By JOHN ROMANO (for Muscular Development Magazine)
I was first intrigued with a finely tuned muscle goddess one day looking up from under a bench press. I had just racked the weight when I looked up to see the two most perfect little glute muscles swagger by; packed rather alluringly into a pair of black spandex so sheer there was little doubt of the color of the G-string underneath. I whacked the bar with my head hard enough to leave a lasting impression of the knurling as I sat up to see the rest of her. The top half was implanted with just enough silicone to round out the silhouette; straining provocatively against comparably sheer spandex, cropped short to reveal the most ravishing six pack. Her face was straight out of a magazine - naturally pretty without make up, framed with little wisps of blond hair that continued on down to her waist.
She turned and saw me checking her out. Thankfully she smiled, a little bashfully, and threw me a look I could've poured on a waffle. I mustered the courage to walk over and strike up a conversation, stumbling over lines I came up with from I don't know where. I practically gagged when I asked for her phone number, but she gave it to me. I used it that afternoon and that evening I went out on a date with my very first muscle chick.
As I got out of bed the next morning, I was well on my way to two and a half years of, among other things, the most intimate and in depth experience of a woman taking steroids. An insight that is some what unique, never the less an accurate perspective of what the majority of women taking male hormones experiences. The drugs effected her physically, sexually and emotionally in ways that made the relationship interesting to say the least. I'm not saying it was the worst relationship I ever had, but she did give great headache.
Like the men similarly compelled, women bodybuilders must confront the very same health and legal issues when they decide to gear up. Women must also face some pretty cruel public ridicule due to the irreversible symptoms of the masculinizing effect male hormones have on their bodies and their minds. I'm not just talking about a girl with muscles. I'm talking about the hardcore, top level competitors. The ones plastered all over the magazines. The ones who build the bodies you expect to see when you cough up your hard earned money for a contest ticket.
To physically and emotionally augment the body of one sex by injecting it with the hormones of the opposite sex, you will inevitably contend with, in this case, something quite controversial. Do male hormones diminish femininity or add masculinity and which case is undesirable? I think both. But first I think we need to try and understand femininity.
Visually, can you compare Kim Chizevsky to Marla Duncan, both in contest shape, and say one looks more feminine than the other? (I sure can, but I'm probably wrong). I'd imagine some feminist advocates would argue that both are feminine because both are women, that femininity lies within and is the experience of being a woman. The visual attributes that traditionally define femininity from a male point of view; big tits, a round butt, a slim waist and a pretty face have nothing to do with it.
I can no more explain femininity than a tornado can blow through a junk yard and spit out the space shuttle. I don't have what it takes. But Carol Anne does. There is perhaps no more staunch an advocate of feminism than our own Carol Anne Weber. At least if I state her definition I won't be subject to her wrath. If you've ever stood opposite the business end of the mouth of bodybuilding while she defends anything female, you know what I mean.
Carol Anne concurred with the feminist position. "Femininity is defined by women not men." She says. It is how she experiences herself, her experience of being a woman. She is perfectly able to develope her body, to build muscle and compete as a bodybuilder without losing an once of femininity. It's men who decide a woman is not feminine because she has muscles.
I agree, as long as they don't do steroids. As far as I'm concerned women bodybuilders on steroids are not feminine, not women bodybuilders in general - just the gnarly ones.
This is the crux issue here. The general public, (represented by the fifty men and women I polled), agree. No one told me they didn't think the natural women bodybuilders were not feminine. It's the women with huge striated, veiny muscles, grainy skin, a big nose, a wide jaw, and a voice like Barry White on helium that are not considered feminine nor desirable. But, in the true essence of competition, who cares what people think? A fine line has evidentially been established; a small contingent of fans still remain to support the result of no holds barred competition - unbridled development with the only concern the trophy. Their audience is very limited though. As a result many top pros can't get by without their day job. Or worse.
As steroid use permeated women's bodybuilding, public interest declined accordingly. When George Snyder promoted the first Ms. Olympia, it was well received and supported by a diverse contingent of loyal fans. The women looked fit, strong, and certainly feminine. They had a look that inspired other women, a look that could realistically be achieved. The sport grew and eventually steroids found their way to the front line. The IFBB attempted to test the athletes and enforce their rules against steroid use in 1990. Naturally it was a feeble attempt. These days you see women on stage in dire need of a third gender classification. Apart from Lenda Murray's awesome genetics, and Sue Price's unspoiled beauty, the line-up at this year's Ms. O was appalling. I couldn't even look at some of them. And I'm not the only one. The show has lost so much of its following, as well as many of its popular competitors, that it can no longer stand on its own. The last year the Ms. Olympia was promoted as a solo event less than 2000 tickets were sold. Now it has to be held in conjunction with the men's show in order to get enough of an audience to turn a profit.
I spoke with several women, who I know use drugs to compete, to try and find out why they'd be willing to cash in their femininity and their desirability for such a paltry return. Quite surprisingly their take on the issue is very different from the men.
First of all, few female competitors will actually admit they're oiled in spite of all the obvious signs. Only a few of the girls I interviewed admitted they were or had been "on." Probably only because they had asked my advise on how to take their drugs and that I promised not to use their names. All the rest are in denial. Even when shown pictures of themselves before and after a few years worth of cycles, (not menstrual), they still won't admit it. If they spent half the energy in the gym training as they do making up the ludicrous excuses to explain away their jaw or their voice or their big nose, they wouldn't need drugs. I wonder if they think they're doing something wrong? Not in so far as breaking the IFBB's rules as well as the law, but rules created by a higher power. It's so perfectly ironic; they copy the men in how they train and how they compete, they take male hormones, and guess what? They turn into men!
What does a woman experience as the drugs she's taking to grow her muscles slowly start to turn her male? They do you know. To say the effect male hormones have on women is profound is to say Noah built the ark because of a little rain. Listing the side effects women experience while taking steroids is one thing, living with them is another. Six months after we started dating, the girl I met in the gym started her first cycle. She wanted to win the Nationals and felt there was no other way to compete at that level. I argued that she didn't have the genetics to win the Nationals, drugs were only going to ruin her body. She may not have had the genetics to win the Nationals, but she had a body that would make a priest burn his robes. Muscular, lean, shapely, flawless skin - a beautiful, sexy woman with muscles. She could have done well without taking steroids, but she'd never win the Nationals. With or without steroids.
Well that pissed her off. By telling her what I thought, I'd thrown down the gauntlet and she wasted no time gearing up. In fact, she tried making up for lost time by staying oiled from then on.
It turns out I was right. As far as I know she still has not won the Nationals. She did ruin her body and her femininity though. Her skin became course and dry, a lot of her hair fell out, her voice dropped three octaves, her nose grew, her jaw widened and she stopped having her period. In two years I watched her go from the hottest babe I'd ever seen to something that looked like a day old drag queen. She developed almost every side effect a woman can, both physical and emotional, from all the different drugs she used. It was an incredible metamorphosis, and certainly the root of our demise.
Her change, (I know you're just dying to know who she is) is basically what all women taking steroids experience. Some a little more than others, but no woman is immune to steroid side effects. No matter how much they deny it. The ones I'll describe are perhaps the most common. They're irreversible, most undesirable and for some strange reason tolerated.
The most visible de-feminizing side effects are well known and well discussed. Even by the sport's governing body, which seems to turn a blind eye to those competitors obviously breaking the rules. What I want to talk about is the stuff nobody else does; the more intimate stuff. The physical and psychological changes a woman experiences when her sex is compromised - when androgyny sets in. What goes on in a heterosexual relationship when the female member starts turning male. It's not pretty and I'll no doubt offend somebody, but that's the breaks when you get the truth.
First lets talk about aggression. It's good for a bodybuilder to be aggressive, you get a better workout right? True. But when a woman's aggression is mitigated by testosterone, the result is very ugly. Their brains are obviously confused. They start fights they can't finnish, they mouth off to any one that looks at them sideways and they lose their temper at the drop of a hat. I remember an anecdotal situation with my former girlfriend. It was the first time I witnessed firsthand androgynous aggression.
We were in the crowded baggage claim area at LAX on the way home from a guest posing. While I waited for our luggage to pop out of the conveyor she waited, impatiently, leaning against the wall, wearing spandex shorts, a sports bra and a baggy tank top. She was in fairly good shape from dieting for her appearance, dyed dark brown, and covered in veins from all the junk she rewarded herself with after the show. Looking back I must say she was a sight.
Some poor guy was staring at her just a little too long and she went off in that grating voice of an adolescent male. "What the f--- are you lookin' at dick weed? Ha? I'll rip those f---in' eyes right out of your bald head and........." I practically had to pull her off him in front of stunned on-lookers.
How about sexual aggression? Testosterone makes women horny. Very horny and very aggressive. Before you go putting Dianabol in you girlfriend's oatmeal, picture this - the girl weighs 150 pounds, can do an hour on the Stairmaster, and bench two and a quarter. She's all worked up, got nothing to do and she wants you - NOW! I'm not talking candles and soft music here, I'm talking total, aggressive, instant gratification - several times a day.
If that's the kind of girl that lights your wick, remember to keep the bedroom windows shut. Getting ridden into oblivion while she boisterously extols her pleasure in a voice that sounds like Ed down at the gas station, will have your neighbors think you're having sex with another man. For months after she moved in, until he finally met her, my downstairs neighbor thought I was gay. Then he thought I was weird.
Okay, so you don't mind having frequent sex with a big strong aggressive woman with a deep voice. I was able to put up with it, for a while. But how about a big strong aggressive woman with a deep voice, a hairy butt and a small penis?
Clitoral enlargement resulting from androgen use is another irreversible side effect. I've seen more than one as big as my thumb, and I can tell you - it'll change the way you think about cunnilingus. When a woman so endowed becomes aroused, her clitoris becomes erect and sticks out just like a penis does. It even looks exactly like a miniature penis. Some women argue that this condition results in more frequent and more intense orgasms. Others contend the added size increases sensitivity to the point where climbing a flight of stairs in tight pants is a problem. In either case, get used to it. It won't go away.
Hirsutism, or rampant hair growth, is another irreversible side effect. This hair growth sprouts up on the chin, chest, around the nipples, and the buttocks - especially the lower inner glutes and around the anus. Ridding her body of this excess hair can become an obsession for one so afflicted. I know women who spend hours standing in front of the mirror plucking corse dark hairs out of their chin with a tweezer, shave their chest and do some extensive bikini waxing. Frequently. And they'll be doing so for the rest of their lives.
Stomach distention is another side effect attributed to steroid use. The innards of the lower abdomen become irritated and swollen from the use of certain steroids. Chronic constipation, water retention, and intestinal gas can also contribute to the problem. Although not permanent nor particularly problematic, a protruding gut is just another thing the stacked women wants to hide. They try so hard to keep it sucked in.
Vaginal discharge. Sounds sexy, doesn't it? Women using steroids that are moderately to highly androgenic usually come down with a nasty case of "the drip." She doesn't have a disease or an infection, just the discharge. Obviously this condition is not harmful, and it does go away when the drugs are stopped. But, while she's got it, it's just another thing for her to deal with. If her lover plans on spending any time in or around her vagina, he or she will have to deal with it too.
Another bothersome yet temporary condition for the roiding woman is the strengthening of her body oder. Left unbathed, it's typical for a man to smell a bit more randy than a woman. Testosterone effects the sweat glands in humans, much like most mammals, giving the males of the species a stronger odor. Females taking male hormones may also be equipped with this option.
Her private acceptance of these conditions is cause for great depression and withdrawal for some competitors. Depression is further aggravated if and when her steroid use stops. Estrogen rebound causes extreme depression, fatigue, apathy, etc. Some told me they thought they were going crazy until their hormones got back in balance. Watching her size, strength and leanness slipping away is more fuel for the fire.
A depressed, hairy woman with a pot belly, scathing body odor, a small penis and a case of the drip is considered by most potential lovers sexually repugnant and the source of great emotional trauma for some women. Forget the muscles, some women may become so self conscious and ashamed of her new masculinity that her sexuality is significantly affected. Turning male can also become the source of considerable sexual dysfunction in a relationship. A woman's sexuality can be damaged for life, especially if she's had a bad experience or two with an intolerant, inept, lover.
Is it all worth it? Do the top women competing today earn millions of dollars a year and enjoy wide scale public acceptance and celebrity in exchange for life long disfigurement and psychological trauma? Ha! Many of them can't pay the bills. It's interesting that with what little women's bodybuilding has to offer, the top competitors as well as those striving to get there, are sill willing to trade in a good chunk of their femininity, by using steroids, to create an image that is so totally unacceptable.
Many times it's not her fault. It's a boyfriend or a husband with higher aspirations and enough gear to grow a beard on a peach, who talks an unwitting competitor into doing everything it takes to win. These guys are usually bodybuilders themselves, competitors who never really make it. Their mate may have a better shot at a title than he, and if so, what better science project to take on for a vicarious trip to the top? Unfortunately these guys don't know enough to get themselves into shape, let alone another bodybuilder - a woman no less, with a totally different chemistry than his. We've all seen women climbing the ranks and over the years remarked on how gnarly they're getting. More often than not there's an exclusive guy in the wings with a big dripping syringe who's responsible for ruining her.
Some women use small amounts of low androgen steroids and experience very few side effects and have little effect on the stigma of top level competitors. Unfortunately the majority of these women don't fair well in competition and it's not long before they retire, moving on to bigger and better things. Even fewer women compete drug free. My wife, Shelley Beattie, never used drugs in her pro career. Although she used them to win the USA and turn pro under the guidance of a complete bone head, she did far better without them, (the drugs and the bonehead). Third place in the Ms. Olympia, drug free, is quite an accomplishment - one she is quite proud of. (If there is any doubt Shelly competed drug free, consider this: in 92 Shelley became an American Gladiator. Gladiators are forbidden to take steroids by the producers of the show. Drug testing is mandatory and they actually do it - if you fail you're off the show. Shelley has passed all of her drug tests and is still a Gladiator.) Unfortunately, she was told by an IFBB official that if she expected to do better she needed to take "something." The following year Shelley showed up bigger and leaner. However she didn't take the IFBB's advice as many of her fellow competitors obviously had. She placed seventh. Sadly, her fans will never see her compete again on a bodybuilding stage; the writing was on the wall. Shelley may be deaf but she's not blind.
Shelley is a talented and gifted athlete, able to ply her gifts outside the bodybuilding arena. She's made several hundred thousand dollars since abandoning the posing dias and has many lucrative opportunities ahead of her. Most of the competitors today are not so fortunate.
A few of the professional female competitors can earn a living from guest posing, seminars, and the occasional endorsement contract. Other aspiring champions have limited options. Some work a regular job or do personal training to get by. Many choose a more degrading path; stripping, prostitution, phone sex, and catering to the whims of the schmoes.
Schmoes are sexual deviates who pay women bodybuilders to wrestle with them, to squeeze her sinewy biceps, have their heads scissored between a pair of powerful thighs, or thrown around like a rag doll by a muscular dominatrix. Many times masturbating in the process. There's more money in it for her if she provides the "hand release." It's the most loathsome form of prostitution. Schmoes are the scum of the earth you would normally find while taking a trip through a sewer in a glass bottomed boat. Sick lecherous little people that no lone female should ever have to face, let alone provide such a service for. Yet so many do. I find it reprehensible that even one woman devoted to this sport feels she has to stoop so low. Bodybuilding seems to be full of such sad commentary.
What's the reason the women have it so tough? The men have it tough, but not this tough. The answer is obvious. They need to stop using steroids!
Male hormones belong in a male body. Pump in extra and he becomes more male. As normal sounding as that is it's still wrong, never the less socially acceptable. But steroids turn women male and rob her body of its femininity in the process. The result is quite unacceptable, evident by the decline in popularity women's bodybuilding has suffered over the years and the poor public opinion of the competitors. Fitness has been around just a fraction of the time and enjoys far greater popularity as well as public acceptance. There's got to be a message there.
If it's true that a competitor competes at all costs simply to satisfy her own destiny, regardless of popular opinion, then she who competes with the help of male hormones is on the right track. If steroid use continues unabated in women's competition, if the women continue to show up come contest time looking more and more like boys with breast implants, the sport will surely perish. Then they really won't have to worry about what people think.
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