Beauty is Overrated

Stephanie Marie definitely isn’t overrated.

“Beauty,” as it is traditionally defined, makes no mention of emotions, feelings, or involuntary intuitive reactions. Yet, the concept of beauty – especially the way we use it in everyday conversation – goes way beyond aesthetics.

For example:

Merriam-Webster’s definition of beauty is “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.”

“Gives pleasure to the senses” is a great way of phrasing it. There are, after all, five senses – with sight being just one of them. One can appreciate a rose bush by admiring its beauty, then leaning over and smelling its scent. But you probably wouldn’t want to eat it. And roses don’t make any noise, so there’s nothing to hear. And be careful before you touch it! Those thorns can be prickly.

So one can admire a beautiful thing with more than just one sense. Two or three, perhaps. But there’s another sense that is almost never acknowledged. A sense that is, if you think about it, arguably more important:

The emotional sense.

The sight of a beautiful person can make you feel many things. Lust, longing, exasperation, infatuation, nervousness, giddiness, curiosity, etc. Perhaps the reason why a beautiful person has such power over us isn’t just because of how they look – it’s how they make us feel.

Coco Crush is so damn beautiful.

And this has less to do with who they are and more to do with who we are. Or what we’ve gone through, or what we’ve experienced, or what we’re currently dealing with in our personal lives. For example, you could be minding your own business at the grocery store. You just need to pick up a few items – green peppers, celery, a red onion, and a few quarts of beef stock – for tonight’s dinner. You should be in and out in a hot minute. Suddenly, out of nowhere you see a gorgeous young lady perusing through the salad greens section looking for fresh spinach that isn’t too soggy. She’s beautiful. The most beautiful person you’ve seen in a while. The way she walks, moves, and behaves is like poetry in motion. But you’re not just captivated by her immense beauty. You’re reminded of your high school crush, the one who “got away.” You’re reminded of your own loneliness and your burning need for someone to cuddle with tonight when you’re watching late night TV. You’re reminded of how special this planet can be at times, when a flawless work of art can literally appear out of nowhere unexpectedly and make your heart stop beating.

You know she’s physically beautiful, yet she’s more than that. She makes you feel things. Strong things. Things you wish you could forget. Things you wish you could capture in a bottle and uncork whenever you want to. Things you cannot explain, but you know in your heart is as real as a rainstorm. In other words, “beauty” isn’t just an aesthetic. It’s an experience.

This helps explain why many of us love female bodybuilders so much. We aren’t just attracted to their muscles, curves, strength, confidence, and inspiring stories. We love them because they make us react in ways that are both predictable and inexplicable. We love them because we cannot stop loving them. They’re an unquenchable thirst. A hunger that never ceases.

We can look at a picture of Cindy Landolt and notice many things. Her face is pretty and her muscles are poetic, but her appeal goes way beyond those things. We sense raw energy radiating out of every pore of her immaculate body. It’s almost visible. It’s nearly tangible. To look upon her is to feel like you’re in the presence of a Divine Being. She’s often labeled a “Goddess” by her fans (myself included) and for good reason. She looks too good to be true. The fact she actually is a real-life human being adds to her mystique. How can someone be that beautiful? It’s difficult to wrap our minds around this reality. Yet it’s true. Cindy makes our minds rattle in a million different directions. And it’s not just because of her obvious beauty.

It’s because of her – and many other female bodybuilders – effect on our psyches.

Amanda Ferre looking absolutely gorgeous.

Female bodybuilders are alluring for reasons that go beyond what you can see on the outside. It’s not just their unusually large muscles that capture our attention. When we regard upon a beautiful female bodybuilder, our daydreaming activities go into overdrive. We want her to pick us up and toss us to the ground like a ragdoll. We desire to touch her muscles. We want to ask her to flex her biceps while we measure them with a sewing tape measure. How big is she? When she flexes at maximum capacity, how large can she grow? 16 inches? 18 inches?

Uh, 20 inches?

Is that even possible? Has any woman in the history of the world ever developed biceps that exceeded 20 inches? Maybe, but I’m yet to have seen it. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened before, of course. Renné Toney supposedly holds the record at 21 inches. I highly doubt too many other women have been able to match that, let alone exceed it.

God damn. The very thought of a woman having 21-inch biceps is mind boggling. It’s inconceivable. It’s beyond belief. Yet, she did at one point in her life attain such a measurement. Guys who are insecure or full of self-loathing will immediately scream at the top of their lungs “Steroids, steroids, steroids!” But those of us who respect female bodybuilders and don’t hate ourselves will instead react with “You go girl!”

See the difference?

The same could be said for Tina Lockwood’s thighs. Or Becca Swanson’s career achievements. Or Nataliya Kuznetsova’s entire existence. Or what Shannon Courtney was able to do at such an early age. These ladies defy our expectations of what the female human body is capable of doing. In their own way, they’ve set the bar higher and higher than any of us (or most of us) thought was even possible. To react with derision is unfortunate. It probably says more about the person choosing to think that way more than anything else. But thankfully, for every troll who types mean comments like “She’s probably got a dick” or “She’s actually a man” on a random YouTube video, there are thousands of other people who treat these women with the respect they deserve.

Isabelle Turell makes me react quite irrationally.

How funny it is that female bodybuilders can make us react in such two completely opposite ways. We react with either scorn or praise. Disgust or lust. Hatred or eternal adoration. Dismissiveness or uncontrollable fandom. There’s basically no middle ground. At all. It’s truly a fascinating phenomenon to witness.

This is why “beauty is overrated.” We value beauty because it’s obvious. It’s plain to see. It’s simple to explain. It doesn’t require any thinking. It’s all around us all the time. You don’t need to travel far to see a billboard, television commercial, print advertisement, or pop-up window that features a beautiful person – male or female. It’s deeply engrained into our multimedia landscape. Sex sells, as the adage goes. Heck, it’s so pervasive it’s easy to not notice it.

Yet, beauty unto itself is fairly limited. A pretty face can be forgettable. A shapely body you see in a magazine may draw your attention momentarily, but it’ll fade off into the distance once something else replaces it. The smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies? The sound of your favorite song playing over the PA system? The feeling of cool air cascading off your face on a sweltering hot summer day? All of those things can replace the memory of a beautiful magazine cover model because she’s a dime a dozen (no offense to her). Her beauty is considerable, but it’s not enough. We want to feel something. A connection. A memory. An involuntary reaction.

A nameless Victoria’s Secret underwear model cannot compete with Isabelle Turell or Lindsay Mulinazzi. The nameless model looks nice but doesn’t elicit any emotional reaction out of us. We notice their beauty and move on with our lives. Isabelle and Lindsay, on the other hand, make us want to beg for their attention. Get down on our knees and worship them. Shell out hundreds of dollars in cash to purchase their merchandise. Praise them as queens or goddesses. Use hyperbolic language when describing them. Travel to the furthest ends of the earth just to meet them for a single hour. Stay up late watching videos of them when we have to go to work the next day. Do things we normally wouldn’t do like set up a muscle worship appointment or fantasy wrestling session – all in secret, naturally.

Beauty in complete isolation is neat. But it does not give us a complete picture of the situation. Some people – and this includes non-bodybuilders – have a pull on us that almost seems magical. Remember your grade school crush? I sure do. I still think about her. I recently stalked her on Facebook and saw that she’s happily married with a newborn child. She’s kind of pretty, but not nearly as drop dead gorgeous as I thought of her at the time. In this case, distance and time did not make the heart grow fonder. Quite the opposite. But I clearly remember being 12 years old and not being able to keep my eyes off her. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. She was sweet, smart, nice, and good looking. I was enchanted with her.

We all have similar stories we can tell. Many of us have current stories in similar vein that we can tell. Crushes are exactly that: they crush us. They shatter our ability to think rationally. They stomp all over our sense of self-preservation and force us to act foolishly. We are enthralled by them, taken in by them, infatuated with them. It’s strong. It’s focused. It’s nearly unbreakable.

And when it does break, it tears our hearts in half.

Do you know what this ultimately means? It means beauty is not just overrated, but somewhat misunderstood. We give pure physical beauty more credit than it deserves. It can initially capture our attention, but it’s not enough to keep us tuned in. We need more if we want to continue to be playing the game. We need an emotional bond. A cathartic connection. A spiritual awakening. We need our heartstrings tugged at in addition to blood flowing to our private parts. This isn’t just explained by love or lust. It’s something else. Something…less tangible.

Now, comparing your schoolyard crush to your adult fascination with female bodybuilders is not completely analogous. They are two different things. Yet, the general idea remains the same. They both have us in the palm of their hands. They control the situation, not us. They have the power. All the power. It’s not even close. It’s more than a magic spell. It’s more mysterious than a love potion because this is completely organic. It’s natural. No special sauce is needed.

What kind of beauty is unforgettable to you?

Go back to the beginning of this article and reread Merriam-Webster’s definition of “beauty.” Notice the word “spirit” at the very end. That’s significant. Do not trivialize this. To “pleasurably exalt the spirit” is quite a turn of phrase. It seems to connotate a religious awakening; a divine experience that transcends the mortal body. This is why we tend to use ethereal language when describing female bodybuilders. It’s just like a religious experience. A conversion. A death and resurrection all happening at once.

Beauty is overrated because it places too much emphasis on the person who is being described as beautiful. This isn’t a knock against them, but rather an observation that what really matters is the person experiencing the beauty. What are they thinking? Hoping? Dreaming about? Fearful of? Wishing would happen with all their might?

The fact I’ve been writing about female bodybuilders and female muscle fetishism for seven years now – yes, it’s been that long – is proof that FBBs have a profound grip on me. It’s everlasting. Sure, sometimes it wanes for a bit, but it never goes away. I don’t think that’s even possible.

FBBs are important to me and will continue to be a massive part of my life. The same is probably true for many of you too. And the reason this is true isn’t just because FBBs are physically beautiful creatures. It’s because they have the keen ability to draw out wild thoughts and fantasies from us. They make us act irrationally. They cannot leave our imaginations. They’re living rent free in our heads – and we are grateful landlords who refuse to ask for back payments.

Because it’s not just about how beautiful they are. It’s how beautiful we make them out to be.

Beautiful Monsters

Monster - Isabelle Turell

Isabelle Turell is one beautiful Lady Hulk.

Growing up I’ve always been a huge Godzilla fan. I was first introduced to the franchise when I saw the original 1954 film on VHS as a little kid. Yes, it was the American version featuring English dubbing and Raymond Burr unnecessarily shoe-horned in for no good reason other than to give U.S. audiences a white person to identify with, but it was nevertheless the landmark film that introduced the world to Godzilla. Despite Perry Mason.

As if the Big Fella himself wasn’t enough of an attraction!

I may have been eight or nine years old when I first watched it. Then I saw several of the “Godzilla vs. <Insert Name of Random Kaiju>” movies. I believe those films are known as the Toho Showa Era. Some were better than others. I always loved Mothra and King Ghidorah (this may sound blasphemous, but I was never really a fan of Mechagodzilla), and will appreciate the underrated Gigan.

And yes, I am secretly a fan of the horrible 1998 Roland Emmerich film starring Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine. Sue me.

Just kidding. Don’t sue me. I have very little for you to take…

Do I like other monster movies? Of course. King Kong is a classic. I think the original 1933 film holds up pretty darn well. It’s not just a “classic movie” that deserves recognition because it’s historically important. It also works as a solid piece of entertainment. Even for our modern standards. There’s something refreshing about seeing a puppet move via old-time stop-motion animation instead of everything just being animated by CGI artists in a dark sterile room.

Both Godzilla and King Kong are not just silly monster movies. They’re allegories for societal fears of the time. Yes, the filmmakers insist that King Kong isn’t a racist archetype of black men in America, but you can insert your own meaning into a story about a wild animal being captured in the jungle and brought to “civilized” society only to run amok and go on a rampage. At the end of the day, King Kong can be interpreted as a warning against the Western world exploiting the Third World (or “exotic” world) for glamour and fame. Or it can be an allegory of immorality of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Allegory.

Godzilla is more obvious in its messaging. It’s a parable of the Atomic Age and a metaphor for the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It’s critical of nuclear weapons, the fallout of nuclear testing on the environment, and the foolish nature of the U.S./Soviet Cold War. Godzilla is the offspring of humanity’s destructive nature, a constant reminder that death and destruction only begets more death and destruction. Not less. It was Japan’s way of coping with the traumas of World War II – both the traumas they suffered and the traumas they caused.

Monster - Godzilla

Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Need I say more?

Like Frankenstein’s monster, Godzilla is the result of mankind playing God. In this case, mankind created massive weapons of war and decided it can be the judge, jury, and executioner for no other reason than they believe that “history is on their side.” Sound familiar? To a smaller extent, the dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park movies serve the same thematic purpose.

For American and Japanese audiences, King Kong and Godzilla are monsters who represent hidden fears that can’t always be talked about in academic terms. We all know that Nuclear War is a bad thing. Yet, when we go to the cinema and watch images of cities being destroyed by a humungous uncontrollable man-made creature, it makes the threat of Nuclear War seem both more frightening and intensely personal. We caused this mess; and we are therefore the ones who can (and should) clean it up.

In this way, movie monsters are fictional representations of our own deeply ingrained fears. King Kong is a critique of how far mankind will go for fame and fortune. Godzilla preys on our fears that we will be the cause of our own destruction. We need these monsters because they make our fears seem real. They are the physical manifestations of our nightmares. They are the nexus of bedtime stories ripped straight from the headlines. It’s a cathartic form of punishment to see helpless human beings be murdered by the millions by creatures we either created or kidnapped. And when we leave the theater we feel a sense of guilt relieved and a valuable lesson or two learned.

But monsters don’t always have to prey on our fears. They can also tap into our hopes and dreams. Our ideals. Our best intentions. Godzilla isn’t always the villain. Sometimes he’s the hero defending Earth from alien kaiju. In a twist of fate, Godzilla is the savior we need. He’s a horrifying monster, but he’s our monster. He’s on our side. So monsters are not always a negative thing. They can also be an asset.

Take female bodybuilders, for example.

You knew I was eventually going to get back to them, right?

Like King Kong, Godzilla, Jurassic Park’s Tyrannosaurus Rexes, and slasher killers like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, female bodybuilders are also monsters. They’re beautiful monsters. Gorgeous monsters. Flawlessly angelic monsters.

And strangely enough, they tap into both our deepest fears and highest aspirational dreams.

Monster - King Kong

Got to give some love to King Kong too.

At casual glance, it’s a bit strange why straight guys would be attracted to muscular women. Most people assume that men would be naturally repulsed by female bodybuilders. And many are. But many are not. Conventional wisdom tells you that guys wouldn’t like female bodybuilders because they would make them feel inadequate. The sight of a woman with bigger muscles than you’ll ever achieve is enough to make you feel insecure, lazy, and a pathetic excuse-maker.

I mean, if she can get that big, what’s your excuse, buster?

This probably explains why guys are so quick to yell “Steroids, steroids, steroids!” in YouTube comments as if they were Jan Brady from The Brady Bunch. They need to remind others (and themselves) that the reason why these ladies are so big is because they’ve become so through unnatural means. It provides them psychological comfort knowing FBBs “cheat the system” by taking anabolic steroids that infuse them with an unnatural level of male hormones. And this, in turn, makes it easier to build so much muscle mass.

So if they see photos of Alina Popa or Nataliya Kuznetsova and scream “steroids!!!” as loud as they possibly can, that’s enough to protect their fragile egos from being shattered by a complete stranger they’re peculiarly stalking on Instagram.

In other words, for these Female Muscle Haters (FMH), FBBs are an attack on their masculinity. Or their title as the “Stronger Sex.” Female bodybuilders are monstrous to them not because they look freaky or weird, but because they remind themselves of how inadequate they are. They have a constant need to be better than women at every aspect of life (including professional and personal achievements) and treat every woman who is superior to them at something as a threat. It’s a sad commentary on how many people view the world, but that’s the way it is.

But for Female Muscle Fans (FMF), we choose to put our egos aside and embrace these strong beautiful ladies. We celebrate their impressive achievements and cheer them on to get bigger, stronger, and more famous. We don’t feel threatened by them. Rather, we feel an odd sense of empowerment by them. We know that we’re not as strong as them, but we don’t feel emasculated by that fact. We feel turned on. We feel – and this will sound strange to anyone who isn’t initiated into female muscle fandom – stronger because of them.

Stronger, you say? Oh yes.

Female bodybuilders inspire us to be better. They are the living embodiment of “strong independent women” that too many people claim to be but really aren’t. They give us a warm tingly feeling inside that cannot be explained. They are a reminder that women are not destined to be the “weaker sex” and that men can lose the label of being the “stronger sex” if they get complacent. It’s both scary and empowering to know that our destinies are in our own hands. We control who we are and what we become. Nobody else. That can be frightening because it makes us responsible for our own failings.

Monster - Jay Fuchs

Jay Fuchs is both beautiful and a Goddess you don’t want to anger.

Female bodybuilders take the initiative. They refuse to make excuses. When they fail, they learn from that failure and adjust accordingly. Nothing is given to them on a silver platter. They have to earn their muscles, going as far as having to work harder than men if they want to achieve the same level of muscularity. And the bodybuilding industry is doing them no favors either. They’re on an island, swimming upstream in a hostile and indifferent world.

And so when they do achieve eye-popping physiques that make our jaws drop to the floor, we are turned on by them even more knowing how damn difficult it is to look that way. I’ve written before that female bodybuilders “earn their beauty.” It feels more meritorious. An average-looking woman who isn’t born with natural beauty can transform herself into a Supreme All-Powerful Muscle Goddess by following a strict diet, workout regimen, and supplementation schedule. She can go from being an ugly duckling to an Unstoppable Muscle Queen Who Slays Her Enemies through means that are totally within her control. That’s true empowerment.

Charlize Theron hit the genetics jackpot and was born naturally drop-dead gorgeous. Not everyone is so lucky. However, bodybuilding is one way (certainly not the only way) that someone can transform themselves into a more physically beautiful person without having to resort of cosmetic surgery. I love Kathy Connors dearly, but unlike Miss Theron, she was not born with natural beauty. But right now, Miss Connors is a Devilishly Sexy Muscle Siren through her own blood, sweat, and tears. And I applaud her for it!

This is why female bodybuilders tap into both our deepest fears and highest aspirations. Depending on how we choose to view the world, FBBs can make us feel either inadequate or inspired. Emasculated or empowered. We either reject their uniqueness or we embrace it. We see their muscled physique as either a reminder of our own weakness or a celebratory example of human perfection personified. We love them for who they are or we hate them for who they remind us we aren’t.

Who knew female muscle fandom could be so complex?

That being said, like all cinematic monsters, female bodybuilders are not inherently grotesque or beautiful. Those are labels we attach to them. We could look at Godzilla as the destroyer of humankind or we can look at him as a mere animal – granted, a very large animal – doing what all animals do: try to survive. Is Michael Myers a mindless psychopath who kills people because it’s in his nature? Or is he the product of a sick and twisted society that treated him like dirt and murdering hapless teens is his way of avenging that miserable childhood?

Monster - Bride of Frankenstein

Bride of Frankenstein was created to make sure the Creature didn’t get too lonely.

Perhaps this leads to an obvious conclusion: Monsters reveal our inner most fears because deep down inside, we’re actually afraid that we deserve the punishment that monsters levy upon us. When Godzilla stomps all over downtown Tokyo and kills scores of innocent people, it’s actually poetic retribution for mankind’s carelessness with regards to the environment. Or, a valuable lesson that man’s militaristic nature will eventually come back to haunt him. Peace begets peace, while war begets more war.

The vitriol aimed at female bodybuilders can be harsh, but not unexpected. People can be terrible when they can hide behind the anonymity of the Internet. Calling them “man-like” or “gross” or “freaky” may hurt their (and our) feelings, but in today’s trollish culture we must come to expect such idiocy.

Some FBBs use their haters as inspiration. Others choose to ignore them and instead focus on the people who genuinely love them. I think this is a more healthy route. Indeed, female bodybuilders are Beautiful Monsters. They are truly polarizing. Either you love them dearly or you are viscerally repulsed by them. Your reaction to seeing a photograph of a muscular woman can cause you to post bigoted misogynistic comments or unzip your pants and masturbate. I’ve received plenty of emails from fans who claim they’re “addicted” to female bodybuilders and that this fetish is so strong it’s causing their relationships with friends and family to break down.

Oof. I usually recommend they step back, take a deep breath, and seek the assistance of a counselor. That’s not healthy. That’s not fandom. That’s an obsession taken way too far.

It’s really bizarre that FBBs can elicit such totally opposing reactions.

Sexist hatred. Uncontrollable lust. Blatant misogyny. Animalistic sexual urges. Vitriolic comments. Fascination bordering on unhealthy obsession. Regardless, all of this leads to a much more disturbing but ultimately truthful assessment:

Perhaps female bodybuilders are not monsters after all.

We are.

Nostalgic for Naughtiness

An old issue of Women’s Physique World featuring Shelley Beattie and Sharon Bruneau.

Every man who was once a teenage boy with raging hormones should be able to identify with this scenario:

You borrow a copy of a dirty magazine from a buddy at school. Or you steal it from a grocery store with the stealth skills of a Special Ops commander. Or you’re lucky enough to stumble upon an old issue of Playboy or Hustler sitting in a garbage can or recycling bin. No matter how you acquire said dirty magazine, it’s a prized possession that you will guard with your life.

Your brothers and sisters cannot know about it. Your parents especially cannot know about it. So it must be kept a secret from prying eyes, forever fated to be stuffed in your sock drawer or underneath your mattress. The only time you can look at it is at night under the cover of darkness. Bring it to school and you risk one of your teachers discovering it, confiscating it, and telling Mom or Dad about it. Talk about bad news. Can’t possibly risk that. No bloody way.

But what’s in that dirty magazine that’s so damn intriguing? It’s simple: Beautiful girls wearing very little (or no) clothing. Just a few short years ago, girls were disgusting creatures who were annoying, bad at sports, and had different hobbies than you. Today, it’s a whole different story. Girls are enigmatic creatures who make you feel wiggly inside. You cannot help but stare at the ones who were the prettiest or had the shapeliest bodies. And you definitely struggle to stop staring at the ones with big boobs. Oh boy…

But your magazine offers a special glimpse that you cannot possibly have while sitting in math class. Your treasured magazine shows you a whole new side of the female species that you’ve only just begun to discover. You finally get to see what a pair of breasts look like. You finally learn why Dad married Mom in the first place. And, you finally find out what girls have between their legs that you don’t.

This scenario should be especially familiar with those of you who are older than 30. However, as the Internet Age rolled around, teenage boys don’t have to sneak dirty magazines into their bedrooms in order to get their “fix.” Pictures of gorgeous naked women are only a simple Google search away (not to mention a furious effort to delete one’s browsing history before Grandma next uses the family computer). So as time goes on, one presumes this familiar scenario will become less familiar.

Will you accept this rose from Raye Hollitt?

Nevertheless, for those of us who love female bodybuilders, there’s an added dimension to our story of how we discovered what turns us on. In addition to conventionally beautiful lingerie and fashion models, we were also introduced to pretty women who sported a bit more muscle mass than usual. So not only were we smuggling copies of Playboy into our coat closets, we were also sneaking in contraband fitness and weightlifting magazines.

Sure, the majority of those publications featured big burly men. But on occasion, we got to feast our eyes on ladies with big burly muscles.

Oh baby.

In today’s modern world in which everything you can possibly think of can now be accessed through the Internet, it’s becoming easier and easier to indulge in your vices in complete privacy. Private web browsing has been a helpful tool in hiding your fetishes from anyone who also happens to use your computer. Granted, you still need to be cautious when you’re at work, but when you’re sitting at home you can be as freaky as you want to be without a single soul knowing about it.

Yet, with all this erotic material readily available at your fingertips, doesn’t it seem like the “old days” were a bit more, how shall we say it, “naughty?”

What is meant by that is the general feeling that back in the days when images of beautiful muscular women were rare, the few opportunities we got to feast our eyes on them seemed much more exciting than they do now. Today, we can easily scroll through hundreds of female bodybuilders, fitness models, and athletes on Instagram, Tumblr blogs, and fan websites without breaking a sweat. No need to sneak in magazines underneath your Mom’s watchful eye. No fear of Dad finding out. Also, no need to research where you can find these photos, which in our youth we treated as precious commodities like gold, diamonds, and crude oil.

With search engines and social media making our beloved ladies more easily available than ever before, why do simple Google searches fail to send that same tingling sensation down our spines that peering through old photos of Rachel McLish late at night in our bedrooms once did? Is it because we’re older and more accustomed to seeing photos of gorgeous muscular women, or is it something deeper?

Let’s explore the latter. It is not beyond comprehension that part of the reason why our adolescent brains were kicking into overdrive was because, well, the clichéd phrase “raging hormones” exists for a reason. So is it fair to say that as we get older our hormones get more under control, thus we become less fanatical in our desire to ogle beautiful women? Maybe, but that doesn’t appear to be the only answer. For the female muscle enthusiasts out there, another explanation must cover the territory of the “forbidden fruit.”

As if peering at photos of beautiful women weren’t scandalous (relatively speaking) enough, being turned on by photos of muscular beautiful women is a whole other story. Now we’re crossing into “weird” ground, not just “scandalous.” It’s not embarrassing to admit you’d like to tap Pamela Anderson (especially if you grew up in the 90s), but it would definitely raise a few eyebrows if you declare proudly that you’d also like to screw Kim Chizevsky. Especially if the people you were with knew who Kim is and what she looks like.

Talk about awkward.

But awkwardness is exactly the point. We’re embarrassed because we don’t want others to find out about our attraction to female bodybuilders, but we’re also somewhat embarrassed for our own sake. We start to wonder if something is wrong with us. We ask questions such as: Am I normal? Am I secretly gay? Why don’t more people feel the same way as I do?

But even those questions are starting to diminish. The Internet has played an integral role in breaking down almost every social taboo you can think of. You can easily locate like-minded individuals who are into the same “unusual” stuff as you. Do you enjoy drawing Game of Thrones fan art? Or writing Harry Potter fan fiction? Or immersing yourself into “Furry” culture (don’t look it up if you aren’t prepared to truly find out what it is)? Well, finding other people who are into the same things as you has never been easier. This is quite a blessing, especially if you are prone to wondering whether if you’re alone in the Universe. Odds are you are not.

The statuesque Bev Francis.

The same goes for female muscle fetishism. For all its flaws, Saradas.com is a popular forum for discussing and sharing content related to female bodybuilding, sessions, fantasy wrestling, and the like. You can easily connect and communicate with people all across the globe who enjoy the same female muscle-related activities as you. This level of connectivity with souls spread around the planet is unprecedented. Yet here we are. What a time to be alive.

However, despite the ease of which we can access photos/videos of muscular women and meet people who share our common interests, why does it seem like (to repeat the question articulated earlier) the old days were much naughtier? Maybe this isn’t true for everyone, but it’s not beyond the stretch of the imagination to say that once something becomes mainstream, it starts to lose a little bit of its juice. Granted, female bodybuilding is still (and probably never will be) not considered mainstream, but within the world of Internet subcultures, anything can be mainstream if you look in the right places. What’s the deal here?

The best explanation has to be the fact that before the Internet existed, most of us truly didn’t know if other people felt the same way about female bodybuilders as we did. Before Google allowed us to discover information faster and easier than before, we had no idea how many other people (if any at all) shared our fascination with them. It’s not just loneliness. It’s the fear that nobody else is crazy enough to get turned on by a woman with big muscles. And if that’s the case, isn’t the next logical conclusion that there must be something “off” about us?

Hence, our uncontrollable and unexplainable attraction to female muscle felt supremely naughty. And not just naughty in a moral sense, but also in a psychological sense. We didn’t know if our brains were working properly. That’s taking naughtiness to a whole new level.

The other explanation is the supply of female muscle-related media. Back in the pre-Internet age, our exposure to FBBs was limited to magazines, bodybuilding contests on television, and your old dusty VHS copy of “Pumping Iron II: The Women.” That’s about it. So the few instances in which we could find new photos of female bodybuilders were few and far between.

That made the experience all the more exciting. The rare occurrence when we could get our sweaty hands on a brand new issue of the latest fitness magazine seemed like a quasi-religious experience. It was as if we had found a Golden Ticket in our recently purchased Wonka Bar. We felt as giddy as if it were Christmas morning. But instead of a new bicycle or autographed football, it was a magazine chock full of images of powerful women with bulging biceps and massive quads. Hell, this beats the experience of tearing up presents underneath the decorated tree by a mile!

Who wants to lift with Cory Everson?

Back when the product is scarce, we appreciated it more. Now that the product is available in abundance, you’d think we would appreciate it more, but we don’t. Ironically, an overabundance of the product actually ends up making us appreciate it less. Thirty years ago, we had to risk life and limb to sneak a copy of a bodybuilding magazine into our rooms without our parents detecting it. Today, we can skim through endless Instagram feeds of scantily clad female bodybuilders, athletes, and fitness models with our only concern being whether we’ll run out of battery power.

This is a good thing, right? Of course it is. But human nature being what it is, we can’t help but sense a diminished sense of giddiness living in today’s media-saturated environment. Our love for female bodybuilders seems cheap. Easy. Casual. Maybe not mainstream, but certainly less-out-of-the-ordinary-than-before. Female muscle fetishism has lost some of its naughtiness. What should we make of this?

Well, not much. But this does provide a valuable lesson about the relationship between cultural acceptance and modern communications technology.

People tend to react viscerally to things that are unusual, even if they aren’t necessarily “weird.” Unusual is simply anything that is not usual. But the more common it becomes, the less unusual it is, and the more “normal” it seems. This is not rocket science. This simple observation is also true for female muscle and our reaction to it. We think it’s strange to see women with big muscles precisely because women with big muscles are rare. But as our definition of “mainstream” starts to veer away from legacy corporate advertising and toward more grassroots-based media, the doors to almost anything will swing wide open.

The list goes on regarding things you once never saw but now can see whenever you feel like it: Plus-sized models, South Korean soap operas, documentaries about dwarfs (not the Lord of the Rings kind), Bollywood movies, Japanese pop music, Australian rugby matches, Brazilian cooking shows, cosplay conventions, Facebook groups for people who identify as “Gender Non-Conforming,” and so on. And yes, this includes photos, videos, blogs, and communities dedicated to female muscle. Almost anything you can think of is out there for public consumption.

An iconic female bodybuilder, Rachel McLish.

You just have to know where to look for it. Because not all of it will appear right under your nose when you least expect it.

Maybe this is why our love for female bodybuilders seems less naughty in today’s world than it did in yesteryear’s world. It’s not mainstream in the traditional sense of the word, but the very concept of “mainstream” is being challenged like never before. The Internet has allowed for the proliferation of subcultures and subcultures within subcultures to meet and convene in ways that were unimaginable even twenty years ago. And that’s not a long time ago, in relative terms.

Hence, we may be reaching – or have already reached – the point where the familiar scenario outlined in the beginning of this article will no longer be familiar to the younger generation. Those of us in our late 20s and early 30s might be the last cohort who remembers sneaking dirty magazines into our bedrooms. Today, this is a thing of the past. Those days are over. Everything we love is now digitalized. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Only time will tell.

Laurie Noack Gibson by the swimming pool. Want to jump in?

But what we can conclude is that for lovers of female muscle, this is a fantastic cultural development. Our access to beautiful muscular women has reached unprecedented levels. Well, actually, our access to anything you can possibly think of has reached unprecedented levels. As much as this can be a cause for celebration and popping the champagne corks, there is something tangible that’s been lost. That rush of adrenaline we all felt when we were scared out of our wits about being caught with muscle magazines has now been replaced with remembering to delete your browsing history. Ho hum. Boring!

Or is it? Is feeling naughty – and by extension, guilty – really a positive thing? Or does it only serve to suppress our natural desires and keep us shackled to society’s stringent standards? The answer to this is impossible to fully know, and perhaps we’re just being prisoners of nostalgia. We want the next generation to experience the same things we did when we were younger…for no other reason than we enjoyed it.

But will they? Maybe all this sneaking around wasn’t healthy at all and that society will actually benefit from being more open about sexual attraction, desire, and impulses. In this case, we should applaud the trends we’re currently witnessing.

But one suspects that being naughty, no matter what form that takes, will always be with us. And if that’s the case, does it matter how crotchety old fogies like us think about it?

Sthenolagnia vs. Cratolagnia – Which Best Describes Me?

What about Yaxeni Oriquen turns you on? Gee, where do I start?

What about Yaxeni Oriquen turns you on? Gee, where do I start?

Here are two vocabulary words most people in the general population have never heard before: Sthenolagnia and Cratolagnia.

Don’t even ask me how to pronounce either word. Consult an online dictionary instead. Or just take a wild guess. Whichever works for you!

I’ll admit that I never heard of these words before I became an official female muscle fan. So if you consider yourself an admirer of muscular human beings of the feminine persuasion, allow yourself the opportunity to improve your vernacular.

Sthenolagnia is defined as the “sexual arousal from displaying strength or muscles” while cratolagnia is “sexual arousal from strength.” Anyone who thinks muscles are sexy should be able to identify with one of or both of these concepts.

So what’s the difference, exactly? Good question.

People who are attracted to large muscles (regardless of the gender of the person displaying these muscles) aren’t necessarily attracted to the same thing or for the same reasons. Human sexuality is very diverse and difficult to put into neat boxes. This is why we must have honest discussions about what we like and why we like what we like.

Often, sthenolagnia and cratolagnia could be considered interchangeable when discussing muscle fetishism. But that is not the case. Being attracted to muscles and being attracted to displays of strength – while definitely related – are not necessarily the same thing. Here is a brief breakdown of how these kinks are different.

Muscles as an Accessory vs. Strength as an Action

Someone who likes a person with big muscles is attracted to the way they look. The shape of their bodies is very arousing and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

For example, someone can love the way Alina Popa’s body looks without ever having to see her bend steel or pick up a person and carry them around. Her musculature, symmetry, awe-inspiring definition and good-old-fashioned sexiness (she is a very beautiful woman regardless of her physique) are enough to make many men consider her attractive.

The stereotype that men are visual creatures may play a role in this. Sexual attraction develops from what the eye can see. A beautiful woman can make a man turn his head, stare at her as she walks by and subsequently run into a telephone pole.

The same goes for an aesthetically gorgeous muscle woman. Debi Laszewski would make many men turn their heads if they saw her walk by. Especially if she’s wearing a tight dress that generously shows off her muscular curves and high heels and allows her legs to shine! Expect many fender benders if she traversed her way across a busy crosswalk.

If Brigita Brezovac walked down a busy street, there would be plenty of auto accidents.

If Brigita Brezovac walked down a busy street, there would be plenty of auto accidents.

On the other hand, someone who is attracted to big muscles may get turned on by seeing how this person uses their big muscles. After all, what’s the point of having superhuman strength if you never use it? You don’t work that hard just to sit around and not utilize your gifts.

Some men fantasize about a strong Amazonian woman picking them up, carrying them around and demonstrating her physical dominance. Whether you get turned on by having your inferiority complex put to the test or because you love feeling helpless in the hands of someone who’s supposedly a member of the “weaker sex,” witnessing (and experiencing) a woman displaying her strength is what it’s all about for you. Power is sexy. Feeling helpless can also be sexy. For men who agree with these premises, watching a female bodybuilder show off her amazing strength could very well be their personal definition of “Heaven.”

You might equally be turned on by a woman displaying strength who doesn’t physically appear to be strong. A slender woman dressed as a dominatrix or a corporate boss comes to mind. Strength doesn’t just mean muscles. It also means mental, emotional and sexual strength. So, one could theoretically experience cratolagnia with a non-bodybuilder. All you need is a female (or male) who isn’t afraid to flaunt his or her dominance and an appreciative audience to enjoy the spectacle.

Social Taboos at Play

There are also certain social taboos that explain why people experience sthenolagnia and cratolagnia.

Let’s consider the concept of women being the “weaker sex.” If we accept the premise that, generally speaking, women are biologically weaker to men, we should also acknowledge that examples contrary to this would be considered out of the ordinary. Also, things that are not ordinary are usually found either revolting or highly intriguing to people.

We are intrigued by what is not usual. Social taboos exist because there are certain social phenomena that elicit strong emotional responses from people. These responses could be disgust, anger, annoyance, confusion and often times, arousal. So, consider the taboos a female bodybuilder presents:

Her body shape doesn’t conform to our traditional standards of femininity.

Her physical strength goes contrary to what we know about basic human biology.

Her large physical stature contradicts our common conceptions about male vs. female gender roles.

Her open willingness to display her muscles and strength is unusual for most women’s behavior.

Her muscular physique places her in a role usually occupied by a man.

Her strength breaks down barriers that customarily separate men and women.

Some of us get turned on by defiance. Defiance gives us power. It’s our way of rebelling against whatever social constructs we oppose. If it’s true that “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac,” then people get turned on by a female bodybuilder’s muscles because they love the power being demonstrated by her in such an open fashion.

Not only is she physically powerful, but she’s mentally and emotionally powerful. Her self-confidence, limitless work ethic, remarkable self-discipline and indifference toward her “haters” are attractive. If she’s willing to rebel against gender stereotypes, human physiology and mass media messages, what isn’t she willing to do?

Think muscles on a woman isn't sexy? Take a look at Alicia Alfaro and prepare to have your mind blown.

Think muscles on a woman isn’t sexy? Take a look at Alicia Alfaro and prepare to have your mind blown.

There are many men who are secretly tired of always being in control. They’re sick of being counted on to be the “strong one.” They’d rather someone else do the proverbial heavy lifting. That’s why many powerful men prefer to be the “sub” in a D/s-BDSM roleplaying scenario. For once they want a woman to be in charge. He wants to relinquish power for the time being. Being weak turns him on. Seeing the woman become powerful also turns him on.

And all of this is still very taboo.

The Brain is the Ultimate Sex Organ

Essentially, this discussion boils down to this truth: female bodybuilders are both physically and intellectually beautiful. Their physical beauty comes in their perfectly sculpted bodies that we see at the gym, on the streets, at bodybuilding contests and on the Internet. A female bodybuilder’s physical beauty, while not universally acknowledged, is a force to be reckoned with.

Also, a female bodybuilder can also be intellectually beautiful. Her willingness to break social taboos, rebel against certain cultural standards and march to the beat of her own drum is very arousing to many of us. The brain is the ultimate sex organ, right?

Strength, therefore, comes in two forms: physical strength and intellectual strength. Physical strength is self-explanatory. Intellectual strength is something else entirely. It takes someone who understands what hurdles someone has to go through and appreciates their accomplishments. A female muscle fan gets it. They understand how insanely difficult it is for a woman to “look like that.”

Betty Viana wants you to come to bed.

Betty Viana wants you to come to bed.

Anyone who openly defies society and lives a lifestyle that’s so foreign to most people is as tough-minded as they get. And bulking up isn’t easy for women. Not nearly as easy as it is for men (and for many men, it’s still not easy!). So to understand the sacrifices and hard work necessary to transform from a normal-looking woman to Yaxeni Oriquen gives you an intellectual erection.

You have permission to use “intellectual erection” all you want. It’s on the house.

So…Which Best Describes Me?

To answer this question, consider all the reasons why you find female bodybuilders (and athletes) to be so captivating. Is it purely physical? If so, physical in terms of aesthetic or action? Or is there a sociological explanation as well?

Generally speaking, it’s probably safe to say that you might be experiencing sthenolagnia if your attraction to FBBs is purely due to your love for their hard, beautiful muscles. Their socially taboo bodies make you go crazy. Watching them use their muscles in a practical way is a bonus, but not a must. Simply put, YOU LOVE HER MUSCLES.

If your love for female muscle goes beyond that, then you might be in the cratolagnia category. It’s not enough to look at their gorgeous physiques. You want to see their strength in action. You love their hard-earned bodies and defiant attitude toward society’s narrow definition of beauty. You appreciate their accomplishments both from a physical and intellectual standpoint. Simply put, YOU LOVE HOW STRONG SHE IS.

This goes to show that not everyone is attracted to female muscle for the same reason. It’s not just because of muscles, muscles, muscles and more muscles. Yes, muscles on a woman are very sexy, but so is her brute strength, dedication to her craft and eagerness to live her life to the fullest.

Nuriye Evans, an undisputed Muscle Goddess if there ever was one.

Nuriye Evans, an undisputed Muscle Goddess if there ever was one.

Muscles and strength can mean two different things to different people. Anyone who knows even a little bit about the bodybuilding lifestyle knows how difficult and grueling it is. It’s a cutthroat business. The dieting, lifting, supplementation and scientific approach to reorganizing your life’s schedule can be exhausting – especially if one is pursuing bodybuilding as a profession.

Sthenolagnia and Cratolagnia.

Two words you probably can’t pronounce. Two words you certainly did not grow up learning about.

But now you know a little more about this glorious world of female muscle, female muscle fandom and the reasons why we love our buff, strong and powerful ladies. It truly is a mesmerizing world once you jump in head first.

So immerse yourself into it as fully as you can. You never know…you just might find yourself using these two words in everyday conversation!

Respecting Those We Lust After: The Sexual Objectification of Female Bodybuilders

Dina al-Sabah, the Muscle Goddess from Kuwait.

Dina al-Sabah, the Muscle Goddess from Kuwait.

I love female muscle.

That should be obvious to everyone. I really love strong women. I love the way they look. I love the giddy feelings they give me whenever I look at pictures of them. I love meeting them in person for muscle worship sessions. I love talking to them about their careers, their lifestyles and the sacrifices they’ve had to make to achieve their immaculate physique.

But there’s a problem here. A problem I feel compelled to address both honestly and openly.

Am I objectifying them?

It’s a fair question. Do I merely lust after these women instead of “admiring” them as world-class athletes? Is my attempt to intellectualize my respect for female bodybuilders just my way of hiding the fact that I really think of them as sex objects instead of human beings? Am I dehumanizing these women whenever I have lustful thoughts about them?

All fair questions. And all of them deserve to be discussed in detail. I’m a big proponent of open, productive dialogue. So let’s begin this discourse!

Of course, I’m biased (because I’m talking about myself), but I don’t believe I’m objectifying the very women I’ve spent the past few years writing about. But let’s first discuss semantics. What exactly does “objectify” mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “objectify” means “to treat as an object or cause to have objective reality.”

Simply put, in regards to interpersonal relationships, it means when you treat a person not as a human being but as tool for your own personal benefit. In popular vernacular, “objectify” usually connotes sexual objectification. When someone treats another person as merely an object for their selfish sexual gratification, that person is objectifying the other. This is considered dehumanizing because you don’t care about their feelings, thoughts and/or point of view. You only care about what they have to offer you personally.

Countless books and academic dissertations have been written on the subject. I highly encourage you to read more about this if you’re truly interested.

But on the other hand, it’s perfectly normal to be sexually attracted to someone. Human beings have desires they cannot control. I didn’t choose to be smitten by the beauty of my high school crush. It just happened. Yes, I liked her for different reasons too (she was very smart and we came from similar cultural backgrounds), but her physical beauty was what initially attracted me to her. Everything else I liked about her I discovered later once we got to know each other.

The object of my desire, Monique Jones.

The object of my desire, Monique Jones.

The same goes for my love of female muscle. I love muscular women. I love the way they look. I think muscles on a feminine form is beautiful. Beautiful beyond words. Beyond description. I’ve written many essays discussing why I love female muscle and how psychologically impactful they’ve been on me. Many of my readers share this love with me. Just take a moment to read some of the comments on my articles.

But my love for female muscle isn’t just aesthetic. It’s also emotional. I think it’s brave to sculpt your body to a standard that completely contradicts what society at large preaches to us. I’m a strong believer in the social benefits of women lifting weights at the gym (there are also obvious health benefits too). I think our world would be a much better place for all of us if we encouraged the “strong is beautiful” mantra instead of “skinny is beautiful.” The latter has faced significant backlash in recent years. The former is just starting to emerge.

So, where does that leave us? How is it possible to humanize someone that I can only see from a distance?

I will admit that there is a fine line between objectifying a woman and being sexually attracted to her. Obviously, I will never actually meet most of the women I’ve come to love. I’ve only met three female bodybuilders in my life, all from participating in muscle worship sessions with them. So for me, it’s hard to get to know someone you simply…can’t ever get to know. Unlike my high school crush that I eventually mustered the courage to ask to the Homecoming dance during my senior year in high school, I will have virtually no chance of meeting and interacting with any of these FBBs.

But that’s not my only “way out.” I realize that an FBB is a human being, no different than you or I. I fully understand that a muscular woman doesn’t exist solely to satiate my own personal fetishes. Even the three FBBs I’ve had the pleasure of meeting I treated with the utmost respect. I tried to be kind. I apologized to one who had the misfortune of having a lot of cancellations before coming to Seattle. I know many of these women may not even like doing these sessions, but they do them because it gives them a consistent source of income. Travelling takes you away from your friends and family. It’s tough to financially support yourself when you’re involved in a career that isn’t terribly lucrative.

On a personal level, I recognize their humanity and never feel I am entitled to receive whatever I want from them. I hope other people who interact with FBBs do the same.

Dana Lynn Bailey is a living legend.

Dana Lynn Bailey is a living legend.

But don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to preach some “holier-than-thou” message and condemn anyone who made a mistake and treated a muscular woman with rudeness. That is not my intention at all. Rather, I’m just trying to wrap my mind around rationalizing my love for female muscle without falling into the trap of “objectifying” them.

Let’s put it this way: the concept of misogyny. Misogyny is “the hatred of women.” I am far from being a misogynist. But as any feminist critic will tell you, there is a long list of behaviors and attitudes that can be construed as “misogynistic.” Unfortunately, when discussing sexuality, gender relations and feminist theory in general, too often the discussion becomes a shouting match instead of a productive discussion. It’s easy to label men like us as misogynistic because of how much we lust after FBBs.

Is my love for female muscle linked to some deep-seeded hatred for women? Do I love them because they’re women who are more like men, whom obviously I believe are far superior? The answer to these questions is a resounding “NO!”

A great shot of Roberta Toth.

A great shot of Roberta Toth.

My love for muscular women has nothing to do with the fact their physique makes them “look like a man.” It’s easy to slam a person as “objectifying” a muscular woman when you don’t see the world from their perspective. If anything, we’re anti-misogynistic because we love these women for being empowered, powerful (both physically and mentally), determined, goal-oriented and not caring what the rest of the world thinks.

But I digress (boy, what a cliché!) This can be a little extreme. I don’t think too many people who criticize men who love strong women truly believe they actually hate them to any degree. Instead, I think the main criticism we face mostly comes from the accusation that we fetishize these ladies. For example:

White men who only date Asian women are always accused of fetishizing them:

You don’t like them because of who they are. You like them because you love their Asian features and behaviors. You don’t care about them as a person. You only married her because you can’t get enough of her slanted eyes, black hair, slim figure and golden yellow skin. You keep her around because you expect her to be subservient and satisfy your every sexual desire unconditionally.

We’ve all heard this before. And this is just one example. There are plenty more out there. Suffice to say, men who love muscular women might also be slandered for feeling the same way:

You only like them because their muscles turn you on! You only like them because you find their bodies attractive, not them as people. The only purpose a female bodybuilder serves to you is to help you satisfy your personal sexual gratifications. They’re a fetish to you, no different than watching porn or seeing young girls in Catholic school uniforms.

And so on. We’re not fans of these women. We’re creepy, animalistic chauvinist pigs. The fact these women are physically strong means nothing. If you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. If you put muscles on a woman, it doesn’t change the fact you’re unequivocally objectifying her.

I really love Lindsay Mulinazzi.

I really love Lindsay Mulinazzi.

But let’s hold on for a moment. All judging aside, there’s nothing wrong with being enamored by someone’s physical beauty. It’s nature. It’s natural. It’s a product of hormones, biology and generations and generations of reproduction. Also, there’s nothing morally reprehensible about being physically attracted to someone. Man or woman, gay or straight, it’s all part of human nature. But how you treat a person, however, is a whole other can of worms.

That’s really what this entire conversation boils down to in a nutshell (wait, can you really boil something down to a nutshell? I may have meshed two idioms into one…). How you treat a person. The Miss America pageant is criticized for putting attractive young women on display for no purpose other than to give male viewers something pleasant to look at for a few hours. The Legends Football League (formerly the Lingerie Football League)? Infamous at best. Misogynistic at worst. But nevertheless, no one watches it for the “sport.”

I will admit this is a difficult subject to broach. This conversation hits a lot of us on a gut level. It’s hard to separate my personal desires from my yearning to communicate fairly and objectively. So here is how I will approach this issue:

Objectification, at its core, is a personal thing. Try as we may, we can never know what’s in someone’s heart. Are there men out there who treat FBBs only as sex objects and not as people? Yes. Are there people (men and women) out there who detest FBBs because of their outdated definitions of “femininity?” Yes. Are some female muscle fantasies (for example, wanting to hurt, degrade or humiliate an FBB) shared by some of us rooted in misogyny? Yes, it’s quite possible.

Diana Tinnelle Stanback is someone I've recently discovered. Why haven't I known about her longer?

Diana Tinnelle Stanback is someone I’ve recently discovered. Why haven’t I known about her longer?

I’m not here to deny that objectification happens. I’m not going to argue that misogyny is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, both are still prevalent in our world.

But…we’ll never know for sure how someone feels. What lies in your heart is something no one else will ever know. I know in my heart that I’ve never dehumanized a muscular woman. I treat them as people, not toys. But no matter how much I try to convince myself of this, there’s always that lingering bit of doubt in my mind.

The sport of bodybuilding is all about aesthetic and judging this aesthetic. It goes against what we’ve been taught about how to treat people. A judge at a bodybuilding contest judges a competitor purely based on what their body looks like. How nice they are, how smart they are, and how hard they’ve worked to get to this point doesn’t matter. What matters is how they appear in your subjective (though based on predetermined objective criteria) viewpoint. This goes counter to our culture that teaches us not to be shallow and judge someone on their looks. But within the context of the sport of bodybuilding, this type of judgment is completely justified.

A bodybuilder willingly puts themselves out there to be judged. This requires a level of self-esteem most of us do not possess. So if you really like how they look, is that such a bad thing? After all, their livelihood depends on improving their body’s appearance. If fans out there love the results, what’s the harm?

So we’re in a strange situation where we’re discussing people who willingly put themselves out there and dedicate their lives to shaping their bodies to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible. While a bodybuilder’s chief objective isn’t to maximize their sex appeal, inevitably they’re going to enhance their sex appeal whether they like it or not. True, they’re athletes, not models. But when you sculpt your body to superhuman proportions, eventually somebody’s going to notice!

The lesson to be learned is simple: treat others as you would want to be treated. The Golden Rule is as old as time, but it’s stood the test of time for a reason. It’s a damn good rule to follow!

Don’t treat a female bodybuilder like a piece of meat. If you ever encounter one, treat her with respect. Don’t expect her to do certain things for you or allow you to do certain things to her just because you saw a video of her doing similar activities to a paid actor. Recognize their humanity. Accept that it’s perfectly okay to find her sexually attractive, but don’t allow this attraction to warp your perceptions of them.

The Blonde Muscle Goddess Cindy Phillips.

The Blonde Muscle Goddess Cindy Phillips.

Essentially, don’t be a jerk. You’ll be fine if you always act as kind and respectful as you can.

Will some people continue to ridicule you? Of course. Will certain folks still insist there’s something fundamentally “wrong” with you? Naturally. Just tune them out. Only you know what’s in your mind and heart.

The issue of sexual objectification is a tough one to tackle. Human history is chock full of battles between people wanting to be acknowledged as human beings and people who refuse to treat them like that. This still continues today.

People are people. We are all people trying to make our way through this confusing universe. Our time is limited here on planet Earth. We shouldn’t make things harder on each other if we can avoid it.

So embrace your female muscle fandom. And show your appreciation for these ladies and all their hard work. It’s the most respectful thing you can do.

The Wow Factor

Before Lindsay Mulinazzi, there was nothing.

Before Lindsay Mulinazzi, there was nothing.

I’ve finally figured it out. In all my years of my female muscle fandom, I’ve never really been able to put into succinct words why I love muscular women so much.

Sure, long essays can explain the bread and butter of why I find female bodybuilders and athletes so appealing. I can even post a ton of photos of my favorite FBBs for all of you to salivate over. But that still doesn’t even begin to describe why exactly we love them.

But now I’ve got it figured out. Finally.

Simply put:

The Wow Factor.

That’s it. The Wow Factor. “Wow” is a word we use to describe something so amazing, Earth-shattering, incredible and astonishing that no other monosyllabic utterance could do it justice. Wow. You could substitute that for “whoa,” but let’s not confuse our female muscle fandom for the vernacular of California surfer dudes or college stoner kids. I’m talking about something else here.

Wow. Just…wow.

The Wow Factor is my best way of describing it.

Women like Debi Laszewski are so damn beautiful that “wow” is the only way I can properly react when I see a photo of her. Yes, “Damn girl” or “Daaaaaaaaaaaaaamn” are also sufficient substitutes, but I’m not interested in catcalling Ms. Laszewski like a dirty-minded construction worker on his lunch break.

I’m interested in communicating what’s on my mind. And “wow” is the only thing on my mind. Is there any other way to put it?

How can this image of Victoria Dominguez lifting this heavy weight not turn you on?

How can this image of Victoria Dominguez lifting this heavy weight not turn you on?

But it’s not just about putting your feelings into words. It’s describing your gut reaction the moment your brain processes what your eyes have just seen. The millisecond your mind realizes that it just saw an image of a strong, gorgeous woman showing off her hard work in all its erotic glory – you can’t possibly articulate what that feels like. No way. It’s a feeling that hits you on a level that goes way beyond mere “attraction.”

It’s not just lust. It’s not just turning your head when you see a pretty woman walking past you and thinking to yourself, “That’s one fine looking lady.” That happens all the time (at least, it happens to me all the time!). The Wow Factor goes way further. The Wow Factor isn’t an everyday occurrence. The Wow Factor changes the way you think. It changes the way you look at women (all women, not just those of the muscular variety). It changes the way you behave. It changes your paradigm.

This Wow Factor explains why bloggers like me continue to post pictures and essays about female muscle nonstop. This explains why guys like me are willing to pay $350 for an hour-long muscle worship session with a complete stranger in a hotel room. This explains why we can’t get enough of those glorious FBBs and their immaculate beauty.

The Wow Factor is a visceral gut reaction you can’t control. Here’s an anecdote for you. As strange as it sounds, sometimes I occasionally forget why I love female muscle in the first place. It’s sort of like a professional baseball player who’s played for 10 years in the league but lacks passion because he plays for a terrible team. But the moment his team catches fire and he’s playing in Game 7 of the World Series, suddenly his childhood love for the game returns and he’s playing with rejuvenated energy.

He suddenly remembers why he loves the game. The nervous energy. The thrill of competition. The joy of victory. The heart-wrenching depression of defeat. That child-like love for the game all of a sudden returns in that moment when you’re actually playing for something.

A rising star, Jill Rudison.

A rising star, Jill Rudison.

I sometimes get like that in regards to my female muscle fandom. I know I love strong women, but all it takes is a singular image of Alina Popa flexing her large, beautiful biceps wearing nothing but a microscopic thong bikini, and…I suddenly remember why I think Ms. Popa is a gift from God. I’ve always known that, but The Wow Factor hits me like a semi-truck blindsiding me out of nowhere and I’m instantaneously reminded why I feel the way I feel.

It’s a feeling that causes you to stare at your computer screen with your jaw dropped to the floor and your heart ceasing to beat. It makes me forget that other women exist in this world.

Lisa Cross. Denise Masino. Lindsay Mulinazzi. Angela Salvagno. Victoria Dominguez. Nikki Fuller. Yvette Bova. Amber DeLuca. Autumn Raby. Gayle Moher. Lauren Powers. Annie Rivieccio. Brandi Mae Akers. Jill Rudison. Shannon Courtney. Desiree Ellis. Jana Linke-Sippl. Lora Ottenad. Brenda Raganot. Monica Martin. Gracyanne Barbosa. Juliana Malacarne. Karen Zaremba. Michele Levesque. Sheila Bleck. Monica Brant. Lisa Marie Bickels. Lenda Murray. Iris Kyle. Julie Bourassa. Kris Murrell. Sondra Faas. Vilma Caez. Kris Clark. Melissa Dettwiller.

The list goes on and on and on. This doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Pick anyone on this list and spend five minutes doing a Google Images search on her. I guarantee you’ll be hooked within seconds. You’ll be completely enraptured by her power, beauty and strength. Her feminine prowess and physical stature will make you as hapless as a little puppy dog. You’ll totally forget why you used to ogle at the rail-thin supermodels in the Sears catalog (if you actually at one time did that, I’m really sorry!).

The Wow Factor exemplified in Larissa Reis.

The Wow Factor exemplified in Larissa Reis.

This is what it’s like to experience The Wow Factor. You’re struck by a lightning bolt and feel like there is no definition of “beauty” other than what you’ve just witnessed.

Before Lindsay Mulinazzi, there was nothing.

Sometimes I wonder if this is the reason why there’s so much animosity against female bodybuilders. Haters (who are, pardon the expression, going to hate) have never experienced The Wow Factor. They’ve instead experienced The Ew Factor. The Gross Factor. The Utterly Disgusting Factor. The Why-the-Hell-Would-Anyone-Want-To-Look-Like-That Factor. It saddens me when people choose to shut themselves out from a certain part of life. True, no one has an obligation to like female muscle, but why say “no!” when instead you can choose “sure, why not?”

It’s clear to me that someone who says they’re repulsed by female bodybuilders say that mostly because deep down inside they’re insecure about themselves. They don’t feel secure in their masculinity. They don’t feel secure in their femininity. They react negatively to what they don’t understand or want to understand. They insult others because the only way for them to feel good about themselves is to bring down everyone else. This is a vicious cycle that especially comes out on the Internet. Anonymity brings out the worst in us. There’s no harm in expressing your true feelings when nobody knows your name. Insecurity and a forum for acting upon that insecurity can be a hurtful combination.

One can never see enough photos of Karen Zaremba.

One can never see enough photos of Karen Zaremba.

It should be obvious to anyone who follows the sport of female bodybuilding that the industry is pushing our favorite ladies off to the side and telling them “we don’t want you as much as we did in the past.” People may have wanted to see you on the cover of magazines thirty years ago, but that’s all changed now. Iris Kyle will never be a sports superstar. No way. We don’t care how many Ms. Olympia titles she’s won. We don’t care how dominating she is in her sport. None of that is relevant. What speaks is dollars. And, quite frankly, she doesn’t bring in the dollars like others can. Sorry. You lose. Better luck next time.

Does this make you angry? To anyone who’s experienced The Wow Factor, it should.

Additionally, The Wow Factor affects you in one other way: It makes you defensive whenever you feel like your passions are being attacked. How many times have you been told that female bodybuilders look “gross?” How often do you read articles about the decline of female bodybuilding and you just want to throw your computer against the wall? Does replacing the sport with pole dancing competitions make you want to face-palm over and over again till your forehead turns beet red?

These reactions are classic examples of wanting to defend what you love. The Wow Factor makes us feel as though any attack on a strong woman is also an attack on us. Insult the sport of female bodybuilding on a public forum? Expect fans from across the world to fight back. Someone wants to deny Alina Popa’s right to climb the mountaintops and finally win the Ms. Olympia? In no time will you see her countless fans defending her on her behalf.

Gracyanne Barbosa. Baby got back.

Gracyanne Barbosa. Baby got back.

Though this negative energy can be seen as a bad thing, anything can be used for something positive. Being angry and defensive all the time will get you nowhere. A more constructive use of these emotions is to become pro-active. There are a lot of things we can do to make sure female bodybuilding doesn’t become extinct. Write letters. Send e-mails. Boycott those who vigorously marginalize the FBBs we idolize. Buy books and magazines promoting female muscle. Open your wallets and hearts to the women we adore. Openly support these athletes as if they truly are our best friends. Don’t let society dictate what you find beautiful. Do what you can to make these amazing athletes more mainstream.

What if one day female muscle becomes more mainstream? Imagine a world where gorgeous women like Larissa Reis are seen in the media as often as we see Kate Upton. Think about how awesome it would be if we can turn on the summer Olympics and instead of being perplexed by the presence of strong women, we can just sit back and enjoy watching her hard work being proudly displayed on the world’s brightest stage.

Instead of thinking to ourselves, “Ew!” we can have a more complimentary reaction:

“Wow.”

The Adventures of Ryan Takahashi: Chapter Eleven – The Girl Next Door

I return home at 2:30 p.m. after getting off my shift and doing an arms work out. I didn’t see Monifa after I saw her deadlifting, so I’m assuming she finished her work out before I got done washing those God-forsaken towels.

The walk back to my apartment was hellish because to the rain. I didn’t bring a jacket because, judging from the conditions earlier this morning, I didn’t think I needed one. That’s a testament to how unpredictable the Seattle weather can be on any given day.

I live on the seventh floor of my apartment, so I have a pretty good view of the neighborhood. But today the view isn’t terribly spectacular.

As I exit the elevator and proceed toward my room, I notice the unit next to mine is being cleaned out by the building staff. I see Pablo, our resident maintenance man, repairing the drywall in unit #724 (I live in unit #725). He looks hard at work.

“Good day, Pablo. New tenant?”

“Yes, sir. She’s moving in today. But I didn’t know about this drywall problem until the boss told me about it an hour ago. This shit is going to take all day to fix.”

“That sucks,” I say to him, unlocking my door. “Who is it? A family? A couple? A loner like me?”

“It’s a girl. A black girl. Very cute. You’ll like her.”

A black girl? Who’s new? It can’t be…

“Did you catch her name?” I ask casually.

“Nope. But I don’t think she’s married. She’s only bringing her cat with her. Why? Are you looking for a girlfriend?”

I laugh. “No, no. Of course not. I just want to say hello to her whenever I run into her. It’s nice to know her name in advance. How cute is she?”

Pablo puts down his tools and looks at me straight.

“Very cute. So hot. She has a fine ass. Fine ass, my friend. I’d tap her in a heartbeat.” Pablo then starts to do an obscene dance that I’m guessing is intended to simulate sex.

“I’m sure you would. And your taste in women is very similar to mine. Maybe we could both tap her.” I’m not usually that crass, but sometimes I get a little overzealous after working out. All that panting, sweating and extra blood flow does something to my mind.

“Oh yeah, like takes turns, right?”

“Uh huh. We’ll see how that goes. Take care, Pablo.”

“Take care, hombre.”

Cutting our conversation short, I slam the door shut behind me forcefully, so to tell him I’m retreating into my own little world and I am no longer interested in talking about “tapping asses.” Gee, what if Monifa is the girl who’s moving in next to me? That would be epic.

Monifa is one hell of a gorgeous woman. She’s not nearly as buff as Cindi, but she has a whole plethora of redeeming qualities: She has a beautiful face (honestly, one of the most beautiful faces I’ve ever seen!), a curvy body, large breasts (I consider myself a “leg guy,” but her breasts are something special), gorgeous black skin, toned muscles, abdominal muscles that can hold their own against any female peer (like Cindi) and enough booty to last a lifetime.

I have no idea what “enough booty to last a lifetime” means exactly, but you get the picture. Her butt is FINE. And it definitely deserves all capital letters.

But enough of that. For all I know, some other woman could be moving in next to me. What interests me at the moment is lunch. If I recall correctly, I have leftover lasagna in the refrigerator as well as a half-eaten take-out box of chow mein from a Chinese restaurant across the street from Wellford Fitness Center. There’s a 20-something Chinese girl who works there who’s one of the prettiest girls I’ve ever seen in my life. She’s also shorter than a midget (that’s an exaggeration, but I highly doubt she even cracks five feet tall).

Hm…I think I hear the lasagna calling my name.

Ryan! Eat me! Eat me before I turn black and you have to throw me away!” the lasagna says to me. Believe it or not, there once was a time when I buried a container of clam chowder in the back of the refrigerator and forgot about it for nearly a year. When I discovered it, it became not green, but completely black.

And, it smelled like nobody’s business. Seriously, I wanted to puke after looking at it. Luckily, I did not. But I do not envy the garbage man who had to toss it in the back of his truck the next day. Ew.

Putting a slice of lasagna on a plate and placing it in the microwave, I set it for two minutes and wait. In the meantime, I reflect upon the beautiful specimen that is Monifa Okendu.

Wow. As if having Cindi in my life isn’t enough, I now have someone else I can fantasize about when I masturbate before going to bed. I consider women of all colors to be beautiful. Of course, ugly people (both men and women) exist across the entire ethnic spectrum, but I find a beautiful black woman to be especially pleasing to the eye. I have no idea why, I just do.

Maybe it’s because you very rarely see a black woman dating an Asian man. You see more of the other way around, but Asian guys tend to either stay with Asian women or venture out into the land of the paler skin ladies.

I wonder how many Asian guys have married a female bodybuilder. Who the hell knows?

Cindi is a Latina and she looks very exotic. Light brown skin and silky jet black hair (with streaks of gray sprinkled all around), Miss North makes for one hell of a woman. Even without all her gorgeous muscles, her 6’4” height is enough to make basketball coaches drool at the possibility of her playing center for their team.

Ding!

The lasagna is done. Finally!

After taking it out of the microwave and grabbing a fork, I plop down on my sofa and turn on the TV. Flipping through endless channels with nothing interesting going on, I decide on the safe choice of ESPN. Maybe I can catch highlights of all the action around the NFL yesterday.

The Seahawks lost. No surprises there. The Patriots wiped out the Bills. No surprise there. The Rams barely edged the Packers. That’s sort of surprising. I guess it’s true what they say about football: on any given Sunday, anybody can win.

Speaking of “winning,” who would have thought a month ago that I would be with a female bodybuilder like Cindi North? Who would have thought that I–”

Wait, am I still thinking about her? Holy shit. She can’t leave my mind. And let’s be serious for a moment: I’m not exactly “with” her in the traditional sense. We hooked up via Craigslist. In fact, we haven’t even officially “done it” yet. I just came on her face and she thanked me by giving me oral sex; which felt amazing, by the way!

Then she let me come on her abs. How hot is that? Yowzzzaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Then I hear outside my door Pablo striking up a conversation with somebody. And from the sound of it, he’s talking with a woman! Holy smokes, it could be her!

I put my plate of lasagna on my computer desk and run to my front door. I close one eye and peek through the little hole in the middle of the door. I see Pablo holding a drill and an orange extension cord but the person he’s talking to is hidden from view. Dude, just move to the left a little! Or maybe the woman he’s chatting with should move within my line of sight.

I could make the excuse of checking my mail. I could do that. But the mail carrier comes at 4 p.m. every day. Checking my mail now would make no sense. Hm. I could always–”

Suddenly, Pablo enters back into the apartment, presumably to finish working. But where is the woman? I don’t see her! Maybe she went back into the apartment with him. Are they about to have sex?

Wait, that’s ridiculous! Pablo is there to repair the drywall, not to participate in a conjugal visit. Whoa, my mind can wander into some unusual places sometimes.

You know what? It’s stupid of me to just stand here and peek at her like a horny middle school boy peeping at girls during gym class. I’m a man! I can just walk into the hallway and say I heard people talking (which is true) and that I want to meet my new neighbor (which is also true) because I’m a friendly guy who wants to welcome everybody to the neighborhood (which is not even close to true. I hardly know any of my neighbors. We all sort of live in our own little worlds independent of each other).

I’ll do it. I’ll just open the door, poke my head in her apartment and say “hi.” What’s the harm in that? People do it all the time to meet their new neighbors. I should handle this like an adult.

I open the door and step outside. Closing the door behind me, I creep over to unit #724 and poke my curious head inside. I see Pablo diligently working, but nobody else. Was I imagining their whole conversation together? I probably was–”

“Oh, hi there!”

I turn around and see Her. The same woman I saw at work earlier today. Monifa Okendu. I take a look at her from head to toe. She’s dressed in gray sweat pants, a tight black shirt (that gratuitously shows off her large, beautiful breasts), a blue denim jacket and a bright orange scarf around her long neck. The last time I saw her she was dressed in a pink spandex bra and a pair of tight pink shorts that left very little to the imagination. I nearly fainted at the sight of her curvaceous, jaw-dropping figure.

And she still doesn’t look half bad.

“Hey! Monifa, right?”

“Yes. You remembered my name. Is your name Tim?”

“No, it’s Ryan.”

“Sorry. Excuse me. I’m new in town. I’m meeting a lot of people for the first time. Forgive me.”

“Oh, no. Don’t be sorry. I completely understand. It’s difficult trying to remember everybody’s names. But now you definitely remember mine.”

“Do you live here?”

“Yes. I live in this unit right here. Are you just moving in?”

Pablo is still hard at work. I’m not sure if he knows we’re having a conversation right here in the hallway. Otherwise, I’d expect him to come on out and crack an inappropriate joke at our expense. He’s the kind of guy who would do that sort of thing.

“I am,” Monifa says, taking a quick peek into my unit. “I guess now we’re going to be next door neighbors. How exciting!”

Exciting? I was thinking the exact same thing. Dear lord, she has an incredibly BEAUTIFUL face! Yikes. It’s perfectly angular with sharp features that accentuate her flawless facial characteristics. If Cindi’s beauty is her strength, Monifa’s beauty is her…beauty. My God, what a beautiful woman!

“This is going to be very exciting. Is it just you moving in?” I hope I’m not being too forward by asking her this.

“Yes. Just me. Are you married?”

“No, not at the moment. Just me. Living the single life!” How lame is that response?

Monifa laughs. She has a strong, deep voice that gives her authority. I wonder if she ever uses it to her advantage…

“Well…” Monifa begins, “while he’s working on fixing my dry wall, I have no place to stay. Do you know of any good places to spend a few hours around here?”

Should I invite her into my room? Hell no! That’s being WAY too forward. I think I’ll recommend D’Angelo’s Café to her. It’s close, safe, serves good food and Sam shouldn’t be there. At least, for Monifa’s sake, I hope not.

“You can go across the street to D’Angelo’s Café. It’s a great local coffee shop that serves some very good pastries. You’re probably in the mood for something to eat, so you should get one of their grilled sandwiches. I haven’t tried a lot of them, but I’m sure they’re all delicious.”

“Thank you Ryan! I really appreciate the advice. I think I’ll do that. Want to join me?”

I almost fell down in disbelief. Monifa wants me to join her? Of course I will! It’s not every day a woman with superhuman beauty asks you to join her for coffee (I understand that Cindi also asked to meet me at a coffee shop, but that’s beside the point). I think I’ll take her up on this offer.

“Sure. Sounds great. Let’s go.”

“Great!” Monifa says. Her silky black skin almost makes her glow like an angel. I think she actually is an angel.

As we turn to leave, I lock my door and see Pablo out of the corner of my eye, deep inside Monifa’s apartment. He gives me a quick wink. I wink back. He gives me a wicked smile. I return the wicked smile.

We have an understanding.