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.

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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.