Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Exploit Me: The Exploitative Nature of Female Bodybuilders

Exploitation - Denise Masino

Denise Masino exploits every single one of my deepest and darkest fantasies.

Sometimes, all we want is to be exploited.

Not “exploited” in a materially oppressive sense, but exploited in a sensory/emotional/aesthetic sense.

Beginning in the 1960s – although film historians would argue it actually began earlier – a new genre of moviemaking emerged in our pop culture: exploitation films.

Exploitation films took different forms, but the basic purpose was the same: allow viewers to vicariously experience outrageous, hideous, graphic, taboo, or socially unacceptable content in cinematic form. The genre could be horror, action, science fiction, comedy, erotica, or satire. Regardless, you watched those movies – and still do – not for the storytelling, artistry, or critical accolades. You watched them because they made you feel naughty and you secretly loved feeling naughty.

Or, they made you feel emotions that you rarely get to feel in real life: Fear, dread, sexual arousal, disgust, giddiness, catharsis, and so on. Whether we love slasher horror flicks, softcore porn with gratuitous nudity, or ultraviolent action movies that generously bends the rules of physics, these movies are short on plot and character development but rich in shock value.

Popular titles include The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Pink Flamingos, Shaft, Foxy Brown, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Cannibal Holocaust, I Spit on Your Grave, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Isla: She Wolf of the SS, and many other titles too numerous (or distasteful) to mention. Note that not all of these movies are alike. Some are splatter horror movies that intend to make you sick to your stomach while others are sexually titillating flicks meant to “get a rise out of you”…if you get my meaning.

There are also a few mainstream films that have won critical acclaim and Oscars that could be included in this list. The Exorcist and A Clockwork Orange immediately come to mind.

Exploitation entertainment is the direct descendent of pulp novels known as “penny dreadfuls” that emerged in the United Kingdom in the 19th century. Ghastly and forbidden stories were passed around inconspicuously to curious people desperate for that tingling sensation that comes from being naughty. They exploited our dark and dirty imaginations in ways few “mainstream” literature could. Their cheapness made it all the better. You can’t feel too guilty about sinning when it only cost you a single penny to sin!

Exploitation - Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

All of this is setup for a comparison that may seem strange at first but makes complete sense when you think more about it. In a previous post about Yvette Bova, I likened her to an exploitation film. Her brashness, uncompromising style, unapologetic attitude toward her body and sexuality, and enthusiasm for participating in hardcore porn make her peerless in the world of female bodybuilding. Many FBBs will do porn. But few will do it with as much gusto as her. She doesn’t hold back. She goes all in.

If Nataliya Kuznetsova is the “Human Photoshop Illusion,” then Yvette Bova is the “Human Exploitation Film.” She does it all. Yvette indulges our fantasies in the dirtiest ways possible. It can be gross at times, but we cannot look away. And once one of her nasty videos come to an end…we do not hesitate to wait for the next one to autoplay.

But I’ve spent enough time examining Miss Bova. Let’s talk about female bodybuilders in general. In a strange way, female bodybuilders as a whole are exploitative in nature. Even to those who aren’t “into” female bodybuilders but are still fascinated by them nevertheless. Think of the laundry list of thoughts and feelings FBBs can elicit out of us:

  • Arousal
  • Disgust
  • Confusion
  • Intrigue
  • Lust
  • Horror
  • Surprise
  • Curiosity
  • Perplexity
  • Cognitive dissonance
  • Obsession
  • Excitement
  • Nervousness
  • Insecurity
  • Embarrassment
  • Humiliation
  • Defensiveness
  • Hopefulness
  • Inspiration
  • Giddiness
  • Absentmindedness
  • Envy
  • Motivation
  • Coarseness
  • Passion

Whew. Female bodybuilders provoke strong emotional reactions out of people, regardless of how you actually feel about them. FBB fans and haters alike cannot help feel strong feelings when they see images of muscular women in action. However, this discussion really centers around the thoughts and emotions that are more positive in nature.

Generally speaking, there are very few “casual” female bodybuilder fans. Most FBB lovers are fanatical in their devotion to their beloved ladies. We get that same tingly feeling rushing up our spines every single time we scroll through our favorite FBB’s Instagram feed. We ceaselessly search for new photos and videos to satisfy our appetites. We need our “daily fix” of muscular women as if we were junkies. These behaviors certainly fit the definition of fanatical.

Exploitation - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

However, for many of us this is not enough. Sometimes, we need something more. Something stronger. Something more extreme. Something that will satiate our darkest fantasies. Something way more exploitative than we’d normally experience.

It’s one thing to see yet another photo of Cindy Landolt strutting around in sexy lingerie. It’s quite another to watch Brandi Mae Akers give two guys a hand job at the same time before both of them spurt all over her face. The former arouses us. The latter makes us feel dirty. Heck, it may not even turn us on in a traditional sense. Instead, our experience of watching Brandi Mae act filthy for the camera is pure entertainment. Not porn, but entertainment. Porn only exists to sexually arouse us. Entertainment exists to amuse our senses.

Cindy is art. Brandi Mae is smut. This isn’t a criticism, but rather an observation. Miss Akers isn’t trying to appeal to our classy high-brow sensibilities. She’s only interested in making our blood boil to the point that we really need some “alone time” by ourselves to, uh, relieve the pressure. There’s nothing inherently wrong with smut if that’s what one wants to achieve. There’s also nothing wrong with watching a Peter Jackson film festival that features both The Lord of the Rings and Bad Taste. Two completely different movies. The same director. It boggles the mind.

But even the non-smutty FBBs who prefer to keep it modest are still able to elicit strong reactions out of us. Women like Karen Zaremba, Deidre Pagnanelli, Monica Brant, and Shawn Tan have kept things fairly clean over the years. They may do some nudity – or none at all – in photoshoots that are intentionally sexy, but they try to maintain an air of classiness all throughout. Whether an FBB chooses to keep it clean or forego any façade of decency, one cannot deny the enthralling allure these ladies emanate.

That intoxicating allure can only be satiated by having our thoughts, emotions, and fantasies exploited. So, what is it about female bodybuilders in particular that cause us to react this way?

Exploitation - Foxy Brown

The biggest reason is that female bodybuilders, just by being who they are, are so taboo. They don’t even have to try to be taboo. That’s just who they naturally are. A woman with big muscles goes contrary to everything to think we know about men, women, gender roles, biology, culture, and history. Yet, there is a (regrettably) small number of women in this world who dare to break that mold.

Female bodybuilders challenge our perceptions of what women can achieve. If we think they’re always the “weaker sex,” Alina Popa is ready to take you to school. If you think women with muscles look gross, Shannon Courtney will gladly shift your paradigm so fast it’ll register on the Richter scale. For straight men, FBBs challenge our masculinity. They stab a dagger right into our fragile sense of superiority. They prove we are not destined to be the dominant sex and that hard work (and laziness) matter more than genetics. These assaults on our undeserved sense of supremacy can either make us feel insecure or angry. Or both. Regardless, these are strong emotions. And strangely enough, strong emotions have an odd way of turning us on.

Taking our masculine identities out of the equation, FBBs just seem like they’re bigger than life. And not just in a literal sense. Their strength, power, magnetism, personalities, and physical abilities seem superhuman. As if FBBs aren’t actually real – they’re really comic book characters manufactured in a Hollywood studio. But alas, FBBs are very real. And very beautiful. And mind-blowing. Once again, these are strong emotional responses.

As I wrote in a previous blog article about The Scarcity Principle, the fact FBBs are a rare breed also adds to their appeal. In short, we tend to value commodities that are in short supply more than ones that are in abundance. We look forward to holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving precisely because they only happen once a year. If every day were Halloween, dressing up in silly costumes and eating candy would lose its appeal. The fact we have to wait an entire year makes the heart grow fonder, as the old saying goes. Likewise, female bodybuilders are not a dime a dozen. It is extremely unusual to see a woman with big muscles under any circumstances. But when you do, you intuitively gain a deep appreciation for the experience because you know it’ll be a while until you get to experience it again.

Exploitation - Brandi Mae Akers

Brandi Mae Akers is pure smut. And that’s a compliment, not an insult.

The taboo nature of FBBs combined with basic human psychology explain why muscular women are able to exploit our senses like they do. In a world where sexuality has become so commercialized and manufactured that it’s become boring, we deep down inside crave something more raw, audacious, electrifying, and challenging. Female bodybuilders check off every single one of those boxes.

Scroll back up to that long list of emotions that FBBs are able to elicit out of us. Can you say the same for yet another photospread of a nameless and ultimately forgettable plastic surgery-enhanced Instagram model? Maybe a few of them, but certainly not most of them.

This is because female bodybuilders are not just “beautiful” in the traditional sense of that word. Many are definitely beautiful in a conventional manner, but their appeal goes well beyond that. FBBs are not for the simpleminded or faint of heart. They assault our senses and challenge our preconceived beliefs. One cannot simply look upon an FBB flexing her muscles and say “meh.” A million thoughts will start to race through your mind. You’ll get a jolt of energy that reinvigorates your soul. Certain deeply held fantasies will suddenly pop into your head that you never consciously knew you wanted to experience. You’ll want to scream from the rooftops your newfound love for muscular women for all to hear. You don’t care who knows it or what they think of you afterward.

These reactions are common for many people who love FBBs. Not everyone will feel the same way all the time, but that doesn’t have to be the case. A common theme emerges that we cannot ignore: In an increasingly dull and formulaic world, we secretly crave something that will reawaken our senses and make us feel uniquely alive.

Exploited, even.

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Muscle Note: A Shinigami’s Greatest Gift to Mankind?

A Muscle Note. Whose names would you write in it?

“Hear this: I’m not only Kira, but I’m also God of the new world!”

Or so proclaims Light Yagami, the protagonist of the manga (and later anime) series “Death Note.” With the release of the American film version on Netflix happening not too long ago, it seems only appropriate to discuss a Death Note-inspired fantasy that every female muscle fan would love to see enacted in real life.

What if there existed a Muscle Note?

For those of you who need further background information, Death Note is a popular Japanese manga (or graphic novel) series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. It was released between December 2003 and May 2006. The animated television series followed from October 2006 to June 2007. Shortly afterward it was dubbed into English and released in North America.

The plot is simple yet ingenious: From the realm of the spirit world, a Shinigami (or a God of Death) named Ryuk drops into the human world a black notebook known as a Death Note. The human who discovers this paranormal tool is named Light Yagami, an intelligent, popular, handsome, and – for the most part – normal high school student. The basic function of the Death Note is easy to understand: If you write the name of any person in the notebook, he or she will die. There are plenty of other finely tuned rules attached to it, but that’s pretty much all you need to know for now.

Eventually, Light tests it out and discovers that the notebook is no joke. It’s real. Its powers are genuine. Then, he gets the idea of killing off criminals who are either crowding the prison system or just simply deserve to die. Light imagines how much more “just” and peaceful the world could be if criminals could easily be “erased” with the literal stroke of a pen. The criminal justice system is too slow, corrupt, bureaucratic, and flawed to serve justice effectively. Fancying himself as the judge, jury, and executioner all in one, Light exhibits delusions of grandeur as he proudly proclaims that he will be the “God of the new world.”

If you are not already into Japanese anime, do not let that stop you from watching this epic 37-episode long TV series. It’s a compelling watch. You could actually waste an entire weekend binge watching it if you’re not careful. And odds are, you won’t regret it. I highly recommend it for everyone out there, even those of you who don’t normally like Asian animation shows. There are a few moments that unfortunately cross over into “immature” territory, but for the most part the series is intelligently written, briskly paced, and a joy to behold.

What if you could transform Gal Gadot into Aspen Rae?

But let’s spin this in a different direction. As alluded to earlier, what if instead of a Death Note, you stumbled upon by happenstance a Muscle Note? The functionality is essentially the same, except for one significant difference: By writing a person’s name in the notebook, you magically transform their bodies to become as muscular as you desire (within a certain limit).

Here are the rules of the Muscle Note:

  1. The human whose name is written in this note shall experience enhanced muscular growth.
  2. This note will not take effect unless the writer has the person’s face in their mind when writing his/her name. Therefore, people sharing the same name will not be affected.
  3. A number on a scale of 1 to 10 must be written next to the name to indicate the level of muscular growth that will occur. Failure to write a number will result in no change in his/her physical appearance. 1 means minimal muscle growth and 10 means maximum growth. Writing a number larger than 10 will not result in any additional growth beyond the threshold of 10.
  4. The muscular growth will happen within 40 seconds of the name being written.
  5. Muscle atrophy will result if the human does not take measures to maintain his/her muscle structure. Therefore, the enhanced muscle growth is not permanent.
  6. The human whose name is written must be between the ages of 18 and 70. If he/she is older or younger than these parameters, no change in physical appearance shall occur.
  7. If the paper on which the human’s name is written is burned, his/her body shall return back to its original state. Erasing the name is not sufficient.
  8. The human who possesses the Muscle Note cannot use it for their own body.
  9. The same human’s name can be written multiple times if the paper on which his/her name was previously written on is properly burned. Writing a different number will result in that human’s body adjusting accordingly.
  10. No more than three humans can possess the Muscle Note at a time.
  11. No human can lose possession of the Muscle Note unless a Kratos decides to take it away from him/her. A human can request to have the Muscle Note taken away from him/her. A Kratos is under no obligation to honor this request.
  12. Humans who suffer from debilitating diseases or chronic physical disabilities and have their name written in the Muscle Note will not experience better health, only enhanced muscular development.

There are probably additional rules, but that’s enough for now. Also, just for your reference, a “Kratos” is named after the Greek god of strength, might, power, and sovereign rule. A Shinigami is a Japanese god of death, so it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for them to be distributing Muscle Notes to the human world. So there’s that.

So imagine you encounter such a notebook. Let’s say the Kratos who decides to drop it on your lap is named “Ryanuk.” He seems friendly enough. Sure, a bit frightening in appearance, but once you get used to him it becomes no big deal. Ryanuk unexpectedly visits you in your bedroom one fateful evening. He carefully introduces himself and explains the rules in detail. Nothing is left up to ambiguity. You thank him for this unrequested gift.

Alright. So now what?

Odds are, since you are unable to use it on yourself (sorry!) you have to use it on somebody else. Where do you begin? Do you “test” it out on somebody first, such as your best friend or a random classmate/officemate? Or do you dive in head-first and go for jugular by writing the name of a young lady you’ve had your eye on?

Or Lady Gaga into Aleesha Young?

Oh, the possibilities! Perhaps that’s why the story of Death Note is so compelling. Not only are we watching Light Yagami make these sorts of decisions on the fly, we are also making them for ourselves. What would we do if we were in his shoes? How would we react if unforeseen stumbling blocks like the enigmatic detective “L” or an infatuated fan-girl like Misa Amane with the Shinigami Eyes were to hinder us from properly executing our larger plans? Could we evade capture for as long as he did, especially considering his own father is a police chief? The suspense built up by the plot has more to do with these endless “what if questions” versus presenting a series of boring and pointless action scenes.

Possessing a Muscle Note would present different questions, but equally intriguing questions – especially if you are a female muscle fan. The first question you’d be asking yourself would be:

“Who?”

Who would you choose to magically transform into a bodybuilder? Maybe you write the name of a girl you have a crush on. Or perhaps a famous celebrity like Gal Gadot or Ariana Grande. Or, of course, your best buddy who goes to the gym five days a week but still can’t get gains to save his life (he’s clearly not consuming enough protein). Regardless, you cannot use it on yourself. Sorry. Ryanuk does have his limits. Selfishness is not a virtue he shares.

Ryanuk also values realism. The peak muscularity a person can reach is that of a Mr. or Ms. Olympia (R.I.P.) competitor. He’s not a fan of “female muscle growth” fiction, so fantasies of transforming a person into a superhuman muscle freak with as much bulging flesh as the Michelin Man is not going to become a reality. So, writing a person’s name and the number “10” after it will result in him or her becoming really muscular, but not unreasonably so. If you were expecting anything more than that, you will be sadly disappointed.

A person who loves muscular women will no doubt feel giddy being in possession of such a supernatural tool. One can only imagine how he or she would utilize it. No doubt many of you have already fantasized about possessing such powers (although not necessarily in the form of a physical Muscle Note). It’s hard to not ponder such things when the supply of muscular women is as rare as a solar eclipse (when statistically compared to the entirety of humankind, that is).

Therefore, the candidates whose names would be written down in this notebook would probably include the following:

  • Real life crushes
  • Celebrities
  • Best friends
  • Athletes on your favorite teams
  • Enemies whom you would like to play tricks on
  • Complete strangers who would look more attractive with enhanced muscle mass

The list can probably go on from here, but you get the point. One does not simply possess a Muscle Note and not take full advantage of it. Especially when you might actually be doing some people a favor by using it. This is your opportunity to become a genuine humanitarian. Did that thought ever occur to you? Well, now it has.

Here’s what your first page of names might look like:

Katy Perry 7
Megan Fox 10
<Cute girl who works at Starbucks> 4
<Your wife/girlfriend> 3 (hey, you want her to look good, but not better than you!)
Nicki Minaj 9
Kim Kardashian 10
<Your favorite basketball player who could grab more rebounds if he were a bit stronger> 6
<Superstar athlete who plays for your hated rival> 1
<Idiot jock who bullies you at school> 1
Pamela Anderson 8 (for those of you who grew up in the 90s)

Scarlett Johansson 5
Gal Gadot 8
<Your boss whom you hate with a passion> 10 (just to see him/her freak out!)
<Your best buddy> 4
<That hot chick who jogs around your neighborhood> 9
Donald Trump 1

You delight after reviewing this list. Then you look at your watch for 40 seconds to pass. Then you check Twitter 10 minutes later to see who’s freaking out. And then you relish the fact you’re causing so much havoc on a global scale without standing up out of your chair.

Right, right. This is all fine and dandy. All of that being said, the second question you might ask yourself is this:

“Should I?”

Obviously, the taking of somebody’s life without their permission is an act of moral reprehension. We call it “murder” and it’s highly illegal for a reason. While making someone’s body more muscular isn’t nearly as morally repulsive as murdering them, there are still ethical considerations to be had.

Or Rihanna into Cydney Gillon?

Basically, is it ever right to do something to a person without their permission, no matter how trivial or “beneficial” it might be? Becoming stronger is almost always a benefit, but that’s irrelevant when we consider the question of personal sovereignty. Using the Muscle Note would be a violation of personal sovereignty, even though many of us dream of looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1970s. Think about how many 20-year-olds who dream of playing in the NFL or MLB or UFC could actually get there if someone (strategically) used the Muscle Note on their bodies. Obviously, one should not use it in drastic fashion – such as transforming someone with a “3” body into a “10” overnight – that could arouse suspicion. That would blow your cover and expose the existence of either a Muscle Note or a miracle drug that somehow snuck into the open market.

These folks are not who we’re talking about. Rather, we’re talking about a gorgeous supermodel who wakes up one morning and finds her physique transformed into Aleesha Young without her permission. That might bring joy to many of us, but that would bring feelings of horror to her. You don’t need to be the world’s most empathetic person to know that’s probably a bit unethical.

But let’s face it. Being the owner of a Muscle Note isn’t about ethics, philosophical values, or vague notions of empathy, compassion, or integrity. Instead, it’s about making your wildest dreams come true with the innocuous stroke of a pen. A Muscle Note is the greatest gift to mankind because it can be used to improve people’s lives, not end it. Yet, one cannot help but think about the grave ramifications of using it on a large scale. Could it instigate a worldwide panic much like Kira did in Death Note? Perhaps. Or it could go unnoticed if it’s used modestly.

Yet, wouldn’t this sort of “cheapen” what it would mean to become a muscular person? Bodybuilders, both men and women, earn their impressive physiques through hard labor, perseverance, strategic planning, forethought, and mental toughness. If you could magically transform someone into a bodybuilder in less than a minute, wouldn’t that person lack a certain level of intrigue?

Many of us love female bodybuilders partly because we are turned on by how difficult it is to be one. Those of us who have participated in a muscle worship or wrestling session with a muscular woman deeply appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears that must have been shed during her journey of achieving such muscularity. We love them not only because their bodies are beautiful; but also because we respect what they’ve chosen to do with their lives. They’ve elected to lead an unorthodox life in pursuit of a physical aesthetic that is not only untraditional but supremely difficult to reach.

One cannot rest on their laurels and still be a bodybuilder. Muscles eventually recede if they are not probably maintained. Thus, being a bodybuilder is like climbing a mountain that has no summit. Even when you reach the top, you still have to labor in order to stay at the top. It’s like reaching the peak of Mount Everest and still having to work in order to stay there. You can’t stop to smell the roses. If you do, you will start to slip further and further downhill. What a cruel thing the human body can be at times.

Or Scarlett Johansson into Shannon Courtney?

But a Muscle Note is one way of bypassing all those scientific rules. With a Muscle Note at your disposal, you can reach the top of Mount Everest and stay there for as long as you want without lifting a finger. Seriously. Just keep that pen handy at all times. That’s all it takes.

Yes, that does cheapen what it means to be hypermuscular. But if we’re just using it for fetishistic ends, the philosophical/ethical considerations are a moot point. If you want your girlfriend to look like Minna Pajulahti for one night only, you can do that by writing her name in the Muscle Note and burning it after you’re done “playing” with her in her temporary costume. So on a crude level a Muscle Note only exists to fulfill our primal sexual fantasies. Oh great. Nothing more, nothing less.

But isn’t that the point of Death Note to begin with? Human beings cannot be trusted with supernatural powers because inevitably people will use it for destructive means, even if their intentions are good and noble at the beginning. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, as the old saying goes. No person should ever have that much power because no person will ever know how to control it. Eventually, power will control you. History has taught us that lesson repeatedly. The real tragedy is that we fail to learn it.

Perhaps this means a Muscle Note is not actually the greatest gift to mankind from the spirit world. No matter how “innocent” our fantasies might originally be, one can never anticipate which road our behavior will go. Will we choose the honorable path, or will we be completely consumed by our own greed and carnal desires that we abuse our powers to the detriment of others?

We can promise that we’d use the Muscle Note to help people like victims of polio, aspiring athletes who come from poor families that could earn riches beyond their wildest dreams, insecure people who could gain considerable self-esteem, and all sorts of individuals suffering from debilitating diseases. Yet, we all know how supernatural powers are usually put to use: to punish people we don’t like or to indulge in our own greediness.

You can guess which path most of us would probably take. Be honest with yourself. You know you’d go crazy and use it for purely selfish means.

And that would be wrong. Yet unquestionably enthralling. And arousing. Oh, the possibilities…

Humans are so interesting, indeed.