All the King’s Queens – Chapter 9: Hostage Situation

Dylan Tanaka doesn’t believe in the paranormal. He has an auntie who claims to possess extra-sensory perception (and can talk to the spirits of the recently deceased who haven’t yet “passed on to the afterlife”), which confirms his skepticism in such baloney. She’s kooky in more ways than that, a fact that her six ex-husbands could corroborate. Yet, despite his condescending attitude towards people claiming to have ESP, a “sixth sense,” or anything like that, Dylan can occasionally “feel” when something is out of place without knowing why or how…or having any evidence to back up his feelings.

This is one of those times.

He and his party guests are still in the cabaret room, drinking and dancing the night away, completely lost in the little world that they’ve cultivated for themselves. Melanie has stopped teaching Henry how to pose like a bodybuilder and has moved on to asking him how to properly fillet a fish. Henry pontificates with the expert credentials of a tenured college professor. Monique listens intently, also interested in learning proper seafood preparation techniques from Dylan’s talented chef. Peggy is at the bar making herself a margarita. She saw Monique drinking one and decided she should consume one as well.

“Hey, are you okay?” Monique has drifted away from Melanie and Henry’s conversation toward the host, who seems lost in his own thoughts. “You’re just standing around all by yourself. What’s up, honey?” She kisses him on the cheek. Dylan remains in a state of alertness.

“I don’t know why, but I got a funny feeling. I think…someone’s downstairs. Or coming up the stairs, or…”

Before Dylan can finish his thought, the doors at the front of the room violently swing open. Right over Monique’s right shoulder, he sees several moving figures dressed in all black sweep into the cabaret room. In a moment that takes only five seconds but feels like an eternity, the first figure shouts something Dylan cannot understand while the others behind him point pistols at the party guests. Monique turns around to see what the commotion is all about and lets out a high-pitched scream when she sees the men with guns. They aren’t wearing masks – probably because it would attract suspicion and unwanted attention – but without question, they are armed and carry malevolent intent.

“Everybody FREEZE!” the lead man shouts. Peggy drops her margarita to the floor and also screams. Melanie and Henry – who are standing in front of the balcony, furthest away from the entrance – stop conversing and stare in horror at what’s unfolding in front of them.

“What the fuck is this?” Henry says to Melanie. Before she can respond, everyone freezes when the man who shouted fires a single round straight into the ceiling. The bullet blasts a Fresnel stage light into a thousand shards of glass and metal.

“All of you, get your fucking hands up in the goddamn air, right now! I will not repeat myself,” the lead man warns. “Then, I want you all to walk slowly towards Mr. Tanaka and gather around him. Do it NOW!”

Dylan’s eyes finally adjust to the traumatic scene. It is at this very moment that he finally recognizes the leader of this pack of armed men. It’s unmistakable.

“Stephen?” Dylan asks the man.

Thomas, Roddy, Cortez, and Xander also adjust their eyes to the bright lights in the cabaret room. Once they finally see that every single person in this room is naked, they react with a mixture of shock and morbid curiosity. They may be dangerous men in “assault mode,” but they are men nevertheless. Nothing, not even a high-stakes heist, can change that.

“Hello Dylan. It’s, uh, nice to see you again. WOW! Look at you. Look at this place. I thought you were all alone. I seriously thought you’d be here, all alone, jerking off to an old VHS tape you hid under your childhood bed,” Stephen teases his former boss. He stops to regard the scene. His eyes get wide when he sees every partygoer is as naked as the day they were born. “HEY! Damn. What in the actual fuck is going on here? What is this, a Roman Empire-style orgy? Yikes. Can we all join in?”

Dylan doesn’t say a word. He’s too stunned to comprehend what his former employee is saying to him. It’s been at least three years since he last spoke to Stephen Callahan. Their last meeting wasn’t exactly cordial. In fact, it included a lot of cursing, innuendo, threats, and unforgiving stares of bitter anger. And that came from both sides. Peggy cautiously walks closer to Dylan, who has a frightened Monique standing by her side. She quickly glances down to avoid stepping on broken glass with her bare feet. Melanie and Henry, their hands still high above their ears, come closer to their fellow party guests at a snail’s pace. Everyone’s heart rate is racing a million miles per minute.

“Seriously, Dylan Tanaka. What the fuck is going on here? I have to know, my friend.” Stephen’s four companions (miraculously) remain as professional as can be. Cortez, however, recognizes Peggy Cole right away. He would never admit it to anyone, but he’s been a loyal subscriber to her videos and livestreams for years now. It’s like he’s seeing a celebrity!

“We’re just having a party. Maybe not quite like a Roman orgy, but pretty damn close,” Dylan says between gritted teeth. “Are you planning to kill me? Because if that’s your plan, just kill me. Spare my friends. Let them go. They didn’t do anything to you. Your beef is entirely with me. Not them. They’re innocent.”

“Oh, I know they’re innocent. And you’re absolutely right, Dylan boy. I have a lot of beef with you, you fucking coward.” Stephen takes a step closer to him, taunting him by pointing the barrel of his Glock 19 right at Dylan’s genitals. “Hell, I could just blow off your tiny little dick right here and leave the rest of you in peace. It’ll be messy, but hey, that’s why you have a butler, right? To clean up shit like that? But no, I have bigger plans in store for you.”

Dylan is accustomed to hearing taunts about having a “tiny Asian dick” from idiots like him (middle school was the worst years of his life), but the fact he and his men are pointing loaded guns directly at his friends is an entirely different experience. Filling him with rage, he knows he must remain calm and rational so that no one gets hurt. He sighs. “What plans, exactly?”

“Oh, you’ll see,” he grins. At last, all of Dylan’s party guests are standing in a row right in front of Stephen’s band of armed goons. Once he refocuses his eyes on the rest of the partygoers, Stephen realizes these aren’t just normal people Dylan has invited over on this fateful Saturday evening. The tall chubby black man is Dylan’s personal chef. He doesn’t know his name, but he knows his occupation and purpose for regularly visiting the house. The other three are women…

…but not your typical looking women. They are women with…big muscles.

Whoa.

Big muscles. Big, big, big muscles. Really fucking big muscles.

“Holy shit. Are you a fag? A secret fag? What the fuck is with all these muscle chicks? Sweet mother of God, this is fucking incredible. You are a woman, right?” Stephen zeroes in and taunts Melanie. Miss Wright gives him a dirty look that would make even the most sadistic serial killer cringe. “HOT DAMN! I didn’t know you were into muscle chicks! I suppose that’s not something you usually tell people, let alone your coworkers.” Stephen circles slowly around Melanie, keeping his gun pointed right at her head. Melanie, usually full of confidence and raw power, feels utterly helpless in this situation. She may have much larger muscles than this guy, but he has a gun pointed at her. That more than tips the scale in his favor.

Inside his mind, Stephen cannot actually believe that he just used the word “fag” in a derogatory sense. Having grown up in a traditionally liberal northeastern family, he’d been taught all his life that you should never use the f-word. Ever. Especially in today’s era when the gay rights movement has achieved so much progress. But in this case, he’s using it not as a homophobic slur, but as a self-aware immature schoolyard bully insult intended to belittle a man he abhors. He knows this doesn’t excuse his atrocious behavior, but tonight is not a night for taking the moral high ground. That ship has sailed. That will wait until a later day.

“Let me guess,” Stephen says to Melanie. “You have a bigger dick than him? I guess that wouldn’t take much…”

“Fuck off,” Melanie mutters. Everyone holds their breath. Melanie wonders if this will be the final thing she ever utters. He looks her in the eye. Instead of being angered, however, Stephen is amused.

“Whoa, your voice isn’t as manly as I had expected it to be. You actually sound like a real woman, so congratulations you slut.” There he is again, with the sophomoric schoolyard insults. Dylan has never heard him talk like this before, even back when they used to go out for drinks after work. “Well, you may end up surviving this if Mr. Tanaka here behaves like a good little Asian boy, like his mommy and daddy raised him to be. So, no pressure.” Stephen glances down at Melanie’s clit to see if it is indeed as large as a small penis. Yikes. It’s considerably huge, he notes, but alas – not as large as Dylan’s small pee-pee. Oh well, it’s still a funny joke.

“I have no fucking clue what you’re all doing here, wearing nothing at all, but that actually works to our favor, doesn’t it?” Stephen glances at Thomas, who still cannot fathom the bizarre sights he’s seeing right in front of him.

“Uh, yeah, very convenient,” Thomas stammers, struggling to return to “bad guy” mode. “We’d probably end up stripping you naked anyway, or at least down to your underwear. The good news is that we know none of you have your phones on you. So, uh. Where are your phones?”

Nobody speaks for a while. The five naked hostages can barely breathe. Roddy, Xander, and Cortez look at the nude women with lustful intentions. The three women notice this unwanted attention but are powerless to do anything about it. Finally, Henry decides to break the awkward silence.

“My stuff is in her bedroom,” he says, pointing to Peggy. She nods.

“Yeah, me too. My phone, my clothes, my luggage, everything is also in my bedroom,” Peggy says. She declined to point out her sex toys, vibrators, collection of lingerie, lube, condoms, and BDSM paraphernalia are also in her bedroom, though she figures these armed jackasses will find that out soon enough. “It’s all there. Nothing is on me. As you can clearly see.”

“I can see that,” Thomas says, checking out Peggy’s body from head to toe. His eyes leer at her enormous breast implants for a moment before he returns to barking out orders. “What about the rest of you? Speak up or I put a bullet through Dylan’s forehead.”

“My phone is also in my bedroom,” Monique squeaks. Her legs are shaking and she is on the verge of tears. Out of everyone currently involved in this mess, Dylan feels the most empathy for her. She’s the one who’s experienced the most trauma up to this point.

“Mine too,” Melanie says.

“My phone is right on that counter over there, by the bar,” Dylan points to the area where Peggy dropped her margarita. Immediately, Xander walks over to it, avoids stepping on the broken glass, and grabs Dylan’s iPhone. He returns to his original spot.

“Fantastic. Give it to me,” Thomas requests. Xander does so. The safecracker takes a small brown leather sack out of his coat pocket and puts the phone inside it. “Where are these bedrooms that you’re speaking of?”

“Go out through the doors you can in, turn left, and walk down that long hallway,” Dylan instructs them. “You’ll find a series of guest bedrooms at the far end. I have no clue who is staying where, so you’ll have to search through all of them. All the doors should be unlocked.”

Stephen nods at the three men to leave the room and search for the other four phones. Xander, Roddy, and Cortez put their Glocks back in their holsters and promptly exit the room. Everyone watches them leave. “Excellent. So far, I like the cooperation I’ve been seeing out of all of you,” Stephen says. “If you want to leave this luscious house alive, just keep up being good girls and boys.”

Suddenly, Stephen looks down at Henry’s penis. He cannot help but be impressed by what Dylan’s chef has hanging between his legs. The jaw-dropping sight of his endowment makes him chuckle.

“Huh. Well. I might as well blast Dylan’s dick off,” he says while pointing his gun back at Dylan’s genitals. “It’s not like anyone will miss it. If I did the same to you, Mr. Chef, I’m guessing a lot of ladies would be sorely disappointed. Emphasis on sore.” He lets out a self-congratulatory laugh. Thomas politely follows suit.

“Go fuck yourself, you fucking piece of shit!” Henry defiantly curses at him. Stephen then points the barrel of his Glock right at the tip of Henry’s member. Dylan closes his eyes tightly, anticipating a gunshot that would be followed by a horrifying scream and gushing blood.

“What did you say to me?” Stephen threatens.

“You heard what I said. Go ahead and shoot me. If it makes you feel like a big man to cut a man like me down to size. Come on. Do your worst,” Henry says coolly. This act of defiance makes Stephen back off from Dylan’s trusted chef. He returns to standing next to Thomas and repoints his gun at the entire group.

“Wooooooooooo, I like your friends, Dylan. They have spunk. They have balls. Literally, I’m sure you ladies also have balls, if you know what I mean.” This elicits a dirty look from Peggy and Melanie. Monique is still too frightened to feel any emotion other than paralysis caused by guttural fear. “Anyway, enough chit chat. Let’s cut to the chase. As soon as my three comrades return with your phones, we’re going to take a little field trip to the basement. Can you guess why we’re going there, Dylan?”

Dylan pauses for a bit and bows his head. From the moment his brain processed that Stephen Callahan and four unknown associates had broken into his home, he knew the purpose of their unfortunate visit.

“I do. I know exactly why you’d want us to go down there.”

Melanie tries to turn her head to look at Dylan, but she decides it would be safer to not make any sudden moves. She wonders what he could possibly have hidden down there.

“Great. I’m glad we’re on the same page,” Stephen sends his former boss a wicked smile. Dylan Tanaka can only stand there, naked and shaking, as scared and vulnerable as he’s ever felt in his life – hoping he and his friends survive until the morning.

***

“Dude, like what the fuck is going on? Did you see the chicks that are in that room?” Roddy cannot contain his excitement as he and his two companions briskly walk toward the guest bedrooms. “I’ve literally never seen shit like that in my life. Fuuuuuuuuuuck dudes!”

“Yeah, this shit is crazy. For sure,” Xander adds. He hopes his fledging erection isn’t visible through his pants.

“Want to know something? I actually recognized one of them,” Cortez quietly confesses.

Roddy and Xander stop dead in their tracks. They turn around to see Cortez following behind them. He has a sheepish look on his face. Roddy has to know what Cortez is talking about. “Really? Who?”

“You know the chick with those enormous boobs? Yeah, she’s like a, uh, a pornographic actress, or whatever they’re called. She’s in porn, for real guys. I sort of, uh, subscribe to her videos.” Cortez looks embarrassed to be confessing to knowing who LATINAMUSCLEPRINCESS67 is. For the past three years he’s been a monthly subscriber to her videos, livestream chats, and photo albums. That part isn’t something he’ll reveal, though.

“Damn, dude. That’s fucking sick. But I shouldn’t judge. I’m into some kinky ass shit myself,” Xander jokes. At last, they reach the part of the hallway where the guest bedrooms are located. Cortez wants their conversation to come to a swift end for obvious reasons. Hopefully, the search for everyone’s phones will do the trick.

“Bruh, what kind of porn does she do?” Xander inquires.

“I don’t know how I found her, but she does the usual shit. Girl on girl. Her with a guy, or two, or three, or fifty,” Cortez smiles. “She does a lot of normal shit, no joke dude. And she’s a real chick, not a guy who became a chick or nothing. Seriously.” As they chat, Roddy enters an empty bedroom, takes a quick look around, and moves on to the next room. He is now in what is currently Melanie’s bedroom.

“Where the fuck is it?” Roddy asks himself. “Ah, there it is.” He finds a larger-than-usual phone with a fuchsia-colored case sitting on a bedside table. He figures it’s rather fitting that a huge lady (at least he thinks she’s a lady) would possess such a huge phone. Seems logical enough. He picks it up and leaves the room, turning off the lights before closing the door.

“Wow, that’s like, uh, weird that she’d be here. But I guess that makes sense. Rich motherfucker like him could invite skanks like her over to his place. He’s rich enough.”

“Oh yeah. So I subscribe to her videos. It’s pretty cheap. Only two dollars a month,” Cortez lies. It’s actually $19.99 a month to subscribe just to her videos. It’s an extra $4.99 on top of that for the weekly livestreams. And subscribers have to pay a shit ton more for personal one-on-one virtual chats. He’s never done that, though. He doesn’t have that kind of money to burn. “It’s a pretty good deal. Yeah, it’s pretty wild that she’s here. Fuck, man.”

“Oh yeah. Fucking wild.”

“Hey, you pathetic little fuckwads. Get to work!” Roddy commands them. This snaps Xander and Cortez out of their pleasant little chat. Xander dashes to the bedroom next to the one Roddy just came out of. Sure enough, it’s the one belonging to Monique St. Martin. The hot black chick seems like she’d be a good fuck (like a lot of sisters who keep themselves in shape), except for the fact she was on the verge of tears the whole time. That’s not hot at all, Xander thinks. It’s too bad there had to be innocent bystanders unexpectedly inside the house during this time. He really hates to get people who don’t deserve shit all covered in shit. It’s a stain on his professional record, not to mention a permanent black mark on his conscience. Even though he’s lived the life of a criminal-for-hire for several years now, he still has enough of the proverbial angel sitting on his shoulder to remind him that he’s still a human being. And, that the people he encounters during jobs are also human beings.

After sifting through the black girl’s purse, Xander finds her phone, stashed away next to a tube of lipstick, a taser, a spare tampon, a small travel makeup kit, a phone charger, and her wallet. He looks at the tampon and imagines what it would be like to shove it up her tight little pussy, watching her squirm as she experiences this unexpected painful penetration.

(Like he said to his partners in crime, Xander is into some kinky ass shit. He is not necessarily proud of this fact)

At the same time, Cortez silently prays that he’d be the one who could enter into LATINAMUSCLEPRINCESS67’s room. It would be like walking into a holy house of worship, a sacred palace, an historical monument. And to his pleasant surprise, it sure looks like the bedroom his (favorite) pornographic actress is staying in. The bed is a complete mess. Cortez sniffs at it, noticing the distinct scent of sweat and body odor. The muskiness is enough to send shivers down his spine. He turns on the lights and audibly gasps at what he sees.

“What the fuck is this shit?”

The room is littered with clothing and costume pieces strewn across the floor. Several bottles/tubes of makeup are lined up perfectly on top of a pearl white dressing table, with a suitcase full of sex toys and erotic equipment sitting in the corner. Cortez’s professionalism instantaneously goes out the window as he regards the beautiful mess surrounding him. It truly feels like walking into a sacred altar where one could experience the Divine. He picks up a clear glass dildo that looks about eight to nine inches long, significantly longer than his own dick. He puts it down once he sees on the floor by the foot of the bed a pair of sparkly, scarlet-colored bikini bottoms. After bending down to pick it up, Cortez takes one long sniff of it, taking in the musk and history this bikini has gone through. He looks around to make sure his compatriots aren’t spying on him. Thankfully, they are nowhere to be seen. He stuffs the bikini bottom into his inside coat pocket, hoping he can have fun with it later once this job is complete. Several seconds later, he finds her phone sitting on a chair, next to her wallet. He opens the wallet to see if her driver’s license is inside. It is.

“Peggy Cole. That’s her name. Wow. I had no idea. And she lives in Vegas. I guess I already knew that…”

“Hey, have you found it yet, you horny bastard?” Roddy’s voice beckons in the distance. Cortez takes the phone, drops the wallet back on the chair, and turns around to leave the room. He is, at the moment, a horny bastard, but he can’t act out on his horniness until they successfully steal whatever it is that they came here to steal. That means later. Much later.

“Yeah, I found it!” Cortez slams the door shut behind him to rejoin his other two companions. Roddy says nothing as they walk back to the cabaret room. Xander, however, has one last question for him.

“Was that the porno chick’s room?”

“Yeah, it was.”

“Did you find anything, uh, weird in it?” Roddy is several steps ahead of them, clearly not interested in this conversation. “I’m just curious, man.”

“Oh yeah, there’s some weird ass stuff in that room. We’ll come back later tonight to check it out. Trust me, my dude, she’s one hell of a fine bitch. I’ll show you a video of her squirting all this juice out of her pussy…”

“Squirting? What the fuck? Wow, that’s hot shit for sure. Real hot shit!”

“Hey, you two, get off the horny train and get your mind back in the game,” Roddy chastises them without turning around to look at them. Their sudden silence tells him all he needs to know. Those two horny idiots may have their alternative preferences, but Roddy won’t allow that to distract them from the job at hand. He knows Stephen and Thomas would agree. The stakes of this heist are too high to allow unnecessary levity to seep in.

The walk back to the cabaret room did not include any further chatter about LATINAMUSCLEPRINCESS67 or her breathtaking anatomical abilities.

***

“I learned a lot while in prison, Dylan.” Stephen finds a plate of maraschino cherries sitting on the bar and eats one. “I learned a lot about myself, the world, the criminal justice system in our country, and, most importantly, the ins and outs of being a top-notch professional thief.” He glances at Thomas, who feels touched by the direct acknowledgment of his expertise. Stephen flicks the cherry stem on the floor carelessly, showing little regard to cleanliness. “The things I learned and the shit I experienced have led me to this moment. And you know what I want from you, don’t you?”

By now, Dylan, Henry, Melanie, Peggy, and Monique are bunched together, as if this formation gives them the most power in a scenario where they lack all power. Thomas has his gun in hand but not pointed at anyone in particular. Stephen’s firearm is now in his holster. “I do. But you’ll have a difficult time getting it. I made sure of that,” Dylan says.

“Oh? You were expecting me?” Stephen laughs. Dylan’s face remains cold and unchanged. “Whether you were or weren’t, I’m flattered you wouldn’t just let any old associate of yours waltz in here and take whatever they want. Who knows? I may decide to take more than I had anticipated.” He pinches Monique’s left nipple, causing her to squirm. Melanie almost comes forward to her defense but chooses to not directly confront two armed men while she and her friends are standing around as naked as the day they were born.

“Don’t touch me,” Monique warns in a low voice. Stephen backs off, apparently remembering that he’s still a civilized human being, despite the present circumstances. Watching his former deputy violate Monique makes Dylan seethe with rage.

“Sorry, my dear. I got ahead of myself.”

The tension is broken when Stephen’s three hired goons return with a sack full of everyone’s phones. Roddy hands it to Thomas. He looks inside, pokes around, closes the sack, and nods his head to Stephen, signaling that everything they need to collect has been collected. Stephen nods back. “Excellent. It would appear our business up here is done. And I must say, Dylan, I love what you’ve done with the place. You have some sort of stripper joint right here in your home. Is that what this place is?”

“It’s a cabaret room,” Dylan says coldly.

“Oh. Whatever you call it, it’s quite a sight to see. I feel like I’m on Broadway.” Stephen takes a deep breath and sighs. “Well, let’s get on with it. Time is short. I don’t want to be here all night. Where is it?”

Henry and the three ladies look at Dylan, still confused as to what he and this vicious monster is talking about. As Dylan’s loyal chef, Henry has been to this house thousands of times over the years. He’s never been aware that anything valuable or important is hidden here. He’s well aware of his boss’s taste in women, but nothing that would incentivize armed bandits to break into his house and commit multiple felonies over.

“Downstairs. In the basement. Where everything about my past life is stored,” Dylan says.

“Excellent. Shall we?”

“No, not yet,” Dylan insists. “Please. Let my friends go. Let them get dressed, gather their things, and leave this property. I asked you before to let them go. I’m asking you again. You have their phones. You can get whatever you want without them here. I’m sure they’ll promise not to call the cops because if they do, you’d no doubt execute me, right?”

Stephen eyes Dylan’s friends. He can tell they are all tremendously uncomfortable, wondering how this fun evening suddenly came to a crashing halt. “Yeah, that’s what I’d do. But I don’t want to risk it. Whether you like it or not, your friends are now a part of this. They’re in this until the very end. Sorry about that, old pal. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. Let’s get moving. Now.”

“Let’s go. Move it. Lead on,” Thomas demands.

“Okay.” Dylan turns to his friends. “I’m so, so, so sorry about this. I had no idea this would happen. Please forgive me…”

“Hey, boss man. It’s all good. It’s not your fault. It’s their fault. He’s doing this to us, not you. You’re good, my man. You’re good. He’s the one doing this,” Henry reassures his employer. The rest signal their agreement in their own way.

“That’s right. We’re here and we’re not going anywhere,” Peggy declares. “We’re here to protect you, Dylan darling. We all love you. If this motherfucker, or any of these motherfuckers, lay even one goddamn finger on you, there’ll be hell to pay. For sure.”

“Thanks, love.”

“Oh, how charming! The love in this room is palpable,” Thomas says sarcastically. “Let’s fucking move! Downstairs, NOW. All of you. Let’s move it or someone will get a bullet through their skull.” Dylan (reluctantly) leads the way as the group exits the cabaret room. Everyone walks in a single file line to their ultimate destination. Xander and Cortez cannot help but stare at Monique’s perfectly round butt as she walks by. It’s still a shame that she’s practically been on the verge of tears for as long as they’ve been here. Roddy shows no emotion as he decides to be the one at the back of the line. Dylan leads, followed by Stephen, Thomas, Henry, Peggy, Monique, Melanie, Xander, Cortez, and Roddy at the tail. The three guys in the back have holstered their firearms but are prepared to draw them in the event that any of the hostages decide to make a run for it. Chances are nobody will do anything foolish. Especially since all the hostages are without clothing, weapons, or a reason to run.

“You have a lovely home,” Stephen says.

“Go fuck yourself, old buddy,” Dylan responds. This makes Stephen so happy to see Dylan so pissed off, scared, angry, confused, embarrassed, powerless, emasculated, and whatever else emotions he’s feeling at the moment. They say vengeance rarely tastes as delicious as one would hope, however, so far Stephen begs to differ. This is going exactly the way he thought it would. Watching Dylan’s pathetic naked self, full of dread and guilt, is as satisfying as he had fantasized about while sitting in his prison cell.

The group trudges down the spiral staircase at a leisurely pace. Like dominoes, all it takes is for one person to accidentally trip to send everyone crashing down to the ground like ragdolls. Nobody says a word the rest of the way. Dylan is careful not to make any sudden moves or take any sharp turns, out of fear that all it takes is one of Stephen’s men with an itchy trigger finger to cause an unnecessary bloodbath. Once everyone is on the ground floor, Dylan leads the group to the staircase leading downstairs to the wine cellar (where he, Monique, and Melanie were earlier this evening before dinner, which seems like centuries ago), home gym, a meditation room (which Dylan rarely uses), and a storage room. This is where they are eventually going. It’s here where Dylan has allowed many things to collect dust over the years. It’s also where he keeps his walk-in safe. Very few people are aware that he has this. Lawrence does. A few former Perseus Analytics executives also know. So does a friend who lives in London. Henry doesn’t, nor does Joey the landscaper. It is in this room where Dylan’s memories from the good old days are stored, along with a few unexpected surprises.

“That’s one impressive collection of wine,” Stephen observes casually.

“It is,” Melanie chimes in, feeling more confident to stand up to her captors. “Dylan appreciates the finer things in life. He has no time for low-brow trash.”

Stephen stops mid-stride. He turns around to look at Melanie. Even compared to his hired goons, Melanie’s size is remarkable to see up-close. She truly is a large muscular woman who could snap his neck in half if she had to. No doubt she wants to at this moment. “Ouch. That hurts. You should hold your tongue, young man.”

Melanie’s eyes widen. Nothing makes her angrier than to hear a man sarcastically refer to her as a man. She didn’t mind when that little boy at the airport didn’t know whether she was a boy or a girl, but he’s a kid who doesn’t know any better. This prick is a full-grown adult. She considers making a comeback but refrains after Peggy gently grabs her hand to warn her to cool it. Melanie’s better nature comes out, telling her to remain quiet.

His time will come, she thinks to herself.

“We’re almost there,” Dylan says, trying to calm everyone down. He’s the last person who wants to see anybody get hurt this evening. That would live on his conscience until the day he dies.

The large home gym takes up the majority of the basement’s floor layout. Once you get to the bottom of the stairs, you see a long hallway that sort of looks something out of a horror film if all the lights are turned off. When Dylan, Melanie, and Monique went downstairs earlier to fetch a couple bottles of wine and spirits, they kept the lights on, almost as if they intuitively knew they’d soon return down here. The gym is on the left side. On the right is a shower/changing room, a meditation room, a few emergency guest bedrooms (with futons instead of actual furnished beds), and finally, a spacious storage room. Stephen sees that the thick glass door has no handle. Before he turns to Thomas to ask him to break through it, Dylan sticks his thumb onto a small scanner pad. It makes a small “beep” noise, which unlocks the door. This makes Stephen smile. Thomas is also amused at this. Henry, who hasn’t been down in the basement in a while, cannot believe there’s a secret room in this house that’s secured behind a thumbprint scanner. How long has this been installed? What could Dylan possibly be hiding that’s so important?

“Here we are,” Dylan says. “The last time I cleaned this place up was last summer. So that was almost a whole year ago. Forgive the mess.”

“Not to worry. I don’t give a shit about how your interior decorating preferences,” Stephen responds. “No offense.”

The large room (though not as large as the gym) is filled with glass shelves showcasing the various plaques, awards, honorary degrees, and trophies Dylan has earned throughout the years. Every institution, from Harvard University to the Sierra Club to the U.S. Department of Defense to the Seattle Seahawks, have at some point in time given him an award. It’s basically all symbolic. There’s also some spare furniture, a few paintings that Dylan couldn’t find wall space for, a small bookshelf full of old college textbooks, Christmas decorations, and clothing that he’s been too lazy to donate to charity. It’s not quite an obstacle course to get around it all, but one must be careful about where one steps. Dylan switches on a light that illuminates all the treasure (and worthless junk, which makes for an interesting juxtaposition) the room has to offer. Finally, Stephen sees clearly a modest metallic door in the far corner of the room, surrounded by a sturdy dark gray frame. The wall itself looks like it could withstand a tank shell blast from point-blank range. This is the “Holy Grail” Stephen Callahan has been seeking all these years, right here in front of him. Right within his grasp.

“At long last, here we are. Look at it, I’m impressed. It looks like a bank vault,” Stephen observes. Indeed, he is correct. There’s a long vertical steel handle on the left side, a round black security camera hanging over the top with an ominous red light glowing at all times, and a white panel right next to the handle that’s connected to the wall. Thomas takes a closer inspection and sighs when he sees the white panel contains two keyholes.

“Fuck. Damn it. This shit isn’t going to be the walk in the park that I hoped it would be,” Thomas complains. “It can only be opened by two keys. I’m assuming he has one of them, right?” The safecracker turns to Dylan. Everyone also looks at him. For the first time since these thieves crashed his fun little party, Dylan Tanaka cracks a genuine smile.

“I do. In my bedroom. But you’re wasting your time. You’re right. It takes two keys to open it. I have one upstairs. The other, however, is in Europe. A friend of mine who shall remain nameless has it in their possession. They live in London, in case you care. I’m assuming you don’t have a plane scheduled to land in Heathrow anytime soon?” Dylan gives Stephen a sassy look, believing this stumbling block will derail his carefully laid out plans. “What are you going to do now?”

“You’re right, we don’t have any contacts heading to Europe or based in Europe. At least, not yet. We may get there, eventually.” Stephen rubs his temples, realizing now that he’s in for a long night. “I get it. We knew this would be a possibility. It’s impossible for you to open the safe by yourself. You need a second person, or more specifically, a second key, to open it. I can threaten you, your friends, or even burn down your entire fucking house, but that wouldn’t make any difference. At all.”

“That’s correct, Stephen boy,” Dylan taunts him. “Kill me. Shoot me right in the chest. It won’t get you any closer to accessing the contents of this safe. It’s a fail-safe system, no pun intended. I can’t open it even if I wanted to. You can clearly see it for yourself. It can only be opened if my friend hops on a jet, flies across the Atlantic Ocean, gets their ass down here, and provides us with the second key. Do you want to know where my key is?”

“Yes.”

“Fourth floor. You’ll find it on the bedside table, bottom drawer. Underneath an old high school yearbook.”

Thomas turns to Roddy and Xander. “Go get it. Now.” The two men promptly leave to fetch it. Cortez takes a few steps back so he can have all five hostages in his sightline. His hand hovers over his firearm but he does not remove it. Melanie just realizes that she and Dylan made love near this key that apparently can help unlock this safe that she (like Henry) never knew existed. This surreal feeling brings goosebumps down her massive body. Monique can feel her shivering.

“Sit down, all of you.” Stephen eyes a long couch sitting along the wall. Melanie, Peggy, Monique, and Henry sit down. Dylan defiantly remains standing. Even though it’s summer, all five nude hostages suddenly start to feel chilly. Basements are supposed to be chilly, Henry reminds himself. That’s why they always put the wine cellars down here. It makes sense.

“I want to make sure he’s not lying. We’ll try opening the safe with just one key,” Stephen thinks aloud. “If it doesn’t work, as I expect it wouldn’t, then we’ll go with Plan B. Can you get that ready, please?”

“Sure thing.” Thomas squats down, unzips his duffle bag, and takes out a series of gadgets and devices. The four hostages sitting on the couch lean over to watch, curious what equipment a professional thief has at his disposal. Dylan’s eyes remain locked on Stephen, the inner rage against this man boiling over to an almost unbearable temperature. He never thought he’d ever see his former deputy again. And if he did, it certainly wouldn’t have been under these circumstances. Dylan’s mind is spinning a million miles per second. This is making an escape plan almost impossible to come up with. For now, he’s just going to have to accept that he and his four beloved friends are stuck being hostages. It stinks, but it is what it is. Any resistance will certainly be met with punishment.

“While we wait for your key to be retrieved, do you want to tell your friends why I’m here and why this safe is so fucking important?” Stephen gives his former boss a self-satisfied smile, knowing he’s just getting deeper and deeper under Dylan’s skin. “I’m sure they’re eagerly waiting for an explanation of why they’re down here, naked, afraid, and at the mercy of a bunch of thugs like us.”

Dylan turns toward his friends, as he’s lost all interest in looking at Stephen’s face. His voice is calm but authoritative. He knows the truth must be revealed in order to prevent a massacre from happening. All four of his friends watch him intently. Dylan takes a deep breath and starts speaking.

“Right before I resigned from my position as Chief Executive Officer of Perseus Analytics, a company I love, founded, and worked tirelessly to grow, I took with me a bunch of documents outlining an ambitious project we were in talks to do for the U.S. government. We were developing a prototype for a Battlefield Smart Armor Tech suit. It’s basically a wearable suit of armor that incorporated the most advanced artificial intelligence capabilities available to us. It would have been a game-changer in the world of modern warfare,” he says.

“Stephen and I worked tirelessly behind the scenes to get this program up and running. Pilotless drones could kill people high above the sky, but they’re prone to lead to civilian casualties,” Dylan continues. “We all know what led to my downfall. So the military wanted my help in developing armor that could protect our troops from bullets, bombs, IEDs, biological and chemical agents, and any other conventional weapons they encounter on the battlefield. No technology in the world could replace the necessity of boots on the ground. No technology can replace human agility.”

“And,” Stephen interjects. “We were sooooooooo close to getting something substantial to the Department of Defense until, well, until the wheels came off the bus. And just as Perseus Analytics fell like the Roman Empire being sacked by the Visigoths, Dylan here made sure this new cutting-edge technology wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands. Or anybody’s hands, for that matter. Isn’t that right?”

“Yes, you are correct,” Dylan admits. His gaze remains fixated on the floor, utterly embarrassed to look at his friends in the eye. “The documents I took with me outlined everything we were doing. Sketches, 3D models, code, concept reports, documentation, transcripts of planning meetings, you name it. I took papers, DVDs, thumb drives, blueprints, photographs, even one of Stephen’s personal diaries. I took it all. I left behind only meaningless things that were meant to give the DOD the impression that this program was still in its infancy. In reality, we were much deeper into the project than we led on.”

“We were two years away from an earth-shattering breakthrough that could revolutionize the future of warfare for good,” Stephen beams. “Unfortunately, this progress has stalled. For three years it’s been stonewalled, forgotten, locked away in this secret hidden vault that you see before you. Dylan holds the intel that could give any nation the military might they need to become unquestioned superpowers. The U.S., China, the European Union, the Russians, Saudis, Iranians, you name it. However, it’s not just this particular technology that could change world history forever. It’s the doors that this tech would open. The future is limitless. This would only be the beginning.”

Stephen takes a deep breath, proud of the future that will be in the palm of his hands. Thomas and Cortez look at each other, this being the first time they’ve ever heard in full detail what it is they are intending to steal. They knew they were snatching something important, but they had no idea it was this important. Smart tech that could transform ordinary human beings into super soldiers? This is definitely a game-changer if put into the proper hands. Military vehicles, troops, and commanders equipped with state-of-the-art smart technology? That would be a force to be reckoned with. That type of power is unprecedented.

“Damn. That sounds like some scary ass shit,” Peggy breaks the room’s silence. This elicits a faint snicker from Thomas. Melanie, who is hearing this for the first time, is in shock. She had no idea Dylan was this close to inventing tech that could lead to world domination. While that’s probably an over-exaggeration, to hear it directly from both Dylan and his former partner speaks volumes. She knew Dylan was involved in things that he’d rather not talk about, but this is a whole other ballgame. This is about human lives on a massive scale. This could tip the scale of geopolitical game theory. This is about what a hypothetical World War III would look like. Melanie hangs her head low, dreading the fact she may have to reconsider her entire view of a man she loves.

“This is as scary as it gets,” Stephen says to Peggy. “Dylan here has many skeletons in the closet. Before tonight, I had no idea he was into, um, women like you. I thought he was normal. Amanda McDermott isn’t a bodybuilder, is she? She’s about as skinny as it gets, if I recall.” Dylan looks up at him, miffed that he’s referencing his ex-girlfriend and current CEO of The McDermott Corporation, the company that “merged” with Perseus Analytics during the aftermath of the federal investigation. Amanda isn’t strong physically but she’s as mentally strong as any human being on planet Earth. Dylan resents Stephen mentioning her name.

“No, Amanda isn’t like these women you see before you,” Dylan mutters under his breath. He gives a loving look at Melanie, Monique, and Peggy, regretting even more the fact that they had to be dragged into this personal vendetta. He also sees Henry, his buddy and loyal chef, sitting quietly on the edge of the couch, processing everything that he’s just heard. All four of his friends appear to be thinking long and hard about their relationship with Dylan and whether or not they want to continue being his friend once this nightmare comes to an end. Assuming they all make it out alive, that is. “Well, I can assure you that if you want to steal the contents of this safe, you’re going to need one hell of a powerful drill. You need two keys to open it. The other one is on another continent, I promise you. You can strip this house down to its last floorboard. You’ll never find the second key here.”

“Oh, I believe you, but I must do my due diligence,” Stephen says. “You understand, don’t you? Never leave any stone unturned.”

“That’s right. Why, if you don’t mind me asking, do you believe me? I could be lying. The second key could actually be somewhere in this house,” Dylan inquires.

“It could be, but I doubt it,” Stephen begins. “I know you pretty well. Better than you think. We go way back, after all. But if there’s one thing I know about you, it’s that you believe in accountability. Checks and balances. That sort of thing. Which means, there’s no way you’d allow anyone to singlehandedly access this safe’s contents. Even you. You know how dangerous that would be.”

“Very good, old buddy. You do indeed know me pretty well.”

“That, I do. Plus, I have no patience for tearing this house down brick by brick. It would be easier, and more cost-effective, to just break in the old-fashioned way. I trust my man to do just that. It shouldn’t be too difficult, right Dylan?”

Before Dylan can respond, two of Stephen’s goons return with a long silver key that was (until tonight) safely stored in his bedroom. The key looks unremarkable, except for the length and the inordinate number of grooves on it. If you look at it from afar, it’s just like any other key that would lock and unlock a liquor cabinet or backyard fence. But upon closer inspection, one could clearly see that it’s designed to be “uncopiable,” meaning one could not simply go to a Home Depot and get it replicated. Roddy hands the silver key to Thomas. The safecracker gives his boss a quick look. Stephen nods his head. Thomas walks up to the key panel, inserts the key into the right slot, and turns it. He then attempts to open the door, but it won’t budge. He then inserts the key into the left slot and turns it. Once again, the door doesn’t open. He faces his boss and shakes his head in defeat. They are indeed in for a long night.

“Sorry, boss. He wasn’t lying. The key works, but we need two of them to open this sucker. I should get to work right now if we want to open this thing up before morning.” Thomas leans over to pick up a high-powered drill and a few spare Titanium drill bits. Everyone watches with interest as Thomas sets up his industrial drill meant to cut through steel beams. He inserts a fully charged battery into the bottom, locks it in place, and inspects the safety vault’s door to look for a logical place to start drilling.

“Well, well, well. It looks like we’re going to be here a bit longer than we had anticipated,” Stephen says, no hint of disappointment found in his voice. “Will it be loud?”

“Oh yeah, very fucking loud. It’s going to sound like a construction site in here really soon,” Thomas warns. “I recommend that everyone leave if they don’t want their eardrums blown out.” Taking his own advice, Thomas puts around his neck a pair of yellow over-the-head earmuffs. Once he finds the right place to begin drilling, he fully intends to wear them properly so he doesn’t go deaf.

“Hm. In that case, let’s get out of here and shut the door behind us. You don’t need us, do you?”

“No, sir. I can do this all by myself. I should have an estimate of how long it’ll take once I start seeing what I’ve got to work with,” Thomas promises. “Honestly, it’s impossible to tell at this juncture. I need to begin. Like, now.”

“Sounds good. Let’s get out of here and let Mr. Sellars get to work,” Stephen says. “Let’s move to that home gym I saw while coming down here. I’m sure you’ll all feel right at home there, am I right ladies?” The three women refuse to give Stephen Callahan any acknowledgment whatsoever. Henry shows no emotion. Dylan also remains silent. This pleases him. He doubts any of them will put up a fight. “Let’s move it.”

“Up, sugar tits,” Xander says to Peggy, who then gives him a dirty look while standing up. Dylan leads the way, followed by Stephen, Henry, Melanie, Peggy, Monique, and Xander, with Cortez at the rear. Dylan sees a few old fleece blankets sitting on a pile of clothes and bedding in the corner of the room. He stops and turns around to face Stephen.

“If we’re going to be down here for an extended period of time, the five of us are probably going to get cold. Do you see those blankets over there?”

Stephen glances over at the corner and sees the blankets. “Yes, I do.”

“Can we bring a few of them with us so we don’t catch a cold? And to cover our modesty, if that means anything to you.” Stephen smiles, looking down at Dylan’s penis and over at the three naked ladies and naked black man. The chilly basement may be unflattering to Dylan Tanaka, but it certainly hasn’t affected his chef one bit, Stephen observes. Shrinkage is all relative, after all. And we all know who hit the genetic jackpot.

“Yeah, we can do that. Cortez, grab a few blankets and take them with us, please.”

“Sure thing, boss,” Cortez acknowledges. He goes over to the pile of blankets and picks out a few at random. He coughs when a cloud of dust poofs in the air. After wiping the dust away with his hand, Cortez chooses five large fleece blankets, rolls them up, and takes the bundle with him. One by one, they file out of the room, leaving Thomas all alone to begin drilling through the vault’s door. By now, he’s put on a pair of heat-resistant work gloves, a welding mask, and a protective jacket (in addition to his earmuffs). Stephen snickers at how ridiculous he looks, but he realizes Thomas isn’t trying to win a fashion contest. He’s a professional thief on the job, doing what he does best, facing a monumental task. He’s entitled to look however he needs to look.

As quiet as church mice, the group silently walks down the long hallway. You can hear a pin drop, as the old cliché goes. The mortuary-like atmosphere is not lost on anyone. The five hostages don’t feel like dead bodies yet, but they have no illusions that they could very well be living their final moments on Earth. Their next destination could be an actual morgue. This is why none of them have any intentions of acting out or crossing their captors in any way. It may not just be them who receives a bullet through their skull. It could be others, too. This gives them a sense of responsibility and incentive to not act irrationally.

Once they enter the home gym, Stephen spots a few metal folding chairs and a long wooden bench situated on the far right-hand corner. He decides this will be their “home base” for the time being. He leads the group over there, walking past a fruit smoothie bar, several exercise machines, a box full of kettlebells and elastic cables, and a stack of clean white towels. He points to everyone to sit on the wooden bench. All five hostages sit down without saying a word and immediately grimace at the thought of wood splinters poking their naked bottoms. Cortez hands out a blanket to everyone. Dylan just holds his while the four others wrap them around their naked bodies. Eventually, Dylan follows suit and puts a red and green Christmas-themed blanket around his torso.

“Damn, this room is also impressive as fuck,” Stephen marvels. “You could open this place to the general public, not just the two girls who come here on a weekly basis.”

“How…how do you know about that?” Dylan asks. Only three people use this gym on a regular basis: Dylan Tanaka, Lindsay Wells, and Laura Kang. Their presence is kept under-the-radar for obvious reasons, a mutually agreed-upon arrangement that benefits all parties involved. Dylan is horrified that Stephen would know this fact about him and his deal with those two women.

“We’ve done reconnaissance work for the past several weeks, Dylan boy. Do you honestly think we just showed up out of thin air without scoping out the place first? Come on! Gives us more credit than that,” Stephen replies. Dylan finally realizes that’s where the mysterious marijuana smell came from earlier today. It wasn’t Joey lighting up on the job. It was one of these goons snooping around his property.

“Did you know we were going to be here tonight?” Melanie asks. It suddenly dawns on her that Stephen Callahan knows a lot about Dylan’s normal routine, but not necessarily his plans for this weekend. Were they a monkey wrench thrown into the engine? Are they a wild card element he wasn’t expecting?

“To tell you the truth, no. I did not expect you to all be here. I knew Dylan’s landscaper would be here this morning and that he’d leave before lunch. I figured your butler would be gone before eight o’clock and your cook shortly before that. I fully expected you’d be all alone, old sport. I guess I was wrong.” By now, Roddy is standing at Stephen’s side while Cortez and Xander are leaning against the wall. Stephen pulls up a folding chair and sits to face his hostages at their level. “That’s okay. Luckily, none of you are any threat to us. I mean, how dangerous can a naked person be?” He reaches out to stroke Monique’s supple leg. She, once again, squirms at this unwanted touching.

“Don’t touch her like that!” Dylan lashes out. “I mean it. Don’t even think about it. Leave them alone, do you hear me? Don’t you fucking touch her!”

Amused but not angered, Stephen pulls away and leans back in his chair, letting everyone know he doesn’t intend to make anyone feel more uncomfortable than they already are. “Forgive me, my dear. I may be a monster to you, but I am still a man. You are one gorgeous, delicious little cookie. You don’t look like the other two. You clearly keep yourself in shape, but you’re different. Who are you, exactly?”

“Don’t talk to him. You don’t owe him shit!” Peggy warns Monique. “He doesn’t deserve to know anything about you, honey dear.”

“It’s okay sweetie. I can handle myself,” Monique says, breaking her long silence. “In case you must know, I’m an Olympic athlete. A weightlifter. I do the clean and jerk and the snatch. I competed at Rio and tore my UCL while attempting a heavy lift. Maybe you recall that?”

“Oh shit! I remember watching that. Holy fuck, that was you?” Xander interrupts. Everyone looks at him. “Damn, I remember watching you on the floor, crying and shit. Wow. I didn’t recognize you.”

“Uh huh. Well, yeah, that was me.” Monique lifts her right arm and flexes it, showing off her full bicep. “As you can tell, I’m training for next year’s games in Tokyo. I intend to compete and win the gold. If anything happens to me tonight, you can bet the whole world will hear about it. There’d be nowhere for any of you fuckers to run.”

Xander raises an eyebrow. Cortez lets out a whistle. Stephen and Roddy look at each other, thoroughly impressed that the silent black girl who looked like she was on the verge of tears had some spunk in her. Apparently, they had an international celebrity (not just Dylan) as one of their hostages. And Cortez is fully aware of how famous LATINAMUSCLEPRINCESS67 is in the world of online porn. He’s now just discovered her full name but that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of people around the globe know who she is. And none of them know who Melanie Wright is, though it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a woman with a sculpted body like hers probably isn’t completely anonymous. All of a sudden, it dawns on the bandits that they must tread carefully because they aren’t holding hostage a bunch of nameless, faceless nobodies that wouldn’t be missed if they were killed off. Rather, they’re actual somebodies who would garner a lot of attention if they were to meet their untimely demise.

“Unbelievable. So you’re a famous Olympic athlete. I had no idea. I don’t pay attention to sports, so I wouldn’t have known that otherwise,” Stephen confesses. “I guess that means we must treat you with respect, right? I apologize for touching you inappropriately like that. I shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry.”

“Fuck that. That should be the least of your worries,” Monique scolds. “You’ll pay for this. One day. Mark my words.” Dylan wants to tell her to cool it. He refrains from adding fuel to the fire.

“Oh, that’s quite the threat. I believe you when you say that. We will all get our comeuppance. Some day. Maybe not tonight. But perhaps later. I don’t know.” Stephen sits up in his chair. He takes out his pistol and waves it in the direction of his hostages. This causes all of them to flinch. “Huh. If I were to kill one of you, that would surely make the evening news. Or at the very least, trend on Twitter for a few hours. So I shouldn’t do that if I ever intend to get away with this little heist unscathed. Good to know.”

“Look, let’s just sit here quietly while your guy tries to break into my safe,” Dylan suggests, trying to avoid any bloodshed. “I won’t put up a fight. I promise. You’ve already won. I’ve lost. You’ll leave here with your treasure, go along your merry way, and we’ll remain here suffering from PTSD. Right?” It’s clear Dylan wants to play peacekeeper. He hates Stephen’s guts but doesn’t want any of his friends to die. Dylan’s former friend also senses this attitude.

“Yes, that sounds like a prudent plan. Let’s just sit here, quietly, and not do anything stupid. We have these guns…but trust me. We don’t want to use them. Am I right, guys?” Stephen looks around at his associates.

“Oh yeah. That’s right,” Roddy says.

“Yup.” Xander acknowledges.

“Sure thing. We’re not animals. We just want to get what we came here for and leave as quietly as possible,” Cortez reassures the group of hostages.

“Excellent! So we’re all in agreement. I love it,” Stephen taunts Dylan. He leans back in his folding chair with a self-satisfied grin on his face. After several moments of silence, he turns to Roddy to ask him a question.

“Check on Mr. Sellars to see how much progress he’s made so far.”

“Of course, boss. I’ll be back.” Roddy exits out of the gym and goes to the storage room.

“He can’t get in without me,” Dylan reminds Stephen. “He can’t get in unless he has my thumbprint. Get him to come back.”

“Shit. You’re right. I forgot about that,” Stephen curses. “Go after him and open the door. And don’t do anything funny, or one of your lady friends will get a bullet between their eyes. Or up their pussy.” He points his pistol directly at Melanie’s crotch. She gasps, her heart skipping a beat. Dylan immediately stands up (with his blanket still wrapped around his body) and walks slowly toward the door. He glances at the group before exiting to make sure no harm comes to Miss Wright. He loves her dearly and would hate himself if any harm were to come her way. He’d also tear Stephen limb to limb if he actually shot her (even if it kills him). For his own sake, he’d better not do anything foolish.

“You sick motherfucker,” Melanie tells Stephen once Dylan has left the room. “Put that damn gun away. I’m not going to do anything. I’m not stupid enough to try to escape. Stop pointing that at me!” Now it’s Melanie’s turn to be on the verge of tears. For whatever reason, she feels protective over Dylan, Henry, Peggy, and Monique – as if she’s the mama bear looking out for her cubs. If anybody is to get hurt, it might as well be her…nobody else.

“Don’t worry, my man,” Stephen lowers the gun and puts it back in his holster. “You’re safe. You’re good. All of you. Oh! That reminds me. If you don’t mind me asking, you are a real woman, right?”

Melanie closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, and reopens them to focus on her captor. “Yes. I am a woman. I’m more of a woman than you’ve ever known. You’ve never met anyone who’s more of a woman than me. Just because you’ll never be as strong as me, both literally and figuratively, doesn’t mean you can call me a man. I’m not a man. But if I were, I’d be more of a man than you’d ever be.”

Stephen stands up, takes out his Glock 19, and pistol-whips Melanie directly in the face. She lets out a sharp cry of pain. Henry, Peggy, and Monique jump up in shock. Even Roddy, Xander, and Cortez flinch at this sudden act of brutal violence. Stephen then points the barrel of the gun at the rest of the group and cocks it, warning them that they should remain seated if they want to avoid suffering a similar fate.

“Sit down, all of you. If you say one word, I’ll give you the same treatment.” He looks at Melanie, who’s already developing a dark blue bruise on her left cheek. A few drops of blood run down her jaw where the edge of the pistol sliced her skin. “Sorry my dear, but I hate being insulted like that. I suppose I should also apologize for mistaking you for a man. You are a woman. You talk like one, that’s for sure.”

“I’m glad we cleared the air on that,” Melanie grimaces in pain. “I don’t think Dylan will appreciate that you did that to me.”

“No doubt he’ll get pissy about that,” Stephen says, genuinely regretting his actions. “Let’s just sit here and not say another word until Dylan gets back with news about Mr. Sellar’s progress.” Everyone returns to a seated position. Stephen’s associates remain alert. The tension in the air lingers, even though all involved agree a bit of détente could go a long way.

Several moments pass. It’s the most awkwardly silent atmosphere that anyone in this room has ever experienced before. A few minutes pass until Roddy, Thomas, and Dylan enter through the home gym’s front door. Dylan is still wrapped in his blanket. Thomas is completely covered in his industrial “construction worker” gear. He’s mildly out of breath, acting as if he’s just run a country mile at full speed.

“Hey boss. I’ve made some progress but it’s going to take me, oh, an hour and a half to get the door busted down, I think,” Thomas estimates. “At a minimum, it’s going to take me seventy minutes. Two hours at the most. Good thing I brought extra drill bits because the one I’m currently using is being worn down pretty good. It’ll last about twenty more minutes until it’s reduced to nothing but a useless nub. But don’t worry. I’ll get it open. It’ll take time, but time is on our side. If the butler shows up early, we’ll capture him and bring him into our custody.”

“Thank you for the update. Keep at it. Give me updates every thirty minutes, alright?”

“Yeah, I can do that. I’ll keep you posted.” Thomas turns around and disappears from sight, eagerly wanting to return to his project. Thomas Sellars has broken into many safes in his life, but this one takes the cake. This is the Mt. Everest of safes, as far as he’s concerned. After Thomas leaves Dylan sits back down. Then, he notices the blood dripping from Melanie’s face.

“Wha…what happened?” Dylan caresses her face, careful not to touch the bruise.

“Ask him.” Melanie points to Stephen. Without needing to ask, Dylan boils over with rage.

“You…fucking…piece…of…SHIT!” Before he can stand up to confront him, Stephen and Roddy point their guns right at Dylan’s forehead. Cortez closes his eyes in anticipation of Mr. Tanaka’s brains being blown out, which would leave a graphic bloody mess. He doesn’t like gory horror movies and would hate to experience one in real life.

“Ah, ah, ah! Stay where you are. You don’t want to know what’ll happen to you if you charge at me like that,” Stephen warns his former boss. “Just sit down, shut up, and nothing terrible will happen to any of you. I won’t repeat myself. Got it?”

Dylan closes his eyes, breaths deeply through his nose, and calmly sits back down. He’s not normally a believer in “Zen” or whatever that means (this explains why the meditation room is rarely ever used). But right now, he needs all the positive vibes he can possibly muster. Melanie kisses him on the cheek. Peggy grabs his hand and holds it tightly. Monique grabs Henry’s hand, just so everyone feels connected and supported. Even Stephen decides to relax, sitting down in his chair and letting out a rasping sigh. The other three gunmen put their pistols away, sensing the détente happening before them is for real.

Nobody speaks a word for a long, long time. The silence is much welcomed.

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.

Nude: A Muscular Woman’s Natural State (NSFW)

Emery Miller in her natural state.
Emery Miller in her natural state.

One year ago, I published a post titled “A Muscular Woman is Always Nude in Public, Even When Fully Clothed.” The basic gist of my article is that a woman with muscles cannot easily hide her muscles from the public. Even if she wears baggy clothing and acts as inconspicuous as possible, she can never fully conceal the fact that she is indeed a woman with big muscles.

So no matter what she does, where she goes, or who she associates with, her identity as a “female bodybuilder” is forever branded on her body – that is, until she decides to stop training and lets her muscles atrophy. She can run, but she can’t hide.

However, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One does not pursue bodybuilding unless he or she is okay with, ahem, looking like a bodybuilder. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?

Yes, it is the whole point. No arguments there. I’d like to follow up this post with more thoughts on the concept of female muscle and nudity. Here it goes. Not only is a female bodybuilder always nude even when she’s fully clothed, when she is nude she’s actually in her “natural state.”

By “natural state,” I mean the way in which nature intended for something to be presented. As human beings living in human civilization, it is not encouraged to be naked in public. Nor is it natural for people to live clustered sedentary lives where they spend all their free time glued to a computer screen. In-person human interaction involving people actually looking at and talking to another human being has (nearly) gone by the wayside, thanks to the introduction of social media, texting, and other digital distractions. Life in the 21st Century may resemble a quasi-dystopian (and heavily exaggerated pre-apocalyptic) reality, but that doesn’t mean we can’t occasionally turn back the clock and return back to how we were supposed to behave.

Kathy Johansson showing off her best side.
Kathy Johansson showing off her best side.

As a particular sub-species of humanity, female bodybuilders belong in a unique category. Female bodybuilders are, in many respects, a prototypical 21st Century human being: Strong, independent, rebellious, entrepreneurial, and “feminine” by her own definition. Never mind the fact that female bodybuilders are not celebrated by our culture in quite the same way that pop stars and loudmouth politicians are; FBBs are women who are known to exist but aren’t given the adequate public space that they deserve to exist in.

So in a realistic sense, FBBs will forever be relegated to the backburner of greater society’s consciousness. Or more specifically, they’ll inhabit the backburner of the stove located in the shanty sitting 20 miles away from our culture’s proverbial kitchen. It’s a hard knock life, but a life that our beloved FBBs are willing and able to wade through.

But within the female muscle fan community – and to be sure, God knows how many of us are out there – the accomplishments of FBBs do not go unnoticed. In fact, we spend an inordinate amount of time experiencing these ladies as many ways as we can: Meeting them for muscle worship/wrestling sessions, watching their videos, looking at their photos, reading articles about them, following them on Instagram, etc. And if there is one theme that consistently comes up, it’s that we love seeing our gorgeous strong ladies wearing as little clothing as possible.

Granted, the desire to see a beautiful person without clothing isn’t particularly unusual. Adam didn’t notice Eve while she was wearing a nuclear hazmat suit. He noticed her when she was wearing…uh, nothing at all. I’m pretty sure if any of us were to see a beautiful person walking down the street wearing his or her birthday suit, we’d all stop what we’re doing and stare. If you wouldn’t so such a thing, well, I don’t know what to say to you.

However, in a strangely poetic way, female bodybuilders aren’t just beautiful women whom we would like to see naked. They’re beautiful women who should be naked all the time. A muscular woman should never be covered up. Her body should always be displayed in all its natural glory. A clothed muscular woman is a travesty. It’s an abomination. It’s unnatural, just like eating tropical fruit in the winter or listening to Christmas music in July.

The gorgeous Lindsay Mulinazzi.
The gorgeous Lindsay Mulinazzi.

As bodybuilders, FBBs dedicate their whole lives to developing their physical bodies to fit a certain desired aesthetic. It’s not a hobby. Nor is it just a career choice. It’s a lifestyle. What they eat, how they train, when they sleep, where they find themselves at any given moment, what they spend their money on; it’s all part of the life of being a pro (or exceedingly dedicated amateur) bodybuilder. In short, you don’t become a bodybuilder. Bodybuilding becomes you!

And the human body, when deliberately sculpted to look a certain way, deserves to be seen in its proper context. There’s a reason why bodybuilding contests feature contestants wearing almost nothing. Obviously, the competitors won’t wear anything that isn’t acceptable at any public beach, because “going commando” is still pretty taboo. It’s like going to the movies: Seeing hundreds of people get shot and blown up is okay, but seeing a bare female breast is totally wrong.

It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but plenty of things in life don’t make a lick of sense when you think about it.

So forget about this in a practical sense. I’m not suggesting female bodybuilders – and male bodybuilders, I suppose – should go around completely naked all the time. This is more of a philosophical discussion with regards to who female bodybuilders are and what they represent, not a call to action to defy indecent exposure laws!

Simply put, female bodybuilders should be appreciated in the nude whenever possible. Yes, it can be incredibly sexy to see a gorgeous FBB wearing frilly lingerie or a g-string bikini or a French maid’s outfit. But that’s all fun and games. I’m talking about how a female bodybuilder deserves to be seen.

What can you conclude by seeing Michelle Tuggle fully nude?
What can you conclude by seeing Michelle Tuggle fully nude?

You cannot fully appreciate her hard work unless you see every single square inch of her body. Her calves. Her quads. Her hips. Her butt. Her abs. Her arms. Her chest. Her neck. Her back. Her face. Her breasts. And yes, her genitals.

Her genitals may seem inconsequential, but they are not. Seeing a woman with big muscles and female genitalia proves the point once and for all that she’s a real woman. Whether her clitoris is small or abnormally large doesn’t really matter. What matters is the stark reminder that this hypermuscular human body is also a female body. Whether her breasts are small or large also doesn’t matter. They need to be seen. If her breasts are normal-sized, they serve as further reinforcement of her femininity. If they are flat, they could then be used to argue either that one doesn’t need breasts in order to be a woman or that “womanhood” needs to be redefined. Or more specifically, our concept of “womanhood” needs to be tossed out the window altogether.

The size of her muscles, the appearance of her genitalia and breasts, and the confidence in which she carries herself (or perhaps, lack of confidence if she’s self-conscious about anything) all tell us the complete story about her. If she’s embarrassed by her small breasts and large clit, this offers a clue to how she views her own femininity. If she’s damn proud of her big muscles, flat chest, and oversized genitals, we can surmise that she doesn’t give a damn what society says or that she wants society to dramatically change the way we view women.

As I’ve written before in a previous blog article, a large clitoris is beneficial for the perception of women and their sexualities. It proves that women are indeed sexually sovereign beings who deserve to experience pleasure whenever they desire to. The vagina is often (unfairly) mischaracterized as a passive bodily organ that only serves to receive a man’s penis during intercourse and to deliver a child during birth. Add to it a clitoris that is often too small to see (without zooming in very closely!) and you get a set of genitals that can be viewed as being submissive, dependent, and unremarkable.

A very sultry Desiree Ellis.
A very sultry Desiree Ellis.

However, that’s not even close to being true. But as far as perception goes, a big clitoris that resembles a very small penis can go a long way in proving the point that women do in fact possess an organ that exists solely to give her pleasure. We might know that in the back of our minds, but a larger-than-life clitoris that shocks you when you see it accentuates that point a hundred-fold.

Thus, yes, her genitals do matter. Every single inch of her body matters. You cannot truly understand who a female bodybuilder is unless you see her completely nude. But do not mistaken nudity with vulnerability. There’s a difference between being naked and being nude. “Naked” is when someone lacks clothing. “Nude” is a state of being in which one shows off all their skin. In other words, “naked” implies vulnerability, deficiency, and being unprotected. “Nude,” on the other hand, connotes an active choice to be bare.

Being naked is humiliating. Being nude is an empowering choice. See the difference?

A nude female bodybuilder is most likely to be in the “empowered” camp. But I guess that’s not always the case. In addition to being embarrassed by her genitalia or breasts, not everyone is comfortable being naked…regardless of the circumstances. Obviously, bodybuilders (male and female) tend to have fantastic looking bodies, but we all hold differing mores when it comes to showing off skin to the public.

There’s an undeniable difference between seeing a muscular woman clothed and a muscular woman completely nude. When clothed, we are reminded of her ordinariness. She wears shirts, pants, socks, shoes, and jackets just like the rest of us. It’s like she’s covering up who she really is, as if wearing clothes is just like Clark Kent wearing glasses to disguise the fact that he’s actually Superman. A female bodybuilder who’s wearing clothes is shielding her identity, albeit not completely.

Yes, you can still tell that she’s really darn muscular. Her tight jeans may generously show off her sculpted glutes and rock hard thighs, but it’s not even close to seeing the actual thing. I’m sure Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen suspected that Mr. Kent was actually somebody else, but who in their right mind would go all the way and suggest that he’s actually the Man of Steel? Preposterous!

Likewise, it’s not the same to look upon a fully-clothed female bodybuilder with a similar amount of awe and wonder if she were nude. That even goes for her wearing a bikini. She’s mostly nude…however there are still a few crucial parts still left uncovered.

Now, contrast that with a fully nude muscular woman. It’s as though you’re seeing her from a whole new perspective. She transcends her humanity and becomes a goddess. When you see her in her “natural state,” you truly are able to comprehend just how amazing her body is. You witness not just her physical beauty; you also get to experience her entire essence. Her personality, her hard work, her sacrifices, her lifestyle choices, her fears, her doubts, her dreams, her hopes; everything is right there on display. She hides nothing because this is who she really is.

This is how she’s meant to be seen.

You may be asking yourself: Does the same apply to a gorgeous non-bodybuilder woman? Well, not really. Without question, the sight of a beautiful nude woman is always pleasant to regard, whether she has big muscles or not. I’m only human. However, the major dissimilarity is that an FBB’s sculpted body is so crucial to her identity. Her chiseled physique is central to who she is as a person and what she’s dedicated her life toward accomplishing.

The real Jungle Woman: Rita Sargo.
The real Jungle Woman: Rita Sargo.

A beautiful non-muscular woman isn’t quite the same. A supermodel can wear a sultry black dress and make jaws drop to the floor (although I believe “slay” has become the currently accepted nomenclature). If a female bodybuilder were to wear the exact same dress, she could garner the exact same reaction…but it wouldn’t feel the same. Instead, the dress would seem like a burden. The dress becomes a distraction, an unnecessary diversion away from what’s really important.

And what is actually important? You guessed it! Her hard chiseled muscles.

Perhaps that’s the heart of this discussion. That’s my core message. Clothing seems unnatural when placed on a female bodybuilder’s body. And not just unnatural; it seems sacrilegious. A masterpiece by Monet deserves to be viewed by millions of people at a museum, not locked away in a vault somewhere in an undisclosed underground location. A grand piano deserves to be played, as opposed to serving as a glorified piece of furniture. A novel sitting on a shelf and doing nothing is degrading. It must be read and enjoyed, not relegated as common clutter.

In the same manner, a female bodybuilder’s body needs to be seen in its entirety. And that means she must be fully nude. I’m not suggesting every single bodybuilder must be forced to strip naked and pose for pictures. Heavens no! That’s the furthest thing that I would advocate for, trust me. Rather, I’m talking about this in a metaphysical sense.

A female bodybuilder’s body is maximizing its utility (or purpose) when it’s displayed in the nude. More than being athletes, female bodybuilders are also artists. And like Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci before them, FBBs warrant having their handiwork displayed in a way that provides the viewer an optimal experience:

Nude. No clothing. At all. Just her beautiful body and nothing else shielding it. That’s the way she is meant to be seen. That’s the way nature intended it.

Anything else would be a disservice to all her years and years of shedding blood, sweat, and tears. Maybe I was wrong in my initial assessment that a muscular woman is always nude in public, even when she’s fully clothed. When she’s wearing clothes, she’s just like the Monet sitting in a dark vault or the masterpiece of a novel collecting dust. We’re in the presence of greatness; we just don’t know it. And this is perhaps the greatest tragedy of them all.

That being said, when she’s completely nude, our eyes aren’t the only things that become wide open. So do our minds, hearts, and souls.

Naked, Proud, and Defiant: The Fantasy of Seeing a Nude Muscular Woman in Public

Who wouldn't want to see Alina Popa working out at their gym?
Who wouldn’t want to see Alina Popa working out at their gym?

I’ve seen a fair share of muscular women in my life. I’ve seen gorgeous fit women at the gym. I’ve met a number of female bodybuilders for muscle worship sessions. I’ve seen most of these female bodybuilders wearing their Birthday Suit, which means (for those of you in which English is not your first language) wearing absolutely nothing.

Seeing a muscular woman naked is like a spiritual experience. It’s like seeing a divine creature up close and not feeling worthy of being able to do so. It’s like being a layman and visiting the Holy of Holies inside Solomon’s Temple. You know it’s strictly forbidden, but your curiosity will always get the better of you.

As a fan of female bodybuilders, I have plenty of fantasies that I daydream about with great frequency. Making love to a female bodybuilder, having a romantic dinner with a female bodybuilder, snuggling closely with a female bodybuilder by a crackling fireplace, and lots of others. Most of them are quite mundane. Most of my fantasies aren’t kinky, violent, or contain any shred of BDSM fetishism. I don’t want a muscular woman to pee on me (gross!) or to stomp her high heels onto my scrotum (ouch!). If that’s your “thing,” so be it. It’s not mine!

One aspect of my female muscle fantasies that comes close to entering the realm of kinky is voyeurism. Voyeurism isn’t all that kinky or bizarre, but it can cross that threshold if taken to certain extremes. Here’s one simple voyeuristic female muscle fantasy that I have that I often think about:

Imagine you’re taking a casual stroll through a crowded street in a big metropolitan city. It’s Sunday afternoon and you see shoppers milling around, people eating brunch, tourists enjoying what the town has to offer, joggers, dog owners walking their pooches, and teenage kids being up to no good. In other words, it’s a typical pleasant carefree day.

You’re walking round aimlessly, minding your own business. Not a chore to do in the world. All of a sudden, out of the corner of your eye, you see a sight that you’ll never forget. Nor will anybody else who is also witnessing this event. On the opposite side of the street, you see a naked woman nonchalantly walking down the sidewalk; and not just any kind of woman, but a drop-dead gorgeous female bodybuilder.

She’s tall. She’s muscular. She’s completely ripped from head to toe with big swollen muscles. Her thighs could crush a watermelon. She can bend steel with her bare hands. Her broad shoulders take up almost the entire sidewalk. Her perfectly round butt bounces up and down poetically with every step she takes. She isn’t wearing a single article of clothing. She’s willingly allowing people to see every square inch of her stunningly chiseled physique.

People don’t recognize her and treat her like she’s an extraterrestrial visitor from another solar system. Nobody can look away. All eyes are helplessly glued to her. In fact, nobody wants to look away from her. Some are disgusted by her. Others are instantly turned on by her. But everybody stops what they’re doing, dead in their tracks, and stares at her theatrical nude promenade.

Everyone sees her – children, families, little old ladies, packs of teenagers, Catholic nuns, stoners, homeless drifters begging for spare change, police officers on patrol, dogs, cats, birds, and every living being within view of her immaculate body.

Not only is she boldly strolling around a crowded public place in the nude, but she’s proud to be doing this! She’s confident. She’s defiant. She’s empowered. She knows she has everyone in the palm of her calloused hand. No one can resist looking at her. And from what she can tell, no one has any desire to resist staring at her powerful body.

The police won’t arrest her for indecent exposure because they’re enchanted with her. The nuns won’t chastise her because they feel like they’re seeing the splitting image of God walking before them. The stoners and drunks sober up immediately. A few homeless folks offer to give her whatever nickels and dimes they have for just the opportunity to get a closer look at her. But she ignores all of these people. She doesn’t have a care in the world. As she continues her triumphant constitutional, she develops a following of people. No one dares touch her, talk to her, or bother her. They react to her with a combination of awe, erotic curiosity, and fear.

The countless individuals who follow her create traffic jams. Cars can’t pass through intersections. A jogger who notices this naked muscular woman accidentally runs into a telephone poll. People take out their cell phones and snap pictures of her. She loves the attention. She craves it. She doesn’t care if her flamboyant performance goes viral. She loves being who she is and will never apologize for it.

She’s worked her entire life to achieve this impeccably muscular body. She knows her body will receive mixed reactions. She knows this exhibitionistic exercise violates social norms. She knows her body is polarizing. But she doesn’t care. All she wants is for the entire fucking world to see it!

Wow. Imagine that for a moment. How would you react if you were one of the thousands of people who witness this moment? What do you think is going through the mind of the female bodybuilder who’s choosing to proudly display her body (and years of hard work) to the masses of onlookers?

But, let’s specifically focus on the narrator of the story. Let’s assume the narrator of the story is a secret admirer of muscular women. He (or she) may be caught off guard by our audacious performer (let’s call her “Ginger”), but once he realizes it’s happening he goes with the flow and loves every minute of it. Or, let’s assume he knows it’s going to happen ahead of time and enjoys watches it unfold just to see how other people will react.

Oh boy. Tatianna Butler.
Oh boy. Tatianna Butler.

Will Ginger get jeers from unpleasant trolls? Will the police try to arrest her? Will mothers cover the eyes of their children? Will husbands get slapped in the face by their wives because they can’t stop drooling over her? Will the kindly grandmas suddenly become militant and start to lecture her about the lack of decency she’s exhibiting? Will she inadvertently cause car collisions and pedestrians to trip over themselves? How far is Ginger planning to stroll through the neighborhood? Will she ignore the voices hurling unsolicited remarks toward her? Will she do something more daring like pose for pictures or allow strangers to touch her body?

I fantasize about being our protagonist. I’m just as aroused by seeing a muscular naked woman in public as I am witnessing people’s reaction to her. So my fantasy is less about voyeurism and more about exhibitionism. Call it “proxy exhibitionism” or “surrogate exhibitionism.” I’m not the one who’s nude in public, but I’m on her team. By extension, her display of courageous nudity is also mine as well. Ginger and I could be in cahoots. Maybe I’m conspicuously video recording the whole ordeal. Maybe I’m working with Ginger to make her go viral. Maybe I’m collaborating with her to plan and execute this innovative guerrilla marketing campaign.

Regardless, I love the feeling of making other people uncomfortable. No matter who you are, you cannot witness a naked muscular woman in public (or even a non-muscular naked woman) without feeling some sort of visceral reaction. How can you not?

This fantasy is rooted in the desire to break down social norms and shove certain sexual taboos into people’s faces. It’s one thing to see a naked muscular woman in the privacy of her hotel room (and, it should be noted, this whole interaction is completely consensual) and it’s quite another to see her out in public in the least private manner possible. Meeting her for a muscle worship session is intimate; this fantasy is the total opposite of intimate.

I’ve seen interviews with FBBs who say they enjoy getting stares from people when they’re in public spaces. I’m sure there are many who do not like such unwarranted attention. But it’s undeniable that a number of them do receive a thrill from knowing there are hundreds of pairs of eyeballs fixated in their direction. Likewise, I want to see people react to seeing an FBB out in the open. Even though I am not a female bodybuilder, I also receive a thrill (by extension) from the intense attention she receives.

Theresa Ivancik wearing a sexy red dress. Meow.
Theresa Ivancik wearing a sexy red dress. Meow.

Female bodybuilders receive two kinds of responses from people: lust and disgust. Just read the comments left behind on YouTube videos of FBBs. Some commenters are completely in love with them, and others are irrationally repulsed by them. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. So the fantasy I described above panders to both audiences: it gives the people who lust over her a little “show” that they’re bound to enjoy and it gives the people who are disgusted by her a demonstration of defiance and spite.

The best way to counter the “haters” isn’t to ignore them, but to intentionally shove your successes down their throats.

Ah yes. How sweet it is!

A part of this fantasy can be partially explained by my own personal life. As an Asian man, I often hear jokes about guys like me having a small penis. Even when people aren’t joking, they just assume that I’m “small down there” because of my ethnicity. It’s either people trolling me (and guys like me) or spouting off what they think to be “scientific-based” evidence. Regardless, I get pretty sick and tired of hearing this.

I often fantasize about doing this exact same thing as Ginger. I want to walk down a crowded street completely naked and see how people react to me doing this. I want my body (and penis) to be seen by everyone around me. Will women giggle and whisper to their friends all sorts of insulting things? Will men smirk at me and insist their packages are much larger than mine? Or will neither of those things happen?

Part of me wants to do this (although I won’t ever actually do this!) just for the sake of self-empowerment. It sounds clichéd, but it is what it is. Instead of being ashamed of my body (or a certain part of my body), I want to defiantly show it off no matter what the consequences would be. Likewise, I also fantasize about seeing a female bodybuilder do this. People might make fun of her shrunken breasts. Other will comment about her large clitoris and insist that it’s really a man’s penis. Some may even call her a man. But it doesn’t faze her at all. She’s going to be who she is despite what her critics say.

Naked, Proud, and Defiant.

On a side note, have you noticed that people who tend to say “I don’t care what the critics say” are usually the ones who (ironically) really care what their critics have to say? This claim is a defense mechanism that’s meant to downplay the role that critics play in your life. If you view outside voices as being irrelevant to your life’s choices, then what point is there to getting emotional over what those voices have to say?

If women like Kristy Hawkins strolled around the pool more often, I'd go swimming every single day!
If women like Kristy Hawkins strolled around the pool more often, I’d go swimming every single day!

I often wonder how well female bodybuilders tune out negative voices. To a certain degree, they all can. But realistically speaking, it’s nearly impossible to avoid vitriol in every moment of your waking life. Sooner or later, you’re going to hear hurtful or spiteful remarks directed your way. So how do you counter them? One method is to do what I’ve fantasized about: put yourself so out there that eventually your critics get sick and tired of saying damaging things to you. Obviously you can’t just prance around naked in public areas, but there are alternative methods at your disposal.

You can wear short sleeved shirts. You can wear shorts (in the summertime) that generously show off your thick legs. You can wear skimpy athletic swag at the gym. And of course, you can choose to post photos of your beautiful body on the Internet. These suggestions of alternative ways to flaunt what you got are being done by large numbers of FBBs already.

But the “Naked, Proud, and Defiant” fantasy has less to do with how a muscular woman feels about herself and more to do with how fans of muscular women feel about themselves. We don’t expect a muscular woman to feel compelled to put herself out there. She is under absolutely no obligation to do so. She can be as private as she chooses to be. If her husband (or wife) is the only person on planet Earth who is privileged to see her naked, so be it. As fans, we are not entitled to her body. But in our private thoughts, we can fantasize about whatever we want to.

Deep down inside, female muscle fans want their fetishes to be validated. I suppose that’s true of every fetish, sexual orientation, and kinky interest in existence. We want muscular women to be more accepted in society because, logically speaking, that could potentially lead more women to pursue bodybuilding, CrossFit, and lifting at the gym – which then leads to a surplus of more women with big muscles in the world (yay!).

Muscular women are rare in our society and female muscle fans want nothing more than for that to drastically change. But we all know realistically that’s not going to happen. So, we fantasize about the next best thing and wish that one day we’ll miraculously witness a gorgeous strong woman proudly showcase her nude body to all who surround her.

Seeing a beautiful non-muscular woman in public is not a big deal, though still a pleasant sight nevertheless. Most of us who catch a glimpse of a pretty lady will appreciate how she looks and quickly forget about her minutes after she leaves. For example, yesterday I saw an incredibly gorgeous Asian girl on a public train in Downtown Seattle. I did not think about her again until I wrote this sentence. Why did I forget about her? Because she was damn pretty, but not out of the ordinary. That’s why.

But what if I saw a gorgeous muscular woman (of any ethnicity) sitting on the same train wearing a revealing sundress that leaves very little to the imagination? I can guarantee you I wouldn’t stop thinking about her. Heck, I might write an entire blog post dedicated entirely to describing my experience seeing her sitting on that train! I’d jot down that article in 10 minutes flat and promptly publish it without editing it too much, spelling and punctuation errors be damned. But alas, she was undeniably beautiful but not exceptionally remarkable.

Seeing Colette Nelson in private is one thing, but seeing her dressed like this in the "outside world" would be a totally different animal.
Seeing Colette Nelson in private is one thing, but seeing her dressed like this in the “outside world” would be a totally different animal.

So, this fantasy speaks to my desire to see something remarkable unfold without prior expectation of it happening. When I visit a female bodybuilder for a muscle worship session, I know what to (reasonably) expect. The anticipation, excitement, and nervousness will still be there, but nothing that happens in the next hour will shock or surprise me. On the other hand, running into a complete stranger of a female bodybuilder in the outside world is a whole different matter. In the “outside world,” I don’t expect to run into women who look like Theresa Ivancik. If I were to do so, all bets are off!

But not only do I want to witness something unexpectedly beautiful, I also want others to experience it too. I don’t want to see car accidents happen as a result of a beautiful FBB strolling down the sidewalk, but a sick side of me sort of does! I want people to be stunned by her. I want her shake up our social order. I want her to cause chaos. I want others to be as spellbound by her as I am.

I want a muscular woman to proudly be herself and people who don’t like her can go f**k themselves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yikes. That’s quite an emotional response, but sexual fantasies aren’t always perfectly rational. To conclude, the “Naked, Proud and Defiant” fantasy can be explained by the pent up frustration female muscle fans often feel when it comes to the women we love. We love them to death, but not everyone else does. People can say the most horrifying things about them, and we feel powerless to do anything about it. Trolls feel emboldened to insult, diminish, and belittle these women, and we feel that they’re also attacking us indirectly.

We feel helpless and voiceless, so we secretly want an FBB or two to take direct action and shut up these “haters” in the most bold and audacious way possible. But we also want them to change the hearts and minds of those who aren’t necessarily “haters” but are either indifferent or on-the-fence about them. Basically, we want them to be more “out there” than they currently are.

Their bodies are beautiful. Like patrons visiting a prestigious art museum, we want to immerse ourselves in beauty whenever possible. The “Naked, Proud, and Defiant” fantasy opens the doors for that to happen.

A Muscular Woman is Always Nude in Public, Even When Fully Clothed

Kathy Johansson, a strong black woman in the flesh.
Kathy Johansson, a strong black woman in the flesh.

Female bodybuilders are caught in a perpetual problem. One they can temporarily try to remedy, but one that will always face them as long as they choose to be bodybuilders.

Imagine this scenario: A world class female bodybuilder goes to the grocery store. She walks down the produce section and selects her desired fruits and vegetables. She notices out of the corner of her eye two teenage boys staring at her incessantly. They can’t help themselves. She thinks nothing of it. Then she strolls through the breakfast cereal aisle to choose which granola she wants to eat in the mornings. Once again, she sees a little old grandma straining her weary eyes to determine whether or not the figure in front of her is a male or a female. The old woman doesn’t say a single word, but the FBB knows exactly what she’s thinking. A few moments later, she moves on to the meat section and tries to calculate in her head how many pounds of chicken and steak will last her for the rest of the week. Before she can make a definitive determination, our heroic FBB – almost on cue – spots a family of four pointing at her and whispering to each other. For the third time in the past ten minutes, she blocks out this experience and tries her best to maintain a dignified aura of “normalcy.”

For our hypothetical FBB, this is not a unique sequence of events. This is daily life. This happens all day, every day. There’s no stopping it. But over time, she’s come to expect all this unwanted attention. After all, it is unusual to see a woman with so much muscle on her body. She’s not naïve. She knows the typical person minding their own business doesn’t expect to come across a human female with the muscle mass of an NFL defensive end. But that doesn’t make the feeling of being a “circus freak” go away. It doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.

This scenario illustrates a simple fact: A muscular woman is always nude in public, even when she’s fully clothed.

As a general rule, public nudity is discouraged in our society. Not just in the Western Euro-American world, but all over the planet. Call it a product of Adam and Eve, the Forbidden Fruit and the Garden of Eden; but whatever the reason is, every single one of us wears clothes for a reason. Besides, we don’t want to freeze to death every winter, do we? And let’s face it. Some of us would prefer not to see certain people naked. Ugh. We’ll leave it at that.

Whether we choose to wear pants, skirts, dresses, shirts, sweaters, socks, shoes, jackets, coats, scarves, slippers, neckties, nylon stockings, boots, robes, or jorts (denim shorts, something we need to legally ban), wearing clothes is both expected and something that’s not debated. Yes, occasionally we’ll read about local municipalities trying to outlaw bikini coffee stands, nude beaches and strip clubs, but overall the expectation that everyone wears clothes goes unspoken. Heck, public nudity is so taboo that something as mundane as a mother breastfeeding her baby will occasionally raise eyebrows from inadvertent onlookers. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way things are these days.

I wouldn't mind seeing Diana Tyuleneva naked in public.
I wouldn’t mind seeing Diana Tyuleneva naked in public.

But there are some people in this world who can’t entirely cover up their bodies. Bodybuilders, both male and female, have silhouettes that stand out from the rest of us. They can wear baggy pants and large winter overcoats all they want, but you can’t do that during the broiling heat of July. So for the vast majority of the year, when a female bodybuilder struts around in public, she can’t help but garner attention to herself – even if she’s not seeking it.

This attention won’t always be unwelcome. Nor will it always be negative. I’d wager a guess that it’s a mixed bag. Positive attention, negative attention…it’s all part of the packaged deal of living life as a professional (or as a dedicated amateur) bodybuilder. Of course, it goes without saying that public harassment is never warranted. Don’t bother people when they don’t want to be bothered. Nobody ever “asks” to be bothered, but FBBs are in the unique position of pulling attention their direction whether they want it or not.

Thus, female bodybuilders can never actually hide who they are. They are always naked. Not in the technical sense, but in the sense that their identity is always on full display to the world. But, if you think about it, isn’t that the point? Bodybuilders – whether they intend to compete or not – are trying to sculpt their bodies to fit a certain preferred aesthetic. Maximizing muscle mass, maintaining perfect symmetry, achieving the “chiseled” look, you name it. It’s all part of a master plan to attain “perfection.”

So it’s not unfathomable why female bodybuilders attract so much unprovoked attention. Not only do their bodies look different, they intentionally seek to look different. A female bodybuilder’s hard work is evident in every square inch of her body. Nothing is hidden from plain sight. So when people can’t help but stare at an FBB’s body when she minding her own business in public, can you really blame them? It might be a tired cliché to say “it is what it is,” but clichés start for a reason.

What we’re discussing here isn’t a major problem, but instead a fascinating insight into what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a female bodybuilder. They are always bare. They are always nude. They are vulnerable to unwanted attention in ways not too many of us can comprehend.

Lauranda Nall, a young up-and-coming blonde muscle bombshell.
Lauranda Nall, a young up-and-coming blonde muscle bombshell.

Additionally, FBBs are nude not just in an aesthetic sense, but in a social sense. People have certain stereotypes attached to female bodybuilders. Many are fair, many are undeniably unfair. Let’s go back to the grocery store anecdote from earlier. What do you think the two teenage boys, elderly grandmother and family of four – not to mention the check-out line clerk, deli employees and the countless shoppers who aren’t in the story but definitely exist in the same environment – are talking about or thinking about when they see our protagonist up close and personal? What assumptions do they have about her? What prejudices do they hold against her? Here is a small sample of some the thoughts that might be going through their heads:

  • “Is that a man or a woman?”
  • “Somebody needs to go to the gym less!”
  • “Gross!”
  • “That’s nasty! Who would want to look like that?”
  • “I wonder if her boyfriend is the ‘woman’ in the relationship…”
  • “Boyfriend? She’s probably a lesbian. And a scary one at that.”
  • “She probably has a penis hiding somewhere!”
  • “Tranny. Without a doubt.”
  • “She’s probably single. Most guys would be too scared to be with her.”
  • “She’s a freak on steroids.”
  • “Boy, if I ever got her mad, she’d probably pummel me to death!”
  • “Seriously. Why the fuck does she want to be that buff? Doesn’t she know that’s disgusting and no guy wants their girlfriend to be like that?”
  • “Steroids. That’s it. That’s the only logical explanation. I wonder who sells to her…”

And blah, blah, blah. It goes on and on and on. So, unfortunately, not only is an FBB bare in the physical sense, she’s also bare in the psychological sense. People start to make assumptions about her lifestyle, relationships, sexual preferences, emotional attitudes, behavior patterns, opinions, and so on. To compare, there are a lot of people in this world who physically stand out from the rest of the general public. Someone who’s really tall or really short can catch your eye. But the difference is that you know they can’t help it. How tall or short you are as a human being is determined by genetics, not lifestyle choices.

But being as insanely muscular as a bodybuilder? That’s totally intentional. That’s not a mistake. That’s all strategic.

Being a remarkably muscular person opens up a whole can of worms of stereotypes, prejudices and cognitive dissonance. The same could also be said for very overweight people and people who make unusual fashion choices. But we’re more accustomed to seeing people with a lot of body fat than we are seeing women with huge amounts of muscle. So our reactions are going to be that much stronger.

Most of us want to blend into the crowd. Even those of us who say we “want to be different” do so within certain socially-acceptable boundaries. Shaved hair, a nose ring, hot pink stockings or tattoos may have been distasteful a generation ago, but it’s not much to blink at today. So how do you genuinely separate yourself from the herd? Simple. Be a woman with a body like Brigita Brezovac. Do all the eating, lifting, supplementation and resting necessary to achieve that look. That’ll turn heads in a hurry!

Brigita Brezovac would definitely turn my head in a hurry.
Brigita Brezovac would definitely turn my head in a hurry.

Let’s shift this conversation toward the subject of public nudity itself. What exactly about the human body is taboo? Besides multigenerational tradition dictating that we all clothe ourselves, in the Western world it’s not taboo to show a little bit of skin. We can show bare arms, legs, faces and shoulders without too much trouble. But a woman showing her bare chest? That would be unacceptable. A man letting his penis hang loose? Same deal. Do that and you spend the night in jail. Do that in front of an elementary school and you get tracked by the government for the rest of your life. These rules, it goes without saying, are quite strict!

The parts of our bodies that we really have to cover up are our genitals, butt and for women, their nipples. She can show most of her breasts without much trouble. But expose her areola? Watch out!

Generally speaking, we use the Beach Rule to decide what is or what is not acceptable. Can you wear it at the beach without getting kicked out? Alright, then it’s fine. I won’t get into too much detail as to how we established these social rules to begin with, but they follow a similar pattern: If it can be used for reproduction and nursing one’s young, it shouldn’t be seen out in the open. The penis and the vagina obviously play an important role in conceiving a child. The vagina also plays a role in giving birth to the child. And her breasts are crucial to feeding her child once he or she is born. So there’s that: Conception, birth and nurturing. The three common elements that tie together the parts of the human body we can’t show in public.

But more than that, the three body parts that we can’t show in public – the penis, vagina and a woman’s breasts – also share another element in common. They distinguish men from women. Men have a penis, women have a vagina. Men have flat breasts, women have larger breasts. The parts of our bodies that identify who we are, strangely enough, are the parts we can’t freely show off. I can’t explain why, I just know that’s the way things are.

Jennifer Abrams is showing us muscles aren't just for men. Women can have them too!
Jennifer Abrams is showing us muscles aren’t just for men. Women can have them too!

So, what about muscles? Muscles are something that men have traditionally had a monopoly on. From the statue of David to the characters in Frank Miller’s “300,” men are the ones who are physically strong and determined. Women, however, are not expected to be as physically dominant as their male counterparts. Thus, in addition to genitalia, muscles are another part of the body that separates masculinity from femininity.

Therefore, when a woman is seen with big muscles, she is clearly breaking that paradigm. She’s shattering her subordinate role and challenging men in an arena where they’ve always had the upper hand. Kathy Johansson shows us that a strong black woman can be a literal strong black woman, not someone whose strength is defined by emotional grit. I have no doubt that Kathy has incredible mental fortitude, but her physical strength is what puts her on a level playing field with men.

Thus, an FBB’s muscles don’t just expose her nakedness. They expose our nakedness too! They challenge a physically weak man’s masculine credibility. They challenge our perceptions about the differences between the genders. They defy our standards of beauty, sexuality, gender roles and power structures. A female bodybuilder’s muscles don’t just expose who she is. They also expose who we are. Our beliefs, assumptions and habits are put on display. We become vulnerable as well. Who am I as a man if a woman can work hard enough to achieve strength that surpasses mine? What kind of a man am I?

I’m not saying these assumptions are good or bad, nor that our reactions are justified or unjustified. What I’m saying is that a muscular woman’s body exposes not just what we think of her…but also what we think of ourselves. Her ability to smash perceptions forces us to reevaluate what we believe. Should we treat people differently? Should we treat ourselves differently?

This is why the subject of female bodybuilding and female bodybuilders will always fascinate me. There are an endless number of topics we can discuss related to this. Muscular women are gems. They work so hard to look the way they look. And their beautiful bodies are specimens we cannot look away from. But there’s more to it than that. When we look upon the body of a female bodybuilder, we’re not just looking at her.

We’re also looking within at ourselves.