Sex Sells | Pornification of Fitness Industry

sex sells

I feel like I am treading on thin territory as I write about this subject matter, however, it is a something that has been increasingly on my mind. We all know that sex sells. This is certainty something which has been embedded into me when studying marketing and communications at university. What is concerning however is, since when did sex come into sport?

Of course being healthy and in good shape is what makes us attractive. I am not going to argue with that. Today, however, I feel the meaning of attractiveness in relation health and sport has been taken to a whole new level of superficial i.e that of soft porn – the kind of put on a stick and eat it sort of thing…

And, before you think, Sara’s going off on a rant, I just want to ask you to please bare with me. I ensure I am not and hope you will see where I am going with this!



When a subject is presented in a certain manner, the meaning of a photograph can often change. Great photographers know this, and therefore direct their subjects as needed. This means things can be distorted or exaggerated to look at there best.

Little do you realize then, that those girls asses who look good enough to eat, are usually overarching there back so much that they could resemble a constipated duck from side angle.

Such angles help produce great pictures for you guys to ogle over, however unfortunately means it does mean there is much of real imagery left out there and perhaps why many complain nothing is left to the imagination anymore! Their skin is also usually flawless without a blemish or onze of cellulite in sight.

sex sells

The main problem I have with the pornification of the fitness industry, however, is not the perception of it as flawless. Superficial and based on beauty, but the fact these faces can become fitness guru’s at a snap.

Fitness guru’s

These girls who feature cover to cover on fitness magazines, websites or social media are not professionals giving advice.

In fact, fitness magazines don’t help us get fit anymore. Gazing at the images of breasts implants, latino buttocks and bulging biceps. The impression of how fit bodies should look, and that every body needs to be shaped in the same light. This is not healthy and unfortunately what fitness magazines use to “inspire” women.

What we don’t realize is that when we are looking at the faces and bodies of these women’s physiques in magazines, most of them have dieted for months to look this way. Perhaps are days prior to a contest where they have put themselves through rigorous training, dieting and ahem usually supplements to lean out. Or, some are just pure genetics freaks, for instance Jen Selter.

Its all a Lie, trust nothing

The annoying thing is that the workouts in these magazines are usually false. Not a true reflection, of what these girls have put themselves through to look the way they do. To me, the imagery screams sex and forgets about all the rest, which happens behinds, the scene. It’s hard work! Doing body weight squats, does jack shit. If you want to make it as a fitness or physique model….

To me this is perhaps one of the most bothersome parts, because fusing fitness with sex and stamping the whole package with words like “strength” or “dedication” conditions viewers and participants to see those terms solely in that light.

sex sells“Dedication” becomes a matter of 4:30am workouts and Tupperware meals of chicken and broccoli, “inspiration” gets measured in pounds and inches lost, and “health” is seen as a consuming regime of workouts and diets and supplements and the occasional skimpy bikini. It makes people think that these over sexualized images demonstrate the pinnacle of fitness and health, and insinuates that they should be a goal towards which we strive. When in fact it is something these girls usually only do for a few weeks in the year and once many have done a show & won the title desired, usually never want to go back on stage again because of the hard work involved. Or, else thrive of the buzz from it and the hard work and focus required, when in the “zone”.

One size fits all

“Strong is the new skinny” is also the new in thing, but women should not be forced to pick between the two. We all come in different shapes and sizes and if you were to ask us women, we usually don’t really have a choice between the two. It is hard to accept, but people should learn to embrace this.

I for one have always struggled with my weight and hoover around eleven stone; now I accept and work with what I have. That is a large bone structure and wide shoulders, but nothing can change this. It’s just me, my make up and something my mums side of the family have passed down to me.

So what I am trying to say is that, it should not matter what shape you are. You can only develop from what you have naturally. I applaud the thin whippets who are futile and agile on the mats, most likely have high metabolisms and will never be fat. And, I also respect those big beautiful women who give it all just as much as the bodybuilders in life. Leading me onto why many women enter sport.

It’s a choice

Many women who enter fitness, sport or bodybuilding usually do so due to their competitive nature. We usually have athletic backgrounds and enjoy the challenge. What should be noted is that those that are generally sporty or have an interest do not usually do this for fame or recognition, but for us.

Bodybuilding is often termed as a dying sport. So much respect should be given to the hard work the women put in to achieve such physiques, to me this should not be forgot about when sexualized.

The result can be very athletically pleasing to the eye, however bodybuilding is so much more than just this. They are athletes who love their sport. The rewards are also limited, yet these women participate knowing it is a way they can accomplish their goals. Behind closed doors aside from the little rewards, they can also often face rejection from society, isolation to small social scenes who understand them, and routine to hard work and dedication required. These physiques do not come easily!

Serious athletes, who these women are, do not care what others think. If they did they would not continue in a sport, which many feel women do not belong in. If people find them sexy that’s of little relevance.  They are pushing themselves physically and mentally to the limit to be the best at their sport, and not to satisfy observers. Some women even disregard judging criteria all together and present their physiques the way they think appropriate.

Women know what they are doing

On the other hand, it cannot be argued that us women do not know what we are doing. The fitness industry involves competitions, training, sponsorships, and of course our fan base. If there is such “pornification” within the fitness industry, we must realise it cannot be solely blamed on men. As, us women do use it to our advantage, however, we must realise our need to be aware of our own actions and take responsibility for such.

sex sellsSession wrestling is such an example and while it may not exactly be pornography or prostitution, controversy can be made about the subject. For instance, muscle worship sessions cater to men who have a fetish for strong or muscular women and muscular women can make money from this.

This is because it enables them to make more of a living from this than from their competitions and you will find most female bodybuilders, fitness, physique and athletic girls do it even under the radar. It helps cover competition costs, supplements, and other expenses.

Money talks and sex sells

Opinion is divided on the matter, but us women have thought of a way to circumvent certain barriers in a sport that is hostile to us. Female bodybuilders or sport athletes have few financial avenues available to them and this practice is a method which helps sustain a number of high quality athletes. As, it should be noted that women are still often paid lower than their male counterparts, in completions and sport.

Sessions does however allow fans to meet us up close and personal, which can be a big thing to many fans of pro bodybuilders or certain girls in the wrestling scene. Who can almost be like mini Celebes in their fans eyes, who get to live out their fantasies in reality. What is the chances you would get to book a session with Jeremy Clarkson to go car shopping or Jamie Oliver to learn how to cook? Zero. I therefore think that sessions should be applauded as it keeps people grounded, with their feet on the ground and allows many bodybuilders etc. to be in touch with their fans.

Women will always been seen as sex objects

Sexualisation in sport or fitness is inevitable, as admirers see in their eyes some of the best-developed bodies on the planet. The real problem is not that fans see these women are attractive, but when this is the only aspect considered important. These women are great athletes and they should be valued for their accomplishments.

Session wrestling and muscle worship I believe, however, allows for the real women to shine through. Many who have experienced a session, will vouch with me and say. Once they have experienced a session with a special lady have found them really intelligent and more than just bimbos. I have heard such remarks of intelligence for the likes or FBB Lisa Cross, Alina popa and Anna M Stong. Some of which are even married, have children, are studying degrees or even have other jobs. These fans do not just see them as objects.


se sellsRelevant to the fitness industry, however, is the publishing companies that exploit athletes to readers. Women have little say in the creative production, process, and distribution of these photographs/footage they are in.

Tosca Reno, publisher of various fitness magazines, even hit out at the portrayal of fitness in her article “The pornification of fitness needs to stop” for Huffington Post. It was somewhat hypocritical though as she forgot to add that see she owns Oxygen Magazine, Clean Eating Magazine, and The Eat Clean Diet where the women on the front covers could be argued to be objectified. She is in a position where she “pornify’s” women on these magazine covers. However, it’s proves that sex sells and it may be a case of the market may force her hand even though she hates it.

When I take a look at these images from the porn industry and compare them to those from the fitness industry- I am sad to say I see no difference except for muscle. For an athlete that has dedicated their life to the art of exercise, this phenomenon has become an insult. Sex is one of the most beautiful, powerful, and natural aspects of our humanity. But like any power, it can be used in cheap and sleazy ways that don’t truly honor its awesomeness.

These days, it seems it is not enough to be strong, intelligent, healthy, educated or a great coach. You must be smokin’ hot. Like so hot you can’t even focus on the exercise I’m currently doing

What do you think?

If on the one hand these women pose sexually AND still have sound information and knowledge to share, then I’m okay with it. Let’s be honest, we all have sex, and we’re all attracted to other human beings.

BUT, on the other hand, when a trainer’s workout and routines, becomes MORE about showing skin and sexual poses, and less about the actual routine or accomplishments – I have a problem. To be honest there are quite a few women out there who if they weren’t naked, would have no one listening to them.

Personally I have a simple test: I close my eyes and listen to a supposed fitness professional talk and describe a workout or what they are trying to get across. Obviously I can’t see them, but if what they say resonates, makes sense, and their verbal cues paint a picture in my head. Then I think it’s safe to say that that person is great at what they do.

But if you’re totally lost and can’t make sense of what they’re saying, I say they stink. Now open your eyes and see what you’re looking at. Are they scantily clad, moaning seductively throughout their reps, OR dressed in fitness gear, talking through the workout, showing personality and cuing viewers? There’s a big difference. I guess, you guys could say the same for sessions and sessionettes personalities.

People are more than just their bodies

As a pro­fes­sional in the fit­ness and enter­tain­ment indus­tries with a degree in adver­tis­ing, not only do I wit­ness both the cause and the effect of the media mes­sages, I see who makes the con­tent deci­sions and know how they go about mak­ing them and mar­ket­ing them to the pub­lic. Most of the time the deci­sions are based in sales and con­sumerism, i.e. ‘what head­line can we use that will sell the most mag­a­zines?’ or ‘how can we con­vince the pub­lic that our prod­uct is the best?’ Call it what you want in the name of mar­ket­ing, but in all hon­esty, its just decep­tion.

I believe we’ve gotten lazy in our search for truth. Fit­ness is just one exam­ple of this. We don’t know how to take care of our bod­ies, so we buy a mag­a­zine or a weight loss pill, or trust the health web­site that showed up on the first page of Google. We neglect to ask for sources.

Speaking the truth

My inten­tion in writ­ing this is not to bash other ath­letes, or mag­a­zines, or the media…but it is to cre­ate an aware­ness of the big­ger pic­ture we’re paint­ing a soci­ety – sex sells; a warn­ing of what our seem­ingly insignif­i­cant daily choices and social media voices are slowly man­i­fest­ing. We are a cul­ture so obsessed with our­selves that we are blind to how it truly affects oth­ers around us.

My inten­tion here is sim­ply to share what I observe from the per­spec­tive of some­one who is on both sides of the spec­trum, a cre­ator and con­sumer. As a cre­ator I see how fitness begins with good inten­tions, but quickly ego takes the place of good inten­tions and the images that were meant to encour­age and inspire now cre­ate arro­gance, envy, body hate by com­par­i­son, and a mock­ery of mod­esty as images grad­u­ally shift from inno­cent ‘progress self­ies’ to what is arguably soft-porn.

The lines are blurred

sex sellsSo where do I stand now? How do I main­tain integrity and pas­sion for the indus­try I love when I see it for the dark­ness it has become, void of value and rid­dled with the insa­tiable par­a­sites of com­par­i­son, envy, and nar­cis­sism?

How can I bear to sup­port the fit­ness indus­try when the lines of healthy, are so blurred. Why can’t we just train hard, not to the point of total destruc­tion. Enjoy are healthy bod­ies that help us lead full lives, instead of using hot bod­ies to col­lect com­pli­ments, feed ego, and fan the flames of lust and human objectification?

I do what I do for me, I love meeting fans, getting stronger. Working on my skills and seeing the bigger picture to life. As long as my actions only affect me and not others I will continue to be the real me for who I am. Always step back and ask yourself what is your identity, do not get lost and wrapped up with all the rest for what they want. Fly your flag and with them or work, alone or for who you want to but have respect for yourself and each other. Your flag is your IDENTITY.

Today I have one of those posts, where it was hard to hit the publish button. I was/am hesitant to share my thoughts, however took a deep breath, held it and hit the Publish button after all!

4 replies
    • sara
      sara says:

      Hi John,

      Thanks, I am glad you enjoyed. A touchy subject i know, however I couldn’t avoid that constipated duck line lol its just too true!

      S x

  1. Nick
    Nick says:

    A few years back, I hired the services of a personal fitness instructor. When we met, I was somewhat surprised that he did not look like the “idea of fitness” I had in my head. This, of course, was because the images I was constantly exposed to was that of tall, muscled guys. I now know better.

    Thanks for starting the conversation.


    • sara
      sara says:

      Hi Nick,

      Thank you for your valued opinion, we all want coaches to be who we idolize however sometimes i do believe it is not necessary for them to walk the walk, it is important for them however to have experience. The message i guess is that looks isn’t always everything. For instance Bret contreras is a great coach who specializes in studying glute exercises and development for women, with endless masters and doctors coming out of his ears, however he doesn’t exactly look like one of the guys on the front of Mens Fitness but is a guru in fitness terms. I was always told that a great coach will never be a great athlete and i do believe this to a certain degree. I suppose each person is just good at different things.

      Sara xx


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