Alpha Females, Beta Males, and Everybody in Between

Debbie Bramwell-Washington is without question an Alpha Female.

Generally speaking, don’t generalize. This isn’t a rule so much as a modest recommendation. Sometimes, our generalizations can be fairly accurate (i.e. the weather tends to be hot during the summer months and cold during the winter months), but other times our generalizations are not even close to being fair or accurate (i.e. Chinese food is icky because all they eat are dogs).

Within the female muscle fan community – and believe it or not, such a community actually exists, albeit in the online world – the theme of “Alpha Female/Beta Male” consistently comes up. It’s become a cliché by now. Of course, just because it’s a cliché doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right or wrong. The truth is probably closer to it being an overgeneralization. We’ll get to that in a moment.

The existence of the idea of the muscular Alpha Female shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, leading the life of a professional (or dedicated amateur) bodybuilder isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires both mental and physical strength. It takes persistence, passion, guts, and unwavering self-confidence. It takes the ability to persevere despite inevitable setbacks. It takes the will to make tough decisions when the easiest choice is to say “I give up.” It requires you to take the path least traveled when no one will blink an eye if you were to instead take the road most traveled.

The type of person who would be willing to subject themselves to such a grueling lifestyle is most likely the most alpha among us. Professional bodybuilding isn’t for the weak or feeble minded. Even amateur bodybuilders, who don’t formally compete but still maintain an impressive amount of musculature year-round, cannot look the way they look without making sacrifices most of us wouldn’t even dream of doing.

Even though the very concept of “alpha” is subjective (and therefore, not an actual thing that can be quantified or narrowly defined), we’ll just assume its existence is – for the most part – real. Alpha Females are women who take control of their lives, pursue their dreams with absolutely no apology, and more often than not get what they want. Female bodybuilders should wholeheartedly belong in this category.

Alright, the other side of the equation is the concept of the Beta Male. Unlike Alpha Females, Beta Males are weak-minded, lack the will to get what they really want, and allow others to trample all over them. They are quiet, don’t assert themselves when faced with adversity, are perfectly willing to settle for less than they deserve, and aren’t prone to engaging in (as they see it, unnecessary) confrontation. Blah, blah, blah. Just take a few minutes doing a Google search of “beta male” and you’ll come across bloggers that range from idiotic “PUAs” to bizarre conspiracy theorists claiming the Illuminati is plotting to culturally emasculate men worldwide for the sake of implementing the New World Order. Rest assured yours truly doesn’t fall into either of these groups.

How would you react if you saw Isabelle Turell walk by you dressed like this?

Like the Alpha Female, the Beta Male is a socially-constructed stereotype that exists mostly from a pop culture point-of-view, as opposed to objective scientific standards. We can probably name a few Beta Males off the top of our heads, whether it’s from our high school days or the people we interact with at work (or maybe you can look in the mirror and point to yourself). No matter your perspective, it’s not difficult to surmise why this type of person would be attracted to women with lots of muscle.

As this line of thinking goes, Beta Males are too weak to take care of themselves. They have low self-esteem and would prefer if others could make big decisions instead of them. Alpha Females, especially of the highly muscular variety, perfectly encapsulate that missing puzzle piece. They are the complementary element that Beta Males find so darn alluring. They are strong – both emotionally and physically – and don’t hesitate to make bold decisions that they find to be empowering. Female bodybuilders are who Beta Males wish they could be, to put it in horrifically simplistic terms. This may or may not be true, but this sure represents the “logic” of plenty of people who are keen on following FBBs.

The Alpha Female/Beta Male motif looks solidly reasonable on the surface. Of course the type of guys who love FBBs are weak, feeble-minded man-children who sexualize an ideal they can never actually achieve in real life. It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Well, maybe not.

No doubt this concept describes a portion of the FBB fandom community, but certainly it doesn’t represent everyone’s personal story. Many men who love female bodybuilders are normal guys who have wives or girlfriends, high paying jobs, families, and stellar reputations. Others are of more modest financial means…but they are still confident in who they are. Not everyone can be clumped into the same surface-level demographic, but we already knew that.

Kim Buck will buck the trend that women with muscles can’t be sexy.

When you boil everything down to its barest essentials, guys love female bodybuilders not just because of who they are, but because of who these ladies are. They’re strong, beautiful women who possess gorgeous bodies, captivating personalities, and inspiring biographies. We can scroll through Minna Pajulahti’s Instagram feed and say to ourselves “hot damn!” without that response being an indication of who we are. We see photos of a beautiful woman and we react accordingly. It’s as simple as that.

Or is it? Understandably, matters get murky when we’re dealing with nontraditional-looking women like female bodybuilders. If you like something that’s so far outside the mainstream, isn’t that an indication that there must be something a little “off” with you? Not at all, but it’s understandable why outside observers would think this way.

The truth is that female bodybuilding fans run the gamut of personality types. Some are meek, others are more assertive. Female bodybuilders themselves are also a diverse bunch; as they come from a wide range of countries, cultures, and backgrounds. Of course, the truth isn’t nearly as exciting as what dwells in our imaginations. We believe all FBBs are forceful Alpha Females not because we actually believe that, but because we want to believe that. We love imagining a strong gorgeous muscular woman dominating in the bedroom. We fantasize about what she’d do to us if we’re naughty…or if we’re completely obedient. We want her to ravage us, use us for her own selfish pleasure, and discard us the moment we become obsolete. We want to be denigrated like that because it makes her seem that much more powerful and us that much more irrelevant.

Is this a Beta Male way of thinking about sexual relationships? Maybe, or perhaps this is just a fun bit of “role reversal” where the FBB takes control of the situation while we’re the ones who are more passive and “just along for the ride.” Nobody wants to have to be in control 24/7/365. Every so often, we want to let go and allow somebody else to shoulder this burden. If a beautiful female bodybuilder is the one to do that, so be it. You won’t hear us complain.

Alright, so not every FBB is an Alpha Female and not every FBB fan is a Beta Male (or Beta Female, if that’s the case). So what? What’s the significance here?

Well, not much outside of the fact that these stereotypes exist and will probably continue to exist for time immemorial. But consider this:

The prevailing perception of the “Alpha Female/Beta Male” theme isn’t harmful, but it isn’t entirely productive either. One might presume that guys who love female bodybuilders would take offense to the notion that they’re weak and socially emasculated. That assumption is correct. But that’s not the only harm that this causes. The other is that it continues to make female bodybuilders appear “weird” and “fetishistic” instead of who they actually are: world-class athletes.

Monique Jones gets what she wants.

Often times, we tend to treat certain people or groups of people with suspicion not because of who they are, but because of who their fans are. It’s perfectly reasonable to like a certain TV show or singer but be completely annoyed by their fawning fans. It’s also perfectly reasonable to not like a certain TV show or singer for reasons that have nothing to do with the temperament of their loyal supporters. What isn’t reasonable (but isn’t a crime against humanity, of course) is disliking something purely because you can’t stand how the screaming fanboys and fangirls behave on the Internet. Yet, it’s difficult for many of us to make this distinction.

Along the same train of thought, some people might be turned off by female bodybuilders and the world of female bodybuilding because they find their fans a bit distasteful. They leave creepy comments all over their Instagram posts. They publicly announce all sorts of gross sexual activities they’d love to do to them. They appear to have no filter and don’t think all too much about who is actually reading these comments. These behaviors have a way of turning people off to whatever you love.

Female bodybuilders are already considered outside the mainstream. Their fans are also perceived to be outside the mainstream, despite the fact a vocal minority doesn’t speak for the entire group. Although to be fair, there really isn’t such a thing as a “vocal” delegation of the female bodybuilding fandom community. We don’t have lobbyists playing golf with members of Congress, to my knowledge.

One way to help FBBs enter into mainstream culture – assuming this is even a unified goal of ours – is to portray them as being perfectly normal women who happen to look abnormal. In many respects, that’s exactly who they are. But not everyone in our culture is buying that argument. They see videos of guys wearing leather masks with an FBB’s massive thighs wrapped around their heads and they think to themselves, “Um, that’s weird!”

To be fair, that sort of behavior isn’t something you witness every day. Yet, it does exist. But so do the countless number of people who love FBBs simply because they appreciate their unique beauty. FBBs are in fact uniquely beautiful, with the experience of “getting” their beauty indescribable. The experience of seeing a gorgeous confident woman with big muscles is so euphoric it can seem like a drug. It’s hard to articulate into words what this is like. Female bodybuilders are so damn beautiful it’s maddening to many of us why more people don’t feel the same way we feel. Shouldn’t FBBs be front and center on every magazine cover across the country? We think so, but the vast majority of our culture does not.

Stereotyping all female bodybuilders as Alpha Females and all fans of female bodybuilders of Beta Males is not only factually inaccurate, it contributes toward limiting our society’s understanding of this world. It makes us think that the two groups are somehow inextricably linked, that FBBs need weak men just as much as weak men need FBBs. This association cheapens FBBs as being a mere product of what certain guys want. Or that men who are perceived as being weak are that way because of women who are perceived as being strong.

Rita Sargo proving that muscles and femininity can go hand-in-hand.

These oversimplifications just perpetuate our dualist culture that puts people into two distinct categories (e.g. alpha/beta male, oppressed/liberated female, liberal/conservative, patriotic/unpatriotic, smart/dumb, educated/uneducated, poor/rich, abled/disabled, etc.) without recognizing nuance, individualized circumstances, and context. This harms the way we treat people whom we believe are “different” from us, even though they’re probably more similar to us than we realize. Imagine that.

When faced with something that’s totally out of the ordinary, the natural reaction is to try to put it into “proper context.” The logic follows like this:

  1. Female bodybuilders are unusual-looking women
  2. Guys who like female bodybuilders like women who are unusual-looking
  3. Therefore, guys who like female bodybuilders must be unusual themselves

Unfamiliarity breeds cognitive dissonance. We don’t like not being able to understand something, so we try to explain it away in terms that make sense to us. If we see weird Internet videos of guys enjoying being trampled on by a “chick with muscles,” then we must therefore assume every guy who loves female bodybuilders are into the same thing. And only “losers” enjoy being in a subordinate position. It makes perfect sense!

Except it doesn’t. The truth is much more complicated. The truth is that men and women from all walks of life comprise the world of female bodybuilding fandom. Some might in fact fit the stereotypes that we’re all familiar with. Others do not. This is not to play the “percentages game” and argue that a majority of us are not “like that.” Not at all. The only point to be made is that the Alpha Female/Beta Male concept is not inaccurate, but it’s also not comprehensive enough.

Perceptions take a long time to change. Many perceptions will never change. But there’s no use screaming at a brick wall that will not budge no matter what. That’s an exercise in futility. And if there’s one thing we can definitively say about female bodybuilders, it’s that when they exercise, they expect to see results.

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This is the Moment When She is at the Peak of Her Power

Tina Nguyen is at her most powerful right here.

She stares straight ahead, her gaze can pierce through your soul. She’s exhausted. She’s fatigued. She’s determined. She’s ready.

With 65-pound dumbbells in each hand, hanging casually next to her hips, she takes in a deep breath and regards herself in the mirror – not out of vanity, but out of a concern for maintaining proper form and technique. She’s a professional in mind and spirit, though not in livelihood (yet).

With astonishing confidence, grace, and strength, she lifts one dumbbell up to her chest, the cold metal barely grazing her collarbone. She exhales and slowly lowers the heavy weight back to her side, returning it perfectly to where it previously was. Then she lifts the other dumbbell upward in the exact same manner, this time her other collarbone experiences the unforgiving touch of the frosty iron. All the while, curious onlookers can see large veins running down her hardened biceps as she powers through these lifts. It seems like with each repetition, the veins get more pronounced as her biceps grow larger and larger.

The blood rushing into her arms coincides with the blood rushing into the private areas of the males in close proximity. They are unable to concentrate on their own workouts because they are too distracted by hers.

But none of them would have it any other way.

Oh boy. Have you ever experienced a scenario similar to this? I know I have. Maybe not at my local gym – though there have been a few isolated incidents – but certainly while watching Internet videos of female bodybuilders lifting heavy weights. If you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing such a beautiful phenomenon in recent days, drop whatever you are doing and conduct a few Google searches to whet your starving appetite.

For people who love female bodybuilders, athletes, weightlifters, and fitness models, there are few things that turn us on more than to watch our beloved ladies grind at the gym. Glamour photoshoots behind a pristine white backdrop are fine. So are professionally-done photo sessions taken on an immaculate white sandy beach. But few pieces of media can seriously contend with a video (even if it’s grainy and shot on an iPhone) that showcases a muscular woman laboring hard to become – or remain – a muscular woman.

Indeed, workout videos are our porn. This is nothing new. There already exists a blog post exploring this topic. However, what deserves further examination is a specific moment in these videos that particularly makes our hearts leap out of our chests:

The moment of muscle peak.

This is probably best exemplified in the above example of a female bodybuilder doing bicep curls. But it’s even more evident when she’s doing preacher curls. Preacher curls are, in case you are not familiar with exercise jargon – isolation lifts in which you place your arms against an incline bench (or pad) and lift either a barbell or dumbbell upward toward your chest, targeting specifically your biceps. Visually speaking, preacher curls make for excellent video fodder because you can noticeably see the participant’s biceps swelling up as he or she completes the lift.

Sexy muscle mama Dena Anne Weiner.

When we see a muscle-bound woman’s face strain as she struggles to finish the final repetition of her grueling set, it’s difficult to watch this with zero physical reaction. How can your pulse not start to race, your heart beat a little faster, and blood not rush to your groin? I’d stop being such an adamant female muscle lover if such reactions ceased to take place inside me.

It is at this moment when her biceps are at its largest. “The Moment of Muscle Peak” is so arousing because it symbolizes in a single still frame why we love female bodybuilders so much: They had to earn their gorgeous muscles through hard work and hard work only. No shortcuts, no underserving gains, and certainly no free passes. She didn’t earn her muscles by paying a plastic surgeon to implant them underneath her skin. She may take drugs, but drugs alone do not produce large muscle mass. That only comes from expending sweat, energy, and burning more calories than some of us consume.

Here is the video that inspired me to write this post. It shows world-renowned Swiss female bodybuilder Jay Fuchs doing preacher curls at the gym. Follow her (or periodically revisit) her Instagram account if you don’t already. She completes a few repetitions of preacher curls with her left arm. We see the veins pop out of her skin. We see her bicep grow to its largest possible size. We see it expand and contract. We witness how tired she must be. We empathize with her struggle and admire how she is able to persevere through it. But we also notice how beautifully her bicep “jumps” up as she squeezes the dumbbell close to her chest. It’s as though it’s going to burst open. We are amazed how her skin is able to physically contain so much swollen flesh.

But alas, her muscles are able to expand and contract without her skin peeling open. What a miracle! After she is done with her set, she drops the dumbbell on the floor and flexes for her audience. We now see, in a classic sequence, the simple dynamic of “cause and effect.” We see her lifting weights at the gym. And now we see the results of her years of hard work!

How Miss Fuchs transformed herself into an Angelic Muscle Goddess isn’t a mystery. It’s not a secret. There’s no magic potion that made it happen. It’s all out in the open. The ways and means are as simple as it gets: Hard work, hard work, and more hard work. She has nothing to hide. She also has everything to gain. So do we.

The aforementioned Jay Fuchs.

Jay Fuch’s social media feed, as well as the feeds of hundreds of other beautiful muscular women around the globe, provides a simple yet provocatively arousing look into why some men love muscular women so damn much. “The Moment of Muscle Peak” isn’t just confined to when her muscles are actually at its largest. It’s the exact moment (or moments) when you symbolically get to witness what it is that separates a muscular woman from a “normal looking” woman. It’s the moment when it stops being all fun and games and, as the colloquialism goes, “shit gets real.”

Maybe it’s when Minna Pajulahti is attempting an impressive single deadlift. Or when Lisa Cross finishes her last squat. Perhaps it’s seeing Theresa Ivancik grunt her way toward completing a set of shoulder presses. Or seeing a female Olympic sprinter cross the finish line. Or a lady CrossFit athlete climbing up and down a rope.

It’s the moment when she’s at the peak of her power. When she’s actively doing the hard work necessary to transform herself into a better version of herself. It’s not for show. She’s not showing off for the camera or trying to put on a performance. She doesn’t care if she’s wearing makeup or if she looks “camera ready.” All of that is inconsequential nonsense. The only thing on her mind is finishing her set, breathing steadily, and moving on to the next lift. The rest will take care of itself. She doesn’t care one iota if her hair is unkempt or if she doesn’t quite look like a polished supermodel. After all, when you have muscles that big…who has the right to criticize you?

The Moment of Muscle Peak is when she is at her most unstoppable. It’s when we are helpless to do anything else but witness “true beauty” in action. Unlike a boring and passive Sleeping Beauty, a female bodybuilder busting her tail at the gym is a Wide Awake Muscle Queen Who Refuses to Take Shortcuts and Deserves Her Accolades. She ain’t no princess, sweetheart. She isn’t even a queen, despite the idiomatic expression. Instead, she’s a peasant. She’s Cinderella without the Fairy Godmother granting her temporary “princess status” until the clock strikes midnight.

She’s so damn beautiful because she’s a peasant who earned her regal status not by merely wearing a tiara, but by building up so much muscle on her body that you can’t help but mindlessly stare at her while you struggle to pick up your jaw off the floor.

The biceps on Monique Jones are enough to give me a heart attack.

A female bodybuilder isn’t at her most powerful when she’s got some hapless guy in a headlock or a scissor hold. Nor is she at the height of her authority when she has someone tied to a bed while she squeezes his balls until he begs her to stop. That is, in my humble opinion, a somewhat superficial form of expressing one’s power. Rather, she’s at the height of her power when she’s all alone in the weight room, with sweat dripping down her face, struggling to finish that one final rep before she can’t handle it anymore. Afterward, as she’s breathing hard like a racehorse and chugging down water to help her recover, she’s at her weakest. But in her weakness she finds her strength. She punishes her body so that it can emerge even more powerful than before. She’s drained of her energy for now, but not for very long. Eventually, she’ll refuel and rest up to the point where she can do it all again…this time harder and more strenuously than before.

Female bodybuilders are lone wolves. They aren’t lonely by choice, rather it’s a byproduct of the life they’ve chosen to lead. More often than not, her workouts are not made public. A short 30-second video clip posted on YouTube or Instagram doesn’t do justice to her full training regimen. It’s not even a drop in the bucket. The vast majority of the time she’s all alone at the gym (or at least, she’s all alone in her own personal bubble) away from smartphone cameras or preying eyes. She grinds away for several hours a week in the privacy of her own little world. She spends an inordinate amount of time cooking unglamorous food that tastes the same but plays a crucial role in helping her build muscle mass. She’s constantly reading up on supplementation tips and making valuable contacts – both in-person and online – who can help her succeed at her dream of living life as a bodybuilder.

These lone wolves do have their moment in the spotlight, however. They do compete in bodybuilding shows. They do pose for sexy photo or video shoots. They do meet starry-eyed clients for muscle worship or wrestling sessions. They do walk out in public and see the stunned faces on complete strangers who were not expecting to randomly see a woman with so much muscle. When you’re an entrepreneurial female bodybuilder, it’s impossible to be kept a secret forever.

Muscle goddess Angie Semsch.

But once again, that’s just a drop in the proverbial bucket. The process it takes to be a bodybuilder isn’t for the faint of heart, nor is it terribly exciting day-in and day-out. But for those of us who do appreciate the arduous journey it takes to become a Divine Muscle Goddess, we cannot help but stare with our undivided attention as she’s lifting that heavy dumbbell. In that moment, she’s defying gravity, challenging our preconceived notions, and taking one step closer toward reaching her final destination. We can’t always describe why we love watching this; but we do regardless.

The Moment of Muscle Peak, therefore, has two meanings: It’s both the moment when her muscles are at its most swollen and strained; and it’s the moment when she’s at her most empowered. It’s both literal and figurative. When Jay Fuchs is isolating her biceps and lifting that dumbbell toward her beautiful chest, she’s showing us two sides of her personality. One side is her willingness to do the hard work necessary to develop large muscles. The other side is her devotion to striving toward an ideal.

And what is that ideal? She wants to be the best version of herself that she can possibly be. She refuses to settle for anything less than that. And why would she? What would be the point?

As fans of Miss Fuchs and countless others like her, we do not see any other point. Seriously. If you can think of a reason why Jay shouldn’t pursue her personal ideal, you can tell us after we’ve picked up our jaws off the floor.

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.