Flex-rated! Female bodybuilding: feminist resistance or erotic spectacle?

Richardson, Niall (2008) Flex-rated! Female bodybuilding: feminist resistance or erotic spectacle? Journal of Gender Studies, 17 (4). pp. 289-301. ISSN 0958-9236

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This paper aims to develop the already extensive writing on female bodybuilding by speculating on the 'possible' eroticism of the hyper-muscular female body. Most of the existing academic literature on female bodybuilding has either praised the built female body as feminist resistance to traditional ideas of femininity or else dismissed it as a strange form of erotic spectacle. Indeed, one of the fastest growing forms of erotic representation is the newly christened form of sexual fetishism termed 'muscle-worship' which has only recently reached public awareness through the new found availability of videos/DVDs and, most importantly, the Internet. This paper seeks to problematize readings of female bodybuilding which view it simply as feminist resistance or erotic spectacle. It argues that interpreting the image of the hyper-muscular female body is dependent upon its context and how it is coded within the representation. While mainstream bodybuilding representations attempt to create a sense of erotic numbness, asking the spectator to appraise the body like living sculpture, muscle-worship erotica contextualizes and eroticizes the body in a very different way.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
Depositing User: Niall Richardson
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 19:32
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2012 11:01
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/21175
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