A Female Muscle Fan Never Forgets the Moment When He or She Finally “Got It”

A legend of the world of female bodybuilding: Cory Everson.
A legend of the world of female bodybuilding: Cory Everson.

You never forget your first time.

The first time you ever had sex? Nah, I’m talking about the first time you “got it.”

And by “got it,” I mean the exact moment when you truly understood why muscular women are so unbelievably awesome.

This “ah ha” moment is not just an epiphany, but a wholesale perspective shift of how you view men, women, beauty, sexuality, relationships, biology, and your own hidden desires. Typically known as a “paradigm shift” in academic circles, it’s more than just the moment you realized it was Professor Plum in the Library with the Revolver while playing a lackluster game of Clue with your grandparents. It’s the moment you decided to question every assumption you used to hold about human sexuality and start to ask better and more informed ones.

What exactly do I mean? Let me explain in further detail.

The first time you see a photo or a video clip of a muscular woman is not necessarily the first time you “get it.” I can speak for myself when I say the lightbulb did not turn on instantaneously. It took time. I will admit the first time I remember seeing a picture of a female bodybuilder I was sort of disgusted. It took me aback and forced me to do a double-take. I didn’t say anything out loud, but in my head I knew what I was seeing was both jarring and strangely intriguing.

Did I love the experience or hate the experience? Well, it’s hard to say. Neither, really.

I didn’t realize the exact power and allure of muscular women until much later (adulthood, to be exact), but the seeds were sown. But alas, I still had not experienced my Great Female Muscle Awakening. That happened in college. I’ve summarized my own personal history of female muscle fetishism before, but I’ll briefly recap it again. In short, during my freshman year in college I wanted to avoid the dreaded “Freshman 15” where new college kids who’ve just moved away from home tend to gain upwards to 15 pounds due to poor dieting, excessive drinking, and other shenanigans. Being away from Mom and Dad’s bird nest has consequences, after all.

So, I went out of my way and researched how to best exercise at the gym and avoid gaining extra weight. My school had a modest yet effective fitness center (of course, they completely renovate it the moment after I graduate!) that I would visit a few times a week. I took a weightlifting class in high school two years earlier but figured I should brush up on exercise techniques so I don’t accidentally injure myself.

YouTube and Google Videos were still in their infancy (yes, I’m getting old), but online workout videos did exist nevertheless. Initially, I only watched exercise instructional videos posted by guys. Then, after searching more and more, I started to stumble upon videos posted by women (or videos featuring women). One video in particular struck me.

It’s grainy, embarrassingly pixilated and looks like it was shot with a camcorder from the 1980s. Perhaps it was. But it featured Lisa Marie Bickels, a low-level competitive female bodybuilder, former U.S. Marine, and personal trainer. The video unto itself was not remarkable, well produced, or intended to be well produced. However, it left an indelible impact on me. I had seen photos and a limited number of videos of muscular women before, but this one produced my “ah ha” moment.

No skimpy dress will get in the way of showing off Lisa Marie Bickels' incredible body.
No skimpy dress will get in the way of showing off Lisa Marie Bickels’ incredible body.

In it, Lisa is doing a set of triceps pull-downs at the gym. After finishing, she poses for the camera and flexes her pumped arm. You can clearly see her ripped triceps running down her beautiful arm. I did some further research on Miss Bickels on her website and it then hit me.

She’s beautiful. And powerful. And independent. She’s willing to show off her hard-earned body and I cannot do anything but sit here and stare helplessly.

Whoa. Now I get it.

Lisa was the first FBB I ever saw who was young, undeniably feminine, muscular, and fiercely powerful (both as a person and as an object of beauty). Of course, in the decade that would follow I would view countless more videos of other FBBs doing similar things, but you never forget your first time. Ever.

Like losing your virginity, the first time you ever had sex wasn’t necessarily the best sex you ever had. It was probably awkward. Or painful. You may not have known what you were doing. Maybe you were sweating profusely. Maybe you were drunk, stoned, or nervous as hell. Regardless, it’s still noteworthy because…well, it was your first time. That’s important!

Likewise, Lisa Marie Bickels isn’t necessarily the best or most accomplished female bodybuilder in the world. Nor is she the most famous or best shining example of the beauty of strong women. But she opened my eyes to a whole new world. For that, this hardcore U.S. Marine deserves my respect.

The second part of my “awakening” would happen once I became acquainted with Karen Zaremba. Oh boy, Karen is a thing of beauty! Shortly after discovering Miss Bickels, I inevitably also stumbled upon videos of Karen Zaremba, a 40-something female bodybuilder and mother of two children. Karen is the flip side of the coin to Lisa. Karen is equally gorgeous, feminine, muscular (though not hypermuscular), and enthralling. But she is an older woman. At the time, Lisa looked to be in her mid-20s, which was not far off from where I was as an 18-year-old freshman. But Karen was a game-changer.

How can your perspective not change after discovering Karen Zaremba?
How can your perspective not change after discovering Karen Zaremba?

There is, of course, a certain acronym used to describe beautiful women who are also mothers. Out of respect for these wonderful and accomplished women, I refuse to use it. I hope the rest of you do the same. It’s crude, misogynist, and incredibly disrespectful. Don’t use it. Please.

That being said, Karen is without question a gorgeous older woman who instantly cast a spell upon this teenage boy. For the first time, I realized that muscles are the ultimate anti-aging remedy. Normally, middle aged women do not pique the interest of impressionable teenage boys with raging hormones. But Karen did. At the time, I considered her the Most Beautiful Woman I’ve Ever Seen in My Life. Other women would later replace Karen for that title, but a decade ago she was #1.

My discovery of Lisa Marie Bickels and Karen Zaremba set off a firestorm that would result in me starting this blog a few years after graduating from college. I would learn about hundreds of more competitive bodybuilders, fitness models, and “normal” women for whom lifting is more than just a casual hobby. But none of that would have happened without my fateful “awakening” as an 18-year-old kid.

As I mentioned before, that wasn’t the exact moment I first discovered muscular women. There was the cover of Red Sonja (1985) at a video rental store that made me stop dead in my tracks and stare. I’ve never seen this cheesy 1980s action flick starring Brigitte Nielsen and Arnold Schwarzenegger, nor do I ever have the inclination to. But regardless, the cover of the VHS tape caught my attention as a little boy.

Then there was the photo spread of Cory Everson in the 1999 issue of The Guinness Book of World Records. That definitely caught my attention. I reacted to this photo of Miss Everson with a mind-blowing mixture of disgust and arousal. Yes, I will admit that initially I looked upon Cory with repulsion. I’m not proud to admit this, but honesty is the best policy, is it not? However, I cannot deny that a small part of me was captivated by her. I may not have totally liked what I saw, but I could not look away. I spent many hours secretly gazing at this photo in private and wondering all sorts of things about her.

I also grew up watching WWF (now the WWE) and seeing women like Chyna (may she rest in peace), Sable, Jacqueline,  Trish Stratus, Debra, and other prance around, beat each other to a pulp, and occasionally show their male counterparts who’s boss. I also grew up watching GoldenEye (1995) on VHS and getting an electric thrill up my spine whenever Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onnatop flashed onto the screen. If episodes of “Xena: Warrior Princess” came on TV, yeah…I’d watch it in the basement without my family finding out!

May I squeeze Charmaine Patterson's bicep?
May I squeeze Charmaine Patterson’s bicep?

So my experience with strong/powerful/muscular women did not start as a college freshman. It began much earlier. But I didn’t “get it” until Miss Bickels and Miss Zaremba entered my life.

So, what exactly did I finally “get?” I have two major observations:

One, I finally saw a superb example of muscularity and traditional femininity working in tandem together like never before.

I didn’t find the photo of Cory Everson arousing, even though I intuitively knew there was something exceptional about it. I did find Famke Janssen and Trish Stratus immensely sexy, but neither of them were very muscular. I knew muscular women existed and I definitely knew beautiful non-muscular women existed, but I never saw the two combined until I encountered Lisa, Karen, and others.

Sometimes, that’s all it takes. It’s not that you’re blind to reality, but rather you just need to see all the elements come together in order for you to believe that it’s possible. As a young teenager I probably knew that a muscular woman could be sexy. I just never thought much about it. It’s not that I doubted this; it just rarely crossed my mind in the first place.

It never occurred to me that a gorgeous woman with muscles can become even more gorgeous. Her muscles can become a complementary asset that accentuates the natural beauty she already has. Her muscles enhance her good looks. I’ve obviously seen beautiful women before. I’ve also seen muscular women before. But it wasn’t until I saw the perfect mixture of the two that my perspective started to change.

Two, I finally realized that muscles can transform a normal-looking woman into an Irresistible Sex Goddess.

I too fell into the trap once upon a time ago that female bodybuilders were sort of freaks of nature who should be admired for their accomplishments but not necessarily seen as objects of desire. Yes, I was also once young and dumb! But I know better now thanks to finally seeing the light.

In addition to realizing that a woman with muscles can be both beautiful and feminine at the same time, I also came to the epiphany that a woman who isn’t considered naturally attractive can transform herself into an epic muscle goddess just by putting on bulk at the gym. I won’t name specific names, but we can probably all think of “homely” women who are hot as hell because their thick legs, bulging biceps, and wide shoulders make them completely irresistible.

Without muscles, these women aren’t much to look at. This sounds like an insult, but it’s not. It’s just a simple observation and a testament to the power of muscularity.

As women who have “earned” their beauty, we applaud them for maximizing who they are as people (not just physically, but also mentally and spiritually) thanks to hard work, sacrifice, and the will to improve day-by-day. Nobody handed them their muscles on a silver platter. They had to expend buckets of sweat for years on end in order to achieve their remarkable physiques.

I now appreciate the beauty of the tall blonde goddess Shawn Tan.
I now appreciate the beauty of the tall blonde goddess Shawn Tan.

Once you have your “ah ha” moment, you feel silly for not realizing this sooner. You feel foolish for intentionally shutting yourself off from a whole category of human beauty. It’s like a poor person living underneath an ocean of oil or a gold mine. They move to a new city, disgruntled and searching for new economic opportunities. A year or two later, the new property owner randomly stumbles upon a suspicious leak of smelly black fluid seeping from the ground.

And voilà! He or she is now rich and you’re still adjusting to your new surroundings as poor as you were when you left. Shucks!

That’s sort of how I felt when I first discovered my love for muscular women. I felt like I was limiting my scope of the world. I felt like I had a narrow definition of “beauty” that did not include a fraction of what humanity had to offer. But now that my eyes have been opened, I now appreciate women like Annie Rivieccio and Shawn Tan as I did not before. People who do not share my love for these gorgeous ladies are truly missing out!

The reason why you never forget your “first time” is because of how beautiful the experience is of enjoying female bodybuilders. Unlike the virginity comparison, even before you ever start having sex you know that sex is (supposed) to be a pleasurable and amazing experience. But before getting into female bodybuilders, I had no idea about the potential these women had to offer. I could never imagine the world of female muscle could be so incredible and stupefying because it never occurred to me it could be so incredible and stupefying. This is another key aspect of our “awakening.” I knew even as a little boy that sex is a big deal. I had no clue FBBs were also a big deal. See what I mean?

Additionally, not only do you finally “get it,” but you now have the opportunity to indulge in this love over and over again. Those of us who love FBBs and fit women understand what it’s like to enjoy them. The tingling that goes down your spine as you watch a sexy woman deadlift or squat 400 pounds cannot be accurately described. I don’t know if I can do it any justice.

But it doesn’t matter. You know a beautiful experience when you are privileged to participate in one. The Female Bodybuilder High we get is difficult to put into words, but it is indeed a tangible thing. It’s very real, and its power has not diminished in the past 12 or so years of my life.

You never forget the moment you got it. Not because you regret your previous ambivalence toward female bodybuilders, but because you can now celebrate your newfound love for them. Our worlds are now brighter because of this awareness.

Female bodybuilders are beautiful beyond words. The fact we cannot put it into words is telling.

The “Alternate Femininity” of Female Bodybuilders

A striking pose by Karen Garrett.
A striking pose by Karen Garrett.

The unfair stereotypes associated with female bodybuilders are both too numerous to list and cringe-worthy when heard aloud.

“Female bodybuilders are gross because they don’t look like women!”

“Female bodybuilders are disgusting because they secretly want to be men!”

“Female bodybuilders are unappealing because women aren’t supposed to be that muscular!”

“Female bodybuilders aren’t real women because…well, isn’t it obvious?”

How many times have you heard opinions like these? Maybe not word-for-word, but generally speaking does any of this sound familiar? In all likelihood, fans of female bodybuilders and female bodybuilders themselves have probably come across vitriol like this way too often.

In an attempt to shatter some of these negative stereotypes, let’s discuss a concept that a student of gender/sexuality studies should be well versed in: gender as a social construct.

The theory goes that the idea we’ve come to know as “gender” is an arbitrary set of rules, roles and beliefs that is artificially created by culture rather than inherent biology. The differences between men and women are considered “differences” because “we say it’s so.” While certain physiological characteristics separate the male and female sexes (genitalia, hormone levels, reproductive system, etc.), other factors like behavior, intellectual abilities and hierarchal positions in society are nothing more than just a product of the paradigms we’ve created over time.

If we assume this theory to have at least a certain degree of validity, this somewhat debunks the above mentioned stereotypes as, simply put, a bunch of hogwash.

Of course female bodybuilders are real women! They aren’t men. Men are men and women are women. A woman with muscles is still a woman, despite how (admittedly) unusual it is. Who says women aren’t supposed to be that muscular? Just because we don’t see that sort of thing every day doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen.

The idea that female bodybuilders aren’t “feminine” plays into traditional gender roles that most human societies have adapted to a point. Yes, it’s true there are certain cultures out there where women are more of the “hunters” than the “gatherers,” but these types of societies are far and few between. For the sake of debate, let’s just assume that the “men are the stronger sex, women are the weaker sex” dichotomy is universally agreed upon.

Famke Janssen might be the most gorgeous woman on the planet.
Famke Janssen might be the most gorgeous woman on the planet.

It should be mentioned that “femininity” can have a fluid definition. Is “feminine” simply defined as any characteristics that a woman displays, or does there have to be a certain level of “social agreement” on these characteristics? For example, even though weightlifting is traditionally regarded as a male pastime, if more women took up the hobby, over time wouldn’t we start to associate the activity as more “gender neutral?”

Smoking was once seen as strictly a male-dominated activity. Then women started to smoke as well once feminism took off as a major social force. At the time, a woman having the right to smoke in public was a real feminist issue. Our society once upon a time ago looked down upon that suggestion. Then, things changed and both genders were given the “right” to light up a cigarette (now, ironically, smoking is looked down upon not for reasons based on gender, but health).

Perhaps it might be fair to say that female bodybuilders are part of an “alternate femininity.” They’re still feminine, but not in a traditional sense.

One could argue the decision of a woman to take up the sport of bodybuilding is unto itself a feminist act. It’s an act of a woman defying social expectations to achieve results that are both self-empowering and openly defiant of the “weaker sex” label. While many real life FBBs may not actively consider themselves “feminists,” no one can argue that the sport by itself creates problems in how we define traditional femininity.

A lovely pose by Alana Shipp.
A lovely pose by Alana Shipp.

But not “alternate femininity.” The sport of female bodybuilding doesn’t contradict gender roles; it makes it more inclusive of other roles. Men are not the only ones allowed to be physically strong. Women can too. This doesn’t violate the gender divide, rather it challenges us to reconsider whether a divide really exists in the first place (or should exist). Thus, gender roles can’t be contradicted if there is nothing at all to contradict.

The “alternate femininity” theory is based on the idea that if gender is a social construct, everyone is allowed to define gender in their own way. How can you be wrong in your own personal opinion?

So, we can now define “feminine” (and its counterpart “masculine”) in a new way:

Feminine is anything a woman is or does.

This definition completely eliminates the factors of social expectations and cultural rituals. Feminine is not defined as anything a woman is or does as defined by society, but instead anything a woman is or does PERIOD.

For example, if a particular woman likes to drink beer, watch football and play violent videogames, all these activities are “feminine” simply because a woman is doing it. It doesn’t matter that most of us associate these activities with the male species. What matters is what happens on an individual level, nothing more and nothing less.

Who wouldn't go gaga over Sofia Vergara?
Who wouldn’t go gaga over Sofia Vergara?

When we view the world of female bodybuilding through this lens, then theoretically we shouldn’t have any issues here. If a woman wants to bulk herself up, she has every right to. But not only does she have the right to do this, she isn’t betraying her sex, her femininity or her relationship with masculinity. A female bodybuilder isn’t seeking to become masculine. She’s still feminine. Just a different kind of feminine.

It begs to be mentioned that “separate but equal” is not what this is about. “Alternate femininity” is not a separate kind of femininity, but rather a substitute for how we commonly define as conventional femininity.

Alright. So…what’s really the point of all this nonsense?

The main purpose of this conversation is to prove the point that there’s nothing really unusual about straight men being attracted to muscular women. While on the surface this does indeed seem strange, when you logically play out this scenario from beginning to end, this is really much ado about nothing.

Straight men are attracted to women. This simple fact has been accepted for generations upon generations. But if we add the condition of “straight men are attracted to muscular women,” why does everyone suddenly become irrational and think this is some kind of abomination?

I want to be poolside by Simone Sousa!
I want to be poolside by Simone Sousa!

If one of your male buddies told you while you were hanging out over drinks that he thinks “Sofia Vergara is hot,” well, I can’t think of too many guys who would disagree. So why is it considered weird when that same guy also says “Alina Popa is hot”? It’s a matter of personal preference, not some arbitrary set of hard-and-fast rules about what kinds of women men are allowed to be attracted to.

This dispels the rumor that we love female bodybuilders because “they look like men” or that “we’re secretly gay.” This cannot be further from the truth. Our sexuality is not in question. When I fantasize about being with a woman like Amber DeLuca, I’m not thinking about her as one of my guy friends. I don’t daydream about downing cheap lagers with her while we shoot pool or go bowling. Instead, I’m imagining a scenario involving a romantic candlelit dinner, expensive red wine, flowers, an idyllic beach-side resort and hours and hours of very hot and sensual lovemaking.

Oh yeah!

I want to connect with her emotionally and intellectually, not just physically. My romantic fantasies involving an FBB would not seem out of place in a sappy Nicholas Sparks novel. Just the amount of weight the leading lady can bench press might differ a tad!

To summarize, let’s attempt to reduce this discussion to its most basic elements:

Men are attracted to beautiful women.

Sound crazy? Nope. Sounds pretty reasonable to me. As a straight guy myself, I can attest to how accurate this sentence is. Men are attracted to beautiful women. Who can possibly argue with that?

The caveat, of course, is that men define “beautiful” in different ways. And guess what? They have every right to! No man should ever constrict himself over what kinds of beauty he appreciates in the world. Life is too short to limit yourself. Never box yourself in. If there’s something in life that really gets your gears running, don’t shy away from it. Embrace it!

Aaaaaaaand finally, a much-anticipated photo of Adriana Lima.
Aaaaaaaand finally, a much-anticipated photo of Adriana Lima.

I am attracted to women like Lisa Cross and Lindsay Mulinazzi not just because of their muscles. You see, it’s not just about the muscles, or her strength, or her bulk. It’s everything about her. Their personalities. Their intellect. Their drive, dedication, motivation and desires. It’s the total package that makes me go gaga for them.

Simply put, I’m attracted to Miss Cross and Miss Mulinazzi because they’re beautiful women.

Denise Masino is a beautiful woman.

Gayle Moher is a beautiful woman.

Victoria Dominguez is a beautiful woman.

Iris Kyle is a beautiful woman.

Kate Upton is a beautiful woman.

Halle Berry is a beautiful woman.

Katy Perry is a beautiful woman.

They are all beautiful women. The only difference is how universally regarded their beauty is. It’s as simple as that. Most of us can agree that Bar Refaeli is super gorgeous. But not everyone can agree that Monica Martin is equally gorgeous. But the truth is that both opinions are correct. Who is to say that they’re wrong? To each his own, right?

Too often, when we discuss the subject of female bodybuilders and the men who love them, we get way too caught up in talking about an FBB’s muscles. Yes, her muscles are very important, but that misses the mark. To reiterate a previous point, it’s not just about her muscles. Her muscles are just part of why many men are attracted to her. Her muscles are not the “be-all and end-all” of her beauty. They are part of a larger package.

And what package is that? Simple. She’s a woman.

A woman. That’s right. A woman. A very beautiful (and muscular) woman, but a woman nevertheless.

Adriana Lima and Alina Popa are both gorgeous; no if, ands, or buts about it. They just are. No need to explain why. No need to put either of them in a separate category of gorgeousness. No need to justify Miss Popa’s beauty compared to Miss Lima’s. Nope. Both are stunning. End of story.

The “alternate femininity” theory of female bodybuilders really boils down to the simple idea that men are attracted to them because they’re women. We find them beautiful. We love their femininity. Granted, we may define “femininity” differently from the general population, but the essential idea remains the same:

Men are attracted to beautiful women.

This core concept is at the heart of why men like me and countless others love female bodybuilders. We find them beautiful. There’s no way I can reduce this argument any further. It is what it is.

Is there any ambiguity left?