Marcie Simmons on Men’s attraction to female muscle,Sthenolagnia and Cratolagnia

Marcie Simmons is new to the fitness industry and the sport of bodybuilding. Her videos provides a female perspective to elements of the subculture not usually discussed. Marcie describes the fetish surrounding muscular and strong  women . She calls it the “dark side” and many would disagree with such assessments. Sthenolagnia and cartolagnia are not classified as paraphilias. Those types of disorders are either extreme or an indication of a mental illness (sexual sadism or pedophilia ). Sthenolagnia and cartolagnia are just minor fetishes. Calling it a “dark side” seems to go back to the traditional attitudes of human sexuality before the sexual revolution. Sex was once seen as something only designed for the production of children, not pleasure. Women were in particular not to enjoy it. Men were expected to restrain urges and wait till they were married. This has changed and now people can embrace what they find attractive or arousing.

That means being interested in different types of women. Relevant to this conversation is the the fetish of sthenolagnia and cartolagnia. Marcie explains the definition of both terms with simple examples. She mentions Alina Popa. Being aroused by the sight of her muscles is an example of sthenolagnia. Alina’s biceps, triceps, or glutes could induce sexual arousal.


Looking at her there is an assumption of strength. Yet this may not be the case. A person with sthenolagnia  would be more concerned about the appearance of strength. It would not matter if she could lift the heaviest weight, but the aesthetic of the muscle. Cartolagnia puts emphasis on strength feats. Lift and carry, arm wrestling, or wrestling are a few demonstrations of strength. For the individual with cartolagania  muscles are not as important as the cation of the physical activity.

woman lift

A woman with no visible muscle can have strength. Marcie then delineates a theory about who would be attracted to this fetish. She claims it is men who have a lot of power and want it taken away  when coming into contact with a strong woman. They want to be dominated by a strong woman. This is not always the case. There are men who have this fetish, but do not fit into a Fifty Shades of Gray category.  It could be like some one’s reverence for a force of nature. Seeing a sunset, waterfall, or a sequoya tree makes the observer have a new respect. Some men want to admire these unique and powerful women up close, instead of looking at pictures. The experience becomes more tangible. Marcie became aware of the fetish subculture only a few years ago. She reveals that men were trying to get into contact with her to do lift and carry. The interesting discovery is that there are hybrids of people who life both cratolagnia and sthenolagnia. This means they prefer both muscles and strength.

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The men who are attracted to this can be average men. They have families and steady jobs, but have this secret love of female muscle. Their wives may not have the strength to give them piggy back rides or wrestle them. There are men who hide their love of it, because of fear of ostracism. Sadly ,a society that has a misogynist belief system does not accept strong women. Marcie does not realize that this could be a turn on for women as well. Women who have started lifting weights for a long period often say they feel more confident with themselves. Society does like to encourage low self-esteem in women and in a way doing this is a reaction to that.Women who know they are stronger may feel a psychological power high. There is an element of male submission that Marcie mentions, but it could extend further. It could be men and women having a safe space to relive themselves of societal pressure. Men can be allowed to enjoy a type of woman considered out of the traditional view of femininity. Women receive praise for their athletic talents and their muscles in which they normally would not hear. Then as Marcie reveals there is a mental aspect to this interaction. The male subject may want to be psychologically dominated in encounters. Women could enjoy having a sense of control that they rarely get in society. Empowerment is a concept used to mobilize women to gain social and political justice. This can be done though actions or activism to advance the cause of women’s rights.  Here a muscular woman is empowering herself in two ways. First she is not adhering to traditional beauty standards. Second she is imposing physical power over a man ( with their compliance). It challenges the weaker sex stereotype and the myth that strong women are unattractive. This seems to be more than just a simple fetish.

           Marcie mentions this fetish goes beyond just liking women in shape. Men would still like the athletic woman, but like the most muscular woman.


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 The images above are a reflection of the difference. The person with these fetishes would find both attractive, but find the female bodybuilder the most beautiful. Marcie explains it also extends into art and written stories. Female muscle art and stories have grown over the years due to the internet. This phenomenon is known as female muscle growth. Stories or art feature a woman who physically weak initially, but through science or magic become super humanly strong and muscular. This also overlaps with giantess art in which there is a focus on women becoming a giant. This art is underground and not mainstream. Marcie then provides another theory. Men could like this because they it may help them expose a softer side to themselves. It could be also that strong men like strong women. Marcie made another video explaining how the attraction to muscles emerges.

There are men who hold high positions of power who may just want a way to relax. They just want a break from being “the strong one.”Sometimes people desire an escape from responsibilities and pressure for the sake of mental well being. However, not every man is a CEO or in a position of authority. There are other reasons why average men would seek out a physically powerful woman. The look accentuates the female form. The lower body becomes more exaggerated when a woman works out to the level of these athletes. They still want to have the figure eight body when presenting a physique on stage. It then makes a woman’s upper body appear larger than it is. Traditionally, the lower body is a beauty mark for women. The dynamic of being unique may also add to this attraction. Women like Marcie are not common, which make her fascinating. There are very few women who can lift a man up like an infant, out wrestle him, or beat him at arm wrestling. The combination of muscles and curves can attract both erotic feelings and wonder.


The what these women do is enlarge parts of their body into a new paradigm. Besides just a predilection for a particular look, it is what people are exposed to. Children are easily influenced by there experiences and what they see. A boy who watches action cartoons, sports, or looks at magazines that have strong women may develop an attraction. Maybe their parents are active in sports or strength building activities. This could instill a feeling of respect for such women. Cartoon and comic book characters are probably one of the first forms of entertainment that children get exposure to. Super heroes like She Hulk, Power Girl, and Wonder Woman have appeared in various media from cartoons, comic books, and sooner or later film.

Wonder Woman as she appears in JLA #90 (2004)
She Hulk making an appearance in the Incredible Hulk animated series (1996).
Power Girl as she appears in a DC comic.

Popular entertainment is powerful in this regard. Although there are fictional depictions, there are strong women who can be seen in reality. Magazines targeting people interested in fitness used to feature female bodybuilders. Women with larger musculature today are not present on magazines, but more so women with a physique competitor or figure level of muscle. The internet allowed women with larger muscles to get exposure to larger audience when the fitness community abandoned them. Print magazines are slowly declining, but athletes were ahead in this transition to digital print. Athletes either have their personal websites or do photo shoot work for others. The internet being so vast it is more likely that more people will stumble on to something they normally would not seek. Also it could develop gradually beyond the stages  of childhood. One may take a look at picture out of curiosity of a muscular woman. The curiosity may induce more research. Then a stage could be that an individual seeks out those materials. After becoming a collector, a person may become a fan of a particular sport or athlete. Adults and children are exposed more to a muscular woman’s physique now more than ever seeing as women’s sports are broadcast on television.Women athletes are displaying more powerful physiques than in the past. More women around the world are competing in the Olympics. This is more than just a fashionable trend it seems to be a paradigm shift. It is too soon to say with complete certainty. Marcie has revealed that liking muscular women is more than just simple lust.

There is another element that is some what mentioned, but not deciphered entirely . It is the power dynamic between men and women. It assumed that men should be in control,  because they have more physical power. Women in this case have physical power and in a way the roles are reversed. Man is supposed to be dominating and controlling especially of women. These ideas are antiquated and sexist, but it still in present in a subtle manner. The strong woman challenges the weaker sex stereotype and the concept of biologically inferior woman. It is not completely about a  woman or man dominating one another in these encounters. This could be reliving some fun times of childhood. Boys and girls can play together care free. The gender role rules seem to be looser and less rigid. Girls can to rough and tumble  play without be condemned for being “unfeminine.”Biologically, there is no strength difference, put as puberty happens boys get stronger making it hard for girls to play in mixed physical activities. With the strong and muscular woman her strength exceeds or is equal to an average man and its almost as if that period in childhood is restored.

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The societal ostracism is kept away. The roles of subordinate or controller are not present unless someone allows it in the encounter. Men may not always want to be be dominated by a powerful woman, but challenged on a physical level. There is some aspect of thrilling adventure to this. There are plenty women who could challenge men on an intellectual level, but the physical regard is rare. There are men who may engage in session wrestling purely for the wrestling. The fact that a woman can do this to them is astounding. Although the domination element is present, there is the escape from pressure. Women are free to demonstrate their strength and physical talents. Men can see strong women without insults or negative backlash. When examining it from this perspective it becomes a place of gender equality. It rejects the model of man as dominant and woman as submissive follower. This shielded space created provides men and women to reject the ridged codes of behavior and appearance in regards to gender.  This is liberating for both men and women if though of in this particular context.  Marcie’s videos continue to explore a subculture that continues to evolve. It is very possible with the image of the strong woman being propagated through media will no longer be considered an anomaly.

More videos of her’s will be featured here with analysis. Please support her channel

Marcie Madness

Marcie Simmons on Men’s attraction to female muscle,Sthenolagnia and Cratolagnia

Top Photos from the Rio 2016 Olympics


Sakashi Malik  won India’s first medal in wrestling .

Deng Wei

Deng Wei breaks weightlifting record.


Shanuae Miller and Allyson Felix  racing to the finish line.



Risako Kawai celebrates a victory by doing a wrestling demonstration with her coach.

Katie lacdecky

Katie Ledecky swimming.

ap_16226090631754Michelle Carter doing shot put.


Elaine Thompson  and Dafne Schippers compete  in the 200m semifinal.

Simones biles

Simone Biles wows the crowd.

Top Photos from the Rio 2016 Olympics

The Importance Of Schmoes In The World Of Bodybuilding!!! A Video by Marcie Simmons

The term schmoe often has a pejorative connotation. Even among female bodybuilding fans it can be taken as an insult. However, it may not be as negative as people present it. Marcie Simmons a newcomer to the sport presents another perspective. Her Youtube channel Marcie Madness explores elements of the bodybuilding and fitness culture. Being a neophyte she did not know what a schmoe was. Her video presentation explains what a schmoe is and the role they play in female bodybuilding. Normally, it is assumed that female bodybuilders would have a negative perception of  schmoes. Marcie offers a refreshing counter argument to that position. Here Marcie explains that there is a difference between a man who just likes muscular women and a schmoe. Schmoes are devoted fans of female bodybuilding who can name or describe everything about their favorite athlete. A schmoe could tell you the bench press, leg press, and all maximum lifts of his favorite female bodybuilder. They could easily name which contests they competed in.

Marcie does not disparage schmoes in the video, but praises their support as fans. This video is unique, because it has a woman’s perspective. This is valuable information coming from someone who is an athlete and is making a journey through a hidden micros om. Marcie describes the stereotypes that many hear all the time. Schmoes are described as socially awkward, strange, or perverts. This is not the case. Marcie says “they are a positive asset to the sport.”  They are providing financial assistance to the sport and going to contests. The organizations in which women compete in do not provide financial support, like male competitors.

800625782  Schmoes appear at female bodybuilding shows almost like groupies at a rock concert. Marcie reveals sometimes they “pose as photographers.” There are some that run websites in which they have athletes do posing and routine demonstrations. An athlete can get paid better from that than from the actual contest. Prize money and sponsorship is limited. Unless an athlete has a lucrative business, high income, or a wealthy husband that can support her, schmoes seem like another option. Some schmoes go further by sponsoring athletes helping with the costs of posing suits, tans, and travel. Marcie reveals that “there  who simply cannot afford to compete.” Sometimes Marcie says this goes beyond simple sponsorship. Muscle worship does occur and sometimes sexual favors. It is unknown to what extent. Doing sessions may have risks ( especially meeting strangers), but Marcie says that schmoes may not be as dangerous as one might assume. Not all schmoes participate in muscle worship or mixed wrestling. There are some who just content going to contests or watching athletes  pose on videos. The wrestling matches may be out of the question due to the fact that some schmoes rather not risk injury.


There is the possibility that a woman doing muscle worship could run into someone who could be criminal, yet it seems these instances are rare. The chances of being sexually assaulted or worse murdered seem low. The schmoe as a sexual predator seems to be an exaggerated claim. Sessions are charged by the hour and depending on the rate be as much as high as $400. By doing two sessions that is more than what an athlete could make in a single contest. It’s a lugubrious commentary on IFBB prize money and the disparity in pay between men and women in general.

Take a look at the prize money here. Yeon only gets $750. She may have come in third place, but it should at least be $1000.

  Schmoes are men with a fetish for strong muscular women. Society does not tolerate people with different views or ideas which is why schmoes and female bodybuilders are ostracized. Nothing would ever change in the world if people did not think differently from the majority. Beauty standards as Marcie points out do vary. However, there is a similarity when discussing schmoes and their obsession over women’s bodies. The fact of the matter is it could no different from how  men look at other women’s bodies. Men who are not attracted to muscular women also obsess over women’s body parts. This could be the posterior, thighs, face, or waist. When applied to men who love muscle women the same body part preference emerges.

Margie Martin 678

Schmoes like women who have nice posteriors and wide hips. These feature of the female body are accentuated to a high degree through training. The is the difference that some say they like women wit developed biceps or abdominal muscles. Mainstream fitness even is trying to sell the idea that muscle and women can mix. Instead of calling it building muscle, they refer to it as “toning” or “body sculpting.” Any fan of female muscle would know there is very little difference. There is just a difference in the amount of muscle on the woman’s body. It’s a way to end the fear that women will “bulk up” ( a misnomer which is really not describing what athletes are doing). There seems to be a slight acceptance of some muscle on women.

 1104-sleek-sexy-armsBrenda smith

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There are ranges to muscular development. That is why there are various divisions in the bodybuilding sports. The fact is they are still women no matter what they look like. Men have a large range of attraction to various types of women. Schmoes may still like women who are not strong or muscular. Marcie continues to explain that schmoes having a presence is keeping the sport alive. It may bring about some revival. It’s not just athletes that make a sport what it is; it is also the contributions of the fans. Every time they fill up seats during a competition or buy videos from an athlete’s website, it advances the sport. Marcie focuses on the monetary aspect, but the positive support is critical. Female bodybuilders face an industry and public that are hostile to their activities. It helps the women’s psychological well being to see men who are jubilant about their athletic performance. It motivates them to continue, when it seems like it is not worthwhile. Another important development is that it allows consumers to break away from corporate gatekeepers. Marcie’s observations are perspicacious and are worth watching. More videos from her will be featured in the coming weeks.

Marcie Madness

Published on Aug 8, 2016

The Importance Of Schmoes In The World Of Bodybuilding!!! A Video by Marcie Simmons

Alley Miesch Nie

Alley Miesch Nie is a personal trainer and bodybuilder. She was most active in the sport in the late 1990s to mid-2000s. Although she has not officially retired, she has no plans to return to stage. She competed in national level shows working her way up the ranks.  Alley participated in many sports including volleyball, track, and swimming. Besides thoughts sports in junior high she played football. She was the only girl on the football team. Alley is a true lover of sports and fitness. Her involvement in sports began at age ten and continued ever since. Alley’s challenges early in her life are shocking for someone of her background. She revealed that at one time in her adolescence that she suffered from anorexia and bulimia. One would assume that athletes have a great perception of body image, but this psychological disorder can strike anyone. Alley said “being a heavy adolescent 185 lbs and a size 16, my live at a young age became an emotional roller coaster anorexia and bulimia for ten years.” Some are not so lucky to overcome this disorder, but Alley credited getting involved in volleyball helped. Alley was able to overcome her body image issues and become team captain of All conference  and a All Tournament player in both high school and college. Her situation turned around, but then an unexpected incident occurred. During her senior year Alley suffered an ACL tear, which was a career ending injury.


 Determined to not let an injury stop her, she began training with weights. She loved volleyball too much to let it go. Alley Miesch-Nie is the type of person who never quits no matter what the obstacle. Alley revealed ” I knew the moment I picked up the weights that I loved it.” She explained further ” weight training and bodybuilding, starting with my knee rehabilitation, showed me a new direction with food, self-acceptance and love.”Many women who enter sports go through this transformation. They learn to like their bodies and become more confident people. Alley’s case it meant overcoming a eating disorder that could have been potentially life threatening. She loved seeing the changes and strength she gained in her body. Some bodybuilders who worked out her gym urged her to compete. Alley gave it a try  and in her first show won overall. Alley during her career competed as an amateur. She never obtained a pro-card, but she present an impressive physique. Her most muscular pose was something fans remember fondly. Certainly no one had seen such development of the trapezius muscle on a woman like this.


Early in her bodybuilding career she had to take time off. Her husband suffered a spinal injury and she had to take care of him. Alley for two years joined the US Army to support the both of them. Alley was still playing pro-volleyball in 2001. There is truth to the saying “behind every strong man, there’s a strong woman.” Alley fits that description both metaphorically and literally. She was able to balance both family obligations and her sports career. Her husband made a recovery and she returned to stage with a vengeance. Alley came in second place at the NPC Nationals in 2002. Considering having a period time off that was not too bad. She had a formidable opponent on stage which was Colette Nelson. Colette had a more developed upper body and Alley had the better legs. Colette ultimately triumphed, but both presented marvelously aesthetic physiques on stage.


Seeing two greats on stage can create difficulty in judging. Alley’s physical statistics  during her career were 155 pounds off season and 141 pounds for contest. Standing at 5’4 ” her weightlifting stats are even more impressive. Her best lifts include 350 lbs squats, 800 lbs leg presses,  225 lbs for bench presses, and 325 lbs for deadlifts. Alley’s educational background includes a masters degree from Western Michigan University in health and physical education. She is also an alumni of Aquinas College. Alley’s profession is being a personal trainer. She works for Renaissance Club Sports, the LFA Academy, and is part of Team SUP Rider with Danai Surf. She is a very busy woman. Although he competitive years were between 1999 to 2006, athletes of the sport do sometimes make comebacks to competition. Unlikely it seems, but it could happen with Alley. More divisions give competitors choices and flexibility. Her competitive years may seem to have been short, but she did leave an impact among fans.

          Alley Miesch-Nie was a favorite with photographers. She would regularly appear in Women’s Physique World, Gene X,  and USA Muscle Women.  Her impressive upper body and symmetrical body made her photos some of the best. Female bodybuilding rarely gets mainstream publicity  and is some what marginalized in fitness circles. The image she presented was a great representation to the sport. Alley was able to get mainstream exposure when she appeared in the 2004 Serena Yang documentary Eye of the Beholder. This documentary hosted by the CNN journalist examine various cultural concepts of beauty. Alley appeared in one episode describing how the bodybuilding aesthetic appealed to her.

 Along with her other fellow athletes she described her dedicated pursuit for muscular development. Alley explains “that to me muscle is very sexy and curvy. “Women have found out that weight training does transform their bodies into a new paradigm of beauty . It is not entirely accepted, but beauty standards change depending on the time period and culture. Women in bodybuilding still seek to have the hour glass shape. Narrow waists developed lower bodies. The difference is the upper body is developed as much as the lower which exaggerates the two parts of it. Alley described the concept wonderfully to  Serena Yang. Usually documentaries are not fair to the female athlete, but this one was more balanced in seeking understanding.


Alley today, still doing what she loves best. 

Alley has been on quite the journey through athletics. As a personal trainer she a gain a highly regarded reputation. She has 15 years experience in fitness. According to her her profile of Renaissance Sports Club ”  Alley is a Certified Personal Trainer and a Pre/Post Natal Specialist through NASM. She is a former Miss Natural World Bodybuilding Champion, top-level NPC Bodybuilding Champion, and a former MPVA and AVP Pro Beach and collegiate volleyball player.” It reveals her level of experience further saying :”Alley has a diverse fitness background that has enabled her to specialize in overall body sculpting and sport-specific strength training.” Alley will hopefully train a new generation of athletes and get women in particular interested in fitness.



Alley Miesch Nie

Herculean dimorphism

Herculean Dimorphism

This is a written blog post from Family Inequality  blog. The author attempts to make the argument that Disney and it films are selling what he calls extreme sex dimorphism. The result of this is the subtle reinforcement of gender stereotypes and sexism. This claim  does not seem like such a radical notion, but there are some elements of the argument that lack cogency. A sociologist by profession, it would help the writer to understand the process of character design and cartooning. Understanding what equality means can also contribute to the discussion. Men and women are both biologically different. Sameness feminism wants to reject this. It is subtly suggested here in the article. If the author solely focuses on Disney, then he he missing a whole world of different animated genres. If we are to label Hercules as promoting a subtle message of gender stereotypes, then we should say the author masks a concept of  Western cultural superiority. There is no mention of other countries that produce animation that gives body type diversity to it characters. There are rare occasions that female characters in animated form exhibit the muscular body type. Could this still be considered Herculean dimorphism? It would have to be classified as something else entirely. While it is critical to deconstruct our culture and question it, it should not be distorted. When examining popular entertainment in an academic context it is important not to be selective in analysis it view it from multiple perspectives.

            It would be a complete fallacy to say there is no subtle message in the character design of Hercules.  We have the appearance of a muscular man and a thin woman. The problem is Meg is so thin to an unhealthy level. The author does an excellent job citing past art works that either depict Hercules as thinner or moderately in shape. The message that one extrapolates is that men are strong and women are weak. This idea seems to be conveyed in a children’s cartoon which may negatively influence their attitudes toward the opposite sex. Women who are in Disney films are usually the damsels in distress in need of a hero to save them. The damsel in distress   has  been a longtime stock character in popular entertainment and has been criticized for its sexist overtones. Hercules our protagonist in the film must defeat Hades and his monsters from taking over Olympus. Meg’s soul is taken and Hercules must come to her rescue. She is clever and appears to be capable, but at this moment it seems those qualities  vanish. Even a capable woman it seems to be suggesting needs male assistance. This not only plays into sexist convictions and stereotypes it is a formula that has been used ad nauseum. However, Mulan  which the author did not mention broke this mold. Mulan is not a princess or of high royalty. The film showed her as a capable fighter  and she saves China from the Mongols.


Her character design is not abnormally thin. Not only that she is given a developed character and personality. This was refreshing in 1998 when it was released, because women characters were never given much development. Mulan goes from lacking confidence to a determined individual. What she be noted is her male side kicks had various body types. They were either thin, fat, or short, but they still were helpful to her. She defeats her enemy and gets the man. This is a role reversal from the old story line is a positive change in direction.

The male antagonists do not fit the model of Herculean dimorphism. The author made the mistake of saying a majority of  Disney films follow this.

 It is puzzling why the author does not mention this film. It gives the audience a non-white  and female protagonist, which is revolutionary in a way. Then again we have to understand films in the time period in which they were made. The older Disney films were produced during a time when women in America faced legal and political discrimination. The representation of women characters reflects the attitudes of creators during that period.  Racist and sexist depictions in entertainment  were prevalent, because it was accepted during the time. These negative beliefs still appear and are directed a various groups. Hercules  may do this in a less blatant manner, but that does not mean body image conformity is not there.

            The writer ignores that animation and cartooning includes exaggeration in terms of character design. The heart of the profession is to bring a series of drawings, clay, or CGI images appear to be real. Disney’s Hercules character design is partly influenced by ancient Greek art and modern day cartooning. The hero figure body type is the paradigm that is seen for males in action related genres in comics, film, and television.


The strong man physique appears in the ancient world, Italian Renaissance,  and modern day media. Michelangelo’s David  a famous Italian Renaissance sculpture  emphasizes this aesthetic. This originated from Greek civilization’s love of the Olympic Games. The muscular body was idolized and athletes competed nude. Women who were depicted in art were more soft and voluptuous compared to male representations. This paradigm of that strong male physique has been around longer than previously thought. Animation is also an art which borrows from similar traditions. Although scholars have recently began to take it seriously, it varies in styles. Making a character recognizable through a design style is the most important element of bringing these combinations of drawings, paint, and ink to life. The point is a cartoon is not meant to be an exact imitation of life or real objects. There are that present a style that has realistically drawn human beings, but still take liberties with other aspects.  This means creators can exaggerate many features. To be honest Hercules has overly large muscles for comedic purposes. When Phil accompanies him on his hero quests he is clumsy and rather uncoordinated. The first half of the movie he does not have muscles as large, but still is performing super human feats of strength. The humor comes from the fact the audience assumes he would not be able t do that because he is thin. Eventually, Hercules looks more like our cultural idea of a demi-God  yet still is maladroit. His failure at defeating the centaur holding Meg hostage with his sword, leads him to just run fast knocking him out with his head. We would assume that the muscular Hercules would he so athletically skilled. The contrast between powerful body and klutz works for the comedy dynamic. Therefore the large muscles are adding to the unique quirk of the character. The author makes a counter argument with another post Can Boys and Girls Be the Same Size?  He refuses to acknowledge there has been a long tradition in animation and cartooning that features are not meant to be realistic. It’s the reason why some characters have four fingers or enormous eyes.  Tex Avery once said “in a cartoon you can do anything.” Animators and cartoonists continue to push these boundaries as artists. The author does use other non-Disney animated subjects ( Kiki’s Delivery Service), but does not go further. If  he truly wanted to prove Herculean dimorphism is being imposed he would take into consideration of examples that challenge it.

       There have been female characters with body types that do not follow the thin model. There appearance has few in number in animated media, but do appear. Focusing on Disney sole limits and ignores other peoples contributions to animation. Anime has become a global phenomenon and has exposed the world to aspect of Japanese culture. Relevant to the subject muscular women are depicted more so in certain series. The portrayals can either be positive or at best neutral. American portrayals can either be negative or at occasionally positive. Characters may either be the object of a gender based joke or seen as a hero. Then there are times stereotypical  masculine characteristics are placed on them ( aggressive, rude, dominating, or pugnacious generally considered “macho” archetype ).

Reiko Ando
Rekio Ando  from Outlaw Star (1998)
Jormungand - 09 - Large 07
Valmet from Jomungand (2012)
Mikasa  from Attack on Titan (2013-present)

The women characters of this type in popular media fall into certain tropes. The first is known as amazonian beauty. This characters muscularity is no seen as a negative attribute , but a positive quality . This seems to contradict the author’s thesis that Herculean dimorphism  is very much pervasive. It is not strange to see women of a stronger looking build appear in animated entertainment. It may reflect at some level acceptance of different looking women, or at the very least some acknowledgement. Muscular women have existed before sports, but now more are competing at a professional level. Whether its Serena Williams or Ronda Rousey  the muscular body type on women is becoming more visible. Women superheroes in comics do appear with muscular physiques that almost appear as one would perceive as God-like.  Characters such as Wonder Woman or She-Hulk  may even rival the measurements of Disney Hercules.



Even though there is a trope that presents strong women in a positive light, there are less than favorable ones. The brawn hilda trope features a woman who is strong, “mannish,” and usually has a thick accent (Russian, German, or of the Scandinavian region). This has it roots in some bias against particular countries. This image appears more often in American entertainment for a reason. During World War II America was at war with Germany and propaganda presented its people in a negative light. Most of the time it was criticism at the Nazi Party, but many could not separate German from Nazi. After the war the US made Russia an enemy. Villains were at one time portrayed as “evil Russians” or “evil Germans.”  Popular entertainment many times reflects the paranoia or biases of society. So the brawn hilda trope is not only biased against women who do not fit in to traditional femininity, but people from countries once viewed as undesirable. It could also be said that it may have basis in homophobia. Women who appeared to be strong or athletic were in the past disparaged as being lesbian. It was a way of bullying people of different sexual orientations, while preventing women from enjoying sport. However, it seems that there are more amazonian beauty tropes that have appeared and continue to this day.

The Legend of Korra (2012-2014) is should be noted because its female protagonist is given an athletic body type.
Black Cat from Spider Man (1994-1998) not only shows a powerful physique, but was a skilled fighter.
Jasper fights Garnet  in  Steven Universe (2013- present). This show features women of a variety of body types, most importantly as protagonists and antagonists.
One shot characters from Beverly Hills Teens (1987)  shown in a short lived Saturday morning cartoon.  The interesting thing here is it depicts women doing a sport at the time that was not generally acceptable for women at the time. Female bodybuilding as we know it had only emerged in the 1970s.


His sole argument is based on Disney films, but if you look at a wide variety it makes the evidence seem almost cherry picked. This may not be the case with the article can be misinterpreted that way. Looking at the selected images you can see that styles differ. The most unique ones will be remembered. If the character can be identified by silhouette it can be recognizable. Having a character with  distorted body or exaggerated body is more so an aesthetic design choice rather than a larger conspiracy of sexist overtones.Saying this may be jumping to conclusions. It could be argued that the writers refusal to examine animation from other nations could be projecting cultural supremacist beliefs. Animation from other countries may vary in their design choices. He mentions only a few anime films but gives them less analysis. It would be unfair to say the author favors a Western cultural hegemony in terms of recognition. Yet, it is something that needs to be researched more to give the thesis more credibility. This does not mean its not there. Disney films just have found a design choice which suits their aesthetic preference. The best animators are able to utilize a myriad of designs in  cartoon character creation. The more different the character looks the more attention it will get.  Animation allows for such creative license.

            The author makes a great point in posing the question why did sexual dimorphism become more pronounced in modern animation as compared to older artworks? He asked the right question but did not get the full answer. Body image conformity a recent phenomenon is the product hyper-consumerism and commercialization. It demands that women and men look a certain way. This is obviously not possible considering men and women vary in body type. The ideal body for men is a muscular one, while women should seek to be as thin as possible. These ideal are deliberately unattainable for the sake of profit motive. The fitness industry promotes this through the sale of magazines and exercise equipment. There are either commercials telling women to lose weight or men to bulk up. It feeds on people’s insecurity about their appearance. A balanced approach is to focus on improving health rather than the goal of changing one’s appearance. This also explains the the increased popularity of plastic surgery. The author may not be entirely informed of this development,  but reaches another conclusion. This is particularly damaging, because it can cause issues such as anorexia or bulima. Men may develop muscle dysmorphia. If a child sees images or media it effects their mindset throughout life . These psychological conditions have roots in early exposure to body image conformity ideals. While these conditions are an extreme case, it also poses another problem. It teaches closed minded behavior. Women who do not fit into body image conformity are normally ridiculed or repudiated.


Muscular women get the most ostracism in this regard. Body image conformity makes it so the people will be unable to accept anyone who looks different. Hercules    and other Disney films are not immune from this. What disturbs people is that it challenges the woman is weak paradigm and traditional beliefs about femininity. Men  and women also object to it due to the fact its something they are not used to. Although their has been a gradual push toward acceptance, there is also opposition to change. Children raised on what the author refers to as extreme sexual dimorphism will be less likely to being open to various body types. The author understands that Disney is selling a product, but extreme sexual dimorphism  is not the main goal. They are specifically selling a film which if successful will produce profit from ticket sales, home releases, and merchandise. Extreme sexual dimorphism  is sold on magazines, exercise videos, and every weight loss supplement or program. A better example would be to examine the fitness industry. The more precise term would be body image conformity. Consider this in the first act of Hercules  : Why would he have to build more muscle if he was strong in the first place? If he already had super human strength and demi-God like powers it really would not add much to his combat skills.

If you remember the training montage from the film you can see that thin Hercules is not any less strong. He pulls up a tree from the roots, lifts an arm of a statute, and various debris. The only reason to change the design of the character was to subtlety suggest body image conformity. The creators of the content probably assumed that the audience would not have found it believable a thin person could do strength feats. It’s a cartoon so anything can happen. Here body image conformity is suggested because creators probably believed the Hercules character should “look the part.” It could be a possibility that creators do not realize they are engaging in a form of body image conformity. It has such an impression on people during their younger years, they may not be conscious of it.

            The text needs to realize that sexual dimorphism is a biological reality and understanding that does not mean the sexes are unequal. Merely pointing this out does not make you a sexist. Ascribing certain abilities or traits to entire groups does. Sameness feminism has been misguided in the concept that if men and women are the same then they will be completely equal.  These statements support this idea : “the idea that male and female humans aren’t just different, they’re opposites. ” The author continues “If men and women are too similar, then we wouldn’t need them to be paired up in order to have complete families or sexual relationships.” He also mentions this as a rationale for such behaviors : ” This contributes to the idea that Mark Regnerus defends as the “vision of complementarity” — the insistence that children need a male and female parent — which drives opposition to same-sex marriage.” This statement seems out of place when merely discussing a Hercules movie. One should then wonder why same-sex relationships are not  present in children’s animated subjects, but heterosexual ones are. This is homophobia and heterosexism. People just assume everyone is heterosexual. Yet this does not seem to be the result of men women being “too similar.” To say that men and women being similar would lead to the break down of family is erroneous. Marriage through out history was a property arrangement. Women were in the past considered property and had very few legal or political rights. Arranged marriage was common and done for the sake of love. The concept of marrying for love is relatively new. If it were true that if men and women became too similar and marriage would collapsed it would have happened already.  People are still having families and sexual relationships causing a global population explosion. Controlling societies did not come with the family structure, but with the rise of police, military force, and modern nation-states. It was the threat of violence  and repression that kept people in line. Fear for what might happen to your family by the state could make individuals less willing to resist oppression. Women and men are serving similar functions ( depending on which country you live ). Both are expected to work, share in household duties, and maintain ( or try) an equal relationship. Sociological and cultural changes have eliminated some differences, but biology cannot be ignored. Sexual dimorphism means that men and women have different attributes. So, that in terms of being opposites means the existence of primary and secondary sex characteristics. Then one must consider insexed, transgender, and transsexual people who do not it into exact binary gender categories. The fact is difference does not imply inferiority. The author notes that extreme sex dimorphism is absent in child cartoon characters using that to buttress his thesis.  It should be noted that boys and girls do not have pronounced sexual dimorphism until puberty.


He uses Charlie Brown and Lucy Van Pelt(read here:Can animated boys and girls be (almost) the same size?) as an example of a more rational depiction. Then uses other animal characters ( funny animals to describe this type of character in animation). Sexual dimorphism is not a social construct, but present through out the animal kingdom. This is the result of natural selection, sex selection, and the on going process of biological evolution. Primates show sexual dimorphism which humanity is a part of. Gorillas have more of it due to how they select mates. A species with larger males meant they had to fight one another for mates. Females would not have to fight anyone, but select the victor among the challengers. This would mean certain genes would be passed on to other generations. Male gorillas usually have a harem of females, which contain its off spring. Here competition is harder for mates so males have to fight to pass on their genes. Gibbons the level of sexual dimorphism is low because their mating strategy is to be promiscuous as possible. Males do not have to fight as much or become reliant on the practice to spread there genes. The sex differences in modern homo sapiens is due to the primate characteristics of the genus homo. The case for our cartoon children is that they have not reach puberty in which testosterone and estrogen influences the body. This means endocrinological changes will influence the brain, skeletal, muscle, tendon, and ligament structure. Men will on average will be stronger and taller than women. Although it is common, it does not mean a woman cannot be strong or acquire strength. Sexual dimorphism can vary in many degrees.

Basic sexual dimorphism  average features include men being taller, stronger, and having higher total muscle mass. Women have a wider pelvis and higher body fat ratio.
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Here you can see a man and a woman who developed their strength to the maximum. There still is sexual dimorphism even though their muscles are enormous. The man has a larger upper  body and the woman has more of a figure eight shaped body.

Every man is not stronger than every woman. The appearance and body type of individuals is influenced by both genetics and environment. Height can be influenced by nutrition and inheritance. A child who gets less food may not grow as tall as one that is food secure. Men have the genetic potential to be taller, but that does not mean women cannot be tall. Just like with strength men have more potential due to hormones. Yet, this does not mean women cannot have a mesomorphic body type or gain strength through a physical fitness regimen. It means it will be more challenging to gain it.

   A woman who works out can definitely be stronger than a man who does not. Considering the billions of people on Earth there are numerous body types that men and women have. Sexual dimorphism is still visible, but can vary. So why such the objection to extreme sex dimorphism in cartoons if we know it is not a deliberate representation of reality? Body image conformity seems to be cogent reason. Gender role and sex stereotypes are also reasonable foundations for criticism. Cartoons have taken various liberties altering features and bodies. The goal is not to produce sameness by a library of unique designs and styles. Rare occasions involve animators playing around with both secondary and primary sex characteristics. A trope can be seen in animated subjects in which there are tertiary sex characteristics. This is not a part of biology, but something that developed out of the funny animal genre. Female animal animated characters will either appear in bows, skirts,  or necklaces ( Minne Mouse or Daisy Duck). This is a function of cultural ideas of gender, rather than biological sex. There would no reason rally for this because the audience already knows what their sex is. It is added in part due to choices in character design and subconscious gender categories. Choices in design are under the animator or supervising animator’s control.

This is Alex from Totally Spies (2001-2014). Here you can see the typical extreme dimorphism  between Alex and her love interest Raymond, but later in the episode ( “Incredible Bulk”)  this changes.
The sexual dimorphism went from extreme to less pronounced. Here you can see Alex is still shorter, but not as much as before. Her strength is probably equal if not greater to Raymond. Her body still has wider hip ratio and narrow shoulders.  This version of sexual dimorphism is more flexible.

 Animators do challenge from time to time the standard thin model. Disney rarely does it. It would not be fair to say that Herculean dimorphism is present throughout all animation . To also state that it leads people to assume women cannot do certain jobs seems rather simplistic.  The last thoughts of the written are articulated as follows:

 “In the more mundane aspects of relationships — attraction and mate selection — this thinking helps set up the ideal in which women should be smaller than men, the result of which is pairing couples by man-taller-woman-shorter much more than would occur by chance (I reported on this here, but you also could have read about it from 538’s Mona Chalabi 19 months later). The prevalence of such pairs increases the odds that any given couple we (or our children) observe or interact with will include a man who is taller and stronger than his partner. This is also behind some notions that men and women should work in different —and unequal — occupations. And so on.”

The reason that people hold on to misogynist beliefs is based in traditional culture. The cult of domesticity was the idea woman best served society by maintaining the household and serving her husband. Secondly, women  were kept out of certain professions by law simply because men did not want to compete for jobs with them. Protectionism was the legal term and concept used to bar women from certain professions. They were too “fragile ” or “child like” for “man’s work.” Religion was also used to keep women in a subordinate position in traditional culture. These ideas are incompatible with modernity, which puts emphasis on progress and human advancement. Besides sociological reasons for women not having a large presence in professions, it also involves biology. Women may continue to be  small in numbers in occupations that require high levels of physical strength. Military, police, firefighting, and construction would have more men in these positions, because the physical fitness tests would be easier to pass due to higher strength. One should not assume that no woman could pass the physical requirements if they really wanted a job. It cannot be ignore institutional discrimination and prejudice still holds women back in these professions. It was not until 2013 did the ban on women serving in combat roles and jobs was lifted. One should ask if the US military was certain all women would fail in these roles why have the ban in the first place? It is clear that it masks protectionism by a legal stand point. Societies did not become patriarchal because men had greater strength, it was due to the rise of property. Who ever controlled land in certain states could vote, hold office or a government position , and run for office . Women who did own property independently would be legally forced to had it over to her husband when she married. Having the law work against you and virtually limited or no personal wealth put women in a vulnerable position. Sexual dimorphism is not the culprit it is disregard for the rule of law and equal rights.

             The appearance of the muscular female character challenges the extreme sexual dimorphism thesis. They would not fit into that category because of their sex and flexible sexual dimorphism. As revealed earlier, some attributes of sexual dimorphism can have overlap. A new term would have to be developed to describe this. Amazonian dimorphism  differs from the Herculean dimorphism. It seems to want to show the muscular female in a more positive and heroic light. They can appear across genres. Again, it still is not as prevalent, but as some visibility in mass entertainment. The female hero seems to be getting as much notoriety as the male hero. Persistently the appearance of the extreme dimorphic concept is present in Disney films and makes appearance in others.

This buzzfeed article (If Disney Princesses Were Proportioned Like Disney Princes)points out how proportions for male and female characters in Disney films are bizarre if examined by neck, chest, and wrist size.
Would audiences have reacted negatively if Mulan was made to be stronger looking? It’s not entirely certain.

Amazonian dimorphism also poses a problem even if it is an alternative image. Would it just impose another unrealistic body image standard? This is the criticism that is usually directed at the “strong is the new skinny” zeitgeist. Replacing one unrealistic standard would not be considered very progressive. The true goal is to expose a variety in body variation of characters. They could be short, fat, tall,  thin, average, or athletic. The best animators and character designers can make anything look great and making it be notable. Amazonian dimorphism seems to occupy a uncharted space as far as animation is concerned. It could be easily eliminated like Achilles slaying Penthesilea. Herculean dimorphism may not be the result of completely vicious misogyny; it could be that more men are producing animation. Men may continue to produce this image of over exaggerated muscle man, because they think it is what people want to see. No input from women their perspective seems narrowed. The solution would be to get more women involved in the animation industry and start companies of their own. When this happens it solve some of the problems. Animators should be able and open to new and bold designs in their characters. This may mean pushing boundaries. The author makes a mistake of saying “normal sexual difference” in one his writings in regards to character design, when discussing The Simpsons . Normal is in many regards relative, but The Simpsons  is far from what we would refer to as normal. He states ”   Marge and Homer Simpson, the most durable couple in animation history, have very similar features: heads, eyes, noses, ears. His arms are fatter and neither of them really have wrists, but I’d put this in the category of normal sex difference.” There is still sexual dimorphism in the design, but The Simpsons takes liberties at times in its depiction. Marge and Homer are close in height, Homer is obviously bigger ( in waist and weight wise). During the course of the show characters body types go through various changes for a single episode ( “king Sized Homer” and “Strong Arms of the Ma”). The 300th episode which saw Marge transform into bodybuilder the design took these creative turns in projection. Marge still maintains the traditional figure eight body women have, but her upper body is larger due to weight training and drugs she took in the episode. Flexibility in sexual dimorphism is done here which makes that example seem misplaced in the post (considering Homer and Marge are adults and the topic was sexual dimorphism among children).

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Characters both male and female can be made to be outrageous, outlandish or plain in appearance given a particular creative direction or premise. Stretching  the limits of what is possible is what animation is about  . Few can understand this; animators have this sense intuitively. Herculean dimorphism is the product of making a strange and unique character in a film. The extreme sex dimorphism may also be for comedic effect. The stranger the appearance of the character also works for facetious  effects ( Chief Wiggum resembles a pig which is a metaphor for how people feel about police ). There is settle body image conformity in Hercules  and saying so does not mean you are a hyper politically correct censorship advocate. Deconstruction always people to decipher the entertainment they consume. There are people who are not interested in academic investigation of particular issues or solutions, but merely act as moral crusaders. Like religious fundamentalist they blame some person or entertainment for society’s ills. Popular  mainstream entertainment to subcultural nerd culture  has from time to time been a target .    Anita Sarkeesian’s campaign against video games to christian fundamentalists trying to ban Dungeons and Dragons are just a few a numerous attacks on entertainment. Hopefully, the author does not fall into this mode of thought in regards to Disney films. Identifying a problem is pivotal and having solutions to it is just as important. Animators need to be more accepting of various body types in their designs. Women and men must change the way they think about standards of beauty. Women need to get more involved in the creative, financial  and management elements of  the animation industry. Only then can body image conformity be challenged  in animated works.











Herculean dimorphism