Female Athletes & Bodybuilders: Muscularity & Sex Appeal Can Coexist

Female Muscularity

Having the Ripped Look is No Longer only a Masculine Trait

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Until the mid-1980s being hard, muscular and "ripped" was considered an exclusively masculine trait. Women of the past were soft and round with feminine curves. Hundreds of years ago big, stocky women with large breasts, hips and glutes were favored as ideal breed in stock. Skinny women were seen as too boy-like and less ideal for passing on one's genes and progeny.

The ideal women of the 1940 such as movie stars Ginger Rogers, Betty Gable, Vivien Leigh, Dorothy Lamour, Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner, Jane Russell, Lauren Bacall, Rita Hayworth and Jennifer Jones, were large- breasted and voluptuous with little in the way of muscle size or muscularity.

In no way did they have masculine physical qualities. The sex symbols the 1950s and '60s - Marilyn Monroe, Mansfield, Ava Gardener, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Kim Novak, Joan Collins, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Elizabeth Taylor, Ursula Andress, Ann-Margret, Catherine Deneuve, Raquel Welch, Dyan Cannon, Julie Christie, Jane Fonda (before her fitness days) and Brigitte Bardot - carried much more bodyfat and were much more sensual than the supermodels and female movie and TV stars of today (let alone top fitness stars - let's not try to compare them to female body-builders).

Even well into the 1980s the beautiful women of Hollywood were much more traditional in their body types. Think of a young Kim Basinger, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jacqueline Bisset, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kathleen Tuner, Kate Capshaw, Bo Derek, Lonnie Anderson, Farrah Fawcett or Donna Dixon. Since the fitness craze of the late '80s women have gotten leaner and leaner. Muscular definition has gone mainstream and become a desired attribute for models and entertainers. But you have to wonder. Whereas sex icon Marilyn Monroe wore a size 12, Lois & Clark TV star Ten Hatcher wears a waif-like size 2. The fitness ideal has gotten to the point where director Joel Schumacher said in a 1996 issue of People magazine that Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe could not get a job today. Their agents would tell them: "Go on a diet. Get a trainer."

lt's hard to believe that many modem young girls would rather look like Kate Moss than Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot or Sophia Loren. Has something gone wrong with our value systems? Men are supposed to be angular and hard. The very essence of differences between masculine and feminine is the hardness of masculinity and the softness of femininity - leather versus silk and lace. Even in sexual intercourse a man must "get hard" and a woman must "get soft" for lovemaking to be possible. Women have always used fashion and makeup to accentuate the physical differences between the sexes and to make themselves more desirable. Witness pushup bras to make breasts look larger and more appealing; high heels to arch the butt; girdles and corsets to pull in the waist to accentuate the breasts, hips and glutes; clinging, low-cut dresses and see-through blouses, miniskirts, skimpy shorts and tops; bikinis, thongs, nylons, garters, pantyhose, lingerie - all to tease and tantalize; makeup to simulate the flush of sexual arousal; perfume to allure.

Most men and women celebrate these differences. As the French say, ' Vive La Difference!" The chemistry of love and sexual attraction ensures that men never feel more masculine than when lusting for a beautiful woman and women never feel more feminine than when they're in the company of a man who makes them feel beautiful and desirable. A few years of feminist politics and education cannot erase millions of years of evolution. Like it or lump it, that's the way of the world. Open up any women's magazine and you'll find that nearly every ad and almost every article is about how to be more beautiful, more sexy, more desirable, more feminine. The other articles are devoted to understanding the difference between men and women and why they think, talk and behave so differently.

Ultimately, I think, men were meant to be men and women were meant to be women. Boys and girls, with the exception of their genitals, are very similar physically before puberty, but then they change as nature intended in order to propagate the species. Only some kind of weird science has influenced the two sexes to become more physically similar even in adulthood.

Yes, there were the amazons of the past, and Super girl and Wonder Woman of the comic books, but the average untrained woman is never as naturally muscular as the average untrained man. Or at least women naturally carry much more bodyfat than the average man (15 percent for men, 25 percent for women) to make women better mothers.

Sure, there have been well-known strongwomen of the past, but, like many of their male counterparts, they tended to be large, bulky, stocky, endomorphic types, with big powerful muscles but little muscular definition. Some Russian and East German Olympic athletes of the '6Os and '70s were very muscular and masculine looking - so much, in some cases, that medical tests were enforced to ensure certain competitors in women's events were indeed women. (Some weren't!) Everyone realized, however; that the muscularity was due to steroids and intense training.'

Pudgy Stockton, the well-known lifter of the early l950s Muscle Beach days, was definitely a forerunner of the modem female bodybuilder, but she did not look anything like the current female champions. Nor did the pioneers of modern female bodybuilding, women such as Lisa Lyon, Patsy Chapman, Rachel McLish, Kike Elomaa, Candy Csencsits, Claudia Wilbourn, Inger Zetterqvist, Shelley Gruwell and Gladys Portugues. In fact, in terms of muscle mass and muscularity the bodybuilding champions of the early l980s resembled today's fitness champs more than bodybuilders. Certainly no one ever expected that women would become as strong and muscular as Bev Francis, or as superbly developed and shaped as Cory Everson, Lenda Murray or Laura Creavelle. At their best these women could have defeated some of the ML America and Mr. Universe winners of the 1940s and 1950s.

Undoubtedly this change is largely due to the use of anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, Clenbuterol, thyroid and diuretics (as well as plastic surgery, breast implants and liposuction), but certainly, as well, women had never trained as intensely as men, or been as serious about developing their physiques until female bodybuilding took off in the 1980s. Never had women followed such strict diets and put as much time and effort into winning contests until the 1980s either. Female bodybuilding developed so quickly that observing it was like watching snowflakes accumulate during a blizzard. Only five years after people got used to the idea that it was so cute and gutsy of Lisa Lyon to train at Gold's Gym and to develop little muscles, female "monsters" started to shock the world and change the way we defined women as feminine.

Certain female journalists, such as Carol Ann Weber of Muscular Development magazine, have lamented the fact that drugs were introduced so quickly into women's bodybuilding. They contend that we do not really know what a truly genetically gifted woman bodybuilder could accomplish naturally in the way of muscle mass, size, shape and muscular definition. Well, I think we have a pretty good idea based on the achievements of some female athletes, fitness champions and natural bodybuilders - and it ain't anything like the top female bodybuilders of the past 12 years!




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