It’s hard out there for a female bodybuilder.
There are, of course, the obvious reasons why. Her profession is being squeezed out of existence by The Powers That Be. Receiving weird looks from strangers. The pressures of working in a highly competitive field. The lifestyle. The dieting. The workouts. Financial troubles. How time consuming everything can be. There are more reasons, but one in particular stands out above the rest.
I’ve discussed at length the concept of female muscle fetishism from the perspective of a guy who has it. I’ve discussed what it feels like, misconceptions about it, why it’s not a bad thing and what lessons we can learn from it. But I am about to attempt to discuss this topic from a different perspective: That of a female bodybuilder.
Obviously I am not a female bodybuilder. I am not close friends with one nor do I regularly hang out with one. But, I’ve had enough conversations with real life female bodybuilders – through muscle worship sessions during the past three years – to be able to formulate at least a few half-way decent arguments on their behalf. I don’t claim to speak for any or all female bodybuilders, but perhaps I can attempt to step out of my own shoes and look at the world from their perspective momentarily.
I might fail miserably, but it’s worth a shot. So here we go.
Female muscle fetishism unfortunately opens the doors to a number of negative consequences. Female bodybuilders are stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, they can make quite a lot of money on the side by utilizing their assets for financial gain. On the other hand, having adoring fans always comes with backlash. Let’s look at the first point in further detail.
The lifestyle of being a female bodybuilder is difficult from a financial point of view. The costs of being a professional bodybuilder far outweigh whatever monetary rewards one gets in return. Competitions don’t usually garner enough money to live comfortably. Only the elite competitors are afforded the luxuries that come with being at the top. The rest, unfortunately, usually have to resort to working a second job (usually in personal training, modeling, consulting, and so on) just to make ends meet. It’s agonizing to not know where your next paycheck will come from.
So, a lot of female bodybuilders will turn to offering “sessions” as a way to supplement their income. Muscle worship, wrestling, BDSM and other erotically-charged services are what we’re talking about. One cannot deny that these sessions are erotic in nature. Even if no actual sex is involved – which is usually the case – eroticism is an integral part of what these sessions are all about.
Consequently, a lot of female bodybuilders are uncomfortable with this reality. Not everyone likes doing sessions, but they feel like they must in order to put food in the table. Sexuality is a very personal aspect to one’s life. So they have every reason to feel uneasy toward being an erotic provider. While it’s true that, technically speaking, nobody forces you to offer sessions to clients, it’s perfectly understandable why one wouldn’t be 100 percent comfortable with being involved in this underground business.
That being said, a session provider – whether you’re a bodybuilder, wrestler, athlete or someone whose physical attributes are in high demand – can make a significant amount of dough if she markets herself the right way. Let’s say you charge $350 per hour. If you see 10 clients over a period of two days, you can make around $3,500 for two days’ worth of work. If you subtract the cost of the airplane ticket you purchased to get to that city (around $600), booking the hotel room (an extra $200) and food expenses ($50, assuming you don’t bring your own food), you’re still making approximately $2,650 in a 48 hour period. Even if it’s less, let’s say $2,500 or as low as $1,700, that’s an average of $850-1,250 per day, or $106-156 per hour, from the basis of a traditional eight hour working day. And these are conservative estimates. Not every city stay will be that lucrative, but you can also expect certain visits to be more profitable than others.
My math can be totally off, but you can clearly see why so many FBBs provide sessions on the side. Travelling across the country (and the world, if you’re in that much demand) and seeing clients for an hour or two at a time can be a real boost to your bank account.
The financial rewards she can gain increase if she develops a loyal clientele in certain cities. Especially if she has one or two clients who are really loyal and are not against spending upwards of $500 to $600 for an extravagant session. I personally don’t have that kind of expendable income, but there are people out there who do. And they can make an FBB a small fortune if they love seeing her that much.
There is another way FBBs exploit their bodies for financial gain: Porn. Whether we’re talking about erotic photography, webcam shows or good old fashioned snuff films, we all know what we’re dealing with here. Further detail isn’t really necessary, but suffice to say, pornography is another viable way female bodybuilders can earn a steady income.
When a female bodybuilder chooses (and I cannot emphasize the word choose enough!) to do sessions, porn, or both, there’s no doubt that taking advantage of her erotic appeal is an undeniably important part of the business. There’s absolutely no obligation to do so of course, but the allure certainly is there for the taking. These financial opportunities are rooted in basic capitalistic principles, but this whole “off-the-books” business boils down to this essential ingredient: fetishism.
To review our terms for a moment, a “fetish” is “an object or bodily part whose real or fantasied presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification and that is an object of fixation to the extent that it may interfere with complete sexual expression.” To put it in proper context, it’s when guys and gals receive a strong sexual response to a female bodybuilder’s muscles. It’s no different than any other type of erotic fixation. But this discussion boils down to one very difficult question to answer:
Can you separate female muscle fandom from sexual fetishism?
Or, in other words, is it possible for female muscle fandom to be completely asexual? Certainly sports unto itself isn’t sexual. The ancient Greeks may have conducted their games in the nude, but that mostly was done because clothing can be a hindrance to an athlete’s performance. Today, we have top-of-the-line sports gear that makes that problem irrelevant. Wearing an Under Armor workout shirt almost feels like a second skin. But…we’re getting slightly off topic. Is it possible for our fascination with female muscle to be purely nonsexual? That’s a thought-provoking issue to chew on.
As discussed before, the sport of female bodybuilding has been sexualized to the point that the erotic aspect of it is probably more financially lucrative than the competitive side of it. To be fair, almost all female sports are sexualized, but that’s a whole other story. What makes bodybuilding (not just female bodybuilding, but male as well) special is the very fact that aesthetic appeal is so foundational to the sport itself. Nobody cares if you have a finely chiseled body if you can hit 40 home runs, rush for 1,500 yards or consistently hit clutch 3-pointers when it matters. Most of these athletes have fantastic looking bodies as it is, but their looks aren’t why they’re valuable. Their value is determined by their on-the-field production. For bodybuilders, their looks are all that matters.
It’s hard out there for a female bodybuilder, indeed. If it truly is impossible – or at the very least, highly difficult – to separate the sport from its erotic undertones, what do you do if you’re uncomfortable with expressing your sexuality so openly? If I were a female bodybuilder, I would have to be very comfortable with my sexuality, or else I would have to be forced to find a new day job. There’s no debate that eroticism, fetishism and the like are deeply embedded within the sport. But is that the way it has to be? Are there alternatives? Can female bodybuilding be genuinely asexual in nature?
To be honest, it can. But it won’t be easy. But that begs a further question: Why does it matter?
Or better yet: Is sexuality inherently a bad thing?
The fetish of female muscle is obviously a taboo subject. Heck, generally speaking the subject of sexuality as a whole is taboo. But from the perspective of a guy who’s attracted to strong women, it’s an especially weird topic of discussion. That’s why this often goes unspoken. From the perspective of a female bodybuilder, things are also probably pretty weird. But “weirdness” is not necessarily an indication of something being wrong. It could be an indication of something that we need to talk about more often.
But, stepping back into an FBB’s shoes for a moment, it’s perfectly understandable why the sport will always be in a tumultuous state. Incorporating sexuality into the industry keeps the ship afloat, but it can also degrade the sport into exploitative territory. Once you start to go down that path, how can you maintain a consistent level of respectability? There’s nothing wrong with sexuality, but must FBBs be reduced down to mere sex objects who exist solely to satisfy our base desires? The answer is an emphatic “no!”
Perhaps we can have it both ways. We can embrace the erotic nature of the sport without degrading the humanity of the participants. That sounds awesome in theory, but theory has a funny way of not always becoming standard practice.
This is an issue that FBBs and fans of FBBs will always wrestle with. I do not believe that sexualizing someone automatically degrades them. But I also believe it can if we allow it to happen. A female bodybuilder is caught in a perpetual cycle of disorder. Their sex appeal can make them superstars in the eyes of their adoring fans, but it also comes with negative consequences that are almost unavoidable.
So, is it fair to say that this is a “problem” every female muscle fan should be aware of? Well, yes and no. One should always be aware of the potential consequences of one’s actions. However, is it really fair to say that this is a problem to begin with? Is it inherently ruinous for sexuality to be so deeply engrained in the sport of female bodybuilding? Does the almost inseparable eroticism associated with the sport do a disservice to its competitors?
A positive first step is to think of these issues as not being “problems,” but rather things to consider. There is probably no perfect answer. It truly is hard for female bodybuilders and athletes to exist in a business that nearly works against them if they try to downplay their sexuality. As fans, we can hold both sports-related and erotic interests in these women without being degrading to them or to ourselves. But that fine line between appreciation and objectification can be hard to distinguish.
Being fetishized can be a strange thing. Having a fetish can also be strange. If we both admit what we know to be true in our hearts, do we really need to exist with all this pent-up tension? Sometimes the best solution to our problems isn’t to come to a mutual answer, but to a level of mutual understanding. Let’s seek to understand where we all stand and carry on from there, okay?