The Slayers of Men

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oof.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do not get Heather Armbrust angry!

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

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

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

Well, not much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Expectations vs. Reality: Tempering Our Warped Perceptions about Female Bodybuilders

A very tiny red bikini being worn by Gina Aliotti.

A very tiny red bikini being worn by Gina Aliotti.

Sometimes, our expectations don’t meet reality.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; nor is it necessarily a good thing. It is what it is. At first, the idea of owning a puppy may sound awesome. But after you adopt one, reality starts to sink in. You have to train him not to poop on the carpet. You have to persuade him not to beg at the dinner table. You have to clean up after every single mess he makes. You need to schedule your entire life around feeding him, walking him, and making sure he is allowed to “relieve himself” as often as he needs to in a socially acceptable way.

In short, the honeymoon soon ends. The joyful expectation of owning a puppy dog – while you may still love being a pet owner – may or may not fully line up with the reality of actually owning a puppy.

The image in your head of your dog being your best buddy who also happens to be low-maintenance, intuitively housebroken, and allows you to live your life as usual with very little disruptions is, as you quickly discover, total BS. Raising a puppy dog is a lot harder than you think. I’m not anti-dog or anything (although I am more of a cat person), all I’m trying to do is illustrate the disconnection that often exists between how we think life is like and how life is really like.

The same goes for female bodybuilders. People who are fascinated with female bodybuilders, but have never actually met one, may be in for a surprise when they first get the chance to encounter one up-close-and-personal. There might be some disappointment…but there might also be some surprises, both positive and negative.

I’ve written before on the ethereal nature of female bodybuilders. We often refer to them as “goddesses” because we revere them as if they were divine beings from Heaven. In non-female bodybuilding parlance, a young lady we’re smitten with is often called an “angel.” If she isn’t in charge of what goes on in Heaven, she’s at least sent there from the Big Guy himself down to Earth to capture the hearts of young men. The point is when we put certain people on a pedestal, our perceptions of them become inflated, warped, and unrealistic.

This is known as “idealizing the other.” This especially happens when we have limited (or nonexistent) contact with this person. Whether we’re talking about our favorite pop singer, baseball player, middle school crush, or pro female bodybuilder, we tend to place idealistic expectations on who they are as people (or lovers, best friends, crushes, idols, etc.) that don’t necessarily fit reality.

May I meet Amy Peters for an intimate evening?

May I meet Amy Peters for an intimate evening?

So don’t get too heartbroken when your favorite ball player won’t give you his autograph. Don’t be too surprised when your favorite politician gets involved in a scandal. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that cute guy or girl you like can do no wrong and is perfect in every way. They are just as human as you are. We all have flaws. For the rich and famous, they have armies of publicists, assistants, public relations personnel, hair and make-up artists, wardrobe consultants, and the like to help present them in the best light possible.

Do you really think your favorite singer has hair that looks that good 24/7? I got news for you. They don’t!

Somewhat related to celebrity worship and idealizing the other is the heightened expectations we have about female bodybuilders. Due to the fact muscular women are rare in our world (unfortunately for us!), we tend to develop in our imaginations a perceived set of expectations for what FBBs are like that may or may not be accurate. Examples of questions we have about female bodybuilders include, but are not limited to:

  • How much can an FBB lift?
  • How tall are female bodybuilders?
  • Do all FBBs have big clits?
  • Do female bodybuilders want to dominate men sexually?
  • What do their genitals look like?

The answers to these questions – and countless others – obviously are not definitive and set in stone. Some FBBs are stronger than others. Many have big clits, but many also have perfectly normal sized clits. Some FBBs are sexually aggressive, others are more passive. Many are lesbians and have no interest in having sex with a man. Female genitalia, whether we’re talking about a muscular woman or a non-muscular woman, comes in all shapes and sizes. That’s just the way things are.

But instead of endlessly speculating on these matters, we end up creating conclusions regardless. I’m guilty of this as well. We take it for granted that FBBs are tall, sexually aggressive, super strong, and are endowed with large clitorises. At least, that’s our expectation. In the back of our minds we may know these assumptions aren’t always true. But we can’t help but think of these conclusions as being more or less the truth.

I love Mindi O'Brien!

I love Mindi O’Brien!

So let’s pretend like you actually end up meeting a female bodybuilder for a muscle worship or wrestling session. You see that someone you admire is travelling to your city and you e-mail her to set up an appointment. You pay your deposit, agree upon the terms of the meeting, and she informs you where she’ll be staying for the duration of her visit. Great! Now what?

You wait. You cross off the days on the calendar in anticipation of your fateful meeting with her. Your imagination goes wild. What will she be like? Will she be as big and strong as she is in my dreams? Will she immediately toss me on the bed and have her way with me without letting up? Will I be sore for the rest of the week as a result of our short hour together?

Then, the day comes. You can’t wait! You struggle to focus on anything but your appointment with her. Butterflies are bouncing wildly all around your stomach. Your heartbeat cannot calm down. You’re afraid you might suffer from cardiac arrest before your appointment even begins.

You sit in the parking lot of her hotel for 10 or so minutes. Finally, you text her and she tells you which room she is staying in. You nonchalantly walk out of your car, stroll into the hotel lobby as if you were a guest, and try to not make eye contact with any of the staff or patrons. You coolly walk up the stairs or ride the elevator. Finally, you’re face-to-face with her door. You knock. You wait. Seconds seems like minutes. Minutes seem like hours.

At last, the door opens!

You hold your breath in anticipation of what she’ll look like. What will the moment be like when you first get to lay eyes on her magnificent body? You then take a deep breath and look directly at her.

Um, oh.

She’s short. Perhaps several inches shorter than you. She’s pretty, but not as pretty as a supermodel. Her hair is unkempt. She has noticeable but not distractingly foul body odor. She’s muscular, but not as huge as you thought she’d be. Is she ripped? Well, sort of. She’s in excellent shape, but her figure doesn’t make my eyeballs pop out of their sockets. But most of all, you still cannot believe how short she is! Even with heels, she doesn’t come close to breaking six feet tall. What’s with that?

As the evening progresses, you have fun doing what you want to do. You get to touch her muscles. You get to playfully wrestle with her on the bed. You may even get a hand job from her at the conclusion of your appointment. All in all, the evening was a blast, but it wasn’t life altering.

Your perspective on life did not change. She was pleasant and awesome to be around, but she didn’t exactly cast a magical spell on you. She was cute, but your high school girlfriend was way cuter.

You come away from your appointment not totally disappointed, but slightly dissatisfied. You struggle to pinpoint why. The evening went exactly as planned. She delivered on all her promises. She’s a friendly lady who’s chill, down-to-earth, and can maintain an interesting conversation. What gives?

Shawna Walker showing off her hard work.

Shawna Walker showing off her hard work.

As time goes on, you realize the problem isn’t her. The problem is you. She did nothing wrong. She’s a beautiful muscular woman who’s trying to make a living doing what she loves to do. Your feelings of being let down isn’t her fault. It’s your fault. You were the one who built up unrealistic expectations in the first place. You constructed an image in your head that could never live up to its hype. Oh well. Live and learn, right?

Yup. That’s the way it goes in life. Live and learn. That’s all you can do.

Without question, female bodybuilders conjure up in our imaginations all sorts of wild thoughts, feelings, and fantasies. After all, since muscular women are rare in our world, all we have is our imaginations. And the human mind has a funny way of creating perceptions out of thin air that are based on nothing more than stereotypes, rumors, and hopes.

In our dreams, we concoct visions of what female bodybuilders are actually like. They’re superhuman, larger-than-life, and the most beautiful and flawless creatures on planet Earth. While FBBs are certainly gorgeous in their own unique ways, they’re not superhuman, larger-than-life, or flawless. They’re people just like you and I. They have good days and bad days, just like us. They have moments when they smell bad, just like us. They’re strong but not supernaturally strong, just like us (at least those of us who make an effort to get stronger).

In the back of our minds, we all know this. We know celebrities are flawed human beings just like the rest of us. Yet, we somehow get surprised or react intensely whenever they accidentally trip over themselves on the red carpet or say something offensive on Twitter. I mean, what were you expecting?

Those of us who ever get the chance to meet in-person a muscular woman may be in for a few surprises – however you define “surprises.” Whether those surprises are positive or negative often depend on what your initial expectations were to begin with. If you’ve elevated muscular women to a level of goddess-like divinity, then you’re going to be in for a disappointing shock. If your expectations are much more modest, then you might actually be in for a few pleasant surprises. How do you like them apples?

Returning to the analogy of adopting a puppy, even being an experienced pet owner may not totally prepare you for the full gamut of what it’s like to own a living and breathing animal. Perhaps your family owned a dog when you were a kid, but your parents did most of the work walking it, feeding it, and cleaning up after it. For sure Mom and Dad were the ones who bought the dog food. If you’re a broke recent college graduate, the cost of buying pet food can be taxing considering you can barely afford to feed yourself. Suddenly, your childhood memories of being a “dog owner” don’t actually prepare you for being a dog owner as an adult. Experience matters, but it all depends on the depth of your experience.

Likewise, watching endless videos and looking at thousands of photos of female bodybuilders – which should describe almost all of us! – will not necessarily prepare you for what it’s like to actually meet a female bodybuilder in the flesh. Like any form of media, photos and videos do not paint a complete picture. Clever lighting, PhotoShop, and creative editing can hide or enhance many things. Don’t get me wrong – female bodybuilders are certainly gorgeous when you meet them up-close-and-personal – but don’t expect them to be as flawless as your imaginations may recklessly hype you up to believe.

Speaking of short, did you know Tera Guzman is 4' 11"?

Speaking of short, did you know Tera Guzman is 4′ 11″?

The human mind has a funny (or tragic) way of playing games with us when it comes to our perceptions of the world. Because we cannot possibly experience and fully understand everything, we are forced to compartmentalize our perceptions into easy-to-digest bits of information. Examples of this are too many, but suffice to say the way we think about female bodybuilders definitely fits into this paradigm.

Some of us will never meet a female bodybuilder. Many of us will, but not for very long. Most of us will encounter athletic-looking women in our everyday lives, but rarely have the chance to get all our questions about them answered. Do you really want to ask a random stranger at the gym who’s just gotten done doing bicep curls what her clit looks like? That’s a good way to get kicked in the groin, if you catch my drift!

Indeed, our expectations don’t always meet reality. But the valuable lesson to be learned isn’t that this is always a bad thing or a negative reflection upon female bodybuilders themselves. Often, it’s a product of our own wild imaginations taking us to strange and magical places. Or it’s because we seldom are able to actually see female bodybuilders up close, so we don’t quite know what to expect. Or, it’s a byproduct of the nature of female bodybuilders as a whole:

They’re peculiar, thought-provoking, mysterious, and gloriously enigmatic creatures who summon in our feeble minds some of the most outlandish and irrational beliefs imaginable. Therefore, it is a struggle and our responsibility to dial back these perceptions out of respect to these incredible women.

Yeah, that’s probably more like it.

Like Fine Wine, Muscular Women Get Sexier with Age

Very fine indeed is Debbie Bramwell-Washington.

Very fine indeed is Debbie Bramwell-Washington.

Age is just a number, as the old saying goes.

In fact, there are many things in our society that are measured in numbers that are fairly arbitrary. The number of times you’ve experienced the Earth rotating around the Sun is obviously one of them. There isn’t much of a difference between a person who’s 18 years old and another person who is a week shy of their 18th birthday. However, from a legal perspective (I live in the United States) they are leaps and bounds apart.

The 18-year-old is a legal adult and can enlist in the military, purchase cigarettes, and possess a firearm. The other person who is six or seven days away from turning 18 cannot legally do any of those things. In actuality, the latter individual may be more intellectually and emotionally mature than the 18-year-old adult, but that doesn’t matter as far as federal and state laws are concerned. From the perspective of governments, it’s not the “readiness” of the person wanting to do certain things that factors into these legal decisions. Realistically speaking, it’s nearly impossible to gage the “maturity” level of a person. It’s a heck of a lot easier to look at their ID card and see what year they were born.

So age does matter as far as the law goes. But what about normal interactions between human beings? We expect lovers to be in the same ballpark as far as age is concerned, but it’s not terribly unusual to see a married or dating couple be eight to ten years apart in age. The bigger the gap, the bigger the eyebrow is raised by onlookers, but that’s a whole other story.

We also judge one’s accomplishments in terms of their age. It’s impressive for a 12-year-old kid to be able to play the piano at the same level of a professional concern pianist. It’s possible, of course, but remarkable enough that we’d feel compelled to label this kid with terms like “prodigy” and “gifted.” A 45-year-old adult who can play the piano at a high level is still impressive, but less so because they’ve had way more years of practice and experience to hone their craft.

When it comes to sexual attraction, someone’s numerical age matters less than the appearance of their age. If we are someone who values youth and vitality, a 25 year-old and a 35-year-old could very well look the same age, assuming you don’t personally know either of them. Makeup, cosmetic surgery and freaky good genetics aside, physical attraction isn’t based upon knowing the specific age of the other person so much as it’s about enjoying the way they look.

Some of us tend to be attracted to those who are younger, others prefer an “older” person, and some of us are more adaptable. We tend to like people who are our age, which of course changes as the years go on.

How I dream of being that chair being straddled by Lora Ottenad.

How I dream of being that chair being straddled by Lora Ottenad.

For straight guys, the “older woman” thing is very much real and not nearly as taboo as it once was. We all have our limits, but there’s nothing unusual about being attracted to a woman who has more life experience under her belt. There’s no need to go into this topic in too much detail, but there is a fascinating angle when we’re dealing with muscular women.

One reason why lots of guys don’t care for older women is because, unfortunately, age tends to break down the human body. Nobody can remain sleek, perfectly curvy and smooth forever. Eventually, a woman’s breasts will start to sag. She may start to gain a few pounds. Her skin will start to wrinkle and lose its softness. This is not something that can be prevented or reversed, no matter how many thousands of dollars you pay a surgeon to operate on you. Mother Nature is unforgiving and time always wins at the end.

This is true for men. This is true for women. This is true for you and I. Oh well. There’s no use in complaining if it’s inevitable, right?

However, muscular women are a different sort of breed. A female bodybuilder who continues to lift at the gym and eat right well after she retires from the sport can still remain just as sexy as she was when she was in her 20s and 30s. And it’s not because muscles can hide a woman’s age. They don’t, but they miraculously can keep a woman’s body irresistibly desirable to guys who are willing to look at her. Aren’t muscles great?

It should also be pointed out that most of the biggest and brawniest female bodybuilders – although certainly not all – tend to be older as it is. Looking through past Ms. Olympia participants (may the Ms. O competition R.I.P.) one cannot help but notice most of the competitors being either in their 30s or 40s. What can explain this? Well, probably because of the simple fact it takes a whole lot of time to gain that much muscle mass.

While it certainly is possible for younger women in their 20s to develop an impressive level of muscularity (see Shannon Courtney before she retired from bodybuilding), for the most part it takes years and years of strategic dieting, lifting, supplementation, and preparation in order to get really big. A woman who takes up bodybuilding at the age of 20 isn’t going to go from looking like Taylor Swift and transform into Debi Laszewski by the time she turns 21. It doesn’t work that way. She may need a half a dozen years before she can even start to resemble Ms. Laszewski.

Betty Pariso putting women half her age to shame.

Betty Pariso putting women half her age to shame.

Or, perhaps she ends up not having the drive, inclination, or support systems necessary to ever look like Debi. Maybe she sets her sights on being a full-time bodybuilder at 20-years-old and gives up two or three years later because she’s broke, penniless, and without a steady income stream. No matter what your goals are, it’s difficult to attain them when you don’t know where your next paycheck is coming from.

But even if you do have what it takes to become a professional bodybuilder, it still takes an incredible amount of time to get to an elite level. “Elite” is a word we often throw around casually. But it shouldn’t be used like that. An elite bodybuilder is someone who belongs in a category with only eight or nine other individuals on planet Earth at the most. Even becoming a non-elite bodybuilder is still tough sledding. Attaining a figure similar to that of Emery Miller is still super impressive. However, even that takes lots of time and effort.

It’s definitely possible to achieve the “fit” or “athletic” look after a year or so, but that’s not necessarily what we’re talking about. We have nothing against fitness models, bikini competitors or “normal” women who love to go to the gym, but what really gets our hearts racing are the large female bodybuilders who can bend steel with their bare hands, crush a watermelon between their legs and carry another human being on their back effortlessly. That sort of body is something else entirely. That kind of body doesn’t just develop after running on the treadmill a few minutes per day. That requires a whole set of lifestyle changes that only a few select are willing to implement from start to finish. These are the kind of women we’re dealing with.

So, the “older woman” fetish is attached to female muscle fetishism almost by default. Many female bodybuilders tend to be older. Therefore, guys who love big female bodybuilders also, by extension, love older women.

But is it really that simple?

Perhaps not. In Female Muscle Growth fiction and art, the protagonists tend to be younger women who miraculously become big and buff as quickly as it takes to snap your fingers. Sometimes they’re high school girls. Other times they’re just very young adult women. Nevertheless, there exists a large segment of the female muscle fandom universe who lusts after younger women with big muscles.

However, there does exist a group of folks (myself included) who love strong women and older women at the same time. When I fantasize about making love to women like Denise Masino, Amber DeLuca or Yaxeni Oriquen-Garcia (all of them are in their late 40s), the fact they aren’t being mistaken for college co-eds is part of what makes them so desirable. Because these women are older, they’re also:

  • Wiser
  • Sexually skilled
  • Accomplished
  • Experienced in the highs and lows of life
  • Better connected to the human condition
  • Well-versed in what the world has to offer
  • More emotionally and intellectually refined

This isn’t to say that younger people (male or female) can’t also be these things, but years of experience walking on this Earth cannot be easily replicated or substituted. Life can be incredibly complex, with positives and negatives that can hit you from all angles. Perhaps this is why the “older woman” fetish exists. There’s something incredibly sexy about a woman who’s seen it all, experienced it all, and doesn’t have the time nor the inclination to fool around. She knows what she wants, doesn’t want, and will not apologize for either. That’s hot.

Nice view of Dayana Cadeau.

Nice view of Dayana Cadeau.

A woman with muscles is something else. Not only is she wiser and worldly, she’s also strong as hell and beautiful in ways that are indescribable. If Sigmund Freud were a participant in this discussion, he’d point out the fact that strong older women are a sexualized symbol (or surrogate) of our mothers. When we were little kids, we looked up to our moms as being physically and emotionally strong. We still may feel that way today as adults, but as children this was true both literally and figuratively. I’m no expert at Freudian psychology, but I’d wager a guess that there’s probably some element of truth at play here.

We may not consciously consider an older muscular woman to be a quasi-maternal figure in our lives, but deep inside the recesses of our brains we might make that connection. In our secret imaginations, we yearn for a strong older muscular woman to cradle us in her arms just as our moms did when we were young and helpless.

This may shed some light on the fetish of “lift and carry” sessions. Our moms held us in her arms when we were babies, so we desire for a female bodybuilder to do the same when we’re adults. I don’t think this explanation is definitive or all-encompassing, but there’s undeniably a rational argument to be made.

I’ve met female bodybuilders who have children that are my age or close to it. I’ve met female bodybuilders who may not have children at all but if they did, they’d be in my age range. Does this reality cross my mind when I’m actively engaging with them in a muscle worship session? Not really, but it does occur to me later after the appointment is over. How can it not?

Perhaps our female muscle fetishism is beneath the surface a longing for returning to our childhood. We crave nostalgia in a pseudo-sexual manner of a time when female authority figures (which can also include school teachers) ruled over our lives. Our fetishes would be totally understood by King Oedipus and Queen Jocasta, a son/mother combo from Greek mythology who ended up marrying and having four children with each other. Gross? You bet it is, but ancient mythology is rarely ever pleasant or polite to contemplate.

Without getting too deep into the weeds, let’s shift gears and talk about the physical attributes of an older muscular woman. She possesses one striking quality that “normal looking” women her age do not: tightness.

No, not the tightness of her vagina! Although, that could be the case. I’d ask you to get your mind out of the gutter, but mine is there as well so I’m in no position to scold you. Instead, I’m talking about the tightness and hardness located everywhere on her body. As a general rule, the older you get the softer and flabbier you also get. Your belly gets bigger. Your arms and breasts start to sag. Your skin gets wrinkled. Once again, it’s inevitably going to happen to all of us, regardless of who we are. Our hormones change. We don’t metabolize food like we used to. We’re less active and possess less energy. It stinks, but it is what it is.

Age doesn't seem to ever affect Yaxeni Oriquen.

Age doesn’t seem to ever affect Yaxeni Oriquen.

But, a muscular woman can delay or hide the effects of aging. Instead of feeling a sagging arm with loose skin, you feel bulging hardness that seems like can burst at any moment. An FBB’s muscularity allows her body to not only defy the inevitable breaking down caused by aging; it empowers her to surpass the perceptual limits of human achievement.

More than that, obviously a muscular woman doesn’t look any younger or older than a non-bodybuilder of the same age bracket. But we need to remember that youthfulness isn’t just defined by looks. It also includes personality, attitude, and one’s outlook on life. A female bodybuilder defies aging not because she physically looks younger, but because she’s refused to give in to the idea that impressive accomplishments is only monopolized by the young.

She’s strong. She’s vibrant. She’s driven. She’s motivated. She’s dynamic. She’s energetic. She’s goal-oriented. She refuses to accept failure as an outcome. She’s proud of her body. She’s permitted herself to remain sexually vivacious well after her non-muscular peers have gone past their peak. She doesn’t just extend her window of opportunity of being erotically desirable; she shatters it with a sledgehammer and believes it can last forever.

A female bodybuilder without question gets sexier with age. Not because a youthful woman with big muscles is somehow inferior to an older woman with big muscles, but because the older woman carries with her a level of wisdom, experience, and sex appeal that the younger woman cannot. Like the clichéd analogy of fine wine getting better with age, a newer bottle of wine still can taste pretty darn good with your juicy ribeye dinner. But if you wait long enough, that same bottle of wine will taste that much better after some proper aging.

Indeed, age is just a number. Youth has nothing to do with the number of birthday candles that’s on top of your cake. It has everything to do with what you choose to do with your life. That’s as simple as it gets. Undoubtedly, female bodybuilders live their lives to the fullest.

You Don’t Have to Like Every Female Bodybuilder

Who doesn't like Cindy Landolt?

Who doesn’t like Cindy Landolt?

There’s a strange misconception out there that people who like female bodybuilders are “into” every single female bodybuilder in existence.

I’d venture a guess and say that a lot of us appreciate most muscular women, but not all. Thanks to the Internet and social media, FBBs can promote themselves in ways that were unimaginable twenty years ago. Today, a muscular woman with a prominent number of followers can post a picture of herself on Instagram (at no cost) and immediately have tens of thousands of people see it within minutes. Wow. Not even ten years ago was this possible. What a time we live in.

Because of this, we are exposed to thousands of women of all shapes and sizes who gladly post photos of themselves at little to no cost to the consumer. Celebrities, singers, models (and wannabe models), politicians, athletes, and the like are out there for our prying eyes to witness. Without social media, do any of us think Kim Kardashian would be nearly as popular as she is today? Maybe so, but her Q Score would not be nearly as high.

What exactly is a Q Score? It’s a metric that measures the familiarity and appeal of a brand, celebrity or company based on a panel of judges pulled from the general population. Obviously, people like Leonardo DiCaprio and Katy Perry have extremely high Q Scores. For the general population, Lisa Cross and Debi Laszewski do not have high Q Scores. However, among female muscle fanatics, these ladies are off the charts. But sadly, not everyone appreciates strong muscular women like some of us do.

Due to this fairly low profile, many people in society tend to group all muscular women into one singular cluster. They’re the big, brawny she-males you see with gross looking faces, man-like muscles, and excessive body hair in places where hair shouldn’t exist. We all know this stereotype exists. To be fair, there are some female bodybuilders who do (to an extent) fit this profile. But there are plenty out there who do not. There are lots of female bodybuilders who are just as “feminine” as any “normal” woman.

Wake up! Victoria Dominguez says it's time for school.

Wake up! Victoria Dominguez says it’s time for school.

Perhaps that’s the key. People who do not like FBBs look at one or two and think that’s how they all are. So when they find out that someone they know really digs women with muscles, they automatically conjure up in their minds all the negative stereotypes they’ve previously held about female bodybuilders. No matter how much you insist your attraction to them is completely normal, preconceived notions can be hard to break.

One can like muscular women without liking all muscular women. Yes, this is possible. Just like it’s possible to love Japanese food but at the same time despise wasabi, female muscle fandom isn’t an “all or nothing” proposition. We all have discriminatory tastes, even when it comes to strong women.

So the lesson to be learned is simple. You don’t have to like every female bodybuilder. You should respect every single female bodybuilder on planet Earth (unless they’ve done something in their lives that you find morally objectionable), but that’s a given. But it’s perfectly fine to be attracted to some but not to others. It’s socially acceptable to find certain personality traits desirable and others repulsive. Beauty is, as the age-old cliché goes, in the eye of the beholder.

My preferences are quite pointed in the direction of Sheila Bleck.

My preferences are quite pointed in the direction of Sheila Bleck.

But of course, it’s not that simple. I understand why some of us get defensive about our beloved FBBs, even if we ourselves don’t particular like some of them. I once tried to set up a muscle worship session with an FBB who, for reasons I still cannot figure out, was supremely rude to me. I think there was some miscommunication going on between us, but regardless I felt like she could have handled matters better. Nevertheless, I don’t judge every single FBB as being difficult to deal with just because I had one negative experience. If anything, I might give them the benefit of the doubt because of how much I love and respect them. So there’s that.

For many FBB fans, to admit that you don’t find all FBBs attractive is to open the door toward legitimizing hateful criticisms of these women. That’s why a lot of (or maybe most) social movements tend to view the world in black and white terms. There are absolutely evil people out there and absolutely pure and virtuous people as well. If you’re sympathetic to folks in the latter category, you might be more inclined to overlook their flaws because you don’t want to provide unwanted ammunition to those so-called “evil people” who don’t happen to like “your people” as much as you do. I won’t get into specifics (in order to avoid a shouting match in the comments section), but hopefully you understand where I’m going with this.

This is why I won’t say anything negative about any particular FBB. I won’t even mention the name of the person I just referred to earlier. Heck, I don’t even reveal the identity of the women I write about in positive terms! Maybe I’m being a little too overprotective. Whatever. It’s better to be safe than sorry, I say.

All of this is to say that we’re allowed to have different preferences. Personal choice is an inalienable human right. If you prefer slimmer, “toned” women as opposed to bigger bodybuilders, that’s okay. If you are genuinely disgusted by the large female bodybuilders who compete in the heavyweight category but you get uncontrollably turned on by the “athletic look” instead, I’m not one to judge. There’s plenty of room in the Beautiful Strong Women Lovefest Train. All aboard! Choo, choo!

Cute pink dress, Tarna Alderman.

Cute pink dress, Tarna Alderman.

So in your own minds, you can like or dislike whatever you choose to like or dislike. I will never tell you that you’re wrong. I can tell you that you’re misguided or blinded by prejudice, but that’s not the same thing as “calling out” someone for being in the wrong. However, in the public sphere, I totally get why you tend to get defensive whenever some random Internet troll decides to defame the good names of Shannon Courtney or Danielle Reardon. I’d probably react in the same way, to be perfectly honest.

But I don’t, generally speaking. I don’t have the time nor the inclination to respond to trolls or skeptics. Or people who aren’t trying to start an argument but say something derogatory about a muscular woman anyway. Nah, life is too short to deal with that kind of commotion. I accept the fact (tacitly, perhaps) that not everyone will accept the unique beauty of a muscular woman into the “mainstream” of society. That’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, for that matter. But that’s not a huge tragedy either. There are enough fans like us who adore these women that an aspiring female bodybuilder will never feel unappreciated. Mainstream culture may not completely embrace them, but there are lots of subcultures who will. I realize the word “subculture” tends to carry deviant connotations, but that’s not actually the case. There are countless subcultures in our world. Almost in a literal sense, countless. Many of them are more prevalent than we think. It’s not just talked about. I sincerely believe female muscle fandom is one of them.

Take this message to heart, female muscle supporters out there in the wide, wide world. You don’t have to like every muscular woman you happen to come across on the Internet. Some of you like big beefy bodybuilders. Others of you like smaller, figure competitors. There are folks whose cup of tea is beautiful, feminine athletic women with curves in all the right places. And believe it or not, there are people in this world who really love “normal” looking women who can display feats of strength (either real or pretend) when called upon to do so.

Our fandom stretches across a wide spectrum. I am in no position to say what a “real” female muscle enthusiast is supposed to like or dislike. There are no “real” FBB fans just as there are no “fake” FBB fans. What tears apart fandom culture – whether we’re talking about comic books or punk rock – is infighting from within. This is why I don’t really spend a whole lot of time browsing and posting on female muscle-related forums. I am not against anyone who does, but that sort of thing isn’t for me.

Life is too short to deal with unnecessary negativity.

This isn’t to say that this sort of infighting is common. I have no clue if it is or not. This is also to dispel the myth that people like us who appreciate strong women are unequivocally head-over-heels attracted to all strong women. Everyone has different tastes, which is perfectly fine. Personally, my appreciation range is quite wide. I still get distracted by the cute girl at the gym just as I am by photos of Lindsay Mulinazzi that randomly pop into my Facebook feed. I’m fairly open-minded in that respect. You certainly don’t have to be, but it never hurts!

Do you like the vascular look of Cris Goy Arellano?

Do you like the vascular look of Cris Goy Arellano?

Here’s a message for female muscle skeptics out there: You don’t need to find the most grotesque photo of a female bodybuilder who has abused steroids for far too long and shove it in our faces and ask us incessantly, “So, do you like THIS?” That’s unfair. That’s mean spirited. It’s okay for us to say “no” and not be a “sell out” toward the Female Muscle Cause. I’ll be honest here. There ARE a handful of FBBs in this world that I don’t particularly think are attractive. Yes, a few actually disgust me. But that doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things. I’m still a committed female muscle fan through and through. My Female Muscle Fan membership card won’t be revoked.

Personal choice. It’s what makes us autonomous human beings. It’s what makes us flawed, but it’s what makes us who we are as people. We have the right to choose what we like and don’t like, what we think is beautiful and what we find to be ugly, what our favorites are and what we’d rather not have to deal with if we can. It all boils down to personal choice.

Thanks to the Internet, we’re exposed to beautiful women of all shapes and sizes. In an age that celebrates diversity and opens the doors to anyone to publicly express themselves, we have more freedom to choose what we want to be into and what we don’t want to be into. There are lots of beautiful women out there. Don’t put any of them into a box. Nor us.

What a time we live in, indeed.

The Impeccable Female Form

Would I consider Jay Fuchs to be "perfect?" In a word, "yes!"

Would I consider Jay Fuchs to be “perfect?” In a word, “yes!”

What defines the perfect female body?

It’s a more difficult question to answer than you’d think. For those of us who are attracted to women, we just know beauty when we see it. We can’t describe it. We can’t explain it. We can’t quantify it. We just know what a beautiful female body looks like whenever we are fortunate enough to come across one.

If you took a poll of hundreds of straight men (and perhaps some lesbian women) to describe the “perfect female form,” the answers you’d get would probably be pretty predictable:

Gorgeous face.

Big boobs.

Sleek arms.

Long, smooth legs.

Rounded butt.

Hour-glass hips.

Curved back.

Yadda, yadda, yadda. Certain adjectives may change, but the general idea stays the same. Our collective definition of the perfect female form is for the most part fairly uniform.

But for fans of female bodybuilders, our personal definition of perfection is significantly different. We prefer not sleek arms, but bulging arms. We love long legs, but we’d rather gaze upon veiny thighs the size of tree trunks. We love calves big enough to crush a watermelon. We love breasts just like any other guy, but we’re perfectly willing to sacrifice noticeable cleavage if it means her broad pecs are allowed to shine boldly.

Everyone has a different definition of “perfect.” The results from this imaginary poll may be varied, but odds are they will share in common the aesthetic we’ve come to accept in today’s world: a perfect combination of slenderness with curves.

Call it the “Marilyn Monroe Look.” Or what Cindy Crawford was back in the 1990s. Or Kim Kardashian today. Famous sex icons come and go, but beauty is more or less timeless. True, historians will point out that light skin was considered beautiful back in the Middle Ages because it demonstrated wealth and prestige. People with tan skin were considered poor because they had to labor outdoors all day long, as opposed to their pale skinned peers who had servants do their dirty work instead. Today, almost the exact opposite is in vogue. Tanned skin communicates healthiness, vitality and trendiness. There’s a reason why tanning salons are so darn popular. Tanning practically seems like a full-time job for some people these days. Giving people tans definitely is, that’s for sure.

A vast majority of us would consider the women you see on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit magazines or featured in Victoria’s Secret ads to be the peak of female beauty. The names and faces may change over time, but atypical-looking women usually don’t find themselves so widely plastered across such media. Caitlyn Jenner being a unique exception, what most of us consider “beautiful” can typically be widely agreed upon.

So this begs the question: If beauty is, by and large, relatively universal, can the same go for perfection? Is the “perfect female form” something we can widely recognize? Or do differences of opinion make this conversation moot?

Marilyn Monroe, the greatest sex icon of her generation, perhaps of all time.

Marilyn Monroe, the greatest sex icon of her generation, perhaps of all time.

The best way to answer this question is to pose yet another question: What specifically defines “perfect?” In baseball parlance, a “perfect game” is when a starting pitcher retires all 27 batters in a row without giving up a single hit, walk, hit-batter or error. No one reaches first base in a nine inning ballgame under any circumstances whatsoever. Even if an error is committed by a defensive player, which is obviously not the fault of the pitcher, the perfect game is undone. If the center fielder accidentally drops a can-of-corn pop fly, the perfect game ends, even if 99.999999 percent of the time he makes that catch.

So, in baseball, “perfect” isn’t a passive state of being; it’s an accomplishment. Something isn’t perfect simply by being deemed perfect. Perfection isn’t passive. It’s active. It requires work. It requires meticulous labor to reach a goal. Leonardo da Vinci’s “La Joconde” (better known as the “Mona Lisa”) didn’t happen by accident. He didn’t just splatter paint onto a canvas Jackson Pollock-style and call it good. Rather, he put much thought into his process and painstakingly worked to render his creation. That’s why art critics call it a “masterpiece.” That’s also why these same critics cringe at what is known today as “modern art.” While it could be bold and expressive, a lot of the modern art you see hung up at respectable museums don’t appear to be that artistic. I’m no art connoisseur myself, but I can certainly see the difference between a Rembrandt and a dried up piece of animal dung meant to represent the existential nihilism derived from our excessive militaristic oppressive capitalistic Euro-American-centric hetero-normative patriarchy.

What just happened? I don’t know.

The point is that perfection is an end goal, not just a mere label we place onto an object. The Impeccable Female Form is perhaps not just an opinion, but a commentary on the state of femaleness, cultural aesthetic and male/female dichotomy. For example, Michelangelo’s sculpture of David is considered a Renaissance masterpiece. Created in the early 16th century, the marble male nude of the Biblical hero David represents the height of human power. In the Old Testament, David was a hero who defeated his enemies with help from the Almighty. David is The Man if there ever was anyone who deserved that nickname.

The sculpture, at the time, symbolized the zenith of the human form. Standing tall and proud, David’s muscular stature and overwhelming confidence should instill fear into his enemies. Not even the mighty Goliath stood a chance against our celebrated hero. Meant to signify the fierce independence of the Republic of Florence, between 1501 and 1504 Michelangelo crafted his legendary masterwork with the political implications of power, authority and the almost God-like importance of one man on Earth, in mind.

In David, we’re supposed to see exactly that. A man with God-like implications here on Earth. Thus, in a very literal sense, David perhaps was supposed to represent the Impeccable Human Form. In a world dominated by men, “human” became synonymous with “male.” Female beauty was almost kept in a separate category. Male beauty was human beauty. If humans were created in the image of God, it make sense a perfect looking human would be the closest we can ever get to actually witnessing God up-close-and-personal.

"David" by Michelangelo.

“David” by Michelangelo.

The perfect human form, therefore, now has the element of the divine attached to it. If men are gods, are women goddesses?

The answer is unequivocally “yes.” Women are indeed goddesses. A perfect female form would in fact be a close reflection of divinity, just as male perfection was once considered. Zeus may be wholly powerful among all gods, but Athena shouldn’t be disrespected in her own right. The ancient Greeks believed the gods in the heavens shaped the affairs of the men and women below. They even personified their gods into the images of men and women. How interesting.

This is a long way of getting to the point that should be obvious to us all: the Impeccable Female Form should reflect the same strength, gracefulness, power and beauty we’ve come to appreciate in today’s female bodybuilders. Alas, our much beloved muscle bunnies aren’t just athletes. They’re symbols of human perfection. And they didn’t get that way by accident or privilege. They earned it with their sweat, dedication, hard work and treasure.

Like a pitcher tossing a perfect game or a bowler rolling a perfect game, they had to earn their stripes. David, likewise, wasn’t deified (as much as a mortal man can be) arbitrarily. He had to go out and defeat Goliath. Then he had to rise through the ranks and become King of Judah. Whether you’re religious or not is not the point here. The point is that perfection is never granted passively. You have to earn it every step of the way.

This explains why many women (and men) resort to plastic surgery, fad diets and unauthorized medication (which may or may not be effective) to achieve the “perfect look.” Most of us are not born flawlessly beautiful. Most of us look at Monica Bellucci on the silver screen and think to ourselves; “I’ll never look that beautiful because she was born that way.”

Indeed, beauty is genetic. There’s no escaping that fact. No amount of makeup or trips to the surgeon’s office will undo what Mother Nature (a.k.a., your family’s gene pool) gave you. However, we’re not necessarily talking about facial beauty. We’re talking about the human form, which is what your silhouette looks like. We’re referring to not what you look like in a mirror, but what you look like behind a white screen and bright light.

As a young lad growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s, ex-WWF diva Rena Mero was my first major celebrity crush.

As a young lad growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s, ex-WWF diva Rena Mero was my first major celebrity crush.

You can, to a point, control what your silhouette looks like. Female bodybuilders are doing that every single day of their lives. What they choose to eat, when they choose to eat, when and how they lift weights, when they sleep, what supplements they take…all of these choices are carefully made to ensure their bodies can look a certain way. Crafting a perfect combination of muscularity, symmetry and femininity, FBBs are truly artists in every sense of the word. Just as our friend Michelangelo sculpted with marble, FBBs work with their own flesh and blood. Sounds pretty hardcore, doesn’t it?

If we assume female bodybuilders to be artists, are they not working toward the goal of attaining perfection? Even world champion bodybuilders should never rest on their laurels and assume they’ve “arrived.” That sort of complacency breeds mediocrity. The mindset of a champion dictates that you constantly work toward self-improvement, regardless of what people say or how tangibly “good” you already are at your sport. In this respect, female bodybuilders (and their male counterparts) are indeed artists, striving toward sculpting their perfect masterpiece with the materials given to them by God. As Amedeo Modigliani used a paintbrush and palette as his tools, a bodybuilder uses dumbbells, barbells, and food as theirs.

So it makes perfect sense for the Impeccable Female Form to come from a bodybuilder. After all, they “earn” their physique through hard work, dedication, scientific precision and sacrifice. No one wants “perfection” to be a product of passive entitlement. A slender looking woman may in fact be beautiful, but isn’t there something to be said for a physique that’s very darn difficult to attain? Looking like Alina Popa is a challenge that only an elite number of women will ever be able to achieve. Her flawless balance between being highly muscular and unquestionably feminine makes her as unique of an athlete as there’s ever been. And that is no exaggeration.

This is not to disrespect or discount the challenges of maintaining a “traditional” feminine look. The point of this blog post isn’t to shame or condemn any particular body type. Instead, I’m trying to illustrate a larger point: the ideal female form – or perhaps, better yet, the quintessential female form – should lean more toward the muscular than the skinny. Bulky rather than thin. Bigger instead of smaller. You get the idea.

The simple argument that the Impeccable Female Form should be that of a bodybuilder implies that strength should be a crucial facet to femininity. Ignore any of that talk about the “weaker sex.” That’s complete and total nonsense. If we genuinely want to lift up women as being strong, independent beings, this paradigm shift is a welcomed first step. Aesthetically speaking, if the Impeccable Female Form is defined as being muscular, curvy and strong – does this not communicate empowerment more than mere words? Words are cheap. Action is not.

Besides making an obvious feminist statement, a Muscular Feminine Ideal does more to break down negative stereotypes than anything else. For as much as our society preaches the importance of “female empowerment,” how seriously do we accept this? Do we truly mean that, or are we more interested in patting ourselves on the back and verbalizing what we want instead of actually pursuing what we want to see change? I leave the answer to these questions to you.

Whether or not anyone will ever accept this frame of mind is not the point. Not everyone will agree that muscularity should have anything to do with how we define female beauty. Nor should we all agree to this. But as female muscle fans, we share the inherent belief that there’s a reason why we love strong women beyond simple lust. I believe that wholeheartedly. We may not explicitly know it, but we know female bodybuilders represent something bigger. A female bodybuilder isn’t just a competitive athlete; no different than a soccer player, basketball player or tennis player. We know they belong in a separate category apart from the rest. Am I right?

Indeed, there is something noteworthy going on. Bodybuilders, both male and female, symbolize the highest form of human achievement. They represent the human being at its pinnacle of perfection. There’s a reason why Michelangelo chose to portray David as a strong warrior instead of a skinny average Joe. Wonder Woman may not traditionally be illustrated as being muscular, but you definitely can tell the artists who draw her would definitely do that if they were given more lenient creative license. That might not help them sell more comic books per se, but they would be making a pretty bold statement in doing so.

The Impeccable Female Form personified in Lindsay Mulinazzi.

The Impeccable Female Form personified in Lindsay Mulinazzi.

Deep down inside, female muscle fans wish more women in society looked like Larissa Reis or Shannon Courtney. Not necessarily out of selfish fetishistic reasons (although that is a major part of it), but because we truly believe society would be better for it. The Impeccable Female (and Male) Form isn’t just about determining what kind of eye candy we like best. It’s more than that. It’s about maximizing what it means to be a human being, a creation of God (or whatever higher power you believe in). If we assume the Imago Dei theological concept to be ingrained into Western culture, we take on the belief that bodybuilders of all genders are doing what they can to become Divine.

Not in a literal sense, but in a figurative sense. A muscular man or woman isn’t actually a god, but they’re the closest we can get here on Earth.

So, what exactly defines the perfect female body? Divine. Intentional. Elite. Strong. Powerful. Potent. Authoritative. Commanding. Muscular. All of these things.

Regardless of your ideological or theological background, every single female muscle fan knows the women they love are bigger – and not just literally – than most of the people we encounter day-in and day-out. They represent something tangibly deific. We don’t refer to them as “goddesses” for no good reason.

Oh yeah. Goddess. I do seem to recall that label being put onto a female bodybuilder at least once or twice. Now we all know why that is. We view them as belonging to a higher status than the rest of us. They’re gods among men, or goddesses among women. We intrinsically know this to be true.

The Impeccable Female Form explains all of this. Muscles are a form of physical Nirvana that every one of us is striving to achieve. Maybe not in any practical sense, but we feel it intuitively. I’ve never considered my love for female muscle to have a spiritual component, but the more I think about it, perhaps it does.

Maybe we female muscle fans are helping usher in a new age of Enlightenment. Are we the forbearers of a shift toward a higher level of Consciousness?

Uh, yeah. Probably not. But it sure is fun to think about. This is probably overthinking things, but life is too short to shortchange yourself. Don’t be afraid to take pride in your female muscle fandom. You may not be a modern day culture warrior, but you are definitely on the right track. Muscular women are beautiful, and our world would be a better place if every man, woman and child felt that way.

Can I get an “amen?”

A Word on the Social and Political Implications of Being a Female Muscle Fan

We need more of Paige Hathaway on the covers of magazines.

We need more of Paige Hathaway on the covers of magazines.

Equality between the sexes.

It’s a topic of discussion our world has been having for some time now. Schools, churches, workplaces, universities, homes, gyms, bars, everywhere. What kind of a society do we want to achieve? What should the proper relationship be between men and women? In what ways are men and women different? Are these differences inherent or are they completely a product of cultural subjectivity?

While women have made tremendous strides in making high achievements in traditionally male-dominated sectors such as business, politics, media, sports and entrepreneurship, there is still a lot to be desired in terms of giving every single person on planet Earth a fair shot at reaching their dreams. This isn’t any one particular person’s fault, however. It’s a group effort to make our world a better place.

At first glance, one would think that men who love muscular women would be at the forefront of gender equality and other like-minded causes. But the truth is, this is not necessarily true.

In observing from a distance the world of female muscle fandom, there doesn’t appear to be any overt political or social motivations underlying people’s love for female muscle. No doubt the men (and women) who love female bodybuilders and athletes also hold a diverse range of political, social, religious and philosophical beliefs. There doesn’t appear to be any obvious trend in any particular direction.

A rising star in the world of female bodybuilding, Sheronica Sade Henton.

A rising star in the world of female bodybuilding, Sheronica Sade Henton.

That being said, generally speaking men who love muscular women do so without any explicit social agendas. Lust, as it were, is as simple as it can get. Human attraction is as basic a force as anything our species can experience. Without it, how would we reproduce and continue the cycle of life?

So, along those same lines, men who love strong women may not necessarily do so for any feminist or quasi-feminist reasons. Being wildly attracted to Catherine Holland isn’t an act of social justice. None of us lust after Debi Laszewski because we’re trying to right some historical wrong. We aren’t channeling our inner 1920’s era First Wave Feminist by drooling over photos of Sheronica Sade Henton. Some of us may also carry these personal beliefs, but they are not necessarily an explanation to why we choose to lust over these women.

There might be an element, however, of equal-mindedness present in all aspects of female muscle fandom. After all, those of us who willingly pay handsome amounts of money for muscle worship, wrestling or BDSM sessions with female bodybuilders/athletes/fitness enthusiasts wouldn’t do so unless we carried a certain degree of admiration for these women. We wouldn’t be participating in these activities unless we thought highly of these ladies and the hard work they put into sculpting their much-earned physiques.

On the flip side, there definitely could still be traces of sexism present in one’s female muscle fandom. Some guys, unfortunately, still treat these beautiful women as mere pieces of meat whose only purpose is to satisfy their selfish sexual fetishes. When you treat someone as a means to an end instead of an end unto themselves, you dehumanize them. Yes, there’s nothing wrong with the profession of being an “erotic provider,” and fetishism will inevitably enter into the equation, but that’s still no excuse to ignore the woman’s humanity. She’s a flesh and blood human being just like you. She’s trying to make her way through this harsh and confusing world just like you or anybody else.

Another aspect to this conversation is the concept of fetishism itself. As defined by the dictionary, a “fetish” is “any object or nongenital part of the body that causes ahabitual erotic response or fixation.”

Feet, leather, feces, handcuffs, and other things fall into this category. So do muscles. So when we consider the concept of fetishism, we’re going to get into some murky territory. We lust after female bodybuilders because we get turned on by their muscles. Does that mean we treat female bodybuilders as just muscles and not human beings? No, not really. But we can’t pretend like her muscles aren’t absolutely crucial to our fascination with her.

To fetishize a female bodybuilder’s muscles isn’t to dehumanize her. If you lust after her muscles and disregard everything else about her, that would be dehumanizing her. If you act like she’s a worthless whore whose muscles are there purely for your own enjoyment, that’s a terrible way to treat a person. But by and large, that attitude isn’t too pervasive in the female muscle fandom community.

Who wants to work out with Renee West?

Who wants to work out with Renee West?

So, while fetishizing a type of person doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dehumanizing them, it could lead you down a dark path if you aren’t careful of how you express that fetish. Being attracted to a woman’s muscles is perfectly okay. Treating her like garbage isn’t.

Returning back to the subject of politics and society, do female muscle fans have an obligation to become a vocal champion for women’s rights, gender equality, and the like? In short, not really.

Social and political activism is a brutal monster unto itself. Systems that are intended to fight other systems tend to become systems unto themselves. Without getting on too high of a soapbox, let’s just say that social activism and female muscle fandom can live in separate spheres. One doesn’t have to be an admirer of female bodybuilding one day and march in an anti-sexism parade the next.

Part of the problem with modern day social activism is that many of its prominent adherents use tactics that we may find objectionable. Name-calling isn’t the best way to tell people not to name-call. Stifling debate by unmercifully mocking your opponents’ ideas doesn’t lead to anything productive. How many times have we seen activist movements operate more like a cult than a group of passionate people working toward solving a tangible problem? This is why female muscle fans don’t need to also be activists. Activism is, as previously stated, a beast in its own right.

Does this mean female muscle fandom is totally apolitical? Well, not quite.

If we argue from the assumption that “everything is political,” then one cannot escape political ramifications in every facet of life. Even for the most anti-political or politically apathetic female muscle lover out there, one cannot avoid making the strong social statement that’s embedded in our shared interest.

What is that social statement, exactly? Simple. Strong women are important. We swoon over them because they matter to us.  We can’t get enough of them because they stir up feelings inside us that are untamable. Our thirst for them is unquenchable. Whether we’re hardcore fans of the sport or admirers from a distance, strong women are intrinsically important to us. They pervade our thoughts and change the way to think about mainstream beauty standards. When you first “discover” the awe-inspiring world of female bodybuilding, you can’t remember why you never admired these women before.

Them biceps on Asha Hadley, though.

Them biceps on Asha Hadley, though.

Female muscle fandom isn’t just about lust. Sexuality, while important, isn’t the only prism through which our fascination can be understood. These women aren’t mere pieces of meat that we enjoy purely for primal, carnal reasons. They’re gorgeous and highly accomplished human beings who deserve endless praise.

There’s a reason why many of us engage in “muscle worship.” We worship them not in a literal way, but in a playful way that borders on the spiritual. There’s something very spiritual about being in the presence of a muscular woman. She doesn’t seem real. She is real. We know she’s real. But there’s something otherworldly about her. Her muscles aren’t just muscles. They’re an extension of her humanity. They don’t define her, but they complement her core identity.

Men who love strong women inevitably go through a mini-paradigm shift. They start to see potential in women that they never considered before. They become open to new standards of beauty. They also become open to new experiences. Men who love strong women might not transform into overnight social activists, but whatever negative stereotypes they once had about women and femininity can’t helped but be at the very least slightly altered.

A gorgeous lady from across the Atlantic Ocean, the lovely Laura Madge.

A gorgeous lady from across the Atlantic Ocean, the lovely Laura Madge.

Female weakness? Male superiority? Stigmatization of erotic service providers? These feelings may diminish over time. Or maybe your female muscle fandom has forced you to completely reconsider how you look at the world. That’s also possible.

Or maybe not. Perhaps your female muscle fandom only provided the attitude shift that women can lift at the gym like guys. Muscular women aren’t gross, but can be strikingly beautiful. We not be total equals, but we should try to treat everybody with respect as much as we can.

Maybe this is how we can achieve equality between the sexes. Not by shaming, isolating or attacking one another, but by teaching universal values of respect.

Now there’s a bold idea.