What’s So Alluring About Female Bodybuilders?

FBB and Miss Universe 2007 Alina Popa.

Here’s a question that might be on some of your minds:

So, Ryan: Why are you so into female bodybuilders?

As any reader of my blog can attest to, the subject of female bodybuilding is very prevalent in “The Adventures of Ryan Takahashi” fiction series. The central character, Ryan Takahashi, is engaging in a budding romantic relationship with Cindi North, a fictitious female bodybuilder who exemplifies all the fetishistic qualities of a superhuman woman.

She’s tall (described as being 6 foot 4 inches).

She’s thick.

She has bulging muscles all over her body (her biceps are compared to cantaloupes).

She possesses strength that many male bodybuilders cannot attain.

These are all qualities not normally associated with “average” women. And society tends not to put these types of women on a pedestal. We tend to prefer our females not to look like she could bend steel with her bare hands or play defensive end in the NFL.

So…what’s so alluring about female bodybuilders? Why am I, your humble blogger living in Seattle (or at least, a suburb of Seattle), so obsessed and attracted to female bodybuilders? What’s my deal? Am I some freak? Did my parents raise me wrong? Do I have a messed up relationship with my mother?

The answer is, quite frankly, no. I am not a freak. My parents raised me just fine. And I regularly go to church with my mother on Sunday mornings. I’m pretty normal, outside of me being Japanese-American, which is a group of people you don’t meet very often.

To answer your question, here are my top five reasons why I’m attracted to female bodybuilders:

1. Muscle is sexy

From the times of ancient Greece to today, people with muscles have traditionally been revered for their strength, agility, physical superiority, hard work, dedication and aesthetic. From Michelangelo’s David, to the mythical character of Hercules, to modern day professional athletes, muscle has always been sexy.

Hard, ripped muscles convey all the qualities listed above. Strength means power. Hard work and dedication are positive characteristics valued by every society throughout time. And, of course, there’s the aesthetic aspect to it. Muscles catch our eye because they tell us this person has taken the time to improve themselves. This puts them on a higher level than the rest of us. We can trust them to do any of the “heavy lifting” needed by our society.

Victoria Dominguez, a.k.a. “Mistress Treasure.”

However, historically muscled supermen have been just that: men. Women very rarely have been valued for their physical strength. In addition to sexism (a subject that is beyond the scope of this essay), there might be a biological explanation.

It is no mystery that women are not as naturally strong as men. This brings me to my next point.

2. Muscular women boldly break stereotypes and cultural expectations

Because women are not expected to be as strong as men, what’s there not to like about those few brave women who aim to shatter these expectations?

This is probably why a lot of men are repulsed, disgusted or offended by women with muscles. They make them feel weak, emasculated and less of a man. If a woman has bigger biceps than you, what does that say about you? Our culture would say you’re puny and not worthy of your “man” status.

As I write this, the 2012 London Olympics is happening. This is a time when hundreds of millions of people around the globe (apparently, 1 billion people watched the Opening Ceremony) are seeing right in their homes a multitude of young men and women in the prime physical condition of their lives. This is when women with muscles (and other amazing physical abilities) are showcased like never before. And this has caused some cultural clashes.

Some Internet trolls are calling these women “gross,” “man-like” and any other hurtful labels. These are not women who aspire to be men. These are women who aspire to be great.

Deidre Pagnanelli. She’s in her 40s and has 4 kids. Impressed?

While bodybuilding is not an Olympic sport, female bodybuilders nevertheless are also vulnerable to these kinds of verbal attacks, even if it’s at a smaller scale. But they persevere and boldly break these social stereotypes with no shame, embarrassment or second-guessing. Though I’ve never met an FBB, I’m going to guess a majority of them are not doing what they do to emasculate men. They’re doing it to raise the bar for their fellow women.

There’s something to admire about those who are fearless about shattering stereotypes and defying cultural expectations. Do women belong in the kitchen? Hell no! They belong in the gym, pumping iron to become as strong as they can possibly be.

3. Female bodybuilders earn their beauty

Not all of us are born with the genetic material necessary to become a supermodel. Not all of us, even with the graces of Photoshop and other digital image editing software, have what it takes to be featured on the cover of magazines.

Essentially, beauty (or, our personal and collective standards of beauty) is something you are born with. No amount of cosmetic surgery will make you more beautiful than the limitations of what you are given (we all know how off-putting it is to see someone who has had a little too much work done. It can, ironically, make them look less attractive).

But this is not true with female bodybuilders.

Bodybuilding is a sport unlike any other sport. Winners of bodybuilding competitions win because of their aesthetic appeal more than their ability to shoot a basketball, catch a football or hit a baseball. They are judged by their size, shape, symmetry and presentability.

Krissy Chin, an Asian muscle goddess.

In this regard, female bodybuilders earn their beauty. Even if they are not born with a naturally beautiful face, they have direct control over the look of the rest of their body. No one can control what their face looks like, but everyone can control the appearance of their quadriceps, biceps, triceps, pecs, abs and other muscle groups.

To put it in another way, female bodybuilders redefine their beauty by creating their own personal standards of beauty.

And this is something to admire. How many of us genuinely admire a gorgeous supermodel? We brush them off and say things like, “They’re only rich and famous because of the way they look.” Unfortunately, this perspective has some truth to it. Gorgeous people are born gorgeous. But nobody is born with ripped muscles.

I respect a female bodybuilder’s beauty because she has earned it through years of training, long hours of hard work, radically changing her diet, sacrificing her personal comfort for the sake of making her body strong and investing a large chunk of her free time toward achieving her lofty goals.

She has my respect because she deserves her beauty; nothing was given to her for free. There’s nothing sexier than a woman whose beauty comes from her relentless pursuit of perfection through excruciatingly hard work, not a surgeon’s knife.

4. Female bodybuilders treat their bodies like a piece of art

While bodybuilding is technically a sport, one could also argue it is an art. Like traditional athletes, bodybuilders train endlessly to perfect their craft in the name of competition. However, unlike football or hockey players, bodybuilders are more concerned by how they look versus how well they can outmaneuver a cornerback or slap a puck past a goalie.

Bodybuilders willingly put themselves in a position where they are judged by their looks. As a society, we already judge women by their looks, so it must take extra courage for a woman to put herself in a situation where not only is she judged by her looks, but she’s judged by standards that are far outside the norm.

Which brings us to the concept of “art:”

Painters have their canvases, brushes and paints. Musicians have their instruments. Singers have their voices. Writers have their pens and imagination. Sculptors have their clay. Bodybuilders have….their body.

For a woman to put herself in that vulnerable of a position, where she is outwardly judged by her looks while shattering our typical conventions of “femininity,” takes guts that must border on obsession. Her chiseled look doesn’t happen by accident. It’s all a product of her taking a pro-active stance on how she wants to live her life.

Sounds like an artist, doesn’t it? The mindset of a female bodybuilder is no different from Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dali, William Shakespeare or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Their dedication takes on a life of its own. She must sacrifice more than most of us are willing to sacrifice in order to make her body look the way she wants it.

Sounds very artistic, doesn’t it?

A true artist should strive for perfection even if the general public considers their work to be just fine. A true artist should never be satisfied with their art, as they are perpetually searching for the “truth” in their art. The French poet Paul Valery once said “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.”

Miss Cross is one of my favorites. She’s beautiful, muscular and British. What’s there not to like?

Likewise, even on the day of a competition, a female bodybuilder’s body is never finished; it is always a work in progress. That day happens to be the day that people will finally judge her.

Like any astute art critic, may they judge her harshly but fairly.

5. The concept of a female bodybuilder is both intellectually and sexually arousing

Aren’t women supposed to be the weaker sex?

If you’re a female bodybuilder, the answer is a resounding “NO!”

But, alas, society at large still views women as weaker and frailer compared to their male counterparts. Generally, they’re shorter, smaller in stature and have less muscle mass. In short, they ARE the weaker sex.

Biologically speaking, none of this can be proven false. This is why the concept of a female bodybuilder is both intellectually and sexually exciting.

A woman who takes it upon herself to make herself strong definitely has my vote of confidence. I’d vote for her if she ran for president. It takes a strong mind to want to prove the entirety of human history to be wrong. It takes an even stronger mind to actually go out and do it.

By defying our entire paradigm of maleness vs. femaleness, she seeks to redefine her identity by tearing down the status quo. Or does she?

Female bodybuilders are often at odds with society because they are expected to exhibit many cultural dualities: She must be strong, but nurturing; she must be muscular, but feminine; she must be tough, but not “unlady-like;” she must be as strong as a man, but not emasculate him. In other words, she must walk that fine (and impossible) line between being strong and being a woman.

Colette Nelson’s chest is out of this world. And I’m not referring to her breasts!

Often female bodybuilders are automatically accused of being lesbians. While plenty of professional bodybuilders (and figure and fitness competitors) are lesbians, a lot of them are not. Many of them are married to a man. Some have children. Some have many children. Some compete professionally, take some time off to become a mother, and resume her bodybuilding career once her children become old enough.

An FBB is always juggling multiple social and internal pressures that are nearly impossible to balance. She must do what she does because she wants to do it. There will always be people out there who say she is “becoming a man” or “compromising her femininity.”

No wonder why you need the heart of a poet to put yourself through all this agony!

And this is why female bodybuilders are so sexually exciting. In addition to looking visually stunning, their open defiance of our culture’s expectations of “femaleness” should make them popular to any anti-establishment, pro-freedom intellectual.

I find female bodybuilders alluring because by lifting weights, they are saying “FUCK YOU” to society (even if they don’t consciously carry around this negative attitude).

So go for it, honey. Pump those weights. Don’t be ashamed to drip with gallons of sweat after a grueling work out. Drink those protein shakes. Do what it takes to make your muscles huge.

Become as beautiful as you can be.

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15 thoughts on “What’s So Alluring About Female Bodybuilders?

  1. I found this post after you wound up on my blog and I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed reading this. I’m not a bodybuilder – far from it – but I admire the dedication of those who are bodybuilders and also the way the women who pursue bodybuilding are so comfortable existing in that space between what society considers masculine and feminine.

  2. Thanks, Caitlin, for reading my blog! I also read your blog and I’ve enjoyed hearing your perspective on fitness and gender issues. Speaking of female bodybuilders existing in that space between “masculine” and “feminine,” check out all the pictures in my post. Do any of these women look “masculine” to you? Of course not! They look like women because they ARE women.

  3. Ryan, your writing is refreshing and entertaining. I really enjoyed this piece on female bodybuilders, largely because of your perspective, honesty, and elaboration on stereotypes and gender politics. I’ve never really examined the FBB world, but your essay has been thought-provoking. Thank you.

    • I appreciate the kind words, Michelle. I consider the highest compliment to ever give a writer is to be “thought-provoking.” Not “emotionally-provoking,” but thoughtful. Thank you for reading my blog!

  4. Hey Ryan, nice post on female bodybuilding. I just recently retired after working in the fitness industry for fifteen years. It is the one thing that has always been – and will continue to be – a priority in my life. I never got into bodybuilding though I’ve had a few friends who did. I’m not sure that I’d want to be quite this muscular, but I commend anyone who does it. It is a huge commitment and hard, hard work – and not just literally. The diet, the training, the time, everything. Glad you can appreciate it!

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  6. I may spend a lot of time in fitness training (for skiing) but body building is not something I have tried – not dedicated enough?
    However do admire females who try it as they look less freakish than extreme male body builders. What does worry me is the use of steroids and their side effects if used in an uncontrolled manner. Well, if used at all.
    All the same, a fascinating blog. Thanks for visiting mine and I look forward to reading your thoughts as time goes by.

    • I often wonder how prevalent steroid use is among both professional and amateur bodybuilders. You’d be surprised how far a good diet, smart workout schedule and generous genetics can take you. Thanks for reading my blog. I definitely will check out yours as well!

      • Ryan, you really have no clue at all about sport of bodybuilding (“die”, “smart workout scehdule”….hahahaha! lol) Come on. What fairy tale you had been reading? Sometimes people have elevated testosterone (I do) but trust me, event that is not enough. If you really think female bodybuilders or even figure competitors got there without steroids and estrogen blockers…flying saucers landed in DC yesterday too, yes?? –source, athletes of many years, formerly trained for bodybuilding, no circus acrobat

      • This is an older post, and I am not too sure if your site is active anymore.
        But, I will say, my boyfriend’s last 2 girlfriend’s have been bodybuilders. In the last year I have lost about 45 pounds and gained 12-14 in muscle (I am small, 5’1) lifting each day, super clean diet, but without steroids, I will never look like those women…
        Now, I do not want to either. Everyone has their own standard of beauty, but I like looking fit, healthy and feminine- in my opinion Female body builder don’t. I respect other opinions of course.

        But what I find sad is that now even though it is not my desire to look like these girls, I feel I am measured by them. Now, my boyfriend fell in love with my at 45 pounds overweight and out of shape… and he still says I was beautiful- even back then. But, in my own thought I have a hard time understanding the allure of female Bodybuilders… Again, to me, you cannot take their long hair and makeup off and tell if they are a girl or a boy… That is not a look I want, but now feel I SHOULD want… how confusing is that???

  7. Pingback: Female Muscle and Masculine Insecurity | The Adventures of Ryan Takahashi

  8. Pingback: Incomprehensible Admiration: The Internal Thoughts of a Female Muscle Lover | The Adventures of Ryan Takahashi

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