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It wasn’t until she subsequently began training hard that she realised her potential for size and definition; she started to indulge her love of boxing and heavy metal (she recently performed a competition routine to AC/DC’s ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’), and found herself spending less and less time with thirty-something female friends whose lives revolved around parenting, and with whom she had little in common.“What I do with my life definitely alienates me from other women my age,” she says.

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“A lot of the time it’s men stuck in sad relationships, or bored by routine, and they get off on being at the mercy of powerful women.

The strange thing is they’re often the same people who are the most taken aback if they see you in the street.” The sexual fixation on bodybuilders known as muscle worship is a fetish today pursued and practised largely on the internet, but it’s one that goes back many years, and that’s as true for female bodybuilders as it is for men – from idolisation of Brigitte Nielsen’s sword-swinging heroine in Red Sonja (1985), to the twentieth century cartoonist Robert Crumb’s regular representation of himself at the mercy of engorged Amazonian women.

“At one point, if I had feedback off a judge criticising part of my body at a competition, I’d be back in the gym the following day killing myself.

And women who push themselves in those ways are always looked at in a negative light: men who take themselves to the edge physically are seen as heroes, while women are seen as endangering their ability to have children, or to be good mothers if they have children already.

“Some people argue that it’s bringing bodybuilding into disrepute,” says Lisa, seated in the office of her nutritional sponsor, a glass window behind her looking down on an industrial hanger packed with crates of powders, shakes and protein bars.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s putting bodybuilding on a pedestal, making it available to people who would never consider attending an actual show.People see a woman’s job as being in the house, and my own family have said it to me themselves.” Another huge problem faced by women is the cost of the sport.Jo estimates an annual budget of £4,000 going on costumes and heels, fake tans and travel expenses, all the more difficult to swallow in light of the fact that there is no professional female bodybuilding circuit in the UK – those hoping to make money from competing aim for the American stage.Late last year, the UK Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation introduced a controversial bikini category into the national competition circuit.In doing so, they seemed to be helping close the casket on bulkier, less conventionally feminine classes, as seen in the eighties heyday, which culminated in the 1985 release Pumping Iron II: The Women, a film that turned female bodybuilders like Bev Francis and Rachel Mc Lish into poster stars for the Walkman generation. Female events both in the UK and beyond have been struggling to pull in competitors, especially in heavier classes, as though the fashion for slimline models had finally convinced the world that bulking up was for men, and a woman’s job was to stand around smiling and looking thin.With the introduction of the new ‘bikini class’, a sport that formerly stood as a paradigm of a woman’s ability to compete alongside men has been moved a step closer to being one in which women use their sexuality as a weapon, and men show their appreciation by wolf-whistling from the stands.

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