You Can’t Please Everybody: The Difficulty a Female Bodybuilder Faces in Maintaining the “Perfect” Balance

Dayana Cadeau may not be able to please everybody, but she can sure please me!
Dayana Cadeau may not be able to please everybody, but she can sure please me!

There are some people in this world who need to please others. And not just please them every so often; they have this burning desire to please everybody every time with everything they do.

This, of course, is an impossible task. But that doesn’t stop certain people from trying to do so with all their might.

Call it insecurity. Call it a psychological complex. Call it irrational. Or you can chalk it up to good business sense. Being a bodybuilder isn’t just a lifestyle. It’s a business venture. Like all business ventures, success isn’t guaranteed, nor is the formula for success set in stone permanently. In our ever-changing market of goods and services (which is becoming more internationally-driven as the years go on), what works today won’t work ten years from now; just as what worked ten years ago isn’t the same as what works today.

The same is true for how a female bodybuilder has to promote herself to the public. In decades past, there were more “traditional” routes to how she could achieve financial success. Competitions were still fairly lucrative and endorsement deals were there for the taking. The money in it wasn’t always reliable or plentiful, but you knew where it was if you wanted it.

Today, things are much different. Big, brawny female bodybuilders aren’t given the opportunities they once were. They aren’t becoming extinct by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s hard to imagine the glory years of the 1970s and 80s returning any time soon.

Jill St. Laurent is a true saint in my book.
Jill St. Laurent is a true saint in my book.

So here’s the fundamental dilemma: The general public – and whether this assertion if fair or not can be up for debate – tends to gravitate toward people who fit “one size fits all” molds. If we’re talking about strong women, they want these women to fit all these criteria:

  • Tough, yet approachable
  • Strong, yet vulnerable
  • Muscular, yet traditionally feminine
  • Accomplished, yet still physically beautiful
  • Intelligent, yet not condescending
  • Individualistic, yet still marketable
  • Talented, yet unintimidating
  • A woman, yet not defined by her gender
  • Speaks her mind, yet doesn’t ruffle any feathers
  • Dedicated to her craft, yet still has time to do “woman” things like get married and raise children

These hideous double standards are obviously not felt by the majority of male athletes. Whether the typical sports fan would ever admit this or not, this is how we treat our female athletes. In many cases, they feel this way without even explicitly knowing it! Talk about having certain attitudes ingrained into our psyche from birth.

Nobody can chain down Fabiola Boulanger!
Nobody can chain down Fabiola Boulanger!

If a female bodybuilder were to be one of those types who needs to please everybody every single time, she’ll go crazy and would tear all her hair out. Thankfully, the vast majority of FBBs are mentally strong and ignore useless nonsense like that. But this illustrates the predicament that comes with the territory of working in the industry. Female bodybuilders cannot possibly please everyone. The so-called “perfect balance” of being someone who can appeal to all audiences is a myth. Not even the most popular celebrities in our society are universally popular with all people. Singers, actors, TV personalities, writers, sports heroes, etc. Everyone has their fair share of critics. This isn’t a reflection of them, however. This is more of a reflection of the diverse tastes, opinions, and aesthetic standards we have available to us.

So how does one survive in a business where appeal is the name of the game? After all, if enough people don’t like your brand, your earning power will quickly diminish. Blockbuster Video no longer exists because Netflix (and, ahem, online pirating) replaced it as the consumer’s top choice for purchasing cinematic entertainment. Therefore, FBBs cannot completely ignore the importance of mass appeal.

What is she to do? There are two routes:

  1. Appeal to as many different audiences as possible
  2. Appeal to a very specific audience and take full advantage of this niche market

One could argue an FBB would best be served if she pursued route #2. Non-bodybuilders like soccer players, tennis players, basketball players, MMA fighters, and prominent fitness celebrities are more likely to find financial success if she dips her toes in route #1. But this could very well be wrong.

To an extent, appealing to a niche audience is what FBBs do currently. In many respects this is their only viable option to staying financially secure in today’s world. This isn’t a criticism of the “Female Bodybuilding Business Model.” This is just an observation of what actually works.

Ever heard of the “80/20 Rule?” Also known as the “Pareto principle,” in the business world it states that in general, 80 percent of your business revenue will come from 20 percent of your customers. If you open up a coffee shop in the middle of a busy downtown business district, your most valuable clients will be the people who buy an iced latte or white chocolate mocha from you five days a week. The spunky happy-go-lucky traveler who’s in town temporarily to visit his in-laws and decides to stop by your establishment only one time isn’t. That guy may be a totally nice person, but his value to your business is limited. Your repeat customers who loyally visit your shop on a consistent basis are way more important in the long-term.

Brandi Mae Akers posing in a sexy see-through dress.
Brandi Mae Akers posing in a sexy see-through dress.

For an entrepreneurial female bodybuilder, she must take heed of the 80/20 Rule. She may not have the largest number of clients available to her, but she can have a smaller group of fans who will follower her to the ends of the Earth. They may be small in size, but their return on investment (ROI) may be significant. One person who will buy tickets to a bodybuilding competition, pay you $500 for a muscle worship session, and purchase customized swag through your website is more valuable than 20 people who know your name but don’t want to have anything to do with you.

This small group of fans will adore you for who you are. They aren’t disgusted by your large size, shrunken breasts, deepened voice, and blunt personality. In fact, they love you because of all those things! Sadly, some FBBs feel like they need to get “smaller” in order to survive in the industry. That’s sad and hopefully they choose to look the way they want to look regardless of what other people think. But the pressure of being an elite athlete who remains unambiguously “feminine” persists whether we like it or not.

However, that doesn’t mean an FBB should be compelled to sell out who she is as a human being in order to earn a steady income. If she wants to squat so much her legs grow to the size of tree trunks, then she has every right to do that. If there are people out there who want her to stop squatting so damn much because she’ll end up “looking like a man,” here’s a pithy comeback for them:

Go fuck yourself.

That’s right! An FBB doesn’t have to be that crude, but she can be if the situation calls for it. The truth is, not everyone in the general population appreciates thick strong legs on a woman. But for those of us who know who Shannon Courtney is, a small but significant portion of us do in fact appreciate the finer things in life. Miss Courtney’s legs are definitely in the category of the “Finer Things in Life,” right up there with 50-year-old scotch whiskey, the cinema of François Truffaut, Lamborghinis, and Thai cuisine.

Shannon Courtney’s legs might be the best illustration of the 80/20 Rule. A vast number of us would appreciate her hard work and provide her a “you go girl!” compliment. A smaller number of us would willingly pay her $300 for the right to touch her legs. I have no idea if Shannon offers these kinds of services, but that’s not the point. If she wanted to, she could make a healthy buck on the side. For many female bodybuilders, they actually make a living wage offering customers the ability to touch their hard-earned bodies.

Shannon Courtney - definitely one of the finer things in life.
Shannon Courtney – definitely one of the finer things in life.

In order to survive in today’s interconnected world, a female bodybuilder doesn’t have to appeal to large audiences. She only has to find a specific niche and saturate that market to the best of her ability. And there is no doubt that such a niche market exists. It may not be obvious or widely talked about, but there are plenty of guys and gals in this world who share a keen interest in muscular women.

These are the people who matter to an FBB. Not the rest who are openly disgusted by her life’s choices. An FBB shouldn’t waste her time trying to please people who don’t already appreciate her beautiful muscles. Trying to convert them will be an exercise in futility. Instead, she should focus her attention on cultivating meaningful relationships with clients who already love her muscles. That will reap much more ROI.

Thankfully, most female bodybuilders are already doing this! This essay isn’t telling them anything they don’t know already. But it can serve as a reminder to the rest of us that living life as an FBB can be arduous, frustrating, and unpredictable. There are outside forces working against you. The deck is not stacked in your favor. But all is not lost. There are avenues to success that are proven to work on a practical level. The challenge is tapping into those avenues and feeling confident, supported, and empowered to do so.

Indeed, you cannot please everybody. This requires either maintaining the (impossible) “perfect balance” that appeals to all audiences … or diluting your product. The first option is impractical and the second option forces you to compromise your integrity. Either one stinks. So your third option is probably your best option: Screw what the masses think and embrace what your dedicated fans think.

And let’s be honest. Not even your most dedicated fans will appreciate everything you do 100 percent of the time. That’s totally fine. But you know they’re in your corner, cheering for you every step of the way. They may not make up large numbers, but their proud loyalty amplifies their voices ten-fold.

A Female Muscle Fetish Isn’t as Complicated as You Might Think

The reason why Jill St. Laurent is gorgeous definitely isn't complicated.
The reason why Jill St. Laurent is gorgeous definitely isn’t complicated.

Sometimes in life, we tend to overthink things.

Nobody needs to spend twenty minutes thinking about which brand of hair coloring they need to buy. Or a whole hour organizing your wardrobe for the day. Or testing out twelve different fad diets only to discover that none of them actually work.

Overthinking things can be exhausting. It can waste your time, money, energy and faith in your own judgement. Don’t we all wish someone would have the good sense to knock us over the head and tell us this before it becomes a problematic obsession?

Yes, perhaps we do. But our tendency to overthink things can usually be remedied by following this general guideline: KISS.

Keep It Simple, Stupid.

In other words, sometimes the simplest explanations are the best. Occam’s Razor, anyone?

The same could be said about female muscle fetishism. We all have our own explanations as to why and how we got into female muscle. Everyone has their unique personal story. And the truth is, anecdotes can be remarkably insightful in explaining so much about our lives. For some, it was a single magazine cover that did it. For others, it was following the career of one specific female bodybuilder. Maybe you caught a glimpse on television of a female bodybuilding competition back in the good old days of the 1980s. Regardless, everyone remembers the time they “discovered” this amazing world and had their eyes opened to an aesthetic that transcends “traditional” standards of female beauty.

There are psychologists, sex experts and ordinary people everywhere who try to “explain away” the larger meaning of these personal stories. Do they reflect hidden insecurity? Or do they reveal latent homosexuality? Are guys who are into “muscle chicks” self-hating men? Do they secretly wish to be physically dominated by their girlfriends? Are they sexual deviants who need counseling? Is this a sign of obsessive behavior that can eventually consume his entire life?

Yikes. That got out of hand in a hurry. Perhaps not all of these stereotypes immediately come to mind when you learn a guy really digs strong women. But certainly these thoughts cross your mind at some level. If it does, don’t worry. Here’s something that will bring ultimate clarity to this situation.

We’re overthinking things. Maybe, just maybe, female muscle fetishism isn’t that complicated. It’s just a simple form of lust that’s inherent in all of us (or, almost all of us).

Hm. An interesting thought. So a guy who drools over the Ms. Olympia contestants is no different than a middle school boy who drools over the girls in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues? Well, I’ll be darned!

Remember when Pamela Anderson was strutting her stuff on Baywatch? The 90s were a glorious time, indeed.
Remember when Pamela Anderson was strutting her stuff on Baywatch? The 90s were a glorious time, indeed.

Most of us guys know what we’re referring to. Face it. We all kept a hidden stash of dirty (or semi-dirty) magazines under our bed. Or old VHS tapes of cinematic sex scenes in the sock drawer. Or porn we printed off the computer when mom and dad were out of the house. Raise your hand if this described you when you were a lad of 14.

You can put your hands down now. Thank you for participating in this unscientific study.

Now turn the clock forward 10-25 years. You’re now a fully grown adult. You might be married, in a relationship, divorced, or single. It doesn’t matter. You’ve ditched the contraband magazines for more sophisticated resources. In the decades between your teen years and adulthood, you expanded your preferences to include beautiful women with more…bulk.

Yes, bulk. Adult women with more muscular development than the pop stars, movie starlets and celebrity socialites of yesteryear. Of course, you might still retain a faint nostalgic lust for these types of females, but you’ve moved on to bigger (emphasis on “bigger”) and better options. You prefer a brawnier look. You prefer fitness models, athletes and bodybuilders over silicone-enhanced Playboy bunnies, Photoshopped fashion models and Botox-injected Hollywood ingénues. So these new preferences can coexist with your old preferences. Expanding your horizons doesn’t mean shutting yourself off to the “old.” It means incorporating more things into the “new.”

So, with that in mind, what’s changed? Why is it considered socially normal for a teen boy with raging hormones to obsess over “mainstream” looking girls but it raises eyebrows when an adult man can’t stop fantasizing about being crushed between the legs of a female Olympic powerlifter?

Lust is, simply put, simple. Whatever floats your boat, right? Whether you’re into skinny women, rotund women, muscular women, skinny men, rotund men, muscular men, light skin, dark skin, tall, short, long hair, short hair, hairy legs, green eyes, tattoos, or whatever else you can think of, does it really matter? What does one’s preferences say about that person?

Uh, who knows and who cares?

But this is not meant to breed any kind of negativity. By and large, guys who dig muscular women are not a persecuted class by any stretch of the imagination. Not even close. That has never been a contention of myself or, to my knowledge, anyone else for that matter. But all the blatant misconceptions can get annoying after a while.

Taylor Smith is everything you could have asked for. EVERYTHING.
Taylor Smith is everything you could have asked for. EVERYTHING.

On a side note, if being annoyed is the worst thing any of us ever experience, then consider us to be lucky. Very lucky.

The real message is this: female muscle fetishism probably doesn’t have an explanation beyond simple carnal lust. The same lust we started to feel when we reached the age of puberty. Remember that adolescent madness we went through when those icky girls with cooties suddenly transformed into immaculate creatures of divine beauty? Yeah, of course you do. Remember when you first thought of female bodybuilders as gross, freaks of nature she-males who are disgusting to look at…but now you consider them to be Amazonian Goddesses of Higher Consciousness?

Same deal. We might be exaggerating a bit, but the basic idea should ring true. Human attraction isn’t that complicated. It’s what allows for human civilization to persist for generations upon generations. The “Circle of Life” stops the moment we find no reason to find a partner, copulate, reproduce and sow the seeds for the future of humanity. Lust is instrumental to the survival of our species. It can get us in trouble at times, but without it, none of us would be here today.

Some guys are into long legs. Other guys are into muscular legs. Some gentlemen prefer blondes. Other gentlemen prefer blondes with bulging biceps and a six-pack abdomen. Some men want to watch the world burn. Other men fantasize about a Powerful Muscle Goddess lighting the torch.

All of this is to say that not everything in life has a clear and clean explanation. Not every sexual kink has to be picked apart and analyzed like the stock market. Sometimes, it is what it is. That sounds boring and un-academic, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the most prudent answer.

Nobody is denying that it can seem a bit odd for a guy to obsess over muscular women. Men are, theoretically speaking, the stronger sex. This is a role that has given us (both fairly and unfairly and with mixed results) dominance in the social sphere over our female counterparts. Who would want to abdicate that kind of power by allowing (even in a playful context) a woman to take on the “stronger sex” role? Wouldn’t guys feel intimidated by being in the presence of a muscular woman? Would that challenge his manhood? Would she attempt to challenge his manhood? What happens if he “loses?” Would this change his very identity? Why risk it in the first place?

Strong yet sexy, sturdy but feminine, striking yet accessible. Rita Sargo is all that.
Strong yet sexy, sturdy but feminine, striking yet accessible. Rita Sargo is all that.

But these questions might be completely irrelevant. In fact, one could argue they are all tone deaf to the reality of things. Female muscle fetishism most likely has nothing to do with gender roles, gender identity, self-esteem or even sexual orientation. It’s just one particular tool he has in his toolshed of lust, right next to the “Shy Catholic School Girl” and “Sexy Older Librarian Wearing a Skimpy French Maid Outfit” fetishes.

On a side note, I don’t know what a “Toolshed of Lust” would look like, but I can imagine the possibilities.

On second thought, let’s not!

In conclusion, I’ve discovered an irony in this whole essay. I could have simplified my thesis by merely stating:

A female muscle fetish isn’t as complicated as you might think.

Well, that’s sort of the title of this blog article. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in our modern age of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and social media, it’s that our shrinking attention spans are making it so that all we have the time or the inclination to do is read the headline and be on our merry way. Nobody wants to read anymore. That takes effort that I could be using watching Netflix or ordering an overpriced caramel macchiato at the eight different Starbucks located across the street. But I digress, the actual point is that this whole 1,898 word (which, by the way, is an exact word count) essay isn’t really necessary to make my point.

Don’t overthink the concept of female muscle fetishism. You can, but you might be wasting your time. It’s not pointless or futile, but probably unnecessary. We do lots of things in life that are unnecessary. We put “lol” at the end of every text message despite the fact we didn’t actually laugh out loud. We say “just sayin’” after getting done saying something. Maybe overanalyzing certain sexual fetishes is a similar exercise in frivolity.

Some guys love muscle chicks. Why? They just do.

BAM.