In Our Darkest Hours, We Celebrate the Best of Humanity

In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twenty, it is exceedingly easy to view our current state of affairs through a pessimistic lens.

Over here in the United States of America, this past week has been rough. Worldwide, the past three months have been a doozy. Nothing seems normal anymore. In calmer times, “boring” is considered a bad thing. Today, we’d all take “boring” in a heartbeat. I know I would.

Between COVID-19, economic shutdowns, financial anxieties, rampant unemployment, and here in the U.S., protests and riots caused by the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of police, it’s understandable why our opinion of humanity would be at its lowest. What started as an outrageous tragedy in Minneapolis has cascaded into a nationwide nightmare chock full of angry demonstrations, social unrest, riots, property destruction, reckless endangerment of innocent bystanders, and lives uprooted. It doesn’t appear as though the people smashing windows and burning down buildings have ever considered the negative effects this will have on poor people and racial minorities. But then again, thinking isn’t an activity an angry mob will often participate in while throwing bricks at car windshields.

It would be an overstatement (an insensitive one, to be exact) to say that this is our Darkest Hour. This isn’t blitzkrieg. This isn’t the Nazi invasion of Europe. This isn’t the Holodomor or the Holocaust or the Rwandan Genocide or the Tiananmen Square Massacre. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t hurting. Around the globe, the novel coronavirus is still killing thousands of people and causing social/economic/political destruction that will last for years to come. So this is less about our current situation and more about Bad Times in general, no matter what form it takes.

During the Bad Times, people often resort to enjoying the basic things that make life worth living. Food, cooking, music, art, movies, sports, literature, poetry, gardening, exercise, and so on. In times of uncertainty, we seek certainty. And enjoying a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs is certain to bring you joy. Or watching your favorite childhood movie. Or reading your favorite book again and again. Or tending to your plants. Or painting the sunset from the comfort of your back porch. We know that we’re in the midst of the Bad Times, but hopefully these storms will pass and we will see bright clear skies once again in short order.

But in addition to certainty (and stability), we also seek reminders of a better future. It’s not just relishing in past glories, but also looking forward to happier days ahead. And this can be done by appreciating humanity at its best. It’s easy to see humanity at its worst (just turn on the TV or scroll through endlessly terrible Twitter takes). But humanity at its best is right around the corner if you know where to look.

For me – and, I suspect, for many of you as well – I look to female bodybuilders as my shining beacon of hope. It didn’t occur to me until fairly recently that part of the reason why I admire female bodybuilders so much is because they represent the pinnacle of human achievement. They don’t shatter the glass ceiling. They prove to us that there is no ceiling to begin with. That ceiling is an artificial social construct that exists for no other reason than we think it exists. Unfortunately, believing it exists is enough to give it so much power.

But those who are able to escape from the limitations of other people’s narrow imaginations will find themselves accomplishing things they never knew were possible. Society says a woman with big muscles isn’t sexy. Alina Popa proves them wrong. Haters say men will never accept or celebrate female bodybuilders. The legions of guys who attend bodybuilding shows, pay for sessions, and support FBB entrepreneurs would like a word. Whenever you try to put an FBB into a box, she will inevitable break out of it and carry on with or without your approval.

When I see photos of Cindy Landolt, I see the Peak of Human Potential. Not “Female Potential,” but actual “Human Potential.” Miss Landolt is more than just a regular flesh-and-blood human being. Her body is art. Her life is a celebration of what it means to be human. Her achievements inspire those around her to become better. It’s as though Cindy has transcended her original form and reached a new level of purpose. Her purpose is to add beauty to the world. As long as she lives, Cindy is just like a rainbow, mountain range, cherry blossom tree, or sunrise over the horizon. She’s a beautiful part of nature who reminds us that the Good Times didn’t go away. They’ve just been temporarily overshadowed by the Bad Times.

FBBs will never become mainstream, but that’s not the point. My point is to demonstrate why female bodybuilders are important to our lives. We are deeply attracted to them, both physically and emotionally. During times of stress, tumultuousness, and social upheaval, we desire to be reminded of things that brought us happiness. For many of us, strong beautiful women bring us this happiness.

Instead of focusing on humanity at its worst – which is easy to do right now – we’d rather focus on humanity at its best. At its brightest. At its most inspirational. Female bodybuilders are just the magic elixir we need to satiate this craving. You cannot help but look at a female bodybuilder and think to yourself, “Damn! I didn’t know people could get that sexy!”

Indeed, such a feat is in fact possible. When I see photos and videos of female bodybuilders flexing their biceps, I see the limits of human potential being challenged. Expectations of what is or isn’t possible subverted. I see women who refuse to be shackled down by sexist beliefs and take matters into their own hands. Sometimes, quite literally. They’re picking up weights with their hands, with each repetition making them stronger and stronger and stronger. Just take 30 seconds to scroll through Jessica Sestrem’s IG account. Don’t tell me she looks “manly” or “unfeminine.” Don’t tell me her large muscles make her a tomboy. She’s as girly as someone can possibly be. And she has enormous biceps that put most guys to shame (even guys who regularly workout). If she were to get even bigger, do you doubt that she’ll continue to be as gorgeous as she currently is? I don’t.

No reasonable person expects FBBs to transform society at large. But for the small number of us who do appreciate these ladies for who they are, they offer us comfort during the Bad Times. The Dark Times. Our Darkest Hours. They remind us that humanity at its best can be as beautiful, aspirational, and transcendent as anything you can imagine. People can be terrible at times. But every once in a while, we deserve to have our faith rewarded. We deserve a sliver of light in a world of darkness.

Female bodybuilders are that light. Maybe not for everyone, but for us. No matter how insignificant that may seem, that’s all they need to be for us. A light.

Not a savior. Not a miracle. Not a cure for all that ails us. But a light. A bright shining light.

It may not seem like that’s enough. But it is. That’s more than enough.

Porn for the Whole Family

Debbie Bramwell showing off her best assets.

Since we are now living in the era of COVID-19 stay-at-home quarantine orders, families are spending more time together than they were before. Well, maybe since the Great Depression, which wiped out the global economy, drained our resources, and was followed by World War II.

So what are families up to these days? Watching lots of Netflix and Disney+, no doubt. The Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are pretty harmless. So is Star Wars. And that Michael Jordan documentary everyone’s been talking about. Or seeing what the latest trends on YouTube, Snapchat, or TikTok happen to be. Or playing too much Fortnite. If you have no idea what those things are, don’t feel bad for feeling old. We all get there eventually.

One thing I can guarantee not too many families are doing is sitting around the computer and watching videos of female bodybuilders.

Yeah, that’s probably not a trend that’s going to catch on, unlike baking your own bread, sewing your own facemasks, or learning dance moves you saw on Instagram. We may not call it by this name, but watching porn isn’t exactly a family-friendly activity.

However, as odd as this may sound, not all porn is explicit, dirty, or socially unacceptable.

Some porn is PG-13 clean. Fun for the whole family.

Huh?

Fans of female bodybuilders know full well two strange and not-so-contradictory things:

      1. Our taste in muscular women is unusual
      2. The way we enjoy muscular women isn’t too kinky

On the first point, it is true that female muscle fetishism isn’t too common. Or more specifically, it’s not an interest that many of us are open to admitting. It’s impossible to say how many people are “into” FBBs in any serious manner, so let’s not try to guess. But it’s probably safe to say it’s a relatively smaller number in relation to the total human population on Earth.

Lindsay Mulinazzi should have been a supermodel.

On the second point, it should be noted that not all FBB fans are built the same. Some people are really into the kinky stuff, such as femdom roleplaying, domination, submission, sadomasochism, and other such activities. Others, on the other hand, simply enjoy the look, feel, and personalities of muscular women. We love watching them flex their enormous biceps rather than fantasize about them pouring hot candle wax on our balls as they give us a blow job while hanging us upside down. There’s nothing wrong with the latter, but it’s inaccurate to say that this represents the whole herd.

FBB fans may be into some kinky stuff, but normally it’s within fairly mainstream boundaries. We want to do things with an FBB that isn’t radically different from what we would normally do with a non-muscular professional dominatrix.

Or, FBB fans love muscular women for perfectly, uh, “vanilla” reasons (for lack of a better term). We love their strength (both physical and emotional), their curves, their ripped muscles, their personalities, and their unique display of femininity. We love them in ways that aren’t particularly unusual or strange once you think about it. It may seem odd at first, but it gets less odd the more you empathize with our passions.

Case in point: Watch this really quick video of Debbie Bramwell. It’s very simple in its setup but unbelievably erotic.

Have you finished watching it yet? Good. Let’s proceed.

This format is common for many FBB videos you’ll encounter on the Internet: A female bodybuilder posing in a hotel room. Usually in very little clothing. Usually with either no music or some pop song from the 1980’s that you’ve already forgotten about. It’s simple, easy, budget-friendly, and devilishly effective.

Maggie Watson at the gym while showing off why she goes to the gym.

All you need is a female bodybuilder, sexy lingerie or swimsuit, a camera, and a private space to record your video. It doesn’t have to be a hotel room. It could be someone’s living room, bedroom, backyard, or public beach. But there’s no need for elaborate set pieces, BDSM paraphernalia, or CGI visual effects. You don’t need special effects to make these ladies super muscular. They’ve accomplished that on their own!

Getting back to this video, this is Debbie at her finest. This is, in the humble opinion of this writer, one of the most erotic videos you’ll ever find on the web. Is it the #1 sexiest video I’ve ever seen? Eh, no. But it’s certainly up there!

In it, Debbie is sitting on a hotel bed wearing white lace lingerie. She’s showing off her muscles for the camera, putting special emphasis on her immaculate arms. Her veiny biceps are a delightful sight to behold. Her dark tanned skin perfectly showcases every curve, vein, and muscle fiber. This is why lighter-skinned bodybuilders need to spray tan their bodies before appearing on a competition stage. Darker skin allows you to see their definition better. Debbie demonstrates here why that’s the case, as if that argument needs to be made. After you catch your breath and wait for your heart rate to return back to normal, you’ll notice a few noteworthy observations:

      1. The video is simple
      2. The video is highly erotic
      3. The video doesn’t contain any graphic nudity or sexual content
      4. The video is on YouTube, not Pornhub

The outfit Debbie is wearing is quite sexy, but it’s not out-of-the-ordinary. Other than her extraordinary large muscles, you could just as likely see this in a magazine ad, shopping mall, fashion catalog, promoted Facebook post, or TV commercial. In other words, the concept of this video isn’t out of the mainstream, even though the specific subject is. We see images of beautiful women in their underwear all the time, unless you live under a rock or on an Amish plantation. The only thing that’s unusual about this video is that the woman in question happens to have large muscles. Other than that, it’s pretty basic. Very vanilla.

But the response it generates from us is – without question – worthy of discussion. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, so I’ll do just that. This video is really, really, really sexy. I mean, unspeakably sexy. Indescribably sexy. Incomprehensibly sexy. Debbie isn’t my favorite FBB of all time (she’s not even in my top 10), but in this short video that’s not even a minute and a half, she quickly reminds me why I fell in love with female bodybuilders in the first place. They made me feel things that very few other things could. I am reminded of back when I was 12 years old and I was first introduced to women like Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra, Rena Mero (WWF’s Sable, for you kids who didn’t grow up in the 1990’s), Famke Janssen, and Monica Bellucci. As an adolescent boy, these women made my spine tingle, my vision turn hazy, and my, uh, private parts increase in blood flow. As I grew older, I figured those days would eventually fade away, as I become more desensitized to seeing beautiful women.

When you were a kid, do you remember walking past a store like this and wondering why mommy and daddy tried to distract you with promises of buying ice cream?

But then I discovered female bodybuilders at the tender age of 18. So 6 years after turning 12, I started to experience those same pubescent shenanigans all over again. Even today, re-watching this video of Miss Bramwell conjures up those same emotional responses. And I’m in my early 30s!

More so than any other video, I have such an uncontrollable urge to reach into my computer screen and rip off Debbie’s white lacey top. I want to see ALL OF HER. I can’t help it. It MUST happen. It’s a crime for her to wear that small piece of underwear. To cover up her beautiful body with such a meager piece of fabric. The same goes for her panties. WHY MUST SHE COVER UP THOSE PARTS OF HER? If she’s willing to show off 90% of her body, why can’t I see the other 10% of it? The fact she’d tease me like that seems almost cruel. I hope I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Then, eventually the rational part of my brain returns and talks some sense into me. Debbie is under no obligation to give me everything I want. From what I can tell, she keeps things really clean. She doesn’t do full nudity or participate in graphic sexual activities on camera. She keeps things PG-13 (or 12A for my readers in the United Kingdom). This is about as “explicit” as she gets. Yet, that is enough. The adult in me understands that not everyone is comfortable showing off everything. Everyone has their limits. And that is their prerogative.

The same could be said for Cindy Landolt, Theresa Ivancik, or Minna Pajulahti. They do not want to show us everything. Yet, they show us enough. And we should be grateful for that.

Need further examples? Sure you do!

Take a look at this two-minute video featuring Lindsay Mulinazzi. Or this gem from Alina Popa. What do all these videos have in common? You guessed it: They’re both unbelievably sexy and remarkably unexplicit.

Oh Cindy Landolt. How gorgeous are you?

Debbie, Lindsay, and Alina are dreams come true. They make us feel things in our souls that very few other things can. They make our hearts race a little faster and our breathing quicken. They make us want to relieve our built-up tension in, well, intimate ways that require privacy and maybe a little cleanup work afterward. These videos are highly erotic. They elicit physical and emotional responses out of us that more mainstream hardcore porn cannot replicate. This is, by definition, softcore porn. These women are dressed in ways that are perfectly acceptable at any public beach or water park. Open up the pages of Sports Illustrated or Vogue magazine and you’ll see women dressed exactly as they are. No need to purchase a contraband issue of Playboy or Hustler and hide it underneath your mattress. No need to open a private web browser and search through Pornhub. Nah, just do a simple search on YouTube and you can find all three of these gloriously simple videos.

And therein lies the contradiction at play here. When we think of the word “pornographic,” we usually think about hardcore elements like penetrative sex, kinky roleplaying, and graphic nudity. We think about Denise Masino’s 15-minute long videos where the camera lingers up-close near her vagina, giving us a free gynecological exam. We think about Yvette Bova’s 30-minute long videos where she gang bangs multiple guys one after another. We think about Brandi Mae Akers leaving nothing to the imagination. Normally, this is how our society defines “porn.” Explicit. Raunchy. Graphic. Socially unacceptable. Taboo. Forbidden. Guilt-ridden.

But technically speaking, this isn’t always true. “Porn” is defined on Wikipedia as “the portrayal of sexual subject matter for the exclusive purpose of sexual arousal.” That’s it. Any media that stimulates sexual arousal. It doesn’t have to be explicit, though it often is. It can be as hardcore as anything you’ll find on Pornhub or Xhamster, or as nongraphic as anything you’ll find on YouTube. Does graphic nudity occasionally slip through YouTube’s filters and community guidelines? Sure. But you know what I mean.

This is what I mean by FBB porn being appropriate for the whole family. It’s not literally true, but technically true. You may not gather the whole family around the dinner table and watch videos of Debbie Bramwell flexing her biceps for the camera, but you wouldn’t hesitate to take your family out to a shopping mall (back when such institutions were open, of course) and occasionally stroll by a Victoria’s Secret store. Those wall-to-wall advertisements that stretch from the ceiling to the floor are just as explicit as what you’ll see in the three videos I’ve shared. Yet, we don’t necessarily consider those corporate promotional displays as being pornographic.

Moar Alina Popa content, plz.

But in a way, they are. Which, by extension, also means modest videos of FBBs strutting around in their underwear are also pornographic.

However, it’s not just the surface-level content of those videos that make them so erotically charged. It’s the reaction they get from us. Debbie Bramwell isn’t my favorite FBB of all time, but in the moment as I’m watching her flex for the camera in white lace underwear, she might as well be a Muscle Goddess Sent From Heaven. Because she sure seems like one! But this illustrates the fascinating dynamic at play. It’s the ultimate irony. I could watch an hour-long video of generic skinny ladies in their early 20s have group sex with a bunch of generic faceless dudes and get bored really fast. We see boobs bouncing up and down. We see pussies being pounded into submission. We see semen get blasted in their faces. We see lots of explicit stuff that’s without question NSFW. But it’s all so boring. And basic. And uncreative. And sleep-inducing.

Yet, I can watch that video of Debbie (if you do the math, you basically get about 60 seconds worth of Debbie content) with my eyes glued to the screen and hope I don’t suffer cardiac arrest when it’s all over. I’m captivated. My imagination goes into overdrive. I feel the sudden urge to relieve my tension in the privacy of my apartment. The same goes for Lindsay content. And Alina content. And when I scroll through Cindy Landolt’s Instagram pages.

On the surface, it’s appropriate for the whole family. But for a certain number of us, it sends our hormones into thermonuclear warfare. The 90% of her body that Debbie is willing to show off is 10,000 times more erotic than the 100% your typical nameless pornographic actress will display ad nauseam. Maybe 10,000 is an underestimation.

We are frustrated that Debbie won’t show off her goods. We are itching to reach through our computer screens, tear off her underwear, and toss it into the garbage can where it belongs. We crave to see Debbie in her full glory. Yet, we don’t need to. Debbie has generously shown us everything we need to see. We are not entitled to more. We should be thankful for the content we already have at our fingertips.

Thus, this is the perplexing predicament we find ourselves in. What really sets us off is, oddly enough, the benign. What really turns us on are women who possess a physique that only the 1% of the 1% of the 1% can say they’ve attained. Debbie, Lindsay, and Alina are in rare company. They are unicorns. They are the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Because of this, it doesn’t take much for them to make us go mad. We become crazy, deranged, and uncontrollably irrational at the simplest things.

A beautiful woman in her underwear.

A beautiful woman in a bikini.

A beautiful woman working out at the gym.

A beautiful woman walking down the street.

It’s all so uncomplicated. Yet so majestic. The whole family can see things like it on an everyday basis, but not everyone will appreciate it as much. Not everyone agrees that female bodybuilders are gorgeous creatures who deserve respect. Not everyone is in that camp.

But we are. And that’s a beautiful thing.

To See Her is to Understand Her

To understand Yvette Bova, feast your eyes on her body. It’s the right thing to do.

“It’s impolite to stare” is a common piece of advice many of our mothers and grandmothers gave to us as children.

Whether the object we were staring at was a person in a wheelchair, a short person with dwarfism, or a man wearing a dress; the point our elder was trying to make is that by staring at this person for a longer than normal amount of time, we could be making them feel uncomfortable, singled out, or “freakish.” Nobody wants to feel like a social outcast, even if their outward appearance suggests the sentiment isn’t misplaced.

To not stare is to imply that this person should be treated as “normal,” even if they are not. Or even if they are intentionally trying to not be normal. You can’t tell me someone with a face tattoo doesn’t know this will bring additional attention to their appearance. If they get annoyed with people staring and asking them questions about it, why did they acquire it in the first place?

But the point is well taken. Very few of us want to be stared at because we don’t want to feel like an anomaly. We want to be accepted for who we are and not thought of as an outlier. People who appear abnormal on the outside – for whatever reason – just want to be accepted as normal. A small child stopping, staring, and *gasp* coming up to them and asking unwanted questions violates that very principle. So mom and grandma were correct (as usual). Just put yourself in their shoes (or high heels) and ask yourself how you would like to be treated.

This same idea, naturally, doesn’t always apply to female bodybuilders. FBBs, on the other hand, look the way they look by choice. They did not get there by accident or by happenstance. An FBB’s intentional choice to sculpt their bodies to look a certain way is etched into every muscle fiber. You see a female bodybuilder’s body and you can tell – with absolutely no ambiguity – who she is, what she stands for, and what her worldview revolves around.

Debi Laszewski has achieved her Final Form.

Can you tell who she voted for in the last presidential election or whether she prefers Elvis or the Beatles? Well, no. You can’t derive information that specific, but you can certainly deduce that she works out regularly, eats differently, and can probably defeat you in an arm-wrestling contest pretty easily. That much is really darn obvious.

Unlike a burn victim whose scars will forever tell the story of that tragic incident, a female bodybuilder proactively decides to be as bulky, sculpted, and aesthetically pleasing as she wants to be. It’s a choice, not a designation. Her muscles are part of her identity; an identity that she’s chosen to craft from scratch. And her hard work must be appreciated. After all, what’s the point of looking great if no one is around to look at you?

Whenever a female bodybuilder goes out in public, she knows that she will be stared at. And not just by children, but by everyone. Most well-behaved adults will try to be as inconspicuous as possible when they look at her. Some will be more successful than others at hiding their intentions. Whether you are intrigued by what you see, disgusted, grossed out, confused, curious, or uncontrollably aroused, we can all agree that one cannot simply look upon a muscular woman and not have any kind of emotional reaction. Unless you are so accustomed to being around female bodybuilders that seeing one in public is as mundane as seeing a Seattle hipster wearing flannel. If this is the case with you, please let me know where you live ASAP!

But here’s the difference. Whereas a person with a physical deformity or handicap deserves to be treated with respect and not singled out for being different, a female bodybuilder looks different on purpose…and wants to be looked at as being unique.

This, of course, doesn’t excuse rude comments, insults, or physical harassment. Then again, why anybody would want to provoke a strong female bodybuilder who could beat your ass to a pulp is beyond me. But I digress.

Go ahead. Look at Sondra Faas. It’s okay.

FBBs know they look unusual. They know their lifestyle (hours upon hours spent lifting at the gym, strict dieting, etc.) is out of the ordinary. They know not everyone approves of a woman having big muscles. They know they’re taking a risk. They know they could fail. They know they’re challenging taboos, social expectations, and norms. But these warnings do not deter them from pursuing their dreams. In fact, the desire to openly defy these realities may be fueling their life’s work.

So when an FBB goes to the grocery store (back before everyone had to wear face masks and carry around sanitizing wipes everywhere), she can expect that people will stop and stare at her. And you know what? That’s exactly the idea. Maybe not in every case, but generally speaking. Many FBBs talk about how fun it is for people to stare at them in public. They intentionally wear tight clothing because it shows off their muscles. They aren’t annoyed by the additional attention, but rather are flattered by it. Within reason, of course.

But more than feeding one’s ego, it’s important to remember why bodybuilders – both male and female – choose to do what they do. They build their bodies up to look a certain way because it makes them feel empowered, strong, dynamic, superhuman, and yes, freakish (but in a good way). This concept goes into overdrive when we’re talking about women who pursue bodybuilding.

Men are socially expected to be strong alpha providers. While technology, science, engineering, and innovation have made “strength” in the traditional sense somewhat obsolete for survival (we no longer have to hunt and gather our food, but instead patiently wait in line at Costco at least six feet apart from each other), the symbolic importance of physical strength still survives. There’s no practical reason for Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, or Phil Heath to get as massive as they are. But there are plenty of reasons to do so from a professional perspective. You know we’ve advanced as a society when people can earn a living doing impractical – but awesome – things. Gaining hundreds of pounds of muscle isn’t going to make it easier for you to pay your mortgage, but the product endorsement deals you get because of your muscles certainly will.

Kim Buck on full display.

Okay, okay, so men are expected to be strong. We are accustomed to seeing men look big, muscular, invincible, and dominant. But what about women?

There’s no need to go too deep into this, but women are taking a much bigger risk in getting super bulky than men are. Their unnatural muscle mass makes them more unusual because we don’t expect women to ever get that big. Not because they are not able to, but because our society doesn’t encourage them to. The “strong independent woman” trope is more about attitude than it is about practicality. We want to raise our daughters to be mentally and emotionally strong, as opposed to literally strong. Unless you want your little girl to grow up to be a millionaire MMA fighter who can subsidize your future retirement.

All of this is to say that a woman with big muscles is a woman who defies social norms, whether she intends to or not. A woman gains big muscles proactively, not passively. And in doing so, she’s opening up herself to the types of criticism and backlash that a male counterpart would not face. So, what does this all mean?

This means that she is meant to be stared at. Maybe not intentionally, but in principle. An FBB is meant to be looked at. Her body of work (pun intended) is meant to be appreciated. It is meant to be a spectacle. She is a work of art who deserves to be displayed at a museum, even if this museum is more symbolic than literal. In this case, the museum she is displayed in is the real world she inhabits. A supermarket. A public park. A gym. A church. A busy street corner. A nightclub. A library. A restaurant. A bar. An airport. And so on.

Look at Kim Birtch. LOOK. AT. HER.

Wherever she is, whatever she’s doing, she’s meant to be seen. Because to see her is to understand her. You understand her raison d’etre. Her life’s purpose. Her muscles aren’t meant to be hidden. Her muscles aren’t a secret. They should be proudly exhibited as openly as possible.

Here’s a great example. Watch this video of Margie Martin at the 2019 Wings of Strength Rising Phoenix World Championship. It shows a portion of the show where an interviewer speaks to all (or most) of the contestants in front of the whole audience. Watch and be prepared to be dazzled:

Whew! Wow!!! What a moment. What a time to be alive. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be there at that moment in time? I think many of us would have passed out if we saw Margie unexpectedly strip down to a bikini – or try our best to suppress an uncomfortable erection straining in our underwear.

This moment perfectly encapsulates what I’m talking about when I say “to see her is to understand her.” Margie’s beautiful body doesn’t deserve to be hidden underneath that dress (despite her dress leaving little to the imagination as it is). Her beautiful body deserves to be proudly presented in front of an audience of hundreds of screaming fans. Her body deserves adoration. She deserves those screams and applause. That single moment was when Margie was at the Peak of Her Purpose. When her body was being SEEN by everyone in plain sight.

Granted, it would have been socially inappropriate for her to have stripped completely naked. So sporting just a bikini was the maximum of how far she could have gone. But the larger idea remains intact: she was bare. Or as bare as she could possibly be. Her nudity (or near nudity) didn’t make her vulnerable, however. The exact opposite, in fact. Her nude state made her as powerful as she could ever be. Wearing that dress was a disservice to herself, her identity, and her very philosophical purpose. In order for her to fulfill her maximum utility, she had to be as naked as possible in front of as large an audience as possible. There’s no other way around it. It was almost a requirement. Anything less than that would have been an abdication of duty.

Once her dress came off, she had accomplished her personal version of Nirvana. She had reached her summit. Her peak. Her true self. Her real form had finally taken shape. Not just the fact that she had spent the last several months training to become as hypermuscular as possible. No, more than that. In that moment, her body was being seen by the public. By the world. By the whole universe. Even God Himself had to stop whatever He was doing and say out loud, “Damn! She looks great!!!” This was the moment when her final form had reached its zenith.

This is how a female bodybuilder fulfills her destiny. When she’s SEEN. When people are LOOKING at her. When her body is out in the open, almost as in-your-face as possible. When she’s not holding back. When her audience gets more than they bargained for. More than they wanted. More than they actually deserved. When people are staring at her, they are not only doing her a service, they are almost obliged to. We are obligated to SEE her body. We MUST stare at her because to not stare at her would be a sin. It would be a moral failure on our part.

In that moment, Margie was making a statement, whether she knew it or not. She was making a statement that her body must be looked at. Closely. Inspected. Judged. Appreciated. Loved. If you want to truly understand who Margie is and why she does what she does, all you have to do is see her.

See.

Her.

Look.

At.

Her.

Watch.

Her.

Observe.

Her.

Margie’s body isn’t just a part of her identity. It’s the very foundation of her identity. If you don’t look at her body, you will never understand who she is. You’d be a blind person trying to describe an elephant to another blind person. You can try your best but you’ll always fail. In this spirit, go ahead. Look at her. Stare at her. Feast your eyes on her. Make sure she is SEEN. When you look at her body, you aren’t just looking at her body – you’re looking at her soul.

Building muscles is her job. Seeing those muscles is yours.

The Perfectly Normal Female Bodybuilder

There’s nothing normal about Margie Martin.

Fans of female bodybuilders often describe them in the most robust and hyperbolic terms: Angels. Goddesses. Queens. Alpha females. Dominant. Powerful. Stronger sex. And so on.

While this reaction is completely understandable, it obfuscates a larger truth that, at first, may seem like an insult but is anything but: Female bodybuilders are normal people.

Wait, what?

Yes, this is true. The strong muscular ladies we love are just like you and I. Just like Hollywood celebrities who occasionally suffer through bad hair days, messy divorces, professional setbacks, and cabin fever from being quarantined indoors (although it must be nice to live in a luxurious mansion during these difficult times), at the end of the day they’re just like us. Sort of. The same is true for female bodybuilders, even if it doesn’t always seem like it.

Female bodybuilders carry an almost mythical social status to their fans. We describe them in divine ethereal terms because they do seem nearly God-like. Or sent by the gods. Or a physical manifestation of God. Or a literal god. We treat them – even though we theoretically know they’re simply human beings who’ve achieved something marvelous – like deities because bombastic terms are the only terms that seem appropriate. It feels insulting to frame them as being beautiful women with big muscles. Our descriptions of them must go the extra mile because not only do they deserve it (and they do), to not do so would seem like a gross mischaracterization.

Yet, as much overhyped praise we may shower upon them, it is valuable to remember that FBBs are simply normal human beings who are no different than the rest of us. This is important not just for ethical reasons (there is no excuse for abusing or harassing a female bodybuilder you have a celebrity crush on) but for practical reasons as well. Female bodybuilders were not born that way. They did not purchase their muscles from a grocery store or online boutique. They earned their muscles through hard work, sacrifice, grinding away day after day, and making life choices that most of us would reject in a heartbeat.

Most of us could live like a bodybuilder for a couple of weeks. But very few of us could last for several years. Or decades.

Aleesha Young didn’t get to be this way by sitting on the couch eating Oreos.

This is why for me, I do not find female muscle growth fiction (FMG) very appealing. I understand why certain people love that sort of content – both as consumers and creators – but that’s not my jam. This is no disrespect to anyone who does love FMG art, just an expression of a personal opinion. I’m not into FMG because part of the reason why I love FBBs is specifically because of the hard work and sacrifices they must endure in order to achieve their coveted physiques. The lifestyle of a professional (or dedicated amateur) bodybuilder isn’t easy. One does not become that massive by accident, happenstance, or through shortcuts (no, steroids does not automatically make you that large). It requires focus, determination, intentionality, and making difficult decisions that could have lasting repercussions.

One of the reasons I love female bodybuilders is because they “earn their beauty.” Some FBBs – and I will respectfully withhold naming any names – are not born with natural traditional beauty. But don’t worry! They more than make up for it by transforming their bodies into the statuesque figures of muscle goddesses. A woman (or man, for that matter) who isn’t blessed with genetic beauty can become an Irresistible Muscle Queen through hard work, blood, sweat, tears, and the belief that human limitations are subjective. They “earn their beauty” in the same way we earn a paycheck at work. Nobody not named Andrew Yang wants to give us money for doing nothing, so we must earn it. Likewise, female bodybuilders earn the adoration of fans like us because they too have earned it.

FBBs are perfectly normal because that is how they started out in life. “Normal” is the default, not an insult. We are all normal to a certain extent. Whether or not we transcend that normalcy is entirely dependent upon what choices we make in life. It should be obvious that every female bodybuilder has made a series of choices that make them abnormal in the eyes of society. And for the record, “abnormal” isn’t an insult, but rather a descriptor.

I love FBBs not because they are more than human, but because they are perfectly human. They are not goddesses or angels. They are regular flesh-and-blood human beings who live by the same laws of physics, science, and biology as the rest of us. They haven’t “cheated” science through divine means. Synthetic steroids and human growth hormones may seem like cheating from a competitive perspective, but it’s still science. Like I said before, steroids are not a magic potion. They’re not an elixir conjured up by a coven of witches hiding in a mountainous cave. To believe that is to misunderstand what steroids actually are.

A gorgeous shot of the beautiful Theresa Ivancik.

Setting aside the steroid debate for a moment, FBBs are especially beautiful because they have chosen a path that is scientifically feasible, but emotionally and physically difficult. It’s not a mystery how Rene Campbell became as massive as she is. We all know how she did it. In fact, thanks to social media many bodybuilders (both male and female) are remarkably transparent about their daily routine, diet, training regimen, and supplementation choices. The instruction manual has been laid out for us. But not everyone is willing to roll up their sleeves and assemble the Ikea kitchen cabinet themselves.

And unlike climbing a mountain, planting a flag, and taking a selfie to prove that you did it, once you become super muscular, you must continue to work hard day-in and day-out to maintain your physique. Rene’s muscles will shrink if she stops lifting, eating right, and supplementing regularly. So in order for her to remain in top shape, she must continuously live the bodybuilder lifestyle as long as she wants to look the way she looks. But once you’ve climbed the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, you can brag about that accomplishment for the rest of your life. Nothing can take that away from you. It’s yours forever.

But a muscular physique does not last forever. It would be like climbing a mountain that never ends. Or hiking up a trail conceived by M.C. Escher – just when you think you’ve reached the top, you realize you’re still at the bottom. Which means the only way you can go is forward without risking falling backward.

Maybe this is why I always preferred the Indiana Jones, Die Hard, and Mission: Impossible movies over anything Marvel has produced over the past several years. There’s something fun about seeing a “normal” person (in Hollywood terms, I’m using that word loosely) rise up to the circumstances and defeat the forces of evil using nothing but his sheer willpower, intelligence, cunning, improvisational skills, and luck. Watching superheroes like Wonder Woman, Superman, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor smash bad guys into a pulp is fun enough, but it gets dull after the first five minutes. There’s something about having a superpower that makes the action less exciting.

Tina Nguyen rocking the yellow dress.

Likewise, female bodybuilders don’t have superpowers. They weren’t given large muscle mass by some magic spell, scientific experiment, or divine intervention. On the contrary, nobody gave it to them. They had to earn it. Bit by bit. Day by day. Little by little.

“The Perfectly Normal Female Bodybuilder” is, in fact, the highest compliment I can give someone. It acknowledges reality and expresses how impressive the existence of an FBB really is – and why we all must respect their accomplishments. She is not a freak. She is not a genetic outlier. She is not special. Rather, she is perfectly normal…and has chosen to become abnormal through readily available means and methods.

This should be a valuable reminder why we must be especially thankful to female bodybuilders (as if we really needed another reason!). We are not entitled to their existence. We do not deserve them. We do not have them because we asked nicely. FBBs exist because they choose to exist. You or I had nothing to do with it. FBBs look the way they look because they want to look that way. The rest of us are along for the ride. We are a passive audience, not an active participant. Without us, FBBs could still exist. To believe otherwise is to demonstrate a horrid lack of humility.

We should be thankful for FBBs because they have the option to “undo” their accomplishments and deprive us of their beautiful bodies. When a muscular woman decides to “retire” and give up the lifestyle, it’s understandable why many of us greet this news with the feelings of melancholy. It feels tragic because it feels like a death. Her muscles will, over time, slowly “die” and disintegrate into nothingness. The human being still lives on, but her muscles have retreated into the afterlife. However, we should also be thankful for the fact that there are hundreds of more women who will gladly take her place. So the supply chain isn’t broken. But that doesn’t mean we can’t “mourn” every loss when it comes to us.

Just as FBBs can return to “normal” after a year or two of not training and eating a high protein diet, “normal” women can become as statuesque as Cindy Landolt or Aleesha Young if they put their minds to it and do what it takes to achieve that look. “Normal” is a two-way street. Whether you’re leaning into the FBB lifestyle or taking a step back, nothing about you changes. You’re still the same mortal human being you were either way. Your outer shell can morph in a variety of ways. This doesn’t affect your inner self.

Yaxeni Oriquen-Garcia looks to be feeling lucky tonight.

But if we’re being honest for a moment, that’s really what this is all about. Who you are – or can become – on the inside. What really defines us is who we are as people, not how we look or appear. Muscles come and go. Your body is just one part of your identity (albeit an important part, no doubt). The other part – arguably the most important part – is how you treat people, your surroundings, and your legacy.

Inner growth. Emotional growth. Intellectual growth. Developing into a better human being who can make a real impact in people’s lives. Isn’t that the essence of living on planet Earth for the short finite amount of time we have here? Shouldn’t we all strive to leave our planet in better shape than when we arrived on it? To say during our lifetime that we truly made a difference? Not all of us have an epic legacy that future generations will remember. Some of us will be remembered by millions, others will be remembered by a few hundred. But every one of us can control what we do in the here and now.

Nobody said it would be easy. Life throws curveballs at us all the damn time. We may occasionally swing and miss, but at least we’ll go down swinging. Female bodybuilders are teaching us this lesson: you cannot hit a homerun without swinging your bat. Staying still will achieve nothing. But this choice isn’t just reserved for an elite few. Rather, this is a choice any one of us can make.

Any one of us. No matter how “normal” you think you are.

COVID-19 and the Socially Distant Female Bodybuilder

Who wouldn’t want to be quarantined with Cindy Phillips?

As of this writing, the world is given the unexpected and ultimately thankless task of having to deal with the outbreak of COVID-19, a particularly nasty strain of the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China. We do not yet know how long this international crisis will last or what the ultimate cost will be in terms of human life, economic health, and social structures. What we do know is that lawmakers are issuing orders for citizens to practice “Social Distancing,” which basically means staying at least six feet away from people and living life as a government-imposed hermit.

COVID-19 knows no national borders, does not respect cultural norms, and can spread like wildfire if it’s not properly contained. This is why these drastic measures – which also include shutting down certain businesses, laying off employees who work at those businesses, and encouraging those who can still work to work remotely – are deemed necessary by our elected (and non-elected, depending on where you live) leaders.

Quite bothersome, this inconsiderate variation of the coronavirus happens to be!

“Social distancing” is quite the academic term for staying at home and binge-watching Netflix all day (even if you’re supposed to be “working” away from the office). Yet, this has become a commonly used colloquial expression that will no doubt show up on the list of “Word of the Year” when 2020 is all said and done. Assuming we all make it that far, of course. Oof.

For fans of female bodybuilders, these trying times add an additional level of turmoil. Due to travel restrictions, muscle worship and fantasy wrestling sessions are on hold indefinitely. Female bodybuilders and wrestlers aren’t able to travel from city to city…and many would-be customers aren’t allowed to leave the house unless they’re healthcare workers, heading to the grocery store, or going for a jog around the neighborhood. Like the restaurant business and other service industries, the Female Muscle Economy is going to experience a major financial recession in the coming weeks. Clearly, this is a no-win situation for everyone involved.

Yet, one cannot help but notice a striking similarity between feeling distant from co-workers, family members, and neighbors and actually being geographically distant from female bodybuilders. Unless you live in Southern California, parts of Brazil, or are lucky enough to happen to know a few FBBs personally, most of us are (unfortunately) not within close proximity to the muscular ladies we adore. We’re “socially distant” from them by default, not by choice. This is considerably frustrating for those of us who love muscular women, since our tastes for the finer things in life are not easily satiated.

Do female bodybuilders and fantasy wrestlers travel across the country to meet up with clients? Well, yes (in normal times, obviously). If you live in a big enough city, can you purchase a ticket to a bodybuilding competition? Once again, yes, this is an option. So our access to muscular women isn’t nonexistent, but they aren’t nearly as common as, say, the cute girl you meet at the bar drinking alone (or at least you think she’s alone). From what we can tell, there isn’t a designated watering hole where FBBs frequent in mass quantities. So the interactions you do have with a small number of FBBs will be few and far between by default.

It would be hard to stay indoors if Linda Steele did photoshoots like this everyday.

This brings into focus the observation that female muscle fandom can be so frustrating at times because of how distant we are from our beloved ladies. Female bodybuilding is not mainstream. Female bodybuilders are not mainstream. They aren’t celebrities in the traditional sense of the word. Perhaps they are within the microscopic world that we inhabit together (including the readers of this very blog), but not outside of it. Our frustration isn’t major, but it’s ever present.

FBBs can feel like a rainbow-colored unicorn at times. Or buried treasure on a deserted island. Or a supernova. Or galaxies outside the Milky Way. Or Bigfoot. They don’t feel real in a practical sense. We know intellectually that muscular women exist in this world, but we have to proactively go searching for them in order to observe them. Theoretical quantum physics tells us that multiple parallel universes may exist. But no human being has been able to witness one outside of our own. That doesn’t mean the multiverse doesn’t exist, of course. It just means we haven’t been able to see it with our own eyes. Likewise, we know female bodybuilders exist because we have the Internet, old muscle magazines collecting dust in our attics, and Instagram feeds to scroll through. But can we simply walk our dog through a public park and casually see a few FBBs jogging alongside us? No. No, we cannot.

The Socially Distant Female Bodybuilder is the default in our lives. They are beautiful creatures who might as well exist in mythology. We should be reading about them in medieval literature classes or watching them in National Geographic documentaries. Before COVID-19 started disrupting our lives, you could easily go to the grocery store, gym, or nightclub and see lots of young women who look just as beautiful as Ariana Grande or Taylor Swift. Heck, I’m pretty sure I went to high school with at least a dozen girls who looked like Billie Eilish. So because of that, mainstream celebrities don’t feel as “mythological” because we can observe in our everyday lives people who (for the most part) resemble them. Their “normal” counterparts are a dime a dozen.

But muscular women like Amber Deluca or Theresa Ivancik? Yeah, they are not a dime a dozen. One does not simply (walk into Mordor?) go to a trendy sports bar and see a world-class female bodybuilder hanging out with her buddies eating chicken wings and nursing a beer while watching to see if her March Madness (may you R.I.P. in 2020) bracket gets busted. And if you do happen to stumble across that sort of scene, good for you. But that is not the norm for the majority of us. And because this is not normal, it’s easy to think of FBBs as being closer to unicorns than a celebrity sighting in Malibu.

Here’s a personal anecdote: I haven’t met with too many loyal readers in real life, but one time I did several years ago. He’s from a different country but was in town to visit relatives. He emailed me a few weeks before and asked if I wanted to grab coffee with him. I enthusiastically agreed. It’s not too often that you can have a candid discussion about female muscle fandom with someone who truly “gets” where you’re coming from! After work I drove 30 minutes to where his in-laws live. We met at a Starbucks located in a strip mall and talked for more than an hour. We discussed our mutual love for muscular women, our experiences participating in muscle worship sessions, and who some of our favorite ladies are. What a refreshing experience!

Nothing like getting your fix of Maggie Watson.

However, there was one thing he said that has always stuck in my mind. He said the first time he ever met an FBB for a session was a jarring experience. Yeah, I thought to myself, it is! He said he felt slightly disappointed that she wasn’t super tall. I thought that was a strange observation. Most women aren’t super tall. On average, women tend to be shorter than men. She was big in every other way, he tells me, but not nearly as tall as he was expecting. Huh? You actually think all female bodybuilders are tall? If you flip through old magazines or scroll through Wikipedia pages of prominent female competitors, most of them are between 5 to 6 feet tall, the majority of them on the lower end of that spectrum. Most FBBs aren’t as tall as NBA players because most women in general aren’t as tall as NBA players. FBBs weren’t born that way. They began life just like everybody else. So why would they be naturally taller?

Then it hit me why he would think that way. His whole life he’s cultivated in his mind a fantasy image of what an FBB looks like. In their photos, they look larger than life. A clever photographer or camera operator can make a short person seem huge if they’re shot from an upward angle. Especially if the FBB is the only person in frame. A short person is only short if he or she is short in comparison to the other people they’re around. The same goes for a tall person. Short and tall are all relative.

But my friend here, who up to this point had never actually met a female bodybuilder up-close in real life, thought all FBBs were tall because that’s what his fantasy of FBBs told him. To him – and to all of us – FBBs are larger than life. In every way imaginable. But in reality, they aren’t quite so big as we think they are. Don’t get me wrong! FBBs are really big ladies. But they aren’t gargantuan. They aren’t monsters. They’re human beings. They’re just as tall (or short) as most women you meet in everyday life. They just have a lot more meat on their bones. They’re bulkier, but not like the Incredible Hulk. They’re not cartoon characters. They’re still human beings.

Wendy Fortino slaying in that dress.

Your typical FBB isn’t 6’ 5” and weighs 300 pounds. They’re probably more like 5’ 4” and 175 pounds. Does this disappoint you? Whether it does or doesn’t, that’s the truth.

This is true of every walk of life, but the more socially distant we are from certain kinds of people the more likely we are to develop cartoonish perceptions of them. This is especially true in the scumbag world of politics. Even a woman like Nataliya Kuznetsova, who comes the closest to being a “cartoon character come to life,” is rare among her fellow female bodybuilders. She’s in the 1 percent of the 1 percent of the 1 percent. In a past article, I dubbed her as the “Ultimate Real Human Photoshop Illusion.” This is still true.

Most FBBs will look more like Cindy Phillips or Brandi Mae Akers. If they wore sweatpants and an overcoat, you’d never guess that these ladies are bodybuilders. Nataliya, on the other hand, is so damn bulky that no matter what she does she’ll always stick out like a sore thumb. But that’s her brand. Her raison d’être is to defy scientific limitations. She strives to break our expectations of what is or isn’t possible. So my friend – and many of you also – expected the typical FBB to look like Nataliya…when not even Nataliya can look like Nataliya forever (I have my doubts about how healthy that lifestyle is over a long period of time).

Nataliya Kuznetsova isn’t typical, which is why we must treasure her more.

These warped perceptions are a product of being socially distant from FBBs. It didn’t take a global pandemic to make this obvious. But this is the price we pay for indulging in a niche fetish. It is not readily available. It is a rare opportunity for us to satisfy our urges. Getting our “fix” of female muscle comes at a hefty price tag. But when we do get the chance to live out our fantasies IRL, it’s a treasured experience that we’ll never forget.

I have no idea when the COVID-19 crisis will come to an end. Hopefully very soon. And with a limited number of fatalities. But there’s no doubt that this has caused major rifts in our society that will take months – maybe years – to recover from. For now, it’s an inconvenience bordering on a major catastrophe if global markets become too volatile. The world economy will take a hit, a reality that applies to much more than the Female Muscle Industrial Complex. But when this is all over, it seems prudent that this will force us to wake up to the fact that a civilized society is one that is resilient, adaptable, and rational. We will get through this if we make the right decisions, stand up for our principles, and do our part (no matter how small it may seem) to stop the spread of this disease. Or any future disease.

Like female bodybuilders, we must be tough, persistent, strategic, headstrong, and arrogant in believing we can overcome this. While FBBs may be socially distant from us, their attitude towards life is something every single one of us can replicate. We don’t need to be in close physical proximity to them to learn the lessons they’ve taught us. Even if it’s from a distance.

The Scantily Clad but Not Quite Nude Female Bodybuilder

Cindy is such a tease.

Is it possible for a female bodybuilder to be more beautiful than when she’s nude?

After all, it’s when we are able to see her in her full glory. Nothing hidden from view. Everything she has laid out bare. All her hard work, sacrifices, perfections, imperfections, and insecurities out in the open. She is vulnerable, yet invulnerable at the same time.

Being nude is a female bodybuilder’s natural state. That isn’t to say that all female bodybuilders are also nudists, however. “Nudism” is a cultural movement that seeks to advocate for and normalize nude social activities. That’s a separate thing unrelated to our discussion here. What we’re talking about is that in order for someone to see a female bodybuilder for who she really is, one must look at her when she’s naked. From head to toe. Then, you can see who she really is. This is when her true identity comes out.

Every curve, every muscle fiber, every square inch of her uniquely structured body on full display. She is hiding nothing because there is nothing to hide. She isn’t ashamed to reveal her life’s work, her masterpiece, her artistry. She is an artist and her body is her canvas.

Yet, that is not always when a female bodybuilder is at her most alluring. As strange as this may sound, an FBB might be at her most intriguing when she’s scantily clad – but not quite nude.

Uh, what?

Now, this may sound crazy. Okay, it flat out sounds crazy. But don’t tune out quite yet. Think of it this way:

Throughout the history of humankind, the practice of wearing clothes has almost been universal. Some primitive cultures that exist in hot tropical environments may not wear very much, but they at least cover up the “essentials.” But by and large, you get the idea. All people wear clothes most of the time – at least in public. You don’t need to be a literal believer in the Adam and Eve story to understand this.

Africa Carey (a.k.a. Coco Crush) showing us just enough of her immaculate beauty.

The Book of Genesis notwithstanding, the tendency to wear clothes is based on the assumption that the human body isn’t meant to be seen in full. And it’s not just because it’s cold in the winter. Nudity implies sexuality, even though the two are not synonymous. Nudity exposes genitals, which is central to reproductive activities. Enthusiasts of nudism (or naturism) would vehemently argue that there is nothing inherently sexual or dirty about the human body, even in nude form. That’s certainly debatable, but we cannot ignore that from our society’s point of view, nudity and sexuality are intimately intertwined.

Try not to visualize the words “intimately intertwined.”

So, we’ve decided that the taboo associated with nudity is both understandable and probably, if we’re being honest here, justified. Maybe not completely justified, but justified enough that we’d feel really, really uncomfortable if we learned that our kid’s kindergarten teacher took off her own bra during a makeshift anatomy lesson. That would be weird. Very weird.

But there are definitely variations of nudity that must be acknowledged. Nudity is a continuum, not a black or white matter. On one end of the spectrum we have someone wearing a hazmat suit, ready to clean up after an unfortunate nuclear spill. On the other end we have drunk college kids parading around the street naked in preparation for Mardi Gras. And everything in between. Let’s talk for a moment about what exists in the middle.

Generally speaking, what is the most amount of nudity a person can show in public and not get arrested for indecent exposure? For both men and women, it’s covering up the genitals. For women, it’s also covering up the nipples. Bare butts are discouraged, but acceptable depending on where you are specifically.

Cancun on spring break? Get cheeky with it.

Wading through a public pool at the senior center? Eh, don’t stick out too much if you can avoid it. For everyone’s sake.

God bless America, Kati Alander.

Alright, so no genitals, no bare butts (for the most part), and no female nipples. Got it. Is this fair? Probably not, but it is what it is. At least, this is the way it is for now. There is a hashtag trending on social media called #FreeTheNipple that’s being used to protest Facebook and Instagram’s policy of censoring female nipples. The argument is that if men are allowed to show their nipples without punishment, then women should be allowed the same courtesy. It remains to be seen how effective this awareness campaign will be.

But at the end of the day, this isn’t really a discussion about social standards. This is more about what we find to be erotically pleasing versus what will or will not land us in jail for a night.

Here’s a strange question: What’s more erotic, a nude female bodybuilder or a female bodybuilder wearing sexy lingerie?

Hm. This may seem obvious at first, but later it gets complicated the more you think about it. Yes, a fully nude female bodybuilder is a fantastic sight to see. That same FBB wearing lingerie or a bikini isn’t the same because you don’t see all of her. You see most of her, but not everything. She’s scantily clad, but not quite nude. Yet, as odd as this sounds, the latter is much more intriguing than the former.

A female bodybuilder wearing lingerie, a negligee, a bikini, shorts and gym bra, a towel, a cocktail dress, a blanket draped over her body, or her own hands covering up certain parts intrigues us because we see enough to get a great idea of what she looks like without getting the satisfaction of seeing everything she has to offer. We see her curves, musculature, striations, bulging mounds of flesh, and deep grooves. We see how hard she must work day-in and day-out to attain and maintain that physique. We see her sacrifices. We see her dedication on full display. However, we don’t see the intimate parts of her that she’s chosen not to reveal. And that point cannot be emphasized enough: she’s choosing to not reveal certain parts of her. And that’s perfectly okay, no matter how frustrating it may be for the rest of us.

Maybe she’s covering up certain parts of her because she doesn’t want to get censored or kicked off certain social media platforms. Or for her, full nudity is a bridge too far. The best example of this is Cindy Landolt. Cindy is one of the most beautiful women on planet Earth. She’s stunning. She’s absolutely gorgeous. She’s flawless. She’s a perfect demonstration that muscles do not compromise a woman’s femininity. In fact, muscles can enhance your femininity. For Cindy, her curvy muscles exemplify her feminine identity.

I cannot stop staring at Kim Birtch’s piercing eyes.

Cindy does not do full nudity. Ever. At least, not yet. And that is 100 percent her choice. She can choose to never ever show us her nipples or genitals. As much as we fans want her to “go all the way,” it’s her right to not do that. She is under no obligation to do so. No matter how much we beg her, if she stands firm and goes her entire career without going full nude, we just have to live with it. And we have no reason to feel slighted by her. She showcases her beauty in plenty of other ways. Her contribution to the world speaks for itself. Period.

In a way, Cindy’s choice to never do graphic nudity works to her advantage. It’s a “Holy Grail” of sort that her fans will clamor for as long as they live. It keeps our imaginations running wild. It teases us. Our hormones go into overdrive fantasizing about what Miss Landolt really looks like. Are her nipples long? Pink or brown? What does her clit look like? Is it large like Denise Masino’s clit, or is it normal-sized?

We will never know. Only Cindy’s lover knows. And he is one hell of a lucky guy!

Our continual fascination with Cindy’s mysterious bits makes her that much more alluring. It makes her seem otherworldly. We know she’s a real-life human being, but in the back of our minds we still suspect she’s either a robot constructed from an FBB fan’s wildest dreams or an animated “deep fake” character illustrated by a basement full of horny guys. The same goes for any FBB who chooses to forego full nudity.

It makes them appear more “classy.” That isn’t to say that FBBs – or any model, for that matter – who proudly show us everything God has given them are classless or filthy. They still deserve our respect and admiration. Angela Salvagno isn’t trashy because she leaves nothing to the imagination while Minna Pajulahti keeps things more guarded. Both women are beautiful. Both are unbelievably sexy. Both are irresistible. One chooses to share her intimate parts with the world while the other sticks to keeping things PG-13. Nothing wrong with either choice.

But getting back to our more “modest” FBBs, not only do they let our imaginations run wild and keep us begging for more, they inadvertently make us view them as pieces of art rather than pieces of meat. That isn’t to say that those who choose to go full nude in photoshoots and videos are deserving of ridicule, judgement, or rudeness. Quite the contrary. No one deserves dehumanizing treatment, regardless of their life’s choices. But there is something to be said about an FBB who selectively reveals her body. She knows her body is a work of art and she’s deliberate on how patrons of her art view it.

By showing us just enough but not everything, it leaves us begging for more. It leaves our appetites fulfilled, but not satiated. We will continuously come back, hoping that today is the day when we get to experience everything we want to experience. And even if we go home empty handed, we can still be counted on to come back the next day.

The Scantily Clad But Not Quite Nude Female Bodybuilder is both a tease and a skilled strategist. She toys with her captive audience like an experienced burlesque performer. She flaunts just enough without giving her fans so much that they start to devalue her. This is a key point: FBBs who deny you full nudity are taking a stand. Maybe it’s a principled stand or perhaps it’s a moral one. Regardless, they know that if they “give in” and provide the public everything they ever wanted, deep down inside these fans will think differently about her…whether they know it or not.

Fair or unfair, as mentioned before we as a society associate nudity with sexuality. And sexuality is directly connected with reproduction, then pregnancy, and then motherhood. By being scantily clad, an FBB is challenging us to not think of her as a sex object, but instead as an athlete. After all, she’s showing us all we need to see: her big muscles. Do we actually need to see anything else?

Alina Popa has huge, beautifully sculpted muscles. I don’t need to see what her nipples or clit looks like. Those parts of her body are mutually exclusive from her biceps, triceps, forearms, back, shoulders, abdomen, glutes, quads, and calves. She proudly puts those parts of her on full display. I can clearly see how impressive her physique is without seeing her intimate parts.

Does Nat Rochner show up at the gym looking like this?

Heck, just pay attention to the language we use to describe an FBB’s body: We like looking at her glutes, not her butt. The word “butt” has a sexual connotation. “Glutes” does not. See the difference?

I already know everything I need to know about Cindy Landolt’s physique. Would I love to see more of her? Well, yes. But it’s not necessary. Her identity is set in stone. She’s a gorgeous feminine woman with big strong muscles. Period. I don’t need to see her private parts in order to sufficiently come up with that conclusion. All the evidence I need is already right there before me.

In other words, by de-emphasizing an FBB’s sexuality, we are fully able to see her for who she really is: a world-class athlete. That isn’t to say that we can’t see her as both a world-class athlete and as a sex object, but the latter has a pernicious way of overshadowing the former.

A female bodybuilder who shows us enough but not everything may not be intentional about this, but I’d wager a guess that she is. Many FBBs don’t want to be sex objects. They don’t think of themselves as strippers or porn stars. They identify as athletes first and everything else second. There’s nothing wrong with that. By wearing a simple bikini, I can see all her muscles and hard work on display. I don’t need the bikini to come off. If it does, I’m definitely not going to complain (obviously!), but it’s not essential. Her modesty – or lack of modesty – is her choice, not mine.

To conclude, a scantily clad female bodybuilder may not be sexier than a fully nude female bodybuilder, but that’s beside the point. The actual point is that how she chooses to present herself is an intentional strategy meant to influence how we view her. Whatever her reasons are for not going “all the way,” we will be left wanting more. Begging for more. Perhaps one day she’ll give us what we want, or maybe that day will never come. Either way, what happens is up to her.

I still stand by my original assessment that a female bodybuilder’s natural state is being nude. Nothing has changed. But this is more practical than philosophical. I’d love to see every single one of my favorite FBBs in their birthday suits. A few I have. Many I have not. While nude is how to best experience an FBB’s body, it’s not a requirement to learning how to appreciate her. What she allows us to see is sufficient, no matter how frustrated that makes us feel. If she wants us to know that she’s a strong, independent woman who takes risks, lives life to the fullest, and doesn’t care what her haters have to say, we can see that whether she’s wearing underwear, gym attire, jeans and tee-shirt, a sweatshirt, or nothing at all.

5 More Types of Female Muscle Porn that We Cannot Resist

I promised at the end of this post that I might follow it up with additional suggestions of types of female muscle-themed porn that we need right now. Alas, I did not disappoint. Unlike a lot of my fiction stories that I begin and – ahem – don’t always finish, I try not to do that with my nonfiction essays.

Naturally, all of you are welcomed to provide your thoughts in the comments below or to send me a private email message at ryantakahashi87 (at) yahoo (dot) com. I’m always up for starting a conversation with a fellow female muscle lover!

So I’ve been doing some further pondering and came up with 5 more types of female muscle porn that we cannot resist – nor do we want to resist. I’m including things I personally enjoy (obviously), but also threw in a few that I’m not really into, but I know for a fact many of you are into. It’s always courteous to be conscientious of your audience.

Denise Masino and Amber DeLuca enjoying each other’s company.
  1. A full hour muscle worship session between two FBBs

We all know about the gloriousness of muscle worship sessions. It’s the opportunity to be able to intimately touch the hard muscles of a real-life female bodybuilder for an hour or two. It’s the closest you can possibly get to meeting and experiencing an FBB’s unique allure. So nothing more about this needs to be explained.

However, how hot would it be to watch two female bodybuilders worshipping each other?

Wow. Uh, wow. That would be something else.

Imagine watching two gorgeous ripped beauties in a room together. No cheesy music. No distracting pop up ads. Just two strong ladies alone in this room. They’re naked. Or maybe they’re clothed but end up getting naked as the video goes along. No, on second thought, let’s just cut to the chase and have them nude from the very beginning.

One of the ladies goes first. For the sake of this fantasy, let’s say the video features Alina Popa and Cindy Landolt. Would the world implode into trillions of pieces if these two celestial beings were in the same room together? Well, yes, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take. The Large Hadron Collider possesses less potential to lead to planetary extinction than this fateful meeting. And as lucky viewers, we’d all die happy regardless.

So, Cindy goes first. She takes her sweet time exploring Alina’s chiseled muscles. Her biceps, her shoulders, her chest, her quads, her abdomen, her calves…her everything. The room is quiet, but not silent. There’s no need to fill the atmosphere with unnecessary noise. Cindy is wide-eyed, witnessing up-close a physique that she aspires to attain. And like any schoolyard bully likes to remind his victims, it takes one to know one. Cindy understands how impressive Alina’s body is because she herself must work countless hours and make immeasurable sacrifices in order to sculpt her body to look a certain way. She doesn’t take Alina’s body for granted. She knows too well how difficult it is to look the way she looks.

Soon, it’s Alina’s turn to worship Cindy. Like before, Alina takes her time in the most deliberate fashion possible. She compliments her younger peer’s raw beauty and gorgeous curves, but gently reminds her that she has a long way to go before she achieves her own level of muscularity. Alina doesn’t say this in a meanspirited way, but rather in an encouraging way. Cindy nods her head in agreement and smiles at the sight of Miss Popa feeling up her calves.

It takes one to know one, indeed.

Angela Salvagno showing off one of her favorite toys.
  1. A group of FBBs playing with their favorite toys

Toys aren’t just for kids. Adults play with them too! FBBs are no different. When they aren’t slamming weights around, there are plenty of other types of tools they can be using during their spare time.

Similar to the previous suggestion of a group of FBBs having a clitoris comparison session, this fun excursion would include a similar lineup of female muscle all stars (Denise Masino, Angela Salvagno, Brandi Mae Akers, Colette Guimond, Amber DeLuca, and Autumn Raby appeared in that particular fantasy scenario) participating in a fun group activity. This time, they’d be experimenting with different sex toys. Maybe one at a time, or perhaps all together.

The toys should be varied: Dildos, vibrators, beads, clit pumps, strap-ons, massagers, and so on. It would be neat if each FBB shared their personal favorite toy and explained to the group – like a college professor lecturing her students – why they like it. And demonstrate for everyone why they enjoy it so much, naturally.

It would be a pleasurefest even more audacious than the previous one. Orgasms after orgasms. Lots of moaning. Loads of screaming. Many satisfied smiling faces afterward. And guess what? You may even learn a thing or two. Not to mention feel inspired to discreetly shop on Amazon for a brand new gift for yourself. Who says education can’t also be fun?

Yvette Bova showing Victoria Dominguez who’s boss.
  1. A muscle-bound dominatrix making men (and women) tremble before her

Oh boy. This should be a doozy. While I am not into BDSM activities, many of you are so I shouldn’t ignore your preferences.

Imagine being chained up by your feet and hands. You’re in a standing position, but you’re only able to stand because the chains dictate that you stand. Without them, you’d be lying on the floor passed out. Your knees are weak. Buckling. Your breathing is steady, but troubled. Sweat is dripping off your face. You’re naked. Vulnerable. Frightened. Exposed. And, admittedly, a little excited for what’s about to transpire. You might be blindfolded. Or perhaps your sight is perfectly unobstructed. Either way, the room is dark so it doesn’t really matter. Suddenly, a loud metallic door opens. You hear the clanking of high heels against the cold cement floor. You might have heard a mouse scurry across the room. The clanking gets louder and louder. It’s ominous. You struggle to see who it is, but you know whoever it is, pain and suffering is certainly going to happen to you soon. Then, the mysterious figure makes herself seen. She stands underneath the only functioning lightbulb in the vicinity. You regard her. And you cannot believe what’s standing right in front of you.

She’s gorgeous. Absolutely stunningly gorgeous. A bit older than you were expecting, but still ravenously beautiful. Her face is partially covered up by her long locks of jet black hair. You look down to see the rest of her. And what your eyes experience is nothing like you’ve ever witnessed before.

She’s muscular.

Really, really, really muscular.

Broad shoulders. Bulging biceps. A massive torso. Barrel chest. Round butt. Legs as thick as tree trunks. Calves that are larger than most guys’ thighs. And breasts that are prominent enough to accentuate her femininity. You’ve never seen in person a woman this big. This strong. This intimidating. This muscular.

Her outfit is equally intriguing. A black corset that generously shows off her cleavage (her pecs are so well defined it looks like she has multiple levels of cleavage, if that makes any sense), crotchless crimson red panties that exposes her engorged clitoris, fishnet stockings, red leather gloves, and knee high black boots. She approaches you carrying a whip and handcuffs hanging around a belt with the largest gold buckle you’ve ever seen.

And you’ve just noticed that beside you is a table. Sitting on this table are candles, a lighter, a large blue feather, clothespins, needles, a ball gag, cock ring, rope, padlock, and a strap-on with a 9-inch black dildo attached to it.

She smiles at you. You smile back. You’re trembling with fear. But a part of you likes it. How strange is that? Then, after a long moment of complete silence, she starts to go to work.

Who wouldn’t want to be the lucky guy who gets to spend a whole evening with strong ladies like the competitors at Wings of Strength?
  1. One lucky guy and several FBBs to play with

Similar to a reality show where a “normal” person is asked by a camera crew to participate in some crazy adventure, this video would start with an FBB dressed professionally approaching a random guy on the street. It could be on the sidewalk of a busy intersection. Or it could be along a public park in the middle of a suburban neighborhood. Regardless, she strikes up a conversation with this man and promises him a night he’ll never forget.

Of course, he agrees to this evening of unexpected shenanigans. And then she takes him into a car – or unmarked black van, just for the sake of appearances – and drives away to an unknown location. Let’s say they arrive at a nice beachside house or luxurious resort. Once there, our host strips naked and reveals her body. Our male protagonist is shocked by what he sees: his mysterious new friend is jacked from head to toe! And not just totally ripped, but beautiful as a supermodel and alluring as a Greek Siren.

He cannot resist her. Who could?

She slowly approaches him. Sweat is dripping down his brow. She kisses him, stealing his breath away. It’s a miracle he doesn’t die of a heart attack right then and there. Then, the evening’s frivolous activities commences. What could possible transpire over the next few hours? Just use your imagination…

Ask Emery Miller anything. I dare you!
  1. An in-depth, nothing-is-off-limits sit-down interview with a sexy FBB

To be fair, Aziani Iron has already done this several times. But it never hurts for more videos like these to be produced.

The concept is simple. An unseen interviewer (it could be male or female, but it would be really cool if the interviewer is a fellow FBB) speaks to a beautiful female bodybuilder for a long in-depth interview. Sounds boring, right? I mean, who thinks of a Frost/Nixon style interview as a genre of porn, right? Well, it can be…if it’s done the right way.

No question is off limits. Our beloved FBB can be asked anything – questions about her personal life, training regimen, personal records, sex life, sexual preferences, sexual abilities, opinions on just about anything, funny or intriguing stories, and so on. She can be wearing a sexy dress or perhaps nothing. But her answers should be as revealing as her outfit. A few sample questions include:

  • What does your weekly training schedule look like?
  • What are your favorite lifts?
  • What is your favorite body part? Least favorite body part?
  • If you had a million dollars to spend on anything you’d like, what would you spend it on?
  • Please describe a typical day in your life.
  • What would you change about the bodybuilding industry if you had the power to do so?
  • Are you attracted to men, women, both, or is your answer more complicated?
  • What qualities attract you to a person?
  • Favorite sex positions?
  • Do you have any unusual sexual abilities? (e.g. squirting, multiple orgasms, anal orgasms, ability to insert large objects inside vagina, etc.)
  • How big is your clitoris?
  • Does size matter? Why or why not?
  • Biggest penis you’ve ever fucked? Smallest penis you’ve ever fucked? And what was the difference in terms of your experience?
  • Do you have any insecurities?
  • Do you have any strange fetishes?
  • Weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you in the bedroom?
  • Without naming names, who is great in bed? Who is terrible?
  • What celebrity would you like to have sex with?
  • If you ruled the world, what is one major thing you’d change?

Who wouldn’t want to hear Denise Masino, Brandi Mae Akers, Amber DeLuca, Yvette Bova, or any of your favorite FBBs answer these questions? Just let me know by raising your…

…hand? Oh, yes. Hand. Ha.

Am I missing any questions? Or any other porn scenarios? Let me know in the comments below.

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.

Beauty is Overrated

Stephanie Marie definitely isn’t overrated.

“Beauty,” as it is traditionally defined, makes no mention of emotions, feelings, or involuntary intuitive reactions. Yet, the concept of beauty – especially the way we use it in everyday conversation – goes way beyond aesthetics.

For example:

Merriam-Webster’s definition of beauty is “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.”

“Gives pleasure to the senses” is a great way of phrasing it. There are, after all, five senses – with sight being just one of them. One can appreciate a rose bush by admiring its beauty, then leaning over and smelling its scent. But you probably wouldn’t want to eat it. And roses don’t make any noise, so there’s nothing to hear. And be careful before you touch it! Those thorns can be prickly.

So one can admire a beautiful thing with more than just one sense. Two or three, perhaps. But there’s another sense that is almost never acknowledged. A sense that is, if you think about it, arguably more important:

The emotional sense.

The sight of a beautiful person can make you feel many things. Lust, longing, exasperation, infatuation, nervousness, giddiness, curiosity, etc. Perhaps the reason why a beautiful person has such power over us isn’t just because of how they look – it’s how they make us feel.

Coco Crush is so damn beautiful.

And this has less to do with who they are and more to do with who we are. Or what we’ve gone through, or what we’ve experienced, or what we’re currently dealing with in our personal lives. For example, you could be minding your own business at the grocery store. You just need to pick up a few items – green peppers, celery, a red onion, and a few quarts of beef stock – for tonight’s dinner. You should be in and out in a hot minute. Suddenly, out of nowhere you see a gorgeous young lady perusing through the salad greens section looking for fresh spinach that isn’t too soggy. She’s beautiful. The most beautiful person you’ve seen in a while. The way she walks, moves, and behaves is like poetry in motion. But you’re not just captivated by her immense beauty. You’re reminded of your high school crush, the one who “got away.” You’re reminded of your own loneliness and your burning need for someone to cuddle with tonight when you’re watching late night TV. You’re reminded of how special this planet can be at times, when a flawless work of art can literally appear out of nowhere unexpectedly and make your heart stop beating.

You know she’s physically beautiful, yet she’s more than that. She makes you feel things. Strong things. Things you wish you could forget. Things you wish you could capture in a bottle and uncork whenever you want to. Things you cannot explain, but you know in your heart is as real as a rainstorm. In other words, “beauty” isn’t just an aesthetic. It’s an experience.

This helps explain why many of us love female bodybuilders so much. We aren’t just attracted to their muscles, curves, strength, confidence, and inspiring stories. We love them because they make us react in ways that are both predictable and inexplicable. We love them because we cannot stop loving them. They’re an unquenchable thirst. A hunger that never ceases.

We can look at a picture of Cindy Landolt and notice many things. Her face is pretty and her muscles are poetic, but her appeal goes way beyond those things. We sense raw energy radiating out of every pore of her immaculate body. It’s almost visible. It’s nearly tangible. To look upon her is to feel like you’re in the presence of a Divine Being. She’s often labeled a “Goddess” by her fans (myself included) and for good reason. She looks too good to be true. The fact she actually is a real-life human being adds to her mystique. How can someone be that beautiful? It’s difficult to wrap our minds around this reality. Yet it’s true. Cindy makes our minds rattle in a million different directions. And it’s not just because of her obvious beauty.

It’s because of her – and many other female bodybuilders – effect on our psyches.

Amanda Ferre looking absolutely gorgeous.

Female bodybuilders are alluring for reasons that go beyond what you can see on the outside. It’s not just their unusually large muscles that capture our attention. When we regard upon a beautiful female bodybuilder, our daydreaming activities go into overdrive. We want her to pick us up and toss us to the ground like a ragdoll. We desire to touch her muscles. We want to ask her to flex her biceps while we measure them with a sewing tape measure. How big is she? When she flexes at maximum capacity, how large can she grow? 16 inches? 18 inches?

Uh, 20 inches?

Is that even possible? Has any woman in the history of the world ever developed biceps that exceeded 20 inches? Maybe, but I’m yet to have seen it. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened before, of course. Renné Toney supposedly holds the record at 21 inches. I highly doubt too many other women have been able to match that, let alone exceed it.

God damn. The very thought of a woman having 21-inch biceps is mind boggling. It’s inconceivable. It’s beyond belief. Yet, she did at one point in her life attain such a measurement. Guys who are insecure or full of self-loathing will immediately scream at the top of their lungs “Steroids, steroids, steroids!” But those of us who respect female bodybuilders and don’t hate ourselves will instead react with “You go girl!”

See the difference?

The same could be said for Tina Lockwood’s thighs. Or Becca Swanson’s career achievements. Or Nataliya Kuznetsova’s entire existence. Or what Shannon Courtney was able to do at such an early age. These ladies defy our expectations of what the female human body is capable of doing. In their own way, they’ve set the bar higher and higher than any of us (or most of us) thought was even possible. To react with derision is unfortunate. It probably says more about the person choosing to think that way more than anything else. But thankfully, for every troll who types mean comments like “She’s probably got a dick” or “She’s actually a man” on a random YouTube video, there are thousands of other people who treat these women with the respect they deserve.

Isabelle Turell makes me react quite irrationally.

How funny it is that female bodybuilders can make us react in such two completely opposite ways. We react with either scorn or praise. Disgust or lust. Hatred or eternal adoration. Dismissiveness or uncontrollable fandom. There’s basically no middle ground. At all. It’s truly a fascinating phenomenon to witness.

This is why “beauty is overrated.” We value beauty because it’s obvious. It’s plain to see. It’s simple to explain. It doesn’t require any thinking. It’s all around us all the time. You don’t need to travel far to see a billboard, television commercial, print advertisement, or pop-up window that features a beautiful person – male or female. It’s deeply engrained into our multimedia landscape. Sex sells, as the adage goes. Heck, it’s so pervasive it’s easy to not notice it.

Yet, beauty unto itself is fairly limited. A pretty face can be forgettable. A shapely body you see in a magazine may draw your attention momentarily, but it’ll fade off into the distance once something else replaces it. The smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies? The sound of your favorite song playing over the PA system? The feeling of cool air cascading off your face on a sweltering hot summer day? All of those things can replace the memory of a beautiful magazine cover model because she’s a dime a dozen (no offense to her). Her beauty is considerable, but it’s not enough. We want to feel something. A connection. A memory. An involuntary reaction.

A nameless Victoria’s Secret underwear model cannot compete with Isabelle Turell or Lindsay Mulinazzi. The nameless model looks nice but doesn’t elicit any emotional reaction out of us. We notice their beauty and move on with our lives. Isabelle and Lindsay, on the other hand, make us want to beg for their attention. Get down on our knees and worship them. Shell out hundreds of dollars in cash to purchase their merchandise. Praise them as queens or goddesses. Use hyperbolic language when describing them. Travel to the furthest ends of the earth just to meet them for a single hour. Stay up late watching videos of them when we have to go to work the next day. Do things we normally wouldn’t do like set up a muscle worship appointment or fantasy wrestling session – all in secret, naturally.

Beauty in complete isolation is neat. But it does not give us a complete picture of the situation. Some people – and this includes non-bodybuilders – have a pull on us that almost seems magical. Remember your grade school crush? I sure do. I still think about her. I recently stalked her on Facebook and saw that she’s happily married with a newborn child. She’s kind of pretty, but not nearly as drop dead gorgeous as I thought of her at the time. In this case, distance and time did not make the heart grow fonder. Quite the opposite. But I clearly remember being 12 years old and not being able to keep my eyes off her. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. She was sweet, smart, nice, and good looking. I was enchanted with her.

We all have similar stories we can tell. Many of us have current stories in similar vein that we can tell. Crushes are exactly that: they crush us. They shatter our ability to think rationally. They stomp all over our sense of self-preservation and force us to act foolishly. We are enthralled by them, taken in by them, infatuated with them. It’s strong. It’s focused. It’s nearly unbreakable.

And when it does break, it tears our hearts in half.

Do you know what this ultimately means? It means beauty is not just overrated, but somewhat misunderstood. We give pure physical beauty more credit than it deserves. It can initially capture our attention, but it’s not enough to keep us tuned in. We need more if we want to continue to be playing the game. We need an emotional bond. A cathartic connection. A spiritual awakening. We need our heartstrings tugged at in addition to blood flowing to our private parts. This isn’t just explained by love or lust. It’s something else. Something…less tangible.

Now, comparing your schoolyard crush to your adult fascination with female bodybuilders is not completely analogous. They are two different things. Yet, the general idea remains the same. They both have us in the palm of their hands. They control the situation, not us. They have the power. All the power. It’s not even close. It’s more than a magic spell. It’s more mysterious than a love potion because this is completely organic. It’s natural. No special sauce is needed.

What kind of beauty is unforgettable to you?

Go back to the beginning of this article and reread Merriam-Webster’s definition of “beauty.” Notice the word “spirit” at the very end. That’s significant. Do not trivialize this. To “pleasurably exalt the spirit” is quite a turn of phrase. It seems to connotate a religious awakening; a divine experience that transcends the mortal body. This is why we tend to use ethereal language when describing female bodybuilders. It’s just like a religious experience. A conversion. A death and resurrection all happening at once.

Beauty is overrated because it places too much emphasis on the person who is being described as beautiful. This isn’t a knock against them, but rather an observation that what really matters is the person experiencing the beauty. What are they thinking? Hoping? Dreaming about? Fearful of? Wishing would happen with all their might?

The fact I’ve been writing about female bodybuilders and female muscle fetishism for seven years now – yes, it’s been that long – is proof that FBBs have a profound grip on me. It’s everlasting. Sure, sometimes it wanes for a bit, but it never goes away. I don’t think that’s even possible.

FBBs are important to me and will continue to be a massive part of my life. The same is probably true for many of you too. And the reason this is true isn’t just because FBBs are physically beautiful creatures. It’s because they have the keen ability to draw out wild thoughts and fantasies from us. They make us act irrationally. They cannot leave our imaginations. They’re living rent free in our heads – and we are grateful landlords who refuse to ask for back payments.

Because it’s not just about how beautiful they are. It’s how beautiful we make them out to be.

The Hyperfeminine Muscular Woman

Minna Pajulahti is too hot for words.

Female bodybuilders are no strangers to the hurtful accusation that they’re not actually women. That they aren’t feminine enough. That they’re turning into men or want to become men. That men aren’t going to like them because of their muscles. That “real women” don’t look like that. That they actually look like men. That they’re confused about their gender.

And so on and so forth.

These slurs are so common I’m guessing most FBBs have achieved the ability to mentally block them out. They have a filter installed in their brain that allows them to ignore stupid opinions that have no merit. At least, I hope so. I cannot imagine how dreadfully annoying it is to have your appearance mocked just because you choose to lift weights, supplement, and bulk up like any other gym bro. Or that your personal definition of “empowerment” requires you to look different than the other girls – and that not everybody is on board with that.

Because of this toxic reality, it is not surprising that many female bodybuilders have decided – whether this is intentional or not is difficult to assess – to counter these slanders by presenting themselves in explicitly feminine terms. Think of it as compensating for their lack of “traditional femininity” by acting more outwardly feminine than they normally would.

Some examples of this include:

  • Getting breast implants
  • Wearing a lot of makeup (even more than usual)
  • Wearing sexy dresses
  • Wearing stylish clothing
  • Smiling, laughing, giggling, and doing whatever she can to appear less “threatening”
  • Posting pictures on Instagram of her doing traditionally “feminine” activities like trying on new clothes, shoe shopping, kissing her boyfriend/husband, playing with dogs, playing with kids, being a “mom,” cooking, cleaning, etc.
  • Promoting brands/products/stores that are traditionally aimed at women
  • Doing porn in which she has sex with men, with the man (or group of men) being in the “dominant” role and the muscular woman in the “submissive” role
  • Or doing porn where the man and muscular woman are equals
  • Choosing not to talk if her voice is too low
  • Doing photoshoots in which her face is edited to look more feminine and less hard edged
  • Avoiding talking about steroids, hormonal supplements, and anything that can be perceived as compromising her “womanhood”

It saddens me to think that female bodybuilders do these things not because they want to but because they feel like they have to. Yet, I am torn on this topic. On one hand, I am a strong believer that everybody has the right to craft their own identity to be whatever they want it to be. They shouldn’t give in to pressure to conform, fit in, or go with the flow. On the other hand, if being “traditionally feminine” is what they genuinely want to do, then nothing should stop them from being that. It’s a tough line to draw in the sand because I do not know what every FBB is thinking and feeling.

Don’t mess with Jayne Trcka. She has handcuffs!

Maybe some FBBs actually enjoy doing activities that are considered “feminine.” Or maybe they do it because they don’t want to alienate anybody. Or, like I said before, they want to appear less “threatening,” as if the sight of a woman with big muscles is somehow considered inherently threatening. Threatening to whom, exactly?

The Hyperfeminine Muscular Woman is a fascinating case study. What do we think of her? Is she compromising her identity by pretending to be something she isn’t, or is that who she really is?

At the end of the day, we don’t really know. But I do know this phenomenon does exist. For example, I can’t recall where I saw this but I remember reading an Instagram post in which Minna Pajulahti says she sometimes acts overtly feminine because she doesn’t want people to think of female bodybuilders as not being real women. That’s paraphrasing her rationale, unfortunately. So she does things like deadlift a crazy amount of weight, drop the bar to the floor, and strike a Beyoncé-like pose at the end as the “kicker.” Why dance around and strike diva poses? Because it reinforces her femininity, which apparently gets compromised when she’s deadlifting, squatting, bench pressing, and lift a ton of weight.

I am not criticizing Minna, of course. I love her and would never do that! But I will acknowledge that I think it’s a bit sad that she feels the need to do this. Not tragic, but mildly sad. Being strong doesn’t mean she isn’t feminine. Doing masculine-labeled activities does not mean she isn’t feminine. Having a nontraditional physique does not mean she isn’t feminine. All of that is complete and utter bullshit.

Minna Pajulahti is a feminine woman. So is Victoria Dominguez. And Kathy Connors. And Jennifer Kennedy. And Gillian Kovack. And Rene Campbell. And Wanda Moore. And Lauren Powers. And Rhonda Lee Quaresma. And Dena Westerfield. And many, many others.

What do all these beautiful women have in common? They’ve all had their feminine identities questioned. Or challenged. Or denied. I’ve seen them labeled “trannies” or “dykes” and other idiotic slurs. The stupidity of people who feel compelled to insult and troll innocent people is boundless. But that is the world we live in today.

Rene Campbell isn’t here for your rude comments.

What makes the existence of the Hyperfeminine Muscular Woman so frustrating is that we don’t know if it’s genuine or not. Are they acting overtly feminine because that’s who they truly are or because that’s how they think society wants them to be? To segment that last part even further, do they act aggressively feminine because they want to be accepted by society (whatever that means) or because they feel the need to overcompensate? The negative stereotypes that surround female bodybuilders are real, hurtful, and pervasive. Perhaps some FBBs feel compelled to dispel these perceptions by acting way more feminine than they’d normally want to. Either way, it’s sad.

It’s sad because I don’t want any muscular woman to act differently just because they want to please others. That’s heartbreaking. I want female bodybuilders to be who they are and not apologize for it. If being traditionally feminine is who they are, so be it. If they feel more comfortable being “butch” or androgynous, so be it. If acting and appearing more masculine is what floats their boat, so be it. Regardless, I just want every FBB to feel at home in their own skin. Whatever that entails.

But I don’t want to dismiss the fact that outside perceptions do matter, even if we don’t want them to. As individuals, we do have to conform to certain social standards if we want to fit in. At least, whenever we’re in public. Especially in the professional world. Being viewed as a scary butch devil lady may be fun as an online persona, but it’s not going to help you land any customer service jobs. Many FBBs are also personal trainers. They can’t appear too intimidating if they want to gain new clients.

There’s also the moral obligation to consider on top of this. When female bodybuilders choose to act and look “hyperfeminine,” are they actually doing harm to femininity without realizing it? For example, we tend to hold narrow views of what masculinity and femininity look like. It shouldn’t take a Gillette ad campaign to tell us that. Shouldn’t FBBs act however they want to act as a statement that “feminine” can be a much larger tent than it currently is? This could also challenge whether or not “masculinity” and “femininity” are real things. Or to what extent we’re allowed to box in people in these categories.

Roxanne Edwards slaying the bodybuilding stage.

It’s unfair to demand that every popular female bodybuilder is obliged to be an ambassador for female bodybuilders everywhere. They are not symbols. They are individuals. Yet, this obligation is unavoidable. Every time an FBB makes an appearance on TV or in a mainstream Hollywood movie, they represent FBBs as a whole – whether they want to or not. Jayne Trcka appeared in Scary Movie (2000) as the comically androgynous gym teacher Miss Mann. She was great in it, even though I cringe watching her scene. It plays for laughs every single negative stereotype you can imagine regarding muscular women. It reinforces the perceptions that women like Cindy Landolt and Aspen Rae shatter with every new Instagram post. Yet, they aren’t invited to appear in movies or TV shows.

But I am not criticizing Jayne. She’s awesome. She’s beautiful, smart, funny, and kind. She isn’t traditionally feminine, but there’s no doubt she’s a woman. She’s a 100% woman. She doesn’t have a secret penis tucked between her legs. And I totally understand why she took that role. You don’t say “no” to a mainstream Hollywood gig. Unless you’re Leonardo DiCaprio or Margot Robbie and you have studios begging you to be in their movie, most working actors have to accept whatever job is available to them. So I don’t begrudge Jayne one bit. I don’t blame her. And I hope none of you do either.

Therefore, Hyperfeminine Muscular Women are caught between a rock and a hard place. They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Female bodybuilders who make absolutely no attempt to act more feminine are also making a difficult choice. They’re also stuck in a Catch-22. But at the end of the day, all this boils down to us. Whether we choose to accept a muscular woman for who she is depends entirely on us. Not her. We choose to embrace her butchness if that’s the road she’s chosen to traverse. We also choose to deny her femininity if she doesn’t uphold our personal standards of what femininity means. It’s a choice. A personal choice. We can either love her for who she is…or not.

Personally, I’ve never questioned the gender identity of any female bodybuilder. Even the ones who are the most masculine presenting. The ones with the deep voice, shrunken breasts, abrasive personality, large muscles, masculine facial features, and large bulge in their panties. They are women, even if 99% of us don’t acknowledge it. They aren’t tearing down femininity; they’re redefining it. Or expanding it. Or challenging us to rethink how we define gender as it is.

The truth is that the “Hyperfeminine Muscular Woman” persona is a performance. The Traditionally Feminine Muscular Woman isn’t. Most likely, an FBB who acts really, really, really, really feminine is putting on a show. She’s intentionally playing a part. She’s an actor and all the world’s a stage. And we are the audience, even if some of us are throwing popcorn at the performers like low-life jerks.

Or do you prefer someone as unquestionably feminine as Courtney Tillia?

This makes me sad. As it should all of you who sympathize with these ladies. When push comes to shove, I want every FBB in the world to feel comfortable in their own skin. I want them to embrace themselves. After all, how can anyone love you if you can’t even love yourself? I want every FBB to wake up each morning, look themselves in the mirror, and say to their reflection “Damn, I look good!” I want these ladies to take joy in looking the way they look, regardless of what anyone else says.

If they feel beautiful with a butch haircut, tattoos, and piercings everywhere, I support that.

If they feel beautiful with long flowy hair, glowing skin, and pouty red lips, I support that.

If they feel beautiful wearing makeup, I support that.

If they feel beautiful wearing no makeup, I support that.

If they feel beautiful slaying in a sexy red cocktail dress, I support that.

If they feel beautiful wearing sweatpants and a hoodie, I support that.

If they feel beautiful acting flamboyantly sexy, I support that.

If they feel beautiful acting quiet, humble, and lowkey, I support that.

If they feel beautiful with big bulging muscles, I support that.

If they feel beautiful with smaller curvier muscles, I support that.

If they feel beautiful playing the “tough girl” role, I support that.

If they feel beautiful playing the “nice girl” role, I support that.

Hopefully, you get my point. I want every muscular woman to feel empowered to be who they are. I wish every FBB can one day figure out who they truly are. Not everyone reaches that point of self-realization. This conversation shouldn’t have anything to do with haters, critics, or trolls. They can go to Hell. Instead, this should be more focused on what muscular women want out of their lives. Do they want to change the world, or do they just want to change themselves? It doesn’t matter as long as they eventually find the path they want to walk down.

And once they reach the end of that path, nothing should stand in their way. Not the haters, not anyone. Because it doesn’t matter what anyone says. When a female bodybuilder is at the peak of her powers, she isn’t listening to what the outside world thinks of her. She’s only celebrating her accomplishments, her goals, her dreams, her life. She’s at her most beautiful when she’s doing this one simple thing:

Being herself.