By Bill Dobbins

IN ANIMALS LIKE DOGS and cats, sexually receptivity is advertised by odor. But humans are primarily a visual species. Visual clues play an extremely significant role in determining who we find sexually attractive. In some types of monkeys, our close cousins, the genitals of females become red and swollen during estrus. Human females are physiologically receptive to sex at all time, not just once a month. So the visual aspect of sexual attraction has become much more subtle and sophisticated.

There is a difference in the type of visual input that human males and female respond to. Women seem to look for signs that a man will make a good father and provider. Hence a less physically attractive man driving a Porsche has certain advantages over a better looking guy in a Chevy. Men, on the other hand, tend to respond to women as "sexual objects," that is to things like the beauty and shapeliness of the body, the curve of the breast and buttocks, the wearing of sexy clothes or lingerie. One anthropologist has even suggested that the size of the human female breast, which is much bigger and rounder than it needs to be and far larger than that of other primates, evolved as humans began to stand erect in order to duplicate the stimulating effect on males of a big, round rear end.

Every man has certain things that are particular turn-ons. We all respond best to certain physical types---taller, shorter, blond, dark, lean or full-figured, large or small breasted, specific ethnic types and so forth. Europeans are less erotically focused on large breasts than Americans, and more accepting of body hair and natural body odors. Nudity in an of itself is more stimulating to Americans than Europeans, but in cultures in which women are totally covered in public all the time even wearing even shorts or sleeveless blouses is considered outrageously provocative. When most of the women you meet wear veils, the eyes take on particular significance in conveying sexual signals.

Individual preferences in turn-ons can be taken to the extreme. When some object, part of the body or type of sexual behavior becomes a necessity, something without which full sexual arousal is impossible, this is called a fetish. A fetish is a sexual fixation. It can involve a part of the body, such as the feet. Or an object such as a shoe, lingerie, leather or plastic. Or a behavior such as bondage, spanking, "peeping," urination, exhibitionism, penetration by objects or anal intercourse.

There have always been men who found the athletic female body a particular turn-on. Certain female athletes, including those involved in everything from track to swimming to dancing, can develop lean, shapely bodies that radiate health and energy, which can be attractive and sexy. But there is a considerable difference between the degree of muscular development achieved by women athletes in general and the extreme degree of mass and muscularity that characterizes the modern, elite female bodybuilder. The bodies of these women are so different and so extreme that it is difficult for men to relate to them sexually in any "normal" manner.

Bodies like this never existed in all of history before the late 1970s, and even then the degree of development exhibited by the first female competition bodybuilders was nothing compared to what is seen today. This is no precedent in human history for this kind of body. It has no history. This means that most males have no familiar visual signals to respond to when dealing with one of these women. They look like other women to some degree, so they send out visual signals that men respond to. But these signals are so different, so strange, so bizarre that men often respond in very conflicted ways---both positive and negative.

When you take a type of body this unusual that is also beautiful and excites in bizarre ways you have to stuff of fetish. And, indeed, that is how many men respond to the female bodybuilding physique. They often fantasize about being dominated by these women, physically overpowered, taken sexually by force. They hire them to do private wrestling sessions, which is the bodybuilding version of lap dancing. They become sexually aroused imagining hard, defined abdominals, powerful muscular glutes and flaring, striated thighs. Tits and ass becomes pecs and glutes.. Female biceps become sex objects: "Flex your arms, dear….I’m cumming."

This doesn’t mean that everyone who finds these women attractive and sexy has developed a fetish. Some of them are quite attractive by conventional standards, once you get used to the difference in scale. After all, really tall girls of six feet or more used to find themselves without a date on Saturday night, while now they become supermodels. Fashions in what kind of bodies are attractive change. Women bodybuilders like Rachel McLish, Cory Everson, Lenda Murray, Anja Langer, Tonya Knight, Yolanda Hughes and so forth have been lauded as much for their sexy looks as for their bodybuilding excellence. But when you look in some physique magazines and see photos of short, thick, troll-like women, with thick rope-like muscles, hitting most muscular shots while wearing short sleeveless dresses and high heels---you might just be looking at a fetish photo.

Is there anything wrong with this? Not necessarily. At least, not unless it becomes a problem for the individual with the fetish. A man who collects women’s shoes or finds it necessary to occasionally put on a bra, but whose life is otherwise successful, hasn’t really got a problem. A man who steals women’s shoes and underwear does. A fetish for blondes creates far fewer problems than a total fixation on little girls. The danger of being too much in thrall to a sexual fetish is that it may cut the person off from normal, fulfilling sexual relationships. Fetishism can lead to a sex life that exists totally in fantasy. And while an individual can live an entire lifetime relying almost totally on masturbation for sexual satisfaction (a recent biography of artist Salvador Dali describes his sex life in these terms) there is something profoundly sad and unrewarding about this prospect.

However, as discussed above, it is also possible to simply find females with muscle attractive because they are women with beautiful bodies. The strangeness of this type of physique passes once you get used to it. When you are familiar and at ease with the highly developed female physique, you may like it a little or a lot or dislike it a little or a lot, but you will no longer find it bizarre or "unnatural." After all, the women who develop their muscles for physique competition are not doing it to become sex objects; the purpose of their efforts is to become athletic champions, not to attract men. But as strongly as humans hold to ideas of body conformation and gender identity, it will likely be quite a while before people in general accept this kind of physique in an unqualified way. In the meantime, it will still tend to anger and alienate some, and to become the object of sexual fetish for others.