Muscular Women in Still Motion

This old school photo of Cory Everson still gives us chills all these years later.

This old school photo of Cory Everson still gives us chills all these years later.

They say a photograph is a moment in time captured on film; one that can never be reproduced because such a moment will never happen exactly as it did ever again.

Well, today most photos are taken digitally from point-and-click cameras or cell phones. But the idea remains the same: The purpose of still images is to provide a snapshot of a particular moment in time and to allow the viewer – whether they see it a hundred days later or a hundred years later – to experience from a distance what the moment might have been like.

Maybe we’re talking about a photo from your kid’s 6th birthday party. Or your father’s grand retirement celebration. Or when your mom won a prestigious community service award. Or when you and your buddies experienced your team winning the World Series. Or when your lovely partner finally said “I do.” The possibilities are endless.

That’s the inherent advantage between a still photo and a video clip. A still photo captures a precise moment in time. A video captures a stretch of time, which could last seven seconds or seven hours. Technically speaking, a video clip is more accurate in documenting reality while a photograph can be deceptive. How many times have we seen a nice photograph of a couple enjoying a night out on the town only to learn this couple tragically died in a fatal car accident only hours later? Or an image of a star high school athlete relishing in triumphant victory…but later his or her life is unexpectedly cut short after he or she is victim to a heartless shooting?

Thus, the beauty of photographs is that they encapsulate a specific moment without delving too deep into the context of said moment. Even if the subjects of the picture are moving around (as opposed to posing for the photographer), moments very rarely happen in stillness. Yet, a photograph is still. They don’t move or communicate motion. Think about those creepy turn-of-the-century black and white family photos where one of the “posing” members is a dead body. Don’t believe me? Look it up.

The subjects of photos appear to be not just still, but frozen in time. We see who they are instead of what they’re doing. It illustrates the poetic truth that time is not a continuous arc of events, but rather a series of individually poignant moments.

Except when it comes to female bodybuilders.

You knew I’d eventually get around to this subject, right?

For us fans of female bodybuilders, muscular women, athletes, fitness models, and amateur gym rats, the most prominent way we’re able to “experience” these women is through still images. Thanks to YouTube, social media, Vimeo, and other video sharing platforms we’re also able to watch them in action. But the most significant avenue through which we satisfy our female muscle fix is through good old fashioned still photos that we can view on our computer, phone, or tablet device.

What hides under the pasties being worn by Larissa Reis?

What hides under the pasties being worn by Larissa Reis?

Back in the day all we had were fitness/bodybuilding magazines that we tried to purchase inconspicuously at the grocery store and hide under the bed away from prying eyes. Thank God for the Internet.

Recently, I had a bit of an epiphany while scrolling through a Tumblr blog dedicated to muscular and fit women. This blogger also posts photos of “normal” women – meaning they’re gorgeous but gorgeous within mainstream parameters. I began to notice something strange when seeing images of muscular women juxtaposed with images of non-muscular women.

The muscular women seemed to be more alive.

That’s an odd observation considering all the women featured on this blog are, uh living and breathing. No dead bodies posed to look like they’re still alive. But when you take the time and actually look at images of female bodybuilders next to images of non-muscular women, the contrast is both jarring and difficult to explain.

Their body language is nearly identical. Most modeling shots consist of the subjects (or “talent,” using industry parlance) sitting on couches, standing around, laying down provocatively, leaning against a wall or large object, engaging in a suggestive activity, or contorting their bodies in weird ways. Sometimes the subject looks directly at the camera, other times they pretend like there’s nobody in the environment with them. While FBBs will frequently pose for photos of them at the gym doing what they do best, for the most part what their non-muscular counterparts do they will do also.

So, what exactly do I mean when I say that female bodybuilders seem to exist in “still motion” when photographed?

More old school images: Laura Creavalle.

More old school images: Laura Creavalle.

In short, there’s something inherently and inexplicably “active” about a muscular woman. Her muscles give her a sense of liveliness that isn’t present in women who aren’t muscular. A photograph of an FBB conveys energy, vivacity, and dynamism like nothing else. This isn’t true of all photos of female bodybuilders, of course. Ones taken in poor light, terrible conditions, or on a grainy cell phone camera obviously aren’t nearly as good as ones taken by a professional photographer (which goes to show you that the world still needs professional photographers, online photo “filters” be damned). I’m only referring to images that are produced with a certain degree of artistic integrity.

A lot of this has to do with how a woman earns her muscles to begin with. She didn’t get big and buff sitting on her couch eating potato chips and watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory. She earned her impressive physique through sweat, labor, supplementation, dieting, and making wholesale lifestyle changes. So because of this, when we see a still photo of a female bodybuilder, even if she’s not doing anything explicitly active, we know she leads a highly active lifestyle when she’s away from shutterbugs.

She’s constantly lifting, running, stretching, eating, cooking, drinking protein shakes, working, lifting, jogging, eating, lifting some more, eating a bit more, cooking more food that she’ll eat later, and lifting.

Did I mention that female bodybuilders lift weights on occasion?

The point is that female bodybuilders seem to be more active because they are more physically active than the average adult. So it makes sense that their proactive and demanding lives would transfer over to photographs taken of them, even if they’re just sitting down on a chaise or lying down in a frilly white bed. When you see her posing for the camera, you know in the back of your mind that she wouldn’t be in that position in the first place if it weren’t for her impressive muscularity.

That is, you wouldn’t be completely enraptured by her beauty unless she were as muscular as she is. She could very well be quite beautiful even if she didn’t have muscles, but it’s not the same thing. Not even close. A female bodybuilder’s muscles is what takes center stage when we look at her.

Sharon Madderson definitely jumps off the screen.

Sharon Madderson definitely jumps off the screen.

Yes, we know that muscular women are active in their everyday lives. That’s obvious. But that still doesn’t fully explain why they look like they’re ready to jump off the celluloid and into your lap.

Another reason is how surreal it is to actually look at a woman with big muscles. For as many years as I’ve been appreciating female bodybuilders, I still sometimes do a “double take” when I see a picture of a muscular woman unexpectedly. For example, not too long ago a friend of mine shared on Facebook an article talking about HIIT – or high intensity interval training. I don’t know whether this method is best for burning fat and staying in shape, but that’s not the point. The point is that the article featured a picture of a beautiful young lady with gorgeous curvy muscles. I was taken aback. My heart fluttered a bit. I felt a surge of energy run through my core.

Why did I suddenly react this way? I’ve spent countless hours watching and looking at hundreds of muscular women. Why did this “out of the blue” experience cause me to react as if I had just seen my first ever female bodybuilder?

It’s because it was unexpected and out of context. When I’m searching my usual lineup of blogs for pictures of beautiful muscular women, I know what I’m going to get. But if I stumble upon an image of one accidentally, it’s as though someone just socked me in the face. I think this is because at the end of the day, no matter how many hours I spend looking at images of muscle-bound women, my brain is preconditioned to produce a strong reaction whenever I witness them. I’m socialized to think of muscular women as being “abnormal” no matter how normalized they seem to be to me.

This is why muscular women appear to be suspended in still motion when photographed. My brain subconsciously tells me that this is unusual and therefore I should react accordingly. No amount of zombie movies will actually prepare you for a real-life zombie invasion. You can read all the post-apocalyptic themed fiction you want; if World War III is ever right around the corner (don’t be too surprised!) you’ll have no idea what to do next.

Likewise, you can watch thousands of hours of female muscle videos and meet dozens of FBBs for muscle worship sessions. Still, your mind will intuitively tell you that the sight of a woman with muscles is strange. Strange, bizarre, peculiar, irregular, atypical, odd. That’s not a product of how you personally view muscular women; rather it’s a product of the lack of muscular women in our society.

Anything that’s rare will stand out when it happens. Throwing a perfect game is so unusual that many baseball aficionados could probably name at least a dozen pitchers who’ve done it throughout the game’s history. And when it happens, it’s huge news. The same goes for muscular women. No matter how familiar you are with seeing FBBs, it’s still a memorable experience when it happens outside of normal parameters.

Unlike most amateur photographs, modeling shots are intended to capture the essence of the subject, not the moment. What a model is actually doing is not nearly as important as what they look like doing it. The same goes for FBBs who pose for model shots, but our reactions to seeing them are remarkably different. We don’t just see who they are. We also see their accomplishments, hopes, dreams, successes, aspirations, and passions. A muscular woman doesn’t just stand around and look pretty. She invades her space. She communicates a clear message to the viewer. She owns the frame. She doesn’t want you to just look at her, she wants you to react viscerally toward her.

See the difference?

Back in the glory days of the 90s, I’d surf the Internet and ogle photos of Pamela Anderson, Cindy Crawford, and Anna Nicole Smith. As an inexperienced teenager with raging hormones, I was introducing myself to a whole new world that I’d never known before: female beauty. It was an epic time of discovery. But even back then, I never experienced any sort of spiritual connection with the gorgeous ladies popping up on my computer screen. As odd as it sounds, I sort of feel that way with photos of muscular women. Sort of.

The lovely Elena Oana Hreapca rocking a sexy silver dress.

The lovely Elena Oana Hreapca rocking a sexy silver dress.

It’s as though photos of FBBs exist for purposes that go beyond that of normal photos of beautiful women. Cindy Crawford wants you to appreciate her natural beauty. Debi Laszewski wants to challenge your notions of femininity, gender roles, social stereotypes, and human biology. I don’t think these thoughts literally go through Debi’s mind as she’s posing for the camera, but that’s the sense I get when I look at her flawless visage. Pamela Anderson inspired hundreds of thousands of teenage boys – myself included – to masturbate in the privacy of their bedrooms. Cory Everson may have inspired similar reactions (though on a much smaller scale), but what she’s done that Pamela couldn’t is transform the way you view humanity: Women can be as buff as men – and look fabulous at the same time!

Muscular women can do that, even though many of them don’t intend to. They allude a degree of power and influence that most of them – including fans like us – don’t entirely comprehend. Hell, I’ve been writing about muscular women for nearly five years and even I continue to struggle to articulate this phenomena into words. Our love for female bodybuilders isn’t just rooted in good old fashioned lust. It’s also explained by our intrinsic desire to make sense out of a hectic and chaotic world. Muscular women, simply put, create chaos. How we adjust to that chaos is up to us on an individual level.

So that must be it. There’s the kicker. Muscular women create chaos in our brains. They cause our imaginations to spin out of control. They challenge our beliefs. They unleash our hidden impulses. They awaken our basest desires. They grapple our minds and refuse to let go, even for a moment. And this is something we don’t try to stop because we love every single minute of it. Isn’t that something?

Female bodybuilders appear to be in still motion because they’re perpetually active, even when they’re captured in a lifeless photograph. They activate our hearts, minds, and souls like nothing else can. In this respect, a photograph doesn’t just capture a single moment in time. It captures many moments, both those that have come and those that are yet to be.

As the old cliché goes, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. But not just words that immediately come to mind, but also words that are yet to be written or conceived. When we stare at a still image of a beautiful muscular woman, we’re not just staring at her. We’re staring at ourselves. And others. And everything around us. All at the same time.

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Karen Zaremba: My Sentimental Favorite

Hand bras are the worst!

Hand bras are the worst!

Every female muscle fan has “the one” who truly made them see the light. It’s not necessarily the first muscular woman they ever saw or the one they would consider to be their favorite. Personally, the first FBB I ever noticed was Lisa Marie Bickels, a former U.S. Marine who caught my attention more than ten years ago during my college years.

My current favorite is Denise Masino, a devilishly sexy siren with an endowment between her legs that can only be described as scrumptious. Miss Bickels isn’t close to being a favorite of mine and Miss Masino is someone I discovered later on. Thus, the subject of the woman who played a crucial role in my “female muscle awakening” is none other than Karen Zaremba.

Karen Zaremba was born on January 27, 1964 in Detroit, Michigan. Back then, Detroit was deserving of its nickname of The Motor City and the breeding ground of some of the most recognizable names in American pop music (Motown, anyone?). Today, Detroit resembles a Third World country, but that’s another story for another day. On that fateful day in the heartland of America, the world was introduced to a gorgeous young lass who would one day grow up to become one of the sexiest female bodybuilders the Universe has ever known.

Today, Karen resides in Clinton Township, which is less than 30 miles north of her birth town. So Karen didn’t scurry too far from the crib, as it were. I suppose there’s no reason why one should move far away from home unless there were extenuating circumstances. If you like where you live, why not stay there? Karen and her family obviously feel this way.

Like many beautiful female bodybuilders, Karen is the mother of two children and is happily married. Evidently, she never had any problem balancing her work/home life with her chosen profession of being a competitive bodybuilder and fitness model. Standing at a modest 5”2” and weighing 124 pounds (give or take), she describes herself as a “stay-at-home Mom” when she isn’t working in the fitness industry. Of course, many of the interviews that I’ve used to curate this information are several years old, so take this with a grain of salt.

Love those abs!

Love those abs!

From what I can gather, Karen no longer competes and probably doesn’t participate in bodybuilding anymore. Like many FBBs, details about their personal lives are scant, making it a challenge to paint a complete picture of what she’s like. I am confident that whatever she’s doing now, she’s probably happy with her life and wouldn’t want things to be any other way.

Her contest history is as follows:

2007 – Europa Super Show: 8th place, Lightweight

2006 – IFBB Motor City Pro Figure: 16th place

2006 – IFBB Pittsburgh Pro Figure: 16th place

2005 – NPC National Figure Championships: 2nd place, Class A (earned her IFBB pro card)

2005 – Junior Nationals: 3rd place, Class A

2005 – Junior USA: 3rd place, Class A

2004 – Central States Figure championships: Short Class, Masters and Overall Winner

2003 – Michigan Novice Bodybuilding championships: Lightweight, Masters and Overall Winner

Of course, this might not reflect her full contest history, but my quick bit of Internet research reveals that this is pretty comprehensive. If you know of any further contests that Karen has participated in, please do not hesitate to let me know in the comments below.

As one can clearly see, her contest history isn’t remarkable or noteworthy. Pretty standard for someone who loves to compete but isn’t too committed to becoming an elite competitor. This is not meant to be a slight against her. This is just to say that when she was a competitive bodybuilder, she wasn’t someone you would have associated as being the best of the best.

Poetry in motion.

Poetry in motion.

She came, she saw, she…participated. Her accomplishments are as modest as her objectives. She didn’t aim to be better than everybody else; she just wanted to see what she could do. Many competitors (both male and female) are not necessarily “in it to win it.” Many are in it for no other reason than to have fun, challenge one’s self, and meet new people while trying new things.

That’s an attitude we need to see more in our world.

But that’s not why she’s a sentimental favorite of mine. I discovered Karen in 2005 or 2006, so in other words a solid decade ago. Back then, I would have been 18 or 19 and Karen would’ve been 41 or 42. Think it’s unusual for a boy in his late teens to completely fall in love with a woman who’s more than twice his age? A woman who is nearly old enough to be his own mother? I certainly thought so at the time, but I didn’t think there was anything wrong or abnormal about it.

Why was there nothing unusual about this? Well, have you taken a good look at her?

Yowza!

Karen is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. She has an authentic look to her that’s difficult to explain but easy to see. Her dark hair is beautifully complemented by her olive complexion, a skin tone that perfectly accentuates her muscles. She’s legendary for her six-pack abdomen, which she is not shy about showing off to the camera. I briefly went through a stage of having a six-pack fetish. Can you possibly guess why?

Facially, she doesn’t look like a cookie-cutter Playboy Playmate or a nameless fashion model you see plastered across shopping mall corridors. It’s too clichéd to say she looks like the “girl next door” or the “hot mom next door,” but it’s sort of true!

What initially struck me about Karen, and it still strikes me today, is how effortlessly sexy she is. When she walks, her hips poetically bounce in a way that can make your heart stop. She’s very feminine, so much so you forget that all those negative stereotypes about female bodybuilders even exist. Of course, she’s a mother – which allows her to be called a certain idiotic acronym that I refuse to mention on this blog. Personally, I find muscle moms appealing, but there are certain misogynistic levels I refuse to lower myself to.

Baby got back!

Baby got back!

Perhaps that’s at the root of my attraction to Karen Zaremba. She’s a muscular woman who transcends the “muscle chick” fetish. She isn’t just “beautiful for a female bodybuilder,” she’s “beautiful…period, end of story.” Karen forced me to view muscular women through a different lens. No longer were all FBBs big, oversized masculinized “women” who’ve vehemently rejected traditional femininity and womanhood. I may not have felt exactly that way toward FBBs at the time, but my worldview was limited during those years. Karen encouraged me to expand my horizons.

Then, the floodgates opened. I discovered Annie Rivieccio. Then Lisa Cross. Then Alina Popa, followed by Yvette Bova and Denise Masino and Deidre Pagnanelli. I found out about Michelle Maroldo and Denise Hoshor. And Brandi Mae Akers. Of course, Victoria Dominguez. And other women like Nikki Fuller, Debi Laszewski, Sondra Faas, Marina Lopez, Catherine Holland, Emery Miller, Gayle Moher, Lauren Powers, Shawn Tan, Julie Germaine, and newcomers like Shannon Courtney, Minna Pajulahti, Dani Reardon, and Sheronica Sade Henton. There are many more to name. We could go on for hours. I’m still discovering new beautiful ladies seemingly every single day.

But I never forgot my roots, as the saying goes. Karen Zaremba remains on the front of my mind and tucked away snuggly in my heart. She isn’t just one of my first discoveries…she remains one of the best and brightest. I have the feeling I’m going to feel the same way regardless of how many additional tens of thousands of muscular women I’m introduced to in the future.

But let’s return to Karen’s effortless sexiness. It cannot be understated. Karen doesn’t walk; she glides. She doesn’t smile; she glows. She doesn’t pose; she radiates. She doesn’t flex; she blossoms. She doesn’t impress; she transcends. She doesn’t compete as a bodybuilder; she elevates the ceiling of human potential. She isn’t just beautiful; she’s ethereal and magnanimous. Karen Zaremba exceeds your expectations yet doesn’t seem to be trying to do anything other than being herself.

That takes more than talent. That takes a flawless combination of natural gifts, determination, hard work, and instincts. No one can teach you how to be as angelic as Karen. Nor could she necessarily teach others the ropes. Some of us are more radiant and charismatic than others for reasons that cannot be rationally explained or easily transferrable.

Karen's skin tone is the best.

Karen’s skin tone is the best.

Perhaps part of her appeal is her laidback Midwestern demeanor. Karen doesn’t boast the flashiness of an entitled California-bred pseudo-celebrity. Nor is she a snooty East Coaster who treats bodybuilding as her ticket to Broadway-style stardom. I am, of course, exaggerating and wildly stereotyping millions of people in the United States (which is trendy in the year 2016), but what cannot be denied is the refreshing authenticity that Karen brings to the table.

She doesn’t post selfies every single day on Instagram. In fact, I don’t think Miss Zaremba even has an Instagram account. When you research her, you don’t actually find a whole lot. This adds to her mystique. Because thousands of photos and hundreds of hours of video footage of Karen don’t exist, we can only witness a small slice of who she is. This allows us to fill in the blanks wherever we see fit.

So I can speculate that she’s modest, down-to-earth, and full of “small town charm” because…well, I feel like it. Is this based on extensive knowledge of her personality, lifestyle, and background? Nope! Our idealized version of people is what fuels our love for celebrities.

Karen Zaremba may not be a traditional celebrity, but in my heart she’s a glamorous superstar.

She comes across as a super chill lady who will just as likely bake you a batch of gingerbread cookies as she is to rapidly do 25 pullups as if it were no big deal. She’s a mom and she loves being a mom. She once was a muscular woman who also doesn’t mind being a loving wife and someone who would enthusiastically serve on her local PTA board. Once again, this is based on nothing but what exists in my imagination. But doesn’t this seem plausible?

For her, bodybuilding isn’t her life’s calling or integral to her business model. Doesn’t it seem like for Karen being a bodybuilder was a “neat” thing to do? She wasn’t in it for the money, the glitz, or the fame. She didn’t “brand” herself as a bad girl or a sexy muscle siren or feminist superhero. She just let herself be herself. She’s a mom, a wife, and a friendly neighbor who thinks having big muscles would be nifty. You rarely see that level of unpretentiousness in today’s narcissistic culture.

In other words, Karen never wanted to be a celebrity – even among the small subculture of female muscle fans. Having big muscles wasn’t her way of feeding her ego. It was her way of experiencing self-empowerment. All she wanted to be was the best version of herself. For me, that’s all I need.

Karen left just enough to the imagination...yet revealed enough to let us know what she got. Such a tease!

Karen left just enough to the imagination…yet revealed enough to let us know what she got. Such a tease!

Just as any baseball or football player must eventually call it a career and “hang up the cleats,” Karen has now decided to forgo her muscles and become “normal-looking” again. I have no doubt that Karen still exercises to keep herself fit and trim, but from what I can gather (and she prefers to keep her personal life private, which is her right) she’s allowed her muscles to shrink. She’s now a former bodybuilder. She’s now a regular lady you see shopping for groceries at the supermarket on a quiet Tuesday afternoon. This isn’t disappointing or regrettable. She can do whatever she wants with her life.

But there is undeniably a small element of sadness at play here. It is a bit melancholy when a gorgeous FBB retires and relinquishes her muscularity. As a sports fan, you never want to see your favorite players withdraw from playing the game they love and ride off into the sunset back to civilian life. But time marches on and not everything lasts forever. There will be plenty of young up-and-coming Karen Zarembas who will take up her mantle. Heck, I’ve references many of them on this very blog.

So this is a celebration of a woman who leaves a legacy of making the world a more beautiful place, whether she has big muscles or not. Because of her, we now have stronger faith in the goodness of people and the potential of human achievement. Karen Zaremba never has to “prove” that she is gorgeous. She just is. She never hogs the spotlight and demands that people look at her. We look at her because we cannot help but look at her. That takes something special.

As an 18-year-old kid Karen made my heart leap out of my chest. She was more than twice my age and rarely ever did any nude modeling. She never did anything pornographic or overly sexual. She kept it classy. She kept things modest. You’ll never find a video of her sucking a porn star’s penis or masturbating with an oversized dildo. She never had to do any of those things to capture my attention, even all these years later.

She just had to be herself. And that was enough. And it still is.

Like A Tiger Stalking Her Prey: Comparing a Muscular Woman to a Wild Beast

Desiree Ellis is a beast, no question about it.

Desiree Ellis is a beast, no question about it.

Imagine a hungry tiger, crouching low in the sagebrush, stalking an unsuspecting prey. An ill-fated rabbit is drinking water out of a river, unaware of his inevitable fate. He prepares to return back to his home until…

The tiger strikes. The prey is caught. The prey bleeds to death. The tiger eats its defeated victim and walks away from the brief encounter satiated and happy.

The rabbit leaves this cruel and unforgiving world so quickly he has no idea what just happened. One moment he’s enjoying a refreshing beverage from the river, the next he’s being savagely devoured by a bloodthirsty beast searching for sustenance.

So it goes.

Mother Nature can be cruel to the weak and unprepared. Those of us fortunate to live in modern times have conveniences, societal structures, and laws that ensure we don’t need to resort to such barbarity. Human beings do from time to time have to engage in such vicious behavior for the sake of survival, but thankfully that’s the exception and not the rule. Despite its flaw, isn’t the 21st Century great?

Yet, even for us city dwellers (or, Heaven forbid, those of us who live in the suburbs!) the “jungle mindset” has not gone completely away. We may shop at grocery stores, eat at fancy restaurants, drive sporty cars, use smartphones to communicate, read books to learn new information, and enjoy indoor plumbing, but deep down inside, buried in our psyches, we still secretly yearn to live in the wild.

Mankind may have become domesticated, but nature doesn’t go away that easily. We aren’t as far off from our caveman and cavewoman days as we might think (and no, I am not referring to the pop culture fad that is the Paleo Diet). We still enjoy hunting, hiking, athletic competitions, competing with others for a mate, and “earning” our right to live. We may not build our homes out of sticks and stones like the good old days, but we work at 40-hour-a-week jobs in order to pay for the roof over our heads.

Perhaps there’s still a part of us that yearns for our Paleolithic days. Even as a casual daydream. Or as the backdrop of a fetishistic fantasy. For those of us who love female bodybuilders, this fantasy manifests itself through our constant comparison (and association) of muscular women with wild beasts.

How many of you imagined the tiger described in the opening anecdote as a muscular cavewoman instead? How many of you thought about the helpless prey as a small, emaciated caveman who heralds from a rival clan? Or a badass chick slaying a (wo)man-eating tiger? Don’t worry if you didn’t initially. You’re sure to think about that now!

When fans of female bodybuilders describe the women they love, two different analogical themes usually emerge: Deific and animalistic.

Werk it, Aleesha Young!

Werk it, Aleesha Young!

The deific nature of female bodybuilders comes out when we talk about muscular women as being “goddesses” or “angels.” Describing a beautiful woman as an angel is quite mainstream. You don’t need to be George McFly to know what I’m talking about (if you don’t get this reference, ask your kids because they’re going to love it). Even the term “goddess” is more or less common among non-muscular women. But I cannot count how many times I’ve come across – or have personally used myself – terms like Muscle Goddess or Muscle Angel as nicknames for women like Alina Popa and Lindsay Mulinazzi.

It makes perfect sense. Female bodybuilders seem almost superhuman. Or in this instance, above human. And what types of creatures are above humanity? The gods, of course. Like Zeus and Athena looking down upon humanity from their ethereal clouds in the sky, female bodybuilders are like Hercules, a human/god hybrid who is technically a deity but has flesh-and-blood and chooses to live among us mortals.

The other theme is animalistic. One of my favorite football (for my non-American readers, I’m not talking about soccer) players of all time is Marshawn Lynch, a former running back for the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills. His apt nickname is “Beast Mode” because he runs like an unleashed wild beast when he’s plowing through defenders and picking up yardage. Even though Mr. Lynch (who’s being mentioned in this blog post so he doesn’t get fined) is now retired, he still sells merchandise that blatantly uses the Beast Mode brand.

Other athletes who are hardcore and play with reckless abandon are also often compared to beasts. Ronda Rousey, Rob Gronkowski, LeBron James, Manny Pacquiao, and others come to mind. There’s something to be said about an athlete who puts it all on the line, plays with a savage attitude, and doesn’t seem human when he or she is going about their business.

Bodybuilders, both male and female, are a different kind of animal (pun intended). Unlike athletes who compete in football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, boxing, or MMA, bodybuilding is a sport that’s based on subjective judgement, not head-to-head competition. Most of the hard work is done behind the scenes, or more specifically, in the gym and kitchen. Top bodybuilders aren’t dunking over each other, tackling each other, throwing punches at each other, or trying to strike each other out with a 95 mph fastball.

That’s not to say that bodybuilding isn’t a true competitive sport. It’s definitely competitive in every single facet imaginable. But it’s different than other sports. Not better or worse, but different.

However, the beastly comparisons come into play when we think about the physiques of bodybuilding athletes. They look animalistic. It’s hard not to look at a bodybuilder’s hypermuscular body and not compare them to an ox (“strong as an ox”), bull, horse, or lion. So bodybuilders don’t necessarily act like beasts when they’re on the stage, but they indisputably look like beasts.

Male bodybuilders are often compared to beasts. So are female bodybuilders. So what’s the big deal? Here are a few takeaways:

  1. Beasts and traditional roles of women

For as long as human civilization has existed, certain gender stereotypes and roles have also existed. Chief among them is the role of men being the hunters and gatherers and women as caretakers of the family and home. The clear-cut domesticated role for women still persists today in most parts of the world. Who usually takes care of the children? Either their mother or nanny (who is usually a woman). In other words, a maternal authority figure.

Men, on the other hand, are the so-called breadwinners. Men today may not actually hunt for their food, but they are encouraged to work at jobs that pay money intended to help put food on the table. Yes, women do make up a significant portion of the modern workforce, but old habits are often hard to break. Going back several centuries, men hunted for food. Women did not.

This social structure then makes the “woman as beast” motif a rather new phenomenon. Only in cartoons, graphic novels, fetish porn, and pulp literature do you see women portrayed as hunters and gatherers in the jungle (both literally and figuratively). Traditional gender roles make this paradigm not only unusual, but contrary to most of human history.

So associating a female bodybuilder with a wild beast is a definitive break from how we’ve traditionally viewed the role of women in our society. The “man as beast” motif makes sense from an anthropological perspective, but not the “woman as beast” theme. The fact we’ve come to view women in this light is fascinating.

  1. Humans vs. non-humans

An animal is not a human, which is stating the obvious. We don’t expect a human being (not even Usain Bolt) to be able to outrun a cheetah or lift more than a grizzly bear. Humans have certain physical limitations. We can’t fly like an eagle, crawl up a tree like a squirrel or swim underwater for long periods of time like a shark. That’s not in our DNA.

When a human being can (sort of) do things that an animal can, the beast comparisons start to roll in. Mr. Bolt is fast like a cheetah. Andy Bolton is as strong as an ox. Ronda Rousey is as lethal as an anaconda. LeBron James can jump like a kangaroo. We know they can’t literally accomplish feats that a beast can, but sports media (and fans) are often prone to employing hyperbole.

Sporting the shades, Roxanne Edwards is not a woman you want to mess with.

Sporting the shades, Roxanne Edwards is not a woman you want to mess with.

For female bodybuilders, this is even more significant. Because women are biologically not as strong as men, when a woman can achieve a level of muscularity and pure raw strength that surpasses many men, the beast comparisons matter even more. Female bodybuilders are human, but seem almost non-human. They totally destroy whatever notions we hold about the limitations of female physiology.

Male bodybuilders are sort of viewed this way, but it’s exponentially amplified when applied to female bodybuilders. Our perceived stereotypes (and scientifically-backed) beliefs about what women can and cannot physically do shatter when we encounter a muscular woman. She tears down walls that we put around the female species. Like Samson pushing apart the pillars at the Temple of Dagon, female bodybuilders defiantly demolish the box put around them with the ferocious strength of a beast.

  1. The fetishization of beasts

You don’t need to be an expert at Furry culture to know what I’m talking about. If you aren’t familiar with the Furry subculture, Google it and be prepared to feel supremely uncomfortable afterward (don’t say I didn’t warn you!). Yikes.

There exists in our culture the element of fetishizing wild beasts. Additionally, there is something fairly normal to this that has nothing to do with bestiality. Sexuality is a raw element to humanity, something that speaks to our base desires and ability to create future generations.

We like to think of humankind as being intelligent, civilized, cooperative, and advanced. Perhaps the smartest and most resourceful creatures who walk this Earth. It may not seem like it at times (just read the news for five minutes) but for the most part, we humans think of ourselves as superior creatures to wildlife in the jungle, fish in the ocean, and birds in the sky.

However, deep down inside there lurks a desire to reconnect to our animal brothers and sisters. It can get boring and tedious being a human, so why not switch it up for a change and live life (even in a pseudo-sexual manner) as an animal? This is less about anthropomorphism and more about believing that people are really no different than animals.

I’m no expert at zoophilia – and yes, such a term actually exists – but that sort of thing indeed does occur among some folks. Not a huge number of us, but there’s definitely something primal when it comes to thinking about human beings as being wild beasts in need of taming and domesticating.

  1. Beasts are a natural adversary for man

Returning to the hunters-and-gatherers motif, another angle to this discussion is the fact that beasts are also a natural adversary to mankind. Wild animals can be a safety hazard. We treat wild animals as food; just like they treat us in similar fashion. Beasts are not just a common opponent to humans, they often can be an existential threat to humans!

The popularity of the Planet of the Apes and Jurassic Park movies speak to this. People are, for whatever reason, naturally worried that someday their global dominance will come to an end. Endless warfare, environmental disasters, economic collapse, destruction of the civil social order, and other unknown threats ominously loom in the distance. We experience all these things now, but it can get worse, right?

Right. Or not. But fiction rarely gives us a rosy picture of the future. History has taught us that those in power are always paranoid about losing it. That goes for kings, queens, presidents, dictators, mob bosses, war lords, and other people in positions of power. Human beings of all shapes and sizes are the same way. Will super intelligent apes or genetically reconstructed dinosaurs eventually replace us as the dominant species on Earth? It’s doubtful, but one never knows how future events will unfold.

Kim Birtch has gorgeous eyes.

Kim Birtch has gorgeous eyes.

This deep-rooted fear might explain why people have a natural inclination to demonstrate who’s boss. People hunt wild game, eat meat, keep pets, and trap animals in zoos for a variety of reasons, but one hidden reason might be our subconscious desire to remind these beasts who’s in charge. Every time we eat a steak we think to ourselves, “This is what you get for being lower on the food chain!”

Therefore, when men who love female bodybuilders start to compare muscular women to beasts, the same phenomena might be happening. Men, on a subconscious level, view a muscular woman as a threat to his social dominance. She’s bigger and stronger than him, which goes contrary to what thousands of years of biological evolution has brought to us. So in order to retrieve his lost masculinity, he imagines muscular women as being a wild beast in need of domesticating. She’s like a hungry tiger who is threatening to unmercifully consume him and his family. How will he manage to survive?

Perhaps this explains why many guys (not me, but I’m not judging anyone) love to wrestle female bodybuilders. I prefer sensual muscle worship, but I do not speak for everybody. They want to “defeat” her in a battle of physical prowess. While this “victory” is more symbolic than anything else (fantasy wrestling is just that: a fantasy come to life), nevertheless it provides him emotional comfort that he’s still a man and she’s still a woman – regardless of how much muscle she’s packed on her body.

Beasts are either defeated or tamed. A defeated beast is forced to either become food or retreat back into their domains and lick their wounds. A tamed beast can become a subordinate or a partner.

Wow. Who knew female muscle fetishism could be so deeply psychological?

  1. Beasts lack inhibitions and manners

The last point speaks to why many of us love female bodybuilders in the first place: Female bodybuilders are rebels. They defy our expectations for what women are supposed to look like. They defy their biological limitations. They defy their socially-constructed subordinate role to men. They defy our standards of beauty, femininity, and masculinity. They do this whether they intend to or not.

What theoretically separates humans from beasts is that we’re civil and rational while beasts are uncivil and primitive. We live in air conditioned homes. They live in caves and makeshift nests. We can do algebra, calculus, perform symphonies, and write poetry. They can’t conceive of such activities. We can cooperate for mutual benefit. Beasts are forced to kill each other for the sake of survival.

But whenever you read about terrorism, war, political corruption, and crime in the news, it’s hard to say with a straight face that humans are civilized. Who are we to talk? We can be just as violent as a pack of wolves attacking a lone deer.

Beasts, however, lack inhibitions and manners. They are not expected to follow such protocols of rational behavior. A hungry tiger can slaughter a group of defenseless rabbits and none of us will blink an eye. A deranged psychopath can shoot up a public place like a school or a shopping mall and we (justifiably) look down upon that person with shame, disgust, and repulsion. People must behave in a certain way. Animals are, for whatever reason, not expected to do the same.

Beautiful legs on Autumn Raby.

Beautiful legs on Autumn Raby.

In vicarious fashion, maybe we envy the beast for not having to follow these rules. We are jealous that female bodybuilders have the self-confidence to pursue their dreams despite what society says – all the while we don’t possess even a fraction of those convictions. We love muscular women because not only are they physically beautiful, but because they’ve given themselves permission to do whatever they want to with their lives regardless of the consequences. That’s pretty cool. How many of us are willing and able to do the same thing?

We love female bodybuilders because they aren’t dainty flowers who feel constricted by social mores. They defiantly break those molds and create their own rules. They feel free to grunt, bust their tail, and sweat buckets at the gym without a second thought to what anybody else thinks. Their lack of “manners” is liberating. We get a sense of vicarious pleasure from watching this unfold.

I apologize if this post took an unexpected dark turn, but discussions about human sexuality isn’t always a bed of roses. Sometimes it is necessary to travel into the Dark Unknown in order to shine a light on Greater Understanding.

To summarize, there’s something undeniably animalistic about female bodybuilders. From the perspective of straight men who love female muscle, we fantasize about muscular women being wild beasts because it speaks to how we view our place in the global order. Are we at the top? Or at the bottom? Do we have power? Or are we powerless? Is our masculinity celebrated or squashed? Are men the stronger sex or are we secretly afraid that not all of us are able to carry this mantle?

Like the tiger hiding in the sagebrush, these questions are lurking in our minds. And like the tiger’s helpless prey, answering these questions may eventually lead us to an unpleasant confrontation.

The Benevolent Voyeur and the Female Bodybuilder – Part Two

Rebekah Kresila looking like a well-trained athlete.

Rebekah Kresila looking like a well-trained athlete.

The following morning before breakfast, Rebecca found herself staring long and hard at the $500 lying on her coffee table. It’s as if the smug stare of Benjamin Franklin were directed toward her, with Old Ben warning her not to go through with this madness.

A voice on the television informs her that the captured aid worker was in fact executed by ISIS in the most brutal fashion imaginable. Thankfully, the network spares its viewers the gruesome details, but the general idea remains loud and clear. We live in an unforgiving world. Sometimes, we cannot let reason or logic dictate our actions. This isn’t the way Rebecca wants the world to work, but she accepts this is the way it is regardless of her feelings.

The hour-long jog on the treadmill goes by so slowly Rebecca could have sworn it took two hours. But indeed, only 60 minutes pass before she finds herself taking a short shower with Katy Perry music blasting in the background. Thank God for Katy. We may live in a world with sexually deviant stalkers and international terrorists, but at least a quick listening to “Firework” can be enough to lift your weary spirits.

Thursday is arm day, which is a day no serious weightlifter would ever skip. In fact, it seems like most people only work out their arms and nothing else. Rebecca knows better than that. As a professional female bodybuilder who one day hopes to achieve elite-level status, she must be diligent and strategic while at the gym. Today is no exception.

“Nice arms, little lady!” Rebecca doesn’t need to turn around to know whose voice this gratuitous compliment comes from. It’s Gregory, a somewhat dirty old man who frequents the gym during the early hours of the morning. Rebecca characterizes him as “somewhat” because for an older gentleman (he appears to be in his mid to late 60s), he’s actually pretty handsome. But not movie star handsome. Let’s not get too carried away.

“Thank you, Gregory. What are you working on today?” Rebecca takes a generous swig from her water bottle. The contents are room temperature, which annoy her to no end.

“Oh, shoulders and back. Whatever I feel like doing,” he says. “When is your next competition? Didn’t you last do some a couple of months ago?” Gregory’s silver hair looks as stiff as roadkill. Does his sweat ever mix with the oil he puts in it? Rebecca apparently has time to ponder these things. She takes a look at Gregory’s biceps and notices a significant amount of size growth. She won’t say anything about that to him, however. There’s no need to feed his already oversized ego.

“Yes, I did a competition last March. It was down in San Diego,” Rebecca replies. “The next one is in Houston in eight weeks. I’m hoping to place in the top five this time around.”

Gregory looks up and down at Rebecca’s body, which sends a shiver down her spine. He doesn’t do it in a creepy kind of way, but she is a little bit “on the edge” right now for obvious reasons.

“I have no doubt you’ll place in the top five. Maybe you’ll win it all!” He laughs. She laughs too, forcing every fiber of her body to play along until she can find an excuse to exit this conversation. Thankfully, a gorgeous 40-something blonde woman walks by wearing a skimpy white athletic bra and short shorts that leave little to the imagination. Expectedly, this steals Gregory’s attention. Using Miss Blondie’s presence as an excuse to leave, Rebecca quickly makes a beeline for the free weights room and enters unnoticed.

Conveniently for her, the gym is within walking distance of her condo, as it is for hundreds of others for that matter. The early mornings are usually not too crowded, but by 8:00 a.m. the masses of people start to show up in droves. Rebecca senses now is the time when these folks might start to arrive. She grabs a pair of 65 pound dumbbells and cranks out 12 repetitions of bicep curls. This impresses all the men who are working out near her. They don’t say anything, but she knows exactly what they’re all thinking:

Not bad for a tiny Asian girl!

Rebecca estimates the gym’s clientele consists of 70 percent men and 30 percent women. The guys range from out of shape couch surfers to young men who aspire to become professional bodybuilders like her. But she doesn’t go to the gym to pick up guys. She goes to get to work. And that’s what she always does.

Of the women, there are only three regulars who are as muscular as her. There’s Candace, a 20-something black girl who’s competed before and is actively working on landing her IFBB card. Then there’s Michaela, a 19-year-old track and field athlete with a lean muscular body and breasts even smaller than hers. Rebecca used to be enormously insecure about her flat chest. Today, she’s accepted this fact and has moved on with her life.

Finally, there’s Joyce. Oh, Joyce. Rebecca suspects she’s a lesbian, but a short haircut, tattoos, and a pierced nose doesn’t necessarily mean she’s into chicks. Rebecca is definitely not one to stereotype like that. Joyce can talk your ear off if you let her. She always has something to complain about, whether it’s her flailing personal training business or her mother who’s wondering when she’s finally going to get married. Joyce is probably in her early 40s, so it’s not like she doesn’t have time to find a significant other. But by now maybe it’s a foregone conclusion that she’s not into men.

Or maybe she is. Rebecca doesn’t care either way.

Today, none of these ladies are at the gym. None of the talkative guys who endlessly flirt with her are here either. So perhaps Rebecca will be able to lift in peace and quiet.

“I’m almost done. Just a few more sets,” Rebecca tells herself.

Before leaving the gym, Rebecca sometimes visits the smoothie bar and orders something to help her recover from her workout. Today is one of those days. After finishing her workout and taking a nice long shower, Rebecca dresses and approaches the bar. This morning, a cute guy named Dale is holding down the fort. She and Dale have some history together. A few years ago at a Christmas party they met each other through a mutual friend. They both got really drunk and started to make out. One thing led to another, and before the night was out they returned to Dale’s apartment and almost had sex. They were about to do the deed until Dale, who was more drunk than Rebecca, accidentally hits his head against a wooden cabinet and suffers a bad laceration on his forehead.

Rebecca dutifully ordered a cab and took him to the hospital. They ended up not having sex that evening. That’s probably a good thing in retrospect. Dale is a good guy, but his frat boy days haven’t totally left him yet. He’s nearly 30 but still thinks he’s a freshman in college. Rebecca tends to not gravitate toward men like that.

“What’s up Dale?” Rebecca smiles and takes out her phone to check her e-mail. No messages.

“Hey, girl, hey! Looking good. Oh, not much,” Dale says. “My dog puked all over my bed this morning. That was fun. What about you?”

Learning about Dale’s dog barfing up his breakfast was not the type of news she was in the mood to hear. But that’s Dale for you, ladies and gentlemen.

“Not much. Same old, same old. That’s what happens to people our age. We fall into ruts. I’ll have a strawberry banana smoothie with two scoops of protein powder and half a scoop of energy. I’m going to need it today.” Out of the corner of her eye she sees Gregory hitting on Miss Blondie. This brings a smirk to her face.

A fine pair of legs on Sandy Vu.

A fine pair of legs on Sandy Vu.

“Coming right up!” Dale quickly goes to work. If there’s one thing he does exceptionally well, it’s make delicious smoothies just as you ordered it. So bravo to him for that.

Twenty minutes later, Rebecca almost finishes the smoothie as she parks her car at the physical therapy clinic. She slurps down the rest and tosses the plastic cup into a garbage can. A small army of flies circle around the opening. It looks like it hasn’t been attended to in years. Disgusting.

The work day begins as usual. Only three clients today. None of them noteworthy to mention. In the back office there are several computers that therapists and freelance employees can use. Her usual computer at the back of the room appears to be taken, as someone’s backpack and fleece pullover is lying on top of the chair.

Who could this possibly be? Everyone knows this computer is always reserved for Rebecca Tanaka…

“I’m sorry. Is this your computer? I didn’t know these were assigned to anyone in particular,” an unfamiliar voice says from behind Rebecca’s back. She immediately turns around to see who it is. Standing before her is someone she’s never seen before at the clinic. It’s a devilishly handsome Asian guy with a charming smile and a fit athletic body. Rebecca’s eyes widen as she loses herself in this man’s beautiful aura. She finally composes herself and extends her hand toward him.

“Oh, I didn’t see you there. I’m Rebecca. Pleased to meet you.” They shake hands. His firm grip sends a jolt of electricity through her system. There is something about the way he touches her that Rebecca knows is different from anyone else she’s ever met.

“Hi. I’m Brad. I’m new here. Today is my first day on the job,” he says. Rebecca continues to get lost in his eyes. “I’m the new sports athletic trainer. I had no idea this was your computer.”

“Oh, no. These computers aren’t assigned. I just usually choose this one by default. But I can use the one next to yours.” Rebecca puts her backpack in front of the computer next to Brad’s. He smiles at her again, which sends another jolt of energy through her body. God, what is happening to her?

“Great. I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes on my first day at the job, you know what I mean?”

“I definitely know what you mean!” Wow, is that the best she can come up with? Rebecca turns on the computer and sits down. She admires Brad’s impressive biceps and forearms, which is significant considering she’s seen hundreds of big and buff dudes in her life. “Sports athletic trainer, you say? Julie did say she wants the clinic to go further into that direction.”

“Yeah, I guess most of your clients are elderly people and folks recovering from surgery, right? It’s about time we get some new blood in here. High school and college athletics are becoming a bigger and bigger deal, so it makes sense that she would want to adapt to the times,” he says. Right now, Rebecca is hanging onto every word he speaks. Her eyes move from his arms to his chest, legs, and angular face.

“Where were you before coming here?” Rebecca asks.

“I worked with minor league baseball players down in the Phoenix area,” Brad says. “I just moved up here a few months ago. I couldn’t stand the heat anymore and wanted to go somewhere cooler.”

Before Rebecca could say something, Julie pops her head into the room.

“Rebecca! I’m glad you and Brad are getting acquainted. But Sam is here for his 12:30 appointment.” Well, shit. Time to go to work. Rebecca stands up, gives up on checking her work e-mail, and grins at Brad.

“It’s nice talking to you, Brad. I have to get to work. I’ll see you around,” Rebecca says. She stands up, accidentally places her foot underneath a power cord, and trips as she attempts to take a step forward.

“Whoa there!” Brad saves Rebecca from falling by clutching her in his strong arms. The warm touch of his body against her body provides some dampness to form between her legs. It’s not too often that Rebecca becomes sexually aroused at work (actually, she’s never felt sexually aroused at work), so this is a new experience for her. Also, it’s humiliating to be tripping over herself the moment she encounters a good looking guy.

“Thanks. I can be a klutz at times,” she says. Rebecca regains her composure and exits the room without further antics one would usually find in a low-grade romantic comedy. Brad smirks to himself and makes a mental note to remember Rebecca’s name and face. He too is smitten with her.

Rebecca wasn’t able to see Brad for the rest of the day. Her three clients decide to take up entirely too much time (it’s not her problem, though. They’re willingly paying for her time) and their appointments were lined up one after another. By the time she clocked out for the day, Brad had already gone home. Oh well. There will be a next time, Rebecca supposes.

Typical agility drills done by sports athletic trainers.

Typical agility drills done by sports athletic trainers.

After picking up a tub of fresh quinoa and sundried tomato salad from a deli across the street, Rebecca returns home. She makes small talk with Craig and checks her mail. Thankfully, no perverted letters from nutty voyeurs. Rebecca enters her condo unit and decides to take a shower before eating dinner. She usually showers right before going to bed, but her three clients gave her a workout more than she gave them a workout. The daily grind needs to be washed off before her evening could commence.

Self-conscious about preying eyes, Rebecca closes the blinds on all her windows. You never know these days, she thinks to herself. Rebecca strips naked and takes a moment to look at herself in a long full-body mirror. Despite her natural beauty and impressive muscle mass, Rebecca is still insecure about her looks. She looks at her flat chest as a major flaw. She hates her short stumpy legs. She loves the muscle definition on her legs, but she wishes they could be longer. Her short stature combined with her wide muscular frame makes her look like a Hobbit bodybuilder.

Rebecca also hates her eyes. As a full-blooded Japanese woman, her eyes are as narrow and slanted as a cartoon character. Kids used to make fun of her growing up. Deep down inside, she still feels like adult women judge her because of her strong Asian facial features. She knows that’s ridiculous because most people in the Pacific Northwest are more open-minded than that, but those scarring childhood memories don’t ever go away. They’re a part of her psyche for eternity.

Another remarkable feature of her body is her astonishingly large clitoris. Rebecca takes a modest amount of anabolic steroids to help her gain muscle mass, but nothing too extreme. Nevertheless, the additional growth hormones circulating through her system made a certain part of her body grow larger than normal. Even when she isn’t aroused, the thick head of her clit sticks out between her legs like a really tiny penis.

When she is aroused (and when she’s lucky enough for a guy to be willing to give her oral sex), her clitoris can grow to an eye-popping size. Long and thick, she once measured it with an old plastic ruler. Rebecca did a double take when she saw how long it is. Two and a half inches when she’s fully aroused. Only an inch and a quarter when she’s not aroused.

Is that normal? She has doubts about that.

Every time Rebecca goes to the beach and wears a bikini, she uses a piece of scotch tape to hide her clit from public view. It’s embarrassing, but it’s what she has to do to feel like a normal woman. “Real” women don’t have large bulges in their panties. All she wants to do is to not feel like a freak.

Upon finishing her inspection of her body, Rebecca likes what she sees overall and goes on to take her shower. Fifteen minutes later she walks out to the living room still naked and drying her hair with a towel. She turns on the television to see what’s on. Some murder mystery show. The victim died by a sledgehammer being pounded repeatedly into the side of his skull. What an unpleasant way to go. Why do people watch violent shit like this?

She turns off the TV and plops down on her bed. For some unexplained reason, Brad’s handsome face and impressive biceps flash into her mind. Her heart flutters. The dampness returns between her legs. Rebecca thinks now is the appropriate time to masturbate, an activity she hasn’t done as much lately as she’d like.

Lee Jin Won in top competitive shape.

Lee Jin Won in top competitive shape.

Rebecca turns off all the lights and takes out her trusty dildo from the bedside nightstand. She dabs a small amount of lubrication on the tip and spreads it all over the shaft. A typical 7 inch long white dildo, she’s had this since college and uses it as her default masturbation toy. She also has a vibrator, but she doesn’t like the annoying humming sound. It gets her out of the mood and ruins her mindset. Rebecca needs everything to be perfect in order for her to optimally get off.

Taking in a deep breath, Rebecca closes her eyes and spreads her legs out wide. She leans back against her pillow and exhales. She playfully taps the dildo against her enlarged clitoris and moans at the sensations this gives her. Rebecca suspects that when her clit began to grow it also started to become more sensitive. She could be wrong about this observation, though. But the added pleasure it’s given her is something she can’t argue about.

Inch by inch, she inserts the dildo inside her moist vagina. She strokes it in and out at a leisurely pace, not wanting to rush anything. It’s been four days since she last had an orgasm, so she wants this to be a good one. Rebecca makes sure the dildo touches every square centimeter of her wet and sensitive passageway, including her g-spot. More moans escape from her throat.

If only “Jones” were able to see this! He’d go crazy and would probably give her $2,000 instead.

The thought of Jones watching her temporarily takes her mind off of pleasing herself, so she immediately refocuses on Brad. Rebecca imagines the dildo being Brad’s erection invading her, exploring her, pleasing her. With her free hand, she pinches her dark brown nipples. Both are sticking straight up into the air. This inspires her to increase her tempo. Faster and faster she stimulates herself. Her legs tense up. She lifts her back up off the bedsheets. Her head almost bangs against the bedframe.

She’s close, and she knows it.

Suddenly, the explicit visual image of Brad kissing her just as he comes inside her unexpectedly flashes into her head. This is enough to set her off.

“Oooooooohhhhh! YES!!!”

Rebecca comes and squirts a small amount of creamy white fluid onto the bed. The walls of her vagina contract wildly, as if this is the first orgasm she’s ever experienced in her life. This is not true, of course, but this is a testament to how strong of a spell Brad has cast over her imagination. Out of breath, Rebecca opens her eyes and enjoys the smaller vaginal contractions that follow the more intense ones. Finally, her orgasm ends and she is left lying on the bed drenched in her own sweat.

Fuck. She might have to take another shower!

She sits up and notices the wet spot between her legs on the bedsheets. Fuck! She’s been able to ejaculate for years now, but she can usually control it by not excessively rubbing her g-spot. She must have gotten carried away this time. Rebecca goes to the bathroom, cleans up the mess with a paper towel, and pees in the toilet. Looking at herself in the still-fogged up mirror, she smiles and says to her reflection:

“Damn. That was a good one!”

Friday is the next day. It is uneventful and boring, just like every other Friday at the office. It is a rest day, so she spent the morning talking to her photographer about finalizing the details of their shoot tomorrow. The weather is supposed to be gorgeous, which is fantastic news.

As it turns out, Brad will work primarily in the field and away from the office. At a weekly team meeting – who holds staff meetings on Fridays? – Julie informs the group that Brad will travel to high schools and college campuses to work with athletes to help them improve their speed, strength, quickness, burst, coordination, and overall athleticism. Rebecca is disappointed to hear this news, but she is still glad he’s part of the staff.

Later that evening Rebecca goes out for cocktails with her two best friends, Lauren and Desiree. These three have known each other since middle school and they remarkably still keep in touch. Wisely, Rebecca makes no mention of “Jones” but did glowingly rave about her new cute coworker.

“Girl! Are you going to pursue anything with him?” Desiree asks.

“Before she can answer that, she needs to know if he’s single. Is he available?” Lauren chimes in.

Rebecca downs her whiskey on the rocks and coughs. Lauren and Desiree always elect to drink “girly” drinks with too much sugar and fruit. Rebecca considers herself to be more hardcore and goes for the hard stuff. Her two friends cannot figure out why she’d intentionally drink that shit.

“I think he’s single, and I’m definitely going to make a move if the opportunity presents itself,” Rebecca assures them. “It’s been forever since I’ve last dated.”

Three and a half years to be exact. Both Lauren and Desiree know this.

Finally, Saturday morning arrives. Rebecca gets up at 6:00 a.m. – an hour earlier than she usually does – and eats a larger than normal breakfast. She cooks herself a veggie omelet made with egg whites, low fat cheese, peas, broccoli, onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, asparagus, and avocado. This is served with a bowl of Greek yogurt with granola and peach slices. She drinks way too much coffee before brushing her teeth (in order to make her pearly whites as white as possible) and heading to the gym.

Leg day. Oh, fun.

Saturday mornings at the gym is the best time to go because hardly anyone is there. But Rebecca is there. Gregory and Michaela are also there. Gregory might be flirting with Michaela by the TRX machine. Gross.

Several squats, lunges, deadlifts, leg presses, snatch and power cleans, and miles running on the treadmill later, Rebecca showers in the locker room but struggles to walk around. She always wants to get an arduous workout in before a major photoshoot. It makes her feel more sexy and alive when she’s so exhausted her body is running on pure adrenaline. She skips the smoothie bar (and having to deal with Dale, who seems to work here every single day) and instead drinks a bottled protein shake. It’s not the same, but it’ll do for today.

The drive to Alki Beach Park from Bellevue only takes 35 minutes, which is pretty damn good, even for a sleepy weekend. Rebecca receives a text from Garrett, her photographer, saying he’s running a few minutes late. This doesn’t surprise her one bit. He’s always late. Rebecca’s Asian heritage doesn’t allow her to be late for anything. There’s one perk of having slanted eyes.

Garrett has been Rebecca’s primary photographer for a solid decade. They work perfectly together. He’s an artsy type who also knows how to shoot commercial shots. He’s also very gay, so she has no worries of him coming on to her. That’s been an issue with past photographers. But no longer.

It’s a gorgeous morning in Seattle. Not a cloud in the sky, but there’s a cool breeze to keep her from getting too overheated. The beach is thinly crowded, populated with a few joggers and little kids making sandcastles. Wearing gray sweatpants and a tank top, Rebecca notices she’s already receiving unwarranted stares from random strangers. A group of bros smoking weed by the public bathroom stalls makes comments about her “wicked shoulders and savage biceps.” Rebecca doesn’t even give them a courtesy smile. Those fuckers don’t deserve it.

Alki Beach on a beautiful summer evening.

Alki Beach on a beautiful summer evening.

Rebecca arrives at the agreed upon meeting area and waits. She sits on a park bench and checks her phone for messages. Nothing. She looks around to take in the sights and smells of springtime transitioning into summer. This is her favorite time of the year. It’s not too hot, but the chilly dewy elements of spring are long gone. Out of the corner of her eye she sees a middle-aged white man wearing a suit and tie sitting down on a bench about 400 feet away from her.

“That’s an unusual thing to wear to the beach,” Rebecca says aloud.

He’s looking out into Puget Sound with a pair of professional-grade binoculars. The man has dark hair with streaks of silver on the sides. His black suit is complemented perfectly with a bright red tie. Rebecca even notices the impeccable shine on his Italian loafers. They look damn expensive. They probably are damn expensive.

For whatever odd reason, Rebecca notices him out of the 40 or 50 other people within view. She doesn’t know why, but all her life she’s had a well-developed sixth sense about certain situations. Every so often, she’ll fixate on something or someone for reasons she can’t explain. Intuition is a strange thing, indeed. The man isn’t doing anything inappropriate or suspicious; the only noteworthy thing about him is his out-of-place suave attire.

“Rebecca! Hi!” Rebecca jumps out of her seat when a familiar but sharp voice calls out her name. She turns around and sees Garrett, dressed like a 1970s Greenwich Village hipster, jogging toward her with an expensive Nikon camera around his neck and a backpack full of photography equipment slung over his shoulder.

“Hello Garrett!” They hug. Garrett playfully rubs her muscular back and whistles.

“Holy fucking shit, Becky. You’re getting bigger and bigger every single fucking time I see you, I swear to God,” Garrett exclaims. “Holy fuck, you’re gorgeous.”

“Thanks,” Rebecca says, blushing a bit. “I do what I can to add quality content to your portfolio.”

Garrett laughs heartily and checks the settings on his camera. Rebecca self-consciously removes her tank top, sweatpants, and sandals and stuffs them inside her tote bag. As always, a hidden strip of tape conceals the bulge between her legs. The brand new bikini she ordered earlier in the week hadn’t arrived yet (the distributor says it’s stuck in Cleveland of all places), so she had to pull out an old frilly Navy blue bikini from her closet instead. Oh well. Life goes on.

“Motherfucker, stop looking like that, girl!” Garrett says. “Well, are you ready?”

Rebecca looks around and already sees a small gathering of onlookers watching them. Some are pointing at Rebecca and presumably commenting on her muscles. She overhears a little girl ask her mother if “that girl is a boy or a girl.” Gee whiz, kid. You just answered your own fucking question!

No matter how long she’s been a competitive bodybuilder, Rebecca has never gotten used to unsolicited stares from strangers and rude remarks from the peanut gallery. But that’s the life she’s chosen to lead. If they can’t handle the sight of a beautiful muscular Asian woman flaunting her stuff at a public beach, they can take their opinion and shove it up their ass.

“I’m ready,” Rebecca says. “Let’s do this.”

You Can’t Please Everybody: The Difficulty a Female Bodybuilder Faces in Maintaining the “Perfect” Balance

Dayana Cadeau may not be able to please everybody, but she can sure please me!

Dayana Cadeau may not be able to please everybody, but she can sure please me!

There are some people in this world who need to please others. And not just please them every so often; they have this burning desire to please everybody every time with everything they do.

This, of course, is an impossible task. But that doesn’t stop certain people from trying to do so with all their might.

Call it insecurity. Call it a psychological complex. Call it irrational. Or you can chalk it up to good business sense. Being a bodybuilder isn’t just a lifestyle. It’s a business venture. Like all business ventures, success isn’t guaranteed, nor is the formula for success set in stone permanently. In our ever-changing market of goods and services (which is becoming more internationally-driven as the years go on), what works today won’t work ten years from now; just as what worked ten years ago isn’t the same as what works today.

The same is true for how a female bodybuilder has to promote herself to the public. In decades past, there were more “traditional” routes to how she could achieve financial success. Competitions were still fairly lucrative and endorsement deals were there for the taking. The money in it wasn’t always reliable or plentiful, but you knew where it was if you wanted it.

Today, things are much different. Big, brawny female bodybuilders aren’t given the opportunities they once were. They aren’t becoming extinct by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s hard to imagine the glory years of the 1970s and 80s returning any time soon.

Jill St. Laurent is a true saint in my book.

Jill St. Laurent is a true saint in my book.

So here’s the fundamental dilemma: The general public – and whether this assertion if fair or not can be up for debate – tends to gravitate toward people who fit “one size fits all” molds. If we’re talking about strong women, they want these women to fit all these criteria:

  • Tough, yet approachable
  • Strong, yet vulnerable
  • Muscular, yet traditionally feminine
  • Accomplished, yet still physically beautiful
  • Intelligent, yet not condescending
  • Individualistic, yet still marketable
  • Talented, yet unintimidating
  • A woman, yet not defined by her gender
  • Speaks her mind, yet doesn’t ruffle any feathers
  • Dedicated to her craft, yet still has time to do “woman” things like get married and raise children

These hideous double standards are obviously not felt by the majority of male athletes. Whether the typical sports fan would ever admit this or not, this is how we treat our female athletes. In many cases, they feel this way without even explicitly knowing it! Talk about having certain attitudes ingrained into our psyche from birth.

Nobody can chain down Fabiola Boulanger!

Nobody can chain down Fabiola Boulanger!

If a female bodybuilder were to be one of those types who needs to please everybody every single time, she’ll go crazy and would tear all her hair out. Thankfully, the vast majority of FBBs are mentally strong and ignore useless nonsense like that. But this illustrates the predicament that comes with the territory of working in the industry. Female bodybuilders cannot possibly please everyone. The so-called “perfect balance” of being someone who can appeal to all audiences is a myth. Not even the most popular celebrities in our society are universally popular with all people. Singers, actors, TV personalities, writers, sports heroes, etc. Everyone has their fair share of critics. This isn’t a reflection of them, however. This is more of a reflection of the diverse tastes, opinions, and aesthetic standards we have available to us.

So how does one survive in a business where appeal is the name of the game? After all, if enough people don’t like your brand, your earning power will quickly diminish. Blockbuster Video no longer exists because Netflix (and, ahem, online pirating) replaced it as the consumer’s top choice for purchasing cinematic entertainment. Therefore, FBBs cannot completely ignore the importance of mass appeal.

What is she to do? There are two routes:

  1. Appeal to as many different audiences as possible
  2. Appeal to a very specific audience and take full advantage of this niche market

One could argue an FBB would best be served if she pursued route #2. Non-bodybuilders like soccer players, tennis players, basketball players, MMA fighters, and prominent fitness celebrities are more likely to find financial success if she dips her toes in route #1. But this could very well be wrong.

To an extent, appealing to a niche audience is what FBBs do currently. In many respects this is their only viable option to staying financially secure in today’s world. This isn’t a criticism of the “Female Bodybuilding Business Model.” This is just an observation of what actually works.

Ever heard of the “80/20 Rule?” Also known as the “Pareto principle,” in the business world it states that in general, 80 percent of your business revenue will come from 20 percent of your customers. If you open up a coffee shop in the middle of a busy downtown business district, your most valuable clients will be the people who buy an iced latte or white chocolate mocha from you five days a week. The spunky happy-go-lucky traveler who’s in town temporarily to visit his in-laws and decides to stop by your establishment only one time isn’t. That guy may be a totally nice person, but his value to your business is limited. Your repeat customers who loyally visit your shop on a consistent basis are way more important in the long-term.

Brandi Mae Akers posing in a sexy see-through dress.

Brandi Mae Akers posing in a sexy see-through dress.

For an entrepreneurial female bodybuilder, she must take heed of the 80/20 Rule. She may not have the largest number of clients available to her, but she can have a smaller group of fans who will follower her to the ends of the Earth. They may be small in size, but their return on investment (ROI) may be significant. One person who will buy tickets to a bodybuilding competition, pay you $500 for a muscle worship session, and purchase customized swag through your website is more valuable than 20 people who know your name but don’t want to have anything to do with you.

This small group of fans will adore you for who you are. They aren’t disgusted by your large size, shrunken breasts, deepened voice, and blunt personality. In fact, they love you because of all those things! Sadly, some FBBs feel like they need to get “smaller” in order to survive in the industry. That’s sad and hopefully they choose to look the way they want to look regardless of what other people think. But the pressure of being an elite athlete who remains unambiguously “feminine” persists whether we like it or not.

However, that doesn’t mean an FBB should be compelled to sell out who she is as a human being in order to earn a steady income. If she wants to squat so much her legs grow to the size of tree trunks, then she has every right to do that. If there are people out there who want her to stop squatting so damn much because she’ll end up “looking like a man,” here’s a pithy comeback for them:

Go fuck yourself.

That’s right! An FBB doesn’t have to be that crude, but she can be if the situation calls for it. The truth is, not everyone in the general population appreciates thick strong legs on a woman. But for those of us who know who Shannon Courtney is, a small but significant portion of us do in fact appreciate the finer things in life. Miss Courtney’s legs are definitely in the category of the “Finer Things in Life,” right up there with 50-year-old scotch whiskey, the cinema of François Truffaut, Lamborghinis, and Thai cuisine.

Shannon Courtney’s legs might be the best illustration of the 80/20 Rule. A vast number of us would appreciate her hard work and provide her a “you go girl!” compliment. A smaller number of us would willingly pay her $300 for the right to touch her legs. I have no idea if Shannon offers these kinds of services, but that’s not the point. If she wanted to, she could make a healthy buck on the side. For many female bodybuilders, they actually make a living wage offering customers the ability to touch their hard-earned bodies.

Shannon Courtney - definitely one of the finer things in life.

Shannon Courtney – definitely one of the finer things in life.

In order to survive in today’s interconnected world, a female bodybuilder doesn’t have to appeal to large audiences. She only has to find a specific niche and saturate that market to the best of her ability. And there is no doubt that such a niche market exists. It may not be obvious or widely talked about, but there are plenty of guys and gals in this world who share a keen interest in muscular women.

These are the people who matter to an FBB. Not the rest who are openly disgusted by her life’s choices. An FBB shouldn’t waste her time trying to please people who don’t already appreciate her beautiful muscles. Trying to convert them will be an exercise in futility. Instead, she should focus her attention on cultivating meaningful relationships with clients who already love her muscles. That will reap much more ROI.

Thankfully, most female bodybuilders are already doing this! This essay isn’t telling them anything they don’t know already. But it can serve as a reminder to the rest of us that living life as an FBB can be arduous, frustrating, and unpredictable. There are outside forces working against you. The deck is not stacked in your favor. But all is not lost. There are avenues to success that are proven to work on a practical level. The challenge is tapping into those avenues and feeling confident, supported, and empowered to do so.

Indeed, you cannot please everybody. This requires either maintaining the (impossible) “perfect balance” that appeals to all audiences … or diluting your product. The first option is impractical and the second option forces you to compromise your integrity. Either one stinks. So your third option is probably your best option: Screw what the masses think and embrace what your dedicated fans think.

And let’s be honest. Not even your most dedicated fans will appreciate everything you do 100 percent of the time. That’s totally fine. But you know they’re in your corner, cheering for you every step of the way. They may not make up large numbers, but their proud loyalty amplifies their voices ten-fold.

Sex Sells! Especially if You’re an Entrepreneurial Female Bodybuilder

Ready to get your beach body back? Timea Majorova would make the perfect poster child!

Ready to get your beach body back? Timea Majorova would make the perfect poster child!

Clichés become clichés because they’re based on, for the most part, a certain degree of observable truth. They may not be true in the purest sense, but conventional wisdom has a funny way of speaking to reality more often than not.

No matter how sick and tired we get of hearing tired adages like “the early bird gets the worm” or “birds of a feather flock together,” we keep seeing them used over and over again because…well, they’re true. Maybe not true 100 percent of the time, but enough times that we don’t retire them to Cliché Heaven.

Here’s another one. “Sex sells.” Does it? Does sex actually sell? You bet your horny ass it does.

Why? Simple explanation: No matter how old we get, how mature we think we become, or how pious we try to act, the erotic will always catch our attention. Always. Especially if it hits right in your wheelhouse. Sex does indeed sell. And in a world that’s dictated by the health and vitality of the free markets, you can bet with both hands that sex will continue to sell as long as it remains a reliable source of profit.

Every Victoria’s Secret magazine spread, shampoo commercial or Abercrombie & Fitch mall banner preys upon this very philosophy. Sex sells anything from TV subscriptions to hair brushes. In fact, it’s so pervasive in our society that we don’t always notice it. I’d go even further and say that it’s so saturated in our culture that sometimes sex doesn’t sell because we’ve become so accustomed to it. If it ceases to titillate us, we might ignore it. So this is why every advertising agency has to keep on pushing the boundaries of good taste as the years go on. When a beautiful girl in a cute dress can be overshadowed by a sexy woman in a g-string bikini, you know it’s only a matter of time when all-out nudity will be considered acceptable in the public sphere.

Female bodybuilders know this reality all too well. As I’ve discussed before, the lifestyle of being a bodybuilder can be quite costly. The monetary rewards that come with competing can be few and far between. Only the elite level athletes are able to make a substantial income from the sport alone. Few others are selected to endorse products that can help generate additional revenue. So many FBBs are stuck having to ride the gravy train of our favorite cliché. Sex sells.

Hop on while you can. All aboard! Next stop, Hornyville, USA!

So how do FBBs sell their sexuality? There are many ways. Sexy workout videos are one way. Sexy photoshoots are another. Also, sexy websites and social media posts can keep fans enthralled. Live webcam shows, specialty content for “members only” and sexy merchandise are par for the course. Then you can go deeper and add sensual sessions to the mix. Whether an FBB offers BDSM services or muscle worship sessions, a slew of appointments from eager fans can add up pretty quickly to a lot of dough. If that doesn’t seem like enough, there’s the good old fashioned “adult entertainment” industry. Don’t tell me you’ve never been curious to explore what that’s all about!

An elegant Jay Fuchs.

An elegant Jay Fuchs.

There are probably other ways that FBBs take advantage of the free market, but what I mentioned above pretty much covers most of it.

However, there are a lot of people who are uncomfortable by all this. They might not necessarily say it out loud, but for many folks the idea of a female bodybuilder using her sexuality for financial gain is disconcerting. There are many reasons for this, so let’s dive right into it.

First, the most prominent argument is that taking advantage of one’s sexuality demeans the sport and one’s peers within the sport, male or female. Female athletes across all sports already are gratuitously sexualized, so this only adds additional fuel to the fire. This makes a lot of sense. In many ways, a female bodybuilder doesn’t just act on her own behalf. She also acts – although not intentionally – on behalf of every single female bodybuilder in existence. It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is.

Understandably, male and female bodybuilders alike struggle to fit into the mainstream of global competitive sports. Today, bodybuilding seems more like a fringe subculture than a universally recognized sporting industry. How many people can identify Peyton Manning if he were to walk down a crowded street? Since he’s just won his second Super Bowl, I’d imagine quite a lot. On the other hand, how many people could identify by name Phil Heath? He’d definitely stand out for being such a large human being, but we can all agree he doesn’t have nearly the face or name recognition as Mr. Manning, LeBron James, Steph Curry or Serena Williams.

This isn’t meant to insult Mr. Heath or anybody else in the bodybuilding world. This is meant to point out a simple fact that the sport isn’t mainstream. Not by a long shot. So how do you make it more mainstream? Quite simply, it has to resemble other mainstream sports. Unfortunately, when a female bodybuilder is seen using her sexuality to make a living, in the minds of the general public this starts to make the sport look more like a muscle beauty contest than the U.S. Open. It’s understandable why so many male and female bodybuilders are uncomfortable by the marriage of their sport with overt sexual expression.

It’s easy to see why a pro bodybuilder would be offended by women who choose to also work in the session business and adult entertainment industry. No one wants their profession viewed by the public with subtle associations of prostitution and pornography. Please keep in mind that I’m not calling FBBs who do sessions “prostitutes.” I am not making that distinction. What I am saying is that this association is not outside the realm of comprehension. The human brain is a funny thing. If a dog quacks like a duck, we may subconsciously think it’s a duck, even though our eyes tell us a different story. FBBs who choose to do sessions and pornographic films are still athletes, even though our brains may tell us they’re sex workers instead. And whatever negative stereotypes we hold against sex workers will unfairly be thrust upon these women whether we acknowledge it or not.

The future of the sport, Danielle Reardon.

The future of the sport, Danielle Reardon.

Second, using sexuality to make a viable income is seen not just as demeaning to the sport, but also demeaning to the individual. The “sex sells” mantra is so well-known that it’s become an easy way to make a quick buck. What can a Hollywood producer do to make sure his upcoming summer blockbuster makes even more money? Easy! Give the female lead a topless scene. How can a TV producer ensure her pilot sitcom will garner substantial ratings? Simple! Create a promo where one of the female characters comes out wearing a bikini. How can a CEO sell more sticks of deodorant? Ah ha! Shoot a commercial where a slovenly slacker dude buys the product, uses it and within seconds finds himself surrounded by hordes of young beautiful sorority co-eds. That’ll have the deodorant flying off the shelves!

“Sex sells,” therefore, feels like you’re selling out. It appears like you cannot sell your product on its own merits, thus you have to “sex” it up in order to grab people’s attention. I can see why this rubs people the wrong way whenever they see a female bodybuilder using her sexuality for financial gain. Why can’t a female athlete just be an athlete, not a “sexy female athlete?”

This is a valid concern. All too often female athletes of every sport are forced (either directly or indirectly) to sexualize their image in order to substantiate their bank accounts. We all know the vast majority of women athletes aren’t super rich like many of their male counterparts, so any extra income they can legitimately earn must be pursued.

Third, the “sex sells” mantra perhaps also demeans the rest of us. Are we such sex-crazed horny animals that we won’t buy a tube of toothpaste unless a beautiful woman is shown brushing her pearly whites with them? Are we so dimwitted that a girl in a bikini must be the determining factor in helping us decide which car we want to purchase? I mean, cars are pretty expensive. Some have better gas mileage than others. Others last longer. But if I see an ad with a blonde bimbo plastered all over it, by golly I’m going to spend a quarter of my yearly income on that!

Check out the beautiful smile of Roberta Toth!

Check out the beautiful smile of Roberta Toth!

Well, as silly as all this sounds, there might be an element of truth to it. I don’t think we’re incapable of controlling our sexual urges, but maybe I have a more optimistic viewpoint of human behavior than I should. But hopefully you get where I’m coming from. I tend to also get peeved when I see marketing ploys that shamelessly exploit sexuality in a completely unnecessary manner. Did they really have to go there? I guess they must think we’re all idiots. Perhaps we are…

To be fair, I don’t think advertising moguls actually think we’re all horned up bunny rabbits. I think the overuse of the “sex sells” philosophy reflects a lack of creativity and laziness rather than a low opinion of society. But I could be wrong.

So I can see why a lot of us instinctively react negatively when we see female bodybuilders utilizing their sex appeal for personal gain. We can be protective creatures. We want to maintain a righteous sense of dignity toward the institutions we respect, whether we’re talking about the bodybuilding industry, the world of female sports or the human race. I’m not here to criticize anyone’s personal moral or ethical sensibilities. Everyone comes from a different path in life. However, I do believe it is imperative that we look at the world through somebody else’s eyes for once. If you’re a dedicated and passionate female bodybuilder who exists in a male-dominated sport that’s increasingly marginalizing competitors like you, well, I don’t blame you for doing whatever you can to make a living. I’m not a female bodybuilder, so I don’t know what “the struggle” is like.

But I do possess a basic understanding of economics. Sometimes, “sex sells” makes perfect business sense. I don’t have fancy pie charts or Excel spreadsheets to back me up, but if your current business model isn’t producing adequate streams of revenue, keeping on hammering away at the status quo would be financial suicide. A willingness to adapt to new market conditions is vital for survival. We may not like it (at first, or ever), but you can’t argue with bankruptcy.

In many respects, female bodybuilders have to think of themselves less as athletes and more as entrepreneurs. I will explore this topic in future blog posts, so I won’t get too deep into this right now. For now, let’s just say it appears to be the wave of the future. It’s perfectly understandable why the marriage between bodybuilding and sexuality makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Your personal values notwithstanding, it could come across like a desperate last attempt to revive a dying industry.

The “sex sells” business model, however, doesn’t have to appear like a Hail Mary pass to the end zone to save the season. Could we see it instead as an alternative form of the sport? Or not part of the sport at all? There are a lot of female bodybuilders who refuse to market themselves as sex objects. I respect that. They have every right to portray themselves in any light they choose. However, so do the women who willingly (and proudly) showcase their sex appeal for adoring fans. Why all the judgment? Why do we have to fight each other?

One of the undeniable superstars of the sport today, Tina Chandler.

One of the undeniable superstars of the sport today, Tina Chandler.

If we can’t agree to disagree, then perhaps in the interim we can do our best to make a clear distinction between the sport of female bodybuilding and the independent business ventures of individual female bodybuilders – whether these women officially compete or not. Many FBBs compete sparingly. Some not at all. Regardless, they’re allowed to develop their personal brands in any way they choose. I’m a full supporter of self-empowerment.

The entertainment/media industry can be a harsh one. There’s no questioning that. Sports fall under this category, and we know for sure it can be an unforgiving world. Rarely do professional athletes live perfect storybook lives. The industry can chew up the best of us and spit us out at a moment’s notice without pomp or circumstance. Whatever you got to do to survive is sometimes the only path you can choose. If you have to choose between abandoning the profession you love or violating your principles every now and then, do you really wish ill on anyone who chooses the latter?

“Sex sells” is an undeniable truth. However, is it truthful because that’s the way it is, or because we allow it to be true? I cannot answer that fully, but I can see what’s right in front of my eyes. There are plenty of beautiful and intelligent female bodybuilders who happily make a living doing what they do thanks to their irresistible sex appeal. If they receive professional fulfillment and joy showing off their gorgeous bodies to adoring fans, I have absolutely no quarrel with that.

A Discussion on the Sexualization of Female Athletes

Brandi Mae Akers wearing a sexy see-through dress.

Brandi Mae Akers wearing a sexy see-through dress.

It should be no mystery that female athletes face a glaring double standard in our society. They are, both implicitly and explicitly, expected to flaunt their sexuality in ways their male counterparts are not. Outside of Ronda Rousey, how many mainstream female athletes are celebrated purely for being a fantastic athlete – as opposed to being a fantastically good looking athlete?

The topic of the sexualization of female athletes has been discussed ad nauseam. This article will not dissect this idea is great detail. Rather, we will explore this from a slightly different angle.

Those who critique the overly sexual nature of media representation of female athletes usually argue that they shouldn’t be sexualized at all. If male athletes aren’t sexualized, neither should female athletes. That argument sounds fair. It’s better to hold no standards versus double standards. Fair treatment means equal treatment.

But, as an enthusiast of female bodybuilders and female athletes in general, I’m slightly uncomfortable with that. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but there’s a fine line between sexualizing someone and demeaning them. I wholeheartedly agree that you should never belittle or dehumanize someone for any reason whatsoever. That’s not in question. What is in question is whether or not sexualizing someone automatically dehumanizes them. It’s a tough one to wrestle with for sure.

I totally get the argument that people are not just sex objects. We are independent agents of thoughts and emotions with basic needs just like anybody else. Every soul is valuable. Every person has purpose. Everyone is important. Whether you believe in the Divine or not, I hope we can all agree that every human being on planet Earth has value. That includes people we love, hate or are indifferent toward.

That being said, is sexualizing someone an intrinsic act of dehumanizing them? I would say if we treat people purely as a means to an end, then the answer is unequivocally “yes.” If we treat someone solely as a sex object whose only purpose is to give you sexual pleasure, then that makes you a terrible person. Even the relationship between a prostitute and a “john” should come with a certain level of mutual respect. Sex, in this case, may be a business transaction, but that doesn’t excuse you from treating the provider of sex like garbage.

I love female bodybuilders. Many of you who read my blog do as well. The reason why I constantly wrestle with this issue is because I definitely sexualize FBBs. I am very much sexually attracted to muscular women. There’s no ambiguity here. It’s really, when we boil things down to its barest essentials, the primary reason why I love them. It’s not the only reason why I’m a fan of female bodybuilding, but it’s undeniably important. If I told you sexual attraction had nothing to do with my fandom of female bodybuilders, I’d be a liar with my trousers definitely set on fire.

Isn't Lindsey Vonn cold? She's so smoking hot, I highly doubt it.

Isn’t Lindsey Vonn cold? She’s so smoking hot, I highly doubt it.

But, deep down inside, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that. I can sexualize someone and still deeply respect them. I’ve met many women in my life whom I found to be very physically attractive. But I try, although not always successfully, to treat them like human beings first. I’m not a perfect person, but I’m trying my best here.

One argument I could make is that sexualizing female athletes is almost inevitable. When a woman trains for a sport, she’s going to sculpt her physical body into a shape that many of us will find attractive. Muscle definition, curves in all the right places, flawless body development, impeccable silhouettes, etc. And as they say, we’re only human, right? Can you blame someone for finding Alina Popa, who is an indisputable world-class athlete in her own right, so very sexy? If finding Ms. Popa sexually attractive is a crime, then put me in handcuffs, lock me in a padded jail cell and throw away the key for eternity. But, to reiterate my point, I don’t believe my opinion of Ms. Popa’s sexiness is somehow disrespectful to her. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her, both as a woman and as a cream-of-the-crop athletic competitor. But her physical attractiveness is without a doubt a main component of my fandom of her.

It’s a confusing dynamic to deal with, indeed!

In other words, how can I possibly separate sports fandom and sexuality when it comes to female athletes? It’s almost impossible to do so. That being said, that’s no excuse to treat a professional woman basketball player like a junior high school cheerleader or unashamedly flirt with a female Olympic athlete minutes after she’s won a gold medal. Speaking of which, if I have to listen to one more clueless TV reporter ask a female Olympian how she balances being an elite athlete with motherhood, I’m going to rip my hair out. But that’s a whole other issue.

I think the best way handle this whole issue is to have the “yes, and” attitude. For example, you can say this:

“Yes, I find female athletes to be sexually attractive, but I also respect their impressive achievements which can only be accomplished through hard work, diligent preparation and heart.”

It may not sound like poetry, but the sentiment should be clear. You can both celebrate the achievements of female athletes and find them beautiful at the same time. You can enjoy watching female sports on TV or in person and not have to compartmentalize your physical attraction to them simultaneously. Life doesn’t have to be an “either, or” proposition. You can hold two different attitudes at the same time without them being contradictory.

Please don’t misinterpret me. I understand the trepidation about accepting female athletes as sex objects. I get it that once you start to go down a dark path, it can lead you to directions you never originally intended to go. If we start to view them in such a way, will we eventually expect them to pose for magazine photos as a condition of playing the sport? Will we require uniforms of basketball or softball players to be more “revealing” or “sexy” in order to attract the male demographic? Will we start to lose respect for them as athletes because we treat them like sex objects first and athletes second?

These are all valid concerns. I wouldn’t want my favorite FBBs to feel pressured to sexualize themselves out of fear of being ostracized from the business. It is a business, after all. If my favorite FBBs chose to never wear makeup in public and forsake any attempts to appear traditionally feminine, then good for them. I would support them every step of the way. One hundred percent. I want my favorite female bodybuilders to be as free as they want to do whatever they want whenever they want.

Do they want to pose naked for a risqué photoshoot? Good for them. If, on the other hand, a particular female bodybuilder chooses to never ever pose naked under any circumstances, as much as we’d all be disappointed with this decision, I strongly believe she has every right to do that. Freedom means having the opportunity to choose what you want and do not want to do. Her body is her most valuable asset. If she wants to show it off for all the world to see, more power to her. If she wants to remain modest and desexualized in the public’s eye, even more power to her.

The badass that is Ronda Rousey, perhaps the most popular female athlete on the planet right now.

The badass that is Ronda Rousey, perhaps the most popular female athlete on the planet right now.

But this is less about how an FBB (or any kind of female athlete) chooses to conduct herself and more about how we as fans choose to view them. How a female bodybuilder lives her life is nobody’s business but her own. But how we fans choose to live out our fandom is our business.

In short, perhaps the Buddhist “middle way” is the best solution. Don’t go to the extremes. You can both find a female athlete or bodybuilder physically attractive while at the same time respecting them as a person and as an athlete. One can hold both attitudes simultaneously without any hint of contradiction or hypocrisy. In other words, don’t take any side as far as it will go. You don’t have to view every female athlete as either a Playboy bunny or a monastic nun. The “Madonna-whore complex” is an old archetype that’s getting worn out.

The main concept to keep in mind is simple. Channel your inner Aretha Franklin and remember to always R-E-S-P-E-C-T people. I understand it’s unfair how female athletes are put into restrictive sexually-centric boxes without their consent. I understand male athletes, by and large, are not held to similar standards. That’s the very definition of unfair. I also get that no female athlete or bodybuilder should ever be forced to flaunt their sexuality unwillingly. Their main concern should be to play/compete in their sport and nothing else. That is all fine with me.

But as fans of these women, our perceptions don’t have to fit into any particular box. To add to this discussion, bodybuilding is a unique sport. Unlike baseball, football, basketball, hockey, golf, tennis, track and field, soccer, and so forth, winners of bodybuilding contests are judged by their appearances. The nature of the sport is conducive to judging excellence based on aesthetic. So, it’s considered “okay” for choosing your favorite bodybuilding athletes (male or female) purely based on their looks. After all, the sport is called “body”-building for a reason.

Nobody cares how attractive or unattractive a quarterback is. If you can throw for 4,000 yards, 25+ touchdowns and lead your team to the playoffs season after season, teams will pay you a lot of money to play for them. Bodybuilders, on the other hand, are judged by how their bodies look. So judging a female (or male) bodybuilder on their looks isn’t a terrible thing. Following that train of thought, it’s perfectly okay to be erotically turned on by a female bodybuilder’s body. It goes with the territory! An FBB is trying to sculpt her body to fit a desired aesthetic. If you find that particular aesthetic to be pleasing to the eye, what’s the harm?

As mentioned before, it’s sort of inevitable for male and female bodybuilders to be sexualized in the eyes of their fans. Maybe not all of their fans, but surely the ones who would normally be attracted to them regardless if they were a bodybuilder or not. The human body is a beautiful thing. Bodybuilders strive to mold theirs to perfection. If we happen to get aroused by the finished product, so be it.

Misty May-Treanor demonstrating why a lot of guys really don't mind watching Olympic beach volleyball.

Misty May-Treanor demonstrating why a lot of guys really don’t mind watching Olympic beach volleyball.

One could argue that sexuality is embedded within the sport of bodybuilding. It’s not the entirety of the sport, but one cannot deny its underlying presence. Men and women are hardwired to find certain genders, body types and people sexually attractive. I realize asexuality is a real thing, but for the sake of argument let’s assume most of us are born this way. Bodybuilding, by its very nature, seeks to elevate the human form to its highest possible peak. If muscular development is considered a proper barometer of beauty, then bodybuilders are closer to the pinnacle than us “mere mortals.” It logically follows that fans of bodybuilding would unavoidably become sexually attracted to these amazing athletes.

There are certainly women and men who love male bodybuilders. There are definitely men and women who love female bodybuilders. And guess what? That’s perfectly okay! I see nothing wrong with any of this.

Like any form of attraction, anything can be taken too far. This should be obvious to anyone. To treat a female athlete as nothing more than eye candy is an awful choice to make. She’s much more than something pretty for you to look at. She’s an accomplished competitor who deserves respect for her accomplishments and sincere admiration from her fans. I love female bodybuilders just as much as anyone else, but I always try to keep at the forefront of my mind that they’ve achieved things I could never dream of doing.

Think about what a typical woman bodybuilder has to go through every single day of her life:

  • Sacrificing her time
  • Sacrificing her energy
  • Maintaining a strict diet
  • Strenuous weightlifting regiments
  • Various non-weightlifting exercises
  • Following a strict schedule
  • Pressure from friends and family to not pursue bodybuilding
  • Stress from training and competing
  • Persistent insecurity
  • An emotionally draining lifestyle
  • Blatant misogyny
  • Sexism within the sport of bodybuilding itself
  • Worrying about unusual changes to the body
  • Unintended side effects from taking drugs and hormones
  • Paying for food, supplements and other sport-related paraphernalia
  • Travel costs
  • Injuries
  • Rude comments from people in public, over social media or elsewhere
  • Other unpleasant experiences that often go unseen

That’s quite a lot! The struggle is real, indeed. If this doesn’t instill in you more respect for women bodybuilders, then I have no idea what will. When you keep things like this in perspective, you start to realize how insanely disrespectful it is to treat female bodybuilders and athletes as mere sex objects who only exists for your own enjoyment.

I have no idea how to pronounce Zsuzsanna Toldi, but I do know that she's extremely attractive.

I have no idea how to pronounce Zsuzsanna Toldi, but I do know that she’s extremely attractive.

But alas, I highly doubt the majority of FBB enthusiasts feel this way. Most of us know FBBs and female athletes are people, not products. But, as said before, everything must come in moderation. Don’t think of strong women as sexual commodities, but don’t be afraid to celebrate their sex appeal at the same time.

In conclusion, how are we to handle the issue of our society’s sexualization of female athletes? The most rational answer might be this: There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging, celebrating and enjoying a female athlete’s sex appeal. However, there is something wrong with making that the sole focus of her identity. Whether we’re talking about Lindsey Vonn, Misty May-Treanor, Cat Zingano or Brandi Mae Akers, always keep in mind that they’re athletes who happen to be physically beautiful, not beautiful people who just happen to be athletes. That distinction might help clear up any possible sexist attitudes toward these remarkable women.

Understandably, there are many female athletes who are uncomfortable being viewed in a sexual nature, regardless of the respectful intent demonstrated by the admiring party. I get that. I’m not going to dismiss that attitude as being “overly sensitive” or “puritanical.” No one should ever be pressured to be comfortable with their sexuality or how other people feel about their sexuality. That’s not the point here. The point is that as fans, we have a responsibility to recognize the humanity in the strong beautiful women we love so dearly.

A very pretty Jennie Finch.

A very pretty Jennie Finch.

This topic can be a touchy one. I will admit that I do not have all the answers. I could be wrong about a point or two or three. The best rule of thumb is to look at this issue from all perspectives and try your best to put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if every time you stepped up to the plate, onto a basketball court or in front of a bodybuilding stage, thousands of people started thinking of you not as a hardworking and passionate athlete, but instead a nameless Barbie doll with muscles? That sounds like a pretty condescending way to be treated.

Be kind. Be respectful. Don’t be a jerk. Always remember that regardless of who we are, whether we’re a world class female bodybuilder or an unapologetic fan of female bodybuilders, we’re all people trying to coexist on this beautiful, confusing and interconnected planet. In many regards, recognizing this basic fact could eliminate the vast majority of the problems we face every day.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear your opinions. Feel free to share them in the comment section below or send me an e-mail at ryantakahashi87 (at) yahoo (dot) com. Just so you know, I write out my e-mail address that way to avoid my inbox being inundated with gratuitous spam. But I never consider any of you readers to be spam! I welcome feedback of all kind just as long as it’s productive, informative and respectful. So have at it!