Karen Zaremba: My Sentimental Favorite

Hand bras are the worst!
Hand bras are the worst!

Every female muscle fan has “the one” who truly made them see the light. It’s not necessarily the first muscular woman they ever saw or the one they would consider to be their favorite. Personally, the first FBB I ever noticed was Lisa Marie Bickels, a former U.S. Marine who caught my attention more than ten years ago during my college years.

My current favorite is Denise Masino, a devilishly sexy siren with an endowment between her legs that can only be described as scrumptious. Miss Bickels isn’t close to being a favorite of mine and Miss Masino is someone I discovered later on. Thus, the subject of the woman who played a crucial role in my “female muscle awakening” is none other than Karen Zaremba.

Karen Zaremba was born on January 27, 1964 in Detroit, Michigan. Back then, Detroit was deserving of its nickname of The Motor City and the breeding ground of some of the most recognizable names in American pop music (Motown, anyone?). Today, Detroit resembles a Third World country, but that’s another story for another day. On that fateful day in the heartland of America, the world was introduced to a gorgeous young lass who would one day grow up to become one of the sexiest female bodybuilders the Universe has ever known.

Today, Karen resides in Clinton Township, which is less than 30 miles north of her birth town. So Karen didn’t scurry too far from the crib, as it were. I suppose there’s no reason why one should move far away from home unless there were extenuating circumstances. If you like where you live, why not stay there? Karen and her family obviously feel this way.

Like many beautiful female bodybuilders, Karen is the mother of two children and is happily married. Evidently, she never had any problem balancing her work/home life with her chosen profession of being a competitive bodybuilder and fitness model. Standing at a modest 5”2” and weighing 124 pounds (give or take), she describes herself as a “stay-at-home Mom” when she isn’t working in the fitness industry. Of course, many of the interviews that I’ve used to curate this information are several years old, so take this with a grain of salt.

Love those abs!
Love those abs!

From what I can gather, Karen no longer competes and probably doesn’t participate in bodybuilding anymore. Like many FBBs, details about their personal lives are scant, making it a challenge to paint a complete picture of what she’s like. I am confident that whatever she’s doing now, she’s probably happy with her life and wouldn’t want things to be any other way.

Her contest history is as follows:

2007 – Europa Super Show: 8th place, Lightweight

2006 – IFBB Motor City Pro Figure: 16th place

2006 – IFBB Pittsburgh Pro Figure: 16th place

2005 – NPC National Figure Championships: 2nd place, Class A (earned her IFBB pro card)

2005 – Junior Nationals: 3rd place, Class A

2005 – Junior USA: 3rd place, Class A

2004 – Central States Figure championships: Short Class, Masters and Overall Winner

2003 – Michigan Novice Bodybuilding championships: Lightweight, Masters and Overall Winner

Of course, this might not reflect her full contest history, but my quick bit of Internet research reveals that this is pretty comprehensive. If you know of any further contests that Karen has participated in, please do not hesitate to let me know in the comments below.

As one can clearly see, her contest history isn’t remarkable or noteworthy. Pretty standard for someone who loves to compete but isn’t too committed to becoming an elite competitor. This is not meant to be a slight against her. This is just to say that when she was a competitive bodybuilder, she wasn’t someone you would have associated as being the best of the best.

Poetry in motion.
Poetry in motion.

She came, she saw, she…participated. Her accomplishments are as modest as her objectives. She didn’t aim to be better than everybody else; she just wanted to see what she could do. Many competitors (both male and female) are not necessarily “in it to win it.” Many are in it for no other reason than to have fun, challenge one’s self, and meet new people while trying new things.

That’s an attitude we need to see more in our world.

But that’s not why she’s a sentimental favorite of mine. I discovered Karen in 2005 or 2006, so in other words a solid decade ago. Back then, I would have been 18 or 19 and Karen would’ve been 41 or 42. Think it’s unusual for a boy in his late teens to completely fall in love with a woman who’s more than twice his age? A woman who is nearly old enough to be his own mother? I certainly thought so at the time, but I didn’t think there was anything wrong or abnormal about it.

Why was there nothing unusual about this? Well, have you taken a good look at her?

Yowza!

Karen is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. She has an authentic look to her that’s difficult to explain but easy to see. Her dark hair is beautifully complemented by her olive complexion, a skin tone that perfectly accentuates her muscles. She’s legendary for her six-pack abdomen, which she is not shy about showing off to the camera. I briefly went through a stage of having a six-pack fetish. Can you possibly guess why?

Facially, she doesn’t look like a cookie-cutter Playboy Playmate or a nameless fashion model you see plastered across shopping mall corridors. It’s too clichéd to say she looks like the “girl next door” or the “hot mom next door,” but it’s sort of true!

What initially struck me about Karen, and it still strikes me today, is how effortlessly sexy she is. When she walks, her hips poetically bounce in a way that can make your heart stop. She’s very feminine, so much so you forget that all those negative stereotypes about female bodybuilders even exist. Of course, she’s a mother – which allows her to be called a certain idiotic acronym that I refuse to mention on this blog. Personally, I find muscle moms appealing, but there are certain misogynistic levels I refuse to lower myself to.

Baby got back!
Baby got back!

Perhaps that’s at the root of my attraction to Karen Zaremba. She’s a muscular woman who transcends the “muscle chick” fetish. She isn’t just “beautiful for a female bodybuilder,” she’s “beautiful…period, end of story.” Karen forced me to view muscular women through a different lens. No longer were all FBBs big, oversized masculinized “women” who’ve vehemently rejected traditional femininity and womanhood. I may not have felt exactly that way toward FBBs at the time, but my worldview was limited during those years. Karen encouraged me to expand my horizons.

Then, the floodgates opened. I discovered Annie Rivieccio. Then Lisa Cross. Then Alina Popa, followed by Yvette Bova and Denise Masino and Deidre Pagnanelli. I found out about Michelle Maroldo and Denise Hoshor. And Brandi Mae Akers. Of course, Victoria Dominguez. And other women like Nikki Fuller, Debi Laszewski, Sondra Faas, Marina Lopez, Catherine Holland, Emery Miller, Gayle Moher, Lauren Powers, Shawn Tan, Julie Germaine, and newcomers like Shannon Courtney, Minna Pajulahti, Dani Reardon, and Sheronica Sade Henton. There are many more to name. We could go on for hours. I’m still discovering new beautiful ladies seemingly every single day.

But I never forgot my roots, as the saying goes. Karen Zaremba remains on the front of my mind and tucked away snuggly in my heart. She isn’t just one of my first discoveries…she remains one of the best and brightest. I have the feeling I’m going to feel the same way regardless of how many additional tens of thousands of muscular women I’m introduced to in the future.

But let’s return to Karen’s effortless sexiness. It cannot be understated. Karen doesn’t walk; she glides. She doesn’t smile; she glows. She doesn’t pose; she radiates. She doesn’t flex; she blossoms. She doesn’t impress; she transcends. She doesn’t compete as a bodybuilder; she elevates the ceiling of human potential. She isn’t just beautiful; she’s ethereal and magnanimous. Karen Zaremba exceeds your expectations yet doesn’t seem to be trying to do anything other than being herself.

That takes more than talent. That takes a flawless combination of natural gifts, determination, hard work, and instincts. No one can teach you how to be as angelic as Karen. Nor could she necessarily teach others the ropes. Some of us are more radiant and charismatic than others for reasons that cannot be rationally explained or easily transferrable.

Karen's skin tone is the best.
Karen’s skin tone is the best.

Perhaps part of her appeal is her laidback Midwestern demeanor. Karen doesn’t boast the flashiness of an entitled California-bred pseudo-celebrity. Nor is she a snooty East Coaster who treats bodybuilding as her ticket to Broadway-style stardom. I am, of course, exaggerating and wildly stereotyping millions of people in the United States (which is trendy in the year 2016), but what cannot be denied is the refreshing authenticity that Karen brings to the table.

She doesn’t post selfies every single day on Instagram. In fact, I don’t think Miss Zaremba even has an Instagram account. When you research her, you don’t actually find a whole lot. This adds to her mystique. Because thousands of photos and hundreds of hours of video footage of Karen don’t exist, we can only witness a small slice of who she is. This allows us to fill in the blanks wherever we see fit.

So I can speculate that she’s modest, down-to-earth, and full of “small town charm” because…well, I feel like it. Is this based on extensive knowledge of her personality, lifestyle, and background? Nope! Our idealized version of people is what fuels our love for celebrities.

Karen Zaremba may not be a traditional celebrity, but in my heart she’s a glamorous superstar.

She comes across as a super chill lady who will just as likely bake you a batch of gingerbread cookies as she is to rapidly do 25 pullups as if it were no big deal. She’s a mom and she loves being a mom. She once was a muscular woman who also doesn’t mind being a loving wife and someone who would enthusiastically serve on her local PTA board. Once again, this is based on nothing but what exists in my imagination. But doesn’t this seem plausible?

For her, bodybuilding isn’t her life’s calling or integral to her business model. Doesn’t it seem like for Karen being a bodybuilder was a “neat” thing to do? She wasn’t in it for the money, the glitz, or the fame. She didn’t “brand” herself as a bad girl or a sexy muscle siren or feminist superhero. She just let herself be herself. She’s a mom, a wife, and a friendly neighbor who thinks having big muscles would be nifty. You rarely see that level of unpretentiousness in today’s narcissistic culture.

In other words, Karen never wanted to be a celebrity – even among the small subculture of female muscle fans. Having big muscles wasn’t her way of feeding her ego. It was her way of experiencing self-empowerment. All she wanted to be was the best version of herself. For me, that’s all I need.

Karen left just enough to the imagination...yet revealed enough to let us know what she got. Such a tease!
Karen left just enough to the imagination…yet revealed enough to let us know what she got. Such a tease!

Just as any baseball or football player must eventually call it a career and “hang up the cleats,” Karen has now decided to forgo her muscles and become “normal-looking” again. I have no doubt that Karen still exercises to keep herself fit and trim, but from what I can gather (and she prefers to keep her personal life private, which is her right) she’s allowed her muscles to shrink. She’s now a former bodybuilder. She’s now a regular lady you see shopping for groceries at the supermarket on a quiet Tuesday afternoon. This isn’t disappointing or regrettable. She can do whatever she wants with her life.

But there is undeniably a small element of sadness at play here. It is a bit melancholy when a gorgeous FBB retires and relinquishes her muscularity. As a sports fan, you never want to see your favorite players withdraw from playing the game they love and ride off into the sunset back to civilian life. But time marches on and not everything lasts forever. There will be plenty of young up-and-coming Karen Zarembas who will take up her mantle. Heck, I’ve referenced many of them on this very blog.

So this is a celebration of a woman who leaves a legacy of making the world a more beautiful place, whether she has big muscles or not. Because of her, we now have stronger faith in the goodness of people and the potential of human achievement. Karen Zaremba never has to “prove” that she is gorgeous. She just is. She never hogs the spotlight and demands that people look at her. We look at her because we cannot help but look at her. That takes something special.

As an 18-year-old kid Karen made my heart leap out of my chest. She was more than twice my age and rarely ever did any nude modeling. She never did anything pornographic or overly sexual. She kept it classy. She kept things modest. You’ll never find a video of her sucking a porn star’s penis or masturbating with an oversized dildo. She never had to do any of those things to capture my attention, even all these years later.

She just had to be herself. And that was enough. And it still is.

Perhaps We Should Vote for a Female Bodybuilder for President

I'd vote Tina Jo Orban as "Best Legs" if such a category were to exist.
I’d vote Tina Jo Orban as “Best Legs” if such a category were to exist.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past two years, or if you live outside of the United States and you don’t particularly care what happens in this country, most of you should be aware that very soon we will be bringing this God-awful presidential election to a merciful end and will choose who our next Commander-in-Chief will be.

I refuse to even name the two candidates who are running for my nation’s highest public office on the grounds that both of them have received enough attention from people like you and I. So perhaps this post will remain relevant four, eight, or twelve years from now. Who knows?

If this excruciating and painful election cycle has taught us anything – and it has indeed taught us many valuable lessons about the state of my nation and politics in general – it’s that qualifications for the job don’t matter to the typical voter when it comes to selecting the next U.S. President. So, in an effort to not get too political and keep matters civil, I will lay out a tongue-in-cheek argument for why Americans (and people from other countries who are blessed to live in a representational democracy, or at least a country that practices such style of governance in theory) should decide to vote for a female bodybuilder for president on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

I will admit that I am embarrassed as a U.S. citizen to subject the world to watching our political theater play out in all its horrifying glory. Let’s hope 2016 is just one of those “weird” years that we look back upon decades later and proudly declare that we were fortunate enough to have lived through it (for the most part) unscathed. After all, we could do worse. And odds are we will actually end up doing worse sooner or later.

But I digress. I am no political commentator, but in my opinion the most significant reason why U.S. politics sucks right now is because we expect our politicians to deliver on promises that were unrealistic to begin with…which then breeds contempt, more unrealistic expectations, and more extreme candidates who can only get elected if they continue to up-the-ante and foster a whole new set of stupid promises. This means personality tends to matter more than qualifications or knowledge about the job, which explains an awful lot.

However, a female bodybuilder lives in a completely different world than politicians – but can offer said politicians a lot of life lessons that could go a long way in generating better public policies.

Think about the world a female bodybuilder inhabits. She’s working in an industry that persistently is trying to weed her out of it. The Ms. Olympia is dead and buried and doesn’t appear to be coming back any time soon. Other competitions may rise out of the ashes and attempt to take its place, but that doesn’t change the fact that the IFBB isn’t too keen on allowing hypermuscular competitors to be the “face” of the female side of the sport. They’d rather more “audience friendly” fitness and bikini competitors take center stage over the bigger and buffer ladies who’ve worked harder to achieve their physiques.

So, right off the bat a female bodybuilder has to endure working in a profession where the chances of cultivating strong career prospects are becoming dimmer and slimmer as time marches on. Yet, money doesn’t fall from the skies and she has to make an income somehow. This is where things like personal training, one-on-one online consulting, fitness entrepreneurship, and ahem, offering wrestling or muscle worship sessions to paying customers (all under the table and away from the prying hands of tax collectors, of course!) fit into the picture. She may not necessarily want to do any or most of these things, but as I mentioned before, money doesn’t grow on trees and food won’t miraculously appear on the dinner table out of thin air. So, a female bodybuilder who wants to pursue bodybuilding as a profession – more or less – must adapt to her present circumstances or face the inevitable option of having to choose a different career path.

Another lovely and gorgeous Tina: Tina Chandler.
Another lovely and gorgeous Tina: Tina Chandler.

Adaptation isn’t easy or seamless, but it does happen. People who live in the real world adapt every single day of their lives. What worked yesterday won’t necessarily work today and sure as hell won’t work tomorrow, so it’s foolish to remain stilted in one’s ways of doing things. One must always look for the next best opportunity or face the consequences of becoming poor, irrelevant, or both. This requires understanding the bodybuilding industry well, knowing what customers want (if you get my drift), and being willing to forge a new pathway if the current ones leads to a dead end. I didn’t say it’s easy to do this, but it can be done. We can collectively name hundreds of female bodybuilders from all across the world who can testify to this.

Another aspect to female bodybuilding that’s important to realize is the independent nature of the sport. Unlike team sports like baseball, football (the one that features tackling, throwing, and catching), basketball, hockey, soccer, rugby, and others, bodybuilding isn’t a sport that consists of teams, teammates, and being dependent upon others to win games. It’s solely on the shoulders of each individual athlete.

Of course, it deserves to be said that every single top-level bodybuilder – male or female – has a large team of coaches, trainers, nutritional experts, doctors, and assistants who aid them on their journey to becoming an elite competitor. No man is an island, and perhaps no woman is an island either. So a female bodybuilder isn’t completely paddling a single canoe. But there’s no denying that bodybuilding is ruggedly individualistic in nature. The panel of judges that decides who wins and who doesn’t win only looks at the individual competitors, not who they have standing in their corner cheering them on.

Muhammad Ali is known as the greatest boxer of all time – not Muhammad Ali and his army of personal trainers, physicians, sparring partners, promoters, advisors, and so on. Though every top athlete has help from a team of professionals, but only one person is in the ring fighting against his or her opponent. And the last time I checked, Ali was the only one in that ring staring down his hapless challenger.

Bodybuilders of all stripes understand this reality intuitively. If they make a mistake, they alone must answer for it. They can’t blame a lazy teammate, idiotic coaching, or an overall poor supporting cast for being a perpetual loser. They only have themselves to blame if they placed 3rd at last year’s competition but 10th this year. That drop-off can have plenty of rational explanations (biased judging being a prominent one), but at the end of the day every single competitor is responsible for their own training, progress, dieting, and outcomes.

Which leads us to the next point…

Female bodybuilders aren’t striving to achieve a goal that exists only in the abstract. Rather, they bust their tails every day of their lives working toward a goal that’s specific, tangible, measurable, attainable, and very damn difficult to meet. There’s an element of poetic beauty integral to this reality, isn’t there?

If a new and up-and-coming female athlete looks at photos of Alina Popa, Debi Laszewski or Brigita Brezovac and says to herself, “I want to look like that one day,” guess what? She can! Granted, it won’t be easy and the journey from Point A to Point B will be arduous, tumultuous, and full of plenty of doubt. But nevertheless, one cannot deny that the goal can be met if she sets her mind to it and educates herself on what is necessary to get there.

Annie Rivieccio earns my vote for "Best Bicep Peak."
Annie Rivieccio earns my vote for “Best Bicep Peak.”

Unlike politicians who promise big and bold achievements that probably aren’t realistic and only will set their constituents up for disappointment, a female bodybuilder has a distinct goal in mind that’s specific and can accurately be visualized ahead of time. It doesn’t exist in a theoretical universe that looks great on paper or in a rousing speech but doesn’t actually work in real life. Bodybuilding is a sport where end results aren’t achieved by dumb luck or happenstance. It materializes when an athlete makes a definitive decision to take specific action toward achieving a precise goal.

Nobody will argue that it’ll be easy to look like Lisa Cross or Rene Campbell. That high degree of muscularity doesn’t come easily. But one cannot also argue that such objectives are impossible. They are quite possible to meet, albeit after one is eager to dramatically reorganize one’s lifestyle.

Point B isn’t a hypothetical reality that exists only in one’s mind. Building an impressive level of muscle mass is a concrete end that arises after participating in concrete means. Gaining x number of pounds of muscle or placing in the top five of a certain bodybuilding contest are measurable and quantifiable aims that are either achieved or not achieved. There is no middle ground. There is no ambiguity. Either it happened or it didn’t. Period.

And who is to blame if one sets out to gain bigger biceps and triceps and fails? You guessed it. The person who established these goals in the first place and nobody else.

One other facet of female bodybuilders that must be addressed is the fact that FBBs are, for the most part, not worried about being popular or widely accepted by society. A woman who chooses to pursue bodybuilding in any serious manner is opening herself up to a variety of different kinds of obstacles – many of which she would not face had she not decided to become a bodybuilder.

It’s no mystery that a woman with big muscles is an unusual sight to see. Simply put, these women are rare in our world. Yet, a small number of remarkable women are actively working to build big muscles despite the potential backlash that might come with it. Many will receive looks of repulsion or disgust. Accusations of being “too manly” or “becoming a man” will start to flood in. There will be those who will ask her “do you have to get that big?” Others will question her life choices and wonder if she’s hiding something.

But no matter what comes her way, a female bodybuilder must be tough-minded and relentless in the pursuit of her dreams. She must endure people looking at her differently. She must accept the fact trolls on the Internet will post nasty remarks about her. She knows the road to becoming a pro bodybuilder will be strenuous…but she does it regardless. That’s not easy to do. There aren’t too many of us in this world who are capable of breaking all those barriers, jumping over all those hurdles, and trudging through all those obstacles when the easier road is to not pursue bodybuilding in the first place.

She does what she wants to do knowing it won’t be popular with everyone. Yes, she will meet people along the way who will support her, but certainly that won’t be everybody. Doing the right thing – following your dreams – despite outside noise takes emotional and intellectual fortitude. Do you honestly believe some of our elected representatives share that same level of internal strength?

Catherine Holland could start a nuclear war over her physique.
Catherine Holland could start a nuclear war over her physique.

The final point I’ll make (although I could go on further) is that a female bodybuilder possesses a deep understanding of how the world works and must apply this knowledge practically in the quest of her chosen profession. She needs to be an entrepreneur, agent, marketer, business manager, scheduler, public relations specialist, nutritionist, athletic trainer, and personal ambassador all at the same time. As a small fish in a big pond, an FBB’s success or failure wholly depends upon how well she understands her circumstances and how she can cultivate an accomplished career from it (or despite it).

In this respect, female bodybuilders earn what’s coming to them. They aren’t “given” success. Nobody votes for them to have large muscles or a chiseled physique. They have to expel blood, sweat, and tears day in and day out to achieve their bodies. Granted, a panel of judges does elect how she places at a competition, but that’s an exception. For the most part, she wouldn’t have been able to reach that point of being on that stage unless she put in the hard work beforehand. Besides, actual competing is only a small part of the rewards that come from bodybuilding.

The biggest reward is the personal satisfaction of knowing that you’ve accomplished something grand. Nobody can take that away from you. Your opponents may have more trophies than you, but what every single competitor has is the sense of triumphant pride that comes with pursuing a goal with manic obsession. Truly, an FBB earns her success. That’s how the real world operates.

Presidents, prime ministers, senators, representatives, governors, MPs, city councilmembers, mayors, and other positions of elected authority do not always share these same traits. It seems rather odd to have a system where the power to regulate, tax, create new laws, authorize war, or incarcerate citizens are given to people who get that job simply by winning a glorified popularity contest. Very strange, indeed. But, that’s the system we have until something better replaces it.

Here in the United States of America, we give the nuclear codes to people we wouldn’t trust to manage the local Burger King. We trust those who’ve never ran a business to regulate businesses. We ask people who’ve never served in the military to send young men and women they’ve never met to a foreign country and die for an ambiguous cause. To summarize, we elect people who don’t understand how the world works to decide how the world works.

Insanity.

However, ask I’ve just articulated, a female bodybuilder does understand how the world works. She has to in order to survive. She must understand how to relate to people. She knows what it’s like to be a businesswoman…because she essentially is a one-woman business. She does what she does regardless of how unpopular it might make her. At the end of the day, a female bodybuilder shares these characteristics:

  1. Mental toughness
  2. Adaptability
  3. Entrepreneurial savviness
  4. Focus
  5. Intelligence
  6. Knowledgeable about the real world
  7. Grit
  8. Strength – both physical and emotional
  9. Ability to earn her success
  10. Independence

As I’ve said before, the list can go on and on. But you get the idea. I’m not suggesting that we should actually elect current or former female bodybuilders to high positions of political power just because they happen to be current or former FBBs. However, what I do want to illustrate is that FBBs boast a unique perspective on life that cannot be easily replicated or transferred.

I'd appoint Nikki Fuller as my Secretary of Muscle.
I’d appoint Nikki Fuller as my Secretary of Muscle.

She’s earned her success. She’s forged her own path. She’s self-taught herself topics in areas like calisthenics, biology, science, nutrition, sports medicine, etc. She lives in an environment that can be cruel and adversarial toward her. She knows how to persevere through obstacles and come out better for it. She must adapt to her surroundings…or die refusing to do so.

That’s not an easy thing to do. It’s not for everyone. Certainly not people who’ve existed in an Ivy League-encrusted silver spoon-fed bubble for their entire lives. As Americans go to the polls on November 8 they should ask themselves, “How the hell did we get here in the first place?” It’s a perfectly valid question; one that doesn’t have any easy answers.

But perhaps the answer is simple. We, as a nation, don’t value the right things. We value what we want to hear, not what we should hear. We live in a fantasy world full of bright shiny objects, not in the real world where decisions have actual consequences.

Female bodybuilders, on the other hand, do not get to live in such a magical universe. They must always be on their toes. They cannot get lazy or entitled. They must continuously grind in order to reach the Promised Land – which nobody actually promised them at all. In short, female bodybuilders represent humanity at its best. FBBs don’t make empty promises about what they think they’ll do. They actually do it every single day of their lives.

I’d vote for that.

Nothing Beats a Female Bodybuilder Who “Gets” It

Brandi Mae Akers is not just your girl-next-door. She's your big-and-buff-girl-next-door!
Brandi Mae Akers is not just your girl-next-door. She’s your big-and-buff-girl-next-door!

Do you know what’s awesome? A female bodybuilder who “gets” it.

And by “gets” it, I mean a female bodybuilder who understands why people love her and is willing to provide her fans what they want.

You’d think the vast majority of female bodybuilders, athletes, and amateur muscular women would be taking advantage of this, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Many FBBs are either uncomfortable or against (for a wide variety of reasons) “giving the fans what they want,” which of course is their prerogative. Nobody is claiming that FBBs must please their fans at every opportunity they get or that appealing to the fanbase is somehow essential to staying relevant to the scene (at least, I’m not claiming these things). Obviously, female bodybuilders are under no obligation to do anything other than what they want to do – or not want to do.

But occasionally, you’ll encounter an FBB who truly understands what guys and gals love in a muscular woman and will enthusiastically utilize that knowledge for maximum gain. She benefits and we benefit. That’s a win-win scenario, right?

Right. Off the top of my head, eight women in particular who “get” it the best are Denise Masino, Angela Salvagno, Amber DeLuca, Lisa Cross, Victoria Dominguez, Lindsay Mulinazzi, Emery Miller, and Brandi Mae Akers. There are others, but these women in particular stand out to me.

These ladies are some of the most well-known female bodybuilders in the world not just because of their competitive accomplishments – although we should not downplay their achievements on the stage – but because of their willingness to put their personalities and bodies out there so publicly and prominently. If I’m in the mood to watch some erotic female muscle videos, odds are I’m going to do a Bing search (my search engine of choice for finding videos for whatever reason) of any of these eight women. Or all of them, if I have the time and the inclination.

In the world of branding, advertising, marketing, and public relations (terms that could be used interchangeably), one of the key rules is that people don’t purchase products just because they need the product for practical reasons. They purchase it because it makes them feel a certain way: cool, culturally relevant, in-the-know, a part of a larger community, socially-conscious, better than people who aren’t using the same product, et cetera. For example, there isn’t any practical reason why someone would spend $200 on a brand new pair of Beats By Dre headphones when a less expensive generic pair would work just as well. But, the point of paying more has nothing to do with practicality. You don’t purchase a more expensive product because the music you listen to will necessarily sound better. You purchase it because it makes you appear socially hip with the “young people these days” (get off my lawn!).

Lindsay Mulinazzi makes me feel all of the emotions. All of them.
Lindsay Mulinazzi makes me feel all of the emotions. All of them.

It’s not about what the product has to offer. It has to do with the elevation of your social status as a result of publicly using the product. It’s marketing genius to associate a mundane product with enhanced social status – no matter how superficial that status may be. That’s why some of us are billionaires and others of us aren’t.

Likewise, astute female bodybuilders understand that their muscular bodies – while a fine, fine product unto itself – aren’t the only reason why guys and gals like us love them. We love them because of how they make us feel: giddy, sexually aroused, titillated, curious, imaginative, fascinated, awe-inspired, weak-kneed, excited, nervous (in a good way), frightened (also in a good way), emasculated (definitely in a good way), and so on. It’s not just looking at their beautiful bodies that make us return back to them time and time again. Female bodybuilders – whether they realize it or not – conjure up inside ourselves a whole host of visceral emotions that are ready to burst at the seams.

Whenever you see a tantalizing photo of a nude female bodybuilder provocatively posing for the camera or a gorgeous muscular porn star showing off all her assets for leering eyes, it’s nearly impossible to not react in a primal sort of manner. Your imagination goes wild. Your heartbeat starts to race. Intense feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, or admiration bubble to the surface. Every female muscle fan knows what I’m referring to. You wouldn’t be reading this blog post if you didn’t!

Entrepreneurial female bodybuilders who both recognize this phenomena and know how to exploit it for maximum gain are in rare company. Actually, that might be a bit unfair. It’s not just understanding what the customer wants; it’s also about being willing to give them what they want. Lots of female bodybuilders, competitors, athletes, and fitness models have little interest in overtly sexualizing their identities. There’s without question a sexual aspect to any form of sport/modeling in which sculpting the human body toward fitting a certain desired aesthetic is involved, but there are lines that many women choose not to cross.

Denise Masino is my favorite. Need I explain why?
Denise Masino is my favorite. Need I explain why?

I personally know a fitness competitor (she’s a former co-worker) who is also a mother of two young daughters. I don’t think she’s the type of person who would, in the style of Brandi Mae Akers, get naked, masturbate with a big black dildo, drop f-bombs like a drunken sailor, and post the video onto the Internet for anyone to see. She has every right to do such a thing, but knowing her personality and religious convictions, I highly doubt she’d ever do something like that!

So it’s not just about “getting” it. It’s also about wanting to “go there.” Not everyone wants to do things that appeal to their fanbase’s fetishistic interests. And that’s perfectly okay. They are under no obligation to do so under any circumstances.

But for those who are eager to “go there,” hats off to you! We fans deeply and sincerely appreciate your enthusiasm toward branding yourself in a way that can be awkward, uncomfortable, and troubling to others. I cannot imagine what friends, family members, and spouses of porn stars – both muscular and non-muscular – must think about them. Do they approve of their chosen profession? Do the mothers and fathers of porn performers actually sit down and watch their sons/daughters suck the genitals of a random stranger as a form of entertainment? How awkward is that Thanksgiving dinner conversation?

Probably pretty darn awkward. While it is perfectly possible to excite, titillate, and thrill without being too explicit, what keeps customers coming back for more and more is when they encounter someone who stands out from the rest and consistently delivers on their promises.

But, it’s not just about being overtly sexual. The vast majority of sexually explicit porn out there is complete and utter garbage. It’s boring, crude, disgusting, and worse of all, unexciting. I don’t get excited watching two fake plastic surgery-enhanced nobodies having awful staged sex topped off with obnoxious screaming, moaning, and “orgasms” that are so phony even a pious Catholic nun could tell it’s not real. Even if it involves female bodybuilders. So what I’m talking about here isn’t necessarily explicit FBB porn, but the manner in which FBBs present themselves to their fans.

Devil in a Red Dress, that is Emery Miller.
Devil in a Red Dress, that is Emery Miller.

A female bodybuilder who “gets” it – as I’ve mentioned before – makes us feel things that we rarely feel. We’ve all seen attractive people before. I encounter physically beautiful women every single day of my life: at work, at the grocery store, on the street, at the gym, at a restaurant, at a bar, on the commuter train, etc. But none of them elicit the same response as whenever I am privileged to meet a female bodybuilder for a muscle worship session. In that moment, I’m not just meeting a beautiful woman. I’m meeting the most beautiful woman on the planet. Her strength makes me weak. Her confidence puts me in my place. I’m both scared and at ease. I’m turned on but still in awe. I’m completely focused on her but cannot make a rational thought. Time seems to stand still. That hour I spend with her seems like 20 minutes. She does things to my heart and mind that cannot be justifiably explained. But it doesn’t have to be. I know it and that’s all that matters.

Fans of FBBs gravitate toward women who make us feel these things. And this has very little to do with how sexy she acts, how “hardcore” she performs for the camera, or even what she physically looks like. For example, this is why I get completely aroused watching an FBB squat 400 pounds in sweat pants and a hoodie while I get totally bored watching two skinny topless college girls making out at a Mardi Gras party. Some people genuinely enjoy watching the latter. I prefer the former. I’d wager a guess that readers of this blog would agree with me.

Thankfully for us, there are lots of FBBs in this world who understand why we react this way. They understand why their muscles turn us on and why they personally turn us on. There are FBBs who understand the fetish of being an “older” woman and how turning 40 isn’t a curse, but instead an open door to captivating a whole new audience. She can add bonus points if she’s a mother. More bonus points if she’s a mother of multiple children. Hell, she can probably start rolling in the dough if she’s a grandmother as well!

In fact, many of us prefer our female bodybuilders to be on the “older” or “mature” side. We are enraptured by her experience, wisdom, and maternal acumen. An astute FBB won’t shy away from being older, but instead will milk it for all it’s worth. A business-savvy FBB won’t be embarrassed by her larger-than-normal penis-like clit; rather she points a camera directly in front of it and zooms in closely for everyone to see. A shrewd muscular woman doesn’t remain silent so that her unnaturally deep voice can’t be heard; she instead narrates for us exactly what she plans to do for us so that her rumbling voice is allowed to make the walls shake.

In many ways, an entrepreneurial female bodybuilder has to “think” like a customer. What do they like? What turns them on? Why do they love muscular women in the first place? Why do they keep coming back? Why do they like certain FBBs more than others? What can I learn from my competitors? What can I learn from my customers? How can I maximize my appeal while staying true to who I am? Where can I go from here? What is my potential?

FBBs who “get it” already know the answers to these questions. Denise Masino understands perfectly well there are millions of guys out there who drool over her large clitoris. Brandi Mae Akers doesn’t need to be told her pretty school-girl looks combined with impressively sexy muscularity make her irresistible. Angela Salvagno is very aware her dark olive complexion and meaty labia are her moneymakers. Amber DeLuca’s business card (assuming she even has business cards) only needs to say “Bad Muscle Girl” and nothing else. Need it say more?

What should Angela Salvagno's business card say?
What should Angela Salvagno’s business card say?

For these ladies and countless others, they’ve reached their levels of success because of two things: drive and smarts. The personal drive and determination to become a world-class bodybuilder need no explanation. You don’t become as big and buff as Yaxeni Oriquen-Garcia by being a couch potato. Slackers need not apply. Large muscularity doesn’t happen by accident. It happens because you put in the blood, sweat, and tears necessary to build the body you want.

But the other aspect to this is smarts. And not just being strategic about lifting, eating, resting, and supplementation. That’s important too, but what I’m talking about is being smart in the business side of being a female bodybuilder in the 21st century. FBBs who are able to earn a living doing what they do must adapt to the economic realities they face. This means being willing to offer up your product (which, as unusual as it sounds, is your very own body) to your customers (people like us who blog and read blogs about female muscle) in an intelligent and strategic manner. Thankfully for everyone involved, there are plenty of FBBs who do this every single day.

So how do they do this? Do they procure customer surveys to learn what people like? A muscle worship session is very different than getting your oil changed or your roof reshingled, but the basic concept of offering a client value for a service remains the same. Do they ask a focus group of teenagers, millennials, the elderly, and stay-at-home mothers what kind of female muscle-themed porn they prefer to masturbate to? I wouldn’t want to sit in on that meeting or sift through those surveys.

Well, they just know. They have a keen awareness of human sexuality and what makes people tick. They are able to see their own bodies through the eyes of an adoring fan. They can empathize with others. They don’t judge harshly or unfairly the fetishes of others. They may not always understand what people like, but they respect their preferences nevertheless as long as no one is harmed.

There’s a reason why you’re attracted to certain female bodybuilders and have only a passing interest in others. You may not comprehend why or how that happens, but rest assured there are many bright and intelligent FBBs out there who do.

Minna Pajulahti is the Flawless Female Bodybuilder We’ve All Been Waiting For

Flawless? I think so.
Flawless? I think so.

Alright, ladies and gentlemen. Stop whatever you’re doing. Right now. I don’t care if you’re sitting in a waiting room about to undergo open-heart surgery and the nurse just called your name to get prepped. I don’t care if you’re about to have tea with the Queen of England (happy 90th birthday!) or if you’re in the middle of writing your doctorate dissertation that’s due in an hour. Just stop whatever you’re doing and do what I’m about to tell you to do.

Find a device with Internet connection and do a Google search on Minna Pajulahti.

I’ll wait.

Ready to proceed? Great.

I’ve already shared photos of Miss Pajulahti on this blog, but I think now is the time to dedicate a whole blog post to her. She isn’t new to the scene, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t newsworthy at this particular moment. Have you seen what this gorgeous woman looks like? She’s newsworthy 27/7/365. Hopefully we can all agree on that!

There isn’t a whole lot of biographical information about her available, so I’ll summarize what I can.

Minna is a Finnish IFBB bodybuilder who was born on May 4, 1980. At the ripe age of 36 (although she looks 26!), Minna competes in the women’s physique division. She works as a flight attendant and fitness coach when she isn’t busting her butt at the gym.

She placed 14th at the 2010 IFBB Fort Lauderdale Pro, 7th at the 2011 IFBB Toronto Pro, 5th at the 2011 IFBB FIBO Power Pro Germany, 16th at the 2014 IFBB Europa Dallas, and 6th at the 2016 IFBB Karina Nascimento Pro. She also participated at the 2010 IFBB Arnold Amateur International Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure & Bikini Championships. She might have competed in other contests, but the history on that is scant.

In addition to competing in bodybuilding, Minna is also a powerlifter. She says she also enjoys cheerleading and everything related to fitness. Standing at 5’4”, Minna may not be super tall, but her gorgeous good looks, beach blonde hair, and powerfully built physique makes her stand out above the rest. She currently lives in Nokia, Finland.

A strikingly gorgeous female bodybuilder.
A strikingly gorgeous female bodybuilder.

Every so often I’ll come across a female bodybuilder whose striking beauty and impressive muscular development gives her enough “crossover” appeal to please both female muscle fans and “female muscle skeptics” alike. We all know (or know of) people who are skeptical and irrationally disgusted by strong women. The stereotype they have ingrained in their brains of a female bodybuilder is someone with a man-like face, grossly unfeminine muscles protruding everywhere, excessive body hair, a voice deep enough to make a 17th century pirate blush, and overly aggressive behavior. Minna Pajulahti takes all those harmful images and smashes them with the hammer of Thor.

Minna is different. Despite her huge muscles, her curvy figure is undeniably feminine. Her face is as gorgeous as you’ll ever see. She seems approachable, pleasant, and “normal.” But more important, her incredible good looks makes you stop dead in your tracks. You see her once and you’re hooked. How can you not want to check in on her Instagram every single morning?

First impressions matter. I can guarantee you your first impression of seeing pictures of Miss Pajulahti is to be hypnotized by her flawless combination of beauty, muscularity, and etherealness. She’s so physically beautiful she seems almost not real. She’s like a female muscle fan crafted a flesh-and-blood female bodybuilder from scratch and created the Perfect Dream Woman. Minna is that damn gorgeous.

This is how we react. Will others follow and be captivated by her like we are? Maybe, maybe not.

Whether Minna is likely to become a “mainstream” celebrity isn’t the point. Bodybuilders as a whole, even today’s most popular male competitors, are only known to a limited number of people. Guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno had what it took to become household names, but this isn’t the 1970s anymore. The sport still exists, but it can’t compete with soccer, basketball, baseball, football, and MMA in terms of widespread popularity. Bodybuilding’s market share isn’t what it used to be.

Minna has fantastic muscle development...
Minna has fantastic muscle development…

In a previous blog post, I talked about the difficulties of maintaining the so-called “perfect balance” of being a female bodybuilder who can appeal to a wide audience. Miss Pajulahti is someone who comes very close. I personally think she hits the nail on the head, but not everyone will agree with me. That’s perfectly okay. They have every right to be wrong!

But seriously, Minna is striking for being two things at once: She looks like a Baywatch lifeguard while at the same time having the muscle mass of an NFL linebacker. For my non-American readers, I apologize if I can’t come up with a better analogy. Heavyweight boxer, perhaps?

If you follow Minna closely on Instagram – and I highly recommend you do if you don’t already – she does everything you’d expect a beautiful woman on IG to do. She posts selfies, photos of what she eats, her friends, her work life, her accomplishments, inspirational quotes, and shots of herself modeling. The fact she isn’t a world-famous supermodel by now astounds me. But I get it. Women with biceps that large can’t possibly draw interest from the general public.

Or can they?

If given a chance, I have no doubt Minna could shake up the advertising industry. If she were 10-12 years younger (though like I said earlier, she looks a lot younger than she is) and were born and raised in Southern California instead of Finland, perhaps things could be different. If she chose to pursue a sport like MMA or if she became famous for posting viral fitness videos on YouTube, Minna could be a bigger international star than she is right now. Today, Minna is only “famous” to people who pay close attention to the fitness/bodybuilding world. But it didn’t have to be that way.

This “missed opportunity” isn’t necessarily tragic, but it is a bit disappointing. Minna is unquestionably beautiful, feminine, and accomplished. She also has bigger muscles that most people aren’t accustomed to seeing on a woman’s body. I can’t fathom how anyone would be shocked or repulsed by her. She would force you to do a double-take, but that’s not the same thing as wanting to turn away from her because you find her appearance unbearably unpleasant.

...and a gorgeous face to boot!
…and a gorgeous face to boot!

How can you not help but stare at videos of her deadlifting, squatting, and bench pressing massive amounts of weight? It’s impressive for anyone to be able to powerlift all that, never mind someone who also looks like she could be arm candy for Hugh Hefner (try not to vomit when you think about that). I am not in the least bit surprised that she used to be a cheerleader. She definitely looks the part.

Is Minna a “flawless” female bodybuilder? Well, that depends on how we define flawless. I find no fault in her physique, attitude, professional goals, and accomplishments. Will a diverse array of people, both those who are already sympathetic to muscular women and those who are not, like her in the same way? That remains to be seen. Sadly, we may never have the chance to find out. This is the missed opportunity I am quietly lamenting.

I will not attempt to project where her career goes from here. Will she score a small role in a big studio Hollywood feature film and become a major celebrity hereafter? Probably not. The odds of that kind of good fortune are nearly nonexistent. However, that isn’t totally outside the realm of possibility given the pop culture trends we’re seeing play out today.

Superhero movies are more popular than ever. The sci-fi and fantasy genres are about to take off to new heights. The rebooted Star Trek franchise and reinvigorated Star Wars universe are prime avenues for non-traditional looking performers to hog the spotlight. New episodes of Game of Thrones is starting to become a national holiday. Lots of popular sci-fi/fantasy books and graphic novels are ready for an HBO or Netflix executive to greenlight. Nobody knows what the future will hold.

So it’s not outside the realm of possibility for a sexy, gorgeous muscular woman to score a role in a major TV or film project that will attract millions of eyeballs. I won’t hold my breath for such an occurrence to happen, but it’s not inconceivable. It may not be Miss Pajulahti who lands this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity per se, but it doesn’t have to be.

I cannot bring up Minna Pajulahti as being the flawless female bodybuilder we’ve all been waiting for without giving proper respect to Shannon Courtney, Dani Reardon (despite an unfortunate domestic violence arrest), Sheronica Sade Henton, Beata Antoninas, Lauranda Nall, and other young rising stars. I wouldn’t say Minna is my favorite current FBB, but she’s definitely one who’s effortlessly captured my heart.

We will definitely be experiencing some turbulence during our flight this evening.
We will definitely be experiencing some turbulence during our flight this evening.

This lineup of young female bodybuilders who aren’t afraid to build abnormal levels of muscularity is impressive and encouraging for the future of the sport. It is unreasonable to expect the sport to become as popular as tennis or golf, but it doesn’t have to be. The goal shouldn’t be to find ways to expand the brand of female bodybuilding just for the sake of expansion. The ultimate goal should be to maximize the amount of support these incredible athletes receive so that they can feel emboldened to pursue their dreams.

Who knows? Maybe sometime in the near future someone else will emerge as the much-awaited “savior” of female bodybuilding. Perhaps this hypothetical person will be blessed with supermodel-level beauty, a charismatic personality, top-notch performance talent, intelligence, wisdom, grace, humility, passion, drive, the desire to be great, and an unapologetically hyper muscular frame. She’ll love who she is and will refuse to apologize for her muscles. She’ll be an inspiration, a one-of-a-kind pioneer, and someone who we can truly say revolutionized the way society views strong women.

That day may never come. Or maybe it’s right around the corner. Either way, all we can do is wait and see. This Ultimate Female Bodybuilder may or may never arrive on the scene. This could just be a pipe dream. Regardless, until that day comes, we’ll just have to embrace Minna Pajulahti – and hundreds of women just like her around the globe – with a full heart and an open mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is she to do? There are two routes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go fuck yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Denise Masino Might Be the Greatest Female Bodybuilder of All Time (NSFW)

A woman of Denise Masino's caliber deserves a tribute blog post, wouldn't you agree?
A woman of Denise Masino’s caliber deserves a tribute blog post, wouldn’t you agree?

It’s not too often that I’ll make firm declarative statements on this blog, but here’s one for the record:

Denise Masino might be the greatest female bodybuilder of all time.

Uh, what? Really? Out of all the thousands of women in this world who’ve pursued the sport of bodybuilding at some point in their lives, is Denise Masino really the GOAT (Greatest of All Time)? Surely there must be someone else, like Iris Kyle or Cory Everson, who should really take this prize. What on earth are you thinking, Ryan?

Well, hear me out on this. My opinion here is based less on competitive merits and more on entrepreneurial success. So maybe the “Greatest Female Bodybuilder of All Time” is a bit inaccurate. Perhaps “Greatest Female Bodybuilding Businesswoman of All Time” is closer to the truth.

First, some background information on Ms. Masino.

Denise Masino was born Denise Sanchez on May 1, 1968 in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents are from Puerto Rican descent. A diminutive 5’2”, Denise was married to Robert Masino for 14 years before her current marriage to Gregg R. Simpson, a filmmaker. She credits her parents for instilling in her a hard work ethic and belief in her ability to carve her own pathway to success. Clearly, her parents taught their daughter well.

Her competitive history is respectable but not overly impressive. She won her first contest in 1994 by being the first overall winner at the 94’ NPC Florida Championships. Between the mid-1990s to 2007, Denise placed consistently in the top 10 in competitions such as the NPC Nationals, Jan Tana Classic, Ms. International and the most prestigious of them all, the Ms. Olympia. Her best placement at the Olympia was 2nd in 2004 in the lightweight category.

Nevertheless, Denise has made her mark on the world of female bodybuilding by being a shrewd businesswoman. She has many assets and isn’t afraid to show every single one of them off. Denise has graced such publications as Muscle & Fitness, Flex Magazine, Muscular Development, Muscle Mag, Women’s Physique World, Playboy Europe and others. She’s also appeared in a few independent films and has made a handful of television appearances. She remains on good terms with her ex-husband Robert and frequently collaborates with him on projects. Denise currently lives in Fort Myers, Florida but regularly visits Los Angeles for business purposes.

Alright, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into why I believe Denise deserves such high praise.

In a previous blog article, I listed my top 10 favorite female bodybuilders and foolishly ranked Denise at #4. Big mistake! She should be my #1 favorite, which is where she stands as of right now. No disrespect to anyone else, but Denise is clearly a head above the rest. I hope I don’t offend any of my faithful readers who are actual FBBs themselves! I love you all dearly, too!

However, Denise has an incredible arsenal of talents and assets that are unmatched compared to her competition. She has an almost flawless combination of natural beauty, muscularity, intelligence, business savvy and personality that makes her a winner in all categories. She’s a gorgeous muscle woman who’s unquestionably feminine and celebrates her femininity. She’s highly intelligent but doesn’t condescend down to anyone. She’s sexy but playful at the same time. She’s not afraid to become erotic for the camera but never resorts to crudity or crass behavior. She’s also not afraid to showcase her most unforgettable physical asset (we’ll get into this later) and does so with class, dignity and pride. She reveals a lot about herself but keeps just enough under wraps so that we keep begging her for more. I could be wrong about some of this, but I should never let facts get in the way of a good argument!

Denise showing off her most talked about asset.
Denise showing off her most talked about asset.

Luckily for us, Denise is quite active in the adult film industry. Though not a “star” in the traditional sense, for anyone who loves female muscle, she’s a superstar. But it’s not just her large volume of erotic videos that endear her to us; it’s her personality that makes her so irresistible.

I get the feeling Denise is the one who crafts her own image. She obviously has a team of marketing professionals (web designer, videographer, photographer, copywriter, etc.) who work closely with her to build her brand, but without Denise’s own shrewdness, none of that would make a difference. Denise knows what people want and is not afraid to deliver with a bang. She’s also smart enough to deny her fans just enough so that they remain hopelessly intrigued with her forever. These are rare talents.

Denise’s brand is simple yet brilliant. She’s a beautiful, strong woman who loves sex, embraces her sexuality, loves to have fun in her life and isn’t afraid to be herself…all while maintaining an approachable, friendly persona. Denise Masino isn’t intimidating. She isn’t scary. She isn’t a powerful female muscle Goddess who will dominate you or humiliate you. She’s essentially that cool lady at the bar who will shoot pool with the guys and can probably bench press more than all of them. Her sexiness doesn’t feel forced. Her personality doesn’t appear to be manufactured. It’s all real. It’s genuine. You can trust Denise to be just Denise.

In reality, every media star has to craft a somewhat fake persona to a certain degree. We all know our favorite Hollywood movie stars aren’t necessarily in reality how they act on the red carpet or while sitting next to Jimmy Fallon’s desk. Hollywood can be very fake. We all know this. So to a degree, how Denise comes across in interviews and in her videos may or may not be how she is in real life. But I’d wager that’s pretty darn close to being the real Denise Masino.

Her personality is what really stands out. I genuinely would want to sit down with her and chat with her over a few beers. She could be wearing sweat pants, a fuzzy parka and no make-up and I’d still want to hang out with her. She’s an undeniably beautiful woman, but she also appears to be sweet, genuine and has a lot to say about certain things.

Outside of who Denise is as a person, everyone who knows about her will remember her for one particularly striking physical asset:

Her enormous clitoris.

And, to an extent, her meaty labia.

Yes, it’s unusual for anyone to hone in on someone’s genitalia like that (or is it?), but her large feminine endowment is without a doubt her most memorable physical trait. But it’s not this endowment that unto itself adds to her legend (although it most certainly takes on a life of its own), it’s how open she is to showing it off. I’ve written before why men – and women – are fascinated with a female bodybuilder’s genitalia, so there’s no need to get too detailed into this. However, it is crucial to understand that what lies between her legs is one of the most enticing and sexually titillating features I’ve ever seen on any human being, male or female.

I would argue that Angela Salvagno also possesses between her legs beautiful feminine flesh that matches Ms. Masino’s, but that’s not entirely the point here. Denise does an expert job at exploiting her best physical attribute for the camera in a way that challenges us to look away. We cannot look away. Whether we’re disgusted by her clitoris or we’re uncontrollably aroused by it, either way once we’ve seen what she has, there’s no turning back. She has us in the palm of her hand and we’re powerless to resist.

I can't even.
I can’t even.

Let’s be very clear here. Many female bodybuilders possess enlarged clits. They are not penises. Not by a long shot. A feminine endowment is in no way comparable (though biologically symmetrical) to a male endowment. Female bodybuilders are women – period, end of story. There’s no debating this. But we’re especially intrigued by FBBs because their physical strength and atypical anatomical features come just close enough to traversing into the territory of masculinity…but remain clearly set in the realm of femininity.

When Denise masturbates for the camera, we watch her not as a woman masturbating like a woman, but rather as a woman masturbating like a man. She “jerks off” her clit very much like how guys jerk off their penises. When she climaxes, we half-way expect her to ejaculate semen like the rest of us. She doesn’t of course, but the thought is still in the back of our minds. In this respect, Denise almost seems like “one of the guys” while still unambiguously remaining a woman. When Denise experiments with a clit pump, her sensitive nub of flesh nearly grows to the size of a small penis, which further titillates our imagination. We know she doesn’t have a penis, but it looks so much like one that we seem to (at least momentarily) identify with her.

Perhaps that’s it. Maybe thanks to our society’s increasing sexual multilateralism, the stark differences between “men” and “women” are starting to crumble. It isn’t enough for “men to be men” and “women to be women.” We sort of like it when a woman temporarily takes on masculine characteristics while staying true to her established feminine identity. Not only does she sort of “become one of us,” we can still find her sexually attractive as a woman at the same time.

In our modern age of social media, media saturation, sexual pluralism and postmodern sexual mores, it’s not enough to just look at photos of a beautiful woman or watch her engage in sexual activities for the camera. We also want to know who she is as a person. If she seems like a “pretty cool chick,” we feel more at ease in watching her do her thing. Perhaps this is a victory of sorts for 20th century Feminism. We don’t see women as being mere sexual objects. We see them as peers who can also carry immense sexual appeal. I don’t know if that counts as a “victory” per se, so I’ll leave that conclusion up to you.

I have one final observation to point out. Pay attention to what kinds of videos and photos Denise participates in. She’s either by herself (going solo) or in the company of other women. She’s never, to my knowledge, done any videos or photoshoots with other men. Perhaps content like that exists somewhere, but I’ve yet to locate it. If it does, feel free to send it to me! I will, ahem, gladly study it for academic enlightenment.

Looking like one sexy college co-ed.
Looking like one sexy college co-ed.

So she’s seen either performing solo or engaging in sex with other women. She masturbates, poses for the camera, uses a clit pump, has cunnilingus performed on her by another FBB, allows an FBB to penetrate her with a dildo or strap-on, penetrates herself with a dildo, and engages in other activities that don’t involve a man. I’m guessing she chooses to do this because she’s married and doesn’t want to put her husband in an awkward situation, so I get that completely. But this also works to her advantage whether she intends it to or not.

It allows guys like me to fantasize. I know she’s married. I know I have a snowball’s chance in Hades to ever have sex with her. However, I can watch her have sex with other women and not feel jealous. I can watch dildos penetrate her but not feel slighted or excluded in any way. But I’ve never seen an actual man’s penis penetrate her. I know she probably gets plenty of sex in her everyday life, but that makes not a lick of difference. In my own personal fantasy world, I can continue to imagine what it would be like for me and Denise to enjoy a romantic evening consisting of a candle-lit dinner, an expensive bottle of wine, a glowing fireplace, and a long warm evening of lovemaking.

Obviously I’ll never be able to experience that with her. But that’s the beauty of fantasy. It’s your own reality, independent from actual reality. And her choice to never do any scenes or photos with other men makes it easier for me to have these fantasies. My fantasies aren’t “spoiled” by images of real guys having sex with her. There’s no “other man” for me to compete with. Yes, I know she’s married. And I’m sure Denise and her husband have an active sex life that rivals that of the characters in a romance novel. But that’s not important. In my own mind, that “only man” could be me. Heck, in my dreams, it is me.

Denise being Denise. What I'd give to be her left hand at this moment in time.
Denise being Denise. What I’d give to be her left hand at this moment in time.

So that’s it. That’s why Denise Masino might be the “Greatest Female Bodybuilding Businesswoman of All Time.” She understands branding better than few others in the industry. Denise knows what makes her marketable and isn’t afraid to use it to her advantage. More power to her. She’s stunningly beautiful yet approachable. She’s sweet yet possesses a kinkier side. She’s a strong independent woman, but she appeals to men of all types. She’s the type of woman you want to be your friend and your girlfriend at the same time. She has physical assets that she isn’t shy about showing off. She’s proud of what makes her unique. There’s a lot to be said about confidence. Confidence is sexy, no doubt about it. She allows us to indulge in our fantasies while smartly not going too far and mistakenly ruining the fantasy. She is who she is and is damn proud of it.

This is a difficult balance. Only a shrewd businesswoman can maintain this persona year after year with impeccable precision. That’s Denise for you. I get the feeling she doesn’t struggle to build her brand. She does it seamlessly. It’s second nature to her. It’s tough being a self-made entrepreneur in today’s stagnant globalized economy when you work in an industry that’s shunning women more and more. But if there’s anybody who can do it successfully and with grace, it’s her.

Addressing the Elephant in the Room: Female Bodybuilding and Steroids

Don't inject yourself with anything the shady guy on Facebook gives you. The sketchy guy on Twitter, on the other hand, is probably more reputable.
Don’t inject yourself with anything the shady guy on Facebook gives you. The sketchy guy on Twitter, on the other hand, is probably more reputable.

There’s a large elephant in the room that needs to be addressed.

No, it’s not Dumbo. Or Babar. Or any of the ones that carried historical figures like Hannibal or Alexander the Great into battle. We’re addressing a different kind of elephant, one that’s taking up entirely too much space but none of us are willing to acknowledge.

Sigh. As a female muscle fan, I’m not against talking about this subject, but it’s unavoidable. So here it goes.

Steroids.

There. I said it. Steroids. Steroids. Steroids. Steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeroooooooooooooooids.

Steroids.

According to the world-famous online encyclopedia known as Wikipedia, steroids – or, in this case, anabolic steroids – are defined as:

“Anabolic steroids, technically known as anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), are drugs that are structurally related to the cyclic steroid rings system and have similar effects to testosterone in the body. They increase protein within cells, especially in skeletal muscles. Anabolic steroids also have androgenic and virilizing properties, including the development and maintenance of masculine characteristics such as the growth of the vocal cords, testicles (primary sexual characteristics) and body hair (secondary sexual characteristics).”

Got all that? I am not a scientist, so I don’t entirely understand the biological properties of anabolic steroids and what exactly they do to the human body. However, we basically all know what they do. They are drugs that help you develop muscle mass. They aren’t a magic pill that transforms you into Ronnie Coleman overnight, but they sure can help you get “big” if maximizing your size is your primary goal.

I will also admit that I am not an expert on the issue of drug use in the sport of professional bodybuilding. If you ask me questions about what policies the IFBB should change, how many pro bodybuilders (both male and female) use steroids, how to technically define “steroids,” or anything like that, I will shrug my shoulders and honestly tell you “I have no f***ing clue.”

I may not be that rude, but you get the point. I don’t have the time, patience, or inclination to diligently research this topic before writing this article. So I am no expert. Alright. Let’s move on.

None of us are naïve. We know many of our favorite bodybuilders and athletes “dope” in order to become and remain top elite competitors. When I look back upon the baseball legends I grew up watching during the 1990s and early 2000s, I now know many of them were “juicing” their way to 50+ home runs, 120+ RBIs and other statistics that earned them Hall of Fame consideration. Some of them are enshrined in Cooperstown, many of them are not – and may never will.

Does juicing still go on in pro sports? Of course. Without a doubt. Methods of testing have definitely improved, but no system is perfect. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. A few people are going to slip through the cracks here and there. Whatever. Just as long as we enjoy watching them play, does it really matter what substances they choose to put into their bodies?

Poor Barry Bonds. The poster child for steroid use in professional sports. He was one heck of a ballplayer regardless.
Poor Barry Bonds. The poster child for steroid use in professional sports. He was one heck of a ballplayer regardless.

Before I get too off track, let’s break down the topic of female bodybuilding and steroids in the most logical and honest way possible. Please, feel free to comment down below or send me an e-mail at ryantakahashi87 (at) yahoo (dot) com to provide your thoughts. Perhaps your perspective will differ from mine.

Whew. Okay, let’s dive into this deep swimming pool of mixed emotions head-first. Onward!

1. A lot of female bodybuilders take steroids, and that’s perfectly okay

It is a fact that many of our favorite FBBs take steroids to help them get big. It’s an undeniable fact. The reaction many people glean from this most likely sounds something like this:

See? She’s not that strong at all! The only reason why she’s bigger than most guys is because she juices, just like Lance Armstrong and Barry Bonds. I told you so! She’s not really that strong!!!

Fair point. Without the help of synthetic drugs, many FBBs would not be able to become bigger than a lot of men. But I think this criticism misses the larger point about why a lot of guys love female bodybuilders.

We love their beautiful bodies. We love looking at their hard work put on display. Steroids may enhance the fruits of your labor, but they do not replace your labor. No matter what drugs they take or how strategic they are in taking them, no FBB got to be that big without commitment, arduous hard work, dedication, smart planning and making enormous personal sacrifices. As mentioned before, steroids are not a magic pill that can transform Taylor Swift into Debi Laszewski with the flip of a switch.

Granted, lots of us who love FBBs admire them because they’ve achieved a level of muscle mass unmatched by guys who take the “natural” route. So I guess in that respect, we have to burst their bubble. Sorry. It’s not what you think it is.

But nevertheless, that’s not the point here. At the end of the day, we love muscular women because we think they’re tremendously beautiful. Regardless of how they got there, we appreciate the finished product with a degree of awe that’s unmatchable. In my opinion, it’s perfectly okay for a woman to take steroids if they will help her achieve her desired physique. Just as long as she’s safe and always takes her long-term health into consideration, I have no issue here. The elite bodybuilders have professional trainers and doctors advising them on which drugs to take, how many to take, when to take them, and how to determine when enough is enough. It becomes supremely dangerous when someone goes rogue and recklessly pops pills or injects themselves with God-knows-what without consulting an expert.

Don’t do that. It won’t end well.

I perfectly understand that a lot of huge muscular women take drugs. In fact, a few of the FBBs I’ve met in real life admit to taking drugs. But that doesn’t change my opinion of them one iota. They’re still strong gorgeous women who deserve immense praise for their hard work, steadfast belief in themselves and willingness to break social taboos in pursuit of their personal definition of “beautiful.”

As female bodybuilding fans, we’re not arbiters of truth and justice. We’re admirers of beauty. We love these women because they’re so incredibly beautiful. We know they would not be able to achieve that kind of muscularity without “help,” but what difference does that make? Just as we’re aware that many of our favorite celebrities undergo plastic surgery to look younger, slimmer or more beautiful, we love FBBs despite knowing their look may not be 100 percent “natural.”

2. Drugs is only an issue of ethics when we’re dealing with athletic competition

Overall, if a woman decides to use drugs to help her achieve an abnormal level of muscle mass, do we care if that helps her land photo gigs, video shoots and erotic session clients? No, we don’t. So at the end of the day, what difference does it make if our favorite female muscle celebrities (in our world, they’re totally celebrities!) are taking drugs to help them look a certain way? None whatsoever.

However, admittedly things change when we’re dealing with athletic competition. And not just bodybuilding – this includes basketball, tennis, MMA, softball, volleyball, sprinting, etc. No one wants a cheater to win the Gold Medal at the Olympics. But if that same person wants to earn a living becoming a muscle dominatrix to consenting adult clients, that doesn’t nearly matter as much.

So in reality, we only care about the ethics of doping when it comes to high stakes athletic competition. We all want a fair playing field. Whether we’re talking about HGH, spitting on baseballs or deflating footballs, no one wants to see a cheater win. It sucks. It makes you angry and lose faith in the integrity of the sport. Therefore, any professional league that wants to see itself exist in 20 years should vehemently crack down on illegal drug use to weed out the cheaters. It makes business sense.

If such a button existed where you could transform Taylor Swift into Debi Laszewski instantaneously, I would do it before you could finish your sentence.
If such a button existed where you could transform Taylor Swift into Debi Laszewski instantaneously, I would do it before you could finish your sentence.

But a female bodybuilder who uses her body to sell muscle worship appointments, video views and website memberships? She can do whatever the hell she wants with her body. It’s her body and her business. Let her take whatever she wants if she feels like it will help her earn a living. As female muscle fans, we don’t care. We love these women and their beautiful physiques. We shell out our hard earned dollars because we feel they’re worth it.

Know why? Because they totally are.

But when it comes to the business of professional (and high profile amateur) sports, where winners and losers are determined solely by head-to-head competition, we want fairness to be guaranteed in every conceivable way. It isn’t unethical to take drugs, unless you do so to earn an unfair advantage over someone who chooses not to. It’s as simple as that.

3. Repeated use of steroids do have side effects, but we’re totally fine with that

It’s no mystery the effects steroids can have on a woman’s body. Increased muscle mass and levels of testosterone can lead to a deepened voice, more body hair, shrunken breasts, more “masculine” facial features, balding, an enlarged clitoris (which, for the record, is not a penis), aggressive behavior, and other physical/emotional changes.

In fact, these side effects are what turn people off the most from female bodybuilders. Arguably, if female bodybuilders could maintain large muscle mass without having to sacrifice a single degree of traditional “femininity,” one could foresee a reality where FBBs would be way more popular in mainstream culture than they currently are. However, this is not the reality. So, society is stuck in this weird grey area of treating female bodybuilders as women who aren’t fully “women.” We know they are by definition, but there’s enough ambiguity going on to give us major pause.

It sucks for these women, but it is what it is. People have their prejudices. Changing them can be an almost unconquerable challenge.

But, alas, most female bodybuilding fans would argue the side effects inherent in steroid use are not that big of a deal. Or, more precisely, they’re not a deal breaker. Side effects are fine, just as long as they don’t cross certain boundaries.

This is perhaps one of the most common misconceptions about female muscle fetishism. Those of us who love muscular women don’t like all muscular women. Just because you love Italian food doesn’t mean you love every single Italian restaurant in existence. Truth be told, you probably despise more Italian restaurants than you love because of the fact that you’re such a snob. I can tell you from personal experience that there are a few prominent female bodybuilders whom I do not feel attracted to. While I can find a certain degree of beauty in almost all muscular women, overly masculine facial features and other “freaky” side effects totally turn me off. But that is usually the exception and not the rule.

Some people are disgusted by the masculinization effects of steroid use in muscular women. I get that. But the larger point is that female muscle fans are not unaware of that. We know that, accept it, and still find them beautiful despite their unconventional appearances.

4. Fantasy is almost always more appealing than reality

The truth is, the vast majority of guys who love female bodybuilders understand that many of them didn’t achieve high levels of muscularity “naturally.” We’re not naïve about how the world operates. We understand biological restrictions are almost impossible to break through. But this somewhat miss the point about a female bodybuilder’s appeal.

For a lot of us, we love female bodybuilders mostly because we love to fantasize about them. Who they are in real life is not as important as what exists in our imaginations. Of course, once we get to actually meet a few FBBs, we almost always end up liking them as people. But from a distance, fantasy is a powerful driving force in female muscle fandom.

Everyone’s fantasy is different. Worshipping her muscles. Treating her like a Goddess. Being her slave. Being punished for our naughty behavior. Finding out who the real “weaker sex” truly is. And so on. The fantasies may be different, but the general takeaway stays the same: reality isn’t that important.

Reality has its place, but not always. The vast majority of female muscle fans rarely get to personally meet (either in a public or private setting) their idols. Therefore, our fandom mostly consists of what’s in our imaginations. We love strong women for a variety of reasons. Whether there are elements of fantasy, BDSM, curiosity, sexual fetishism or something else entirely at play, who they really are, and how they got to be that big and strong, are secondary to us.

Some people are into Female Muscle Growth (FMG) stories and art. I am not really one of them. But if you are into that sort of thing, go for it.
Some people are into Female Muscle Growth (FMG) stories and art. I am not really one of them. But if you are into that sort of thing, go for it. Illustration by Grissse.

That isn’t to say that we disrespect who they are as people. On the contrary, most FBB fans have a tremendous amount of genuine respect for the women they idolize. I’d go as far as to say that we treat these women just the way modern day feminists want all women to be treated. So we aren’t indifferent toward who FBBs are as human beings. Rather, their drawing power is derived from the deep recesses of our imaginations.

So if we find out an FBB takes steroids, growth hormones and other supplements to achieve their superhuman muscularity, that isn’t an issue with us. We love the finished product. We love what their beautiful bodies do for our creative minds. The “spark” they provide us cannot be put into words, but rather images, thoughts and feelings that are almost impossible to articulate.

For many of us, the steroid issue isn’t an issue at all. We’re not ignorant about it. We’re not neglecting it. We just don’t care. People love to fantasize even though they know the foundation of their fantasies is built on a house of cards. It doesn’t matter. Reality has its place. So does fantasy. The lines shouldn’t always have to cross.

5. There will always be a little bit of denial going on

Admittedly, denial will always happen. Some people embrace the “ignorance is bliss” mantra. They know it’s happening but choose to either downplay or ignore it. I’m probably a bit in this category. I know many of my favorite FBBs take drugs. I know they might regret it in the future if (or when) the negative side effects come back to haunt them. I know it’s practically impossible for a woman to develop muscle mass that would make a male bodybuilder jealous without some “assistance.”

I get it. But I don’t always want to think about that. I love fantasizing about these strong beautiful women dominating the bullies who taunt them with sexist remarks. I love imagining what it would be like to make love to a gorgeous muscular woman without having to think about excess body hair or stinky odor that comes with taking steroids. I love thinking about all these things…knowing full well reality doesn’t always match up with fantasy.

When we live life through rose tinted glasses, we tend to idealize those we love. We hold them in higher regards than they deserve. We put them on a pedestal and worship the very ground they walk on. This leads, inevitably, to us overlooking their flaws. We justify their bad behavior. We pick-and-choose which parts of them to celebrate and which parts to ignore. In terms of muscular women, we revel in their strength without fully thinking about what it took for them to achieve that strength. We’re not stupid. We just don’t want to let facts get in the way of our fun.

Facts. Such an inconvenient cog in the engine, am I right? But alas, we know the deal. We know a woman cannot achieve that elite level of muscular development without “help.” We know freaky genetics, maniacal hard work, hardcore dieting and sheer willpower is not enough. We know natural biology cannot be altered overnight. Perhaps thousands of years from now women will evolve to become physically superior to men, but today is not that day. Whatever. Why spoil the fun?

6. What is the actual harm of using steroids?

This point is not meant to be scientific. I am perfectly aware that unwise steroid use can lead to cardiac problems, high blood pressure, liver issues and other negative health consequences. What I’m really trying to say is this:

What’s the big deal if woman uses steroids responsibly?

The answer is simple. It feels like cheating. In point #2, I discuss that steroids only really matter within the context of athletic competitions. That still rings true. But from a cultural perspective, using steroids to get big still feels like you’re “cheating the system.” Or, at the very least, cheating your natural biology.

Bodybuilding, whether you do it professionally or not, is the ultimate personalized sport. Victory or loss, however you define it, is purely determined by your own merit. Unlike team sports, a bad fumble or blown save by a teammate won’t cost you the game. You’re not even competing directly against anyone, such as in tennis or racquetball. The best comparison is golf, a sport in which you compete against others, but you’re mostly competing against yourself. But golf has elements such as weather and course conditions affecting the outcomes of games. Bodybuilding is a sport more based on preparation than game-day performance.

But more than that, a lot of us are amateur bodybuilders, whether we think of ourselves in those terms or not. Let’s face it. We don’t just go to the gym because we want to “stay healthy” or “shed a few pounds.” Some of us may think that way, but most of us workout because…well, we want to look good. We want to look good naked, as Kevin Spacey’s character in American Beauty states. He’s telling the truth. That’s 99 percent of the reason why we exert so much of our time and energy in the gym. We may not have any genuine aspirations to compete, but in our own little world, we’re all trying to develop biceps like Phil Heath.

I cannot confirm that Karen Zaremba was a "natural" bodybuilder, but I suspect she was.
I cannot confirm that Karen Zaremba was a “natural” bodybuilder, but I suspect she was.

This explains the backlash against steroid use in general, not just in the context of female bodybuilding. When we see someone walking around with bigger guns than us, we feel jealous. When we find out they had “help” building those huge arms, we feel a little better about ourselves knowing our inadequate gains can be explained by the fact we don’t “cheat.”

This simply explains why we get such a visceral gut reaction when we find out an FBB takes steroids. It feels like they’ve broken our trust. We feel betrayed that their impressive strength wasn’t achieved fairly. It makes us feel more secure about our own bodies knowing their superiority has an alternative explanation.

In conclusion, what is the actual harm of an FBB taking steroids responsibly? Well, not much. If it helps her advance her career, so be it. That’s none of our business. Is she betraying our trust? No, unless she explicitly lied about not taking drugs. Does that make her any less of a strong woman? Of course not. Steroids are not a magic pill that transforms you into a ripped comic book character with the snap of your fingers. Hard work still matters.

The “Steroid Issue” will always haunt bodybuilders, athletes and gym rats, both male and female. It’s unavoidable. In today’s world, it’s understandable why we’d all be suspicious. The proliferation of the underground drug market has expanded well beyond dark alleys and dimly lit parking lots. Online marketplaces, both on the so-called “surface web” and the nefarious-sounding “deep web,” make acquiring drugs as easy as it’s ever been.

But the flip side of the issue is this: As long as no one is getting hurt or gaining an unfair competitive advantage, what harm do steroids actually cause? Scientific issues aside, it’s mostly a blow to one’s personal sense of integrity.

Integrity. There we are. There’s the core of the problem. Integrity.

At the end of the day, we feel a bodybuilder’s integrity should be called into question if we discover they take steroids to help them get big. Personally, this knowledge does not make me change my opinion about any particular male or female bodybuilder. After all, building muscle is their primary goal. If they receive biomedical “assistance” along the way, so be it. I won’t judge them too harshly, especially when we live in an age where much worse crimes are being committed on a daily basis.

So there you have it. Undoubtedly, we will never settle this issue. Some will always feel uncomfortable by the presence of steroids in bodybuilding. Others will have no problem with it whatsoever. And there will be those who are either indifferent or undecided. Whatever. You can feel however you feel about it. Just know this: Everyone makes choices in their lives. These choices are made to help maximize how much they can get out of life. What jobs we work at, where we live, what foods we eat, who we choose to love, who we hang out with, what entertainment we partake in, etc. If a bodybuilder, male or female, believes taking drugs will help him or her maximize their own personal definition of “happiness” or “fulfillment,” I say we should let them. Of course, every choice has pros and cons. Taking steroids has drawbacks. It’s not a decision that comes risk-free. On the contrary, human growth hormones and the like can be very dangerous if they’re taken without proper medical consultation. This is why you should never trust the shady guy standing on a street corner or the anonymous vendor who sends you a cryptic message on Facebook.

Steroids are here to stay. Judge the people who take them however you want to. But keep this in mind: They take them for a reason. Do you fully understand that reason?

Fetishism, Fandom and Fortunes: The Awkward Nature of Being a Female Bodybuilder

Chellss gives me the "feels."
Chellss gives me the “feels.”

It’s hard out there for a female bodybuilder.

There are, of course, the obvious reasons why. Her profession is being squeezed out of existence by The Powers That Be. Receiving weird looks from strangers. The pressures of working in a highly competitive field. The lifestyle. The dieting. The workouts. Financial troubles. How time consuming everything can be. There are more reasons, but one in particular stands out above the rest.

Being fetishized.

I’ve discussed at length the concept of female muscle fetishism from the perspective of a guy who has it. I’ve discussed what it feels like, misconceptions about it, why it’s not a bad thing and what lessons we can learn from it. But I am about to attempt to discuss this topic from a different perspective: That of a female bodybuilder.

Obviously I am not a female bodybuilder. I am not close friends with one nor do I regularly hang out with one. But, I’ve had enough conversations with real life female bodybuilders – through muscle worship sessions during the past three years – to be able to formulate at least a few half-way decent arguments on their behalf. I don’t claim to speak for any or all female bodybuilders, but perhaps I can attempt to step out of my own shoes and look at the world from their perspective momentarily.

I might fail miserably, but it’s worth a shot. So here we go.

Female muscle fetishism unfortunately opens the doors to a number of negative consequences. Female bodybuilders are stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, they can make quite a lot of money on the side by utilizing their assets for financial gain. On the other hand, having adoring fans always comes with backlash. Let’s look at the first point in further detail.

Laurie Steele has buns of steel. See what I did there?
Laurie Steele has buns of steel. See what I did there?

The lifestyle of being a female bodybuilder is difficult from a financial point of view. The costs of being a professional bodybuilder far outweigh whatever monetary rewards one gets in return. Competitions don’t usually garner enough money to live comfortably. Only the elite competitors are afforded the luxuries that come with being at the top. The rest, unfortunately, usually have to resort to working a second job (usually in personal training, modeling, consulting, and so on) just to make ends meet. It’s agonizing to not know where your next paycheck will come from.

So, a lot of female bodybuilders will turn to offering “sessions” as a way to supplement their income. Muscle worship, wrestling, BDSM and other erotically-charged services are what we’re talking about. One cannot deny that these sessions are erotic in nature. Even if no actual sex is involved – which is usually the case – eroticism is an integral part of what these sessions are all about.

Consequently, a lot of female bodybuilders are uncomfortable with this reality. Not everyone likes doing sessions, but they feel like they must in order to put food in the table. Sexuality is a very personal aspect to one’s life. So they have every reason to feel uneasy toward being an erotic provider. While it’s true that, technically speaking, nobody forces you to offer sessions to clients, it’s perfectly understandable why one wouldn’t be 100 percent comfortable with being involved in this underground business.

That being said, a session provider – whether you’re a bodybuilder, wrestler, athlete or someone whose physical attributes are in high demand – can make a significant amount of dough if she markets herself the right way. Let’s say you charge $350 per hour. If you see 10 clients over a period of two days, you can make around $3,500 for two days’ worth of work. If you subtract the cost of the airplane ticket you purchased to get to that city (around $600), booking the hotel room (an extra $200) and food expenses ($50, assuming you don’t bring your own food), you’re still making approximately $2,650 in a 48 hour period. Even if it’s less, let’s say $2,500 or as low as $1,700, that’s an average of $850-1,250 per day, or $106-156 per hour, from the basis of a traditional eight hour working day. And these are conservative estimates. Not every city stay will be that lucrative, but you can also expect certain visits to be more profitable than others.

Her name is "DD," but I cannot find out what her real name is. Can anybody help?
Her name is “DD,” but I cannot find out what her real name is. Can anybody help?

My math can be totally off, but you can clearly see why so many FBBs provide sessions on the side. Travelling across the country (and the world, if you’re in that much demand) and seeing clients for an hour or two at a time can be a real boost to your bank account.

The financial rewards she can gain increase if she develops a loyal clientele in certain cities. Especially if she has one or two clients who are really loyal and are not against spending upwards of $500 to $600 for an extravagant session. I personally don’t have that kind of expendable income, but there are people out there who do. And they can make an FBB a small fortune if they love seeing her that much.

There is another way FBBs exploit their bodies for financial gain: Porn. Whether we’re talking about erotic photography, webcam shows or good old fashioned snuff films, we all know what we’re dealing with here. Further detail isn’t really necessary, but suffice to say, pornography is another viable way female bodybuilders can earn a steady income.

When a female bodybuilder chooses (and I cannot emphasize the word choose enough!) to do sessions, porn, or both, there’s no doubt that taking advantage of her erotic appeal is an undeniably important part of the business. There’s absolutely no obligation to do so of course, but the allure certainly is there for the taking. These financial opportunities are rooted in basic capitalistic principles, but this whole “off-the-books” business boils down to this essential ingredient: fetishism.

To review our terms for a moment, a “fetish” is “an object or bodily part whose real or fantasied presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification and that is an object of fixation to the extent that it may interfere with complete sexual expression.” To put it in proper context, it’s when guys and gals receive a strong sexual response to a female bodybuilder’s muscles. It’s no different than any other type of erotic fixation. But this discussion boils down to one very difficult question to answer:

Can you separate female muscle fandom from sexual fetishism?

Or, in other words, is it possible for female muscle fandom to be completely asexual? Certainly sports unto itself isn’t sexual. The ancient Greeks may have conducted their games in the nude, but that mostly was done because clothing can be a hindrance to an athlete’s performance. Today, we have top-of-the-line sports gear that makes that problem irrelevant. Wearing an Under Armor workout shirt almost feels like a second skin. But…we’re getting slightly off topic. Is it possible for our fascination with female muscle to be purely nonsexual? That’s a thought-provoking issue to chew on.

A statuesque Marina Lopez looking triumphant.
A statuesque Marina Lopez looking triumphant.

As discussed before, the sport of female bodybuilding has been sexualized to the point that the erotic aspect of it is probably more financially lucrative than the competitive side of it. To be fair, almost all female sports are sexualized, but that’s a whole other story. What makes bodybuilding (not just female bodybuilding, but male as well) special is the very fact that aesthetic appeal is so foundational to the sport itself. Nobody cares if you have a finely chiseled body if you can hit 40 home runs, rush for 1,500 yards or consistently hit clutch 3-pointers when it matters. Most of these athletes have fantastic looking bodies as it is, but their looks aren’t why they’re valuable. Their value is determined by their on-the-field production. For bodybuilders, their looks are all that matters.

It’s hard out there for a female bodybuilder, indeed. If it truly is impossible – or at the very least, highly difficult – to separate the sport from its erotic undertones, what do you do if you’re uncomfortable with expressing your sexuality so openly? If I were a female bodybuilder, I would have to be very comfortable with my sexuality, or else I would have to be forced to find a new day job. There’s no debate that eroticism, fetishism and the like are deeply embedded within the sport. But is that the way it has to be? Are there alternatives? Can female bodybuilding be genuinely asexual in nature?

To be honest, it can. But it won’t be easy. But that begs a further question: Why does it matter?

Or better yet: Is sexuality inherently a bad thing?

The fetish of female muscle is obviously a taboo subject. Heck, generally speaking the subject of sexuality as a whole is taboo. But from the perspective of a guy who’s attracted to strong women, it’s an especially weird topic of discussion. That’s why this often goes unspoken. From the perspective of a female bodybuilder, things are also probably pretty weird. But “weirdness” is not necessarily an indication of something being wrong. It could be an indication of something that we need to talk about more often.

But, stepping back into an FBB’s shoes for a moment, it’s perfectly understandable why the sport will always be in a tumultuous state. Incorporating sexuality into the industry keeps the ship afloat, but it can also degrade the sport into exploitative territory. Once you start to go down that path, how can you maintain a consistent level of respectability? There’s nothing wrong with sexuality, but must FBBs be reduced down to mere sex objects who exist solely to satisfy our base desires? The answer is an emphatic “no!”

Perhaps we can have it both ways. We can embrace the erotic nature of the sport without degrading the humanity of the participants. That sounds awesome in theory, but theory has a funny way of not always becoming standard practice.

This is an issue that FBBs and fans of FBBs will always wrestle with. I do not believe that sexualizing someone automatically degrades them. But I also believe it can if we allow it to happen. A female bodybuilder is caught in a perpetual cycle of disorder. Their sex appeal can make them superstars in the eyes of their adoring fans, but it also comes with negative consequences that are almost unavoidable.

So, is it fair to say that this is a “problem” every female muscle fan should be aware of? Well, yes and no. One should always be aware of the potential consequences of one’s actions. However, is it really fair to say that this is a problem to begin with? Is it inherently ruinous for sexuality to be so deeply engrained in the sport of female bodybuilding? Does the almost inseparable eroticism associated with the sport do a disservice to its competitors?

Don't get naughty around Wendy McMaster. She might spank you!
Don’t get naughty around Wendy McMaster. She might spank you!

A positive first step is to think of these issues as not being “problems,” but rather things to consider. There is probably no perfect answer. It truly is hard for female bodybuilders and athletes to exist in a business that nearly works against them if they try to downplay their sexuality. As fans, we can hold both sports-related and erotic interests in these women without being degrading to them or to ourselves. But that fine line between appreciation and objectification can be hard to distinguish.

Being fetishized can be a strange thing. Having a fetish can also be strange. If we both admit what we know to be true in our hearts, do we really need to exist with all this pent-up tension? Sometimes the best solution to our problems isn’t to come to a mutual answer, but to a level of mutual understanding. Let’s seek to understand where we all stand and carry on from there, okay?

A Discussion on the Sexualization of Female Athletes

Brandi Mae Akers wearing a sexy see-through dress.
Brandi Mae Akers wearing a sexy see-through dress.

It should be no mystery that female athletes face a glaring double standard in our society. They are, both implicitly and explicitly, expected to flaunt their sexuality in ways their male counterparts are not. Outside of Ronda Rousey, how many mainstream female athletes are celebrated purely for being a fantastic athlete – as opposed to being a fantastically good looking athlete?

The topic of the sexualization of female athletes has been discussed ad nauseam. This article will not dissect this idea is great detail. Rather, we will explore this from a slightly different angle.

Those who critique the overly sexual nature of media representation of female athletes usually argue that they shouldn’t be sexualized at all. If male athletes aren’t sexualized, neither should female athletes. That argument sounds fair. It’s better to hold no standards versus double standards. Fair treatment means equal treatment.

But, as an enthusiast of female bodybuilders and female athletes in general, I’m slightly uncomfortable with that. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but there’s a fine line between sexualizing someone and demeaning them. I wholeheartedly agree that you should never belittle or dehumanize someone for any reason whatsoever. That’s not in question. What is in question is whether or not sexualizing someone automatically dehumanizes them. It’s a tough one to wrestle with for sure.

I totally get the argument that people are not just sex objects. We are independent agents of thoughts and emotions with basic needs just like anybody else. Every soul is valuable. Every person has purpose. Everyone is important. Whether you believe in the Divine or not, I hope we can all agree that every human being on planet Earth has value. That includes people we love, hate or are indifferent toward.

That being said, is sexualizing someone an intrinsic act of dehumanizing them? I would say if we treat people purely as a means to an end, then the answer is unequivocally “yes.” If we treat someone solely as a sex object whose only purpose is to give you sexual pleasure, then that makes you a terrible person. Even the relationship between a prostitute and a “john” should come with a certain level of mutual respect. Sex, in this case, may be a business transaction, but that doesn’t excuse you from treating the provider of sex like garbage.

I love female bodybuilders. Many of you who read my blog do as well. The reason why I constantly wrestle with this issue is because I definitely sexualize FBBs. I am very much sexually attracted to muscular women. There’s no ambiguity here. It’s really, when we boil things down to its barest essentials, the primary reason why I love them. It’s not the only reason why I’m a fan of female bodybuilding, but it’s undeniably important. If I told you sexual attraction had nothing to do with my fandom of female bodybuilders, I’d be a liar with my trousers definitely set on fire.

Isn't Lindsey Vonn cold? She's so smoking hot, I highly doubt it.
Isn’t Lindsey Vonn cold? She’s so smoking hot, I highly doubt it.

But, deep down inside, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that. I can sexualize someone and still deeply respect them. I’ve met many women in my life whom I found to be very physically attractive. But I try, although not always successfully, to treat them like human beings first. I’m not a perfect person, but I’m trying my best here.

One argument I could make is that sexualizing female athletes is almost inevitable. When a woman trains for a sport, she’s going to sculpt her physical body into a shape that many of us will find attractive. Muscle definition, curves in all the right places, flawless body development, impeccable silhouettes, etc. And as they say, we’re only human, right? Can you blame someone for finding Alina Popa, who is an indisputable world-class athlete in her own right, so very sexy? If finding Ms. Popa sexually attractive is a crime, then put me in handcuffs, lock me in a padded jail cell and throw away the key for eternity. But, to reiterate my point, I don’t believe my opinion of Ms. Popa’s sexiness is somehow disrespectful to her. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her, both as a woman and as a cream-of-the-crop athletic competitor. But her physical attractiveness is without a doubt a main component of my fandom of her.

It’s a confusing dynamic to deal with, indeed!

In other words, how can I possibly separate sports fandom and sexuality when it comes to female athletes? It’s almost impossible to do so. That being said, that’s no excuse to treat a professional woman basketball player like a junior high school cheerleader or unashamedly flirt with a female Olympic athlete minutes after she’s won a gold medal. Speaking of which, if I have to listen to one more clueless TV reporter ask a female Olympian how she balances being an elite athlete with motherhood, I’m going to rip my hair out. But that’s a whole other issue.

I think the best way handle this whole issue is to have the “yes, and” attitude. For example, you can say this:

“Yes, I find female athletes to be sexually attractive, but I also respect their impressive achievements which can only be accomplished through hard work, diligent preparation and heart.”

It may not sound like poetry, but the sentiment should be clear. You can both celebrate the achievements of female athletes and find them beautiful at the same time. You can enjoy watching female sports on TV or in person and not have to compartmentalize your physical attraction to them simultaneously. Life doesn’t have to be an “either, or” proposition. You can hold two different attitudes at the same time without them being contradictory.

Please don’t misinterpret me. I understand the trepidation about accepting female athletes as sex objects. I get it that once you start to go down a dark path, it can lead you to directions you never originally intended to go. If we start to view them in such a way, will we eventually expect them to pose for magazine photos as a condition of playing the sport? Will we require uniforms of basketball or softball players to be more “revealing” or “sexy” in order to attract the male demographic? Will we start to lose respect for them as athletes because we treat them like sex objects first and athletes second?

These are all valid concerns. I wouldn’t want my favorite FBBs to feel pressured to sexualize themselves out of fear of being ostracized from the business. It is a business, after all. If my favorite FBBs chose to never wear makeup in public and forsake any attempts to appear traditionally feminine, then good for them. I would support them every step of the way. One hundred percent. I want my favorite female bodybuilders to be as free as they want to do whatever they want whenever they want.

Do they want to pose naked for a risqué photoshoot? Good for them. If, on the other hand, a particular female bodybuilder chooses to never ever pose naked under any circumstances, as much as we’d all be disappointed with this decision, I strongly believe she has every right to do that. Freedom means having the opportunity to choose what you want and do not want to do. Her body is her most valuable asset. If she wants to show it off for all the world to see, more power to her. If she wants to remain modest and desexualized in the public’s eye, even more power to her.

The badass that is Ronda Rousey, perhaps the most popular female athlete on the planet right now.
The badass that is Ronda Rousey, perhaps the most popular female athlete on the planet right now.

But this is less about how an FBB (or any kind of female athlete) chooses to conduct herself and more about how we as fans choose to view them. How a female bodybuilder lives her life is nobody’s business but her own. But how we fans choose to live out our fandom is our business.

In short, perhaps the Buddhist “middle way” is the best solution. Don’t go to the extremes. You can both find a female athlete or bodybuilder physically attractive while at the same time respecting them as a person and as an athlete. One can hold both attitudes simultaneously without any hint of contradiction or hypocrisy. In other words, don’t take any side as far as it will go. You don’t have to view every female athlete as either a Playboy bunny or a monastic nun. The “Madonna-whore complex” is an old archetype that’s getting worn out.

The main concept to keep in mind is simple. Channel your inner Aretha Franklin and remember to always R-E-S-P-E-C-T people. I understand it’s unfair how female athletes are put into restrictive sexually-centric boxes without their consent. I understand male athletes, by and large, are not held to similar standards. That’s the very definition of unfair. I also get that no female athlete or bodybuilder should ever be forced to flaunt their sexuality unwillingly. Their main concern should be to play/compete in their sport and nothing else. That is all fine with me.

But as fans of these women, our perceptions don’t have to fit into any particular box. To add to this discussion, bodybuilding is a unique sport. Unlike baseball, football, basketball, hockey, golf, tennis, track and field, soccer, and so forth, winners of bodybuilding contests are judged by their appearances. The nature of the sport is conducive to judging excellence based on aesthetic. So, it’s considered “okay” for choosing your favorite bodybuilding athletes (male or female) purely based on their looks. After all, the sport is called “body”-building for a reason.

Nobody cares how attractive or unattractive a quarterback is. If you can throw for 4,000 yards, 25+ touchdowns and lead your team to the playoffs season after season, teams will pay you a lot of money to play for them. Bodybuilders, on the other hand, are judged by how their bodies look. So judging a female (or male) bodybuilder on their looks isn’t a terrible thing. Following that train of thought, it’s perfectly okay to be erotically turned on by a female bodybuilder’s body. It goes with the territory! An FBB is trying to sculpt her body to fit a desired aesthetic. If you find that particular aesthetic to be pleasing to the eye, what’s the harm?

As mentioned before, it’s sort of inevitable for male and female bodybuilders to be sexualized in the eyes of their fans. Maybe not all of their fans, but surely the ones who would normally be attracted to them regardless if they were a bodybuilder or not. The human body is a beautiful thing. Bodybuilders strive to mold theirs to perfection. If we happen to get aroused by the finished product, so be it.

Misty May-Treanor demonstrating why a lot of guys really don't mind watching Olympic beach volleyball.
Misty May-Treanor demonstrating why a lot of guys really don’t mind watching Olympic beach volleyball.

One could argue that sexuality is embedded within the sport of bodybuilding. It’s not the entirety of the sport, but one cannot deny its underlying presence. Men and women are hardwired to find certain genders, body types and people sexually attractive. I realize asexuality is a real thing, but for the sake of argument let’s assume most of us are born this way. Bodybuilding, by its very nature, seeks to elevate the human form to its highest possible peak. If muscular development is considered a proper barometer of beauty, then bodybuilders are closer to the pinnacle than us “mere mortals.” It logically follows that fans of bodybuilding would unavoidably become sexually attracted to these amazing athletes.

There are certainly women and men who love male bodybuilders. There are definitely men and women who love female bodybuilders. And guess what? That’s perfectly okay! I see nothing wrong with any of this.

Like any form of attraction, anything can be taken too far. This should be obvious to anyone. To treat a female athlete as nothing more than eye candy is an awful choice to make. She’s much more than something pretty for you to look at. She’s an accomplished competitor who deserves respect for her accomplishments and sincere admiration from her fans. I love female bodybuilders just as much as anyone else, but I always try to keep at the forefront of my mind that they’ve achieved things I could never dream of doing.

Think about what a typical woman bodybuilder has to go through every single day of her life:

  • Sacrificing her time
  • Sacrificing her energy
  • Maintaining a strict diet
  • Strenuous weightlifting regiments
  • Various non-weightlifting exercises
  • Following a strict schedule
  • Pressure from friends and family to not pursue bodybuilding
  • Stress from training and competing
  • Persistent insecurity
  • An emotionally draining lifestyle
  • Blatant misogyny
  • Sexism within the sport of bodybuilding itself
  • Worrying about unusual changes to the body
  • Unintended side effects from taking drugs and hormones
  • Paying for food, supplements and other sport-related paraphernalia
  • Travel costs
  • Injuries
  • Rude comments from people in public, over social media or elsewhere
  • Other unpleasant experiences that often go unseen

That’s quite a lot! The struggle is real, indeed. If this doesn’t instill in you more respect for women bodybuilders, then I have no idea what will. When you keep things like this in perspective, you start to realize how insanely disrespectful it is to treat female bodybuilders and athletes as mere sex objects who only exists for your own enjoyment.

I have no idea how to pronounce Zsuzsanna Toldi, but I do know that she's extremely attractive.
I have no idea how to pronounce Zsuzsanna Toldi, but I do know that she’s extremely attractive.

But alas, I highly doubt the majority of FBB enthusiasts feel this way. Most of us know FBBs and female athletes are people, not products. But, as said before, everything must come in moderation. Don’t think of strong women as sexual commodities, but don’t be afraid to celebrate their sex appeal at the same time.

In conclusion, how are we to handle the issue of our society’s sexualization of female athletes? The most rational answer might be this: There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging, celebrating and enjoying a female athlete’s sex appeal. However, there is something wrong with making that the sole focus of her identity. Whether we’re talking about Lindsey Vonn, Misty May-Treanor, Cat Zingano or Brandi Mae Akers, always keep in mind that they’re athletes who happen to be physically beautiful, not beautiful people who just happen to be athletes. That distinction might help clear up any possible sexist attitudes toward these remarkable women.

Understandably, there are many female athletes who are uncomfortable being viewed in a sexual nature, regardless of the respectful intent demonstrated by the admiring party. I get that. I’m not going to dismiss that attitude as being “overly sensitive” or “puritanical.” No one should ever be pressured to be comfortable with their sexuality or how other people feel about their sexuality. That’s not the point here. The point is that as fans, we have a responsibility to recognize the humanity in the strong beautiful women we love so dearly.

A very pretty Jennie Finch.
A very pretty Jennie Finch.

This topic can be a touchy one. I will admit that I do not have all the answers. I could be wrong about a point or two or three. The best rule of thumb is to look at this issue from all perspectives and try your best to put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if every time you stepped up to the plate, onto a basketball court or in front of a bodybuilding stage, thousands of people started thinking of you not as a hardworking and passionate athlete, but instead a nameless Barbie doll with muscles? That sounds like a pretty condescending way to be treated.

Be kind. Be respectful. Don’t be a jerk. Always remember that regardless of who we are, whether we’re a world class female bodybuilder or an unapologetic fan of female bodybuilders, we’re all people trying to coexist on this beautiful, confusing and interconnected planet. In many regards, recognizing this basic fact could eliminate the vast majority of the problems we face every day.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear your opinions. Feel free to share them in the comment section below or send me an e-mail at ryantakahashi87 (at) yahoo (dot) com. Just so you know, I write out my e-mail address that way to avoid my inbox being inundated with gratuitous spam. But I never consider any of you readers to be spam! I welcome feedback of all kind just as long as it’s productive, informative and respectful. So have at it!

Respecting Those We Lust After: The Sexual Objectification of Female Bodybuilders

Dina al-Sabah, the Muscle Goddess from Kuwait.
Dina al-Sabah, the Muscle Goddess from Kuwait.

I love female muscle.

That should be obvious to everyone. I really love strong women. I love the way they look. I love the giddy feelings they give me whenever I look at pictures of them. I love meeting them in person for muscle worship sessions. I love talking to them about their careers, their lifestyles and the sacrifices they’ve had to make to achieve their immaculate physique.

But there’s a problem here. A problem I feel compelled to address both honestly and openly.

Am I objectifying them?

It’s a fair question. Do I merely lust after these women instead of “admiring” them as world-class athletes? Is my attempt to intellectualize my respect for female bodybuilders just my way of hiding the fact that I really think of them as sex objects instead of human beings? Am I dehumanizing these women whenever I have lustful thoughts about them?

All fair questions. And all of them deserve to be discussed in detail. I’m a big proponent of open, productive dialogue. So let’s begin this discourse!

Of course, I’m biased (because I’m talking about myself), but I don’t believe I’m objectifying the very women I’ve spent the past few years writing about. But let’s first discuss semantics. What exactly does “objectify” mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “objectify” means “to treat as an object or cause to have objective reality.”

Simply put, in regards to interpersonal relationships, it means when you treat a person not as a human being but as tool for your own personal benefit. In popular vernacular, “objectify” usually connotes sexual objectification. When someone treats another person as merely an object for their selfish sexual gratification, that person is objectifying the other. This is considered dehumanizing because you don’t care about their feelings, thoughts and/or point of view. You only care about what they have to offer you personally.

Countless books and academic dissertations have been written on the subject. I highly encourage you to read more about this if you’re truly interested.

But on the other hand, it’s perfectly normal to be sexually attracted to someone. Human beings have desires they cannot control. I didn’t choose to be smitten by the beauty of my high school crush. It just happened. Yes, I liked her for different reasons too (she was very smart and we came from similar cultural backgrounds), but her physical beauty was what initially attracted me to her. Everything else I liked about her I discovered later once we got to know each other.

The object of my desire, Monique Jones.
The object of my desire, Monique Jones.

The same goes for my love of female muscle. I love muscular women. I love the way they look. I think muscles on a feminine form is beautiful. Beautiful beyond words. Beyond description. I’ve written many essays discussing why I love female muscle and how psychologically impactful they’ve been on me. Many of my readers share this love with me. Just take a moment to read some of the comments on my articles.

But my love for female muscle isn’t just aesthetic. It’s also emotional. I think it’s brave to sculpt your body to a standard that completely contradicts what society at large preaches to us. I’m a strong believer in the social benefits of women lifting weights at the gym (there are also obvious health benefits too). I think our world would be a much better place for all of us if we encouraged the “strong is beautiful” mantra instead of “skinny is beautiful.” The latter has faced significant backlash in recent years. The former is just starting to emerge.

So, where does that leave us? How is it possible to humanize someone that I can only see from a distance?

I will admit that there is a fine line between objectifying a woman and being sexually attracted to her. Obviously, I will never actually meet most of the women I’ve come to love. I’ve only met three female bodybuilders in my life, all from participating in muscle worship sessions with them. So for me, it’s hard to get to know someone you simply…can’t ever get to know. Unlike my high school crush that I eventually mustered the courage to ask to the Homecoming dance during my senior year in high school, I will have virtually no chance of meeting and interacting with any of these FBBs.

But that’s not my only “way out.” I realize that an FBB is a human being, no different than you or I. I fully understand that a muscular woman doesn’t exist solely to satiate my own personal fetishes. Even the three FBBs I’ve had the pleasure of meeting I treated with the utmost respect. I tried to be kind. I apologized to one who had the misfortune of having a lot of cancellations before coming to Seattle. I know many of these women may not even like doing these sessions, but they do them because it gives them a consistent source of income. Travelling takes you away from your friends and family. It’s tough to financially support yourself when you’re involved in a career that isn’t terribly lucrative.

On a personal level, I recognize their humanity and never feel I am entitled to receive whatever I want from them. I hope other people who interact with FBBs do the same.

Dana Lynn Bailey is a living legend.
Dana Lynn Bailey is a living legend.

But don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to preach some “holier-than-thou” message and condemn anyone who made a mistake and treated a muscular woman with rudeness. That is not my intention at all. Rather, I’m just trying to wrap my mind around rationalizing my love for female muscle without falling into the trap of “objectifying” them.

Let’s put it this way: the concept of misogyny. Misogyny is “the hatred of women.” I am far from being a misogynist. But as any feminist critic will tell you, there is a long list of behaviors and attitudes that can be construed as “misogynistic.” Unfortunately, when discussing sexuality, gender relations and feminist theory in general, too often the discussion becomes a shouting match instead of a productive discussion. It’s easy to label men like us as misogynistic because of how much we lust after FBBs.

Is my love for female muscle linked to some deep-seeded hatred for women? Do I love them because they’re women who are more like men, whom obviously I believe are far superior? The answer to these questions is a resounding “NO!”

A great shot of Roberta Toth.
A great shot of Roberta Toth.

My love for muscular women has nothing to do with the fact their physique makes them “look like a man.” It’s easy to slam a person as “objectifying” a muscular woman when you don’t see the world from their perspective. If anything, we’re anti-misogynistic because we love these women for being empowered, powerful (both physically and mentally), determined, goal-oriented and not caring what the rest of the world thinks.

But I digress (boy, what a cliché!) This can be a little extreme. I don’t think too many people who criticize men who love strong women truly believe they actually hate them to any degree. Instead, I think the main criticism we face mostly comes from the accusation that we fetishize these ladies. For example:

White men who only date Asian women are always accused of fetishizing them:

You don’t like them because of who they are. You like them because you love their Asian features and behaviors. You don’t care about them as a person. You only married her because you can’t get enough of her slanted eyes, black hair, slim figure and golden yellow skin. You keep her around because you expect her to be subservient and satisfy your every sexual desire unconditionally.

We’ve all heard this before. And this is just one example. There are plenty more out there. Suffice to say, men who love muscular women might also be slandered for feeling the same way:

You only like them because their muscles turn you on! You only like them because you find their bodies attractive, not them as people. The only purpose a female bodybuilder serves to you is to help you satisfy your personal sexual gratifications. They’re a fetish to you, no different than watching porn or seeing young girls in Catholic school uniforms.

And so on. We’re not fans of these women. We’re creepy, animalistic chauvinist pigs. The fact these women are physically strong means nothing. If you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. If you put muscles on a woman, it doesn’t change the fact you’re unequivocally objectifying her.

I really love Lindsay Mulinazzi.
I really love Lindsay Mulinazzi.

But let’s hold on for a moment. All judging aside, there’s nothing wrong with being enamored by someone’s physical beauty. It’s nature. It’s natural. It’s a product of hormones, biology and generations and generations of reproduction. Also, there’s nothing morally reprehensible about being physically attracted to someone. Man or woman, gay or straight, it’s all part of human nature. But how you treat a person, however, is a whole other can of worms.

That’s really what this entire conversation boils down to in a nutshell (wait, can you really boil something down to a nutshell? I may have meshed two idioms into one…). How you treat a person. The Miss America pageant is criticized for putting attractive young women on display for no purpose other than to give male viewers something pleasant to look at for a few hours. The Legends Football League (formerly the Lingerie Football League)? Infamous at best. Misogynistic at worst. But nevertheless, no one watches it for the “sport.”

I will admit this is a difficult subject to broach. This conversation hits a lot of us on a gut level. It’s hard to separate my personal desires from my yearning to communicate fairly and objectively. So here is how I will approach this issue:

Objectification, at its core, is a personal thing. Try as we may, we can never know what’s in someone’s heart. Are there men out there who treat FBBs only as sex objects and not as people? Yes. Are there people (men and women) out there who detest FBBs because of their outdated definitions of “femininity?” Yes. Are some female muscle fantasies (for example, wanting to hurt, degrade or humiliate an FBB) shared by some of us rooted in misogyny? Yes, it’s quite possible.

Diana Tinnelle Stanback is someone I've recently discovered. Why haven't I known about her longer?
Diana Tinnelle Stanback is someone I’ve recently discovered. Why haven’t I known about her longer?

I’m not here to deny that objectification happens. I’m not going to argue that misogyny is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, both are still prevalent in our world.

But…we’ll never know for sure how someone feels. What lies in your heart is something no one else will ever know. I know in my heart that I’ve never dehumanized a muscular woman. I treat them as people, not toys. But no matter how much I try to convince myself of this, there’s always that lingering bit of doubt in my mind.

The sport of bodybuilding is all about aesthetic and judging this aesthetic. It goes against what we’ve been taught about how to treat people. A judge at a bodybuilding contest judges a competitor purely based on what their body looks like. How nice they are, how smart they are, and how hard they’ve worked to get to this point doesn’t matter. What matters is how they appear in your subjective (though based on predetermined objective criteria) viewpoint. This goes counter to our culture that teaches us not to be shallow and judge someone on their looks. But within the context of the sport of bodybuilding, this type of judgment is completely justified.

A bodybuilder willingly puts themselves out there to be judged. This requires a level of self-esteem most of us do not possess. So if you really like how they look, is that such a bad thing? After all, their livelihood depends on improving their body’s appearance. If fans out there love the results, what’s the harm?

So we’re in a strange situation where we’re discussing people who willingly put themselves out there and dedicate their lives to shaping their bodies to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible. While a bodybuilder’s chief objective isn’t to maximize their sex appeal, inevitably they’re going to enhance their sex appeal whether they like it or not. True, they’re athletes, not models. But when you sculpt your body to superhuman proportions, eventually somebody’s going to notice!

The lesson to be learned is simple: treat others as you would want to be treated. The Golden Rule is as old as time, but it’s stood the test of time for a reason. It’s a damn good rule to follow!

Don’t treat a female bodybuilder like a piece of meat. If you ever encounter one, treat her with respect. Don’t expect her to do certain things for you or allow you to do certain things to her just because you saw a video of her doing similar activities to a paid actor. Recognize their humanity. Accept that it’s perfectly okay to find her sexually attractive, but don’t allow this attraction to warp your perceptions of them.

The Blonde Muscle Goddess Cindy Phillips.
The Blonde Muscle Goddess Cindy Phillips.

Essentially, don’t be a jerk. You’ll be fine if you always act as kind and respectful as you can.

Will some people continue to ridicule you? Of course. Will certain folks still insist there’s something fundamentally “wrong” with you? Naturally. Just tune them out. Only you know what’s in your mind and heart.

The issue of sexual objectification is a tough one to tackle. Human history is chock full of battles between people wanting to be acknowledged as human beings and people who refuse to treat them like that. This still continues today.

People are people. We are all people trying to make our way through this confusing universe. Our time is limited here on planet Earth. We shouldn’t make things harder on each other if we can avoid it.

So embrace your female muscle fandom. And show your appreciation for these ladies and all their hard work. It’s the most respectful thing you can do.