Female Bodybuilders in Limbo

Monique Hayes is out-of-this-world.

Female bodybuilders seem to exist in a world all by themselves, don’t they?

Mainstream culture certainly doesn’t fully recognize their impressive accomplishments. The IFBB doesn’t seem to care about female competitors nearly as much as their male counterparts. Feminists, for whatever reason, don’t loudly embrace them as examples of “strong independent women” (even though they are undoubtedly exactly that). Sports media will celebrate a few physically gifted female athletes, but usually only go as far as the Williams sisters and a few MMA fighters. And even then, they still need to be traditionally feminine, beautiful, and not be too muscular.

The only group of people in our society who truly embrace female bodybuilders with any sort of passion would be…a very small subculture that consists of folks like me and those of you who read this blog.

Hm.

Female bodybuilders do appear to exist in limbo, don’t they?

They live in a strange, isolated world. We fans also exist in this world, but we are certainly not on the same plane as them. Celebrities and their fans will always exist in the same universe, but no one can deny that there’s always going to be a clear separation between the two cohorts. And in this case, female bodybuilders are celebrities as far as we’re concerned. Maybe not according to our mainstream culture, but in our hearts they’re as revered as any Hollywood icon or pop singer.

If female bodybuilders live on one continent on Planet FBB, fans like you and I live on a different continent on the other side of the hemisphere. Same planet, but different environments. Way different environments.

FBBs are not lonely, but they don’t have too many advocates on their side. Their list of partners, associates, allies, and lobbyists (not necessarily in the political sense) are few and far between. And it appears to be shrinking as the years go on. This might be an exaggeration, or maybe it is not. But what we can say for sure is that FBBs exist in probably one of the most bizarre cultural environments possible.

Female bodybuilders are sort of like Hare Krishnas, Scientologists, or Furries. We’re all aware that these sort of people exist, even though we may never come into contact with one of them. We might have a buddy from high school who may have implied on Facebook that he/she is into that sort of thing, but other than that these folks exist mostly on a theoretical level. I’ve never personally met a practicing Scientologist, but they sure do claim that they’re the “world’s fastest growing religion.” Maybe I need to get out of my apartment more.

Sherry Mayumi is a former U.S, Marine who will kick your ass…if she had reason to, that is.

Most people in the world know that female bodybuilders exist. But only an infinitesimal number of those people could name at least one current (or past, for that matter) athlete. If you were to ask a random person on the street what they thought about female bodybuilders, most of the responses – regardless if they come from a man or a woman – probably won’t be too positive. Or they’ll laugh it off and say they don’t know enough about them to make a comment. Fair enough.

It goes without saying that the vast majority of us don’t personally know a female bodybuilder, never mind being on a first-name basis with one. Even those of us who love female bodybuilders more than anything else probably can’t call one a friend or even an acquaintance. FBBs tend to know (or at least know of) each other very well, which makes sense when you consider how intimate of a community they belong to. But their numbers are small – unfortunately – while the number of their fans is larger…but still remarkably small.

According to Catholic theology, “Limbo” is a speculative place where souls go after their worldly bodies die if they did not receive the Christian baptism. Without getting into further detail, this basically means your soul is stuck in an environment that is neither Heaven, Hell, nor Earth. You exist in “no man’s land.” You don’t have a home because no one wants to claim you. It’s pretty darn depressing when you think about it.

Female bodybuilders, therefore, exist in a similar – albeit without the element of “spiritual damnation” attached to it – situation. No one is willing to openly embrace them. Not sports journalists. Not feminists. Not fellow non-bodybuilding athletes. Not Hollywood producers. Not hot shot talent agents. Not even some powerful people within the bodybuilding industry. And those of us who do love them do so in secret. I don’t tell my friends, family, and co-workers that I love muscular women. And I know for a fact I am not alone in making this decision.

So even the most enthusiastic supporters of female bodybuilding aren’t willing to be vocal about it. I try to be as vocal as I can, but I choose to do so under the guise as an anonymous blogger. I’d like to think of myself as a “friend of FBBs,” but can I really stake this claim when I’m too embarrassed to publicly declare my admiration for them? What kind of an ally is that?

Georgina McConnell is like the girl next door. If you happen to live next to a House of Muscle Goddesses.

This isn’t meant to shame anyone or spur any of you to take a specific action. Although if you feel compelled to take matters into your own hands, be my guest. Rather, this is meant to point out a strange yet fascinating aspect of female bodybuilding: They have no home, but that’s okay because they don’t need one.

Huh?

Female bodybuilders don’t need a massive amount of public adoration in order to justify their existence. Nor do they need that to validate their considerable accomplishments. FBBs have carved out a small yet not insignificant niche market for themselves. Their biggest fans may not feel comfortable expressing their fandom quite like football fans or cosplayers do, but that’s perfectly fine. That’s not entirely necessary. Female bodybuilding fans are able to live out their fandom with complete anonymity if they so choose – and many do.

Likewise, female bodybuilders do not have to conduct all their business in broad daylight. Obviously, activities such as competing, endorsing corporate products, running a business, modeling, personal training, and acting are done publicly. In fact, the more publicized these activities can be, the better. Obviously.

However, there are other entrepreneurial actions that do not need to be so public. Offering muscle worship/wrestling sessions and performing in “adult” entertainment media can fly more under the radar. These activities are not a “secret” in the dictionary definition sense of the word, but they aren’t exactly ones that all FBBs are willing to blast out to the world. Also, every FBB is different. Some are very open about the seedier sides of their lives. Others prefer to keep a more “clean” public image and leave the other stuff behind closed doors. To each her own.

Therefore, FBBs exist in multiple worlds. They exist in the open, but also in the shadows. You can read their biographies on Wikipedia or their own websites, but you’re only seeing a fraction of the truth. You can follow them on Instagram, but you need to go behind a paid subscription firewall to really see what kind of photography they like to participate in. You may see that they offer “sessions” to paying customers, but you actually need to set one up in order to truly know what goes on in those hotel rooms.

Lightness and darkness. Truth and secrets. Openness and guarded candidness. Experienced reality and unsubstantiated rumors. The tip of the iceberg and whatever exists below it.

Female bodybuilders live in all of these worlds, often at the same time. They simultaneously write an email to a personal training client to remind them to eat more kale while sitting in a cheap motel wearing a sexy BDSM outfit. They chat on the phone with one of their protein supplement sponsors minutes after wiping a random guy’s semen off her chest. They send a loving text to their children wishing them “good night” just moments before filming a gang bang porno on an amateur movie set.

Not all FBBs can relate to these hypothetical scenarios, but many can. Or at least some of them. For female bodybuilders who wish to make a living doing what they do, they have to live in both worlds – whether they like it or not. Only the elite of the elite can make enough money doing competitions, working part-time or full-time, and endorsing products. Most FBBs have to add to their income through, ahem, “nontraditional” means.

And that means living in a world that is, as explained earlier, simultaneously in the light and in the shadows. Or, it means living in a world that is neither completely in the light nor completely in the shadows. It’s both at the same time. Or neither.

Essentially, they got to do what they got to do. No matter what form it takes, a paycheck is a paycheck that subsidizes the rent and puts food on the table (and bodybuilders have to eat a lot of food to remain that big). Money earned under the table is still money that you can deposit in the bank. Uncle Sam just isn’t able to tax it.

The elegant Elise Penn.

Also, fans of FBBs – like FBBs themselves – want to keep their fandom as under the radar as possible. You don’t just casually declare on Facebook that you’re about to meet a female bodybuilder for fantasy wrestling, muscle worship, and (hopefully) a hand job at the end. That’s just not what most of us do. Instead, we also live in the darkness, albeit for a temporary amount of time. But that’s not all bad. FBBs with families and public reputations want to keep the more erotic side of their business a secret. Guys (and gals) who engage in these erotic activities also want it to be kept a secret. So confidentiality is desired by both parties. Both sides benefit. Both sides consent to what is happening. Both sides want it kept hush-hush. It’s not only a win-win, it’s a situation in which “losing” is considered unacceptable by both sides.

“Losing” means risking public ridicule. It means embarrassment. It means lost sponsorships. It could mean jail time. It could also mean being ostracized by your own industry. Whatever the case may be, this sordid world existing in limbo is in everyone’s best interests.

One more observation about public adoration. It’s overrated. Big time.

Sure, many FBBs love it when peers, fans, and friends compliment their looks. After all, what’s the point of all that hard work if nobody is around to appreciate it? While more eyeballs on you could mean more lucrative opportunities down the road, FBBs don’t necessarily need hundreds of millions of rabid fans frothing at the mouth, hanging on your every word and action. Rather, all they need are a few dedicated but respectful supporters who will pay them $400 per hour doing perfectly legal activities in complete secrecy. These folks will not just verbally compliment you, they will worship you. They will lay their fingers on your body and admire your handiwork without words. Yet, their silence speaks volumes.

These fans aren’t just casually expressing their fondness for an FBB’s work. They’re treating it like a quasi-spiritual experience. Or maybe it’s a full on spiritual experience in the literal sense. Touching a muscular woman’s body is much different than clicking the “like” button or leaving a nonsensical comment on Instagram using the appropriate hashtags. Look at it from the perspective of the session provider: her clients aren’t casual participants, like someone turning on the TV to the baseball game just for the background noise. They’re giving her a significant portion of their month’s wages for the opportunity to see her for just one single hour.

That’s quite a sacrifice. And showering her with verbal and physical compliments on top of it all proves that this is no joke (what exactly is a “physical compliment?” That’s up to your imagination to decide…). Public adoration is fine. It really is. But it can’t beat the kind of adoration that’s more intimate, quieter, deeper, and meaningful. One cannot easily replicate that outside of the context of an erotic session.

It’s one thing to download Beyoncé’s albums and follow her on Twitter. It’s quite another thing to pay a quarter of your hard-earned paycheck to an FBB, meet her at a hotel somewhere far away, and make yourself vulnerable to each other. These sessions are extremely vulnerable for both parties. Probably more so for the provider, but it is as well for the client. An FBB opens up her body – her most treasured asset – to a complete stranger. A client expresses their inner most desires to someone who might – or might not – be judging them; often times these desires being uncomfortable to talk about.

Erin Tolen is showing us that baby got back.

In my experience, when I first started participating in muscle worship sessions I had to give myself permission to enjoy the experience. I had to repeatedly remind myself that it’s okay to be indulgent every once in a while. It’s okay to be selfish. It’s okay to seek what you want and not apologize for it. So there is without question a high degree of vulnerability required to be a participant. As there is to be the one opening her own body to be touched in the most intimate ways imaginable…and the possibility of pain, injury, and violation.

Therefore, FBBs should be living in limbo. They don’t need to live in a black and white world where there are definitive rules that govern what people should and should not be allowed to enjoy. Of course, there are reasonable parameters that should be observed. But when both sides are consenting to everything that is going on, it’s best for all involved to not think about whether what’s transpiring is considered “socially acceptable” or “popular.” Those are superficial labels we attach to behaviors that don’t encompass the full spectrum of what makes people happy.

At the end of the day, that’s what it all boils down to. Whatever makes you happy. Whatever makes female bodybuilders and fans of female bodybuilders happy is alright, regardless of whether they exist in the light or the dark. Lightness and darkness are boundaries we arbitrarily place on things that we are comfortable acknowledging. It has nothing to do with what the actual truth is.

The Truth with a capital “T” is somewhere in between. Or somewhere else. Or both. Whatever.

The Scarcity Principle: What it Means, What We Can Learn From it and How it Relates to Female Bodybuilders

Cathy LeFrancois is the Holy Grail of female bodybuilders.
Cathy LeFrancois is the Holy Grail of female bodybuilders.

Let’s discuss a topic that’s relevant to both social psychology and economics.

The Scarcity Principle.

The Scarcity Principle refers to the belief that human beings tend to place a higher value on an object that is scarce and a lower value on objects that are abundant.

In other words, people are attracted to things that are in limited supply. We love anything that we consider to be “special” or “unique” or “available for a limited time only.”

We couldn’t care less for things that are readily available, accessible to the general public or are a dime a dozen. No sir! I want what nobody else can get.

If my cousin Bob and sister Jane can have it too…well, then count me out. I don’t want it anymore!

We can think of numerous examples in everyday life that confirm The Scarcity Principle. How about the Black Friday sales you see the day after Thanksgiving? If you think about it, any item that’s on sale on Black Friday is also available during the other 364 days of the calendar year. Yet, how can you say “no” to those low prices? How am I ever going to find discounts on washing machines this good anywhere else?

Or think of it in terms of the dating pool. Logically, we’d think that loneliness would never happen in a large metropolitan city. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Studies have shown (and I have no clue whatsoever who actually conducts these studies) that people have a harder time finding friends and romantic partners in a big city versus a smaller suburb or town. Why is this? Simple: When there are too many people around, you place a lower value on them.

Why date this particular guy or a girl when I have plenty of other options at my disposal?

Yet, people remain lonely despite these alleged “plenty of other options.” When you hear people say there are plenty of fish in the sea, it leaves a heartbroken person little comfort. Because, ironically, that’s the problem unto itself! There are way too many options out there for you to choose from. So, you get antsy and decide not to choose anyone at all.

The one and only Tina Chandler.
The one and only Tina Chandler.

It’s better to be safe (alone) than sorry (in a relationship that you ultimately find boring and unfulfilling), one rationalizes to one’s self.

According to census data, in 1950 the world’s population was approximately 2.5 billion people. Today, it’s well over 7 billion. That means in 64 years (which isn’t that much time when you consider how long humans have lived on this planet) the number of people on Earth has nearly tripled. Tripled! Think about that. At the end of World War II, for every person on the planet there would be two more today. If you killed (or magically transported to Venus) two-thirds of our population, you could return back to the days when Communism was considered the next big thing and poodle skirts were all the rage.

Oh, what a simpler time that was!

Yet, despite these statistical facts, we see worldwide an explosion of online dating websites, high divorce rates and loneliness in urban cities. With more people around, shouldn’t we have an easier time finding the love of our life? How can we not have enough friends when there are 7 billion potential buddies occupying this floating rock in space together?

Seem counterintuitive? It should, because none of this makes any logical sense. But, if you really think about it, all of this makes perfect sense.

Think of it this way. Imagine you’re about to have dinner at a restaurant. You’re celebrating a birthday, anniversary or just having a special night out on the town. You sit down (let’s imagine it’s an elegant Italian place), open the menu, scan your options and are dumbfounded. What do you order? I mean, there are so many dishes I could pick! I could get a pasta dish, a pizza, a calzone, a dinner salad, something from the seafood section…or I could sell out and get a hamburger.

I like hamburgers. Sure, I’ll go with the cheeseburger and fries, Mrs. Salvatore!

Having too many options makes people nervous. What if I choose the “wrong” option even though there probably isn’t a “wrong option” in the first place? Odds are every dish at this fine restaurant will provide you a great tasting dinner. But there’s that sliver of doubt in your mind that tells you one dish has to be superior to the rest. And you’d be a fool to pick the wrong one.

Monique Hayes is ready for her close-up!
Monique Hayes is ready for her close-up!

So do you ask your waiter or waitress to make a recommendation for you? Or do you close your eyes and randomly select a choice with your index finger? Either option would probably work equally well. Or you could simply order what someone else is having (“I’ll have what she’s having”), thus putting the decision-making pressure off of you.

The same goes for economics.

I don’t want the tablet device or smartphone that all my neighbors have. I want the newest model that none of these suckers have…even though they’ll eventually get it a year or two from now.

Because, let’s be completely honest here, who doesn’t want to be the envy of your pals for having the nicest and shiniest new toys?

Corporations and marketing teams exploit The Scarcity Principle to the point where it’s become a science. Figuring out how to maximize profit in a short amount of time given a limited supply of a particular product isn’t difficult to do. Create limited-time offers. Hype up a sales day. Intentionally release your new products slowly. Create an advertising strategy that implies that not everyone should use this product, but you can.

Everything boils down to making an object feel special even if it’s not. Conversely, when an object is in abundance, you don’t want it as much. Fifteen years ago it was cool to have a cell phone because no one else had one. Today, everyone and their grandmother has a smartphone that can call, text, surf the Internet and wash your car. Now it’s become mainstream. And nothing sucks more than something that’s lost its coolness and has become so damn ordinary.

A buff, beautiful Asian woman. Amanda Lau is scarce, indeed.
A buff, beautiful Asian woman. Amanda Lau is scarce, indeed.

So, let’s do a quick recap. We value things that are scarce. We don’t value things that are common. We get overwhelmed by too many options. We get underwhelmed when a previously rare commodity becomes commonplace. In a nutshell, supply (either the abundance or shortage of it) warps our perceptions of the actual value of said supply.

What can we learn from this? Simple. It is important to place a value on everything – using our own objective criteria – so we know what something is worth despite what external influences may tell us.

Don’t let clever marketing strategies or base emotions dictate how you view the value of something or someone. Your cute but shy co-worker who’s always around could very well be more valuable than that elusive hot blonde you see at the bus stop every day. You don’t need “new” gadgets when the “old” models work just fine. Too many options can be a bad thing despite what consumer culture tells you.

The Scarcity Principle tells us that the dynamics of supply and demand, while it has nothing to do with altering the intrinsic worth of an object, can manipulatively make us place artificial values on objects for no good reason. A slice of pizza from a shopping mall food court isn’t necessarily less delicious than a slice of pizza at a 5-star hotel. It could be, but don’t automatically assume so.

That guy who’s playing “hard to get” isn’t necessarily better “boyfriend material” than the shy fellow who lives next door to you who’s kind, sweet but a tad socially awkward.

So, what does this have to do with female bodybuilders?

Good question!

Female bodybuilders, like fine French wine or a blood red moon, are rare. Period. They aren’t available in everyday life. Millions upon millions of women in our society don’t look like Lora Ottenad or Kasie Cavanaugh. Oh, it would be sweeeeeeeeeeeeeet if that were the case, but sadly it isn’t.

The Scarcity Principle might explain why many men (and women) idolize female bodybuilders to the point of developing an obsession with them. We obsess over them because their rarity grants them God-like divine status in our eyes. We love them for all the traditional reasons (sex appeal, gorgeous bodies, stunning physiques), but we also love them because there’s this thing about them you can’t teach:

Mystique.

Female bodybuilders are mystifying. They pique our curiosity. Their mysteriousness titillates us. Muscular women are like a Rubik’s Cube. No matter how much you try to figure them out, they keep throwing more twists and turns at you to keep you guessing for all eternity. How do they look like that? Why do they want to look like that? What drives them to look like? When a female bodybuilder walks into a room, everyone’s attention instantly focuses on her. Some are aroused. Others are disgusted. A few are confused and conflicted. But the reaction that speaks loudest is this: Reverence.

We revere those whom we are attracted to but feel separated from. Female bodybuilders aren’t normal women. Technically, they’re no different from anybody else, but hot damn! How can you not become obsessed with Cathy LeFrancois or Catherine Holland?

Their ambiance is so captivating. And once you get your first taste of muscular women, you can never go back.

How much reverence do you have for Nicole Ball?
How much reverence do you have for Nicole Ball?

The deification of female bodybuilders is caused by The Scarcity Principle. There’s no other explanation for it. These women are beautiful rare specimens. Like a brilliant diamond sparkling on top of a museum pedestal, we fixate over them because they seem so far away from us. For most of us, a genuinely large female bodybuilder is probably nowhere to be found. I don’t know about you, but FBBs who look like Katka Kyptova aren’t exactly regulars at the Starbucks across from my apartment.

No wonder why many FBBs do “sessions” with their adoring fans. Where else are regular folk going to be able to touch the rock hard muscles of an exquisite muscular woman? Popular session providers can probably make a healthy amount of income (all tax free, no doubt) when all is said and done. One road trip across America, Europe and anywhere else a female bodybuilder decides to embark upon could put a lot of dough in her pocket – even after she takes travel expenses into account.

So there you have it. Now you have a better understanding from a psychological and economic perspective why we love female muscle so much. Their scarcity gives them power. Their uncommonness (yes, that’s actually a word) gives them the ultimate bargaining chip.

Female bodybuilders aren’t like ice cream flavors at Baskin-Robbins or used bicycles on Craigslist. Female bodybuilders are like The Holy Grail from the Arthurian legend.

A divine object that can make men go mad with obsession. Men will kill each other just to have it. She holds all the power. We commoners are powerless to resist.

Not that we’d want to resist, of course!