Cheerleader Anna Watson: Dark Side of Female Muscle Worship Fantasies

Cheerleader Anna Watson: Dark Side of Female Muscle Worship Fantasies

This article written by Ewan Palmer for the International Business Times is an example of media sensationalism and subtle moral panic. Anna Watson was a cheerleader and student at the University of Georgia  who received media attention for having an impressively muscular physique. The media called her “the strongest cheerleader in America.” While there was some positive publicity, there were also detractors who were more vociferous. The media often casts activities or groups it has limited understanding of  as either deviant, freakish, or unnatural. Prejudice and conformist attitudes are enforced through a medium that should inform the  public. The subject of women and physical strength becomes a controversial subject.  There still are many people who have a problem with women having muscular physiques. Female muscle and its subculture is something that can easily be misunderstood. Palmer’s article gives the mainstream audience only one section of a larger subculture. Followers and the culture that has emerged are regulated to a “dark side.” The fact that it is referred to that demonstrates the degree of closed minded convictions prevalent in society. Anything that does not conform to the mainstream standard is designated abhorrent. Female muscle fandom is far from being deviant. Palmer admits ”  the idea that some men may find this woman sexually attractive may not be the most unusual concept, especially when you consider some of the darker and grotesque sexual fetishes.”  This however is still presented as abnormal. Female worship fantasies are not unusual; they are another form of sexual expression. The fandom is a larger community than one might think and it goes beyond mere imagined fetish.

           The fandom the exists in this community can be divided into several categories. Schomes who love the most muscular women, fans who are dedicated to the sport, and the person who like the look of muscle on women. There are factions that have different perspectives on aesthetics. The casual female muscle fan may prefer a woman who does not have immense size, but a small amount of shape. Other may like a in between a figure or physique athlete size. The schmoes like the largest women, but this does not mean they would disapprove of women of other muscular levels. Palmer’s analysis does not include this classification within the community. If there is to be a description of the subculture one has to describe the community. Athletes would have to be included in this analysis. Women are not just passive objects in this subculture; they built it. The sport of female bodybuilding emerged in the 1970s and by the 1980s was gaining mainstream exposure. Female muscle fans emerged along with the growing female bodybuilding subculture. Women’s impressive athletic performance in the sport attracted fans and notoriety. Rachel Mclish, Corey Everson, Lenda Murray, Kim Chizevsky, and Iris Kyle became some of the best bodybuilders winning the famed Ms.Olympia titles.

Women changed the fitness culture in a radical way. They demonstrated that women can be strong and that weightlifting as well as muscular development was in their physical capability. Being strong was not longer considered gender inappropriate.  Athletes who were in the industry realized that they had to have some business skills to compete and support themselves. There have been recent setbacks for the bodybuilding category. However, the idea of the muscular woman has spread. It was first promoted by these athletes in small circles and now it has reached the mainstream. Women are becoming more interested in weightlifting and crossfit either for recreation or professional competition. Even though the number of traditional bodybuilding competitions has decreased in number the other categories of fitness, figure, bikini, and physique have emerged. This probably is the best time to be a female muscle fan. This is not happening only in the United States, but in other nations. The women involved in the sport are driven by the desire to succeed and the confidence it gives them. The athlete’s time is spent training and having periods of recovery. Besides that it could involve business activities with supplement companies or their own enterprises. The community is close between fans and athletes seeing as the sport is small. There exists a symbiotic relationship between the factions of fans and the athletes.

           The clinical terms that the author does use to describe female muscle fans properly is cratolagnia and   sthenolagnia. These terms describe arousal from the muscles or demonstrations of strength. This does not mean that every female muscle fan has this fetish. Arousal may come for other reason and they could simply just be fans of the female bodybuilding sport. It just seems more likely that men with cratolagnia and stenolagnia would gravitate to the culture.

Being a fetishist and a fan are two different things. It is possible to be both. This culture and fandom of female strength has many branches. Liking the muscular body type could just be another preference.It is rare that someone claims that a person has a thin woman fetish. There are different ways people display their sexual expression. Sexual fetishes are a part of this. The problem is society has a distorted view about human sexuality. Either there is an obsession projected through various media including film and television or the extreme puritan conservatism of the past. Sexuality and the urges that are associated with it are a part of life. The unusual aspect about it is that people are afraid to discuss or explore such topics. There still remains debate on whether or not to teach sex education in public schools.  Sexology are attempting to educate people about this part of human nature. Muscle worship certainly would not be classified as a mental disorder, but in the article it implies it. This is nothing more than a part of bigger culture.

       The article fails to mention the a large part of female muscle fandom is mixed and session  wrestling. Relevant to athletes session wrestling provides funding opportunities for their endeavors. Female bodybuilders wrestle men for a certain fee sometimes costing up to $500 or more for one hour. It is bizarre that the article does not mention session wrestling as part of the female muscle fandom. There is a difference between mixed and session wrestling. Session wrestling refers to a wrestler or bodybuilder providing a wrestling event for a fee. Mixed wrestling refers to a wrestling match between a man and a woman. There are clubs and leagues that women and men are a part of in which they gather to wrestle. Mixed wrestlers or session wrestlers are not always bodybuilders, but the origins of these activities is rooted in the subculture. Mixed wrestling predates session wrestling, but wrestling mostly became part of the culture due to Kay Baxter and Bill Wick. Wick,  former wrestler himself   would film tapes with Kay his wife wrestling one another. He then got Kay to wrestle other men and started selling videos than other companies emerged. The rise of the internet also saw the expansion of mixed wrestling to a wider and global audience. Some athletes may devote most of their time to doing sessions, because the amount of pay is better than winning a contest.

The motivation for women is part finance and business related. Yet, that is not the complete story. Women also get a thrill from this. There is a level of enjoyment and fun they may get from physically dominating men in a way.  There is to an extent role reversal in which women take charge. Men according to a patriarchal society are suppose to be the strong ones, but this has changed to an extent. Women are more involved in politics, science, and finance so it would only make sense the next step would be to enter the sports world.  Women who have weight trained and built muscle have often stated that it has been an empowering experience. They gain a new sense of self and confidence which they translate into other areas of life. To an extent they define their own paradigm of beauty. The reason why women do mixed or session wrestling is that it gives them a sense of power normally deprived of them in their daily lives. There could another reason for this activity that is more simple. It could just be frivolous fun for both men and women. The act of simple play is something that is left behind in childhood. Here in such an environment adults can play around like children again. Work or family responsibilities can be forgotten for a brief period. Mixed wrestling has been mentioned in the mainstream and it may have more devotees than previously thought.

         Another important element of female muscle fandom is photography. Pictures and photographs are an essential part of the female muscle fandom. Fans love to collect photo sets of their favorite athletes. Photographers who may struggle to sell their photos have an supportive market with this base. Pictures can range from contests shots, candid photos, or other environments. This is more of the artistic aspect of the female muscle fandom. While dedicated collectors like the professional photographs rare images are also sought after. Other times fans will take clippings from magazines.

While photographs can vary, there are some common themes. Standard poses are common such as front double biceps, lat spreads, or side chest. Sometimes these photographs have women posing in a manner that would be seen in magazines appealing to a male gaze. The majority consumers of such materials will be men, which explains the sometimes suggestive nature of photographs. Nude photographs can either be artistically presented or more lascivious in nature.

There is also photographs that focus on specific areas of the body. It could either be the biceps, glutes, or legs. Themes that are recurring are either women in sport, doing some job, or a depiction of strength feats.The themes that are most common are women posing as cops, construction workers, boxing, or lifting weights in the gym. Lifting weights photographs make more sense compared to the other themes in photographs. Sometimes there are also women who are posing as a nurse, which is an overused theme in magazines of a certain caliber.

Fans join websites to pay for photo sets of their favorite athletes and competitors. This is not as the author says ” the timid world of female bodybuilding.” This a much larger following. There would be no questions raised at all if these photographs contained pictures of women one sees in regular magazines. The common misconception is that female muscle fans would reject women of different body types. This is not true, there tastes could be very diverse.

Photography is an art form and when athletes are presented in a such a medium fans have more respect for it. There also is an growing industry of fitness modeling. Athletic apparel companies want to market to a female demographic  and they want women who look the part.Some athletes start their own business producing clothing for other athletes. Collectors of photographs are similar to how fans of baseball would collect cards. The difference now is that this process is digital based. The traditional print magazine is in decline and the internet shall be the wave of the future. Female muscle fans will not have to go buy a magazine to see photos. There is now an instant access to photographs, that allows collectors to gain more.

        Female muscle growth is a large part of  female muscle fandom. Ewan Palmer makes it seem as if its the only dimension. It should be clarified what are the specific denotations. There is a female bodybuilding subculture which revolves around sports activities. The female muscle fandom is a subculture in which female bodybuilding falls under but is broader in the regard that it celebrates all women who are strong or muscular. Palmer states :  “Female Muscle Growth (FMG) goes outside the usual attraction of female bodybuilders and extends into a sexual fetish involving fantasy woman with obscene and unnaturally sized muscles.” What one considers obscene or unnatural is relative. While this is the fetish element, it is an artistic expression. Stories and artwork feature muscular women, but may not always be female muscle growth. Some artwork either is fan art depicting female cartoon characters as muscular or original characters produced by the artists. Art can be controversial, extreme, or imaginative and that is what makes it great. It seems that the muscular female body also threatens people on paper and canvasses as well.

The writing and stories also can very, but normally follow a simple formula. A woman who is either abnormally weak either gains physical strength by magical or scientific means and proceeds to use it in a forceful way. The woman can either be a protagonist or antagonist. A majority of the time women are the protagonists. The artwork can be paintings, drawings, computer generated images, or mixed media. The most popular format for FMG is comic based art. This subculture is very audiovisual based. Renditions can range from a realistic portraiture to cartoon like. The comics that are made by FMG artists could either be action based or comedic. Palmer is correct that “far removed from the mainstream – you will not be able to find these works of fiction in any local library or bookstore.” Such artistic renditions or writings were never meant to be mainstream. The mainstream sometimes adopts elements of a subculture then popularizes it for a wider audience. Some subcultures are just too small to be taken to the mainstream. It is highly unlikely that FMG will go mainstream, because it may appear to be too strange for a conformist public. Most female muscle fans my not want it to go mainstream simply because when a subculture does this it loses something. That close community evaporates and is replaced with capitalist hyper-consumerism.

          Videos are a pillar of the material culture of female muscle fandom. Websites offer exclusive content of women posing, doing strength feats, or being interviewed. Fans also collect videos of their favorite athletes as well. This also ties into the mixed wrestling element.  Sites like Scissorvixens and Utopia Entertainment feature videos of muscular women wrestling men. These feature women of various muscular levels. During the golden age of female bodybuilding it was broadcast on television. ESPN or NBC would show contests, but by the late 1990s this was beginning to end. However, the internet and specifically the rise of video streaming gave the muscular woman more exposure. Not only that, to a wider global audience. Fans began sharing videos and becoming more connected to one another across the world.

The female muscle  fandom and subculture seems best suited for the online environment. The types of videos fans like are either ones showing a contest, individual posing videos, or one of a more muscle worship related nature. During the early years of female bodybuilding such videos had to ordered in the back of magazines or bought from another person. Bill Wick mailed the videos he filmed from his house to individual buyers. Now a buyers can make online purchases. Many websites devoted to female muscle also provide news and coverage of contests that is lacking in mainstream fitness publication. There is the challenge of online piracy, but this does not stop people from making the legal purchase of copyrighted material. Hardcore fans pay membership fees to various websites just to add to their personal collections.

Athletes also produce videos of their own on their personal sites. There they can charge fans for exclusive content. Seeing as the mainstream fitness industry has either ignored or abandoned them they are now free to act as their own gatekeepers. Without the middle channel of  corporate gatekeepers athletes can manage their own image and have funds go directly to them. Videos also hold another significance. They are historical documentation of female strength. Many fans want to preserve videos considering women like this are rare. The unique nature of such women is what attracts attention. Videos are also for fun and pure entertainment value. There do exist videos of an erotic nature, but that is not the only content that exists. The female muscle fandom subculture seems to have branches. Palmer makes it seem as if it is only one thing. Subcultures can be more complex even when they appear to be simple. There is a set of activities, language or terminology, both material and non-material culture.

           Female muscle has come to the mainstream. It may not be the actual female muscle fandom, but its presenting its self in different ways. Women athletes in other sports are displaying stronger looking physiques compared to the past. Women are involved in many sports that get television coverage such as weightlifting, professional wrestling, basketball, track and field as well as crossfit. There has also been an impact on women who are not athletes. Some are joining gyms and using weights like their male counterparts.

Although they are not specifically training to get large muscles, they have a degree of noticeable strength and tone from their regimen. The female athlete is here and here to stay. Everyone is not accepting. The traditional notions about gender and what a woman should look like are still present. Body shaming seems to be a modern phenomenon of Western culture obsessed with looks and youth. Women who do not fit a weaker sex stereotype are either designated as unfeminine or unattractive. These feelings are the psychological projections of a misogynist culture that only values women for their looks or how they can be used by men. This also harms men who support women who fit this different paradigm of body image. The fans of female muscle are either depicted by the mainstream as deviants, perverts, or eccentrics. Ostracism is designed to marginalize groups that do not follow the status quo by shunning them from the wider society. Women who challenge sexist stereotypes or cultural mores are often subjected to this treatment. Even societies that consider themselves progressive, the idea of a woman having too much physical or social power creates a level of trepidation or anger. The fact the article refers to elements of the female muscle fandom as a “dark side” only illustrates how narrow minded readers and reporters can be against something that is not part of standard societal convention. It seems it will take more time for society to accept people have different  preferences   and that women have the right to look like however they want. As long as a fantasy does not cause harm to anyone it really is not a problem. Society does have many vicious elements, but female muscle fantasies are not one of them.

Cheerleader Anna Watson: Dark Side of Female Muscle Worship Fantasies

The Female Muscle Fetish : Psychological, Biological, and Social Causes

The female muscle fetish can  be classified as a separate entity.  Although cratolagnia and sthenolagnia are closely related to it, female muscle as a stand alone sexual fetish has become something unique. Sthenolagnia is arousal from displaying strength or muscles. This is mostly about showing the muscles. Cratolagnia is arousal from the display of physical strength. The female muscle fetish encompasses more than that. There is an entire culture that has emerged around it. Wrestling, art, and fictional written stories are part of this subculture. The female muscle fetish by definition is men who love the look of the strong physique on women to varying degrees and idolize it as a great standard of beauty. This does not just include athletes, but any woman with some muscle development.  There has been a movement to accept larger women and the mainstream still up holds the thinner body type as ideal. Yet, this is changing. Different forms of beauty and ideas about women’s bodies are developing. Gradually, there is more acceptance, than in previous generations. The athletic figure on women has more visibility than ever. This is mostly due to television and the internet. Crossfit, bodybuilding, and other sports have allowed men to see highly developed female bodies. There could be psychological, social, and biological reasons why some men have the female muscle fetish.

       Some basic definitions should be understood before examining the female muscle fetish as a whole. Cratolagnia is more about showing one can be strong. Just being muscular does not automatically make a person strong. Big muscles do not always mean more physical strength. A weightlifter who is smaller could lift more than a much larger bodybuilder. The factors are related to body composition and the specific type of muscle fiber, A person with cratolagnia would be more impressed with a woman who is just strong. They may not have as much muscle, it is just the about the act of demonstrating physical power.

If a woman was muscular,but did not have the strength someone with cratolagnia would not be amused. They would not fall under the female muscle fetish category. However, if the muscular woman is very strong, then it is possible such a man can have both cratolagnia and the female muscle fetish. Sthenolagnia puts more emphasis on the muscle its self. It is not so much actually being strong, but looking the part. A woman could perform strength feats, but may not have muscular development that is noticeable. Biceps, abs, glutes, or legs are of importance to the man with the female muscle fetish. This emphasis on particular body parts is not new to concepts of physical attraction. Every man has an idea about what is the most attractive part of a woman. Traditionally, the lower body specifically the posterior has been a major beauty mark. Legs are also an area of interest. The woman who seeks muscular development only enhances these areas to a greater degree. The hourglass shape is almost more exaggerated relative to a higher extent of upper body development.

These two fetishes are related, but are not the same in terms of definition. They have similar connotations in the sense that it favors a woman with a highly developed physicality. Then it should be noted that there is a difference between sexual fetish and paraphilia. Paraphilia  is extreme behavior that sexual arousal can only occur when the action or object is present. It can be distinguished by the fact that the individual becomes obsessed and are dependent. More men are likely to have paraphilia. The causes of these disorders can range from psychoanalytic or  behaviorist  psychological explanations. Psychoanalysts believe it is a person either reverting to an earlier stage in life. The behaviorists claim that it comes from conditioning. This means an individual must have learned an inappropriate behavior at some point in life. Liking muscular women could not count as a paraphilia. A sexual fetish is arousal based around a non-living object or a body part not part of the reproductive system. This is harmless in comparison to extreme paraphilia. However, there is a difference in sexual expression among individuals. This makes it difficult for psychologists and sexologists to classify what constitutes normal sexual behavior. The man with the female muscle fetish may express this through muscle worship or mixed wrestling.

This can not be considered paraphilia either. Although some might mistake it for BDSM. The goal of  mixed wrestling is to see how powerful the woman is and show off muscle. The intent is not entirely pain based or dominance. Mixed wrestling can be competitive, semi-competitive, or fantasy. Fantasy takes the least amount of effort, because it is acting and has elements of role play.  Muscle worship is the fetish behavior, which a man would admire the muscles of  a muscular woman. There is rarely wrestling involved in the behavior. Many fetishes that fall under female muscle overlap. Lift and carry, scissors, and arm wrestling can be part of the female muscle fetish. At times for the sake of clarity an all encompassing term can be used to describe these behaviors. There are stereotypes that have been associated with the female muscle fetish that do not represent reality.The notion that the muscular woman is a powerful dominatrix seems to have emerged in the subculture. Women who do session wrestling are not all involved in dominance.

This is a prejudgment based on the women’s appearance. The assumption is they must be dominating if they are so strong. That notion lacks credibility,due to the fact such an attribute has to do with personality and temperament. A dominatrix would rarely have a physique comparable to a female athlete. Then there also is the image that all men who have the female muscle fetish are schmoes. Men who are schmoes are hardcore fans of female bodybuilding and like the most muscular women. A man with a female muscle fetish would enjoy all ranges of physiques. It is also a myth that this would be the only type of female body that is sexually attractive to  them. Normally, their preference for female physiques varies vastly. Men who love female muscle would still see that there are other types of beauty.They may have more than just one attraction.

There seems to be more of an acceptance of larger women. No one calls this a fetish, yet curves are praised. It is rare that an attraction to thin women is called a fetish. Society is slowly understanding there are multiple forms of beauty and it can vary depending on the culture.



The woman sculpting her physique is essentially building curves. There is bias against women who do  not fit into the mainstream version of beauty. However, people reject the mainstream versions and choose to develop their own paradigms. Considering the female muscle fetish is not widely accepted men with it are either secretive or not as open about it. There may be more men who like muscular women. There has not been a quantitative gathering of data to know just how many do. Understanding the difference in terminology can help clarify the elements of the female muscle fetish.

        There is a psychological reason for why men may have the female muscle fetish. It has been hypothesized that many fetishes start during puberty when boys and girls reach sexual maturity. It is not just the physical body that is growing it is also the mind. Adolescents during this period develop a sense of awareness about sexual impulses and feelings. This also involves youth exploring their bodies. Masturbation is a common expression of sexual impulse that both men and women engage in during adolescence. During this period sexual orientation also develops. There are multiple sexual orientations which include heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and asexuality. It is difficult to get an accurate measure of sexual behavior, due to the fact many are based on anonymous surveys. Many respondents probably would not be truthful, due to the taboo surrounding copulation and human sexuality. There is a change in the mind that occurs with increase in sex hormones. Testosterone and estrogen can effect the mind as well as behavior. Testosterone plays a role in both sexes  in terms of healthy sexual functioning. A man with a female muscle fetish clearly developed a psychological association with that image. Seeing such an image it creates an association of pleasure that could either be conscious or subconscious.

There exists in a person’s mind a sense of psychological sexual motivation. Unlike food or water, sex is not an urgent need for survival. People can live without it and not face the threat of death.  Biological drives such as sex can influence behavior. There are culture specific rules that dictate sexual practices or social rules. Traditionally, in American and Arab cultures homosexuality was  seen as abnormal, while in Polynesian civilization it had acceptance. The rise of the sexual revolution in the United States gave way to more open discussion about human copulation and sexuality. Many times it was either taboo or for some too embarrassing to  discuss. There was also too much misinformation or myths surrounding human sexuality. Sex is not homeostatic, which means that the body will not return to a state of equilibrium after the act. The motive for sex in an animal species is the need to have offspring that will spread particular genes. This functions on sex and natural selection. Social motivations are complex in regards to endocrinology and environment. Marriage, relationships, and courtship are dictated by cultural mores and societal standards. During adolescence men are developing ideas about what type of body they find attractive on a woman. It is obvious this may not be regulated to a few attributes, but many and changes overtime. Sexual arousal is not just a physiological response; it is also a mental one. Psychological research indicates that a fetish can emerge by imprinting and conditioning experiences. Seeing a muscular woman on TV or in real life could induce this process. To an extent it may be a form of classical conditioning. This would mean that the female muscle fetish could be of the realm of behavioral learning . Behavioral learning functions on both stimuli and responses. The muscular woman would be the stimuli and the man’s attraction could be the response. This could be more of a reflex to the stimuli. Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936)  explored the idea of classical conditioning through experimentation with dogs. The dogs were put in a restraining apparatus and presented with neutral stimulus ( tone ). Doing this made form a neutral stimulus became a conditioned stimulus with the sound of the bell. The dogs would salivate when hearing that noise. It is a possibility exposure in youth to strong women can produce the female muscle fetish in a classical conditioning like manner.

Some psychologists have suggested that fetishes come from displacement. This is a term used to describe the process in which individuals shift their reactions to an event to another source. It is possible that the female muscle fetish could be displacement for some event in an individual’s life. This is sometimes the case with extreme paraphilia in which the people with the condition did not get affection or attention in early childhood. They displace their emotions into inanimate objects or other activities. While it could be the case that the female muscle fetish is part displacement, men who have it do not have all tragic childhoods. There is a possibility that a small portion of men have displacement for a loving mother figure. The lack of love or support could cause such fetishes to develop, but this may not count for the majority.

These are the major perspectives in the field of psychology. These are views psychologists take in approach to study and academic investigation.

Behaviorists and Freudians come to major disagreements about the nature of the mind and scientific application. To the behaviorists if  elements of the human mind or function of learning could not be observed it was not scientifically credible. Sigmund Freud (1856- 1939) was a proponent of psychodynamic theory. These concepts and ideas emphasized unconscious motivation and the impact of the past on mental disorders.  The problem is that it is difficult to observe the unconscious mind. What Freud did to peer into the unconscious mind was to utilize psychoanalysis. This system of treatment involved therapeutic methods to unleash hidden conflicts , memories, and urges. Freud developed these theories without the aid of modern neuroscience or brain scans. This explains why some elements of his theories are either challenged or could be discredited, yet there are still adherents in the 21st century.

These are the modern branches of psychology.

Freud may have been correct that people do go through a process of psychosexual development. The oral stage of life involves children be dependent on their parents. This is a stage in Freud’s theory were an infant has no other interest than to eat and cry. The anal stage is a period in which infants start toilet training and learning self control. The phallic stage is a period in which a person becomes aware of their sexual desires. The problem with Freud’s theory is that men experience an Oedipus complex at a certain stage of youth. it does not take into account the differences in female sexual development or he just refused to recognize that women have sexual urges as well. There is a period of latency in which people learn to deal with sexual desires and impulses. The final stage is the genital stage in which sexual relationships have developed and energy is displaced into other activities. A more healthy relationship is then established with the individual’s parents. The problem with this theory is that it does not account for sexual and psychological changes over a lifetime. The Oedipus complex is not a common occurrence and there is limited data to suggest that this a standard part of sexual development in males. Freud may have seen the the female muscle fetish as displacement or  unconscious  Oedipus complex behavior. These are the wrong conclusions due to the fact everyone’s childhood and development as a person differs. That is why modern psychology takes into account culture and ethnic differences. The problem with early psychology is that it believed Western Europeans were the default of humanity.  Cross cultural psychology attempts to reverse this narrow minded view. Freud viewed masturbation and homosexuality as signs as abnormal behavior. These were obvious biases of his time. Modern psychology does not hold those views. The Freud’s theory can only minimally describe the changes that occur from childhood to early adulthood. Relevant to the female muscle fetish it may not be the best theory for description. Women contrary to popular belief, also have urges and are not passive receivers of male advances. For a long period of time women were forced to be as demure as possible about their feelings and sexual urges. It is very possible that women could have fetishes as well. Although men are thought to have more fetishes, it could be women are not as willing to be honest about theirs.

 There could be some women who like the idea they can wrestle a man into submission. This may be arousing to them as well. Too often when session wrestling is investigated it is assumed the woman is just a passive instrument. This is not the case, because it is social interaction between two people. It cans be presumed that women can also have a muscle fetish. They may have this more so than men. Traditionally, it was acceptable for women to admire a strong male physique. Women who engage in physique sports like the idea of muscle on both sexes and regard it as another paradigm of beauty. Psychology when it emerged as a science did not focus much on women. It even had elements of sexism and racism as well as class prejudices of the late 19th to early 20th century. Its association with eugenic and unsubstantiated theories caused the rise of multiple perspectives. The pyschodynamic and behaviorist ideas may explain some causes of the female muscle fetish, but not all.

      Biological and evolutionary psychology could provide some clues to why some men have the female muscle fetish. Biological psychology puts emphasis on the search for the link between behavior and the brain. This perspective utilizes brain scanning equipment and neuroscience. What it seeks to do is understand the mind through brain activity in response to certain events or stimuli. This has contributed much to the understanding of memory, emotion, learning, and what is the basis of mental disorders.  The human brain hold the key to understanding the mind. It is a complex organ responsible for thought, emotions, involuntary motions, and management of the body. The nervous system is an essential network of the human body. Relevant to the discussion of responses the hypothalamus is a major contributor. This gland has the task of regulating behavior which includes sleep, stress response, thirst, and hunger. This gland also is responsible for secreting hormones that influence emotions and arousal. Men with the female muscle fetish if shown an image of such a woman  may have activity aroused in this area of the brain. This fetish along with others could be a biopsychological response.

The hypothalamus is sometimes referred to as the master gland due to its importance to the endocrine system.

Evolutionary psychology believes that behavior came from the tendencies inherited from humanity’s past. There are millions of years of human evolution and with it behaviors that have remained ever since. They do not ignore that environmental forces have an influence, but natural selection still remains a force in the animal kingdom. Certain characteristics may have been favored over others resulting in particular behaviors. Organisms that could acclimate to particular environments were the fittest for survival. This female muscle fetish could be men’s desire to produce strong off spring. The idea of physical strength could be a trait of natural selection acting upon men and women. Sexual cues and sexual scripts could be the product of the evolutionary past acting on present behavior. Genetics evolutionary psychologists believe influence behavior. The goal of any organism is to leave as many offspring as possible. The reproductive strategy for humans in accordance with evolutionary psychology was that males evolved to have more partners, while women were more cautious in mate selection. This may explain why women invest more time in child rearing and men have little investment in it. Sexual motivation differs for the sexes in this perspective. Females only seek mates for status and protection, while males seek women who are the most fertile. This may explain why men may show more interest in sex than women. It may also explain why women think of it terms of both long term and committed relationships. Yet, cultural impacts also influence this. Men could be encouraged to be more promiscuous as a demonstration of masculinity, while women are more restricted. Promiscuity in women has traditionally been seen as negative. Psychology had long debated nature versus nurture, it should be understood that it is a combination of both. Both nature and nurture act in collaboration. The female muscle fetish does have a biological root, but the social as well as environment factors cannot be ignored.

          Environment and socialization are major factors on individual  preferences and biases. The consumption of media has reached new levels with the internet, social media, and other modes of communication. Through media certain images a presented. The image of the strong woman has been presented to many over various forms of pop culture and entertainment. Female athletes have more exposure than in previous generations. There was a period in which finding images of physically strong women would be rare.Now with powerful search engines like Google simply entering the term “muscular woman” or “female athlete” can produce thousands of images. It is obvious that having this level of exposure alters opinions. This socializes consumers to seeing a muscular woman as not an abnormal thing. A paradigm shift has occurred through elements of advertisement. Young are more susceptible to this because they can be easily influenced and the are big consumers of social media content. A young man who runs across such images of strong women and repeatedly looks at them has gradually been socialized to to like it.

There exists separate from mainstream culture many subcultures in societies. This contains material and non-material elements. There has existed a female muscle fandom subculture that developed from  the bodybuilding world. When female bodybuilding emerged as a sport it created a unique culture that involved both fans and athletes. One activity was the rise of both session and mixed wrestling. The female muscle fetish could have been an outgrowth of this subculture. Schmoes are hardcore female bodybuilding fans who sometimes pay to have wrestling sessions with female bodybuilders.Mixed wrestling is different because it just involves men and women wrestling in various venues. Session wrestling has been a method for some athletes to fund their sports endeavors, when the industry pays very little. The lack of sponsorship or endorsement from the fitness industry leaves women with few options. Instead they start their own business in session wrestling in which there is no corporate gatekeeper between them and the consumer. Mixed wrestling itself can be seen as an entertainment genre over the internet. This was pioneered in the late 1970s by Bill Wick and expanded even more with the rise of internet access. Sites like Scissorvixens or Utopia Entertainment videos are just a few that regularly produce videos. This is for the female muscle fan who would rather watch a match than be in one.

This high amount of availability over the internet gives people more exposure to muscular women. Men may stumble upon it and be curious about it. Seeing as information is at one’s fingertips  this only causes a person who wonders to discover more. It is also easier to connect with people who have a similar interest faster. It appears that the attraction has generated a cultural meme through technology. It is possible having exposure to the subculture surrounding female bodybuilding and the much wider fitness culture could cause a female muscle fetish. Exposure and access to certain images and materials has an effect on socialization.

          There has been in a sense a slight cultural paradigm shift. The concept of the strong woman is gaining some acceptance. There passage of Title IX in the US opened the door to new opportunities for women and girls to become involved in sports. It came at a time in which women were gaining political and social power in society in the feminist movement. The female athletes of the ancient past to 20th century faced sigma and ridicule. Strict gender roles and conservative attitudes perceived strong woman as unfeminine. That changed with more open minded attitudes about what a woman can do or be. The physically strong woman image began to appear in the mainstream culture. Women in other sports began to train their bodies with weights. Lifting and building muscle was not seen as the sole domain of men. Such physiques have been seen on television. Women were not afraid to show off powerful looking bodies and some men were not hesitant to show their admiration.

Although there are a number of detractors to women’s involvement, it is not possible to halt their advance. Female muscle has entered the mainstream to some degree through the sports world. They are not doing this to please men, but for their own personal reasons. That does not mean men have not taken notice and others love the development. Women themselves are slowly seeing it is okay to be strong and have muscle. Sometimes a man with a female muscle fetish got media exposure of a developed female body during youth and the image remained in their mind. Entertainment is a refection of the culture at large. There seems to be a celebration of strong women in many variations presented in popular culture. This could range from film, TV, or printed media.  There are even shifts in the fitness culture. The new maxim is “strong is the new skinny.” Toning as some call it, is nothing more than women building some muscle. Fitness is no longer a male only activity and there seems to be a movement toward acceptance.

 Alicia Vikander trains for Tomb Raider

Magazines do feature more female athletes and present a powerful image. While print publications are slowly fading, there is a boom in online publication. Users can get information faster compared to print. This gives the female athlete more exposure. 

Wonder Woman used female athletes as extras to play amazons in the film. Here is crossfit athlete Brooke Ence.

Body image ideals do shift overtime and it is possible another one is occurring. The other possibility is that more people are becoming accepting of different versions of beauty. Certainly exposure helps people understand and get to know that muscular women exist.From this comes some acceptance, for others it is an enthusiastic embrace. The love of the muscular female physique could also originate from other sources. The first place could be from a family environment. If one was raised in a family very dedicated to sports and physical activity the strong woman may be seen as normal. Children who have parents who are athletes may be taught to respect such activities. It is no surprise that some of the biggest schmoes in the female bodybuilding subculture are male athletes themselves. This makes sense in a way, seeing as they are in an environment in which they would be in contact with such women. Seeing as being a champion physique athlete takes much time and effort it would be difficult to start relationships with women who are not involved in the culture. Women who have the same interest may be more compatible to their lifestyle. It is clear there has been a form of cultural evolution that has emerged from fitness culture. Women are gaining political, social, and economic power yet this does not seem unusual. There is the much expected backlash and areas in which more advancement is needed. Control of the body and physical development of the body is the new frontier that women are entering. It is an understudied development .

The representations of the physically strong woman appear in various entertainment media. Comics, cartoons, and video games   present the physically strong woman to large audiences .  Some depictions can be negative or based on stereotypes, but it seems the majority are positive. There are some images that could either be classified as neutral. They neither present a negative or positive image. The impact is that these characters are seen by many children and adults. It is not impossible to believe that these images if circulated could induce the female muscle fetish. Environment, society, and culture play a role as well as biology.

           Biology is the the study of life. Relevant to the discussion of desires, there should be some basic understanding of the nervous system. This organ system is essential to the function of the human body. Neurons are the cells responsible for the foundation of the nervous system. These specialized cells are estimated to be up to 100 billion in the brain alone. They compose a communication network sending information and receiving it to maintain operation of the body. The neuron has basic structures that have certain tasks. The cell body (soma)  contains the nucleus . The nucleus also has genes that provide instructions. Genes are responsible for nervous system formation during the prenatal period. The structures of the neuron are involved in processing information.


The dendrites act as communication links between other neurons. This is where the signal is received. Receptor sites also contribute to the process. Axon terminals then send messages . The action potential or neural impulse is the electrical signal in transit. The myelin sheath acts as an insulator and contributes to the speed of action potentials. The nervous system is the master control system of the human body. If it were to completely shut down, that would be the end of life. neural communication does occur electrically, however it is estimated that 99 % happens chemically. The synapse acts as a connector between axon terminal and receptor site. Neurons do not have a direct connection to one another and the synapse must act as a bridge.

 The nervous system can be divided into two parts. The central nervous system consists of the spinal column and the brain. The spinal column contains bundles of neurons that communicate with the rest of the body. This is known as the spinal cord. The brain is the director of activity. There is a protective structure known as the meninges and cerebrospinal fluid. The skull protects the brain where it is encased. The peripheral nervous system consists of two parts. These include the somatic and autonomic nervous system. This system requires the work of both afferent neurons and efferent neurons. Afferent neurons must send information to the nervous system. The efferent neurons must send information from the nervous system. The subdivision of the somatic system uses afferent neurons to relay signals from sensory receptors in the eyes and ears. they are also collecting information from receptors involved in taste, touch, and smell. This subdivision is also responsible for fine and gross motor activity. It has been theorized that smell plays a role in sexual attraction, mostly the work of pheromones. One type of pheromone known as a releaser which contains    androstenone, androstadienone and androstenol could be active in human beings. There is a science of sexual attraction that is still unknown and being examined. It is more than just culturally or socially based; it is both biological and anatomical.

Structures of the brain can influence behavior and emotional states. The female muscle fetish could be part somatic nervous system based. The autonomic nervous system must play some role as well. This subdivision is responsible for internal regulation of the human body.  This part of the nervous system is also pivotal to arousal and different emotional states. The endocrine system acts in concert with this subdivision system. It is mostly the work of the sympathetic and parasympathetic system activity. The female muscle fetish could be a response to the stimuli of the image of the strong woman. The human brain is complex. It is the product of both millions of years of evolution and genetic information. This may hold the key to explaining why  some people have predilections for certain fetishes.

        The fetish as a general concept remains a mystery. At one time there was a separate classification. Partialism was a term once used to describe arousal from body parts not related to the reproductive organs. The fascination  posterior or legs  for example could fall under this classification. The DSM once separated this from fetishism, because it classified it as something different. Fetishism is no longer part of the DSM.

The man with the female muscle fetish may have a preference for a certain part of a woman’s body. Traditionally, the lower body has been emphasized. Legs and glutes tend to be major favorites. This explains why in many mixed wrestling productions there are nothing but women putting men in scissor holds. The emphasis is to see the power of a woman’s legs. This is the demonstration of partialism. The term has fallen out of use and today fetish is just used to describe a whole range of arousing inducing stimuli. Female muscle fans also have a fascination with other parts of the body. Some like biceps, abs, or a full chest.

The term fetish was coined by French psychologist Alfred Binet. He was also known for developing one of the earliest IQ tests . When he coined this term in the early 20th century There was still much unknown about sexual behavior. It was too controversial to examine academically. When the stigma and taboo were decreased scholars began serious investigation. Fetishes are not a modern day development. Such behaviors could have roots in humankind’s evolutionary history. Some psychologists claim that a fetish can be established as early as four years old. This claim would be difficult to prove as definite scientific fact, but is not impossible. Although fetishes are seen as strange, they are not unhealthy. The only way it could be unhealthy is if it causes harm to the individuals or others. People may have a number of sexual kinks which describe a number of sex practices. According to a study from the University Bolongna the common fetishes are ones related to feet, stockings, boots, or gloves. These were once again based on surveys, so it may not be clear how precise they are. The female muscle fetish may not be as large, but the possibilities are bigger when considering the global population. The term fetish suggest that there some pathological behavior involved. There is not correlation between pathological behavior and fetishes. The appearance of fetishes can be the result of sexual expression.

Each individual has a “turn on” which technically is sexual expression. This is the reason why some couples may engage in role play or other types of activities. There is a ritual in this process. Alfred Kinsey was the pioneer of sexual science who in the 20th century interviewed 17,000 Americans about their sexual behavior. His work was done in the 1940s and 1950s during a period in which sexuality was not openly discussed. The data he collected was an important resource for future scholars. William Masters and Virginia Johnson went beyond surveys and actually examined sex in a laboratory. They observed people engaging in sexual activity of various types from copulation and masturbation. For the first time there was actual documentation how men and women physically and physiological react during sex. They discovered that men and women function on a sexual response cycle. This happens in four stages which includes arousal, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. A fetish would probably fall under the arousal stage in the sexual response cycle. A fetish may just merely be another way people express their sexuality.

      Evolution and genetics must play a role to a degree. Genes are segments of DNA which has a presence in the nucleus of the cell. Genes are important to the process of heredity and sexual reproduction. Genes are also involved in the production of proteins. It is important to understand that there are multiple genes that are responsible for various traits of an organism. Genes are in larger groups known as chromosomes .Genotype does not always link to phenotype. Genes do not always determine physical characteristics. Genes may give potential for what traits a person has ( body type or height ), but environment can influence phenotype ( exercise and nutrition can dramatically change the physical characteristics of the body ). Genes can be capable of polygenic expression. Numerous genes could contribute to particular traits of a person. The study of genetics has reveal much about human evolution. The brain has become more complex with the increase of endocranial volume. The cerebrum became bigger compared to our early primate ancestors. Humanity was given a new power of introspective thought, reasoning, language, and the ability to produce art. The body was not just changing physically; humanity was morphing psychologically.

Genetic mutation, genetic drift, and anatomical changes would lead early homo genus species to change in both phenotype and genotype. 

As the human brain became more developed so did emotions and behaviors. Richard Dawkins an evolutionary biologist describes the way genes spread similar to a computer program. The self gene wants to preserve particular traits and continues to propagate through other organisms. Altruism may not be the product of group benefit, but rather the desire to see certain genes spread through a biome. Genes and phenotype play a role in sex selection. The reason men and women may find certain traits attractive is because it is biology, genes, and past history of human evolution producing these feelings or actions.


It is not impossible that the rise of the fetish that is just now being studied in human sexual behavior, was present in the homo genus species. The whole basis of sexual drive and motivation is influenced by the need for humanity to produce offspring. What is called love may just be nothing more than a biological impulse, rather than an emotional relationship.Human evolution has been a process that took close to 5 to 7 million years. Human are part of the family hominidae. Primates derived from a common genetic ancestor, which explains why humans share genetic similarities to chimpanzees. Human emerged recently compared to other organisms.  It is estimated humanity made its appearance close to 150,000 years ago. More is being revealed from fossils and from biogenetics. Charles Darwin was the pioneer of evolutionary theory suggesting that natural selection operates on selecting particular traits for an environment. Herbert Spencer coined this term and his views were strongly associated with social Darwinism. Such ideas were applied to social problems and justified discrimination as well as class structure. This idea is part of the realm of pseudoscience. While social Darwinism as a scientific idea has been discredited, the term survival of the fittest is no the best description either. Rather it is the survival of the best acclimated in an ecosystem  organisms who can produce the most  offspring . Fitness in this this terminology means the organisms who are successful at producing offspring. This is by definition direct fitness. This does not mean the strongest people will survive. A weak person could reproduce many children and would be in terms of  Darwin’s theory fit for survival. They are passing on genes and traits more so compared to others who are not successful at doing so. This is not as simple as it seems. Offspring are not exact  genetic blends of their parents. Darwin’s theory of evolution also describes indirect and inclusive fitness.

Fitness used in an evolutionary context does not mean the strongest will dominate. It is referring to chances of producing offspring so that genes can spread. 

What actions organisms take are to ensure survival and the production of more offspring. Inclusive fitness involves a group in which certain behaviors contribute to the survival of the species. This explains why human being are social animals. The evolutionary past require some level of cooperation among a family, clan, or kinship group.  This does not mean there is no competition for mates. The reason sexual dimorphism exists in certain animals is that it is part of sex selection. Physical differences act as a tool of attraction. It is not impossible to say that the female muscle fetish is rooted in evolutionary history. An attraction to particular features of a woman’s body may be an nonverbal signal of fitness. The trait of physical strength may be something that a man with this fetish subconsciously wants  in his offspring. This is only theoretical. There is still more to be discovered about human evolution and its relation to human sexual behavior.

         The female muscle fetish  does have a cause. Psychologically it could be based on behaviorist, psychoanalytic, or imprinting theories. A sociological perspective sees it nothing more than being placed in an environment. If one was raised in an atmosphere of female athletes or muscular women, it may become something appealing. The internet and mass media exposure does have an influence on thoughts and ideas. Biologically the brain and with the assistance of the endocrine system are responsible for sexual desire and cycles. There is the debate in regards to whether this is nature or nurture based. The answer to the question is not one or the other. Human behavior is a product of both nature and nurture. It would be erroneous to say that both stand independently of  one another. It is both interaction and collaboration that occurs between these two concepts. There still remains the puzzle to how much does one act on the individual. Sex and sexual fetish are a combination of these two concepts of nature and nurture. The psychology, biology, and the internet have demonstrated that fetishes are more common than previously thought. Fetishes are not unhealthy, but suppressing them could cause a person a level of distress. There still remains a level of stigma attached to the concept. Only further study and eliminate false notions or preconceptions. The female muscle fetish has multiple causes, but its origins remain unclear.


Zimbardo, Phillip. Psychology Core Concepts.  New York : Pearson, 2009.

Cherry, Kendra. Essentials of Psychology. New York : Fall River Press, 2010.

Perry, Philip. “Are Sexual Fetishes Psychologically Healthy?” Big Think, Big Think, 19 Feb. 2017,

Griffiths, Mark. “Survival of the Fetish.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 7 Jan. 2014,

Gregoire, Carolyn. “The Strange Science Of Sexual Attraction.” The Huffington Post,, 14 Feb. 2015,

Spelman, Dr Becky. “Understanding Sexual Fetishes.” HuffPost UK, HuffPost UK, 31 Jan. 2017,

The Female Muscle Fetish : Psychological, Biological, and Social Causes

Women Closing the Strength Gap in A Big Way

Women and the Strength Gap

This article published online for Women in the World. com was discussing a physical fitness measure between the sexes discussed in a Washington Post piece produced in 2016. There was an analysis of hand grip strength between average men and women. This is used as a measure of strength, but is not the most accurate. The study reported that women between the ages of 30 to 34 had the hand grip strength equal to men of the same age. The right hand was measured for men and women between the ages of 20 to 30. It was compared to data collected in 1985. The average woman compared to the sample could produce 79 pounds of pressure compared to the 117 pounds of pressure of men. The results from 2016 show that women produced 98 pounds of pressure. That is the current male total pressure as well in the 2016 sample group. There was a decline in male grip strength. It should be questioned how accurate hand grip strength measure is as a predictor of physical strength. It has been suggested that it is an accurate predictor cardiovascular disease and life expectancy. These claims need verification to be considered fact. Women are not becoming overall stronger than men, but have improved their physical fitness. Men as indicated by this sample have declined in terms of that element of physical fitness. There are environmental factors that could explain this including changes in health condition. Women have been getting stronger, but closing the strength gap has not happened.

         The subjects used were 237 full time students attending universities in North Carolina. Pinch strength was also measured. The problem with this is that the sample is small compared to the rest of the population. If the study included a wider selection of the population the results would have been different. The results may have looked different. It may still would have shown that a portion of the population in the US is unfit. Obesity and weight related health problems are gradually becoming a public health crisis. The methodology could also be flawed. The 1985 study was conducted in Milwaukee from students who participated in the experiment. This took one cross section of the population. At best this only shows that the average male university student has lost strength. Then one must consider the attributes of subjects used. If it is a test for the average man and woman, students with athletic backgrounds may have to be excluded. This may have distorted the data. Obviously, the female athlete has a physical fitness capacity beyond an average woman.

Today’s Men Are Not Nearly As Strong As Their Fathers  is the original article in the Washington Post. If a woman like Elizabeth Akenwale was used in the study it would distort data.

  If all the women had athletic or fitness backgrounds it would alter the data to make it seem like they acquired immense strength rapidly in two decades. Also the male subjects the studies used could also result in data that is exaggerated. If some of these subjects were student athletes, their activity levels would be higher. This would result in them having a higher physical fitness capacity relative to their inactive counterparts. The 2016 showed that younger millennial women scored lower in grip strength compared to older ones in the 30 to 34 age range. This resulted in the total average of grip strength of women being 75 pounds. The 20 to 30 age group may have done poorly because the body still goes through physical changes during this age range. It is possible for people to still grow up until the age of 25. Muscles reach their full potential in strength, contraction speed,   and size also by the mid-20s. Muscle mass will  plateau and then will decline with senescence. Bones and muscles can change depending on the amount of stresses and strains they have to endure. Muscles can respond quickly to changes  and patterns in use. This means that if younger women are going to be a part of the study, they would need to be a least 25. This is the stage in the the human life cycle that growth is fully complete and the body is at its physical peak.

Age does have an effect on fitness through the human life cycle. Prior to puberty girls and boys are at the same physical fitness level. The changes in endocrinology alter the bodies of men and women. The male body has more type II muscle fiber and the female body stores more subcutaneous fat. This results in differences in strength. Physical strength is not solely determined by sex, but genetics, somatotype, and exercise regimen. The subjects used in the 2016 study were described as healthy. This could have many connotations. If they all were disease free, that would mean they were healthy no matter what their fitness level was. One could be slightly overweight and be disease free, if one follows the exact definition. Knowing the exact body types and activity levels of subjects could have provided more insight. This experiment if scientifically true, should be able to replicate the same results. If not, it cannot be considered fact.

         There is a problem using hand grip strength as a measure. This method only is an approximation. The text reveals that it is not the same as functional strength. Testing hand grip strength only demonstrates relative strength. This is the force generated by one muscle group or area. Only a measure of absolute strength can be a more precise assessment. This examines the entire muscular force that can be generated from the body. It is not impossible that a person could lift more weights and still produce minimal hand grip force. Weightlifting uses more muscles of the body and would be a better measure of strength.


Such an activity uses multiple parts of the body rather than just one. Hand size could be a factor. It could be possible that difference in hand size could make a difference in the grip data. Absolute strength is the culmination of both the upper body and lower body. This gives an idea about estimated strength ranges in body. Women can have an estimated 50 to 60 percent strength level in the upper body compared to a man of a similar weight and height. The lower body women are closer ranging from 70 to 75% in terms of absolute strength.

 These estimates could not be extracted from a simple hand grip measuring test. It is not that men have better muscles. Their muscle fibers are larger. This results in a major difference in power. Doing work and generating force is what power is. It is critical in sports such as sprinting or long jump. Examining weightlifting or crossfit records show the differences in strength between the sexes in a more precise manner. As seen in the charts above, men still have higher performances compared to their female counterparts. These measures are better than hand grip testing. Approximations are not helpful in a scientific inquiries.

        Besides problematic methodology, there may be an environmental  reason for this result. The article describes it as work habits. When the first study was produced in the 1980s more men were involved in manual labor. This meant they were getting more exercise hence the hand grip generation. Factory or construction work has been gradually disappearing ever since. Globalization and a knowledge based post-industrial society has caused such laborers a struggle to find work. For those who have transitioned into it, it has had some negative consequences. Sedentary lifestyles and excessive consumption of junk food has caused health problems. Obesity, heart disease, and cancer resulted in this shift. Rarely do Americans get the recommended amount of exercise by the CDC. A materialistic and work obsessed culture causes mental stress as well. Increasing rates of anxiety and depression have become prevalent. Over consumption of alcohol also has increased among the young. Limited life work balance has produced poor physical and mental health. There are some changes being made in workplaces. Standing desks help prevent employees from sitting too long. Some Americans even get gym memberships. It may be too late to reverse such a trend. This will eventually cause strain on a healthcare system already under strain. Environmental factors do influence health. It is not solely biology. Everything cannot be reduced to biological determinism.

            It should be clear that women have become stronger. The measurements in strength show that women are probably doing more physical activity, which resulted in the increase.  Women were less likely to do manual labor jobs in the past. Now that has changed with women working in construction, firefighting, law enforcement, and the military. Some men have become weaker and women have become stronger due to their activity levels. This does not mean women have closed the strength gap. It reflects that women are either getting in better shape or men are becoming less active. It is rare that women who train with men reach the same level of strength. There of course can be overlap in the population. The indication  is that to extent social policy did help women’s health. Title IX gave women opportunities at young ages to become active in sports. Since then the numbers have increased. It is not just the professional female athlete that is becoming more active; average women are exercising and becoming a part of fitness culture.

 There has been to at least a small degree a change in attitudes. Strength may no longer be seen as a male only attribute and women are not afraid of building it. Women seem to take better care of themselves compared to their male counterparts. American women tend to keep up with doctor’s visits and engage in lower levels of high risk behavior. The men who scored low on the strength test may not all be obese or have a weight problem. They could just be out of shape or at a lower fitness level.

The American man has not become a puny weakling or a gluttonous blob, rather just more inactive. American women seen either stabilization or improvement, because historically physical activity and sports was not considered gender appropriate. Now that such barriers are gone and attitudes have changed women are full participants.  Biases remain,yet this does not stop women from pushing their bodies to their physical maximum. There is a revolution going on yet it is a small one. Women who are not afraid to display or demonstrate physical power. There are women who are in various divisions of bodybuilding, crossfit, weightlifting, powerlifting, and numerous sports. This is not just happening in America. The year 2012 and 2016 saw more female participation in the Olympics. Women have become stronger, but en mass not so. It seems to be the age of the amazon. American women have entered the world of law, business,science,  and politics yet there still is a general taboo against women enhancing their physical strength. There is a small shift in cultural attitudes, but more progress has to be made. The excellent development is that some women are embracing strength and fitness.

The rise of the modern fitness woman is a phenomenon. It has not been recognized or studied seriously. There has up until now no point in history in which women have developed themselves physically to this extent. There muscular women prior to the rise of modern fitness, but they did not have an outlet to display their talents. The boom of physical culture from the late 19th century to early 20th century did involve women to a lesser degree. Strongwomen either performed in circuses, vaudeville acts,  or smaller venues. This was not the athletic competition they craved. The rise of the feminist movement and the challenge to institutional sex discrimination  opened the path for the female athlete to get mainstream exposure. From the 1970s  to present there has been an increase in women’s participation and women have gained notoriety as sports stars. While this rise is impressive some made erroneous predictions that women would be out performing men in the 21st century. Some even said women would become stronger than men in the future. This is disputable when examining the biological, physiological, anatomical dimensions.

            Women are not closing the strength gap as a whole. Certain women are able to do so. It is not impossible for a woman to be strong as a man. A man who does not exercise would most likely not be as strong as a woman who does. However, that depends on body type. The mesomorphic somatotype is prone to building more strength compared to ectomorphic and endomorphic body types. Men of ectomorphic and endomorphic body types would not exceed the strength of the female mesomorph. Even

though the men are producing more androgens they are limited by the genetics of their body type. When comparing these body types in a sense women have closed the strength ( or rather exceeded )gap with average men and men of a lower physical fitness level. The strength gap is wide even when male and female ectomorphs are compared. The weakest male would still have more strength than the weakest female. This relates to body composition. If estrogen and progesterone produce more fat, compared to muscle this changes total strength capacity. The thin male has limited body fat and although their little muscle, the few fibers present can still generate force. Fat does not generate the same force as type II muscle fiber.

 Simply having large muscles is not an indicator of strength. There is a difference in training for strength versus training for muscular hypertrophy. The first is the desire to lift more without the goal of developing muscles. Training for hypertrophy is designed to make the muscles larger, doubtless of what the final strength result will be. A weightlifter could be stronger than a bodybuilder because they have trained for different goals. This relates to two different forms of muscular hypertrophy. Myofibrillar hypertrophy causes the growth of contractile parts of the muscle fiber. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy causes growth of organelles, plasma,  and non-contractile proteins. This increases muscle volume, but does not grow the fibers to their maximum extent. This could be an explanation why a less muscular weightlifter could lift more than a bodybuilder.

Women can see at least a 40% increase in physical strength from resistance training if the intensity is high and the diet is adjusted. The muscular system is the same for men and women the difference is in body composition. Testosterone plays a major role in protein synthesis.  This explains why men are more likely to gain more mass compared to women on the same training regimen. it also has to do with starting point. Women have more body fat to lose relative to men. It is however not the total amount of testosterone that accounts for the difference.

 It is the amount of free testosterone that  is present in the body. The majority of testosterone is either connected to sex hormone building globulin and non-specific proteins. A thin man could still produce more testosterone and not be stronger than a female athlete. This reveals that there are other factors besides endocrine function that contribute to strength. The MSTN gene dictates directions to the myostatin protein. This regulates muscle growth and individuals who have low levels can build larger muscles.

The location of the MSTN gene

Being female does not limit strength potential. Men have some physical advantages which just means their physical fitness capacity will be higher. There are obviously exceptions to the general rule, simply because genetics vary among individuals. Charley Craig and Naomi Kutin were lifting heavy weights when they were children . it is clear they have a natural advantage which aided them in their athletic endeavors. As they mature and if they decide to continue they will have impressive athletic careers. It would not be a shock if they will be seen in the Olympics years form now. Strength does not just involve the muscular system. It related to the actions of the nervous system as well.

It seems that men are destine to get easier  stronger just from the difference in hormone function. The testes allow for greater testosterone production making this possible. The gonads in both men and women perform different functions.  The testes produce sperm and the ovaries produce eggs to allow for sexual reproduction. This requires a surge in sex hormones that change the bodies of girls and boys. The effect is more dramatic in men. Bone, tendons, ligaments, and muscle tissue will gradually increase causing a strength spurt. This also causes an increase of about 40% more heart muscle in the male body. The male growth spurt happens at the end of puberty, while women reach their full growth earlier. As boys mature the amount of free testosterone increases in the bloodstream. Bone density increases and the chest as well as shoulders become broader. This is done by age 20. Women do not see an increase in physical strength during puberty. Muscle fibers do not increase in number, they widen and extend to a greater length. Ligaments are thinner in women compared to men, however they are relatively lax. This means women can be more flexible, but makes them vulnerable to joint injuries.

Women’s hips widen which effects total running speed. Other than that, there is no significant growth in the lungs and heart to the extent of men. Testosterone also increases the amount of hemoglobin in the blood cells. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to the muscles. If men have more that means they get more oxygen to the muscles during exercise. This means the average male would have a higher fitness level with little or no training assuming they are in good health. There is obviously a reason for the difference in athletic records between male and female athletes. The idea that women are closing the strength gap en mass is not correct. Despite the physiological differences, there is the possibility that  the strength difference can be narrowed. There has been calculations that  if the average sports records of women stay below .85 percent women van make more improvements in accordance with the 90% ratio.Training can not eliminate all of the differences in physiology. The average woman’s muscle weight without training is 35% compared to men’s 50%.

So far, it is clear that women are not closing the strength gap, but are becoming more fit. The article’s commentary seems to either have a vague or limited understanding of exercise physiology. It was fascinating that it did not expound further on contents of the Washington Post article, because it gave a lucid picture. This article was written for Women in the World an organization that promotes live journalism events.It has third wave feminist leanings, which may explain why the title of the article is such a hyperbole. If one were to read the article with limited knowledge of human anatomy or physiology, they would believe that women were as strong as men. This is not the case, but there are some very strong women. The third wave feminist movement would benefit from learning science rather than branding it a tool of patriarchy.

           The topic regarding sex differences had been a controversial issue. It has been complicated further by those who still promote and believe pseudoscientific biological sexism of the past. The opposite end of the spectrum is faction of third wave and power feminists who think that sex differences are entirely sociologically based. To them the differences in strength among the sexes is nothing more than an example of patriarchy. The reality is that on average men are stronger, but that does not mean men are stronger than all women. Biology is not patriarchal or sexist. It is a science, but it seems that this small group of women want to wage war on it. Ignoring or pretending that differences do not exist is irrational. Differences are not evidence of inferiority. Misogynists normally use the fact men are stronger as a justification men should have more privilege and power in society. This argument is ludicrous, because that would mean a stronger woman should have more rights and privilege than a weaker man.

As seen previously, strength is not male only. Arguments that truly to prove biological inferiority have no basis in scientific fact. The reason power feminists and factions of third wave feminists focus on this is because it is an area in which they cannot not fully compete with men in .  They claim to want equality, but rather they seek power and an abnormal amount of influence in various spheres of society. There is nothing wrong with women being a part of areas in which their numbers are low, but there is the problem of conducting it as an invasion of male space. An example is that of the electronic entertainment and video game industry. While women do not play as many video games as men a small group of third wave feminists are attacking video games. This was started by Anita Sakeesian of Feminist Frequency, which presented the gaming community as sexist woman haters. Sexism is a problem in the industry just like other areas of society, yet the trend now is to focus in on a particular section or group as a root cause. There seems to be a desire to demonize attributes or activities traditionally considered masculine by this faction of feminists. If  it is not condemnation its third wave feminists entering a sphere and using it as a vehicle to advance their  agenda.   The mentality is compete with men and promote gender antagonism. The only reason this has not occurred in the sports world is that women’s participation is low and there are biological obstacles that make it a challenge.

They claim that  their is sex segregation in sports and that there should be an integration. This is not segregation, but making competition fair. If men are stronger and faster than women having a separate division is just like a weight class. Women if there were no divisions would be pushed out of contact sport. Men weight more and are taller giving them a physical advantage. The only way this would constitute discrimination would be if it were separated when there was no physiological or anatomical advantage that favors men. There would be no need to have separate archery or equestrian teams for example. There are women who just want to challenge men for the sake of promoting gender antagonism. There may also be another reason for this concern about strength and physicality. The fact that men are stronger than women may induce a level of trepidation in some women considering the rate of domestic abuse. While one does not need to strong to be  physically abusive, it makes it simpler for a person to inflict damage.

 Some feminists erroneously believe that if women were as strong as men this would end oppression. That is not true because oppression is reliant on control of resources and property. The reason women were held back in human history was due to the fact they did not have property rights and were denied education . Employment was limited and healthcare was of low quality due to restrictions on reproductive rights. Regulated to the domestic sphere they had limited access to politics or the affairs of state. This was reversed in the 20th century. Although some nations lag behind in terms of women’s rights, women have become more powerful politically and socially. Many women are enjoying opportunities that their great grandmothers could only dream of. Women are getting power politically and socially so the obvious next step is to develop the mind and body. The problem this the power feminist is that they want to use a new found power as a tool of vengeance against men.That should not be a goal. The point is for women to enjoy sports and fitness not demonize men. Recognizing that sexual dimorphism exists is not sexism. It is the result of millions of years of evolution. However, the influence of environment cannot be ignored. Women at a young age are discouraged from the use of the their bodies and body image conformity has a negative consequence on health. There is a reason anorexia and bulimia are higher among women compared to men. The idea of a single body image for women is being challenged in America and it is a welcomed change. It is imperative that men and women have a healthy perspective about their bodies. Physical activity should not be done for the sole reason of cosmetic purposes. Maintaining health should be the goal. The strength difference is a combination of nature and nurture. If one examines the number of women in physically demanding occupations this demonstrates interactionist  theory. If women on average have less strength it means their numbers would be lower. That is not the only reason, because discrimination has kept women out of certain fields such as these. The numbers still will not be equal even if social barriers are removed.

        unless biology and physiology of women change dramatically, law enforcement, construction, firefighting, and the military would remain mostly male. Biological determinism is not the only reason. It also comes down to behavior. Men take more risk and are raised to be more competitive. These jobs do require a level of risk that many women may try to avoid. The challenge therefore is not solely biological, but social behavior.  This probably is the major obstacle to reaching actual equality. It will not be realized with the current version of feminism that is visible in American public life.

       Although hand grip does not give an exact measure of health it is obvious that American health is declining. The decline in hand grip strength is an indirect indicator of low levels of physical activity and fitness. American life expectancy has declined reaching a plateau when this article was published in 2016. There factors could include high fat, high fructose corn syrup, and sugar based diets. Making no time for exercise can have major consequences on health. Children are even having health problems with an increase in unbalanced diets. The cuts to public education have also harmed physical education in schools. There also has been a disparity in healthcare. The US is one f the few nations that does not have a government program for healthcare, but instead relies on private companies. Most Americans get their health insurance through their employers. Those who are unemployed or could not afford a plan had to pay out of pocket costs. The Affordable Care Act was suppose to be a means for which all Americans could get healthcare no matter what their socioeconomic status. This needs to be developed into a universal healthcare system in which all citizens can be covered. Now with a Trump presidency it is being dismantled and medicaid as well as medicare will soon be under attack. The removal of such programs will ultimately cause a public health crisis.

It seems like the study only demonstrated that women are taking better care of themselves. Men are neglecting their health. 

This would impact men worse in particular. On average the male life expectancy is lower even when conditions are favorable. A woman with a particular health aliment may survive longer compared to a man. This also depends whether or not a citizen lives in an urban or rural area. Urban areas have more hospitals, while rural areas are dependent on health clinics. Hospitals located in rural areas may require long distances to travel to. Health clinics in rural areas are shutting down due to lack of funding, while simultaneously there is an attempting to dismantle government healthcare. There must be a drastic revision in public policy to reverse years of neglect of these populations. Women’s longevity does come with a price. The longer you live the more likely it is to have more health aliments related to age. Cancers and dementia become a threat to seniors. If elder care is not funded or functional this will add to the mass public health crisis induced by poor diet and inactivity. Social security, medicare, and medicaid will not be able to handle the medical costs from advanced age related illnesses. This can be prevented, but it starts with a change in eating habits, lifestyle, and a new attitude in regards to exercise.  It can be concluded that women have not closed the physical strength gap, rather they have closed the durational strength gap. Women’s life expectancy exceeds men’s even in countries that have the lowest average. When compared  in this regard they do have greater strength.

Women Closing the Strength Gap in A Big Way

Dayana Cadeau

Dayana Cadeau is a personal trainer and former female bodybuilder who competed from the 1990s to the early 2010s. She was born in Haiti in 1966 and at the age of seven moved to Quebec Canada. Cadeau is fluent in French, English, and Creole. The strange aspect about her was at first she did not find the bodybuilding physique attractive. Dayana has stated ” I didn’t like bodybuilding physiques before I started competing.” She had the common closed minded view of most of the public explaining ” I didn’t find them attractive or pretty.” However, her mind was changed when she attended a bodybuilding show with a person she knew at a gym. Dayana then revealed that ” when I saw those women I was surprise to see they could be pretty, even with big muscles” She even had the ludicrous notion that ” being pretty and having large muscles was unattainable before watching those girls.” Dayana Cadeau proved that big muscles can suit the female frame if you train the right way. Her inspirations were Corey Everson and Lenda Murray. Dayana has said that ” when I saw Corey Everson I found her very beautiful not too big , but a nice figure.” Dayana Cadeau also has immense respect and admiration for Lenda Murray. She has even admitted that she wanted to follow her example. Her philosophy about bodybuilding is she articulated “having muscles and staying pretty was my goal.” She advocated the Corey Everson model of physique compared to the larger size that was ushered in the mid to late 1990s. Her strategy was to balance the larger size with a shapely figure. This allowed her to be a successful lightweight Ms.Olympia winner. She remains one of the most successful Canadian bodybuilders to date.

Dayana puts an emphasis on aesthetics. Expounding further : “since I’ve been competing I have never changed my image.” Her goal was to bring back the Corey Everson version of physique . When she competed bodybuilding for women was under going a transition in judging standards. This was also the era of stiff competition. Iris Kyle and Lenda Murray were still active on IFBB stages. Dayana at first competed as a heavy weight, but then competed as a lightweight when weight classes were introduced in the year 2000. She may have competed as a lightweight, but that body was monument of muscle. Standing at 5ft  4.5 in she competed at mighty 150 lbs. Her first bodybuilding contest was in 1992 in which she won the Quebec Metropolitan. This was followed by another victory in 1993 at the IFBB Quebec Provincial. From 1992 to 2012 she would be on stage. Dayana became a pro in 1997 winning the IFBB Canada Cup. Her best wins would include the Ms.International in 2001, the Jan Tana Classic in 2003, and the Ms.Olympia in 2004 under the lightweight division. When physique became a class in the early 2010s Dayana switched to that division in 2012. The previous year she retired from the bodybuilding class. Dayana was presenting another type of physique that was along her ideal Cory Everson model.

Her competitive longevity was remarkable and her ability to an impressive physique was just as stunning. Photographer Bill Dobbins described her physique best writing in 2006 : ” Lately, I’ve been more impressed with  Dayana …. she has the most voluptuous and sensuous physiques in bodybuilding.” This look she created between voluptuous fullness and powerful muscle made her popular in female bodybuilding publications. She appeared in issues of Women’s Physique World and did modeling. She also did videos in which she tested her wrestling skills against male challengers and fellow athletes for Premier Productions.

Although Dayana was fitness modeling, mainstream fitness publications according to Bill dobbins did not want to buy his photos of her. There still was a prejudice against the hypermuscular woman. Thankfully, the internet was a means to by pass the corporate gatekeepers, who still hold traditional views about women involved in the fitness industry. Through her personal website and association with online publications she was able to do modeling and promote her bodybuilding career. Besides just being a competitor, she started her own contest known as the NPC Dayana Cadeau classic. It features bodybuilding, fitness, figure, and bikini. She was involved in this contest’s development from 2009 to 2013. Dayana continues to serve as a NPC judge. Dayana once revealed that her best features of her physique were her legs and that her biceps as well as abs were her weak points. Training her upper body she claimed was the biggest challenge.

Dayana’s Twitter Page

Dayana also is a promoter and owner of her own company. She is the founder and CEO of Bodygift Fit which operates in Miami, Florida where she resides. Her athletic achievements make her one of the most successful Haitian bodybuilders.  Dayana’s training philosophy as she articulated ” Every time I’m training I’m not thinking about gaining more muscles.” She expressed it as she was only targeting weak areas and by doing so, she could improve balance of her physique. Dayana admitted staying a lightweight was difficult due to her genetics, because she put on muscle easily. Expressed in an interview : “the thing is for me I can be a lightweight, middleweight, or heavyweight .”  Around 2005 there were judging changes. Weight classes were dissolved so this altered the situation. Dayana had to compete against Iris Kyle and Yaxeni Oriquen . These were some of the best competitors on stage. She placed in the top three, but could not beat them. Considering, she did very well when seeing a stage of tough and experienced competitors. Her desire was to replace Lenda Murray and show that muscles on women can be beautiful. Dayana’s advice to competitors is to train hard and treat your body like an art form. The development of muscle on the female form should follow a specific aesthetic paradigm.

 Dayana believed that the sport had changed radically compared to when she first started in 1992. Her opinion was expressed in a Bodybuilding. com interview : ” These girls have changed from years back- all they think about is being bigger and more muscular, but that’s not the beauty of the sport.” A balanced physique is what makes the competitor. Symmetry, conditioning, and definition must be given proper emphasis. Size is not the only factor in building a physique. Dayana also has many hobbies when she is not involved in her personal training business or a practicing aesthetician. She enjoys reading, watching movies, and doing yoga in her spare time. At one time Dayana was pursuing a career in acting and was contemplating moving to California. She was on record that she would continue to compete until she gets busy with her acting. This did not come to fruition and instead from 2009 onward continued to be seen on IFBB contests. The interesting aspect of her training is that she would do cardio first, followed by a rest then train with weights. Dayana’s last competition was in the physique division in the 2012 Tampa Pro. She has no plans to return to stage, but left an impressive competitive career.


Dayana Cadeau

The New Pin-up: Why Gentlemen Prefer Buff

Gentlemen Prefer Buff

This was an article published in 2013 documenting the rise of fitness women and their popularity on social networking sites. For fans who have been familiar with female muscle, this is nothing new. What is interesting about the news piece is the mainstream media treatment about it. The text cannot be considered completely full of praise, but it is not negative. This is rare considering how the subject of muscular and athletic women are viewed by mainstream society. Normally the media in both print or on television present something different as bizarre or deviant. The case with the New York Post article  is that it profiles the women and gives their perspectives. The men also are given reasons for their love and support of muscular women. It seems in a way that female muscle is going mainstream or that the idea of the muscular woman is not subcultural. The peculiar element of this is that female bodybuilding has been struggling, but more women are either lifting weights or becoming part of the culture. The power of social media demonstrates how fan bases can be joined together and that it is a great tool for self promotion. It also demonstrates that there are more admirers of female muscle than previously thought.

         The average American man may not favor a woman who has a muscular body. However, there is a growing fan base of social media users who are discovering the the beauty of female muscle. The thin body type has been presented as the ideal, but subsequently has been challenged by a body positive movement embracing women of larger size. Simultaneously, there is a new zeitgeist that is embracing the idea ” strong is the new skinny.” Although there are different ideas and views about what is attractive, there are a large number of men who are loving the look of a physically strong woman. The article presents this as a recent development. The lovers of female muscle were around since the inception of women’s strength sports and fitness.

Gentlemen prefer buff

Female bodybuilding dates back to the 1970s and with it came a unique subculture. Male fans would not only buy tickets to contests, but would buy magazines and videos of their favorite athletes. The real hardcore admirers are schmoes and they have had a presence since the start of the sport. The article cites quotes from male fans. Johnathan Montes who is an amausement park worker stated : ” I’m specifically into the more bulky professional female bodybuilder type — there’s just something about a massively built woman that I find very attractive and alluring.”Amare Stoudemire basketball star athlete explained his love as follows : “It reflects you worked hard for it, no money can buy it. “Steve Rivers a radio personality quoted ” there is nothing more attractive than seeing an attractive woman working out.”  The men surveyed for the article were mostly in their 20s or 30s. It seems the idea of the muscular and physically strong woman appeals to younger men more. This may be a result of being raised in a generation in which women are seen as equals and that women can doing certain activities that were once thought to be male only. A more progressive attitude in regards to women and the change in body standards may explain this sudden shift. There is division among supporters.

The larger female bodybuilders may not be included in the category the article is talking about. The mainstream acceptance of muscular women has shown the image of the toned woman or woman with some definition , rather than the bigger female bodybuilders. Fans of female muscle disagree about aesthetics.There are four camps that fans fall into. The first is that women should have some muscle, but not “too much.” The second perspective is one in which there should be some moderate level ( figure or physique division build). The other favors the traditional bodybuilding with an emphasis on size. The fourth perspective is that any level of muscle is suitable for women. Lita Lewis, Massiel Aris, and Sohee Lee fall into the first two aesthetic paradigms. They are not bodybuilders, rather fitness models. The bigger female bodybuilder would have difficulty getting mainstream acceptance and the moderately muscular female body is just getting it currently. There may be an acceptance of muscularity on a woman to a certain extent, but not to the degree that gender appropriateness deems unsuitable. This demonstrates there still is a long way to go for women in fitness.

The problem is that people still retain the view that women with muscles are not feminine. While the fitness industry likes women who are in shape, they do not promote the image of the very hyper muscular woman. The female bodybuilder of a particular size is absent from mainstream fitness magazines. This does not mean there are not large portions of fans. Schmoes go as far as to book private sessions that involve wrestling or posing demonstrations. Gentlemen preferring buff is hardly a recent development. There was a point in which the only way for the female muscle fan to see a muscular woman was to go to a contest, possibly see them on TV, or go to a gym. There were magazines such as Women’s Physique World and Female Bodybuilding Magazine that provided many images. The rise of session wrestling and muscle worship actually came about from devoted fans wanting to see more muscular women up close and women’s need to finance their sport. Although schmoe has negative connotations and some may view them with disdain, they make the shrinking division of female bodybuilding sustainable.

Even during the golden age of female bodybuilding women were still paid less. It is an expensive sport, but women were and continue to generate money for the fitness industry. Fans keep consuming, while publishers, supplement companies, and the producers of exercise equipment continue to make large profits. Women do not get the full benefit of revenue generation, because they are blocked by corporate gatekeepers. Fans and athletes were circumventing them in a way by organizing their own activities and culture. Mixed wrestling videos have been a source of entertainment which has been pioneered by Bill Wick. Art ranging from realistic renditions to cartoons are produced in the form of female muscle growth (fmg).



These cartoons are classified as female muscle growth. 

Artists like to do realistic renditions of their favorite athletes.

Mixed Wresting and session wrestling are common practices in the female bodybuilding subculture. 

Forums and websites are areas in which fans discuss contests and the performance of competitors. This fan base consists of men who have been following muscular women for a longtime or younger men who have just dis covered it. The stereotype is that they are all fetishists and have some form of perversion. liking muscular women  is not a perversion or paraphilia. The mainstream media attempts to present it in that manner, but it does not fit the clinical definition. Paraphilia can be defined as ” abnormal sexual desires that express themselves through extreme or dangerous activity.”Sthenolagnia has been classified as a paraphilia, but hardly can be considered severe condition. It is a fetish and to a degree everyone has one. It hardly counts as one if defined by a strictly psychological definition of disorder. No one ever says a person has a thin woman fetish. There is a level of bias that female muscle fans face from the general public that does not understand the women or culture. The mainstream tends to sensationalize elements or subjects that are not general knowledge. There is a world of female muscle fandom and it has gotten some mainstream media exposure. The men who form this fan base are neither intimidated or repulsed by women’s strength. Such a paradigm shift reveals that there has been ( although small ) progress in terms of what women can be and do. There still is backlash within the fitness industry, in the public, and online.

An example of the sexist beliefs some still have directed at women who have muscular physiques. 

This does not seem unusual. When ever an oppressed group gains power there has been backlash from the conservative or traditional elements. Women who are in sports and fitness are clearly making their presence known. Detractors claim that women only do this to invade or disrupt male spaces. That is not the objective of the female athletes. They want to enjoy and make the culture flourish. It is difficult to say just how large the female muscle fandom is. There could be a large portion of men who hide their support or love. The internet allows one to be anonymous so it remains a mystery. There is no doubt that their is a following of fit and muscular women of all types through social media.

        The internet and social media demonstrate how female athletes can use a platform to their advantage to promote their sport. If television or magazines do not cover women’s sports , social media could be a better solution. It is obvious that print media like newspapers and magazines are struggling to keep up in a world of rapidly changing information. Sources that are fast receive more attention. Television will most likely become like the radio. It still is present, but not as powerful as an entertainment medium when television was made widely available. Relevant to the the discussion of female muscle, it gives users access 24 hours and a huge mass of content. Up and coming athletes can introduce themselves to fans without having to go through the fitness corporate structure. There is the threat that the FCC poses which stuck down Obama administration era net neutrality rules. The power was given back to the service providers rather than the users. This means service providers could block particular websites or slow down speeds in certain areas. Net neutrality must be preserved to maintain a free and open internet. Without it, many female athletes would not get any exposure. Mainstream media outlets fail to realize the economic potential of women’s sports and fitness. There is a claim that the muscular woman is not marketable, but the existence of athletes’ pay sites contradict such pronouncements. There is the challenge of online piracy, which may effect sales. Online piracy has not stopped sites from selling content or gaining profits. it may actually just be free advertisement. To those who honestly purchase materials such as videos and photographs they become dedicated collectors.

Social media and the internet have also allowed fans to connect with each other more so than just attending sporting events. This technology is the wave of the future and some companies are slow to adopt it. The athletes are more savvy by doing self-promotion rather than depending on the traditional corporate structure of the fitness industry. This a positive development because women gain some control of the industry or and circumvent people who are an obstruction. There have always been men who like muscular women, now they can be appealed to as a demographic. Athlete’s producing their own content prevents entertainment from being stale and repetitive. This explains the sudden phenomenon of popularity on social media sites of female fitness personalities.

         The rise of the muscular woman is in a sense a type of silent revolution. There have been muscular women in the past, but nowhere in history have women developed themselves physically to this extent. People cite women’s rise in business and politics as a remarkable paradigm shift. Yet they forget that women are also making progress in particular areas. The muscular woman changes and challenges the perception of the female body. It is not long seen as soft, weak, or inferior. This new paradigm of muscular female body is new. Strength and physical power were thought to male only attributes, but this is no longer the case. There are multiple forms of beauty, but here women are defining it form themselves. The women who pursue fitness with high enthusiasm are not afraid of the ostracism of the society in which they live.


The image is a powerful statement. It does have feminist overtones, however third wave feminist hardly give the fitness woman any serious investigation. There are also women who engage in the same amount of criticism of the muscular woman just like men. Instead of being supportive they either internalize society’s sexism or cling to the notion of strict gender roles.  It is not uncommon for women to say “I would never want to look like them”  or state that the muscular woman is “mannish.” Women do not help women as a whole if they are putting each other down. Women come in different shapes and sizes so there is no reason to be pejorative to women who do not fit in to a person’s concept of beauty. The problem is that women are valued more for their appearance, rather than their character or accomplishments as individuals. These attitudes must change. Even though their are some who do not like or approve the look of female muscle, they can at least respect the women as accomplished athletes. Such a development is a positive step in the right direction.

Women do not only want to look strong, they want to demonstrate it. Exercising with weights is no longer considered a male only activity. Women are using them and absorbing the fitness culture. This is not confined to one country either. Women who live in Africa, Latin America,  and Asia are now becoming involved in fitness and strength sports. Fitness has taken a global perspective. This has also been enabled by the internet, in which communication across continents is faster than ever. The fitness culture has also disseminated into larger areas of the sports world. Female athletes who compete in track, weightlifting, rugby, or other sports incorporate weights into their training. Doing so increases performance and prevents injury.

The emphasis is not about appearance, rather what the body can do. Women who are serious athletes and fitness enthusiasts have found a competitive drive. They not only want to become stronger they want to be the best at their sport of choice. The life style of hard training and heavy lifting seems to be more popular with women than in previous generations.   Women who are no athletes are lifting and older women are becoming engaged to improve their health. The most significant element of this movement is that it is perfectly acceptable to be strong and a woman. Although there is embrace, there are also complications that come with promotion of this image.

        There is a sex symbol stereotype that has emerged from the rise of social media fitness personalities. Women who are not competing, but train become popular not for their athletic accomplishments rather, their image. This relates to issues of sexual objectification and what is the line between compliment or admiration. Some do not see it as an issue, however it does become one if their is online abuse. The rude comments are one dynamic, but sexual ones are another problem women face. Sohee Lee states :”I’ve seen crude comments on the pages of other fitness models.” She expounds further ” I just think that if you’re flexing in booty shorts you could be kind of asking for [that kind of attention],” says Lee.”There is a problem with this view point. It seems to blame the individual, rather than the conduct of the sexual harasser. Athletes would probably still have such comments directed at them even if they did not display their bodies.

These statements seem strange considering the point of social media is to interact. Sohee claims she wants to keep things tasteful, but looking at her websites and social media it is clear she does similar behaviors. Being a bikini, fitness, figure, physique, or bodybuilder competitor means you will be displaying your body. The sport is attention based when on stage and off stage. Women who pose in limited amounts of clothing are going to generate attention. That is no excuse or reason to behave in an uncivil manner. Few would harass women or catcall them on stage,but would write such feelings on their social media. Men may feel they can do something like that online, because there is no chance of it having immediate repercussion. Behavior must change and a code of online etiquette must be promoted. Like every technology, social media has a negative aspect. It has become a place in which users project their insecurities, prejudices, and hatreds. It also has become an area that promotes controversy when an event is not that serious.

'Fit mom' Maria Kang recreates infamous 'What's your excuse' photo five years later

Maria Kang another fitness personality was criticized on social media for her advertisement of  “what’s your excuse ? ” Some how a portion of users convinced themselves this was an example of fat shaming. The illogical conclusion and overreaction to a simple phrase or sentence causes flame wars across social media. Kang later posted another ad on her website saying “what’s your reason?” Granted from a public relations perspective a more motivational phase could have been employed. It could have been “this can be done with the right plan”  or “with enough focus all things are possible.”   Encouraging women or other people to exercise is not fat shaming. The rise in obesity in the US has become a serious health concern. The logic according to social media is to exaggerate a claim or statement and somehow force an apology. Social media’s negative consequence this that it has created a place for people with extreme views or distorted thoughts or reasoning. There are the arm chair activist social justice warriors and the far-right racist conservatives. Between these two groups are people who focus on cultural or social issues. These user may discuss race, sexual politics, or media. Pseudo-feminists ( preach the ideology, but have no understanding of its true meaning) fall into this group claiming any criticism of women is sexism. They claim to support women and proceed to attack those they deem oppressive. Kang was criticized by this group, however you never see them involved in body positive image promotion in regards to the muscular woman.

The movement that promotes women with curves, does not seem to be very accepting of the strong woman. There is nothing wrong with larger or curvy women, but its seems contradictory if the same women fit shame. The issue is that to an extent social media has made it so that some people see themselves as perpetual victims. This should not be a mindset to organize around. Hashtag movements will inevitably fail, because people have not come to a state of philosophical, social, and political consciousness. The positive body image movement could fall into this trap. Change will only come when women change their behavior in regards to one another and come to a new sense of self. A new beauty standard should not be the objective, rather there should be an acceptance that women all look different. That could be a solution to the sex symbol stereotype that is present in the fitness social media realm.

           There is a difference between admiration and obvious online sexual harassment. The unfortunate reality is that some female athletes can not distinguish the difference. The reason being it may be difficult to do so with thousands of messages either being negative or ambiguously suggestive in nature. The best way to understand what admiration is. Compliments or congratulating an athlete is an example of admiration. The user is showing respect for their accomplishments. Sexual objectification or harassment projects itself in crude and or lascivious comments. Actions such as sexting are examples of inappropriate conduct. Objectification happens when a viewer only focuses on the appearance of the athlete rather than her athletic accomplishments. Such attitudes imply women only exist to be attractive to men or be servants to them. Such attitudes are repulsive, yet remain prevalent. Men and male fans must have a code of internet and social media etiquette to combat these sexually charged comments. Most social media sites have blocking mechanisms to comment sections, but it remains a constant irritant. The attitudes some men have in regards to women must change.

       The athletes also have a responsibility to be mindful of what they post. Nudes or any other materials may not be a wise decision to post online. There are some athletes who may leave the fitness industry completely and may not want it to be known they had done particular photo shoots. Information can spread rapidly on the internet and what is posted can be seen by millions of people. Employers even search social media pages. Although they should be looking at the qualifications you have for a job, a social media presence could effect their decisions. The photographs posted or what you say could be used against you. Being reckless in this regard could cause problems. Donald Trump writes messages on Twitter before consulting his secretary of the press, resulting in diplomatic and political backlash. This is a catastrophe from a public relations view, because Twitter becomes the White House’s area of official statements. Poor image management can be detrimental. Users must understand when they post, they present an image. It may not represent complete truth, but to readers it may be. Athletes being public figures should be mindful of these facts. Doing so can prevent issues.

         There are gentlemen who do prefer buff. However, it is based to a certain degree. Some enjoy a woman with some muscle, others women who are considered in shape. That is a broad definition or description. Women face criticism for bring “too big” or “too much.”  This is relative based on preference and culture. Women and men even go as far as to use different terminology to describe the muscular physique. Women rather “tone” or men would rather “bulk.” This is nothing more than gender based terms for muscle. There is a double standard when it comes to women and strength. The maxim among the fitness circles is for women be strong, but not too strong.

There is no reason why women of various muscularity levels cannot be accepted. Whatever level a woman wants to take their bodies, they should be allowed to. No one demands of a painter to produce less art or a writer to produce less novels.An athlete should strive to reach their highest level of potential. It does not matter if there are detractors who disagree to what women are doing to their bodies. There may be condemnation, yet there are a good portion of supporters. It can be disputed that the fitness woman is a new pin-up. To some men who have followed women’s strength sports and fitness they were already pin-ups. What started out of the bodybuilding subculture expanded into various branches. Fitness culture infiltrated sports, health, and popular culture. There are celebrities in Hollywood that have their own personal trainers. The difference now is that the muscular woman has more exposure compared to the past. What might have been considered rare or an oddity is gaining normalization. The mainstream is gradually catching up to the subculture that had existed since the 1970s. That was the period of female bodybuilding’s birth and it progressed from there. There now is crossfit, powerlifing, weightlifting, and a multitude of bodybuilding divisions women can compete in. The past four decades has seen a revolution in terms of women’s involvement in physical culture. The amazing aspect of this cultural evolution is that the legion of male fans continue to increase. This is a remarkable paradigm shift because it is being aided by technology and changing attitudes of younger men.

The New Pin-up: Why Gentlemen Prefer Buff