Alpha Females, Beta Males, and Everybody in Between

Debbie Bramwell-Washington is without question an Alpha Female.

Generally speaking, don’t generalize. This isn’t a rule so much as a modest recommendation. Sometimes, our generalizations can be fairly accurate (i.e. the weather tends to be hot during the summer months and cold during the winter months), but other times our generalizations are not even close to being fair or accurate (i.e. Chinese food is icky because all they eat are dogs).

Within the female muscle fan community – and believe it or not, such a community actually exists, albeit in the online world – the theme of “Alpha Female/Beta Male” consistently comes up. It’s become a cliché by now. Of course, just because it’s a cliché doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right or wrong. The truth is probably closer to it being an overgeneralization. We’ll get to that in a moment.

The existence of the idea of the muscular Alpha Female shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, leading the life of a professional (or dedicated amateur) bodybuilder isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires both mental and physical strength. It takes persistence, passion, guts, and unwavering self-confidence. It takes the ability to persevere despite inevitable setbacks. It takes the will to make tough decisions when the easiest choice is to say “I give up.” It requires you to take the path least traveled when no one will blink an eye if you were to instead take the road most traveled.

The type of person who would be willing to subject themselves to such a grueling lifestyle is most likely the most alpha among us. Professional bodybuilding isn’t for the weak or feeble minded. Even amateur bodybuilders, who don’t formally compete but still maintain an impressive amount of musculature year-round, cannot look the way they look without making sacrifices most of us wouldn’t even dream of doing.

Even though the very concept of “alpha” is subjective (and therefore, not an actual thing that can be quantified or narrowly defined), we’ll just assume its existence is – for the most part – real. Alpha Females are women who take control of their lives, pursue their dreams with absolutely no apology, and more often than not get what they want. Female bodybuilders should wholeheartedly belong in this category.

Alright, the other side of the equation is the concept of the Beta Male. Unlike Alpha Females, Beta Males are weak-minded, lack the will to get what they really want, and allow others to trample all over them. They are quiet, don’t assert themselves when faced with adversity, are perfectly willing to settle for less than they deserve, and aren’t prone to engaging in (as they see it, unnecessary) confrontation. Blah, blah, blah. Just take a few minutes doing a Google search of “beta male” and you’ll come across bloggers that range from idiotic “PUAs” to bizarre conspiracy theorists claiming the Illuminati is plotting to culturally emasculate men worldwide for the sake of implementing the New World Order. Rest assured yours truly doesn’t fall into either of these groups.

How would you react if you saw Isabelle Turell walk by you dressed like this?

Like the Alpha Female, the Beta Male is a socially-constructed stereotype that exists mostly from a pop culture point-of-view, as opposed to objective scientific standards. We can probably name a few Beta Males off the top of our heads, whether it’s from our high school days or the people we interact with at work (or maybe you can look in the mirror and point to yourself). No matter your perspective, it’s not difficult to surmise why this type of person would be attracted to women with lots of muscle.

As this line of thinking goes, Beta Males are too weak to take care of themselves. They have low self-esteem and would prefer if others could make big decisions instead of them. Alpha Females, especially of the highly muscular variety, perfectly encapsulate that missing puzzle piece. They are the complementary element that Beta Males find so darn alluring. They are strong – both emotionally and physically – and don’t hesitate to make bold decisions that they find to be empowering. Female bodybuilders are who Beta Males wish they could be, to put it in horrifically simplistic terms. This may or may not be true, but this sure represents the “logic” of plenty of people who are keen on following FBBs.

The Alpha Female/Beta Male motif looks solidly reasonable on the surface. Of course the type of guys who love FBBs are weak, feeble-minded man-children who sexualize an ideal they can never actually achieve in real life. It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Well, maybe not.

No doubt this concept describes a portion of the FBB fandom community, but certainly it doesn’t represent everyone’s personal story. Many men who love female bodybuilders are normal guys who have wives or girlfriends, high paying jobs, families, and stellar reputations. Others are of more modest financial means…but they are still confident in who they are. Not everyone can be clumped into the same surface-level demographic, but we already knew that.

Kim Buck will buck the trend that women with muscles can’t be sexy.

When you boil everything down to its barest essentials, guys love female bodybuilders not just because of who they are, but because of who these ladies are. They’re strong, beautiful women who possess gorgeous bodies, captivating personalities, and inspiring biographies. We can scroll through Minna Pajulahti’s Instagram feed and say to ourselves “hot damn!” without that response being an indication of who we are. We see photos of a beautiful woman and we react accordingly. It’s as simple as that.

Or is it? Understandably, matters get murky when we’re dealing with nontraditional-looking women like female bodybuilders. If you like something that’s so far outside the mainstream, isn’t that an indication that there must be something a little “off” with you? Not at all, but it’s understandable why outside observers would think this way.

The truth is that female bodybuilding fans run the gamut of personality types. Some are meek, others are more assertive. Female bodybuilders themselves are also a diverse bunch; as they come from a wide range of countries, cultures, and backgrounds. Of course, the truth isn’t nearly as exciting as what dwells in our imaginations. We believe all FBBs are forceful Alpha Females not because we actually believe that, but because we want to believe that. We love imagining a strong gorgeous muscular woman dominating in the bedroom. We fantasize about what she’d do to us if we’re naughty…or if we’re completely obedient. We want her to ravage us, use us for her own selfish pleasure, and discard us the moment we become obsolete. We want to be denigrated like that because it makes her seem that much more powerful and us that much more irrelevant.

Is this a Beta Male way of thinking about sexual relationships? Maybe, or perhaps this is just a fun bit of “role reversal” where the FBB takes control of the situation while we’re the ones who are more passive and “just along for the ride.” Nobody wants to have to be in control 24/7/365. Every so often, we want to let go and allow somebody else to shoulder this burden. If a beautiful female bodybuilder is the one to do that, so be it. You won’t hear us complain.

Alright, so not every FBB is an Alpha Female and not every FBB fan is a Beta Male (or Beta Female, if that’s the case). So what? What’s the significance here?

Well, not much outside of the fact that these stereotypes exist and will probably continue to exist for time immemorial. But consider this:

The prevailing perception of the “Alpha Female/Beta Male” theme isn’t harmful, but it isn’t entirely productive either. One might presume that guys who love female bodybuilders would take offense to the notion that they’re weak and socially emasculated. That assumption is correct. But that’s not the only harm that this causes. The other is that it continues to make female bodybuilders appear “weird” and “fetishistic” instead of who they actually are: world-class athletes.

Monique Jones gets what she wants.

Often times, we tend to treat certain people or groups of people with suspicion not because of who they are, but because of who their fans are. It’s perfectly reasonable to like a certain TV show or singer but be completely annoyed by their fawning fans. It’s also perfectly reasonable to not like a certain TV show or singer for reasons that have nothing to do with the temperament of their loyal supporters. What isn’t reasonable (but isn’t a crime against humanity, of course) is disliking something purely because you can’t stand how the screaming fanboys and fangirls behave on the Internet. Yet, it’s difficult for many of us to make this distinction.

Along the same train of thought, some people might be turned off by female bodybuilders and the world of female bodybuilding because they find their fans a bit distasteful. They leave creepy comments all over their Instagram posts. They publicly announce all sorts of gross sexual activities they’d love to do to them. They appear to have no filter and don’t think all too much about who is actually reading these comments. These behaviors have a way of turning people off to whatever you love.

Female bodybuilders are already considered outside the mainstream. Their fans are also perceived to be outside the mainstream, despite the fact a vocal minority doesn’t speak for the entire group. Although to be fair, there really isn’t such a thing as a “vocal” delegation of the female bodybuilding fandom community. We don’t have lobbyists playing golf with members of Congress, to my knowledge.

One way to help FBBs enter into mainstream culture – assuming this is even a unified goal of ours – is to portray them as being perfectly normal women who happen to look abnormal. In many respects, that’s exactly who they are. But not everyone in our culture is buying that argument. They see videos of guys wearing leather masks with an FBB’s massive thighs wrapped around their heads and they think to themselves, “Um, that’s weird!”

To be fair, that sort of behavior isn’t something you witness every day. Yet, it does exist. But so do the countless number of people who love FBBs simply because they appreciate their unique beauty. FBBs are in fact uniquely beautiful, with the experience of “getting” their beauty indescribable. The experience of seeing a gorgeous confident woman with big muscles is so euphoric it can seem like a drug. It’s hard to articulate into words what this is like. Female bodybuilders are so damn beautiful it’s maddening to many of us why more people don’t feel the same way we feel. Shouldn’t FBBs be front and center on every magazine cover across the country? We think so, but the vast majority of our culture does not.

Stereotyping all female bodybuilders as Alpha Females and all fans of female bodybuilders of Beta Males is not only factually inaccurate, it contributes toward limiting our society’s understanding of this world. It makes us think that the two groups are somehow inextricably linked, that FBBs need weak men just as much as weak men need FBBs. This association cheapens FBBs as being a mere product of what certain guys want. Or that men who are perceived as being weak are that way because of women who are perceived as being strong.

Rita Sargo proving that muscles and femininity can go hand-in-hand.

These oversimplifications just perpetuate our dualist culture that puts people into two distinct categories (e.g. alpha/beta male, oppressed/liberated female, liberal/conservative, patriotic/unpatriotic, smart/dumb, educated/uneducated, poor/rich, abled/disabled, etc.) without recognizing nuance, individualized circumstances, and context. This harms the way we treat people whom we believe are “different” from us, even though they’re probably more similar to us than we realize. Imagine that.

When faced with something that’s totally out of the ordinary, the natural reaction is to try to put it into “proper context.” The logic follows like this:

  1. Female bodybuilders are unusual-looking women
  2. Guys who like female bodybuilders like women who are unusual-looking
  3. Therefore, guys who like female bodybuilders must be unusual themselves

Unfamiliarity breeds cognitive dissonance. We don’t like not being able to understand something, so we try to explain it away in terms that make sense to us. If we see weird Internet videos of guys enjoying being trampled on by a “chick with muscles,” then we must therefore assume every guy who loves female bodybuilders are into the same thing. And only “losers” enjoy being in a subordinate position. It makes perfect sense!

Except it doesn’t. The truth is much more complicated. The truth is that men and women from all walks of life comprise the world of female bodybuilding fandom. Some might in fact fit the stereotypes that we’re all familiar with. Others do not. This is not to play the “percentages game” and argue that a majority of us are not “like that.” Not at all. The only point to be made is that the Alpha Female/Beta Male concept is not inaccurate, but it’s also not comprehensive enough.

Perceptions take a long time to change. Many perceptions will never change. But there’s no use screaming at a brick wall that will not budge no matter what. That’s an exercise in futility. And if there’s one thing we can definitively say about female bodybuilders, it’s that when they exercise, they expect to see results.

1 thought on “Alpha Females, Beta Males, and Everybody in Between

  1. I agree, beta males need alpha females. Some males prefer the female to be the alpha, and need the alpha female to be physically dominant. Which is a true role reversal, not just role play.

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