Respecting Those We Lust After: The Sexual Objectification of Female Bodybuilders

Dina al-Sabah, the Muscle Goddess from Kuwait.

Dina al-Sabah, the Muscle Goddess from Kuwait.

I love female muscle.

That should be obvious to everyone. I really love strong women. I love the way they look. I love the giddy feelings they give me whenever I look at pictures of them. I love meeting them in person for muscle worship sessions. I love talking to them about their careers, their lifestyles and the sacrifices they’ve had to make to achieve their immaculate physique.

But there’s a problem here. A problem I feel compelled to address both honestly and openly.

Am I objectifying them?

It’s a fair question. Do I merely lust after these women instead of “admiring” them as world-class athletes? Is my attempt to intellectualize my respect for female bodybuilders just my way of hiding the fact that I really think of them as sex objects instead of human beings? Am I dehumanizing these women whenever I have lustful thoughts about them?

All fair questions. And all of them deserve to be discussed in detail. I’m a big proponent of open, productive dialogue. So let’s begin this discourse!

Of course, I’m biased (because I’m talking about myself), but I don’t believe I’m objectifying the very women I’ve spent the past few years writing about. But let’s first discuss semantics. What exactly does “objectify” mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “objectify” means “to treat as an object or cause to have objective reality.”

Simply put, in regards to interpersonal relationships, it means when you treat a person not as a human being but as tool for your own personal benefit. In popular vernacular, “objectify” usually connotes sexual objectification. When someone treats another person as merely an object for their selfish sexual gratification, that person is objectifying the other. This is considered dehumanizing because you don’t care about their feelings, thoughts and/or point of view. You only care about what they have to offer you personally.

Countless books and academic dissertations have been written on the subject. I highly encourage you to read more about this if you’re truly interested.

But on the other hand, it’s perfectly normal to be sexually attracted to someone. Human beings have desires they cannot control. I didn’t choose to be smitten by the beauty of my high school crush. It just happened. Yes, I liked her for different reasons too (she was very smart and we came from similar cultural backgrounds), but her physical beauty was what initially attracted me to her. Everything else I liked about her I discovered later once we got to know each other.

The object of my desire, Monique Jones.

The object of my desire, Monique Jones.

The same goes for my love of female muscle. I love muscular women. I love the way they look. I think muscles on a feminine form is beautiful. Beautiful beyond words. Beyond description. I’ve written many essays discussing why I love female muscle and how psychologically impactful they’ve been on me. Many of my readers share this love with me. Just take a moment to read some of the comments on my articles.

But my love for female muscle isn’t just aesthetic. It’s also emotional. I think it’s brave to sculpt your body to a standard that completely contradicts what society at large preaches to us. I’m a strong believer in the social benefits of women lifting weights at the gym (there are also obvious health benefits too). I think our world would be a much better place for all of us if we encouraged the “strong is beautiful” mantra instead of “skinny is beautiful.” The latter has faced significant backlash in recent years. The former is just starting to emerge.

So, where does that leave us? How is it possible to humanize someone that I can only see from a distance?

I will admit that there is a fine line between objectifying a woman and being sexually attracted to her. Obviously, I will never actually meet most of the women I’ve come to love. I’ve only met three female bodybuilders in my life, all from participating in muscle worship sessions with them. So for me, it’s hard to get to know someone you simply…can’t ever get to know. Unlike my high school crush that I eventually mustered the courage to ask to the Homecoming dance during my senior year in high school, I will have virtually no chance of meeting and interacting with any of these FBBs.

But that’s not my only “way out.” I realize that an FBB is a human being, no different than you or I. I fully understand that a muscular woman doesn’t exist solely to satiate my own personal fetishes. Even the three FBBs I’ve had the pleasure of meeting I treated with the utmost respect. I tried to be kind. I apologized to one who had the misfortune of having a lot of cancellations before coming to Seattle. I know many of these women may not even like doing these sessions, but they do them because it gives them a consistent source of income. Travelling takes you away from your friends and family. It’s tough to financially support yourself when you’re involved in a career that isn’t terribly lucrative.

On a personal level, I recognize their humanity and never feel I am entitled to receive whatever I want from them. I hope other people who interact with FBBs do the same.

Dana Lynn Bailey is a living legend.

Dana Lynn Bailey is a living legend.

But don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to preach some “holier-than-thou” message and condemn anyone who made a mistake and treated a muscular woman with rudeness. That is not my intention at all. Rather, I’m just trying to wrap my mind around rationalizing my love for female muscle without falling into the trap of “objectifying” them.

Let’s put it this way: the concept of misogyny. Misogyny is “the hatred of women.” I am far from being a misogynist. But as any feminist critic will tell you, there is a long list of behaviors and attitudes that can be construed as “misogynistic.” Unfortunately, when discussing sexuality, gender relations and feminist theory in general, too often the discussion becomes a shouting match instead of a productive discussion. It’s easy to label men like us as misogynistic because of how much we lust after FBBs.

Is my love for female muscle linked to some deep-seeded hatred for women? Do I love them because they’re women who are more like men, whom obviously I believe are far superior? The answer to these questions is a resounding “NO!”

A great shot of Roberta Toth.

A great shot of Roberta Toth.

My love for muscular women has nothing to do with the fact their physique makes them “look like a man.” It’s easy to slam a person as “objectifying” a muscular woman when you don’t see the world from their perspective. If anything, we’re anti-misogynistic because we love these women for being empowered, powerful (both physically and mentally), determined, goal-oriented and not caring what the rest of the world thinks.

But I digress (boy, what a cliché!) This can be a little extreme. I don’t think too many people who criticize men who love strong women truly believe they actually hate them to any degree. Instead, I think the main criticism we face mostly comes from the accusation that we fetishize these ladies. For example:

White men who only date Asian women are always accused of fetishizing them:

You don’t like them because of who they are. You like them because you love their Asian features and behaviors. You don’t care about them as a person. You only married her because you can’t get enough of her slanted eyes, black hair, slim figure and golden yellow skin. You keep her around because you expect her to be subservient and satisfy your every sexual desire unconditionally.

We’ve all heard this before. And this is just one example. There are plenty more out there. Suffice to say, men who love muscular women might also be slandered for feeling the same way:

You only like them because their muscles turn you on! You only like them because you find their bodies attractive, not them as people. The only purpose a female bodybuilder serves to you is to help you satisfy your personal sexual gratifications. They’re a fetish to you, no different than watching porn or seeing young girls in Catholic school uniforms.

And so on. We’re not fans of these women. We’re creepy, animalistic chauvinist pigs. The fact these women are physically strong means nothing. If you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. If you put muscles on a woman, it doesn’t change the fact you’re unequivocally objectifying her.

I really love Lindsay Mulinazzi.

I really love Lindsay Mulinazzi.

But let’s hold on for a moment. All judging aside, there’s nothing wrong with being enamored by someone’s physical beauty. It’s nature. It’s natural. It’s a product of hormones, biology and generations and generations of reproduction. Also, there’s nothing morally reprehensible about being physically attracted to someone. Man or woman, gay or straight, it’s all part of human nature. But how you treat a person, however, is a whole other can of worms.

That’s really what this entire conversation boils down to in a nutshell (wait, can you really boil something down to a nutshell? I may have meshed two idioms into one…). How you treat a person. The Miss America pageant is criticized for putting attractive young women on display for no purpose other than to give male viewers something pleasant to look at for a few hours. The Legends Football League (formerly the Lingerie Football League)? Infamous at best. Misogynistic at worst. But nevertheless, no one watches it for the “sport.”

I will admit this is a difficult subject to broach. This conversation hits a lot of us on a gut level. It’s hard to separate my personal desires from my yearning to communicate fairly and objectively. So here is how I will approach this issue:

Objectification, at its core, is a personal thing. Try as we may, we can never know what’s in someone’s heart. Are there men out there who treat FBBs only as sex objects and not as people? Yes. Are there people (men and women) out there who detest FBBs because of their outdated definitions of “femininity?” Yes. Are some female muscle fantasies (for example, wanting to hurt, degrade or humiliate an FBB) shared by some of us rooted in misogyny? Yes, it’s quite possible.

Diana Tinnelle Stanback is someone I've recently discovered. Why haven't I known about her longer?

Diana Tinnelle Stanback is someone I’ve recently discovered. Why haven’t I known about her longer?

I’m not here to deny that objectification happens. I’m not going to argue that misogyny is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, both are still prevalent in our world.

But…we’ll never know for sure how someone feels. What lies in your heart is something no one else will ever know. I know in my heart that I’ve never dehumanized a muscular woman. I treat them as people, not toys. But no matter how much I try to convince myself of this, there’s always that lingering bit of doubt in my mind.

The sport of bodybuilding is all about aesthetic and judging this aesthetic. It goes against what we’ve been taught about how to treat people. A judge at a bodybuilding contest judges a competitor purely based on what their body looks like. How nice they are, how smart they are, and how hard they’ve worked to get to this point doesn’t matter. What matters is how they appear in your subjective (though based on predetermined objective criteria) viewpoint. This goes counter to our culture that teaches us not to be shallow and judge someone on their looks. But within the context of the sport of bodybuilding, this type of judgment is completely justified.

A bodybuilder willingly puts themselves out there to be judged. This requires a level of self-esteem most of us do not possess. So if you really like how they look, is that such a bad thing? After all, their livelihood depends on improving their body’s appearance. If fans out there love the results, what’s the harm?

So we’re in a strange situation where we’re discussing people who willingly put themselves out there and dedicate their lives to shaping their bodies to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible. While a bodybuilder’s chief objective isn’t to maximize their sex appeal, inevitably they’re going to enhance their sex appeal whether they like it or not. True, they’re athletes, not models. But when you sculpt your body to superhuman proportions, eventually somebody’s going to notice!

The lesson to be learned is simple: treat others as you would want to be treated. The Golden Rule is as old as time, but it’s stood the test of time for a reason. It’s a damn good rule to follow!

Don’t treat a female bodybuilder like a piece of meat. If you ever encounter one, treat her with respect. Don’t expect her to do certain things for you or allow you to do certain things to her just because you saw a video of her doing similar activities to a paid actor. Recognize their humanity. Accept that it’s perfectly okay to find her sexually attractive, but don’t allow this attraction to warp your perceptions of them.

The Blonde Muscle Goddess Cindy Phillips.

The Blonde Muscle Goddess Cindy Phillips.

Essentially, don’t be a jerk. You’ll be fine if you always act as kind and respectful as you can.

Will some people continue to ridicule you? Of course. Will certain folks still insist there’s something fundamentally “wrong” with you? Naturally. Just tune them out. Only you know what’s in your mind and heart.

The issue of sexual objectification is a tough one to tackle. Human history is chock full of battles between people wanting to be acknowledged as human beings and people who refuse to treat them like that. This still continues today.

People are people. We are all people trying to make our way through this confusing universe. Our time is limited here on planet Earth. We shouldn’t make things harder on each other if we can avoid it.

So embrace your female muscle fandom. And show your appreciation for these ladies and all their hard work. It’s the most respectful thing you can do.

Advertisements

What Your Female Muscle Fantasies Say About You

If your female muscle fantasy doesn't involve Ava Cowan, well...I don't know what to do with you.

If your female muscle fantasy doesn’t involve Ava Cowan, well…I don’t know what to do with you.

We all have fantasies. Fantasies about throwing the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl. Fantasies about being a brilliant scientist winning the Nobel Peace Prize for curing world hunger. Fantasies about hitting the go-ahead home run in Game 7 of the World Series. Fantasies about being elected President of the United States.

Without fantasies, what fun would it be to live our lives knowing something more exciting wasn’t possible? Of course, no one realistically expects to ever become POTUS, but it sure is fun to daydream while you’re wasting time at your desk job.

But for female muscle fans, we also have fantasies. In fact, these fantasies make up the majority of our female muscle fandom. Odds are we’re never going to ever be able to date a beautiful female bodybuilder. Romantic (and platonic) relationships with them are not going to happen any time soon. It sucks, but this is reality.

This explains why fantasy is so appealing to us. If we can’t live out our dreams, we might as well keep dreaming, right?

Right! There’s no harm in daydreaming, is there? Well, maybe if we take our fantasies a little too far or we let them negatively affect our personal lives. But that is neither here nor there. What is infinitely more interesting is dissecting what our fantasies say about us. Fantasies reveal what we find attractive. They tell us about our fears, our insecurities, our views about certain people, our most intimate desires.

The beauty about fantasies is that no one has to know about them but you. Unless you tell someone, of course. But more often than not, we keep our sex fantasies to ourselves because, well, it’s a little weird for our friends and family to be in the know about these things!

I’m not a psychology expert and haven’t done any extensive research about sexual fantasies and secret fetishes. Therefore I’m only going off of what little I do know and my own educated guesses. So take what I have to say with the proverbial grain of salt. It may be informative salt, but it’s a mere grain of salt nevertheless.

So let’s discuss a few common sexual fantasies involving female muscle and explore what they might possibly mean. Some of these fantasies I have, and others I do not but I know for a fact that other guys do. I want to be inclusive and not exclude anyone’s perspective(s) just because I don’t happen to share it.

1. I want a strong woman as my wife/girlfriend and I want her to control the relationship

The desire to have a muscular girlfriend or wife is nothing unusual for men like us. However, the dynamics of that relationship can differ from guy to guy. For example, let’s talk about the concept of a Female Led Relationship (commonly referred to an FLR). Simply put, a Female Led Relationship is exactly what it sounds like. In a male/female relationship, instead of the man being the leader of the relationship, the woman takes on that role.

However, this particular relationship arrangement is more erotic in nature than financial. When the woman is the main breadwinner of the household, this is not necessarily an FLR in the strictest sense of the term. There has to be an erotic aspect to it to really make it a true FLR. Roleplaying, BDSM-type activities and sexual banter meant to demean the man and demonstrate dominance of the woman are all par for the course.

If Kim Birtch wanted to take control in bed, I'd let her. Wouldn't you?

If Kim Birtch wanted to take control in bed, I’d let her. Wouldn’t you?

This fantasy really boils down to power. A guy who desires a muscular woman to control of the relationship really desires to relinquish the power he actually has in real life. There is a lot of pressure on American men to be everything: the moneymaker, the leader, the decision-maker and the strong one in times of duress. Unfortunately, a down economy makes this difficult. With unemployment rates continuing to stagger and women gaining higher social status than ever before, it’s difficult for a man to be a “man’s man” in today’s world.

The eroticism behind a Female Led Relationship takes root in the secret desire of a lot of straight men to have this burden lifted from their shoulders. They don’t want to lead. They don’t want to make decisions. They want someone else to “wear the pants” and “be the man.” These feelings come out in the bedroom.

Your muscular girlfriend decides what happens in bed? Check. She hurls insults at you and degrades your masculinity? Check. You let her do whatever she wants sexually and you have no say in the matter? Check. The list goes on and on.

2. I want a muscular woman to dominate me in the bedroom and torture me

This takes point #1 a step further. This crosses into the territory of bondage, domination, submission and masochism (sometimes the “d” stands for “discipline” and the “s” stands for “sadism”). You know the drill: humiliation, being tied up, forced sexual activities, ball gags, ropes, hot candle wax, collars, anal plugs, chains, whips, handcuffs, strict rules, safe words, etc.

This list is so long I won’t even attempt to summarize everything! Just Google it if you’re really curious about what BDSM and the lifestyle is all about.

This fantasy means you have a really kinky side to you. But ignore what you think you know about BDSM. Forget “50 Shades of Grey” or whatever introduced you to this subculture. BDSM, at its core, is all about trust and excitement. Regular “vanilla” sex can sometime get, well, a little dull. Why not spice things up a bit?

For female muscle fans, the BDSM fantasy seems like a natural fit. A strong woman is appealing because she is in a unique position of dominance. Her physical strength makes her unusual. She shatters the belief that women are the weaker sex. She can put a man in his place due to her physical abilities alone. This separates an FBB from a normal woman. For men who are insecure about themselves but would never dream of breaking their alpha male façade, this fantasy is the perfect escape. You can be a wuss (and enjoy it) in the privacy of your own mind without anyone judging you. How cool is that?

In addition to wanting to surrender control, men who share this fantasy want her to not only take control, but bring the definition of “control” to the next level. This is more than just a Female Led Relationship. This is a Female Dominated Relationship. The complete loss of power turns many men on because breaking social taboos can be so damn exciting!

The chief appeal of this fantasy is knowing that even though she has supreme authority over you during “play” time, she’s doing this with your pleasure completely in mind. Sure, a dominatrix definitely enjoys her work, but she’s really doing it for her client’s sake.

Oh Angela Salvagno. Tie me up. Spank me. Do what you want to me. RIGHT NOW.

Oh Angela Salvagno. Tie me up. Spank me. Do what you want to me. RIGHT NOW.

The concept of torture can be bizarre if you think about it too much. Let’s just put it like this: there’s a reason why the Saw movies are so popular. Horror movies that feature gruesome torture scenes (also known as “torture porn”) for whatever reason tap into a part of the human psyche that gets extreme pleasure from pain. I personally don’t feel that way, nor do I actually believe people honestly want to get physically tortured. This is just another example of the dark side of human nature that can safely come out during consensual BDSM playtime.

3. I want to physically dominate a muscular woman and control her

This fantasy spins upside down the previous two fantasies. It’s the first two in complete reverse. This is where you want to be the dominate one in the bedroom and your fantasy FBB girlfriend is the one at your mercy.

A fantasy like this means you get turned on by control, but you want to gain control over someone who’s formidable, strong and considered (more or less) your equal. In other words, you want to earn your dominance. If you can control a strong female bodybuilder who’s unambiguously stronger than you, it signifies that you deserve your alpha male stripes.

One of the strange appeals of a female bodybuilder is that she breaks the conventional mold of a “conventional” woman. She’s strong, assertive, physically dominant and has bigger muscles than most men. Because men traditionally have had a monopoly on musculature, an FBB should be admired because she’s staking her claim that having a vagina doesn’t mean you are condemned to lifelong sentence of “weakness.” It isn’t a barrier. Nothing can hold her back.

But this fantasy allows the man to gain back that monopoly by putting a strong woman back in her place. She may be able to lift more than you, but you’re still above her. She has larger muscles than you, but your male authority will never go unquestioned. Her attempts to break the stereotype of the “weaker sex” are admirable, but at the end of the day your masculinity still reigns supreme.

I won’t go as far as to say that this fantasy is misogynist. It definitely seems like it, but let’s not jump to conclusions quite yet. This fantasy still falls into the BDSM realm, which most of its adherents will argue is not misogynist/misandrist at all. The desire to control an FBB in the bedroom really boils down to being turned on by power.

Yeon Woo Jhi, the Asian Muscle Goddess.

Yeon Woo Jhi, the Asian Muscle Goddess.

We’ve all heard the infamous quote from former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” How exciting is it to know that someone’s (or in the case of a politician, an entire nations’) fate is entirely in your hands? If you want her to perform oral sex on you, she’ll do it without question. If you want her to bow down and worship you, she has no choice in the matter. If you want her to follow your every command, she must obey you or suffer the consequences. I’m not personally into this sort of fantasy, but I can see why certain men would find this alluring. When your whims alone can effectively manipulate your environment, how incredible is that?

Just a side note, I’ll acknowledge that this particular fantasy can be rooted in misogyny. It’s certainly possible. I just wanted to say that there are alternate explanations out there.

4. I want an army of gorgeous Amazon warriors fighting alongside me on the battlefield

Now we get into territory that I can personally identify with! This is definitely a fantasy of mine. Imagine, if you will:

Dusk. In a dusty, post-Apocalyptic futuristic wasteland, planet Earth is controlled by a ruthless army of zombies (or aliens, inter-dimensional beings, robots, Communists, Nazis, werewolves, vampires, rabid bunny rabbits, etc.) who are bent on destroying the human race. Enter <insert your name> and his army of gorgeous, muscular Amazon warriors. Will our small group of badass heroes vanquish their enemies and restore peace and justice on Earth? Tune in next week for the next episode…

Yadda, yadda, yadda. The actual details can vary. The circumstances can differ. What matters is this: unlike the previous three fantasies, this one treats you and your FBBs as equals, not antagonists. You’re peers with no one in either a dominant or subordinate position. This is a fantasy I have. Here’s a little background information:

In Greek and Classical mythology, the Amazons were a nation of all-female warriors. Located in either Eurasia or Asia Minor, the Amazons participated in the Trojan War and among other things, established themselves as hardcore ladies you shouldn’t mess around with (unless you want to get your head chopped off). I understand that male sex slaves were used to keep their population going, but my specific fantasy has them fighting alongside me in battle, not me staying at home waiting for them to return safely.

Is sex involved in this? Well, yes! But after we slaughter an army of helpless zombies and liberate a captured town from oppression.

I have this fantasy because I don’t view female muscle within the lens of power and power struggles. Instead, I look at female muscle as an expression of confidence and inner-strength. A woman shouldn’t become muscular because she wants to counterbalance the power of men – she should do so because she wants to improve herself regardless of what the outside world thinks. For me, female muscle isn’t about power and control, it’s about self-determination, self-improvement and self-empowerment.

Chellss. It's a very unusual name, but she's one extraordinary woman.

Chellss. It’s a very unusual name, but she’s one extraordinary woman.

In this fantasy, my army of strong women uses their power for a greater good: fighting against the forces of evil and freeing the oppressed from captivity. With my assistance (I’m not necessarily their leader, but I could be) we are working together, side by side, to free the world from the clutches of totalitarianism, militarism and fear.

Perhaps this means that deep down inside, I’m a firm believer in using our collective strength for the greater good. Strength shouldn’t be abused or used for selfish purposes. Strength should be used to fight against tyranny. Should I reference the quote that “With great power comes great responsibility?” Well, I just did!

For me, this means female muscle doesn’t just fulfill an erotic niche in my personal psychology. It fulfills my desire for people to use their gifts for good. The gift of strength is a beautiful thing that can help liberate our planet. Don’t abuse it. Don’t ignore it. Use it to fulfill your destiny.

5. I want every woman to be as strong and muscular as a female bodybuilder

Now this is an interesting fantasy. How many of you have had this thought before? Have you ever found yourself sitting on a public bus or standing on a busy street corner and wishing every female looked like Marthe Sundby or Lindsay Mulinazzi? If this were to magically happen, I can assure you I’d struggle to contain my excitement!

Whether you like it or not, this fantasy means you secretly abhor the idea that “skinny is beautiful” or “fat is beautiful.” I don’t want to get into a debate about body image, body shaming or mass media, so here is what I will say. We all have our preferences, but we should never judge anyone negatively because of them.

I don’t believe shame and embarrassment are the best ways to inspire someone to change. Positive beliefs (I want to live healthier) instead of negative beliefs (I need to stop being so fat) are probably a more sustainable approach to weight loss. That being said, the fantasy of being completely surrounded by muscular women is rooted in being unsatisfied with how our collective culture views beauty.

If Kristin Nunn walked past me on a busy street, I'd probably hit my forehead against a light pole.

If Kristin Nunn walked past me on a busy street, I’d probably hit my forehead against a light pole.

How often do you go to the gym and see guys force their wives/girlfriends to lift with them? She always looks reluctant to be there and probably holds a grudge against him for pressuring her to lift weights. I see this all the time. The truth is lots of men wish their significant other had toned arms, a firm butt and shapely legs. And you’re not going to achieve this by sitting around all day eating potato chips and watching reruns of Gossip Girl.

Unhappy with our culture’s current standards of beauty? Sick and tired of the weight room being a “boys club?” Are you too politically correct to admit that you don’t like looking at unattractive people of the opposite sex? This fantasy is probably right up your alley.

6. I want my female bodybuilder girlfriend to have a penis

This is a strange one, but not unusual. Transgender fetishes aside, this fantasy doesn’t literally mean you want your FBB girlfriend to have a penis. You want her to have an endowment between her legs that resembles a penis.

It’s no secret that lots of FBBs who’ve taken human growth hormones tend to have enlarged clitorises. The clitoris, which is homologous to the male penis, is essentially a woman’s “little penis.” It’s ultrasensitive and exists for the sole purpose of giving her pleasure. She can achieve orgasm from it. It pleases her. She masturbates with it. Her partner can please her by stimulating it. Not unlike a penis, right?

So basically, there are men out there who want their girlfriends to have a clit that rivals Denise Masino’s in terms of size and girth. Ms. Masino is legendary for her large feminine endowment. Don’t believe me? Just run a Google or Bing search on her and turn off the safe search filter. Then enjoy.

In my opinion, this fantasy returns back to the concept of equality. You want your FBB girlfriend to be like a man, but not a man at the same time. She can have the large muscles and a penis-like clitoris proudly hanging between her legs, but she’ll never be The Man. YOU are The Man. She is still The Woman. And no freakishly large piece of female genitalia will ever change that.

Do you want all women to look like Marthe Sundby? Uh, yes, Your Honor.

Do you want all women to look like Marthe Sundby? Uh, yes, Your Honor.

This fantasy doesn’t mean you’re gay. It doesn’t mean you have a transsexual or transgender fetish. It means you want her to come very close to being like you, but never actually cross that line. Her enlarged clitoris gives her some additional power she never had before (if we’re going to assume that having a penis automatically puts you in a position of power), but at the end of the day it will never come close to fully emasculating you.

We like our women strong, but not TOO strong. We like our women to enjoy the privileges of being a man, but not ACTUALLY be a man. We want her clitoris to grant her male powers, but still maintain the distinct definition that it’s a female sex organ, not a male sex organ. A large clitoris gives her the illusion of maleness without ever making her a male. YOU are the male. Not her.

***

Of course, this list is neither exhaustive nor complete. This doesn’t even come close to scratching the surface. I will not pretend these are the only fantasies female muscle-loving men have.

Rather, this essay mostly explores how your views on gender relations, power dynamics and personal securities/insecurities determine what fantasies you have in relation to female muscle. Whether you’re comfortable in your masculinity, struggle with your identity, hold deep-seeded disdain for women (or your fellow men), recovering from being bullied when you were younger, or are in a position of power that puts too much pressure on you, hopefully you can identify with what I’m talking about.

Our fantasies that we dare not share publicly say a lot about us. They tell us things we would rather people not know about us. They expose our fears, our desires, our likes/dislikes, our insecurities, our opinions, our childhoods and some things we aren’t consciously aware of.

This is a subject countless psychologists, anthropologists, sex experts and writers have tried to explain. I am not an expert. I’m just writing about what I think can be part of a productive dialogue. I can probably lay out multiple reasons for having any of the fantasies listed above. You can too.

To claim to be a connoisseur would be delusional. I can’t write a book on the subject, but I can reassure you that whether you dream about being a Super Bowl hero or being hogtied and spanked by a muscular dominatrix, you can sleep well at night knowing this:

You’re not alone. And you’re not out of your mind.

The Wow Factor

Before Lindsay Mulinazzi, there was nothing.

Before Lindsay Mulinazzi, there was nothing.

I’ve finally figured it out. In all my years of my female muscle fandom, I’ve never really been able to put into succinct words why I love muscular women so much.

Sure, long essays can explain the bread and butter of why I find female bodybuilders and athletes so appealing. I can even post a ton of photos of my favorite FBBs for all of you to salivate over. But that still doesn’t even begin to describe why exactly we love them.

But now I’ve got it figured out. Finally.

Simply put:

The Wow Factor.

That’s it. The Wow Factor. “Wow” is a word we use to describe something so amazing, Earth-shattering, incredible and astonishing that no other monosyllabic utterance could do it justice. Wow. You could substitute that for “whoa,” but let’s not confuse our female muscle fandom for the vernacular of California surfer dudes or college stoner kids. I’m talking about something else here.

Wow. Just…wow.

The Wow Factor is my best way of describing it.

Women like Debi Laszewski are so damn beautiful that “wow” is the only way I can properly react when I see a photo of her. Yes, “Damn girl” or “Daaaaaaaaaaaaaamn” are also sufficient substitutes, but I’m not interested in catcalling Ms. Laszewski like a dirty-minded construction worker on his lunch break.

I’m interested in communicating what’s on my mind. And “wow” is the only thing on my mind. Is there any other way to put it?

How can this image of Victoria Dominguez lifting this heavy weight not turn you on?

How can this image of Victoria Dominguez lifting this heavy weight not turn you on?

But it’s not just about putting your feelings into words. It’s describing your gut reaction the moment your brain processes what your eyes have just seen. The millisecond your mind realizes that it just saw an image of a strong, gorgeous woman showing off her hard work in all its erotic glory – you can’t possibly articulate what that feels like. No way. It’s a feeling that hits you on a level that goes way beyond mere “attraction.”

It’s not just lust. It’s not just turning your head when you see a pretty woman walking past you and thinking to yourself, “That’s one fine looking lady.” That happens all the time (at least, it happens to me all the time!). The Wow Factor goes way further. The Wow Factor isn’t an everyday occurrence. The Wow Factor changes the way you think. It changes the way you look at women (all women, not just those of the muscular variety). It changes the way you behave. It changes your paradigm.

This Wow Factor explains why bloggers like me continue to post pictures and essays about female muscle nonstop. This explains why guys like me are willing to pay $350 for an hour-long muscle worship session with a complete stranger in a hotel room. This explains why we can’t get enough of those glorious FBBs and their immaculate beauty.

The Wow Factor is a visceral gut reaction you can’t control. Here’s an anecdote for you. As strange as it sounds, sometimes I occasionally forget why I love female muscle in the first place. It’s sort of like a professional baseball player who’s played for 10 years in the league but lacks passion because he plays for a terrible team. But the moment his team catches fire and he’s playing in Game 7 of the World Series, suddenly his childhood love for the game returns and he’s playing with rejuvenated energy.

He suddenly remembers why he loves the game. The nervous energy. The thrill of competition. The joy of victory. The heart-wrenching depression of defeat. That child-like love for the game all of a sudden returns in that moment when you’re actually playing for something.

A rising star, Jill Rudison.

A rising star, Jill Rudison.

I sometimes get like that in regards to my female muscle fandom. I know I love strong women, but all it takes is a singular image of Alina Popa flexing her large, beautiful biceps wearing nothing but a microscopic thong bikini, and…I suddenly remember why I think Ms. Popa is a gift from God. I’ve always known that, but The Wow Factor hits me like a semi-truck blindsiding me out of nowhere and I’m instantaneously reminded why I feel the way I feel.

It’s a feeling that causes you to stare at your computer screen with your jaw dropped to the floor and your heart ceasing to beat. It makes me forget that other women exist in this world.

Lisa Cross. Denise Masino. Lindsay Mulinazzi. Angela Salvagno. Victoria Dominguez. Nikki Fuller. Yvette Bova. Amber DeLuca. Autumn Raby. Gayle Moher. Lauren Powers. Annie Rivieccio. Brandi Mae Akers. Jill Rudison. Shannon Courtney. Desiree Ellis. Jana Linke-Sippl. Lora Ottenad. Brenda Raganot. Monica Martin. Gracyanne Barbosa. Juliana Malacarne. Karen Zaremba. Michele Levesque. Sheila Bleck. Monica Brant. Lisa Marie Bickels. Lenda Murray. Iris Kyle. Julie Bourassa. Kris Murrell. Sondra Faas. Vilma Caez. Kris Clark. Melissa Dettwiller.

The list goes on and on and on. This doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Pick anyone on this list and spend five minutes doing a Google Images search on her. I guarantee you’ll be hooked within seconds. You’ll be completely enraptured by her power, beauty and strength. Her feminine prowess and physical stature will make you as hapless as a little puppy dog. You’ll totally forget why you used to ogle at the rail-thin supermodels in the Sears catalog (if you actually at one time did that, I’m really sorry!).

The Wow Factor exemplified in Larissa Reis.

The Wow Factor exemplified in Larissa Reis.

This is what it’s like to experience The Wow Factor. You’re struck by a lightning bolt and feel like there is no definition of “beauty” other than what you’ve just witnessed.

Before Lindsay Mulinazzi, there was nothing.

Sometimes I wonder if this is the reason why there’s so much animosity against female bodybuilders. Haters (who are, pardon the expression, going to hate) have never experienced The Wow Factor. They’ve instead experienced The Ew Factor. The Gross Factor. The Utterly Disgusting Factor. The Why-the-Hell-Would-Anyone-Want-To-Look-Like-That Factor. It saddens me when people choose to shut themselves out from a certain part of life. True, no one has an obligation to like female muscle, but why say “no!” when instead you can choose “sure, why not?”

It’s clear to me that someone who says they’re repulsed by female bodybuilders say that mostly because deep down inside they’re insecure about themselves. They don’t feel secure in their masculinity. They don’t feel secure in their femininity. They react negatively to what they don’t understand or want to understand. They insult others because the only way for them to feel good about themselves is to bring down everyone else. This is a vicious cycle that especially comes out on the Internet. Anonymity brings out the worst in us. There’s no harm in expressing your true feelings when nobody knows your name. Insecurity and a forum for acting upon that insecurity can be a hurtful combination.

One can never see enough photos of Karen Zaremba.

One can never see enough photos of Karen Zaremba.

It should be obvious to anyone who follows the sport of female bodybuilding that the industry is pushing our favorite ladies off to the side and telling them “we don’t want you as much as we did in the past.” People may have wanted to see you on the cover of magazines thirty years ago, but that’s all changed now. Iris Kyle will never be a sports superstar. No way. We don’t care how many Ms. Olympia titles she’s won. We don’t care how dominating she is in her sport. None of that is relevant. What speaks is dollars. And, quite frankly, she doesn’t bring in the dollars like others can. Sorry. You lose. Better luck next time.

Does this make you angry? To anyone who’s experienced The Wow Factor, it should.

Additionally, The Wow Factor affects you in one other way: It makes you defensive whenever you feel like your passions are being attacked. How many times have you been told that female bodybuilders look “gross?” How often do you read articles about the decline of female bodybuilding and you just want to throw your computer against the wall? Does replacing the sport with pole dancing competitions make you want to face-palm over and over again till your forehead turns beet red?

These reactions are classic examples of wanting to defend what you love. The Wow Factor makes us feel as though any attack on a strong woman is also an attack on us. Insult the sport of female bodybuilding on a public forum? Expect fans from across the world to fight back. Someone wants to deny Alina Popa’s right to climb the mountaintops and finally win the Ms. Olympia? In no time will you see her countless fans defending her on her behalf.

Gracyanne Barbosa. Baby got back.

Gracyanne Barbosa. Baby got back.

Though this negative energy can be seen as a bad thing, anything can be used for something positive. Being angry and defensive all the time will get you nowhere. A more constructive use of these emotions is to become pro-active. There are a lot of things we can do to make sure female bodybuilding doesn’t become extinct. Write letters. Send e-mails. Boycott those who vigorously marginalize the FBBs we idolize. Buy books and magazines promoting female muscle. Open your wallets and hearts to the women we adore. Openly support these athletes as if they truly are our best friends. Don’t let society dictate what you find beautiful. Do what you can to make these amazing athletes more mainstream.

What if one day female muscle becomes more mainstream? Imagine a world where gorgeous women like Larissa Reis are seen in the media as often as we see Kate Upton. Think about how awesome it would be if we can turn on the summer Olympics and instead of being perplexed by the presence of strong women, we can just sit back and enjoy watching her hard work being proudly displayed on the world’s brightest stage.

Instead of thinking to ourselves, “Ew!” we can have a more complimentary reaction:

“Wow.”