When #Fitspiration Turns X-Rated, Who Wins?

Wet, parted lips; gleaming legs straddling a barbell; hands tugging at damp, clinging scraps of clothing; a sly, suggestive gaze from under heavy lids and thick lashes.

X-rated fitness pics have arrived as a scantily clad form of fitness inspiration, or “fitspo.” Whereas standard fitspo includes motivational messages about hustling and grinding and working hard enough to make your fat cry (that is, sweat) alongside photos of exceptionally fit people — especially women — working out, this sultrier subcategory is on the rise.

Images of ripped, nearly naked women in provocative poses inside the gym are now ubiquitous on Facebook and Instagram, as well as on many male-dominated fitness websites (note: links may be NSFW). These photographs may inspire you to hit the gym, or they may just inspire you to more vigorously wipe down fitness equipment before you use it. We may feel attracted or repelled, or even both — in succession or simultaneously. 

Just like more conventional porn, these images can be hot — so hot! But also like conventional porn, they tend to portray unrealistic imagery that can skew our perceptions of what makes for an attainable goal. These visuals may also dramatically color our thinking about what our fitness and our bodies are worth — both to ourselves and others.

On one hand, hard work and confidence should be celebrated, but on the other, is the cost of doing it in this manner too great on the whole community of fitness enthusiasts? Regardless of your stance on the topic, it’s worth taking the time to, um, peel back the layers

The Subjectivity of Seduction

What qualifies as fitness porn? As is the case in the legal definition of porn, it can be argued that fitness porn “appeals to prurient interests” (in other words, they inspire super-lusty thoughts), and that “you know it when you see it.” (Side note: I discovered, in researching this story, that there is a much more literal category of fitness porn than the one I’m referring to here, and most of the storylines center around naughty trainers named Derek or Chad. Sometimes they center around both Derek and Chad.)