by Dish Staff
Just because Andrew is gone doesn’t mean the hair has to go with him:
Time was, I could sympathize with your reader who complained of the casual mockery his back hair engenders. I’ve been blessed with a thick mane over my upper back and shoulders, and I used to be self-conscious about it. But then one day I tried to tabulate everyone who’d ever made fun of it, and I had a stunning realization: it was all men. Specifically, men without much body hair. As a straight dude, no woman I’ve ever been with (honestly, no woman ever) has uttered one word of complaint and most seemed to like it. It would only come other straight dudes, who obviously envied my luxuriant pelt. Now, whenever anyone ribs me about it, I reply with a superior smirk, “Men have body hair. Boys do not.” I’ve yet to hear a quality comeback.
Also, straight as I am, Aaron looks fantastic. Damn.
This is my first time emailing. It took the nexus of “End of Gay Culture Watch” and “Back Hair is Beautiful” to spur me to action. First, let me thank you for your site and all the insights and discussions you provide. I renewed my subscription in February (founding signer-upper here) and I will continue to do so. I have been reading along with the Book Club, too.
There are some of us out here who prefer to live in “straight” suburbia and always have. My first lover and I bought a house together in Riverside in 1981 (before it was “cool”). We both felt that it was important not to live in gay enclaves so that straights would have to deal with us and experience us face to face. It is true of any prejudice that individual contact is what sways deeply held beliefs.
On a recent trip we made to San Francisco it struck me just how much the Castro District has changed. Definitely not Gay Central like it used to be. But yet, when I think back, on my first visit up there my lover and I stayed with a straight couple who lived a block off of Castro. In 1978. Even then it was not monolithic. Sure, something has been lost. But something has been gained, too. Acceptance.
Now to back hair.
I am a hairy guy. Really hairy. I am fortunate that my boyfriend of twelve years doesn’t mind it. (He loves the chest hair!) In decades past, when the hair was less extensive and grew more in “socially acceptable” places, I used to shave it off my back. Miserable to do. Now I just let it go. (Cue the music from “Frozen”.) I still tend to keep my shirt on in public, but the visit my boyfriend and I made a few weeks ago to Provincetown and the last day of Bear Week gave me a chance to see much luxuriant growth. Now Mark Joseph Stern puts in print what I have thought for years: What is the big fuss about back hair? And my boyfriend said Stern looks totally hot in that photo.
Of course, I think it is rather silly of women to shave as well. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Which dovetails with the thought that whoever you are and whatever you look like, someone is looking for just that kind of person. Own it and be proud of who you are. Again, thank you for airing these topics alongside your other more political and world-impacting threads.
And again, here’s that link to the related Dish thread, “Why Should Women Shave?”. Another reader takes a religious turn:
I was raised in a deeply religious home and among other members of a fundamentalist sect of protestant Christians. They were sincere, good people but they were convinced that everything sexual outside of traditional marriage was evil. Homosexuality was almost never mentioned but to this young man, who struggled with same sex feelings, I just knew that my unspoken impulses would be topmost on the pile of sins that were forbidden.
Three magazines were permitted in our home aside from the daily newspaper and a variety of religious journals. Dad always bought Look, Life and the Saturday Evening Post, but each issue was carefully scanned before it came into the home. Any picture of a scantily clad woman was torn out lest my older brother and I would be tempted to have impure thoughts. Dad never knew that the very pages he tore out sparked our interest and sent us off to Billy’s home where the same magazines could be read sans his censorship.
What Dad didn’t know was that to me, the most exotic temptations were easily available in the Bible story book I was encouraged to read. The book was wonderfully well illustrated and the illustrator must have had a keen appreciation of male body hair because the images of Biblical men were of men covered in beautiful body hair. I’ve always thought that my very strong preference for men with lots of body hair stemmed from those splendid illustrations. I love male body hair; beards, chests, legs, backs, butts, pubes and arm pits. The more hair the better.
Now at 85, I don’t read that Bible story book any more but I follow six different blogs that feature hairy men in all their naked glory.
Another lodges a small dissent:
I grow weary of your constantly equating hairiness with masculinity. Sure, a man’s level of testosterone can relate to the amount of body hair (or lack of head hair) they display, but there are many other genetic and hormonal factors at play too – it isn’t as simple a formula as more body hair = more masculinity, as you seem to believe. (If you give extra testosterone to a not-naturally-hairy guy, he isn’t suddenly coated in fur, you know?)
Certainly if you look at paintings and sculptures of the ultra-masculine heroic male body ideal throughout history, you rarely if ever see your extremely hairy male body type depicted. This is not due to a prejudice against the hairier male, it is because there are as many (if not more) extremely masculine men who are not heavily coated in fur.
Their are genetic pockets (Turks, Spanish, and others) who tend more toward hairiness as a group and others (Asian, Islanders, some Africans) who do not – with lots of exceptions, due to natural variation. I would assume that Tiny Tim was hairier than George Clooney is, but I doubt may would think this would make him the more masculine of the two. So, could you do me a favor and simply say you are turned on by lots of body hair and leave it at that, rather than also implying that the only truly masculine men are the hairy ones?
I have no personal story to contribute on the issue of back hair (my Italian father was as hairy as a shag rug, but my Native American mother’s genes mean I’m smoother than a baby’s bottom). However, my obsession with pop/rock music might be able to bring something to the table. I know of two indie rock bands who have used hairy backs for shock effect on their album covers: Pixies – Come On Pilgrim and Fabulous Diamonds – Fabulous Diamonds [seen at the top of the post].
Does this mean it will be Bear Culture and rock musicians who will strip away the stigma of having a hairy back? Only time will tell.