our own accord.

Therefore, when we (and by “we,” I’m referring to us guys as a whole) encounter a woman who’s clearly stronger than us, we feel emasculated. We’re supposed to be the stronger ones, not the losers coming in second place. If you’re at the gym and you see a lady deadlifting two or four 45-pound plates more than you, it makes you feel puny, incomplete and a shame to your gender.

In other words, you feel envious. “Envy,” just to be clear, is defined as “a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.”

I still don’t quite know the difference between “envy” and “jealousy,” (I think “jealousy” is being resentful toward another person as a result of your feelings of envy) but it’s pretty clear what’s going on here. The guys who disdain or are disgusted by female bodybuilders are more targeting their own insecurities instead of expressing their hatred toward someone else. When you see an Internet troll describe a female bodybuilder as “trying to become a man” or saying “she probably has a penis,” what they’re really doing is conveying their personal anxieties rather than stating an objective opinion.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Akila Pervis.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Akila Pervis.

Emasculation can be a powerful motivator. Or a powerful wrecking ball of other people’s accomplishments. It’s sad that more guys aren’t encouraged by women who achieve high levels of strength and muscularity. But not all of us see eye-to-eye. What some of us guys perceive to be sexy others interpret to be an attack on their manhood.

Conversely, envy among women is also at play here. Female bodybuilders may not be shattering any proverbial “glass ceilings” per se, but they do tear down certain excuses we use to justify female weakness. Like men who feel emasculated when in the presence of a muscular woman, there are most certainly women who feel “effeminated” – if such a word actually exists – by the same thing. The small number of women (but by no means insignificant) who achieves strength that surpasses the average man brings about a sense of inadequacy in the majority of women who cannot achieve similar results.

They too are repulsed by their more muscular sisters because they feel challenged not by “society” as a whole, but by their peers. It’s one thing to call yourself a “strong, independent woman” and hope the rest of the world goes along with you, but it’s another thing entirely to actually put in the effort to become a genuinely strong woman. Talk is cheap. What female bodybuilders and athletes do is definitely not.

  1. The best way to deal with envious feelings is to pretend like the object of your envy doesn’t exist

Nobody wants to feel emasculated, degraded or second rate. Nobody wants to wake up, look at themselves in the mirror, and see mediocrity reflected back at them. You feel mediocre because you can’t compare to your competition, however you define “competition.”

So what’s the best way to assure you don’t lose to your competitors? Simple. Don’t have any competitors.

Obviously, it’s impossible to snap your fingers and make everybody who is richer, smarter, stronger, better looking and more successful than you magically disappear. So the next best thing is to pretend like they don’t exist. Or, on a more practical level, deny their identity as a method of “erasing” who they actually are.

This is why the insult “she looks like a man” is so common among trolls. Women aren’t supposed to be stronger than men, so when a woman is proven to be stronger than a man, then she must not actually be a woman. She’s probably secretly a man disguised as a woman. Or a woman with biological characteristics more becoming of a man, which by association means she’s not a genuine woman. Which then means her accomplishments aren’t legitimate. And if her accomplishments aren’t legitimate, you feel better about yourself because that battle you thought you lost you then win by default.

Also flexing her beautiful bicep is Mindi O'Brien.

Also flexing her beautiful bicep is Mindi O’Brien.

Delegitimizing your opponents is a classical tactic to eliminating their victories. If you convince enough people – including yourself – that female bodybuilders are actually women with substantial male components (biological traits, hormone levels, etc.), it makes their accomplishments as elite athletes null and void. It comforts your mind knowing Alina Popa isn’t really a normal woman who, by her sheer willpower and hard work, built herself to be stronger and bulkier than most guys. She has to have an unfair advantage somewhere! Perhaps she has an unusual amount of natural testosterone hidden in her system that, scientifically speaking, makes her a “man.” Yeah, that must be it! There’s no way that she can be that buff while being 100% female. Case closed.

While it’s true many female bodybuilders take drugs that increase their capacity to build muscle mass, that doesn’t make them less of a woman. Scientific arguments aside, the point I’m trying to make is that delegitimizing the accomplishments of a female bodybuilder is the primary way critics try to pretend like the objects of their jealousy don’t exist. Deny them their identity, and you “win” because it gives you personal comfort knowing there’s nothing wrong with your own identity.

It’s a terrible thing to do, but unfortunately it’s all too common.

  1. Envy is more of a product of your own insecurity

As mentioned before, the contempt critics of female bodybuilders feel toward them is more a product of their own insecurities rather than anything else. They aren’t angry at them necessarily, but are actually angry at themselves for not doing enough to measure up.

I won’t stress this point any further, but I will add one more nugget. One of the biggest problems facing our society is the belief that someone’s accomplishment is automatically someone else’s loss. In other words, too many of us embrace the idea that life is a zero-sum game.

In case you need a refresher, a zero-sum game is “a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant’s gain (or loss) of utility is exactly balanced by the losses (or gains) of the utility of the other participant(s). If the total gains of the participants are added up and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero.”

You don’t need to be a mathematical genius in the vein of the late John Forbes Nash, Jr. to understand what this means. In sports, athletic competition is a zero-sum game. Either you win or you lose. There’s no middle ground. Yes, some sports have ties. Other sports have placements, so you can come in third or fourth place and still earn a comically oversized check. But most of the time, athletic competitions end with either an absolute winner or an absolute loser.

Stay positive. Look at the gorgeous Gina Aliotti.

Stay positive. Look at the gorgeous Gina Aliotti.

But life is not always like that. One smart kid earning an A+ on their spelling test doesn’t in any way, shape or form prevent other kids from earning a similar grade. Theoretically, every single kid in your class can earn a perfect score (logically, every kid could also earn an F). Yet when you’re the only one who earns the highest mark, why do the rest of the kids treat you with scorn? Why are you labeled a “smarty pants” or other such similar names? For whatever reason, too many of us have been taught that someone else’s gain will automatically result in everyone else’s loss. They can’t prove it, but they inherently believe that you earning the A+ means they’re left with the B- or C+ grades by default.

But life is not a zero-sum game. Seeing a strong, beautiful woman at the gym doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish the same thing. Nor does it mean she got there through some unfair advantage. Beauty doesn’t have to be a competition. Even if you aren’t gifted with a lot of natural beauty, I’ve written before that female bodybuilders earn their beauty in ways that their peers who hit the genetic jackpot don’t.

Some of the most beautiful female bodybuilders in the world have faces that aren’t traditionally pretty. Some are plain looking. Others might have faces that revolt you. But their bodies are breathtaking and deserve high praise. Regardless, one woman being beautiful doesn’t mean the woman standing next to her can’t also be beautiful. Life isn’t like that.

Perhaps this psychologically explains where envy is rooted in. We, for whatever reason, are socialized to believe that people who are successful make it harder for the rest of us to be just as successful. But this is a fallacy. Life isn’t about fighting over who gets the biggest slice of the pie. It’s about each one of us baking our own delicious pie, without any regard to what other people are doing. This may not be true in every facet of life, but we’d be better off if we all lived life in the positive rather than the negative.

  1. Envy keeps everyone down, even those who’ve reached the top

The last point is probably the most important. Envious feelings hurt everyone. Everyone. Including those who are the object of envy.

Call it “victor’s guilt.” Some people feel guilty for “winning” at life. A parent who has a healthy family might feel bad for their neighbor who can’t conceive a child no matter how hard they try. That same kid who earned the A+ on their spelling test might secretly tank their next test so that they could be more like everyone else. That rising star in the world of female bodybuilding may reduce her muscle gains so that she could encourage her less successful peers to feel better about themselves.

These reactions are understandable. They also reflect a larger issue when achieving the most you can becomes discouraged, or worse, taboo.

It goes without saying that there are many examples in life when someone’s gain truly comes at another person’s loss. But more often than not, this is not the case. Female bodybuilders are already stuck between a rock and a hard place (and I’m not just referring to their rock hard abs and firm glutes). They live a financially and emotionally draining lifestyle that’s receiving less and less support from their own industry, their own peers, the opposite gender and their own gender group. Perhaps this is a slight exaggeration, but perhaps it’s not. Either way, it’s hard out there for a female bodybuilder. The battles, both large and small, they have to face every single day is enough to boggle the mind.

If I went to the gym and saw Autumn Raby and Nadia Nardi posing like this, I'd probably have a heart attack. Oh boy...

If I went to the gym and saw Autumn Raby and Nadia Nardi posing like this, I’d probably have a heart attack. Oh boy…

How they manage to maintain their lifestyles and persist in pursuing their dreams is a testament to their inner strength, which is probably mightier than their physical strength. Not all of us are that mentally tough. Female bodybuilders are without a doubt that tough minded.

In conclusion, female bodybuilders create cognitive dissonance in our minds. Or more accurately, emotional dissonance. They spark feelings of envy within us that make us hate them even though we have no justifiable reason to actually hate them. Hate is often attributed to a lack of understanding. It’s also been described as irrational. Whichever it is, envy is at the root of all this. It is until we wrap our minds and hearts around this that we will be able to treat FBBs the way they should be treated: with great respect, not malice.

The best piece of advice I can give is to celebrate people’s accomplishments instead of dwelling on your own shortcomings, either perceived or real. This fortune cookie mantra could be applied to almost all aspects of our lives. Life is too short to hate on other people. Life is also too short to waste your time wishing you could be “better.” Who can really define “better?” This is not to justify mediocrity, but instead to point out the fact that it’s harmful to kick yourself over not being “perfect” or “better than XYZ.”

This is partly why I started my blog. I want to celebrate these beautiful women and their beautiful bodies. Not because I want to shame anyone or tear down anything, but because I want to focus on the positives in life instead of the deficits. We may not all universally agree that “envy” is a Deadly Sin, but we should agree that it tends to lead us in poor directions.

Cut out the frivolous negativity in your life, and good things will follow. And that’s a game we can all play and win.

Queen Hippolyta – Prized Possession (part one)

Queen Hippolyta is a mixture of Monica Martin...

Queen Hippolyta is a mixture of Monica Martin…

As night fell, so did the rain. As thunder boomed across the black sky, so did the merciless pounding of war drums. Akiyama marched, hands tied behind his back and a blindfold wrapped around his eyes, toward the Forbidden Palace.

The Forbidden Palace rests in the heart of the Amazonian Empire. Akiyama is going to see Queen Hippolyta, the despotic tyrant who rules over the Amazons. The reality of being so far into enemy territory, where many of his friends and ancestors have perished, is enough to make Akiyama sick to his stomach.

Throughout his entire life, Akiyama has ingrained into his psyche the belief that the Amazons are his tribe’s mortal enemy. A courageous young Samurai warrior representing the powerful Nakatomi clan, Akiyama was captured in battle just hours ago and immediately was ordered to pay Queen Hippolyta a visit.

Akiyama couldn’t see the rain, but he could feel it. Like an ocean falling from the sky, he could not be sure whether his village would be flooded by morning or if they would avoid the worst. He thought about his father, his mother and his four brothers. He thought about his clan. He thought about his own life. Would Queen Hippolyta brutally execute him as a demonstration of her cruelty? Would his capture deter General Ijiri from launching another sneak attack against the Amazonian occupiers?

General Ijiri, a very wise man, loves Akiyama like his own son. He cannot imagine what the powerful military leader is thinking right now, knowing Akiyama is being escorted to his inevitable death.

The two guards accompanying Akiyama take him up a long flight of stairs. Finally they reach indoors, as Akiyama feels the rain stop. He hears whispers coming from all directions. He hates the Amazons, but respects them. Their brute strength, strategic cunning and relentless spirit should be admired by anyone. He also fears them, especially their ruthless Queen.

He hears two large chamber doors open. One of the guards kicks him in the back, forcing him to fall forward. The doors close with a loud thud. He hears a voice; a low, gravelly voice that reverberates with unquestioned authority. One of her bodyguards comes toward him and rips off the blindfold. Akiyama blinks several times to adjust his eyes to the light’s dull yellow glow. Finally, he looks up, still on his knees, and regards the all-powerful Queen who has ordered for his presence.

Standing at an impressive 6’ 5”, Queen Hippolyta wears a regal velvet green backless dress that shows off her enormously strong muscles. Statuesque and carrying the confidence of ten thousand brave warriors, Queen Hippolyta’s golden bronze skin, long black hair, piercing green eyes and strikingly gorgeous face perfectly complement her large muscular frame. With biceps the size of coconuts, a chest as broad as a bear, legs as thick as tree trunks and abs that not even her protective breast plate could hide, Akiyama now understands why she could move mountains and men at will. Who in their right mind would possibly want to defy her?

“Prisoner, stand up and come towards me,” she commands. Her authoritative voice seemingly causes the ground to shake.

Akiyama struggles to stand, as he is still in a tremendous amount of pain from the evening’s battle. A large cut bleeds across his muscular chest. He may not have the muscle mass or remarkable strength of the Queen, but he can hold his own. Akiyama eventually comes to his feet and takes several paces toward the throne, which sits at the center of the palatial chamber.

“What is your name, prisoner?”

Akiyama looks around and notices at least two dozen muscular female bodyguards standing at attention around the chamber. Wearing metallic body armor and holding six-foot long spears, Akiyama knew his chances of escape were nonexistent. He decides he could not put up a fight and accepts his fate.

...and the flawless Alina Popa.

…and the flawless Alina Popa.

“My name is Akiyama, samurai warrior of the Nakatomi clan,” he proudly announces. Queen Hippolyta steps forward and circles him, inspecting Akiyama’s appearance. Several inches shorter than her, Akiyama’s athletic body and handsome appearance pleases the Queen immensely. She unexpectedly feels a tinge of attraction toward the young samurai. He may be a representative of her mortal enemy, but her undeniable lust for this young man supersedes whatever hatred she feels for his tribe.

“You are an impressive youth. I am not surprised that you have fought my armies many times and did not die,” Hippolyta observes. She extends her right index finger and feels Akiyama’s wound. He is taken aback by the remarkable strength she demonstrates with just that simple motion. Feelings of lust also immediately erupt within his soul. “What shall I do with you, prisoner?”

Akiyama remains silent. Queen Hippolyta faces him directly. Her eyes darken.

“Answer me, boy. In what manner should I treat you, my captured prize?”

The young warrior looks around the room. He notices disdainful smiles coming from her array of lethal bodyguards. His heart races faster than it ever has before.

“Do what you will. I will accept whatever punishment you lay on me. It will be an honor to die for my tribe. I am prepared to endure your worst, Hippolyta.”

Her eyebrow rises slightly. She locks eyes with her prisoner, stares at him intently and bellows with laughter. The rest of the chamber remains eerily quiet.

“Very brave of you. I was expecting a different answer. Something more in the realm of begging for mercy or offering to become a spy for my army. But not this.”

“I am glad I can please you,” he says with scorn. Queen Hippolyta stops laughing and grabs his throat. Akiyama feels the air cutting off from him. He drops to one knee, looking up at his enemy with fear in his eyes.

A castle overlooking the mountains.

A castle overlooking the mountains.

“You do not speak unless I give you permission to speak, is that clear?” she commands. All Akiyama could muster is a weak nod of his head. Seemingly pleased with that reaction, she drops him to the ground and walks back toward her throne. Akiyama coughs and gasps for air. The Queen snaps her fingers and two bodyguards approach the wounded prisoner and grab him by both arms. They hoist him up to his feet and drag him toward their leader.

“You will discover that my temper can be volatile at times, fair youth. I try to be as gentle as I can, but I cannot let weakness enter into my mind. The moment I relent on my brutality is the moment my Empire will begin to crumble. I will not let that happen,” she says. “You will soon learn why the Amazonian High Council chose to put me in charge. You will also learn why I had them all put to death so that my power could be omnipotent.”

Rumors of Queen Hippolyta murdering all eighteen members of the Amazonian High Council, which had ruled the Amazonian Empire for a thousand generations, circulated around the Kingdom. Nobody in the Nakatomi clan believed it fully, except for the Emperor, whose sister once sat on the Council. It was partially out of anger of his sister being killed that he ordered for the Samurai Army to rise up against the Amazons and form an insurgency.

The Queen motions to the bodyguards to take Akiyama away. They pick him up and elevate him off the floor.

“Take him away,” she orders. Akiyama and the two bodyguards start to move toward the front chamber doors.

“Stop! Not that way.”

The guards halt and turn around toward their Queen. Drops of sweat roll off Akiyama’s handsome face. He struggles to breathe.

“Take him to my bed chamber.” An audible collective gasp arises from the room. Obediently, the two guards change directions and head toward a back exit facing north. The Queen holds up her left hand to silence the room. As Akiyama and the two guards exit, he steals a quick glance her way and instantly makes eye contact with her. He sees in her eyes a wicked combination of anger, craftiness, deviousness and irrepressible lust. She smiles as the stone doors close behind him.

Walking down a narrow and vast corridor, Akiyama is taken deeper and deeper into the heart of the Forbidden Palace. They pass by an outdoor training area, which is still busy despite the persisting rain. Akiyama sees hundreds of Amazon warriors lifting heavy rocks, pushing large boulders, practicing combat with bamboo sticks, pulling ropes with stones attached to them and running laps around the square. He is stunned to see so many gorgeous muscular women of all shapes, sizes and ages diligently training to become elite warriors. He’s fought many of them before, so he knows how formidable these women can be in the heat of battle.

Jeannie Paparone is demonstrating what a typical Amazon warrior would look like. No doubt, very deadly.

Jeannie Paparone is demonstrating what a typical Amazon warrior would look like. No doubt, very deadly.

They turn direction and walk up a small grassy hill. Once they reach the top, Akiyama sees a small castle overlooking a lake. A beautiful garden surrounds the castle from all sides, featuring flowers he’d never seen before, as well as marble statues of ancient Amazon Queens from centuries past. All of them as muscular and intimidating as Hippolyta, he can see that she’s descended from a long line of legendary warriors. But none of them compare to Hippolyta’s impressive accomplishments, as right now nearly seventy percent of the Kingdom is under Amazonian control, which far exceeds the forty percent achieved by Hippolyta’s great–great–great grandmother many moons ago.

One of the guards takes out a key and unlocks the front door. They motion for Akiyama to go inside.

“Go in. We will close the door behind you,” one of the guards tells him.

Looking up at a majestic stone spire that reaches up to the Heavens, Akiyama is enjoying the icy rain drops falling on his face.

“Get in, prisoner,” the other guard orders. “Do as you’re told.”

Akiyama takes the hint and steps inside. The doors close behind him. The two guards take out broadswords from their belts and stand at attention by the door. Inside the castle, rich tapestries and polished furniture adorn the entryway. On the walls are paintings celebrating the victories of past wars. Akiyama feels disgusted when he sees a portrait of the Nakatomi Emperor’s head being held up by Hippolyta’s great grandmother. This story is taught to every young boy growing up in his clan. It is with a sense of righteous vengeance that Nakatomi Samurai warriors live every single day of their lives.

Moments pass. The rain continues its downpour. A flash of lightning sweeps across the skies. Akiyama finds a mirror hanging on the living room wall and inspects his wound. The cut has clotted, but the pain still persists. He sees his disheveled appearance and says a short prayer to himself, wishing the gods above will grant him good fortune in this time of peril.

Out of the corner of his eye, he notices a procession of female guards marching in a straight line toward the front entrance. A looming sense of dread suddenly fills Akiyama’s heart. He knows she’s coming for him. There’s absolutely no chance of escape. Whatever happens will happen. Akiyama will accept his fate no matter what transpires in these next moments.

An elegant flight of stairs in an old European castle.

An elegant flight of stairs in an old European castle.

The front door opens. It’s Queen Hippolyta, dressed in a scarlet red night robe and an elegant violet gemstone necklace hanging between her bountiful breasts. She closes the door. Her imposing frame struggles to fit through the small entrance. Akiyama can only stand still, completely frozen in time.

“So, boy. What is your name?”

“Akiyama.”

The Queen approaches him. Even from a distance, Akiyama can feel the intense heat rising from her powerful body. Her scent. Her presence. Her authority. Her muscles. All of it petrifies Akiyama with both fear and awe. He does not know how this will end, but he knows she has different intentions than whatever she implied earlier in the throne room.

“I am pleased that my army brought you to me. I did not expect my captured prisoner would be so…pleasing to the eye. Congratulations, Akiyama,” she says, wiping a drop of rainwater from her immaculate face. Akiyama’s breathing becomes more serene. He does not presently sense the degree of danger that he had felt before.

“Am I allowed to speak?”

She gives him a curt laugh. The Queen walks toward a sturdy oak table and pours herself a glass of wine. She takes a sip and turns to face him, leaning her daunting body against the wall, right next to a painting of two Amazon warriors cutting off the penis of a captured enemy soldier.

“When we are alone in my castle, you are free to speak whenever you feel the urge to do so. When we are in front of my fighters, you must obey the proper protocol. From now on, you must address me as ‘my Queen.’ It’s how we must do things around here. Do you understand?” Akiyama nods his head. Queen Hippolyta appears to accept this response.

“Good. Then go with me to my bed chamber. Now.”

As she turns toward a staircase running along the center of the foyer, Akiyama boldly chooses to exercise his right to freely speak.

“What do you intend to do with me, my Queen?” She stops and finishes the rest of her wine. She sets the empty glass on a nearby bookshelf.

“I intend to enjoy your presence for as long as I wish. You will eventually meet your unavoidable demise, but before that happens, I must get what I want from your short time left on this Earth.” An ominous rumble of thunder rolls across the night sky. The castle, lit by candlelight, casts a spooky orange glow that makes Queen Hippolyta seem almost otherworldly in her appearance.

“I understand. You are the Queen, and I am your prisoner. Do with me what you will, my Queen.”

Queen Hippolyta, filled with untamed desire, sweeps toward her young prisoner and picks him up with her strong arms. Akiyama temporarily forgets his fear as he feels her bulging biceps press against his body. She kisses him on the lips and bites down on his tongue. He tastes blood as she removes her mouth from his. She feels no remorse whatsoever.

“I intend to, young boy.”

Holding him tightly, the Queen takes her prized possession with her and walks up the stairs toward her bed chamber.

To be continued.

For Female Bodybuilding Fans, Workout Videos are Our Porn

The next generation of female bodybuilding, Shannon Courtney.

The next generation of female bodybuilding, Shannon Courtney.

We all have our own vices.

Some of us like to gamble. Others like to party “in da club” till the wee hours of the morning. There are some who enjoy high-fat and high-sugary foods a little too much. How about smoking? Or excessive drinking? Or, *gasp* hitting the Mary Jane a few times here and there?

Unless you’re an ascetic monk living high in the Tibetan mountains, most of us have vices that we’re either proud of or wish would remain a secret. But let’s face it. Unless your vice hurts someone else, what’s the true harm? I, for example, am not one to claim to be a police officer of “outstanding character.”

Another popular vice that many of us share is pornography. Whether we’re talking about late night pay-per-view skin flicks, dirty magazines, snuff films, or good-old-fashioned Internet porn, we all know what we’re dealing with. Porn is everywhere in our society. On the cover of magazines, in popular movies, in clothing store advertisements, in music videos…everywhere. Not just hidden underneath your mattress or behind the playground monkey bars. Both softcore and hardcore porn (however you define either term) is saturated in our culture.

It’s so saturated, we sometimes forget what we’re seeing. Most of us would point to a Jenna Jameson video and say with definitive confidence, “That’s porn!” However, we might look at a Beyoncé music video and say, “Well, it’s not quite porn, but it is quite risqué. I would say…that’s NOT porn.” Fair enough. Everyone has the right to hold their own standards.

The real definition of “pornography” is as follows: “Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.”

This photo of Lisa Cross might give me a heart attack if I stare at it long enough. But I'd die a happy man.

This photo of Lisa Cross might give me a heart attack if I stare at it long enough. But I’d die a happy man.

Basically, porn is media that’s intended to turn you on. It doesn’t have to be explicit. It doesn’t even have to be visual. Written erotica can constitute as porn if we assume a wide all-inclusive definition. Are risqué music videos or provocative fashion ads intended to sexually arouse you? Well, not primarily. They’re intended to persuade you to buy record albums and clothing. But if the adage that “sex sells” is true – which nobody would argue it isn’t – certainly eliciting an erotic response is one of the tactics used to convert advertising media to sales.

Alright. We’ve established that porn is everywhere. We’ve also discussed that porn can manifest itself in a variety of ways, not all of them explicit. Porn can also have objectives outside of just turning you on, such as convincing you to open your wallet and buy something. Other objectives could include persuading you to think about a social issue in a different way (nude PSAs by PETA, anyone?) or inspiring you toward self-improvement (pole dance aerobics isn’t just for exercise, people!).

This all ties in to female muscle fandom, trust me. What, did you think this post would be totally unrelated to what my blog is primarily about? I start with this simple question:

As a female muscle fan, what turns you on the most?

Many of us would answer with traditional responses like FBBs masturbating, FBBs having sex with scrawny guys (or each other), FBBs dancing around in the nude, FBBs glamorously posing in the nude, etc. Essentially, we get turned on by FBBs doing things in from of the camera that traditional looking women also do in mainstream porn. But if there’s one thing I understand about female muscle lovers, it’s that we’re especially turned on by something else entirely, something that’s not necessarily X-rated.

Workout videos.

Or, more specifically, videos of female bodybuilders doing what they do best: building their bodies at the gym.

When I say “workout videos,” the image that probably immediately pops into your head is that of what Denise Austin and Jane Fonda created in the 80s and 90s. Or maybe those old-school Tao Bo videos by Billy Blanks. Ah, yes. Those were the days. The good old days of cheesy music, bad camera angles, bright yellow stretch pants and enough sweat to fill a small lake. I can’t imagine what it must’ve smelled like in those studios. Yuck.

But, no. These are not the type of workout videos I am referring to. Instead, I’m referring to amateurish or semi-professional looking videos of female bodybuilders pumping iron in the gym. They could be shot on a cell phone camera, a store bought camcorder, or perhaps an actual professional-quality video camera. They could be shot for Flex magazine, Bodybuilding.com or for the FBB’s own personal brand. Quality notwithstanding, the idea stays the same: video footage of beautiful athletes doing what they do best.

For female bodybuilding fans, workout videos are our porn. They are what turns us on the most. They titillate us unlike any other media. We find them more arousing than videos that are explicitly sexual in nature. Sound strange? Let me explain what I’m talking about.

As female bodybuilding fans, we don’t just love the final product. Yes, of course images of Alina Popa or Lisa Cross looking ripped and contest-ready can be a divine spectacle to behold, but we’re just as interested in the process it took them to look that way in addition to drooling over how they eventually look.

What’s arousing about female bodybuilders isn’t just that they look so damn sexy, it’s also the fact that they have to bust their butt in order to look that good. There’s something about the strenuous nature of bodybuilding that makes these athletes so remarkable. Female bodybuilders are especially intriguing because their looks are both unconventional and supremely difficult to attain (and maintain).

This is why a grainy 90-second clip shot on an iPhone of a female bodybuilder, completely covered in sweat pants and an old t-shirt, squatting 300+ pounds is way more erotic than watching two silicone-enhanced teeny boppers sucking on each other’s clits with awful automated music playing in the background. If I were a sheltered teenage boy, the latter might excite me like no other. But as an adult, that stuff bores me to death. It’s unexciting. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s disgusting.

Watching two nameless 18-year-old women engaging in sex acts with total lack of interest or passion while moaning from an orgasm so fake it belongs in a can of Velveeta cheese isn’t erotic. It’s dumb. It’s an insult to my intelligence. It’s sophomoric. It’s a shame to the word “erotic.” I’m not necessarily knocking on those who actually like this sort of thing (I’m just kidding – I am knocking on you!), but get with the program, people! Doesn’t authenticity count for something anymore?

Ah, yes. Now we get to the heart of the matter. Authenticity. Workout videos are authentic. I’ve seen a fair share of fake or staged workout videos, but the ones that are real are so fun to watch because it gives you a brief glimpse into the process it takes to transform a woman’s body from “sexy” to “All-Powerful Goddess.”

If more women looked like Mavi Gioia at the gym, I'd go there every single day of my life.

If more women looked like Mavi Gioia at the gym, I’d go there every single day of my life.

But it’s not just about the process of becoming a bodybuilder or the authentic nature of these videos that excite us so much. There’s something unspeakably tantalizing about watching a woman work hard to achieve her dreams. Maybe it’s because a lot of us guys aren’t accustomed to seeing women lift heavy at the gym. There’s an Internet meme that says that “A girl in the gym is much hotter than a girl in the club.” I would agree with that wholeheartedly. But why do I feel that way exactly?

Maybe it goes back to the meritocratic nature of our society. We love female bodybuilders because they earn their beauty. Not every one of us is born with a beautiful face or flawless skin. But we can (to an extent) control the rest of us. A bodybuilder does exactly that. They are in complete control of their physical selves, even to the point that it becomes an obsession. A ripped body is something you earn with your sweat and labor. Mother Nature may not have given you other natural physical gifts, but if you want six-pack abs, you can go out and get it. If you have the willpower to do whatever is necessary to get it, of course.

Another reason why we love watching women lift is because it goes against our collective history. Historically, men were the laborers and women were the caretakers. Men were expected to do all the heavy lifting, both literally and figuratively. The fact that men are naturally stronger than women explains a lot of this. But these gendered roles still in many regards persist to the present day. So when we’re in the gym – and I should hurry up and say that the “workout video” thing could also apply to stealing peeks at women lifting at the gym – and we see a cute girl deadlifting more than her own bodyweight, it’s pretty damn sexy to watch. Very damn sexy.

Breaking the old rules of male/female roles? Making an effort to sculpt a sexy body instead of relying on plastic surgery, deceptive clothing (padded bras, for example) and heavily caked-on makeup? Yes, please!

Workout videos, and seeing up-close-and-personal women lifting heavy weights, are without a doubt our porn of choice. Regardless of the production values or quality of the video footage, this excites us more than anything. Here’s an example:

On Lisa Cross’ Facebook page, she’s uploaded a short video that illustrates exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a ridiculously short clip of her squatting a ton of weight on a hack squat machine. In the brief 41-second video, we can hardly even see Lisa. We can’t see her face. Nor her full figure. In fact, she’s as completely covered as a nun. No sexy revealing clothing. Nothing glamourous happening here. But she’s lifting a jaw-dropping amount of weight. And you can clearly hear her grunting as she squats up and down. Her heavy breathing isn’t exactly orgasmic, but its resemblance is impossible to ignore. But most important, you truly get the sense that she’s working her tail off. This isn’t showing off for the camera. This isn’t staged. This isn’t theatre of any sorts. This is authentic. She’s actually working out with the real intent of getting stronger and bigger. This is the master artist in action. She didn’t earn my nickname for her, “Lisa Cross, the British Bombshell,” just by sitting on her butt, watching TV and eating potato chips all day long. She’s a beautiful sexy Goddess because she’s willing to do the dirty work a lot of us aren’t too keen to do.

That might be the best explanation yet. The Dirty Work. Porn videos are also known as “dirty videos” because they show people engaging in unclean, filthy sex acts (as dubbed by certain folks). But ironically, workout videos of FBBs doing the dirty work of heavy lifting, grunting, sweating and torturing themselves for the sake of self-improvement are way more sexually exciting than watching two nameless bozos who can’t act have unemotional sex with each other. That stuff is a dime a dozen. Witnessing an elite female bodybuilder work on her craft is like watching Laurence Olivier perform Shakespeare, Luciano Pavarotti sing opera or Itzhak Perlman play the violin. You cannot look away from watching the elites do what they do best. The rest of us mortals can only stare and passively watch.

To reiterate a previous point, men who love muscular women aren’t just interested in the final product. We’re also interested in the process it took to achieve that final product. Workout videos, and other related media, excite us for reasons we can’t fully explain. Watching that video clip of Lisa Cross – and for the record, you can hardly even tell it’s actually Lisa! – genuinely gives me the chills. It makes my heart skip a beat. It’s a feeling I can’t explain, but every female muscle fan knows what I’m talking about. But it’s not just this particular clip. It’s the thousands of others like it.

Alina Popa doing leg lifts. Debi Laszewski doing lateral pulldowns. Colette Nelson bench pressing. Brandi Mae Akers doing bicep curls. Lindsay Mulinazzi deadlifting. Jana Linke-Sippl killing her arms on a bicep machine. Shannon Courtney punishing her rock-hard quads at the gym. Mavi Gioia doing triceps extensions. The list goes on. And these are videos that I’ve seen. No doubt there are countless more like them out there on the Internet ready for us to drool over.

The larger point is that female muscle fans love strong women for a variety of reasons. It’s not just about lust or appreciating a certain aesthetic. Female bodybuilders are unique in so many ways. They have a quality to them that’s almost impossible to describe, but equally impossible to ignore. Once you’re hooked, you instantly “get it.” You understand their appeal and even begin to wonder why you didn’t notice them earlier. I honestly cannot believe why I didn’t become attracted to FBBs sooner. I really started to notice them when I was 18 and a freshman in college. And how did it start? I was researching workout videos online and stumbled upon amateurish clips of beautiful women lifting at the gym.

Well, viola! There you go. For many of us, including me, workout videos were what got us hooked in the first place. So there’s a reason why they hold a special place in our hearts. The element of sentimental value is also at play here. Maybe that explains a lot. Maybe there’s something about witnessing a beautiful woman exert herself at the gym that lights a fire inside our souls. It begins the “Madness,” as the expert blogger Female Muscle Slave puts it.

Come to think of it, calling workout videos “porn” cheapens what they mean to us. “Porn” is what people view to fulfill a momentary sexual urge. Workout videos, on the other hand, have a more spiritual component attached to them. It’s like a music lover watching Sir Georg Solti conduct Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Or a great philosopher delivering a lecture on the state of the universe. It’s poetry in motion. Watching a strong, muscular woman lift is like a religious experience, or to put it in more easy-to-digest secular terms – it is art. Female bodybuilders are artists. And watching them lift is like watching a painter paint, or a sculptor sculpt, or a musician compose.

Female bodybuilders are masterpieces of human achievement. And witnessing them transform into who they are is as enticing as it gets. Just ask any one of us. All we can do it sit back, relax and indulge in the captivating beauty on full display before our eyes.

The Impeccable Female Form

Would I consider Jay Fuchs to be "perfect?" In a word, "yes!"

Would I consider Jay Fuchs to be “perfect?” In a word, “yes!”

What defines the perfect female body?

It’s a more difficult question to answer than you’d think. For those of us who are attracted to women, we just know beauty when we see it. We can’t describe it. We can’t explain it. We can’t quantify it. We just know what a beautiful female body looks like whenever we are fortunate enough to come across one.

If you took a poll of hundreds of straight men (and perhaps some lesbian women) to describe the “perfect female form,” the answers you’d get would probably be pretty predictable:

Gorgeous face.

Big boobs.

Sleek arms.

Long, smooth legs.

Rounded butt.

Hour-glass hips.

Curved back.

Yadda, yadda, yadda. Certain adjectives may change, but the general idea stays the same. Our collective definition of the perfect female form is for the most part fairly uniform.

But for fans of female bodybuilders, our personal definition of perfection is significantly different. We prefer not sleek arms, but bulging arms. We love long legs, but we’d rather gaze upon veiny thighs the size of tree trunks. We love calves big enough to crush a watermelon. We love breasts just like any other guy, but we’re perfectly willing to sacrifice noticeable cleavage if it means her broad pecs are allowed to shine boldly.

Everyone has a different definition of “perfect.” The results from this imaginary poll may be varied, but odds are they will share in common the aesthetic we’ve come to accept in today’s world: a perfect combination of slenderness with curves.

Call it the “Marilyn Monroe Look.” Or what Cindy Crawford was back in the 1990s. Or Kim Kardashian today. Famous sex icons come and go, but beauty is more or less timeless. True, historians will point out that light skin was considered beautiful back in the Middle Ages because it demonstrated wealth and prestige. People with tan skin were considered poor because they had to labor outdoors all day long, as opposed to their pale skinned peers who had servants do their dirty work instead. Today, almost the exact opposite is in vogue. Tanned skin communicates healthiness, vitality and trendiness. There’s a reason why tanning salons are so darn popular. Tanning practically seems like a full-time job for some people these days. Giving people tans definitely is, that’s for sure.

A vast majority of us would consider the women you see on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit magazines or featured in Victoria’s Secret ads to be the peak of female beauty. The names and faces may change over time, but atypical-looking women usually don’t find themselves so widely plastered across such media. Caitlyn Jenner being a unique exception, what most of us consider “beautiful” can typically be widely agreed upon.

So this begs the question: If beauty is, by and large, relatively universal, can the same go for perfection? Is the “perfect female form” something we can widely recognize? Or do differences of opinion make this conversation moot?

Marilyn Monroe, the greatest sex icon of her generation, perhaps of all time.

Marilyn Monroe, the greatest sex icon of her generation, perhaps of all time.

The best way to answer this question is to pose yet another question: What specifically defines “perfect?” In baseball parlance, a “perfect game” is when a starting pitcher retires all 27 batters in a row without giving up a single hit, walk, hit-batter or error. No one reaches first base in a nine inning ballgame under any circumstances whatsoever. Even if an error is committed by a defensive player, which is obviously not the fault of the pitcher, the perfect game is undone. If the center fielder accidentally drops a can-of-corn pop fly, the perfect game ends, even if 99.999999 percent of the time he makes that catch.

So, in baseball, “perfect” isn’t a passive state of being; it’s an accomplishment. Something isn’t perfect simply by being deemed perfect. Perfection isn’t passive. It’s active. It requires work. It requires meticulous labor to reach a goal. Leonardo da Vinci’s “La Joconde” (better known as the “Mona Lisa”) didn’t happen by accident. He didn’t just splatter paint onto a canvas Jackson Pollock-style and call it good. Rather, he put much thought into his process and painstakingly worked to render his creation. That’s why art critics call it a “masterpiece.” That’s also why these same critics cringe at what is known today as “modern art.” While it could be bold and expressive, a lot of the modern art you see hung up at respectable museums don’t appear to be that artistic. I’m no art connoisseur myself, but I can certainly see the difference between a Rembrandt and a dried up piece of animal dung meant to represent the existential nihilism derived from our excessive militaristic oppressive capitalistic Euro-American-centric hetero-normative patriarchy.

What just happened? I don’t know.

The point is that perfection is an end goal, not just a mere label we place onto an object. The Impeccable Female Form is perhaps not just an opinion, but a commentary on the state of femaleness, cultural aesthetic and male/female dichotomy. For example, Michelangelo’s sculpture of David is considered a Renaissance masterpiece. Created in the early 16th century, the marble male nude of the Biblical hero David represents the height of human power. In the Old Testament, David was a hero who defeated his enemies with help from the Almighty. David is The Man if there ever was anyone who deserved that nickname.

The sculpture, at the time, symbolized the zenith of the human form. Standing tall and proud, David’s muscular stature and overwhelming confidence should instill fear into his enemies. Not even the mighty Goliath stood a chance against our celebrated hero. Meant to signify the fierce independence of the Republic of Florence, between 1501 and 1504 Michelangelo crafted his legendary masterwork with the political implications of power, authority and the almost God-like importance of one man on Earth, in mind.

In David, we’re supposed to see exactly that. A man with God-like implications here on Earth. Thus, in a very literal sense, David perhaps was supposed to represent the Impeccable Human Form. In a world dominated by men, “human” became synonymous with “male.” Female beauty was almost kept in a separate category. Male beauty was human beauty. If humans were created in the image of God, it make sense a perfect looking human would be the closest we can ever get to actually witnessing God up-close-and-personal.

"David" by Michelangelo.

“David” by Michelangelo.

The perfect human form, therefore, now has the element of the divine attached to it. If men are gods, are women goddesses?

The answer is unequivocally “yes.” Women are indeed goddesses. A perfect female form would in fact be a close reflection of divinity, just as male perfection was once considered. Zeus may be wholly powerful among all gods, but Athena shouldn’t be disrespected in her own right. The ancient Greeks believed the gods in the heavens shaped the affairs of the men and women below. They even personified their gods into the images of men and women. How interesting.

This is a long way of getting to the point that should be obvious to us all: the Impeccable Female Form should reflect the same strength, gracefulness, power and beauty we’ve come to appreciate in today’s female bodybuilders. Alas, our much beloved muscle bunnies aren’t just athletes. They’re symbols of human perfection. And they didn’t get that way by accident or privilege. They earned it with their sweat, dedication, hard work and treasure.

Like a pitcher tossing a perfect game or a bowler rolling a perfect game, they had to earn their stripes. David, likewise, wasn’t deified (as much as a mortal man can be) arbitrarily. He had to go out and defeat Goliath. Then he had to rise through the ranks and become King of Judah. Whether you’re religious or not is not the point here. The point is that perfection is never granted passively. You have to earn it every step of the way.

This explains why many women (and men) resort to plastic surgery, fad diets and unauthorized medication (which may or may not be effective) to achieve the “perfect look.” Most of us are not born flawlessly beautiful. Most of us look at Monica Bellucci on the silver screen and think to ourselves; “I’ll never look that beautiful because she was born that way.”

Indeed, beauty is genetic. There’s no escaping that fact. No amount of makeup or trips to the surgeon’s office will undo what Mother Nature (a.k.a., your family’s gene pool) gave you. However, we’re not necessarily talking about facial beauty. We’re talking about the human form, which is what your silhouette looks like. We’re referring to not what you look like in a mirror, but what you look like behind a white screen and bright light.

As a young lad growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s, ex-WWF diva Rena Mero was my first major celebrity crush.

As a young lad growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s, ex-WWF diva Rena Mero was my first major celebrity crush.

You can, to a point, control what your silhouette looks like. Female bodybuilders are doing that every single day of their lives. What they choose to eat, when they choose to eat, when and how they lift weights, when they sleep, what supplements they take…all of these choices are carefully made to ensure their bodies can look a certain way. Crafting a perfect combination of muscularity, symmetry and femininity, FBBs are truly artists in every sense of the word. Just as our friend Michelangelo sculpted with marble, FBBs work with their own flesh and blood. Sounds pretty hardcore, doesn’t it?

If we assume female bodybuilders to be artists, are they not working toward the goal of attaining perfection? Even world champion bodybuilders should never rest on their laurels and assume they’ve “arrived.” That sort of complacency breeds mediocrity. The mindset of a champion dictates that you constantly work toward self-improvement, regardless of what people say or how tangibly “good” you already are at your sport. In this respect, female bodybuilders (and their male counterparts) are indeed artists, striving toward sculpting their perfect masterpiece with the materials given to them by God. As Amedeo Modigliani used a paintbrush and palette as his tools, a bodybuilder uses dumbbells, barbells, and food as theirs.

So it makes perfect sense for the Impeccable Female Form to come from a bodybuilder. After all, they “earn” their physique through hard work, dedication, scientific precision and sacrifice. No one wants “perfection” to be a product of passive entitlement. A slender looking woman may in fact be beautiful, but isn’t there something to be said for a physique that’s very darn difficult to attain? Looking like Alina Popa is a challenge that only an elite number of women will ever be able to achieve. Her flawless balance between being highly muscular and unquestionably feminine makes her as unique of an athlete as there’s ever been. And that is no exaggeration.

This is not to disrespect or discount the challenges of maintaining a “traditional” feminine look. The point of this blog post isn’t to shame or condemn any particular body type. Instead, I’m trying to illustrate a larger point: the ideal female form – or perhaps, better yet, the quintessential female form – should lean more toward the muscular than the skinny. Bulky rather than thin. Bigger instead of smaller. You get the idea.

The simple argument that the Impeccable Female Form should be that of a bodybuilder implies that strength should be a crucial facet to femininity. Ignore any of that talk about the “weaker sex.” That’s complete and total nonsense. If we genuinely want to lift up women as being strong, independent beings, this paradigm shift is a welcomed first step. Aesthetically speaking, if the Impeccable Female Form is defined as being muscular, curvy and strong – does this not communicate empowerment more than mere words? Words are cheap. Action is not.

Besides making an obvious feminist statement, a Muscular Feminine Ideal does more to break down negative stereotypes than anything else. For as much as our society preaches the importance of “female empowerment,” how seriously do we accept this? Do we truly mean that, or are we more interested in patting ourselves on the back and verbalizing what we want instead of actually pursuing what we want to see change? I leave the answer to these questions to you.

Whether or not anyone will ever accept this frame of mind is not the point. Not everyone will agree that muscularity should have anything to do with how we define female beauty. Nor should we all agree to this. But as female muscle fans, we share the inherent belief that there’s a reason why we love strong women beyond simple lust. I believe that wholeheartedly. We may not explicitly know it, but we know female bodybuilders represent something bigger. A female bodybuilder isn’t just a competitive athlete; no different than a soccer player, basketball player or tennis player. We know they belong in a separate category apart from the rest. Am I right?

Indeed, there is something noteworthy going on. Bodybuilders, both male and female, symbolize the highest form of human achievement. They represent the human being at its pinnacle of perfection. There’s a reason why Michelangelo chose to portray David as a strong warrior instead of a skinny average Joe. Wonder Woman may not traditionally be illustrated as being muscular, but you definitely can tell the artists who draw her would definitely do that if they were given more lenient creative license. That might not help them sell more comic books per se, but they would be making a pretty bold statement in doing so.

The Impeccable Female Form personified in Lindsay Mulinazzi.

The Impeccable Female Form personified in Lindsay Mulinazzi.

Deep down inside, female muscle fans wish more women in society looked like Larissa Reis or Shannon Courtney. Not necessarily out of selfish fetishistic reasons (although that is a major part of it), but because we truly believe society would be better for it. The Impeccable Female (and Male) Form isn’t just about determining what kind of eye candy we like best. It’s more than that. It’s about maximizing what it means to be a human being, a creation of God (or whatever higher power you believe in). If we assume the Imago Dei theological concept to be ingrained into Western culture, we take on the belief that bodybuilders of all genders are doing what they can to become Divine.

Not in a literal sense, but in a figurative sense. A muscular man or woman isn’t actually a god, but they’re the closest we can get here on Earth.

So, what exactly defines the perfect female body? Divine. Intentional. Elite. Strong. Powerful. Potent. Authoritative. Commanding. Muscular. All of these things.

Regardless of your ideological or theological background, every single female muscle fan knows the women they love are bigger – and not just literally – than most of the people we encounter day-in and day-out. They represent something tangibly deific. We don’t refer to them as “goddesses” for no good reason.

Oh yeah. Goddess. I do seem to recall that label being put onto a female bodybuilder at least once or twice. Now we all know why that is. We view them as belonging to a higher status than the rest of us. They’re gods among men, or goddesses among women. We intrinsically know this to be true.

The Impeccable Female Form explains all of this. Muscles are a form of physical Nirvana that every one of us is striving to achieve. Maybe not in any practical sense, but we feel it intuitively. I’ve never considered my love for female muscle to have a spiritual component, but the more I think about it, perhaps it does.

Maybe we female muscle fans are helping usher in a new age of Enlightenment. Are we the forbearers of a shift toward a higher level of Consciousness?

Uh, yeah. Probably not. But it sure is fun to think about. This is probably overthinking things, but life is too short to shortchange yourself. Don’t be afraid to take pride in your female muscle fandom. You may not be a modern day culture warrior, but you are definitely on the right track. Muscular women are beautiful, and our world would be a better place if every man, woman and child felt that way.

Can I get an “amen?”

A Female Muscle Fetish Isn’t as Complicated as You Might Think

The reason why Jill St. Laurent is gorgeous definitely isn't complicated.

The reason why Jill St. Laurent is gorgeous definitely isn’t complicated.

Sometimes in life, we tend to overthink things.

Nobody needs to spend twenty minutes thinking about which brand of hair coloring they need to buy. Or a whole hour organizing your wardrobe for the day. Or testing out twelve different fad diets only to discover that none of them actually work.

Overthinking things can be exhausting. It can waste your time, money, energy and faith in your own judgement. Don’t we all wish someone would have the good sense to knock us over the head and tell us this before it becomes a problematic obsession?

Yes, perhaps we do. But our tendency to overthink things can usually be remedied by following this general guideline: KISS.

Keep It Simple, Stupid.

In other words, sometimes the simplest explanations are the best. Occam’s Razor, anyone?

The same could be said about female muscle fetishism. We all have our own explanations as to why and how we got into female muscle. Everyone has their unique personal story. And the truth is, anecdotes can be remarkably insightful in explaining so much about our lives. For some, it was a single magazine cover that did it. For others, it was following the career of one specific female bodybuilder. Maybe you caught a glimpse on television of a female bodybuilding competition back in the good old days of the 1980s. Regardless, everyone remembers the time they “discovered” this amazing world and had their eyes opened to an aesthetic that transcends “traditional” standards of female beauty.

There are psychologists, sex experts and ordinary people everywhere who try to “explain away” the larger meaning of these personal stories. Do they reflect hidden insecurity? Or do they reveal latent homosexuality? Are guys who are into “muscle chicks” self-hating men? Do they secretly wish to be physically dominated by their girlfriends? Are they sexual deviants who need counseling? Is this a sign of obsessive behavior that can eventually consume his entire life?

Yikes. That got out of hand in a hurry. Perhaps not all of these stereotypes immediately come to mind when you learn a guy really digs strong women. But certainly these thoughts cross your mind at some level. If it does, don’t worry. Here’s something that will bring ultimate clarity to this situation.

We’re overthinking things. Maybe, just maybe, female muscle fetishism isn’t that complicated. It’s just a simple form of lust that’s inherent in all of us (or, almost all of us).

Hm. An interesting thought. So a guy who drools over the Ms. Olympia contestants is no different than a middle school boy who drools over the girls in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues? Well, I’ll be darned!

Remember when Pamela Anderson was strutting her stuff on Baywatch? The 90s were a glorious time, indeed.

Remember when Pamela Anderson was strutting her stuff on Baywatch? The 90s were a glorious time, indeed.

Most of us guys know what we’re referring to. Face it. We all kept a hidden stash of dirty (or semi-dirty) magazines under our bed. Or old VHS tapes of cinematic sex scenes in the sock drawer. Or porn we printed off the computer when mom and dad were out of the house. Raise your hand if this described you when you were a lad of 14.

You can put your hands down now. Thank you for participating in this unscientific study.

Now turn the clock forward 10-25 years. You’re now a fully grown adult. You might be married, in a relationship, divorced, or single. It doesn’t matter. You’ve ditched the contraband magazines for more sophisticated resources. In the decades between your teen years and adulthood, you expanded your preferences to include beautiful women with more…bulk.

Yes, bulk. Adult women with more muscular development than the pop stars, movie starlets and celebrity socialites of yesteryear. Of course, you might still retain a faint nostalgic lust for these types of females, but you’ve moved on to bigger (emphasis on “bigger”) and better options. You prefer a brawnier look. You prefer fitness models, athletes and bodybuilders over silicone-enhanced Playboy bunnies, Photoshopped fashion models and Botox-injected Hollywood ingénues. So these new preferences can coexist with your old preferences. Expanding your horizons doesn’t mean shutting yourself off to the “old.” It means incorporating more things into the “new.”

So, with that in mind, what’s changed? Why is it considered socially normal for a teen boy with raging hormones to obsess over “mainstream” looking girls but it raises eyebrows when an adult man can’t stop fantasizing about being crushed between the legs of a female Olympic powerlifter?

Lust is, simply put, simple. Whatever floats your boat, right? Whether you’re into skinny women, rotund women, muscular women, skinny men, rotund men, muscular men, light skin, dark skin, tall, short, long hair, short hair, hairy legs, green eyes, tattoos, or whatever else you can think of, does it really matter? What does one’s preferences say about that person?

Uh, who knows and who cares?

But this is not meant to breed any kind of negativity. By and large, guys who dig muscular women are not a persecuted class by any stretch of the imagination. Not even close. That has never been a contention of myself or, to my knowledge, anyone else for that matter. But all the blatant misconceptions can get annoying after a while.

Taylor Smith is everything you could have asked for. EVERYTHING.

Taylor Smith is everything you could have asked for. EVERYTHING.

On a side note, if being annoyed is the worst thing any of us ever experience, then consider us to be lucky. Very lucky.

The real message is this: female muscle fetishism probably doesn’t have an explanation beyond simple carnal lust. The same lust we started to feel when we reached the age of puberty. Remember that adolescent madness we went through when those icky girls with cooties suddenly transformed into immaculate creatures of divine beauty? Yeah, of course you do. Remember when you first thought of female bodybuilders as gross, freaks of nature she-males who are disgusting to look at…but now you consider them to be Amazonian Goddesses of Higher Consciousness?

Same deal. We might be exaggerating a bit, but the basic idea should ring true. Human attraction isn’t that complicated. It’s what allows for human civilization to persist for generations upon generations. The “Circle of Life” stops the moment we find no reason to find a partner, copulate, reproduce and sow the seeds for the future of humanity. Lust is instrumental to the survival of our species. It can get us in trouble at times, but without it, none of us would be here today.

Some guys are into long legs. Other guys are into muscular legs. Some gentlemen prefer blondes. Other gentlemen prefer blondes with bulging biceps and a six-pack abdomen. Some men want to watch the world burn. Other men fantasize about a Powerful Muscle Goddess lighting the torch.

All of this is to say that not everything in life has a clear and clean explanation. Not every sexual kink has to be picked apart and analyzed like the stock market. Sometimes, it is what it is. That sounds boring and un-academic, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the most prudent answer.

Nobody is denying that it can seem a bit odd for a guy to obsess over muscular women. Men are, theoretically speaking, the stronger sex. This is a role that has given us (both fairly and unfairly and with mixed results) dominance in the social sphere over our female counterparts. Who would want to abdicate that kind of power by allowing (even in a playful context) a woman to take on the “stronger sex” role? Wouldn’t guys feel intimidated by being in the presence of a muscular woman? Would that challenge his manhood? Would she attempt to challenge his manhood? What happens if he “loses?” Would this change his very identity? Why risk it in the first place?

Strong yet sexy, sturdy but feminine, striking yet accessible. Rita Sargo is all that.

Strong yet sexy, sturdy but feminine, striking yet accessible. Rita Sargo is all that.

But these questions might be completely irrelevant. In fact, one could argue they are all tone deaf to the reality of things. Female muscle fetishism most likely has nothing to do with gender roles, gender identity, self-esteem or even sexual orientation. It’s just one particular tool he has in his toolshed of lust, right next to the “Shy Catholic School Girl” and “Sexy Older Librarian Wearing a Skimpy French Maid Outfit” fetishes.

On a side note, I don’t know what a “Toolshed of Lust” would look like, but I can imagine the possibilities.

On second thought, let’s not!

In conclusion, I’ve discovered an irony in this whole essay. I could have simplified my thesis by merely stating:

A female muscle fetish isn’t as complicated as you might think.

Well, that’s sort of the title of this blog article. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in our modern age of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and social media, it’s that our shrinking attention spans are making it so that all we have the time or the inclination to do is read the headline and be on our merry way. Nobody wants to read anymore. That takes effort that I could be using watching Netflix or ordering an overpriced caramel macchiato at the eight different Starbucks located across the street. But I digress, the actual point is that this whole 1,898 word (which, by the way, is an exact word count) essay isn’t really necessary to make my point.

Don’t overthink the concept of female muscle fetishism. You can, but you might be wasting your time. It’s not pointless or futile, but probably unnecessary. We do lots of things in life that are unnecessary. We put “lol” at the end of every text message despite the fact we didn’t actually laugh out loud. We say “just sayin’” after getting done saying something. Maybe overanalyzing certain sexual fetishes is a similar exercise in frivolity.

Some guys love muscle chicks. Why? They just do.

BAM.

Fetishism, Fandom and Fortunes: The Awkward Nature of Being a Female Bodybuilder

Chellss gives me the "feels."

Chellss gives me the “feels.”

It’s hard out there for a female bodybuilder.

There are, of course, the obvious reasons why. Her profession is being squeezed out of existence by The Powers That Be. Receiving weird looks from strangers. The pressures of working in a highly competitive field. The lifestyle. The dieting. The workouts. Financial troubles. How time consuming everything can be. There are more reasons, but one in particular stands out above the rest.

Being fetishized.

I’ve discussed at length the concept of female muscle fetishism from the perspective of a guy who has it. I’ve discussed what it feels like, misconceptions about it, why it’s not a bad thing and what lessons we can learn from it. But I am about to attempt to discuss this topic from a different perspective: That of a female bodybuilder.

Obviously I am not a female bodybuilder. I am not close friends with one nor do I regularly hang out with one. But, I’ve had enough conversations with real life female bodybuilders – through muscle worship sessions during the past three years – to be able to formulate at least a few half-way decent arguments on their behalf. I don’t claim to speak for any or all female bodybuilders, but perhaps I can attempt to step out of my own shoes and look at the world from their perspective momentarily.

I might fail miserably, but it’s worth a shot. So here we go.

Female muscle fetishism unfortunately opens the doors to a number of negative consequences. Female bodybuilders are stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, they can make quite a lot of money on the side by utilizing their assets for financial gain. On the other hand, having adoring fans always comes with backlash. Let’s look at the first point in further detail.

Laurie Steele has buns of steel. See what I did there?

Laurie Steele has buns of steel. See what I did there?

The lifestyle of being a female bodybuilder is difficult from a financial point of view. The costs of being a professional bodybuilder far outweigh whatever monetary rewards one gets in return. Competitions don’t usually garner enough money to live comfortably. Only the elite competitors are afforded the luxuries that come with being at the top. The rest, unfortunately, usually have to resort to working a second job (usually in personal training, modeling, consulting, and so on) just to make ends meet. It’s agonizing to not know where your next paycheck will come from.

So, a lot of female bodybuilders will turn to offering “sessions” as a way to supplement their income. Muscle worship, wrestling, BDSM and other erotically-charged services are what we’re talking about. One cannot deny that these sessions are erotic in nature. Even if no actual sex is involved – which is usually the case – eroticism is an integral part of what these sessions are all about.

Consequently, a lot of female bodybuilders are uncomfortable with this reality. Not everyone likes doing sessions, but they feel like they must in order to put food in the table. Sexuality is a very personal aspect to one’s life. So they have every reason to feel uneasy toward being an erotic provider. While it’s true that, technically speaking, nobody forces you to offer sessions to clients, it’s perfectly understandable why one wouldn’t be 100 percent comfortable with being involved in this underground business.

That being said, a session provider – whether you’re a bodybuilder, wrestler, athlete or someone whose physical attributes are in high demand – can make a significant amount of dough if she markets herself the right way. Let’s say you charge $350 per hour. If you see 10 clients over a period of two days, you can make around $3,500 for two days’ worth of work. If you subtract the cost of the airplane ticket you purchased to get to that city (around $600), booking the hotel room (an extra $200) and food expenses ($50, assuming you don’t bring your own food), you’re still making approximately $2,650 in a 48 hour period. Even if it’s less, let’s say $2,500 or as low as $1,700, that’s an average of $850-1,250 per day, or $106-156 per hour, from the basis of a traditional eight hour working day. And these are conservative estimates. Not every city stay will be that lucrative, but you can also expect certain visits to be more profitable than others.

Her name is "DD," but I cannot find out what her real name is. Can anybody help?

Her name is “DD,” but I cannot find out what her real name is. Can anybody help?

My math can be totally off, but you can clearly see why so many FBBs provide sessions on the side. Travelling across the country (and the world, if you’re in that much demand) and seeing clients for an hour or two at a time can be a real boost to your bank account.

The financial rewards she can gain increase if she develops a loyal clientele in certain cities. Especially if she has one or two clients who are really loyal and are not against spending upwards of $500 to $600 for an extravagant session. I personally don’t have that kind of expendable income, but there are people out there who do. And they can make an FBB a small fortune if they love seeing her that much.

There is another way FBBs exploit their bodies for financial gain: Porn. Whether we’re talking about erotic photography, webcam shows or good old fashioned snuff films, we all know what we’re dealing with here. Further detail isn’t really necessary, but suffice to say, pornography is another viable way female bodybuilders can earn a steady income.

When a female bodybuilder chooses (and I cannot emphasize the word choose enough!) to do sessions, porn, or both, there’s no doubt that taking advantage of her erotic appeal is an undeniably important part of the business. There’s absolutely no obligation to do so of course, but the allure certainly is there for the taking. These financial opportunities are rooted in basic capitalistic principles, but this whole “off-the-books” business boils down to this essential ingredient: fetishism.

To review our terms for a moment, a “fetish” is “an object or bodily part whose real or fantasied presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification and that is an object of fixation to the extent that it may interfere with complete sexual expression.” To put it in proper context, it’s when guys and gals receive a strong sexual response to a female bodybuilder’s muscles. It’s no different than any other type of erotic fixation. But this discussion boils down to one very difficult question to answer:

Can you separate female muscle fandom from sexual fetishism?

Or, in other words, is it possible for female muscle fandom to be completely asexual? Certainly sports unto itself isn’t sexual. The ancient Greeks may have conducted their games in the nude, but that mostly was done because clothing can be a hindrance to an athlete’s performance. Today, we have top-of-the-line sports gear that makes that problem irrelevant. Wearing an Under Armor workout shirt almost feels like a second skin. But…we’re getting slightly off topic. Is it possible for our fascination with female muscle to be purely nonsexual? That’s a thought-provoking issue to chew on.

A statuesque Marina Lopez looking triumphant.

A statuesque Marina Lopez looking triumphant.

As discussed before, the sport of female bodybuilding has been sexualized to the point that the erotic aspect of it is probably more financially lucrative than the competitive side of it. To be fair, almost all female sports are sexualized, but that’s a whole other story. What makes bodybuilding (not just female bodybuilding, but male as well) special is the very fact that aesthetic appeal is so foundational to the sport itself. Nobody cares if you have a finely chiseled body if you can hit 40 home runs, rush for 1,500 yards or consistently hit clutch 3-pointers when it matters. Most of these athletes have fantastic looking bodies as it is, but their looks aren’t why they’re valuable. Their value is determined by their on-the-field production. For bodybuilders, their looks are all that matters.

It’s hard out there for a female bodybuilder, indeed. If it truly is impossible – or at the very least, highly difficult – to separate the sport from its erotic undertones, what do you do if you’re uncomfortable with expressing your sexuality so openly? If I were a female bodybuilder, I would have to be very comfortable with my sexuality, or else I would have to be forced to find a new day job. There’s no debate that eroticism, fetishism and the like are deeply embedded within the sport. But is that the way it has to be? Are there alternatives? Can female bodybuilding be genuinely asexual in nature?

To be honest, it can. But it won’t be easy. But that begs a further question: Why does it matter?

Or better yet: Is sexuality inherently a bad thing?

The fetish of female muscle is obviously a taboo subject. Heck, generally speaking the subject of sexuality as a whole is taboo. But from the perspective of a guy who’s attracted to strong women, it’s an especially weird topic of discussion. That’s why this often goes unspoken. From the perspective of a female bodybuilder, things are also probably pretty weird. But “weirdness” is not necessarily an indication of something being wrong. It could be an indication of something that we need to talk about more often.

But, stepping back into an FBB’s shoes for a moment, it’s perfectly understandable why the sport will always be in a tumultuous state. Incorporating sexuality into the industry keeps the ship afloat, but it can also degrade the sport into exploitative territory. Once you start to go down that path, how can you maintain a consistent level of respectability? There’s nothing wrong with sexuality, but must FBBs be reduced down to mere sex objects who exist solely to satisfy our base desires? The answer is an emphatic “no!”

Perhaps we can have it both ways. We can embrace the erotic nature of the sport without degrading the humanity of the participants. That sounds awesome in theory, but theory has a funny way of not always becoming standard practice.

This is an issue that FBBs and fans of FBBs will always wrestle with. I do not believe that sexualizing someone automatically degrades them. But I also believe it can if we allow it to happen. A female bodybuilder is caught in a perpetual cycle of disorder. Their sex appeal can make them superstars in the eyes of their adoring fans, but it also comes with negative consequences that are almost unavoidable.

So, is it fair to say that this is a “problem” every female muscle fan should be aware of? Well, yes and no. One should always be aware of the potential consequences of one’s actions. However, is it really fair to say that this is a problem to begin with? Is it inherently ruinous for sexuality to be so deeply engrained in the sport of female bodybuilding? Does the almost inseparable eroticism associated with the sport do a disservice to its competitors?

Don't get naughty around Wendy McMaster. She might spank you!

Don’t get naughty around Wendy McMaster. She might spank you!

A positive first step is to think of these issues as not being “problems,” but rather things to consider. There is probably no perfect answer. It truly is hard for female bodybuilders and athletes to exist in a business that nearly works against them if they try to downplay their sexuality. As fans, we can hold both sports-related and erotic interests in these women without being degrading to them or to ourselves. But that fine line between appreciation and objectification can be hard to distinguish.

Being fetishized can be a strange thing. Having a fetish can also be strange. If we both admit what we know to be true in our hearts, do we really need to exist with all this pent-up tension? Sometimes the best solution to our problems isn’t to come to a mutual answer, but to a level of mutual understanding. Let’s seek to understand where we all stand and carry on from there, okay?

A Semiotic Study of a Muscular Woman’s Body

Asian Muscle Goddess Penpraghai Tiangngok.

Asian Muscle Goddess Penpraghai Tiangngok.

“Semiotics” is the study of signs and symbols as elements of communicative behavior. A more comprehensive definition is “a general philosophical theory of signs and symbols that deals especially with their function in both artificially constructed and natural languages and comprises syntactics, semantics, and pragmatics.”

Huh?

Let’s dispense with the complicated academic language. “Semiotics” is a fancy way of figuring out what signs and symbols mean and why they mean it. And by “signs,” we’re not just talking about STOP signs or “Do Not Walk on the Grass” signs. The most basic and obvious form of symbols is your basic alphabet. When put together, letters of the alphabet can form words. And words have meaning (or as Led Zeppelin would like to point out, sometimes words have two meanings).

But let’s look at a few less obvious but common signs and symbols. When someone raises their middle finger at you, that usually means they’re expressing displeasure toward you at that particular moment. When someone is wearing the jersey of their favorite sports team, they’re saying – even without using any words – that they love their team and are not ashamed to show it. When someone wears a tattoo featuring the Nazi swastika, that’s a pretty good indication you probably don’t want to interact with this person at any level.

Signs and symbols are the basic ways people communicate. Speaking, writing and nonverbal indicating (such as pointing, nodding your head or clapping your hands) are only one form of communication. But there are numerous other ways people can express ideas. For example:

  • Hand gestures
  • Hair style
  • Clothing
  • Tattoos
  • Decorations inside and outside your home
  • Piercings
  • Paintings
  • Photographs
  • Poems
  • Artwork
  • Dance
  • Body language
  • Jewelry
  • Make-up
  • Bumper stickers
  • Facebook profile picture
  • Flags
  • Job title
  • Dietary choices
  • Choice of spouse or significant other
  • Pets
  • Music
  • Choice of what city/neighborhood/region you live
  • Choice of when to use certain languages (English, Spanish, French, Cantonese, Arabic, etc.)
  • Religious insignias (cross in Christianity, Star of David in Judaism, bindi in Hinduism, etc.)
  • Hashtags
  • Nicknames
  • Colors
  • Volume (of words, actions, and so on)
  • Word choices
  • Transportation choices
  • Body art
  • Facial expressions

The list goes on. Flags can be an expression of nationalistic pride. Religious-themed clothing or jewelry can signify adherence to a certain faith. Dietary choices communicates to the world messages like how you view your own health, opinions on environmental stewardship and social responsibility. In fact, here’s an old joke. How do you know if someone is a vegan? Don’t worry. They’ll tell you over and over again!

I’m not anti-vegan, but you get the idea. Being a vegan isn’t just a set of eating choices. It’s a statement on your views pertaining to health, animal rights, the environment, urbanization, human rights, sustainability, ethics, and so forth. Can it get annoying? Perhaps, but it gets annoying because from a semiotic perspective, they’re trying to tell you much more than the mere fact they prefer not to eat animal-based products.

All of this brings us to the focal point of this post: A muscular woman’s body. I’ve covered the topic of muscular women and semiotics in previous blog articles, but I’d love to explore this in further detail.

In bed with Ashley Starr.

In bed with Ashley Starr.

A muscular woman; whether she’s a professional or amateur bodybuilder, personal trainer, athlete, or noncompetitive gym rat; makes a lot of statements even without saying a single word. And not just statements, but definitive statements. I once had a college professor who told our class that “you can never not communicate.” Everything you do, whether you intend to or not, is a form of communication.

To help us understand what this means, imagine this scenario: You’re walking down a crowded street. You’re minding your own business. It’s a perfectly sunny Saturday afternoon. Clear skies, tourists and pedestrians out everywhere. All of a sudden, you see walking down the sidewalk a beautiful muscular woman. She’s making no attempts to hide her muscularity by wearing sleeveless shirt and yoga pants. She casually strolls by you. You stop and stare, but she keeps on moving at her own pace. She’s minding her own business. Most important, she doesn’t utter a single word to you. Nada. Nothing. Although she doesn’t verbally speak to you, she’s told you a whole encyclopedia’s worth of material…whether you realize it or not.

When I talk about a muscular woman’s body, I’m not referring to her hairstyle, choice of clothing, tattoos, piercings or anything like that. I’m only talking about her flesh and blood body. By themselves, her muscles are a symbol. They carry with it meaning beyond her physiological composition. So what we’re talking about isn’t a muscular woman’s entire appearance, just her muscles. Everything else is very interesting unto itself, but let’s keep it simple for the sake of this discussion.

Let’s look at some of the messages inherent in a muscular woman’s body:

1. Social defiance

Perhaps most jarring, social defiance is the loudest message being communicated by a woman’s muscles.

If we presume that society traditionally equates femininity with weakness, a muscular woman shatters those stereotypes with a sledgehammer. Female frailty is an ancient and overused theme that goes back centuries, crossing almost all cultures and continuing to persist even to the present day. Outside of a few fringe cultures that treat women as equals (or superiors) to men, for the most part human civilization has associated femininity with feebleness, softness and fragility.

Muscular women defy all that. They defy the notion that women are the weaker sex. They defy the assumption of female frailty as inevitable. They defy traditional standards of beauty. They challenge us to accept that muscles on a woman can be sexy. They refuse to be put into a box.

Unlike political beliefs, religious beliefs or any other kind of ideological system, a woman’s choice to develop muscle is obvious for all to see. There’s an old saying about how some people “wear their opinions on their sleeve,” which is to say they don’t just have opinions; they shove it in your face and persistently let the entire world know about it. However, that can get exhausting. No matter how passionate you are about something, even at the most superficial level it takes a small conversation with someone to know about it. But that’s not true with a muscular woman. Her decision to bulk up her body can’t be hidden. You can’t wear baggy clothes forever.

A woman’s decision to bulk up flies in the face of our conventional expectations of beautiful women having to be slender and curvy. Big muscles are supposed to be reserved for guys. Big muscles on a woman, on the other hand, aren’t what any of us expect to see. So when we do see it, we instantly realize what she’s doing. She’s creating her own standards of beauty. She’s redefining what it means to be attractive. She’s defying other people’s expectations and setting her own.

2. Self-respect

Anyone, whether male or female, who can boast having a fit, muscular body might as well carry around a sign that says in big bold letters “I Take Care of Myself.” Generally speaking, you don’t look that way unless you make a conscious decision to do so. You don’t become muscular by accident. It’s a choice you make to sculpt your body to fit a certain aesthetic.

Becoming “buff” isn’t just about lifting weights. It requires watching your diet. So no excessive sugary sweets, rich coffee drinks or deep fried foods. You have to make sacrifices most of us in the general public (me included!) wouldn’t want to make. While it’s true that excessive exercise and extreme dieting can be unhealthy if taken too far, generally speaking men and women who “look good” take specific measures to look that way.

Self-respect means believing in your own potential. It means setting goals and having an actionable plan to achieve those goals. Goal-oriented people tend to achieve more in life than people who wander around aimlessly. A female bodybuilder, for example, wants to be a winner. Professional (and dedicated amateur) athletes all want to be winners. You don’t get to that level unless you sincerely believe you can do it.

But even if a muscular woman doesn’t compete at any level, she still has self-respect. Perhaps her goals are different. She wants to look fantastic. She wants to inspire others. She wants to prove to herself that she can do whatever she wants. Regardless, the common denominator is that she has her goals set high and will never back down from reaching her full potential. This determination is obvious just from looking at her hard-earned physique. You don’t have to ask her about it. You can see it right in front of you.

3. A desire to shatter social stereotypes

Directly related to point #1, a muscular woman’s body can be an indication that she wants to shatter the stereotypes we have about strength and gender identity. The most obvious example is the idea of female weakness/male superiority. But, if you add elements of race, height, sex appeal and fashion choices into the mix, things can get very complicated.

For example, if a muscular woman chooses to wear baggy jeans and a fur coat everywhere – even if it’s not particularly cold – that’s probably an indication she doesn’t want the public to notice her muscularity. If, on the other hand, she chooses to wear yoga pants and a skimpy top that generously shows off her arms and torso, she definitely wants people to notice her. Not bother or harass her, but see her. Whether she’s motivated by narcissism or personal comfort is impossible to tell. What is obvious is that she’s okay with people seeing her hard work on full display.

In addition to social defiance, a muscular woman who chooses to show off her body is also maybe trying to change the way people view women as a whole. Not just muscular women, but every woman on planet Earth. She wants people to no longer believe women are destined for weakness. She wants people to be convinced that men don’t have a monopoly on strength. Maybe she wants society to redefine what it means to be “beautiful,” “feminine,” and “desirable.” Instead of telling people that “strong is beautiful,” she decides instead to put her money where her mouth is and let the entire world know that she’s a muscular woman who believes she’s just as beautiful as the women you see on the cover of magazines.

Julie Bonnett looking as lovely as ever.

Julie Bonnett looking as lovely as ever.

Stereotypes are commonly accepted boxes we use to put people into. Not all stereotypes are malicious. Some are quite flattering (all Asians are good at math, anyone?). But some are hurtful. For example:

Muscular women are gross. Women shouldn’t look like that! Big muscles makes her look like a man! Men will never find that attractive. She needs to stop bulking up or else she might actually become a man!

All these stereotypes are complete B.S. We female muscle fans know it. But not everyone shares our perspective. Muscular women know this as well, probably better than us. This is why her biceps aren’t just an indication that she works out. They’re a metaphorical hammer of Thor intended to smash into a million pieces every one of these sophomoric beliefs.

4. A redefinition of sexuality

For many of us, the first thing that catches our attention when it comes to sex appeal is a person’s physical appearance. Their face, body, the way they walk, etc. What really catches our attention is anything out of the norm. A stunningly gorgeous face or a killer pair of legs, for example, stand out because of their uniqueness in addition to their obvious aesthetic appeal.

A muscular woman’s sexuality also stands out. Because so much of sex appeal is based on looks, a muscular woman’s intentional transformation of her physical appearance makes this discussion almost inevitable. How can she not be making a statement about her sexuality?

As mentioned before, not everyone who appears “sexy” is intentionally trying to look sexy. But if you have natural good looks, no matter what you do (outside of covering your entire body with a sheet) you’re going to communicate desirability. Or, perhaps, how we as a society defines “desirable.”

Consider this: How many people in our world consider muscles on a woman to be sexy? A number of us, obviously. But certainly not everyone. A woman who chooses to sculpt large muscles on her body cannot help but make a statement about what limits we should or should not put on female attractiveness. She’s saying (implicitly or explicitly, it doesn’t really matter) muscles on a woman can be sexy. She’s saying guys who find her attractive are right to do so. She isn’t necessarily saying that people who find her unattractive solely because of her muscles are wrong, but they shouldn’t discount the opinions of others who do.

Muscles challenge our preconceived thoughts about female sexuality. It shows they can be both strong and beautiful, muscular and feminine, unconventional and desirable, empowered and nonthreatening. They’re not trying to shatter how we view female sexuality. They’re trying to expand how we think about female sexuality (and male sexuality, for that matter). They’re not trying to destroy the box. They’re trying to make the box bigger.

Why must we limit how we define “beautiful?” It makes no sense.

5. Unconventionality

This is probably the broadest point of all, but a muscular woman’s body communicates that she’s an unconventional person. Unconventionality comes in many forms. We’ve already discussed a few of these aspects above. But generally speaking, muscles on a woman’s body tell us many things such as:

“I’m the most competitive person you’ll ever meet.”

“I may not look traditionally beautiful, but I am.”

“I’m stronger than most women around here.”

“I will fight back if provoked, unlike others.”

“You can doubt me all you want, but I’ll prove you wrong every single time.”

“My life is different than the rest. But it’s the life I choose to live.”

“I don’t eat the same foods you do, nor eat at the same times you do.”

“I’m a professional athlete. I don’t spend 8 hours behind a desk every day.”

“I truly don’t care what other people think.”

“I love being different.”

“I will prove that muscles on a woman can be sexy. See? Look at me!”

How can a muscular woman not be unconventional? Anyone who consciously defies social norms is intentionally going against tradition. She may not abhor tradition or wish to knock it down with a wrecking ball, but she’s definitely a daisy growing in a field of red roses.

It’s hard not to return back to the point of female frailty. Everything revolves around this paradigm. A muscular woman is so fascinating precisely because she forces us to rethink our preconceived notions about the fundamental differences between men and women. Everything we thought we knew about the world may be wrong. They may be right, but every once in a while we encounter situations that challenge us to open our minds to new hypotheses.

Check out the colorful bikini being rocked by Maria Rita Penteado. Very cute!

Check out the colorful bikini being rocked by Maria Rita Penteado. Very cute!

The unconventional challenge us not to alter our conventions, but question why we have conventions in the first place.

Strong women raise these questions. It is now up to us to try to answer them.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that muscular women are a fascinating topic to talk about. Whether you love them, hate them, or aren’t quite sure what to feel, you cannot help but have an opinion about them – even if you’ve never actually met one in the flesh. These snap judgements are at the heart of this semiotic analysis of a muscular woman’s body.

Fairly or unfairly, every one of us communicates something every single moment of our lives. Intention has nothing to do with it. We see signs and messages everywhere we go. Messages telling us what to think, what to believe, how to feel, how to behave, how to interact with others, and so on. Our world is full of these symbols. Most of us are not aware of them, myself included. But the more alert we are to them, the better we can understand our world.

What interests me on a personal level is talking about how mesmerizing muscular women are. They’re captivating for reasons that go beyond their beauty. When we look at the symbols inherent in her physique, we start to better understand things like sexism, misogyny, human sexuality, relationships, biology, social prejudice, social defiance, the business of advertising, marketing strategies, double standards, beauty, aesthetics, power dynamics, expectations, gender roles, stereotypes, femininity, masculinity, world history, politics, money, human communication, cognitive development, and much more. The list can go on forever. When we really think about female bodybuilding, female athletes and the presence of muscles on a female body, almost every problem we face in the 21st century starts to become clearer. Think about how fundamentally different our society would be if women were just as biologically strong as men. Think hard about that. It’s enough to blow your mind, isn’t it?

The badass that is Suzy Kellner.

The badass that is Suzy Kellner.

Semiotics is all about being aware of what we’re being taught, how we’re being taught, and how we can teach others. Communication is the building block of human civilization. Cities, nations, communities and families would not exist without communication. So the better we understand how we communicate; both verbally and nonverbally, both intentionally and unintentionally, both implicitly and explicitly; the better people we’ll be.

Sound like a big task? It should because it is. Muscular women are creatures who blow my mind. I can’t stop thinking about them on both a primal and intellectual level. They demand closer inspection. They demand our attention. They demand our respect. They demand us to understand them better. Let’s hope that comprehending them on a semiotic level is a productive first step.