Looking ‘Acceptably’ Feminine: A Single Case Study of a Female Bodybuilder’s Use of Steroids

Justin Kotzé, Andrew Richardson, Georgios Antonopoulos

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This article aims to shed some light on the motivations for and methods of female steroid consumption apropos broader changes in female body image ideals. Moreover, the study attempts to explore the connections between the competitive logic of liberal-postmodern consumer capitalism, ‘competitive femininity’ and steroid use. There is a growing consensus that an increasing number of women are consuming steroids, yet this phenomenon remains relatively under-researched and as such not much is known about this particular group of users. Utilising a single in-depth case study, this paper offers some additional insight gleaned from an ethnographic interview with a female bodybuilder who uses steroids. Her narrative elucidates some of the risks, harms and motivations for steroid consumption alongside broader changes in female body image ideals. Among the central findings, this paper highlights that the female bodybuilder is not resisting cultural norms but rather hyper-conforming to them by over-identifying with a hyper-idealised form of what constitutes ‘acceptable femininity’. We conclude that steroid consumption retains a strong connection to the desire for aesthetic appeal and that both short and long-term motivations for using steroids are grounded in the drive for conformity. This has pertinent clinical implications for health professionals, particularly in relation to the efficacy of attempts to reduce steroid consumption by warning users of the potential adverse health effects.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPerformance Enhancement and Health
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sep 2020


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