Dr. Mark Griffiths is a psychologist and professor of behavioral addiction. He teaches Nottingham Trent University . Dr. Griffiths writes on his website providing information on psychology and topics related to addiction and the science of the mind. This article examines sthenolagnia from a perspective of psychology. Psychologists have in recent years taken an interest in human sexual behavior and fetishes. Sexology examines the scientific and biology basis for intercourse, but psychology is fascinated by the motivation and behavior. Although Dr. Mark Griffiths’ writing is not elaborate it does provide a general outline. The definition is debated and can be easily confused with other terminology. The unique aspect of this post is that it is an actual psychologist providing analysis of a least know sexual fetish. There is limited data or serious investigation in regards to sthenolagnia . The text is reliant on newspaper articles and a few psychology related manuals. This means the source of information is limited, only providing one perspective. The majority of the information would most likely be theoretical or at best speculative. There have been monographs that have attained interviews from men and women related to the bodybuilding and fitness culture. This may be a small sample, but it does give an insight into an unknown world. Dr. Mark Griffith’s analysis may appear to be rudimentary, yet it is a work in progress. Presenting this behavior by this way a reader who has no knowledge of it can gain some comprehension.
Dr . Mark Griffiths first defines the sexual fetish using the definition by Dr. Anil Aggrawal Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. The text defines sthenolagnia as “ a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and sexual arousal from displaying strength or muscles. ” The problem with this definition is that there is a difference between paraphilia and a sexual fetish. Paraphilia can be defined as “a condition characterized by abnormal sexual desires, typically involving extreme or dangerous activities” or ” extreme sexual deviation.” There still is a debate about what is normal sexual behavior. However, a disorder hinders function of daily life and health. A sexual fetish just induces arousal either based on an object or body part. Sthenolagnia would fit under the classification of sexual fetish.
Such a fetish is not classified as being overly extreme. Paraphilia and sexual fetish are mistakenly used in an interchangeable manner. That is why Dr. Anil Aggrawal ‘s denotation is incorrect.There is also a difference between cratolagnia and Sthenolagnia. Cratolagnia induces arousal from acts or feats of physical strength. A woman could have large muscles, but may not be as strong as a powerlifter or weightlifter. These two fetishes are related, yet differ in this regard. One puts emphasis on appearance and the other relates to what the body can physically do.
It is very possible that a person with such a fetish could have both. This is when the definitions become blurred. Some may say it is a debate of semantics or confusing jargon, but terms are designed to describe an object or concept in a certain manner. The term sthenolagnia was coined by German psychologist and early sexologist pioneer Magnus Hirschfeld. Both men and women can have this fetish. It can hardly be considered an abnormal condition, yet such a view may indicate bias in regards to gender role scripts. While the general public would have no qualms about a woman being attracted to a strong man, this is not the case for strong women. The gender role script is that man is suppose to be powerful and the woman should be dainty. A man that finds a physically strong woman attractive is seen as bizarre, a predator, or sexual deviant. These are exaggerations, falsehoods, and a combination of stereotypes that have no basis in reality. Many men who are lovers of female muscle come from various religious, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. This fetish can be found in people with different sexual orientations.
The definition that Francesca Twinn provides is not accurate in her book The Miscellany of Sex. She defines it as ” the love of giant overpowering women.” That is a separate fetish known as macrophilia. This is arousal from people who are larger or taller compared to themselves. Strength and muscles are not the factor it is size. Yet, it puts emphasis on giants in fantasy related art or fan produced stories. Macrophilia could relate to the other fetishes, but its is it own entity. There may be individuals that have all three. There are also women who fit the description of being tall,muscular, and physically strong. Psychological terminology can be confusing. The female muscle fandom is a much larger culture that goes beyond a mere fetish. This is why The Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices confuses it definition of sthenolagnia. It states ” that is wrestling for erotic purposes.” Session wrestling and mixed wrestling are not always erotic. It does not always have to involve an athlete. Fantasy wrestling could involve any woman who has a basic knowledge of wrestling techniques and moves. This is a practice that may have people with particular fetishes, but it is another activity that requires more study. There is a habit of layman and academic alike to use definitions and connotations interchangeably. This is why wrestling itself must be separated from cratolagnia and sthenolagnia. There is obvious overlap and relation between these terms and practices, but specifics account for variation.
Session wrestling has been associated with the female bodybuilding culture. Women will charge clients to either wrestle or do muscle worship. Not all sessions are muscle worship. Others can be competitive wrestling in which both the woman and man seek to win a match. This is the least common due to the possibility the female athlete may hurt there less physically powerful client. Semi-competitive matches are when a the client puts up some resistance. Fantasy wrestling involves women of various skills and sizes just performing wrestling moves on a man who does not resist. Female athletes do session wrestling from all physique and bodybuilding divisions. Seeing as the sport does not get the same financial support than men, women had to figure out another business model to sponsor their activities. Female athletes may prefer having just muscle worship sessions, because it involves less physical activity.
This is what a competitive match looks like. Both are trying to win.
Session wrestling can be exhausting for an athlete. Normally sessions could last an hour or sometimes longer. Some athletes could wrestling clients multiple times a day. The rates are high to cover the cost of travel and other expenses. Sometimes athletes who do sessions are based in the area of their residence and the client could come to them. There is the possibility of risk. Women are meeting with complete strangers. It is unknown what could happen. So far, as much as some know there have not been any major incidents with women doing sessions.
This is a semi-competitive match. The man is putting up some resistance, but not trying to win.
The male and female wrestling matches can be referred to in general as mixed wrestling. This is separate from muscle worship, but muscle worship can be a part of session wrestling. Dr. Griffths states ” although there is little in the way of academic research on the topic, many sthenolagnia devotees appear to be sexually aroused by an equalization (or reversal) of the stereotypical power relationship among heterosexual couples. ” This is a theme is writings and artworks, but women do not need to be physically strong to have a change in power dynamics. Access to education, employment, and freedom in the public sphere has altered the power relationship. The sexual revolution and women’s rights movement also change the why power dynamics function in relationships between men and women. Equal treatment and negotiation are expected. While preached, but not always practiced it is at least widely accepted. Some cultures believe that male authority should be absolute and women should submit to it. This seems dated and women are being more accepted in other areas of life. There can be women business owners , police, astronauts, and heads of state; people just cannot fathom a woman with physical power.
This seems to be the last area in which the public just needs to accept that women look different. It should also be accepted that all men are not attracted to the same paradigm of beauty. Sthenolgnia does not have subcategories. What Dr. Mark Giffiths is describing is a much larger subculture of female muscle fandom. While this encompasses people with various fetishes it can be vary broad.
The female muscle fandom is a fascinating phenomenon. It can be traced back to the 1970s in which female bodybuilding emerged. There had always been men who liked the muscular physique on women, but there was very few places one could go to see them. When women became active in the sport female muscle fans had a space to communicate and admire physically strong women. There are two factions of fans that are present in the female muscle fandom culture. There are fans who like any amount of muscle on women. This can range from the fitness of bikini competitor to the largest bodybuilder or female athlete of any sort. Schmoes like the most muscular women are just associated with the female bodybuilding subculture. They are the support base of the female building sport in which larger sports corporations have either ignored female athletes altogether. Though these zealous female bodybuilding fans are sometimes seen in a negative perspective, they contribute much financial aid to athletes. They buy tickets to contests, become members of athletes websites, and purchase mixed wrestling videos. Seeing as there remains a stigma about men liking physically powerful women, ,many men are not open about their love of female muscle. The internet provides at least some idea of possible numbers. There are multiple websites and social media related pages that feature muscular women and athletes. They generate huge amounts of traffic and it could be that many of these are men who are secret admirers. Publicly they will not admit such attraction to avoid ridicule, but they collect various materials. Other fans are open and honest about their love of female muscle. The subculture is both material and non-material. Photography has a large importance. Fans collect pictures of well known athletes or muscular women in general.
The photography can range from competition pictures, artistic based images, candid non-professional shots, and the more borderline lascivious pictures. Women are also contributing to this aspect of female muscle photography by adding such images to their websites and social media platforms. The collection of photographs is not just a hobby for some. It acts as historical documentation. Women who are like this are rare in number. The collector wants to get a large amount as a personal archive. Videos are also a part of the material culture. Competitions are not just the only videos female muscle fans watch. Some videos are just the women performing posing or simply doing a workout session. The age of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter also provides exclusive content of athletes in their journey to competition. The most popular videos involve mixed wrestling. Some female muscle fans rather watch mixed wrestling than being an active participant. This is an option for someone who cannot afford or is unwilling to pay for session wrestling. Video purchases from websites are much cheaper in comparison to having an actual session. Sometimes it is not a question of money. Observers rather not risk getting harmed by a woman twice their strength level. The non-material aspect of the female muscle fandom is related to forums and debates over aesthetics. Fans constantly discuss their favorite athletes and what the image of the muscular woman means to them. This discussion expands into a wider fitness culture that has become global.
The reason is that the internet has made communication much more simple. People can see websites all over the world. Women are slowly realizing the fun and joy of fitness culture. This is an important paradigm that is often ignored by academic investigation and commentators. These athletes have produced an image that has never been this wide spread in human history. Women are not just becoming socially and politically powerful there is a small movement for empowerment of the body. There are those who are opposed to this, but a portion of men have embrace the idea of the physically strong woman. All female muscle fans are not female muscle worshipers. This is only a small section of men ( or women) who like the idea of a muscular body.
The arts are also part of the female muscle fandom. Art which can either be drawings, paintings, or computer generated imagery are done by fans. The muscular woman as subject does not seem out of place in this regard. Art had in the Western tradition presented the male body in a muscular model. The female body was presented in a more voluptuous and soft paradigm. This has roots in Greek and Roman civilization and was revived during the Italian Renaissance. The difference with the female developing her body for physique sports is that they combine those two paradigms of the body. This can be seen in the art of female muscle fans. They often call a woman’s body a work of art, because it is referencing classical sculpture of the past. Female muscle growth is the common theme in the artworks produced, but not always. Some could be simple portraits or cartoon renditions. The art may depict an actual person or be fan art in which a female character has a muscular physique. Morphs and photo manipulations have over the decades become more popular. This involves the use of Photoshop manipulating picture to make it appear as if women have large muscles, who do not in reality.
Muscular women are depicted in cartoons, comics, and other entertainment media. It is no surprise that female muscle fans would produce artwork in response to this. Superheroes are a popular subject, because they are depicted as muscular in comics. The depictions of physically strong women can range from certain tropes like the amazonian beauty or the brawn hilda. Such portrayals can be either negative or positive in mainstream media and entertainment others may just be neutral. Writing is also a part of the female muscle fandom. Stories either involve the muscular woman as the protagonist or the antagonist. These writing can either be erotic in content or simple adventure. Seeing it easier to put material on the internet, writings can be on multiple websites. Such writing would not be found in a bookstore. However, with e-commerce writers can make kindle based stories that users can buy. There have been instances were female muscle growth stories have been found for sale on Amazon.com.
These writings being on Amazon.com expose FMG to a wider audience. Although it does not have a mainstream audience, the following could be possibly growing. The amazing part about this development is that such women inspire creative works in this small circle. There are accusations that such works are pornographic. While there is the erotic element present, the question is what would be the line? The majority of such works would barely even count as softcore material. Human sexuality and behavior has become a major source of interest to psychologists . Although this may seem like a mere preference there may be a reason for it.
There is a reason for why men and women engage in muscle worship or have a fetish for muscular strength. Dr. Mark Griffiths extracted one explanation from an article : ” The psychology of muscle worship is not fully understood. The practice developed from envy, jealousy, or profound appreciation for excellent muscularity. It is a relatively modern social activity that began to gain popularity with the rise of competitive bodybuilding. When the worshiper is of a less-muscular stature, the aspects of envy or jealousy are more pronounced. Typically, profound appreciation for the achievement of exceptional muscularity and stroking of the muscle god’s ego remain the primary motivations, particularly when muscle worship is done between two or more accomplished bodybuilders in a session.” It is difficult to place jealousy or envy in this assessment mainly becasue these are attributes that are found in detractors. Some men are threatened by women’s power in any sense whether it is physical, mental, or social. Jealousy comes from feeling that a individual is not deserving of the same things that other people have. There are men who believe that women do not deserve the same rights or treatment and get extremely offended when women enter a predominately male sphere of influence. Such men would not be seeking women of great strength. Appreciation seems to be the more logical answer.
Besides sexual attraction these women fascinate female muscle fans mainly due to their athletic prowess. Prior to their bodybuilding activities these women were involved in other sports. This gives them a good structural base to build size. The flaw in the examination of this fetish is that women are not focused on enough. It has been assumed that men have more fetishes compared to women, but this may not be accurate. Female sexuality has not been examined to the full extent compared to male sexual behavior. The rise of modern sexology reversed this and one of its pioneers was Alfred Kinsey. During the 1940s his research also gathered data from women on their sexual practices in the United States. It was once believed that women did not have sexual urges or sexuality. This falsehood was developed to control female sexual behavior. The Sexual Revolution challenged the more conservative perspectives about human sexuality and behavior as well as the traditional gender role scripts. How this relates to sexuality is that men and women have a psychological motivation for sexual activity and expression . Psychology also has an interest in studying motivation from the most basic which included hunger, thirst, and sex to the more complex social behaviors. The women who do this may enjoy throwing men around and get some thrill from it. Women can also have various fetishes and their could be for the session wrestler the enjoyment of overpowering a man. Domination may be an arousal inducer for the strong woman. Nothing can be known for sure due to the fact women’s reasons and motivations are multiple. Many just see it as a way to finance an athletes expenses in competition, but there are other ways income can be generated.
There is more to this than just a source of funds required to compete. Women do get gratification out of this as well in some manner. The explanation of ego boost does seem credible. Women during this practice can gain a high level of confidence from their strength training activities, but more esteem can be generated from fan attention. The image of submissive men is normally attached to the image of schmoe or female muscle fan. This is not always the case and they could experience an ego boost with such encounters with physically powerful women. There is a belief that a man who is with a powerful woman becomes stronger. While there are men who favor the aspect of being part of a power loss in this dynamic, there is a section that sees it as a demonstration of fortitude. The reasoning could be that it shows they can handle a very powerful woman. This gives the muscle worshiper a sense of increased power. The infantilism association may not even be a part of this. This is another fetish altogether in which adults get aroused by form acting like an baby or infant. Muscle worship or mixed wrestling rarely involves this fetish. There may be a youthful play like element to mixed wrestling reminiscent to childhood. This mixed wrestling could be a way for adults to relive a carefree time in life of unrestricted play and fun before taking on the responsibilities of maturity. Whatever the reason it may be this could be more wide spread than previously thought.
There is a tendency to jump to conclusions about particular activity that is little known. The reason there may be so little information is that people are not willing to be open or honest about their sexual practices. Surveys are hindered by this, because they are dependent on whether or not participants give honest answers. Another large study on human sexuality was conducted in the 1990s known as the The Social Organization of Sexuality: Practices in the United States. The survey give in the study was a project known as the National Health and Social Life Survey. The age range was between 18 and 59. The study revealed that more youth were sexually active. This marks a big cultural shift compared to Alfred Kinsey’s era. Sexual behavior is not entirely biological and can be both environmental as well as culturally based. Attitudes toward sex and fetishes vary among liberal or conservative cultures. There is a sociological dynamic that operates differently in societies that favor arranged marriage or support free love. Psychology holds that most people function on three major motives which include achievement, hunger, and sex. Sex is a biological drive that can be influenced by learning. It is not homeostatic. There may be a possible unconscious process to it. This could be the reason men and women are involved in muscle worship activity is due to the unconscious drive for sexual expression. Such theories are only speculation and without an experimental process it cannot be seen as a scientific fact.
Body image is a subject of interest to psychology mainly due to the mental basis of eating disorders. Stress and depression can effect eating habits. Relevant to the topic of sthenolagnia, it reveals the psychology about observers viewing it from the outside. There is a beauty standard that varies across cultures, but when a person does not fit that paradigm they are ostracized. Even the people who claim to be open to different ideas or people may have an unconscious bias. The muscular woman is seen with either unconscious bias or open hostility. This is also directed at supporters and admirers of such women. There would be no question of the men who liked the conventional or popular beauty standard. However, if one deviates then they accused of being eccentric or a person with a perversion. Society just needs to realize that there are different forms of beauty.
A common misconception is that female muscle fans only like one body type. Their predilections could be vast. Society is slowly catching up with a larger visibility of plus sized women in modeling and advertisements.
Bias is an interesting topic in psychology. Confirmation bias is the tendency to favor evidence that favors a particular perspective. Emotional bias describes making assessments based on feeling rather than on facts or evidence. Both concepts could be applied to the examination of women of various body types. Muscular women would be subject to both biases if a serious study were to be conducted about the nature of such a fetish. There also is the problem of expectancy bias, which could effect a survey for psychological research. Researchers can affect a study’s outcome by their own personal expectations. If a researcher has a personal bias against women who look different that would alter such experiments. The topic of body image continues to be a widely examined topic in the age of prevalent mass media.
Female muscle worship would not constitute being a phenomenon of abnormal psychology. The question of what is normal can be debated. There are attributes of mental disorders. Dr, Mark Griffiths main focus in psychology is addictive behavior. Gambling disorder Dr. Griffiths has written extensively about. The love of the physically strong woman or the sthenolagnia fetish would not be considered an addiction or a mental disorder. Mental disorder can classified in a spectrum. These include no disorder, mild disorder, moderate disorder, and severe disorder. The classification of mental disorders is imperfect and has in the past had a level of controversy. Homosexuality was once considered a mental disorder according to American Psychiatric Association. This was dropped from the DSM in 1973. Science is not a completely unbiased or objective pursuit. Based on the general classifications a mild disorder can display itself in difficulty in relationships or behavioral change. Moderate disorders can project themselves with inappropriate behaviors during a particular situation and more pronounced difficulty with other people. Severe mental disorders hinder function of daily life. These descriptions are vague so this only complicates what the true nature of mental disorder is. Addiction is a mental disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association addiction is “a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use.” It is possible that this could range between a moderate to severe mental disorder. Sthenolagnia would not be an addiction or a mental disorder. There is a possibility that an individual could become addicted. Addictions could range from work, to sex, or even gaming and internet use. Considering female muscle fandom is not as large as compared to gambling or gaming, there may not be a specific addiction to strong women. Sthenolagnia is nothing more than a harmless fetish.