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.
“You can’t pull those thighs apart!”
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.
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, AUGUST 16.# ATHLETICS. Women’s 200m – Semifinal. SCHIPPERS Dafne (NED) 21.96sec qualify for the final. Photos angelos zymaras
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.
Femuscleblog wants to celebrate women of color who represent various sports and fitness fields through photography. These photo collections feature women throughout the African Diaspora. Femuscleblog wants to thank the women who represent their sports and the motherland.
BEVERLY HILLS, CA – MARCH 07: Gymnast Simone Biles poses for a portrait at the 2016 Team USA Media Summit at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 7, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Swimming – Simone Manuel OLY: 2016 USOC Media Summit Team USA Beverly Hilton/Los Angeles, CA, USA 03/06/2016 SI-18 TK1 Credit: Simon Bruty
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.
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.
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.
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.
“You can’t pull those thighs apart!”
“My legs are like an Anaconda aren’t they?”
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, bigthink.com/philip-perry/are-sexual-fetishes-psychologically-healthy.
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 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.
There may be more admirers of the muscular and athletic physique than previously thought. These fans and supporters do not openly admit there appreciation. They tend to remain anonymous going on to forums, websites, and social media. There is a new culture that has emerged from the internet. This article from femalemuscle.com describes the lurker. This type of internet user goes online specifically to search or collect materials that are related to an interest they do not want anyone to know they support. Lori Braun wrote this article to explain this phenomenon. It has been suggested that lurkers make up to 90% of internet groups( Nonnecke & Preece 2000). It actually could be more, because this survey may only be a small sample of a population. The internet is infinite and global. One subject that is still taboo is that of the muscular woman. The image invokes feelings of either objection, support, or lust. There is no reason why the muscular woman should be seen as abnormal or taboo. It does reveal the misogynist and conformist nature of society. It is one that is exclusionary and hates anything that is different. Such animosity that women face reveals how rigid beauty standards encourage sexist prejudice. Simultaneously, it forces men to either conform to a conviction or system that they may not agree with. The fear of fetish seems to be one stigma, but this may not be so bizarre itself. Lurkers and portions of female muscle fans hide their love of the strong woman physique due to pressure, conformity, and the fear of sexual expression.
Images that are absorbed through media and culture do impact our believe system. These value that are transmitted or memes spread. Beauty concepts are no different. Thinness has been valued as the ideal for women’s bodies. The thin body image is constantly presented as ideal and normal, even when in reality women vary in body type. When women do not conform to this standard, they face pressure from the community or wider society. The muscular woman challenges notions about the capability of women’s bodies and what they can achieve. These women face pressure to look a certain way that is valued by the society. The pressure also works in another way in regards to male supporters. Men who are more vocal about their love of muscular women face the same ostracism. Criticism can come from friends or family. Athletes face the same type of treatment. Many ask ” why would a woman do this to herself ?” or “what type of man would be with a woman like that ?” Such rude question demonstrate that the community or group is attempting to pressure men and women to behave and act in a certain way. The pressure is designed to have men in this case like the same ideal.
A man who says he likes muscular faces harsh criticism form the majority. There is also the pressure to have a support stop liking what they have a genuine interest in. The pressure to like one type or version ob beauty is pervasive. Some refuse to acknowledge that there are multiple aesthetics. The secret admirers of female muscle are pressured to not like it by either being insulted or shunned. Pressure is powerful in groups. This is a reason men hide their love of female muscle. Female muscle fans do not present the muscular woman as the sole version of beauty. They like other types of women, not just strong ones. The common misconception is that men prefer one type of beauty.This is one explanation why the internet provides a relatively private space to enjoy something taboo.
The female muscle fan would probably find many types of women attractive.
Peer pressure does not only effect adolescents, but it carries over into adulthood. This unfortunately forces people to behave in ways they may not like or do certain actions they do not want to gain approval in a community. Men hiding their love of female muscle is a means of avoiding backlash.
Conformity has in general made the majority of female muscle fans silent supporters. Female muscle and more specifically, female bodybuilding is not a mainstream sport or activity. A subculture can either generate fear or confusion among the mainstream, which promotes conformity in a dominant culture. Those who do not conform are either outcasts or regulated to that of the bizarre. The fans are also put into this category. Such attitudes even reveal particular biases. The attacks on female muscle fans either are directed at their sexuality . Men are accused of being gay when, they are merely just attracted to women who are strong. This is a projection of homophobia, because the accusation is used as an insult. There is nothing wrong with having a different sexual orientation, however it is used to insult heterosexuals also exposing sexism. Those who project such vituperation are also saying that a physically strong woman is not feminine. This is false, but they still function on the idea that men are strong and women are weak. When this is proved incorrect negative reactions occur. The fan of female muscle may not want to deal with such vituperation and ignorance generated by the closed minded.
There has been a shift some what to accepting larger women. There are plus sized models and women who refer to themselves as curvy. Some call this an outgrowth of fat acceptance. Whatever the case, this does show that the level of body conformity has been weakened. Supporters of this movement do not embrace women of physical fitness. The opposite of this is the strong is the new skinny zeitgeist. So there are some supporters that are not completely in a lurker stage. Women with some muscle are getting exposure and sometimes lauded. Fitness modeling, crossfit, and a generation of much stronger female athlete are responsible for the sudden change. To an extent the female athletic figure has gained some mainstream exposure.
epa01835215 Naide Gomes of Portugal competes in the Long Jump final at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Berlin, Germany, 23 August 2009. EPA/ROBERT GHEMENT
There are some who say they like the look of the athletic woman’s body, yet they have a limit. As long as they do not “cross the line” coded language for getting too big it is accepted by some. Although there is preference and different tastes, there is no reason a woman should limit herself or potential. While large muscles on the female frame may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is their choice. They are not doing this to please people; it is done for themselves. There is no such thing as too much or too big. Oddly, even the hyper muscular woman can be rejected in the sports world. They were the first to show that it was okay for a woman to be physically powerful. That simple act changed the way women thought about themselves in sports and fitness.
It also changed some men’s perceptions about women to a degree. The physically powerful woman is not a threat or grotesque. To the female muscle fan she is another model of beauty. Conformity and the demands of it make fans of female muscle rare reveal their strong approval. Some will even deny it when asked. The internet also becomes a safe space were the female muscle fan can enjoy their interest without questioning or judgement.
It is no surprise that fascination with such women is more than just their athletic feats and records. There is obviously a level of attraction for the muscular woman. This goes beyond just look at pictures. There are men who pay to see women flex and even test their immense strength against them. Schmoes are a part of the female bodybuilding culture and they are not open about their participation of sessions. Some feel embarrassed by their love of muscular women. This extreme female muscle fan is either viewed as a pervert, sexual deviant, or predator. The truth is these are men of various ethnic, class, and religious backgrounds who engage in sessions. There could be a possibility that if society was more accepting men would not have to go to sessions in secret. Many men who do engage in sessions do not talk about it to their friends or family. There are men who are even married who participate in sessions. Having a fetish is not strange, because it is a part of human sexual expression.
“I’m not gonna let you go!”
There are fetishes related to strong and muscular women. Sthenolagnia and cratolagnia are common among female muscle fans. However, that does not automatically mean that every single female muscle fan has this fetish. They may simply like the look, but not be active in sessions. There may be fans who have a desire to do sessions, yet erroneously associate it with prostitution. There is another smaller element of that that has developed in the bodybuilding subculture. This is a recent phenomenon, compared to the longer existence of sessions and mixed wrestling.
Some athletes go to extremes to finance their sport endeavors. It seems tragic that some athletes are forced to do this when they are participants in a lucrative fitness industry. These elements make some female muscle fans more reluctant to be vocal about their support. It should be understood that sessions are not prostitution. Arm wrestling, mixed wrestling, muscle worship, lift and carry are normally part of sessions. The intent is not copulation( this does not mean it does not occur) . This association between sessions and prostitution although two different practices is another reason there are men who hide their fetish. The problem is that society has an issue with human sexuality and nature. It either attempts to suppress it too much or be extremely puritanical. There is not a healthy balance and it causes people to behave in unusual ways. Being secretive about the love of female muscle seem unnecessary.
The internet has allowed female athletes to gain more exposure, when television has failed to do so. Yet there is a negative consequence. Online abuse and cyberbullying seem to be a common problem the muscular woman or female athlete faces. Rude comments and insults appear on social media or comment sections of various websites. These range from sexist, racist, or homophobic attacks. They even are transphobic with comments stating ‘these women look like men” or ” that is a tranny.” Cyberbullies and what are colloquially referred to as trolls have a platform to spew their hatreds and prejudices without any repercussion. Suzanne Germano for example said she once read a comment about herself that read as follows ” sleeping with her would be like sleeping with a man.”
While this comment demonstrates an intense ignorance and lack of intelligence it also shows how prevalent sexist attitudes are. The author of the online abuse comment shows that they only value women for their appearance and or for sex. There is also another phenomenon that has emerged from the internet. Those people who deliberately attack women such as these to hide their own love of them. Doing this just reveals they cannot accept the fact they like them. Some people are more susceptible to peer pressure and this lack of constitution projects itself in that manner. There are those who are vocal about their opposition, but are not exactly trying to do online abuse. They may say “this is weird ” or “women should not be allowed to do this .” They justify their objections and judgments by saying they are merely expressing their opinions. True, you so have the right to free expression, but that does not give you the right to be rude. Then from a point of logic why post comments on videos or sites in which you do not care for or like ? This is obviously an attempt at attention. Being anonymous online emboldens people who want to act in unacceptable ways, but are stopped in a real life social setting. There is a positive note. For all the cyberbullies, there may be even more supporters.
There is a way that the stigma of female muscle can be overcome. One solution is exposure. The internet has helped in the sense that more people and see that they do exist. This helps normalize the idea and people will not be so shocked when they see them. The public must get used to the idea women can look different from what they have seen in media and other materials. The most important change that needs to happen is that fans of female muscle must be more supportive and not keep their love a secret. Become members of the athlete’s websites and social media. Defend your support when some one questions or criticizes you about it. That change can help break some of the cycle. Do not be afraid to say what you like. People must learn to accept that women and be different and multifaceted. There are women heads of state, CEOs, and women in STEM related fields. These were thought to be male only sectors, but that has changed. So if women can have political and economic power, there is no reason why physical power cannot be a part of that. It is possible with time, the muscular female may get a level of acceptance. Cultural beliefs and perceptions about women will have to change.