For some of us, the new trend has been a long time coming. You know who you are, fellow hirsutophiles. You know the glances at forearms when you first meet a guy, that quick check of the T-shirt neckline, the hopeful rub across the chest or, if you’re really lucky, the back. You know what you’re looking for: that furry explosion running down to the wrist, the dark, matted fringe poling up above the Hanes T, the slight friction your palm feels as the back hair moves around under the shirt. Could it be, as the aptly named musical, Hair, had it, that “This is the dawning of the age of the Hairy Ass?”
We can live in hope. But I’m still not entirely sure. The bear phenomenon is real and strong and one of the most hopeful cultural trends in gay life right now. But among many younger gay men, the bear thing still resonates with prejudiced notions of fat, older guys, who are rationalizing their own unattractiveness. The gyms and bars are still full of the feminized, shaved, plucked, exfoliated creatures that dominate the fashion ads. On Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, the fab five have recommended that even straight guys trim, shave or remove what makes them sexy. And you’ve only got to find yourself among a dance-floor throng to be reminded of one of the least pleasant experiences now available after dark: the bristly, clammy, turkey-before-Thanksgiving feel of a hair-phobic floozy rubbing up against you. Ewww.
Even the fashion world has begun to accept that men, i.e. MEN, actually have hair on their bodies, and that this is what distinguishes them from women, or, say, Tupperware. When you look at it like that, it’s even more amazing that homosexuals should ever have believed that hairlessness was next to sexiness. Why are we gay anyway? Doesn’t it have something to do with the fact that we are attracted to men? And men are defined – in fact, it’s the only workable biological definition there is – by our testosterone. And testosterone does all sorts of things to us, but the one thing it delivers uniformly to men – even the skinniest, flabbiest, girliest of us all – is…drumroll…hair. And I don’t mean hair on our heads, which women have more of a claim to. I mean, hair on our bodies.
There is, of course, no accounting for sexual attraction. I’m not begrudging anyone their fixation on hairless bubble butts or chests with the surface of a flat-top monitor. But the stigmatization of body hair that has long been a feature of gay culture since the late-1970s really does have to stop. Hair shapes and forms a
man’s body as powerfully and erotically as any muscles. I know of no better pillow that the soft down of a man’s chest; and no greater comfort than the caress of a hairy forearm. Hairy backs do not lessen my sexual attraction to another guy: Their extreme masculinity – and their comfort with it, more than anything – is deeply attractive. I’ll leave the joys of hairy asses to others (although my own dismay at being what the personal ads call “lightly hairy” on my upper body is immensely relieved by the fact that my genes covered me in hair from the waist down). And there is nothing more masculine that the weather pattern of hair cyclones on a chest leading to a thick, dense trail of hairiness down to the crotch. Anyone who shaves off this natural masterpiece is a vandal.
And smell. The only rule I have ever had for boyfriends is no deodorant on weekends. There is nothing less erotic on the planet than a mouth or handful of white paste, with its sickly half-man half-Air-Wick odor. I’m not talking stink. I’m talking scent – the real scent of men that can never be found on a woman, the scent that is a huge component of our sexual desire, attraction and identity. Not all of it is related to the factories of odor under our arms. Much of it comes in subtler, sometimes almost imperceptible form from the rest of our bodies – crotches, legs, chests, backs. It’s at the core of sexual attraction; and at the center of sexual life. Why gay men would want to abhor, abort or abjure it is beyond me. So please throw away the razor and the buzzer and embrace yourself again. You have nothing to lose but your stubble.
-- Andrew Sullivan