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.

Faster, Female Bodybuilder! Grow! Grow!

An example of FMG art, via David C. Matthews.
An example of FMG art, via David C. Matthews.

Female Muscle Growth (FMG) stories are a staple of online female muscle fandom. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend some quality leisure time reading stories about big and buff female characters doing what big and buff female characters do?

Well, what exactly do big and buff female fictional characters do? Whatever the author wishes, of course! Bashing in the skulls of dastardly villains, taking on a horde of flesh-eating zombies singlehandedly, warding off an alien invasion, or befriending a small and nerdy male protagonist (usually to the erotic benefit of said male protagonist) are all par for the course. Naturally, this genre of fiction appeals to a wide number of female muscle fans out there in the wider world.

Therefore, one would expect that yours truly, Ryan Takahashi, would be an avid fan of FMG stories. And do you know what? I’m……………..not.

Wait, what?

That’s right. As shocking as this might sound, FMG stories don’t really appeal to me. This sounds especially odd since I’ve published lots of female muscle-themed fictional stories on my blog. Doesn’t it make logical sense that Mr. Takahashi would also be a passionate supporter of FMG tales?

Well, not really. I’ve tried to read some FMG stories posted on popular female muscle websites, but they don’t allure me as much as you’d think. I’m not in any way shape or form judging these writers, editors, and contributors in a negative fashion. It’s not the quality of the writing, plotlines or narrative structures that I find unappealing. Rather, it’s the general concept of FMG that turns me off.

Like always, I shall explain what I mean in further detail.

Before you dust off the pitchforks and torches (as well as the tar and feathers), let me provide a little background on the genre of FMG so you can be assured I’m not speaking out of ignorance.

Female Muscle Growth is a subgenre of erotic fiction that features a female protagonist – although the character could be the antagonist – who starts off as a normal-sized young woman but eventually finds herself transformed into a beautiful, sexy and hyper-muscular She-Hulk of epic proportions. Usually this transformation happens for reasons such as a scientific experiment, a magical spell is cast upon her, special DNA is injected into her bloodstream, a supernatural talisman, side effects from a new brand of medication, a potion created by a sorcerer, latent superpowers that she just discovers, and so on.

The specific reason why our modest heroine is transformed into a Super Muscle Goddess changes, but the general idea remains the same. It isn’t because she’s a pro bodybuilder who built her muscles naturally by eating right, working out like a mad woman, strategically using steroids/human growth hormones, and resting in proper increments. That sort of transformation takes months and years, not mere seconds. It’s not magical; it’s scientific.

She-Hulk!
She-Hulk!

Popular forums for finding FMG stories include Diana the Valkyrie’s Library of Amazon growth stories, Forum Saradas, and various DeviantArt pages. There are of course individual blogs, websites, and Tumblr sites also dedicated to publishing or sharing FMG content. There might be printed books and e-books that follow the FMG formula, but I haven’t done enough research to point you in any specific direction. Without question, all the FMG fiction you want is just a simple Google search away. Isn’t the Internet a swell place?

As mentioned previously, many times these stories also feature a male protagonist who is usually meek, nerdy, socially awkward, and not very popular with the ladies (of any size). Just like a lot of us! I don’t want to paint all of us with a broad brush, but it’s probably not a stretch of the imagination to say that many of us aren’t what one would consider a modern day Casanova. Yes, I know many of you readers are happily married or are in a stable relationship, but that certainly isn’t every single one of you. I can speak for myself when I say my personal history with women isn’t full of proud successes!

So these stories are a perfect avenue for less-than triumphant guys (some would call them beta males, but that’s a whole other story) to live vicariously through these fictional characters. Even guys who are popular with the ladies occasionally want to fantasize about being with a big and buff female companion…if even for a few moments.

FMG stories are usually accompanied by either illustrations of these ladies (often times in the style of Japanese hentai) or images of real women enhanced generously by Adobe PhotoShop. Or there may not be any images at all. Not everyone is an artist or a PhotoShop wizard. Also, not everyone is unethical enough to steal images produced by another artist or wealthy enough to pay a professional artist to sketch illustrations for them.

That being said, why am I not a big fan of this genre of fiction? Well, there are a few reasons. The first is that I prefer muscular women who earn their muscles through hard work and dedication rather than through supernatural means. In all the fiction I’ve written featuring a female muscle protagonist, all of them are professional or semi-professional bodybuilders who became big and strong the old fashioned way. This better reflects the type of characters I find most appealing.

My love for muscular women isn’t just defined by the fact they have large muscles. I love big muscles just as much as any other female muscle fan, but I also love the context behind their fabulous muscles. I love that they had to earn every single muscle fiber they have on their beautiful bodies. I love knowing they’ve had to make difficult sacrifices in order to get that big (no FBB spends all her free time watching TV, drinking beer, and eating pizza). I appreciate their willingness to restructure their lives around building up the muscle mass they need to compete at the highest level. I love their vulnerability, toughness, emotional fortitude, discipline, and supreme confidence.

In other words, I love strong women because of what it takes for them to become strong women.

FMG stories aren’t my cup of tea because these characters don’t earn their muscles. Their muscles are given to them with little to no effort on their part. A magic potion, one individual super strength vitamin pill, a single injection of experimental DNA and things like that are cheap ways to gain unreal muscle growth. But Rene Campbell, for example, is different. She makes sacrifices. She’s costed herself a stable love life in order to pursue bodybuilding. She gets looks of disgust from people all the time because she can’t simply turn off her muscularity like a light switch. Her muscles are with her 24/7/365. They are a part of her identity. They are embedded within who she is as a human being.

A fan-created FMG interpretation of popular anime character Sakura Haruno.
A fan-created FMG interpretation of popular anime character Sakura Haruno.

As fantasy fiction, FMG stories do what they’re supposed to do. They provide quick titillation and entertainment for legions of female muscle enthusiasts. Fantastic! I have no quarrel with that. It’s just not for me. That’s it. I’m not judging the genre, insulting those who love the genre, or calling for the genre to adapt to my specific tastes. My opinion doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this world. Even if it did, I wouldn’t alter the genre in any way. People love it, so they should be allowed to enjoy it. Sound fair?

It’s just not my cut of steak. That’s all there is to it.

Another reason why I don’t particular dig this genre is that the “beta male” stereotype annoys me. I understand not every single FMG story features this archetype, but many do. Look, I am in no way a “man’s man” or anything like that, but the perception that all guys who dig muscular women are somehow emasculated man-children who fetishize being in a hapless subordinate position to powerful women gets a bit tiring after a while.

One other reason is that at the end of the day, I find realism to be much more appealing than fantasy. I realize that all fiction is unreal, but what I mean is “realistic.” Effective erotic fiction should, in my opinion, reflect a certain degree of plausible realism. That isn’t to say that the sci-fi and fantasy genres can’t be erotically appealing. It’s just that on a personal level, I tend to prefer realistic situations that closely mirror real life.

This preference isn’t for everybody, nor should it be. I’m not judging people who don’t share my views. It’s totally fine to disagree with me. This is just how I assess what excites me.

This is why I find the vast majority of mainstream porn to be boring, stupid, and uninteresting. I don’t want to sit down and watch 30 minutes of two plastic surgery-enhanced doofuses have passionless sex all while hurling fake screams and moans in between painfully written dialogue. Wait, there’s actual dialogue in porn? Yeah, I guess there is. If you care about that sort of thing.

The kinds of porn that I do find fun to watch is when I can identity (or come close to identifying) the people involved. The “plotline” in most porn is so unimaginative it’s become an ongoing joke. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl take off their clothes. Boy and girl then have sex. And more sex. Then from different positions. Then a second boy or girl enters the room. Then the pizza delivery guy knocks on the door. Then mommy or daddy unexpectedly arrives home early, carrying with them the usual assortment of whips, handcuffs, dildos, vibrators, rope, and bottles of lube.

Yuck. We all know how it goes.

In similar fashion, FMG stories tend to (although not all of it is like this, to be completely fair) follow the same general outline. The names, faces, and specific situations may change, but not too much. We are introduced to a girl who is shy and weak. Then she miraculously becomes muscle-bound. Then she meets a boy. Then…well, the rest is up to whoever is writing the story.

A more pen-and-paper version of FMG art, via Diana Valkyrie.
A more pen-and-paper version of FMG art, via Diana Valkyrie.

I suppose I shouldn’t slam this too much. Lots of guys (and gals) in this world love FMG, so who am I to spoil the party?

Different strokes for different folks, I guess. Perhaps a better approach to this subject is to explain not why I don’t like FMG stories, but why other forms of female muscle fiction appeal to me more. I love browsing through photos of fitness models, female bodybuilders, and other kinds of muscular women. Cartoon drawings of such women don’t entice to me as much. I have nothing but respect for these artists (as the tiresome cliché goes, I can barely draw a stick figure!), however I much prefer the real thing. Just spend a few moments and take a look at Minna Pajulahti’s Instagram account. Oh boy. That’ll get your blood boiling!

Want some examples of female muscle fiction that I happen to enjoy? Read “Chemical Pink” by Katie Arnoldi (who herself is a former bodybuilder) and “Devil and Disciple – The Temptation” by L. J. K. Cross (a.k.a. Lisa Cross, the famed British female bodybuilder). These two novels are fantastic reads. Go check them out if you can! It’s easy to order them on Amazon.com if you have a few extra bucks lying around.

Here is how I will tie this all in together. If you haven’t started preparing the tar and feathers and searching for a railroad track to parade me on, go ahead and do so. I’ll wait. In the meantime, what I’ll say is this:

I love muscular women for many reasons. The main one is aesthetic. I REALLY love how they look. On this point, we should all be in universal agreement. Muscular women are Goddesses on Earth and should be treated as such. There’s a darn good reason why many of us fantasize about worshipping their muscles as if they were deities in the flesh. That’s because in our fantasy worlds, they ARE deities in the flesh. And they have a lot of muscular flesh on their gorgeous bodies, ready for us to touch – if they let us, of course.

The other reason why I love muscular women is because they’re beautiful in ways that they have to earn. Nobody gave them their muscles. They didn’t sign their names on the dotted line and a FedEx delivery guy simply drove their pre-packaged muscles to their homes and dropped them off on the front porch. You can’t buy big muscles at Target. You don’t sign any contracts. You don’t sit around and wait for someone or something to hand them to you.

You have to earn it. Every single day of your life.

And that’s exactly what female bodybuilders do. They earn their muscles. Since we love looking at their muscles, logically speaking they also earn their beauty. Unlike the beautiful Abercrombie & Fitch models you see on wall-sized advertisements, many female bodybuilders (although not all) are not born conventionally beautiful. We often get jealous of professional models because they make a living – although recent news stories have reported that there is copious abuse within the industry, which unfortunately shouldn’t surprise any of us – thanks to their natural God-given looks. In a way, that kind of jealousy is understandable.

But not so with female bodybuilders. Their beautiful muscular bodies were not given to them from birth. Good genetics did not automatically grant them their six-pack abs, bulging biceps, broad shoulders, thick thighs, rounded calves, and toned butt. They had to sacrifice blood, sweat, and tears to get those assets. While we may harbor some level of envy toward women who can bench press more than us, at the end of the day she busted her tail year-in and year-out to be able to do those lifts. If we put in the same amount of hard work, so can the rest of us. It’s that simple.

Personally, I'd rather look at photos of real life female bodybuilders like Minna Pajulahti.
Personally, I’d rather look at photos of real life female bodybuilders like Minna Pajulahti.

Getting to the top of Mount Everest isn’t nearly as impressive as putting in the work, strategic planning, and preparation necessary to be able to climb Mount Everest in the first place. The journey is just as compelling as the end goal. In this respect, I love female bodybuilders because of the arduous journey they’re on. We can appreciate the final product, but we can also appreciate the road they had to travel to achieve that final product.

At the heart of FMG fiction is cutting through that long and windy road and getting from Point A to Point B in a matter of seconds. That’s not intriguing to me; not because a particular FMG story isn’t well written or well-conceived, but rather because it eliminates the very core reason why I love muscular women in the first place. They earned their muscles through strenuous hard labor, not a magic pill concocted by a mad scientist.

I want female bodybuilders to grow and grow just like the next guy. But I want the journey to take as long as it needs to. Give me a photo of a young fitness Instagram model over a hyper-muscular ‘roided up cartoon character any day. But if that’s your thing, go for it! I encourage people to express their female muscle fandom in any way they choose (as long as it’s legal and consensual, of course).

But alas, I digress. If FMG stories are what rock your socks, I am in no position of authority to say it shouldn’t. By all means, read, write, and draw all the FMG art your heart desires! Do whatever makes you happy, I say. This is not a condemnation of FMG, people who like FMG, or people who create FMG. This is just my humble take on the genre. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts and reactions in the comments below or by sending me an e-mail at ryantakahashi87 (at) yahoo (dot) com. I may even write a follow-up post sharing what you write (or rant) to me.

In the meantime, I swear I can smell the tar boiling in the cauldron…

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Kudos goes out to David C. Matthews for being a supremely talented female muscle artist. Please check out his comic series Tetsuko if you haven’t already! The FMG drawing of popular anime character Sakura Haruno is created by Pegius. The illustration of She-Hulk is done by Michele Frigo.