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.
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.
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.
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.
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.