Jennifer Kennedy: The Defiant One

Don’t disrespect The Muscle Foxx!

Jennifer Kennedy is the female bodybuilder your Mom and Dad warned you about. The one who would confirm all your deeply held suspicions about the female bodybuilding industry and its competitors. The one who would be the living embodiment of all your fears about muscular women, steroids, gender roles, and sexual orientation, identity, and sexual attraction. The one who gives you nightmares, but the fun kind of nightmares that you (sort of) enjoy.

Jenni is not for everyone. I once described Yvette Bova as someone who’s not everyone’s cup of tea. If that’s the case, then Jenni is a sour beverage that even a person crawling through a desert dying of thirst would politely refuse to drink. Miss Kennedy isn’t as polarizing as Miss Bova because Jenni isn’t very prolific in making career choices that might endear her to a small yet dedicated cohort of female muscle fans. More on that later. In fact, Jenni isn’t polarizing at all. There pretty much exists one singular opinion about her that doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon:

Thanks, but no thanks.

Ouch. If that sounds mean, it’s because it is. My personal opinion of her is not that, of course. I really like Jenni. Seriously. I do! She’s unapologetically sexy, doesn’t care what her critics think, and lives her life the way she wants to. How can you hate on that?

All of that being said, let’s address a few delicate caveats:

First, it’s no mystery why Jenni doesn’t appeal to even hardcore supporters of female bodybuilding. She isn’t blessed with the same natural beauty as Cindy Landolt or Jessica Williams. She has a “harder edged” face that will inevitably be blamed on years of using synthetic steroids. Her voice is lower than Barry White’s. She’s feminine-presenting, but any uneducated dolt still has a modicum of justification to question her gender identity.

These caveats don’t mean people have a legitimate reason to insult her. Far from it. Jenni deserves our respect. It’s true that you don’t have to like every female bodybuilder on planet Earth, but that doesn’t give you license to hurl slurs at them either. Jenni isn’t here for that crap. Neither am I.

So don’t call her a “tranny” or any other such derogatory label. Just don’t.

There are two types of FBBs I admire: Female bodybuilders who are naturally beautiful and completely shatter negative stereotypes about muscular women; and female bodybuilders who are not blessed with natural beauty but still confidently strut around as if they do – and don’t care what the so-called “haters” think. The first category is pretty obvious. Who doesn’t enjoy looking upon a gorgeous lady with big curvy muscles? But the latter is where you tend to lose a lot of people, even people who are normally on your side in these debates.

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Miss Kennedy obviously belongs in the second category. She’s defiant. She’s unabashed. She’s proud of who she is. Does she have deeply held insecurities about herself? Probably, yeah. Who doesn’t? But all in all, I’d bet my life’s savings (all $183 of it) that she’s comfortable in her own skin. Like Yvette, Maryse Manios, Roxanne Edwards, and Kathy Connors, Jenni realizes her fanbase is going to be much smaller than her peers. Heck, FBBs have a fairly narrow group of fans to begin with. These aforementioned ladies control an even smaller slice of that small slice. Yours truly may be one of the few people out there who are willing to toot their horns (interpret that as you will!).

However, unlike Yvette and Kathy, Jenni does a limited amount of porn. She’s done some, but not nearly as much as she could be. Kathy has established herself as being an Alpha Female who will dominate you and punish you if you’ve been naughty. Yvette presents herself as a sex-crazed muscle-bound hedonist who enjoys life to the fullest. In other words, they compensate for their lack of natural beauty by taking on public personas that people can easily latch onto (it should be noted that these personas don’t necessarily reflect who these women are in real life. They’re merely how they present themselves to the public). Jenni, to my knowledge, hasn’t really done that to the extent of these other ladies, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t done anything. Simply put, Jenni carries herself as a sultry seductive temptress who will lure you into her trap – and once she’s gotten ahold of you…you don’t want her to let go.

Jennifer Kennedy was born on June 25, 1976 in Michigan. She’s a personal trainer and webcam performer. After competing in gymnastics and track, she got hooked on weightlifting and hasn’t looked back since. She’s been participating in contests going back to at least 2011 (NPC National Championships). Most recently (as of this writing) she participated in the 2019 IFBB Omaha Pro. The Internet is a bit sparse when it comes to listing how she placed at these – and other – contests, so that’s too bad. Overall, it’s fair to say that Jennifer is a respectable competitor, but not elite. She belongs on stage with the best of the best, but she isn’t “the best” quite yet.

Perhaps one day she’ll get there! But for the time being, we’ll have to appreciate her for who she is, not who she’ll one day become.

It’s accurate to describe Jenni as “The Defiant One” This isn’t because she defies stereotypes or breaks down barriers. Rather, it’s because she adheres to stereotypes and doesn’t care if that bothers you. Women like Minna Pajulahti and Wendy Fortino shatter the preconceived notion that muscular women can’t also be beautiful, feminine, and desirable. Jenni isn’t going to do that at all, but that’s not why she’s defiant. She’s defiant because she fits every idiot’s preconceived notions about FBBs and wears them on her sleeve as a badge of honor.

“You’re right,” she may say. “I am not traditionally beautiful. I do have a masculine-looking face. My voice isn’t lyrical. Most guys don’t find me attractive. But, I guarantee you if you were to spend 5 minutes alone with me in my bedroom, you’ll be begging for more in no time!”

She’s the Green Eggs and Ham of female bodybuilders. Sam-I-Am thought he hated green eggs and ham because of how it looked. He stubbornly refused to try it because he had already made up his mind. Or he thought he had already made up his mind. But once he tried a single bite, his eyes were opened to the truth. As it turns out, he actually loves green eggs and ham. Sam-I-Am learned a valuable lesson that day: Don’t knock it unless you’ve tried it.

Also, don’t judge a book by its cover. So that’s two lessons in one day.

At first glance, you aren’t going to like Jenni. You’ll find her repulsive, disgusting, ugly, and hideous. But I can guarantee you that if you just give her a chance, she can change your mind. She can soften your hardened heart. You may end up liking her. Or loving her. Or being completely obsessed with her. Or at the very least, you’ll gain a newfound sense of respect for her. Either way, that’s an improvement.

Jenni isn’t monstrous. But to a closed-minded fool, she might as well be the next kaiju Godzilla battles against amidst the wreckage of a metropolitan city. But to someone with empathy, she’s a cool lady you shouldn’t underestimate.

Not liking Jenni doesn’t make you a misogynist or a Female-Bodybuilding-Fan-in-Name-Only (FBFINO?). Hating her, on the other hand, probably does.

You can not like her. But to be so quick to dismiss her? Yeah, lighten up buddy.

In a strange way, there’s something oddly courageous about Jenni. Something admirable. She performs for webcams. How can you do that unless you have confidence that there are people out there who would pay money to watch you? Obviously there are. Otherwise she wouldn’t be doing it. This proves that – even if the number is fairly small – Jenni has her fair share of fans. Maybe not as much as Denise Masino or Lindsay Mulinazzi, but enough to justify a modest income for her.

Jenni’s defiance is a key reason why that small slice of the FBB Appreciation Society (not a real thing, but play along with me here), which is already a small slice of the general population, loves her so much. It’s hard to say how many “dedicated” followers Jenni has, but it’s probably much larger than you think. Or to put it a different way, it’s not as small as you think. Regardless, Jenni has tapped into a niche that can properly be defined as a sub-niche within a niche:

The Scary-But-In-A-Hot-Kind-Of-Way Female Bodybuilder.

She embodies nearly every single negative stereotype you can think of when it comes to female bodybuilders. She also doesn’t appear to be very interested in remedying those negative perceptions in any way. This is because Jenni has perfected the art of turning a negative into a positive. Instead of trying to “fix” what’s wrong with her (and for the record, there’s absolutely nothing “wrong” with her in the first place) she embraces who she is and uses her already existing assets to her advantage. Her deep voice gives her a commanding presence. Her roughness strikes fear into your heart. Her muscles allow her to dominate you. Her unique appearance requires you to pay attention to her. Her “scariness” whips you into shape. Her peculiar mash-up of masculine and feminine qualities make her memorable. Her sexiness makes her, well, sexy.

None of those qualities are a detriment to her success. Could she be more successful if she were more, uh, “accessible” to a broader audience? Perhaps, yes. But how many conventionally beautiful muscle goddesses can you name off the top of your head? Probably dozens upon dozens, if not hundreds. But how many Muscle Queens of the Macabre Variety can you think of who make you both frightened and strangely aroused at the same time? How many of them make you feel nauseated…yet you admit you cannot look away no matter how hard you try?

We all know who can make us feel that way.

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Jenni is a lot like a schlocky horror movie. The horrific violence you see on the screen makes you sick to your stomach. You get queasy watching hapless teenagers get decapitated, disemboweled, dismembered, burned to a crisp, skinned alive, eaten alive, tortured, stabbed, drowned, sliced in half with a chainsaw, gutted with a fishing hook, smashed with a hammer, ripped from limb to limb with a machete, punctured with an arrow, beaten with a baseball bat, or shot in the genitals. But instead of running out of the movie theater screaming like a madman, you stay in your seat and watch the dreadfulness unfold right before your very eyes. It’s entertainment. Sick and twisted entertainment, but that’s what it is nevertheless. It’s simultaneously appalling and fun.

And you know what? There’s a small part of you that actually enjoys watching these things happen to these innocent people. You want to enjoy immoral pre-marital sex? Well, the price you pay is having your innards pulled out of your stomach shortly after your orgasm. For some desperate people, that might be a worthwhile tradeoff.

In a convoluted kind of way, Jennifer Kennedy is sort of like that. Sort of. She’s entertaining. She’s enthralling. She’s captivating. She’s intriguing. You want to see what she does next, even if your instincts tell you to turn it off and scrub your eyeballs with Clorox. You need to know who this woman is and what she’s all about. She’s enticing. Almost too enticing. You may feel a bit guilty when she starts to grow on you, but hey, what’s the harm in that?

Who cares? Nobody is going to judge you. Even if someone does, just ignore them and proceed living your life. After all, being fond of Jenni can be intoxicating. In a naughty sort of way, it almost makes you feel – oh, what’s that word again?

Oh yeah. Defiant.

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The Slayers of Men

Selma Labat is a true slayer of anyone who gets in her way.

A common way we frame female bodybuilders is through the archetype of “Slayers of Men.” Within this framework, female bodybuilders are strong independent women who are here to smash gender stereotypes, the so-called “patriarchy,” and the notion that women are destined to be the weaker sex.

This explains why FBBs are often described as queens and goddesses. They are conquerors, leaders, rulers, creators, destroyers, punishers, and decision-makers. This, of course, has more to do with our fantasies involving FBBs rather than how we actually view FBBs. There’s some overlap, but the “Female Bodybuilders as Slayers of Men” trope exists more in our imaginations than in our literal fears.

In real life, female bodybuilders aren’t anymore violent than normal women. Sure, they have the capacity to cause more bodily harm than most, but that’s not the same thing. I’d rather take a punch to the face from Sarah Paulson than Sarah Hayes, but either way neither of them mean any harm to me unless I pose a direct threat first. Which is unlikely.

It is true that the mere existence of female bodybuilders challenges what we’ve previously thought about gender roles and biology – and this fact cannot be underestimated. But there is a big difference between admitting that “women can become stronger than men if they work hard enough” versus “a man ceases to be a man once a woman is able to lift more than him at the gym.” The former is a statement of fact. The latter is a subtle (or not so subtle) admission of insecurity.

There are many reasons why certain guys fear female bodybuilders. They fear them because they’re jealous. They fear them because they remind them that their title of “the stronger sex” isn’t guaranteed. They fear them because FBBs destroy any excuse they have about not getting bigger or stronger. They fear them because FBBs give permission to other women to get stronger – both physically and emotionally – and not take unnecessary bullshit from ungrateful jerks like them.

Oof.

But it should be obvious that these fears say more about (certain) guys than they do about FBBs in general. Guys who aren’t sexist jerks love strong women because they have no reason to be fearful or disgusted by them. If anything, we have every incentive to lift them up, celebrate them, and appreciate their impressive achievements. Female bodybuilders do not challenge our masculinity because real masculinity and strong femininity can peacefully co-exist together. They are not enemies, but rather two sides of the same coin.

Raquel Arranz looking as though she could defeat an entire army by herself.

Men who feel belittled by muscular women are actually expressing deep-rooted anxiety about themselves. FBBs remind them of their own weaknesses – both literal and figurative. That isn’t to say that guys who love FBBs are inherently stronger or possess rare emotional fortitude. Instead, guys who love muscular women have learned to move on beyond a cheap, surface-level understanding of gender roles, biology, and relationships. If a rising tide lifts all boats, muscular women also lift up all men.

One other way to look at female bodybuilders is to think of them as surrogate punishers for past sins. They are like movie monsters; larger-than-life creatures who act as destroyers sent to us to teach us all a lesson. Godzilla is Mother Nature’s way of punishing humankind for its sins of environmental degradation. King Kong is an allegorical reminder that pillaging, plundering, and economic exploitation are sins that will one day come back to haunt you. Even in the heart of New York City, a bright shining symbol of Western Civilization’s technological and social progress. Likewise, female bodybuilders are the physical embodiment of mankind’s punishment for sexism, misogyny, domestic violence, and structural gender-based oppression. Maybe not in the literal sense, but certainly in the symbolic sense.

Female bodybuilders aren’t lurking in the shadows ready to bash in the heads of guys who blurt out unsolicited catcalls or grab women’s butts, of course. That’s an avant-garde Frank Miller graphic novel just waiting to be written! However, from a psychological point of view FBBs essentially play that same role; as a constant reminder that if you’re not careful, women can strike back when provoked. And they can surpass you in terms of strength and size if you’re not on top of your game.

Even if the significance is more symbolic than literal, there is something to be said about female bodybuilders acting as proxy “Slayers of Rude, Idiotic Men” and, at the same time, allies of “Kind, Gentlemanly Men.” These battles don’t have to transpire on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram in order for them to have real substance. All they have to do is exist in our minds.

Because this is where the real battles are fought: in our minds. FBBs are often viewed as the Slayers of Men because either we fear that they are or we wish that they could be. It’s sort of like imagining Brandi Mae Akers riding on top of a fire-breathing dragon as it incinerates a town down below, Game of Thrones style. Except in this case it’s Miss Akers who’s slaying the hapless townspeople, not the dragon. Whether Brandi Mae ever ends up ruling her kingdom is a secondary matter. What’s really at stake is whether or not she taught those insubordinate plebeians down below a lesson.

And in this hypothetical scenario, it matters whether you’re rooting for Brandi Mae to succeed or wishing that she’ll fail. Do you love her or fear her? Which is it?

In the real world, this paradigm doesn’t have to exist. Female bodybuilders don’t have to be the actual or figurative Slayers of Men. They can be the Allies of Men. That is, if enough men agree to join in this mutually beneficial partnership. A strong woman does not invalidate the masculine identity of a man – no matter how “wrong” or “contradictory” it may feel. One could argue that there is no such thing as “masculine” and “feminine” qualities in any objective sense. I cannot speak to how valid that perspective is, but I understand where it comes from. For the time being, let’s assume that masculine and feminine characteristics are real – at least from a cultural standpoint.

Do not get Heather Armbrust angry!

Masculinity and femininity aren’t two separate spheres in which there is no overlap. On the contrary, there is plenty of crossover. Or maybe, our definitions of these two words are too broad. “Strength” is neither a masculine nor feminine quality. It’s both. Or neither. Maybe it exists on a list of things that aren’t gendered. I’ve argued before that female bodybuilders don’t redefine femininity so much as they expand it. They transform our thinking in regards to gender by forcing us to not think outside the box, but to shatter the box with a sledgehammer. Men and women are different, but not as different as you might think. Or, those differences are arbitrary. Or, those differences can change depending on who we’re talking about.

Your status as a “man” isn’t defined by how many masculine qualities you exhibit. This is because our definition of “masculinity” is unto itself subjective. Nor does it mean that women can’t also showcase a few “masculine” traits without compromising their feminine status. This all sounds complicated because what we’re really arguing about here is definition of words, not objective ideas. Words are more than what the dictionary says they mean. Words also carry heavy cultural connotations, historic baggage, and emotional context. None of those things can be properly conveyed by a simple one sentence definition.

Long story short, who you are as a man isn’t predicated on who women are as well. The same is true going the opposite direction. Seeing a strong muscular woman deadlift more than you at the gym doesn’t mean you’re “less of a man” or not “measuring up” to who you’re supposed to be. We are all allowed to go at our own pace. That woman, whom we’ll nickname Deadlift Lady, exists on her own plain. She is an island, floating around in an ocean full of deep-rooted cultural expectations. The same goes for every guy at that gym lifting weights near her. They are also islands – one particular colloquial expression notwithstanding. Let’s say Typical Dude is deadlifting next to her. He can only lift 215 pounds for one rep. Not bad, but not terribly impressive. But let’s say Deadlift Lady is lifting 375 pounds for 10 reps. That’s quite a lot. Way more than Typical Dude. What do we make of this situation?

Well, not much.

Typical Dude is going at his own pace. He’s setting his own personal agenda. His goals are his and his alone. As long as he’s happy, that’s all we need to know about him. Deadlift Lady, on the other hand, is also going at her own pace. Her personal agenda is probably much different than her male counterpart. After all, no lady who’s deadlifting 375 pounds does so by accident! There’s intention going on here. She’s worked her whole life to make it to this point. The biggest takeaway from this scenario is that the existence of one does not invalidate the existence of the other.

Would you be intimidated if you saw Shannon Courtney lifting next to you at the gym?

They are two human beings working out. They are trying to improve their strength, health, vitality, confidence, self-esteem, and sense of purpose. He may feel slightly insecure lifting in proximity to her, but that’s perfectly okay. And understandable. But it’s not because he has a real reason to feel insecure. It’s because the culture he lives in tells him that he should feel bad. He has no actual reason to feel that way. Deadlift Lady’s remarkable accomplishments do not denigrate or invalidate the accomplishments of Typical Dude. They are two unique, vulnerable human beings trying to make their way through this hostile universe.

Deadlift Lady isn’t slaying Typical Dude. No matter what people around them are saying or thinking, no one is getting “owned” by these two individuals existing side-by-side. They can co-exist because one does not overrule the other. Strong women do not automatically make men weaker. Guys who feel threatened by strong women feel that way because they’re recognize their own shortcomings. The presence of a strong woman makes those feelings bubble to the surface faster than a malfunctioning submarine. Strong women do not make guys feel inadequate; they only bring out those feelings that already exist.

Female bodybuilders not only directly challenge one’s sense of masculine superiority, they also force us to reevaluate how we draw that line between men and women. Is it a hard line in the sand, or one that can easily be washed away by the rising tide?

Do not fear Kathy Johansson. Instead, lift her up!

Strength and weakness. Confidence and insecurity. Superiority and inferiority. Action and inaction. Accomplished and unproven. Happiness and fear. Self-love and self-loathing. Assuredness and doubt. Self-satisfaction and the endless need to prove one’s self.

These feelings are real, even if the reasons they exist are subjective.

The sooner we realize men and strong women are not in conflict with each other, the better off we’ll all be. Better yet, future generations will thank us. Alas, we are not there yet, but I pray one day we will be. Perhaps we can all make an impact, one grueling deadlift repetition at a time.

Strong women are not the Slayers of Men. Men who hate themselves and other women are the actual Slayers of Men. And how do we defeat this mortal enemy?

Easy. In addition to lifting those weights, lift up the people around you.

Who Wants To Be a Female Bodybuilder?

Who wouldn’t want to become Larissa Reis for a single day?

Over the years I’ve received quite a few emails from readers sharing their own female bodybuilder-related fantasies. After all, I have not been shy about sharing my own from time to time. Most of them are pretty standard – a wish list of FBBs they would like to get intimate with, for example – but occasionally some of them will stick in my mind.

One in particular that I find fascinating is the fantasy of actually becoming a female bodybuilder, perhaps for only a day or two.

For those of us who love female bodybuilders, we mostly fantasize about being with them and doing certain activities with them. Wrestling, muscle worship, BDSM activities, making love, dating, romancing, courting, and so on. Some are pretty mundane…and others are more kinky. But nothing too out of the ordinary, assuming your horizons are as conventionally wide as the general population’s. Yet, how many of you have thought about – through magic or some other supernatural means – literally becoming a real-life female bodybuilder?

Personally, I have not thought about this too extensively. But I will admit that it has crossed my mind on occasion. It would be rather fun to become an FBB, even for a single day. In the spirit of “going with the flow,” let’s think this through:

Imagine you go to bed one night feeling a bit down in the dumps. Life is boring. Life hasn’t always gone your way. Your job stinks. Your love life is a hot mess. Your dumpy apartment is getting even dumpier…and your landlord just announced your monthly rent is about to go up. You feel like your life has passed you over. All the good luck went to someone else. You’re just stuck with the leftovers. And not the good kind of leftovers you get from after Thanksgiving. You’re left with the bland deli sandwiches and tasteless store-bought cookies that cost more to make than it does to purchase. You go to bed that night wishing, even if it’s temporary, that you could wake up and experience something new.

Something exciting. Something out-of-the-ordinary. Something fun.

Something really, really, really fun.

So, you brush your teeth, take a quick shower, and crawl into bed feeling crummy but strangely hopeful. Unexpectedly hopeful, to be exact. You don’t know why, you just do. Maybe it’s because of the sexy video you just watched of Larissa Reis lying in the sand of some far away beach. Or the other video of Ginger Martin flexing her biceps for the camera. And the final video of Brandi Mae Akers jerking off some lucky sap who doesn’t comprehend quite how lucky he is. You love female bodybuilders (you’ve loved them since you were 9 years old after randomly seeing a picture of Cory Everson on the cover of some fitness magazine at the grocery store) and secretly hope you’ll get to dream about them sometime during the night. Dreams seem so real when you’re in the middle of them, don’t they?

Magic!

Right. Off to bed!

Maybe you do dream about something pleasant, or maybe you don’t. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is when you finally wake up the next morning. At first, nothing seems strange or out of the ordinary. The alarm clock doesn’t go off. You glance over at the time and see that your clock has stopped. But not in a mechanical failure sort of way. Rather, it’s stopped because time itself has stopped. You don’t need to go to work because things like schedules, deadlines, and obligations have temporarily ceased to matter. Oh, how liberating this feeling is!

But then, you notice something quite odd. You’re naked. You don’t recall going to bed naked, but alas, there you are in the nude. You stretch your body and notice how bulky your arms suddenly have become. Gosh, did all that going to the gym and busting my tail finally pay off? How awesome would that be? Finally, I’ve done something right!

But that’s not it. No, not at all. You lift, but not that much. This is something else entirely.

Finally, you sit up in bed and lift the covers off your body. And what you see both frightens and excites you.

You’ve become another person!

And not just any other person, but a woman. You’ve changed genders! And…uh, your level of muscularity. Hm, this is odd indeed! You leap out of bed and run to the bathroom to look in the mirror. And what you see in the mirror’s reflection confirms what you think has just transpired. You’re a whole new person! A female bodybuilder, to be precise.

A lovely, beautiful female bodybuilder. You’re covered from head to toe with large, bulging muscles. You’re totally ripped. Your arms are the size of cantaloupes. Your back is as wide as a door frame. Your thighs are as thick as tree trunks. Your glutes are as firm as a bowling ball. Your penis…

Hold on. You no longer have a penis! You have something much smaller, something that sort of resembles a dick but clearly isn’t…

Holy shit.

Wow!!!

It’s a clitoris. An enormous one! That largest in the world, in fact. Oh shit. Holy fucking shit, this is incredible! How can you possibly explain what has just happened? You can’t, which adds to the mystery and intrigue. But you cannot even attempt to wrap your mind around that now. Who knows how long this blessing will last? Ten minutes? An hour? A whole day? A week? A year? Um, forever? Probably not, but who wants to risk wasting a single second?

If you were to magically become an FBB, would you touch yourself in bed like Hunter Morgan?

What you do after this is totally up to you, my dear reader. I can probably make an accurate guess about how you’d spend your time as an FBB incarnate. You’d probably touch yourself. All over. You’d masturbate. You’d flex in the mirror. You’d go out in public and see how random people react to you. You’d dress in scantily clad fashion. Or maybe you’d dress in nothing at all! That would really get people staring at you. I think I’d try that first. Go out for a casual stroll wearing nothing but my Birthday Suit, showcasing my strong muscles for all to see, whether they want to or not. That would be fun. And a valuable opportunity to conduct a “social experiment.”

Ah yes, all in the name of “science.”

So, what would you do if you could magically transform yourself into a real-life female bodybuilder? If you knew it would wear off in 24 hours (Cinderella-style), what would you do? Who would you meet? What activities would you try out? The possibilities are endless. Email me at ryantakahashi87 (at) yahoo (dot) com or share your thoughts in the comment section below.

I might publish the most interesting responses. Or not. We’ll see.

The Hyperfeminine Muscular Woman

Minna Pajulahti is too hot for words.

Female bodybuilders are no strangers to the hurtful accusation that they’re not actually women. That they aren’t feminine enough. That they’re turning into men or want to become men. That men aren’t going to like them because of their muscles. That “real women” don’t look like that. That they actually look like men. That they’re confused about their gender.

And so on and so forth.

These slurs are so common I’m guessing most FBBs have achieved the ability to mentally block them out. They have a filter installed in their brain that allows them to ignore stupid opinions that have no merit. At least, I hope so. I cannot imagine how dreadfully annoying it is to have your appearance mocked just because you choose to lift weights, supplement, and bulk up like any other gym bro. Or that your personal definition of “empowerment” requires you to look different than the other girls – and that not everybody is on board with that.

Because of this toxic reality, it is not surprising that many female bodybuilders have decided – whether this is intentional or not is difficult to assess – to counter these slanders by presenting themselves in explicitly feminine terms. Think of it as compensating for their lack of “traditional femininity” by acting more outwardly feminine than they normally would.

Some examples of this include:

  • Getting breast implants
  • Wearing a lot of makeup (even more than usual)
  • Wearing sexy dresses
  • Wearing stylish clothing
  • Smiling, laughing, giggling, and doing whatever she can to appear less “threatening”
  • Posting pictures on Instagram of her doing traditionally “feminine” activities like trying on new clothes, shoe shopping, kissing her boyfriend/husband, playing with dogs, playing with kids, being a “mom,” cooking, cleaning, etc.
  • Promoting brands/products/stores that are traditionally aimed at women
  • Doing porn in which she has sex with men, with the man (or group of men) being in the “dominant” role and the muscular woman in the “submissive” role
  • Or doing porn where the man and muscular woman are equals
  • Choosing not to talk if her voice is too low
  • Doing photoshoots in which her face is edited to look more feminine and less hard edged
  • Avoiding talking about steroids, hormonal supplements, and anything that can be perceived as compromising her “womanhood”

It saddens me to think that female bodybuilders do these things not because they want to but because they feel like they have to. Yet, I am torn on this topic. On one hand, I am a strong believer that everybody has the right to craft their own identity to be whatever they want it to be. They shouldn’t give in to pressure to conform, fit in, or go with the flow. On the other hand, if being “traditionally feminine” is what they genuinely want to do, then nothing should stop them from being that. It’s a tough line to draw in the sand because I do not know what every FBB is thinking and feeling.

Don’t mess with Jayne Trcka. She has handcuffs!

Maybe some FBBs actually enjoy doing activities that are considered “feminine.” Or maybe they do it because they don’t want to alienate anybody. Or, like I said before, they want to appear less “threatening,” as if the sight of a woman with big muscles is somehow considered inherently threatening. Threatening to whom, exactly?

The Hyperfeminine Muscular Woman is a fascinating case study. What do we think of her? Is she compromising her identity by pretending to be something she isn’t, or is that who she really is?

At the end of the day, we don’t really know. But I do know this phenomenon does exist. For example, I can’t recall where I saw this but I remember reading an Instagram post in which Minna Pajulahti says she sometimes acts overtly feminine because she doesn’t want people to think of female bodybuilders as not being real women. That’s paraphrasing her rationale, unfortunately. So she does things like deadlift a crazy amount of weight, drop the bar to the floor, and strike a Beyoncé-like pose at the end as the “kicker.” Why dance around and strike diva poses? Because it reinforces her femininity, which apparently gets compromised when she’s deadlifting, squatting, bench pressing, and lift a ton of weight.

I am not criticizing Minna, of course. I love her and would never do that! But I will acknowledge that I think it’s a bit sad that she feels the need to do this. Not tragic, but mildly sad. Being strong doesn’t mean she isn’t feminine. Doing masculine-labeled activities does not mean she isn’t feminine. Having a nontraditional physique does not mean she isn’t feminine. All of that is complete and utter bullshit.

Minna Pajulahti is a feminine woman. So is Victoria Dominguez. And Kathy Connors. And Jennifer Kennedy. And Gillian Kovack. And Rene Campbell. And Wanda Moore. And Lauren Powers. And Rhonda Lee Quaresma. And Dena Westerfield. And many, many others.

What do all these beautiful women have in common? They’ve all had their feminine identities questioned. Or challenged. Or denied. I’ve seen them labeled “trannies” or “dykes” and other idiotic slurs. The stupidity of people who feel compelled to insult and troll innocent people is boundless. But that is the world we live in today.

Rene Campbell isn’t here for your rude comments.

What makes the existence of the Hyperfeminine Muscular Woman so frustrating is that we don’t know if it’s genuine or not. Are they acting overtly feminine because that’s who they truly are or because that’s how they think society wants them to be? To segment that last part even further, do they act aggressively feminine because they want to be accepted by society (whatever that means) or because they feel the need to overcompensate? The negative stereotypes that surround female bodybuilders are real, hurtful, and pervasive. Perhaps some FBBs feel compelled to dispel these perceptions by acting way more feminine than they’d normally want to. Either way, it’s sad.

It’s sad because I don’t want any muscular woman to act differently just because they want to please others. That’s heartbreaking. I want female bodybuilders to be who they are and not apologize for it. If being traditionally feminine is who they are, so be it. If they feel more comfortable being “butch” or androgynous, so be it. If acting and appearing more masculine is what floats their boat, so be it. Regardless, I just want every FBB to feel at home in their own skin. Whatever that entails.

But I don’t want to dismiss the fact that outside perceptions do matter, even if we don’t want them to. As individuals, we do have to conform to certain social standards if we want to fit in. At least, whenever we’re in public. Especially in the professional world. Being viewed as a scary butch devil lady may be fun as an online persona, but it’s not going to help you land any customer service jobs. Many FBBs are also personal trainers. They can’t appear too intimidating if they want to gain new clients.

There’s also the moral obligation to consider on top of this. When female bodybuilders choose to act and look “hyperfeminine,” are they actually doing harm to femininity without realizing it? For example, we tend to hold narrow views of what masculinity and femininity look like. It shouldn’t take a Gillette ad campaign to tell us that. Shouldn’t FBBs act however they want to act as a statement that “feminine” can be a much larger tent than it currently is? This could also challenge whether or not “masculinity” and “femininity” are real things. Or to what extent we’re allowed to box in people in these categories.

Roxanne Edwards slaying the bodybuilding stage.

It’s unfair to demand that every popular female bodybuilder is obliged to be an ambassador for female bodybuilders everywhere. They are not symbols. They are individuals. Yet, this obligation is unavoidable. Every time an FBB makes an appearance on TV or in a mainstream Hollywood movie, they represent FBBs as a whole – whether they want to or not. Jayne Trcka appeared in Scary Movie (2000) as the comically androgynous gym teacher Miss Mann. She was great in it, even though I cringe watching her scene. It plays for laughs every single negative stereotype you can imagine regarding muscular women. It reinforces the perceptions that women like Cindy Landolt and Aspen Rae shatter with every new Instagram post. Yet, they aren’t invited to appear in movies or TV shows.

But I am not criticizing Jayne. She’s awesome. She’s beautiful, smart, funny, and kind. She isn’t traditionally feminine, but there’s no doubt she’s a woman. She’s a 100% woman. She doesn’t have a secret penis tucked between her legs. And I totally understand why she took that role. You don’t say “no” to a mainstream Hollywood gig. Unless you’re Leonardo DiCaprio or Margot Robbie and you have studios begging you to be in their movie, most working actors have to accept whatever job is available to them. So I don’t begrudge Jayne one bit. I don’t blame her. And I hope none of you do either.

Therefore, Hyperfeminine Muscular Women are caught between a rock and a hard place. They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Female bodybuilders who make absolutely no attempt to act more feminine are also making a difficult choice. They’re also stuck in a Catch-22. But at the end of the day, all this boils down to us. Whether we choose to accept a muscular woman for who she is depends entirely on us. Not her. We choose to embrace her butchness if that’s the road she’s chosen to traverse. We also choose to deny her femininity if she doesn’t uphold our personal standards of what femininity means. It’s a choice. A personal choice. We can either love her for who she is…or not.

Personally, I’ve never questioned the gender identity of any female bodybuilder. Even the ones who are the most masculine presenting. The ones with the deep voice, shrunken breasts, abrasive personality, large muscles, masculine facial features, and large bulge in their panties. They are women, even if 99% of us don’t acknowledge it. They aren’t tearing down femininity; they’re redefining it. Or expanding it. Or challenging us to rethink how we define gender as it is.

The truth is that the “Hyperfeminine Muscular Woman” persona is a performance. The Traditionally Feminine Muscular Woman isn’t. Most likely, an FBB who acts really, really, really, really feminine is putting on a show. She’s intentionally playing a part. She’s an actor and all the world’s a stage. And we are the audience, even if some of us are throwing popcorn at the performers like low-life jerks.

Or do you prefer someone as unquestionably feminine as Courtney Tillia?

This makes me sad. As it should all of you who sympathize with these ladies. When push comes to shove, I want every FBB in the world to feel comfortable in their own skin. I want them to embrace themselves. After all, how can anyone love you if you can’t even love yourself? I want every FBB to wake up each morning, look themselves in the mirror, and say to their reflection “Damn, I look good!” I want these ladies to take joy in looking the way they look, regardless of what anyone else says.

If they feel beautiful with a butch haircut, tattoos, and piercings everywhere, I support that.

If they feel beautiful with long flowy hair, glowing skin, and pouty red lips, I support that.

If they feel beautiful wearing makeup, I support that.

If they feel beautiful wearing no makeup, I support that.

If they feel beautiful slaying in a sexy red cocktail dress, I support that.

If they feel beautiful wearing sweatpants and a hoodie, I support that.

If they feel beautiful acting flamboyantly sexy, I support that.

If they feel beautiful acting quiet, humble, and lowkey, I support that.

If they feel beautiful with big bulging muscles, I support that.

If they feel beautiful with smaller curvier muscles, I support that.

If they feel beautiful playing the “tough girl” role, I support that.

If they feel beautiful playing the “nice girl” role, I support that.

Hopefully, you get my point. I want every muscular woman to feel empowered to be who they are. I wish every FBB can one day figure out who they truly are. Not everyone reaches that point of self-realization. This conversation shouldn’t have anything to do with haters, critics, or trolls. They can go to Hell. Instead, this should be more focused on what muscular women want out of their lives. Do they want to change the world, or do they just want to change themselves? It doesn’t matter as long as they eventually find the path they want to walk down.

And once they reach the end of that path, nothing should stand in their way. Not the haters, not anyone. Because it doesn’t matter what anyone says. When a female bodybuilder is at the peak of her powers, she isn’t listening to what the outside world thinks of her. She’s only celebrating her accomplishments, her goals, her dreams, her life. She’s at her most beautiful when she’s doing this one simple thing:

Being herself.

The Unlovable Female Bodybuilder

Love is a many-splendored thing.

Female muscle fans have quite the collection of tea cups. Since, after all, female bodybuilders aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But they are our cup of tea. So for folks like us, we’re in grave danger of running out of cupboard space.

Time to go to Ikea.

However, as painful as it may be to admit this, even the most ardent FBB fan will admit – especially if this confession must be obtained through torture – that not every muscular woman is deserving of our affection. Or attraction. We may still respect them as human beings, but are we “into” them the same way we’re into Cindy Landolt or Shannon Courtney?

Eh, no.

So yes, even for (as Bane would say) the “initiated” like us there are a small handful of female bodybuilders who aren’t our cup of tea either. This isn’t a reflection of who we are as people, nor is it an indication that we’re “sell outs” or not totally “down with the cause.” It just simply means that even we have certain boundaries that we aren’t always willing to cross. Or, simpler than that, not every FBB appeals to us for whatever reason.

There are a variety of reasons why we may not like a certain female bodybuilder. This isn’t to say that these reasons are justifiable, but they’re reasons nevertheless:

  • She isn’t “feminine” enough
  • She’s too “manly”
  • She’s had way too much cosmetic surgery
  • She’s done the type of porn that’s too disgusting, distasteful, demeaning, or nauseating
  • She has a personality that doesn’t mesh with yours
  • She’s personally done something to you that you find objectionable – such as cancelling out on a muscle worship/wrestling appointment, not returning a deposit, or being abrasive when you met her in the real world
  • She’s done things that have hurt other FBBs or the bodybuilding industry as a whole
  • She isn’t beautiful enough
  • She isn’t muscular enough
  • She “sold out” in some way
  • She isn’t your cup of tea – for whatever reason

Yes, even yours truly has a few FBBs that he can’t entirely get behind. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect them as athletes and human beings. I do. But what can I say? Even I have some limits. Maybe not a lot, but enough to justify an article like this.

Out of respect for female bodybuilders, it will do us no good to list names of specific women who are on our “unlovable” list. That’s disrespectful and counterproductive. But every FBB fan can rattle off a few names of ladies who aren’t quite to their liking. We may not want to admit it out loud, but we can.

It’s hard not to love Cindy Landolt.

So what are we to do?

Well, that’s the rub. On one hand, FBB fans tend to feel defensive toward their beloved ladies and hate seeing hurtful comments made about them. On the other hand, there are a few FBBs that even the most ardent fanatic can’t defend in good faith. This dilemma usually results in us not talking them altogether. After all, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. I think our parents taught us that.

The inclination to remain quiet makes logical sense. What’s the upside of pointing out FBBs who are a bit “too manly” or “was cute before she got all that plastic surgery?” Not much. It only adds to the already toxic atmosphere that surrounds female athletes. It can also reinforce people’s pre-existing negative beliefs about female bodybuilders. The downside certainly outweighs the upside.

Yet, one cannot ignore one’s personal tastes. Even if we’re not willing to say it out loud, we do have these thoughts.

It goes to show that FBB fandom isn’t an “all or nothing” proposition. You can love certain female bodybuilders and not love others. That’s not a sign of hypocrisy or that you’re not pure of faith. It’s a simple indication that we all have different tastes. Or in some cases, different thresholds for what we consider to be “beautiful.”

Or rather, “not ugly.”

Hm. A fascinating concept, that is. There is a difference between “beautiful” and “not ugly.” Here are two examples (alright, so I guess I’m going to break my own rule and name a few specific names). I am a big fan of both Kathy Connors and Yvette Bova. But I am fully aware that not everyone can say the same. In fact, many devoted FBB fans will place both ladies on their “unlovable” list, just like Santa Claus has a list of children who have been naughty or nice. I understand that Kathy and Yvette are not everyone’s cup of tea (back to that expression again!). I will also admit that neither of them are what one would define as “classically beautiful.” But I find them both unbelievably sexy. See the difference?

You may not like Marse Manios, Kathy Connors, and Sheila Seger Benditz, but someone out there does. And that’s all that matters.

Kathy and Yvette aren’t beautiful. But they aren’t ugly either. They’re compelling figures who demand our attention, tantalize our senses, and electrify our fantasies. I can’t stop thinking about them no matter how hard I try. They’re both way more memorable than a roster full of NFL cheerleaders or a stage full of bikini models. Society accepts the latter as being beautiful while shunning Miss Connors and Miss Bova as misfits. These ladies will never grace the covers of fashion magazines or be seen in advertisements at your local Target. But nobody who does will elicit the same giddiness that you get when you watch yet another video of Yvette joyfully giving a blow job to an ordinary looking guy.

FBBs who are “not ugly” are those we acknowledge aren’t attractive in the conventional sense of that word, but are still irresistible nevertheless. Their appeal comes from nontraditional means. They compensate for their lack of natural beauty by beefing up other parts of their selves that people will find attractive. Kathy has perfected the “bad girl” attitude. Yvette has maximized her smutty persona for all it’s worth and more. I – and plenty of others – find Kathy and Yvette attractive because they aren’t afraid to embrace who they are and refuse to conform to anyone’s narrow expectations.

“Unlovable” female bodybuilders are, therefore, less a reflection on who they are and more of an indication of who we are. It demonstrates that we love female bodybuilders for a plethora of reasons…their muscles being one of them. Of course, it’s a significant reason. But it’s not the only reason.

By that same token, if we don’t particular like an FBB, it’s probably for reasons you aren’t expecting. It’s not just because they “look gross” or “have too many veins.” It’s could be because their personality is dull or the kind of porn they choose to do is not to our liking.

But we should be clear on this point: Female bodybuilders are under no obligation to be liked by you or me. They don’t ever have to get breast implants or wear makeup if they don’t want to. They don’t need to conform to anybody’s standards. If looking traditionally feminine isn’t on their to-do list, then so be it. If being glamorous on Instagram – and posting regularly – isn’t a high priority, then that’s the way it is. If they’re fine having a muscular chest and small boobs, well, live with it.

A tea cup.

I’m a strong believer in people – and this includes both men and women – being allowed to live their lives the way they want to as long as they don’t hurt anyone. No one should feel compelled to fit society’s expectations – however one defines that. Therefore, “unlovable” female bodybuilders aren’t unlovable because they choose to be – rather, they’re “unlovable” because that’s how we think of them. Not every FBB will make our hearts flutter or our breathing stop or our jaws drop to the floor. And that’s fine. Someone out there will disagree with you. But even that’s not the point. This isn’t about popularity or the perceptions of others. It’s about something more personal than that.

Female bodybuilders don’t need to be beautiful. They don’t need to be super strong. They don’t need to be glamorous. They don’t need external validation. All they need to be is themselves. All they need is one goal in mind: to become the woman they want to be. Whatever that means. Regardless of what anybody thinks of it. No matter what.

That’s what the game is all about. Self-love. Self-empowerment. Self-confidence.

Anything beyond that is just collecting more useless tea cups.

We Need to Talk About Nataliya Kuznetsova

Nataliya Kuznetsova 4

This is a real human being. Seriously.

By now, you should be familiar with Nataliya Kuznetsova.

Nataliya is the kind of woman that even the most wildly imaginative female muscle fan will admit – if they’re pressed into being realistic for a hot minute – can’t ever really exist.

No woman, even with the help of all the synthetic steroids, supplements, food, weightlifting equipment, and expertise possibly available, can ever actually look like that. Whether you’ve been a bona fide female muscle fan for 40 years or 40 days, you’ve seen your fair share of muscular women. Perhaps even in-person. Yet, the rational part of your brain understands full well that no woman can ever look like her. No woman can ever have arms the size of a Mr. Olympia contestant. Or legs so thick that they resemble actual tree trunks. That’s not physically possible. It’s not scientifically possible. It’s even too absurd to draw a cartoon that looks like that.

Uh, right?

Well, you would be wrong. There is in fact one particular woman who walks on planet Earth – or is it continuously squats and bicep curls on planet Earth? – who defies your expectations of what a female bodybuilder can and cannot look like. She challenges what you previously thought was the limits of human achievement. Sure, guys who take drugs and work out like a madman with his hair on fire can become that huge. But…a woman?

No way! No how! That ain’t right!!!

Yet, it is so right. And it is possible. Her name is Nataliya Kuznetsova.

Nataliya was born on July 1, 1991 in the city of Chita, Zabaykalsky Krai in Russia. She was born just a few months before the Soviet Union officially dissolved; and although the Iron Curtain had fallen, a child had been born who would take her iron pumping quite seriously (did you see what I did there?). She has won many accolades in her life, including being the bench press and deadlift world champion. She’s also a champion armlifter, which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever seen her arms.

She aspired to become a professional bodybuilder at age 14 and never looked back. In addition to breaking several records, she’s dabbled in the field of coaching and personal training – which is not uncommon for many bodybuilders, both male and female. She’s maintained a strict diet since the early days of her career, which has clearly paid dividends. After graduating from the Moscow State Academy of Physical Culture in 2013, Nataliya proceeded to pursue her dream of shattering several powerlifting records.

And put her name in the record books is exactly what she did. In 2014 and 2015 she won various contests in Russia and Europe. While it doesn’t appear that she continues to compete in powerlifting, she’s since gained international notoriety for her unusual eye-popping physique that she proudly promotes on her social media channels.

Oh boy. And she’s also not shy about her usage of anabolic steroids and estrogen blockers. I mean, it’s not humanly possible to get as huge as her without drugs. We all know that. But in her case, it isn’t really about whether or not she “fairly” achieved her musculature. What really matters is that she looks exactly how she looks – and that’s the way she wants it.

Her brand is dependent upon the final result, not the process it took to get to that final result.

Nataliya Kuznetsova 1

Muscles on the beach.

Nataliya is the Ultimate Real Human Photoshop Illusion. You’d swear that she’s not actually real. She must be the product of a female muscle growth fiction artist’s imagination. Someone must’ve artificially enhanced her arms and legs. Or, someone superimposed a male bodybuilder’s arms onto her torso, like a G.I. Joe action figure’s arms being popped inside a limbless Barbie doll.

Yet, that is not the case. She is not a character in an FMG story. Nor are photos of her not genuine (to be fair, very few Instagram and magazine photos are 100% genuine) in the proper sense of the word. Her biceps are really the size of most guys’ quads. Her quads are really as thick as your girlfriend’s torso. It’s all true. It’s definitely not all natural, but if we’re only interested in aesthetics, who cares?

And that’s the crux of the argument. Whether she could ever achieve so much muscle mass naturally – the short answer is “no way, José” – is not the point. Insecure guys who constantly insist that she’s “juicing” or “roiding up” are just projecting their own inadequacies onto a complete stranger. They’re envious that they are unable to get that “swole,” so they need to add as many caveats as possible onto Nataliya’s achievements because it, uh, makes them feel better. Or something like that. I don’t know exactly.

But that’s not really where I’m getting at. Nataliya is noteworthy because she is who she is. Whether she “cheated” or did it through unnatural means isn’t what’s truly important. What’s important is that she’s a human cartoon in the flesh. She’s a female muscle fan’s dream come true, if extreme FMG artwork happens to be your thing. It’s not for me personally, but it doesn’t have to be. I can acknowledge her importance without being totally smitten with her looks.

Personally, Nataliya is a bit too much. Everything about her is superhuman, including her lips. Dang. She makes Angelina Jolie look like the before-and-after photo at a lip enhancement surgeon’s office. I tend to prefer ladies who are both large and traditionally curvy. Alina Popa is my jam. So is Isabelle Turell. And Shannon Courtney. And Theresa Ivancik. And Lindsay Mulinazzi. And many others. I have nothing against Miss Kuznetsova as a human being. I’m sure she’s cool and pretty interesting to be around. Apparently, she’s bisexual – which will make any FMG artist go hog wild when crafting erotically-charged dime novel-style fan fiction.

Perhaps this is a reflection of my limited imagination. Is Nataliya’s physique now the new Mount Everest? Are former Ms. Olympia contestants like Iris Kyle, Tina Chandler, Debi Laszewski, Anne Freitas, and Yaxeni Oriquen-Garcia merely the tip of the iceberg? Previously, we may have thought of these ladies as being at the peak of the female muscle pecking order. But maybe our standards were set too low. Maybe women like Nataliya Kuznetsova (are there any others like her? Asking for a friend) are where the proverbial bar is now set. Or should be set. It’s not enough to train for a few hours, give yourself a couple of rest days, and intersperse within your daily routine plenty of Tupperware containers full of brown rice, grilled chicken, and boiled broccoli. Perhaps the new normal should be to train for several hours a day – as if it’s practically a part-time job – and eat as much protein as you possibly can without throwing up. This doesn’t sound particularly appealing, but one must suffer for one’s art.

Nataliya Kuznetsova 2

Nataliya’s quads don’t lie.

Hm. Maybe that’s exactly the point. One must suffer for your art. In Nataliya’s case, her body is her art. Her muscles are her canvas. Dumbbells, vitamin supplements, anabolic steroids, and protein are her paintbrushes. And her Instagram feed is her museum. And we are patrons of her art. Instead of sipping champagne, we down a carton of Muscle Milk. Same thing.

All bodybuilders are artists as well as athletes. They might consider themselves athletes first and foremost, and that would be their prerogative. But whether they consciously consider it or not, they’re also artists. Michelangelo used marble. Nataliya uses her own flesh and blood. That sounds odd, but it’s true. Bodybuilders don’t try to hit a baseball into the centerfield bleachers or dunk a basketball over a 7-foot tall defender. They try to look awesome, prioritizing muscle mass, symmetry, and aesthetic perfection over all else.

Yet, I’m perfectly fine with Nataliya being the exception and not the rule. She can be an Internet sensation who makes our eyes pop out of our skulls. She can be someone who essentially provides fodder for clickbait articles on second-rate news aggregate sites. I highly doubt female muscle fans worldwide are clamoring for more women to look like her. If more do choose to look as extreme as possible, so be it. But we’re perfectly content with more “conventional-looking” female bodybuilders (as contradictory as that may sound) such as Miss Popa and Miss Ivancik. At least, they’re conventional within the context of the world of female bodybuilding.

Here’s a question: Is Nataliya Kuznetsova good or bad for female bodybuilding and fans of female bodybuilders? It’s the question sports commentators always make regarding dynasties like the Golden State Warriors, New England Patriots, the UConn women’s basketball team, Alabama football, Manchester United, or the Marvel Cinematic Universe (ha ha). Is dominance a good thing? Can the lack of parity hurt the overall product? Or does it enhance it? Is temporary dominance – because dominance rarely lasts forever – actually a good thing because it provides an incentive for others to work harder in order to catch up?

Chances are she’s not going to have much of an effect on anything. Nataliya exists in her own little universe. She’s carved out her own unique niche. She doesn’t really exist in the realm of bodybuilding because she isn’t a competitive bodybuilder (to my knowledge). She’s a mini-celebrity whose body is her selling point. Her extreme physique is why she’s famous, not because she climbed up the industry ladder or won so many accolades that we cannot help but notice her. In a way, she’s the perfect example of how the entrepreneurial female bodybuilder is most likely the archetype that will survive the longest.

Nataliya Kuznetsova 5

Ever seen someone like this at the gym? Yeah, didn’t think so.

The bodybuilding industry’s marginalization of female competitors doesn’t need to be rehashed here. The death of the Ms. Olympia is really all you need to know. Wings of Strength is doing their best to resuscitate the spirit of the Ms. O, and we wish them all the best in this endeavor. Long story short, female bodybuilders need to find alternative avenues of earning an income in order to continue doing what they love to do.

Nataliya has done exactly that.

She’s found a void and filled it perfectly. Impeccably. She busted her tail to look as hypermuscular as possible. She knew not everyone would dig her look, but that didn’t matter one iota. There are plenty of people who will. And do. She’s made sacrifices – including long-term risks to her body – to achieve her Human Photoshop figure. She was able to go “viral” because she stood out from the rest of the herd. There are plenty of muscular women out there. But few are as surreal in their musculature as her.

So because of that, she was able to break through in front of more “mainstream” eyes because of her freakish physique. Cindy Landolt or Minna Pajulahti are famous within the small community of female muscle fans, but Nataliya has been able to rise above that and attraction attention from non-female muscle fans. And chances are pretty good that for many people, Nataliya is the only muscular woman whom they care to follow on social media. She’s “famous” – in a 21st century viral Internet meme sense – for being a living and breathing statistical outlier, not because she happens to be a female bodybuilder who’s broken the mold of her predecessors and peers.

And that’s the meat and potatoes of our discussion. Miss Kuznetsova is nothing more than a freakish statistical outlier to the vast majority of Internet-savvy people out there. She won’t help the visibility of the female bodybuilding industry. She won’t hurt it either, but that’s beside the point. She’s a Human Island. A once-in-a-lifetime Black Swan Event. She’s like the people who love to follow Tiger Woods but couldn’t care less about other golfers.

There are golf fans. And there are Tiger Woods fans. And they are often not one and the same. Likewise, there are Nataliya Kuznetsova fans. And there are female muscle fans. And they are not necessarily the same thing.

Nataliya Kuznetsova 3

Can’t tell if those are her quads…or an actual tree trunk.

Some people love Eminem but don’t particularly like hip hop. Some people loved “The Dark Knight” but never read a single Batman comic book. And some people are enamored with Nataliya Kuznetsova but couldn’t identify Alina Popa in a police lineup.

Life is funny like that.

Whether you love her, hate her, or have neutral feelings about her, one thing is certain: You’re totally justified to initially think that this woman couldn’t possibly exist. This has got to be like “Simone,” that 2002 Al Pacino movie about a movie star who’s digitally animated and isn’t really real. Certainly Nataliya has got to be a digital avatar, right? A fake persona meant to punk all of us into thinking a woman could genuinely build muscle mass that male bodybuilders could only dream of? Well, the truth is that she’s real. Very real.

I have no idea how long she can maintain her physique. I’m not a nutritional scientist or biology expert, but it seems reasonable to worry about her long-term health. All that animal protein, steroids, and hormone-blocking drugs can’t be good for you. Years and years of living like that should eventually take its toll, right?

Eh. Maybe, maybe not.

For now, let’s just appreciate who she is and what she’s been able to accomplish thus far. Only time will tell as to how much of an impact she’s making on the visibility of female bodybuilders, if any at all.

The Vulnerable Female Bodybuilder

The seemingly invincible Ginger Martin.

Female bodybuilders are strong. They seem invincible. Unstoppable. Powerful. Authoritative. A force of nature. One who shall not be reckoned with.

If you mess with her, she’ll mess with you. And you don’t want that to happen to you. Trust us.

Fans of female bodybuilders have put these ladies onto a pedestal, one in which they don’t seem to be human. FBBs are often described in quasi-spiritual terms; using words such as “goddess,” “angel,” or “queen.” These words evoke ethereal images of immortals walking amongst men. FBBs are somehow not human because a “normal” human can never actually look that breathtakingly beautiful. Regular human beings are not able to make your heart skip a beat, your jaw drop to the floor, and a chill run down your spine just by simply posting an untouched photo of themselves on Instagram.

But alas, many FBBs are able to do just that. Many times over, in fact.

Yet, in the back of our minds we know that FBBs are not actually goddesses. They are flesh and blood human beings with feelings, thoughts, fears, insecurities, families, hobbies, and faults. We know that intellectually, on a theoretical level. But emotionally, we cannot help but view these ladies as invulnerable angels whose unique beauty somehow endow them with some sort of shield against typical human imperfections.

In our fantasies, our favorite FBBs are warriors who can slay thousands of enemies at a time. They’re powerful deities who can make the most formidable kingdoms tremble to their knees. They’re sirens who can enslave men to do their will. They’re so breathtakingly beautiful you cannot imagine a moment when they’d ever be sad, intimidated, or not in control.

Yet…

…yet we know the reality of things is much more mundane. But we don’t want to think about that. We’d rather focus on an FBB’s perfections instead of her basic humanity. However, it is worthwhile to keep this important point in mind: Female bodybuilders are much more vulnerable than you’d think.

Here’s why:

First, female bodybuilders exist in a world that doesn’t always accept them for who they are.

The aesthetic of a woman with big muscles certainly excites some of us, but not all of us. As incomprehensible as this sounds, not everyone appreciates the beauty of female bodybuilders. Some are disgusted by a nontraditional feminine figure that doesn’t fit into the narrow box society has come to define. This could be caused by people not liking what they’re not familiar with, but it goes deeper than that.

They’re disgusted because the sight of veins popping out of a muscular arm isn’t terribly appealing – regardless of the gender of the person it belongs to. But especially if it’s a female arm. We’re taught to believe that a beautiful woman should be smooth, angular, and soft. Female bodybuilders are not smooth, angular, and soft. They’re rough, bulky, and coarse. Their bodies do not fit within the acceptable parameters society (properly understood, that is) has arbitrarily established. And because of that, female bodybuilders are always at a disadvantage when it comes to breaking into the entertainment and modeling industries. Even the fitness industry seems to prefer the “fit” look instead of the hypermuscular look.

This lack of acceptance has pushed the female bodybuilding community underground, away from mainstream attention. Is there any need to bring up the unfortunate demise of the Ms. Olympia contest?

Of course, there will always be the token role in a sitcom for a “muscle chick” who shows up, looks menacing, and does something comedic to the male star like kick his ass or wallop him at arm wrestling. They’re not there as a character, but as comedic foil. It’s a bit dehumanizing, but when it’s slim pickings in the entertainment industry, beggars can’t be choosers. You have to accept whatever paying job you can get. Jayne Trcka’s role in Scary Movie (2000) exploits every single negative stereotype about female bodybuilders you can possibly imagine. But from her perspective, it’s a paying job in a major Hollywood production. Can you really blame her?

Kathy Johansson enjoying fun in the sun.

Second, and this point is directly related to the first one, female bodybuilding isn’t a very lucrative profession.

There’s almost no money to be made through competitions. Traditional modeling jobs don’t pay a whole lot no matter what your body type happens to be. You can work as a personal trainer or fitness coach, but being a bodybuilder isn’t necessarily an advantage. It’s not a disadvantage (as far as one can tell), but there are no “bonus points” to be had from being a bodybuilder except for it gives you an extra sense of validity. But not everyone thinks that’s a deal breaker.

And living the life of a bodybuilder isn’t cheap either. The food and supplementation alone costs quite a bit of money if you’re trying to eat clean, often, and strategically. It takes time to go to the gym, lift, do cardio, stretch, shower, and go home to eat and devour a protein shake. It’s challenging to balance working full time, training as a bodybuilder (even if you’re not competing professionally), and enjoying personal time with friends and family. It boggles the mind to ponder how male and female bodybuilders are able to do it.

In other words, female bodybuilders are essentially normal people like us with much different kinds of living expenses. Unlike pro baseball or basketball players, pro bodybuilders aren’t making $20 million per year. They need to hold down a regular 9-5 job just like the rest of us, except squeeze in several hours of training on top of that. You don’t need to be a life coach to understand the difficulties of balancing all of these priorities.

But where exactly is the money at? Well, one can make plenty of dough if they’re willing to offer muscle worship or wrestling sessions. Which conveniently transitions us to our next point:

Being a session provider can be a risky business.

If you need a primer on what “muscle worship” means, you can read all about it in a prior post. While most of us think (and fantasize) about muscle worship and wrestling sessions from the perspective of the client, we mustn’t ignore the provider’s side of the story. Even if rules are set and established beforehand, participating in a fantasy wrestling session can be quite risky.

You never know when you’ll accidentally get injured. Or intentionally get injured by someone with less-than-honorable intentions (there are a lot of strangely insecure guys who feel like they have something to “prove” to a well-meaning FBB who is just trying to earn a living). Or meet a creepy person who stalks you afterward – both online and perhaps even in-person. Stalkers affect all sorts of people, but female bodybuilders are a special breed. They’re as rare as a solar eclipse, which can drive a person whose mental state is already “shaky” at best to do things that definitely cross the line of sane behavior.

For these reasons, FBBs often lay down ground rules before the session even begins. They want to know how much you weigh if you’re interested in “lift and carry” activities. They want to make clear that the wrestling is for fantasy purposes only, as opposed to being a recreation of the Olympic trials. They want to be clear that “tap out” rules will be honored by both sides. In other words, they want to know that they – and the participant – will be safe at all times.

Honest accidents without any malice will inevitably happen from time to time. That is unfortunate, but a reasonable risk one faces when engaging in such strenuous activities. If you want a job without any physical hazards, get a desk job where you sit at a computer and type all day long. But that is not what an FBB who offers muscle worship/fantasy wrestling appointments chooses to do.

A coy looking Tina Nguyen.

Injuries stink for obvious reasons. They hurt, can lead to future health problems, and can be demoralizing. Injuries also inhibit your ability to train, work, travel, and live comfortably. And when your body and health are central to your income stream, being hurt is a double whammy. It’s difficult to earn a living when you’re preoccupied with healing up from a recent torn ligament or fractured bone.

Any lifestyle that is that physically demanding with carry with it inherent risks. And when you throw in clients who may or may not be familiar with you (not every session provider asks for a reference or makes background checks), you never know what sort of person you’ll be spending the next hour or two with. That can be a scary proposition, no matter how emotionally and physically strong you are.

On top of all that, travelling from city to city takes you away from your friends and family for long stretches of time. It’s hard to imagine what that type of life is like unless you’ve lived it. If you have young children – or even older children – being away from them for long periods of time can be stressful. Think of it from the mother’s perspective. Then the children’s. See why this can be a volatile profession?

The next point goes along with that concept: Being a female bodybuilder can be really awkward at times – both for you and your loved ones.

Can you imagine being a little kid and having a mom who “doesn’t look like the other moms?” She’s a lot bigger, stronger, and physically imposing than Billy and Jimmy’s moms. She even has a deeper voice, smaller boobs, and more veins popping out of her arms than is typically considered, uh, typical. And she can bench press more than all the dads out there.

Talk about awkward.

This idea is directly connected to the first point about FBBs living in a world that doesn’t always accept them for who they are. This explores that very concept from everyone else’s perspective.

The older kids get, the more vicious the rumors will become. It doesn’t take a hardboiled private detective to find out what happens at those mysterious muscle worship sessions. It doesn’t take an avid porn aficionado to stumble upon an obscure video of an FBB giving a blow job or hand job to a nameless and faceless beta male client. This sort of information is out there for anyone who is willing to search for it. And not every blog is as respectful as the one you’re currently reading right now. Some blogs and comment sections (ah, yes. The dreaded “comments section” that has single-handedly contributed to the catastrophic dumbing down of our society) can be quite crude in describing what goes on behind closed doors. And come to think of it, it isn’t necessarily crudeness that makes this an issue. Just the basic knowledge that prominent FBBs provide sessions as a side gig is enough to get people to chat, gossip, and speculate on what actually is going on in those remote hotel rooms.

Rumors are rumors, but when rumors are spread widely and loudly enough, they start to become “fact,” even if they are not actually facts. No need to bring up “fake news,” is there?

Can you imagine being a normal kid who does a Google search on your mom and discovers she gives hand jobs to hundreds of guys across the world each year? And she does it for cash that eventually will help fund your college tuition? Talk about an epic discovery that you’d want to erase from your memory “Eternal Sunshine-style.”

Can you imagine being teased for this by the other kids whose parents are more “normal,” if such a thing even exists? Perhaps your FBB mama is remarkably open about her life’s work. Or maybe she tries to shield you from it. In today’s Internet age, it’s nearly impossible to keep something like that under wraps forever. Eventually, the truth will come out if you wait long enough. Nothing can stay hidden for good. Not anymore. We’re far beyond that point. If there’s a grainy video of you – even if this video is more than twenty years old – doing something even slightly embarrassing (never mind performing sexual acts on strangers), you know for a fact it will eventually smack you in the face. Usually when you least expect it. And especially when you don’t ask for it.

Kiana Phi showing off her hard work.

Here’s a true story that I feel compelled to share: Not too long ago a real-life female bodybuilder whom I’ve met for a muscle worship session once before contacted me via e-mail about a recent blog post I had written. She kindly asked that I remove a photo of her that appears in it. The blog article wasn’t about her specifically, but I wanted her picture to be in it because I like her so much.

I dutifully did remove it, carrying out her request as swiftly as I could. She didn’t want her name and reputation to be tarnished. She didn’t want to be associated with an underground subculture that could come back to haunt her, her husband, and her kids.

She didn’t want her daughters to be teased about what their beloved mama does with men in hotel rooms across America. Even if these rumors aren’t based in reality, that doesn’t matter. Harmful gossip is harmful regardless of its truthfulness. I removed her photo because I didn’t want to upset her, but I also did so because I instantly put myself in her shoes. I choose to remain anonymous on this blog because I wouldn’t want my friends and family to know about my unusual fetish. I can grant myself anonymity with very little effort on my part. For an FBB who is considered a “celebrity” in the eyes of many people worldwide, they do not have that luxury.

Public figures cannot control what people say about them. And not everyone can pay a high-quality spin team, PR representative, or “search engine scrubber” who can find creative ways to hide bad stuff said about you. It’s just not possible in today’s interconnected and plugged-in world to totally control your online reputation. I can create a Ryan Takahashi avatar and establish whatever persona I want to. Public figures cannot do that as easily.

Isabelle Turell – what a woman!

This is something I must – and the rest of you, too – keep in mind at all times. When you write about an FBB, wrestler, or session provider on an Internet chat forum, you’re not just communicating to the people with whom you’re directly corresponding. You’re also spreading information – and this includes both accurate and inaccurate information – to the world at large. That’s someone’s reputation. That’s someone’s mom, sister, wife, friend, or lover. That’s another human being, not a brand new air conditioner that deserves a four star rating out of five.

When you call her a whore, you’re saying that about a person with feelings. When you reveal what goes on behind closed doors without honoring her anonymity, you risk harming her reputation. It makes perfect sense why many FBBs are reluctant about allowing people to write reviews about them on chat forums. Who knows what some disgruntled yahoo will say to a captivated audience?

Female bodybuilders are some of the strongest willed people on planet Earth. But they are not invincible. They are flesh and blood human beings who are just as vulnerable as you or I. They may not seem like it in the fever pitch depths of our imaginations, but this is the truth. They are vulnerable, often times in ways you cannot see or understand.