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Muscle worship is a social behaviour, usually with a sexual aspect (a form of body worship), in which a participant, the worshiper, touches the muscles of another participant, the dominator, in sexually arousing ways, which can include rubbing, massaging, kissing, licking, "lift and carry", and various wrestling holds. The dominator is almost always either a bodybuilder, a fitness competitor, or wrestler—an individual with a large body size and a high degree of visible muscle mass. The worshiper is often, but not always, skinnier, smaller, and more out of shape. Muscle worship can include participants of both sexes and all sexual orientations.
The amount of forceful domination and pain used in muscle worship varies widely, depending on the desires of the participants. Sometimes, the dominator uses his or her size and strength to pin a smaller worshiper, forcing the worshiper to praise the dominator's muscles, while in other cases, the worshiper simply feels and compliments the muscles of a flexing dominator. Both male and female bodybuilders offer muscle worship sessions for a price in order to supplement their low or nonexistent income from bodybuilding competitions. Paid sessions sometimes involve sexual gratification; even when well-known competitors are involved, they offer fans the chance to meet in person and touch a highly muscular man or woman .
Muscle Worship is a widespread practice amongst many individuals who find bodybuilders, both male and female, attractive. Several websites offer muscle worship sessions with some well known male bodybuilders for a limited time in exchange of money. An even greater number of websites offer sessions with female bodybuilders. However some bodybuilders however enjoy the practice and get sexually aroused by it, and therefore engage in it for the sake of the thrill.
The 2001 documentary film Highway Amazon chronicles the life of female bodybuilder Christine Fetzer and shows several of her clients engaging in muscle worship. More recent documentaries covering the practice include the American Beauty segment of an HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel #160, and Channel Five's 2007 Muscle Worship documentary (part of their Real Lives series), profiling in depth the lives of female bodybuilders Lauren Powers and Gayle Moher. Muscle worship engenders a specific type of pornography, often produced professionally, but also web cam sessions, an underground erotic literature, and specific Internet discussion fora like the #gaymuscle IRC channel. A (possibly fictional) account of muscle worship by H. A. Carson combines it with infantilism. Moreover, there are several female bodybuilders that cater to heterosexual male worshippers: Karla Nelson, Alina Poppa, Christa Bauch, and more. Muscle worship is also prevalent among gay men. However, the volume of sites would suggest that it is more prevalent among straight men than it is among gay men. There are also sites devoted to women who enjoy worshipping male bodybuilders.
The entry for wrestling in The Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices lists sthenolagnia ("sexual arousal from displaying strength or muscles") and cratolagnia ("arousal from strength") as paraphilias associated with the practice of wrestling for erotic purpose. There appear to be no studies about these proposed concepts; the 2008 comprehensive monograph of Anil Aggrawal does not go beyond defining the terms, with the same meaning, in a list of over 500 similarly terse definitions encountered in the scientific and lay literature.