Let’s discuss a topic that’s relevant to both social psychology and economics.
The Scarcity Principle.
The Scarcity Principle refers to the belief that human beings tend to place a higher value on an object that is scarce and a lower value on objects that are abundant.
In other words, people are attracted to things that are in limited supply. We love anything that we consider to be “special” or “unique” or “available for a limited time only.”
We couldn’t care less for things that are readily available, accessible to the general public or are a dime a dozen. No sir! I want what nobody else can get.
If my cousin Bob and sister Jane can have it too…well, then count me out. I don’t want it anymore!
We can think of numerous examples in everyday life that confirm The Scarcity Principle. How about the Black Friday sales you see the day after Thanksgiving? If you think about it, any item that’s on sale on Black Friday is also available during the other 364 days of the calendar year. Yet, how can you say “no” to those low prices? How am I ever going to find discounts on washing machines this good anywhere else?
Or think of it in terms of the dating pool. Logically, we’d think that loneliness would never happen in a large metropolitan city. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Studies have shown (and I have no clue whatsoever who actually conducts these studies) that people have a harder time finding friends and romantic partners in a big city versus a smaller suburb or town. Why is this? Simple: When there are too many people around, you place a lower value on them.
Why date this particular guy or a girl when I have plenty of other options at my disposal?
Yet, people remain lonely despite these alleged “plenty of other options.” When you hear people say there are plenty of fish in the sea, it leaves a heartbroken person little comfort. Because, ironically, that’s the problem unto itself! There are way too many options out there for you to choose from. So, you get antsy and decide not to choose anyone at all.
It’s better to be safe (alone) than sorry (in a relationship that you ultimately find boring and unfulfilling), one rationalizes to one’s self.
According to census data, in 1950 the world’s population was approximately 2.5 billion people. Today, it’s well over 7 billion. That means in 64 years (which isn’t that much time when you consider how long humans have lived on this planet) the number of people on Earth has nearly tripled. Tripled! Think about that. At the end of World War II, for every person on the planet there would be two more today. If you killed (or magically transported to Venus) two-thirds of our population, you could return back to the days when Communism was considered the next big thing and poodle skirts were all the rage.
Oh, what a simpler time that was!
Yet, despite these statistical facts, we see worldwide an explosion of online dating websites, high divorce rates and loneliness in urban cities. With more people around, shouldn’t we have an easier time finding the love of our life? How can we not have enough friends when there are 7 billion potential buddies occupying this floating rock in space together?
Seem counterintuitive? It should, because none of this makes any logical sense. But, if you really think about it, all of this makes perfect sense.
Think of it this way. Imagine you’re about to have dinner at a restaurant. You’re celebrating a birthday, anniversary or just having a special night out on the town. You sit down (let’s imagine it’s an elegant Italian place), open the menu, scan your options and are dumbfounded. What do you order? I mean, there are so many dishes I could pick! I could get a pasta dish, a pizza, a calzone, a dinner salad, something from the seafood section…or I could sell out and get a hamburger.
I like hamburgers. Sure, I’ll go with the cheeseburger and fries, Mrs. Salvatore!
Having too many options makes people nervous. What if I choose the “wrong” option even though there probably isn’t a “wrong option” in the first place? Odds are every dish at this fine restaurant will provide you a great tasting dinner. But there’s that sliver of doubt in your mind that tells you one dish has to be superior to the rest. And you’d be a fool to pick the wrong one.
So do you ask your waiter or waitress to make a recommendation for you? Or do you close your eyes and randomly select a choice with your index finger? Either option would probably work equally well. Or you could simply order what someone else is having (“I’ll have what she’s having”), thus putting the decision-making pressure off of you.
The same goes for economics.
I don’t want the tablet device or smartphone that all my neighbors have. I want the newest model that none of these suckers have…even though they’ll eventually get it a year or two from now.
Because, let’s be completely honest here, who doesn’t want to be the envy of your pals for having the nicest and shiniest new toys?
Corporations and marketing teams exploit The Scarcity Principle to the point where it’s become a science. Figuring out how to maximize profit in a short amount of time given a limited supply of a particular product isn’t difficult to do. Create limited-time offers. Hype up a sales day. Intentionally release your new products slowly. Create an advertising strategy that implies that not everyone should use this product, but you can.
Everything boils down to making an object feel special even if it’s not. Conversely, when an object is in abundance, you don’t want it as much. Fifteen years ago it was cool to have a cell phone because no one else had one. Today, everyone and their grandmother has a smartphone that can call, text, surf the Internet and wash your car. Now it’s become mainstream. And nothing sucks more than something that’s lost its coolness and has become so damn ordinary.
So, let’s do a quick recap. We value things that are scarce. We don’t value things that are common. We get overwhelmed by too many options. We get underwhelmed when a previously rare commodity becomes commonplace. In a nutshell, supply (either the abundance or shortage of it) warps our perceptions of the actual value of said supply.
What can we learn from this? Simple. It is important to place a value on everything – using our own objective criteria – so we know what something is worth despite what external influences may tell us.
Don’t let clever marketing strategies or base emotions dictate how you view the value of something or someone. Your cute but shy co-worker who’s always around could very well be more valuable than that elusive hot blonde you see at the bus stop every day. You don’t need “new” gadgets when the “old” models work just fine. Too many options can be a bad thing despite what consumer culture tells you.
The Scarcity Principle tells us that the dynamics of supply and demand, while it has nothing to do with altering the intrinsic worth of an object, can manipulatively make us place artificial values on objects for no good reason. A slice of pizza from a shopping mall food court isn’t necessarily less delicious than a slice of pizza at a 5-star hotel. It could be, but don’t automatically assume so.
That guy who’s playing “hard to get” isn’t necessarily better “boyfriend material” than the shy fellow who lives next door to you who’s kind, sweet but a tad socially awkward.
So, what does this have to do with female bodybuilders?
Female bodybuilders, like fine French wine or a blood red moon, are rare. Period. They aren’t available in everyday life. Millions upon millions of women in our society don’t look like Lora Ottenad or Kasie Cavanaugh. Oh, it would be sweeeeeeeeeeeeeet if that were the case, but sadly it isn’t.
The Scarcity Principle might explain why many men (and women) idolize female bodybuilders to the point of developing an obsession with them. We obsess over them because their rarity grants them God-like divine status in our eyes. We love them for all the traditional reasons (sex appeal, gorgeous bodies, stunning physiques), but we also love them because there’s this thing about them you can’t teach:
Female bodybuilders are mystifying. They pique our curiosity. Their mysteriousness titillates us. Muscular women are like a Rubik’s Cube. No matter how much you try to figure them out, they keep throwing more twists and turns at you to keep you guessing for all eternity. How do they look like that? Why do they want to look like that? What drives them to look like? When a female bodybuilder walks into a room, everyone’s attention instantly focuses on her. Some are aroused. Others are disgusted. A few are confused and conflicted. But the reaction that speaks loudest is this: Reverence.
We revere those whom we are attracted to but feel separated from. Female bodybuilders aren’t normal women. Technically, they’re no different from anybody else, but hot damn! How can you not become obsessed with Cathy LeFrancois or Catherine Holland?
Their ambiance is so captivating. And once you get your first taste of muscular women, you can never go back.
The deification of female bodybuilders is caused by The Scarcity Principle. There’s no other explanation for it. These women are beautiful rare specimens. Like a brilliant diamond sparkling on top of a museum pedestal, we fixate over them because they seem so far away from us. For most of us, a genuinely large female bodybuilder is probably nowhere to be found. I don’t know about you, but FBBs who look like Katka Kyptova aren’t exactly regulars at the Starbucks across from my apartment.
No wonder why many FBBs do “sessions” with their adoring fans. Where else are regular folk going to be able to touch the rock hard muscles of an exquisite muscular woman? Popular session providers can probably make a healthy amount of income (all tax free, no doubt) when all is said and done. One road trip across America, Europe and anywhere else a female bodybuilder decides to embark upon could put a lot of dough in her pocket – even after she takes travel expenses into account.
So there you have it. Now you have a better understanding from a psychological and economic perspective why we love female muscle so much. Their scarcity gives them power. Their uncommonness (yes, that’s actually a word) gives them the ultimate bargaining chip.
Female bodybuilders aren’t like ice cream flavors at Baskin-Robbins or used bicycles on Craigslist. Female bodybuilders are like The Holy Grail from the Arthurian legend.
A divine object that can make men go mad with obsession. Men will kill each other just to have it. She holds all the power. We commoners are powerless to resist.
Not that we’d want to resist, of course!