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?

Advertisements

Facing the Facts: Why a Female Bodybuilder’s Face Still Matters to Me

My eyes cannot help but fixate on Erin Stern's gorgeous face.

My eyes cannot help but fixate on Erin Stern’s gorgeous face.

When you first look upon a photo of a muscular woman, what do your eyes initially fixate on?

For me, if we’re talking about a full-body shot, or a near full-body shot, my eyes immediately focus on her face. This sounds odd considering my natural inclination is being a “leg” guy, but my brain involuntarily tells me to look at this (hypothetical) woman’s face first before anything else.

Before her legs, before her butt, before her hips, before her arms, before her torso, before any of that. Her face is what matters first to me, for whatever reason. Not necessarily the most, but certainly first. This is not the only thing I look at (obviously!), but old habits are hard to break. In fact, natural habits can tell us a lot about our deeply ingrained opinions, biases, and desires.

Even if she’s wearing a sexy G-string bikini. Even if she’s wearing nothing at all. No matter what pose she strikes or what she’s doing in the photo itself. My eyes will almost always go to her face before anything else. Why is that?

When I see a beautiful non-muscular woman walk down the street or step into an elevator with me, my eyes first go to her lower half: her legs, hips, and butt. I try to do this as inconspicuously as possible, as most of us are experts at doing. We’re all horny creeps to some extent; however some of us are better at hiding it than others. Or some of us are less ashamed about it than others.

But when we’re talking about a muscular woman, my eyes don’t look down, but instead look up. I want to see her face. Her eyes, her cheeks, her lips, her bone structure, her smile. Once again, why is that? The information I want to gather is plain and simple: Is she pretty?

A nice full-body shot of Larissa Reis.

A nice full-body shot of Larissa Reis.

If we’re talking about Larissa Reis or Shannon Courtney, the answer is undoubtedly “yes.” If we’re talking about Jennifer Kennedy or Kathy Connors, the answer ranges from “uh, not really” to “I love them…but unfortunately no.” I adore and respect both Jennifer and Kathy very much, so this is not meant to be an insult to them or their beautiful bodies. This is just articulating what many of us are thinking but are too polite to say out loud.

But the question “Is she pretty” is one that is packed with a whole ton of meaning. Why should this matter? Does this make me a hypocrite?

No matter how many essays I write explaining my position that muscles make women more beautiful, for whatever nonsensical reason my eyes still immediately search her face instead of laser-focusing on her hard-earned muscles. When I’m doing a Google or Bing search – and yes, I actually use both with great frequency – of various female bodybuilders, I still gravitate toward their faces first even though I know for a fact the muscles on their bodies are their claim to fame.

What a strange and unusual thing, indeed. What can be derived from this? Are there any lessons or nuggets of truth to be ascertained from this? Possibly. Let’s look at four of them.

1. Beauty still matters

For all the talk about “body image” and that “real women have curves,” at the end of the day the content of her face still matters a great deal. This might not be true for you, but it’s obviously true for me. Theoretically, I know from a cerebral point of view that I’m attracted to female bodybuilders because their remarkable muscle mass provides an aesthetic that I find particularly pleasing. However, my brain still insists on checking out her face first.

A female bodybuilder can control what her muscles look like. Heck, they dedicate their lives toward doing just that. All that blood, sweat, tears, and protein shakes go toward sculpting the most beautiful muscles possible. However, she cannot reasonable control her face. Cosmetic surgery notwithstanding, the appearance of your visage is determined before you were born whether you like it or not. It’s genetics, not hard work. Muscles are built through labor. A gorgeous face is not. So as a fan of female bodybuilders, why does her face still matter to me?

Alright, here's an apt exception. I know where my eyes go first in this photo of Flavia Crisos.

Alright, here’s an apt exception. I know where my eyes go first in this photo of Flavia Crisos.

Perhaps this reveals the truth that deep down inside, traditional beauty is still important to me. I can try to persuade my inner thoughts to value hard work over unearned genetics, but our brains are wired a certain way for a reason. I may not completely understand those reasons, but it is what it is. Beauty still matters. It always has, and it always will. My fetish for a muscular feminine figure may be strong, but my desire for her to still have a pretty face is also strong (if not stronger).

2. The eyes are the windows into the soul

Well, I don’t necessarily agree with this cliché, but there might be some truth to it. We are ingrained into believing the eyes are the best way to really look at a person. When you speak to someone, the polite protocol is to look at them straight in the eyes. Not doing that is culturally inappropriate (in the Western world, that is) and considered rude in most social circles.

So no matter how much six-pack abs, a round butt or swollen biceps turn me on, her eyes are where my eyes initially go. Other than this being a learned behavior, why is that?

I think this speaks to the fact we value the humanity of the people we encounter, even those we happen to be physically attracted to. For all the talk about “objectifying” people, at the end of the day most decent human beings value each other on some level. Obviously we value our friends and family more than complete strangers, but not too many of us wish ill on others without a compelling reason.

I obviously love female bodybuilders. But my appreciation for them isn’t just physical. I love their toughness, self-confidence, drive, passion, dedication, and service to others (many FBBs work as personal trainers or in the healthcare field). So when my eyes first focus on a muscular woman’s face, it’s an indication that I want to learn more about her: her interests, strengths, weaknesses, fears, failures, successes, feelings, thoughts, likes, dislikes, and so on.

There’s way no way I can actually learn any of that just from looking at a photograph of a female bodybuilder, but the natural instinct to want to know exists nevertheless.

3. A subtle bias against muscular women still exists within me

This is probably a bit of a stretch, but it’s worth talking about. I wrote a post recently arguing that muscles are the great equalizer when it comes to assessing one’s physical beauty. I believe this wholeheartedly, but perhaps there’s still a small hint of bias against muscular women that’s hiding deep within my psyche.

I look at a muscular woman’s face first because I want to assess how “feminine” she is. Is her face “man-like,” as many negative stereotypes go? Does her face have masculine features or does she appear to be traditionally feminine? Intellectually, I understand that not every woman, muscular or not, looks “feminine” as society widely accepts that term to mean. I also understand that years of taking anabolic steroids and human growth hormones can change the way your body (and face) looks.

A classic female bodybuilder from yesteryear: Sharon Bruneau.

A classic female bodybuilder from yesteryear: Sharon Bruneau.

The “hardening” of a woman’s face to appear gruffer and less soft – whatever these descriptors even mean – can happen after higher-than-usual levels of testosterone enter the body. I’d venture a guess that these so-called changes aren’t actually real. They’re more perceived due to social stigmas attached to women with big muscles.

These social biases run so deep that even yours truly believes in them to a certain extent. I’d like to think my “street cred” for supporting female bodybuilders should be unquestioned, but even I can admit that I occasionally give in to what popular perceptions teach us. When I look at a photo of a female bodybuilder for the first time – as opposed to a photo I’ve already seen before – my natural inclination to first look at her face tells me I’m still bias toward women who look traditionally beautiful. I still think of FBBs as being “different” or “freakish,” even though I embrace these differences as being a part of her unique beauty.

Bias is not the same thing as hate, however. It’s just what your brain (whether you know it or not) automatically tells you when you’re digesting new information. The first step is to be aware of it. The next step is to recognize that this doesn’t make you a bad person. The last step is to be able to make your own decisions whether the vast majority of others will agree with you or not.

4. It’s not just about her muscles, it’s about her entire self

On a more positive note, one of the reasons why I first tend to look at a muscular woman’s face is because I’m not nearly as fixated on her muscles as one would think. Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for a pretty face (which I am!). Or it goes to show you that while I love an FBB’s muscles, I actually love her entire self.

Related to point #2, I first look at her face because I want to learn as much as I can about her as a person. Fantastic. But another important observation is that for me, and obviously I cannot speak for anybody else except for me, it’s not just about her muscles. It’s not the mere presence of big muscles on her body that make her extraordinarily beautiful. It’s the entire package.

People who aren’t familiar with the world of female bodybuilding get perplexed when they see a photo of an FBB because they can’t stop focusing on her muscles. Those of us who are more familiar with this aesthetic see past her muscles and appreciate her entire beauty – both external and internal. I recently participated in a muscle worship session with a pro bodybuilder who talked enthusiastically about her passion for helping others. She works as a personal trainer (as many often do) and loves inspiring people to become happier, healthier, and more confident. She spoke of serving homeless young adults, abused women, and emotionally hurt people who have lost their way. Through teaching them how to lift weights at the gym, she saw their lives turn around for the better. Some of her anecdotes were powerful to listen to.

I quickly decided that for as much as I appreciate her external beauty – and she is without a doubt a beautiful person – her internal beauty shines brighter.

Timea Majorova showcasing her assets.

Timea Majorova showcasing her assets.

Whether we’re talking about a slim pop star, a skinny fashion model, or a big and buff female bodybuilder, where your eyes go first when you look upon her depends on what you value, what you’re looking for, and the context of the situation. If a woman intentionally shows off her cleavage, it’s reasonable why your eyes would go there first. If her long gorgeous legs are front and center of the image, I wouldn’t blame you for your imagination running wild with what you’d like to do with those legs.

But for me, I first look at her face. Even if she has big muscles. Even if her muscles are supposed to be the center of attention. There are many reasons for this. Some of them are logical. Others are pure speculative. But it is interesting to reflect on why this happens to me. Do I need to face the facts about my inherent prejudices against muscular women, even though I’m one of the most vocal proponents of female bodybuilders on the Internet (or at least, on WordPress)? Or does this mean that at the end of the day, I appreciate traditional beauty above all else? Or am I so accustomed to seeing muscles on a woman that its affects are starting to wane on me?

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Slow down there! Can it be true that I’m getting desensitized to the sight of a muscular woman? Have I plunged so far into the deep end of the pool that looking upon the strong powerful body of Rene Campbell elicits the same reaction as looking upon the narrow skinny body of Taylor Swift?

I’m not showing disrespect to either Rene Campbell or Taylor Swift, but is my brain adjusting to the reality that not only do I think that muscles on a woman are beautiful, but it’s now an ordinary thing to look at?

Hm. Probably not. I don’t think I’ll ever get “used to” seeing muscles on a woman’s physique. No matter how many thousands of photos or hours of video I experience watching FBBs show off their beautiful bodies, I highly doubt the jolt of energy that erupts inside me will ever dissipate. My heart will always flutter. The “Madness” will never go away.

But if it does, is that an indication that I’ve become so saturated with muscular women that I’ve finally accepted that this body type is both “normal” and “not out of the ordinary?” Is this progress or a signal that I’ve become a female bodybuilder junkie, where my usual “fix” isn’t good enough to sustain my appetites?

Alright, this discussion is getting weird. I’m probably overthinking a fairly normal phenomenon. I like pretty faces. That’s it, end of debate. But like all topics related to female bodybuilders, muscular women, and analyzing why people like me love them so damn much, there are endless things to talk about. I haven’t even scratched the surface yet. I look forward to being able to dig a little deeper next time.