I Heart Hairy Men

My earliest crush was on Shaun Cassidy. Oh, he was hot. I played that damn “Da Doo Ron Ron” song over and over, traded pictures with other Tiger Beat readers, put his toothy dimply poster on my bedroom door. And … Read More

By / November 8, 2007

My earliest crush was on Shaun Cassidy. Oh, he was hot. I played that damn “Da Doo Ron Ron” song over and over, traded pictures with other Tiger Beat readers, put his toothy dimply poster on my bedroom door. And of course, I watched “The Hardy Boys” obsessively. My favorite episode was the one in which Shaun is in a terrible accident and has to be rushed to the hospital on a gurney, shirt opened to the waist. His naked, concave chest is as hairless as an egg. In an early act of pre-teen rebellion, I decided to feign illness and play hooky from a Holocaust-remembrance service simply to watch a rerun (A RERUN!) of this episode. Today, I promise you, I would not skip a Holocaust-remembrance service so I could salivate over this man-child’s baby-rat-like smooth sternum. As a fully formed sexual grownup, I prefer my men with hair. And not just a tasteful little patch, dead-center, either: I like a full-on chestal pelt, hirsute arms, be-furred legs, even a butt rug. Body hair turns me on. Once, when I was on a blind date with a reasonably cute boy, we sat next to each other in a restaurant, forearms on the table, almost touching. I looked at his tanned, hairless arm and knew I could not have sex with this person. I’d like to think I’m open-minded, but he looked like a fetus. To some, body hair is icky, smelly, sticky. It gets in the sheets and clogs the drain. But to me, it’s primal, manly, sexual. I view my Lycanthrophilia (ok, I made that word up—it means love of werewolves in Greek) is a sign of sophisticated taste. Hairy men are mysterious, Other. Hairless men are…well, girlie. Comfy. Familiar. They look like…me. Hairy men are imported dark chocolate; hairless men are drugstore malted milk balls. Of course, teenyboppers have always loved and will always love the hairless boys. They’re training wheels on the road to real men. They’re slender, feminine girl-boys: Unthreatening. (There’s a reason Justin Timberlake was the cute one and Joey Fatone was the funny one.) But why do so many grown women skeeve at the sight of male fuzz? Is it because they see hairless men as gentler, more likely to respect a woman’s equality? Is a womanly preference for dainty smoothness a statement about our growing economic power and the mainstreaming of feminism? Or does it show our own ambivalence about gender roles?
What am I, a social scientist? I do know that the average human has 5 million hair follicles, as many as an ape, and I want to see a hair sprouting from every single one. OK, that’s an exaggeration; no one loves back hair. I used to make fun of it, same as everybody else, while worshipping at the altar of the Baldwinian chest. But when you actually fall in love with a guy who has a dorsal rug and doesn’t wax, well, you start not caring. Love doesn’t start off blind, but it becomes kind of nearsighted. Luckily, I’ve got some friends who share my predilections. My friend Margaret calls her hirsute honey Randy “my mink husband.” My friend Daryl-lynn and I sat glued to HBO for the entire run of "Six Feet Under,” jabbering over our shared crush, Peter Krause. During an extended shirtless scene, we observed that our man was sporting much more hair than he did a few years ago, during his lone topless scene on ABC's "Sports Night." (Yes, it’s stalkerishly tragic that we tracked this. Shut up.) I maintained that he’d grown extra fuzz. Daryl-Lynn blamed his earlier sparseness on chest clippers. (I will never understand this grooming choice, beloved of gay men and actors. I understand the love of bare skin, though I don’t condone it, and I endorse the love that dare not speak its name: the love of full-on fur. But why would you want a chestal crew cut? That’s not a happy medium; it’s an abomination.) I have yet to see Dirty Sexy Money, Krause’s current show, but my friend Jessica has kept me apprised of Pete’s peltal progress: “Not too much, but it’s there,” she emailed. “Also a little fuzz on the upper belly. DO YOU NEED THIS LEVEL OF PELT GRANULARITY?” Yes. My friends are givers.
Still, one generally sees shaven and waxed chests everywhere one looks, despite Tom Ford’s determination to make chest hair the new black. Many people positively associate hairlessness with youthfulness; others think bareness looks neater; others think hairlessness shows off musculature better. The critic Clive James once described the look of a tanned, hairless, bulging body builder as “a condom filled with walnuts.” Ew. I find it curious that testosterone plays such a large part in male features like body hair, and testosterone is so fetishized by body builders (who may chug it, pop it or shoot it), yet they choose to pair their bulging muscles with skin as hairless as an Olsen twin’s. The guys on the covers of Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness look scary to me. All those bald chests surging, so pumped, so empty. Nair for Men was introduced in 2003, a dark year in hair history. Fortunately for those of us who like to objectify others while cattily dismissing tastes that are different from our own, there are always Bears, happily hairy big gay men. I used to retreat to a delightful outpost called Fur on Film. I was not the demo, but I adored this exhaustive compendium of images of hairy movie stars, modern-day and historical (James Gandolfini, William Holden, Chris Isaak, Hugh Jackman…oh, I could go on and on in alphabetical paroxysms of joy). Tragically, the site is now called and is no longer free. And I am a cheap Jew.
But here’s a sample of its genius: the entry for Liev Schrieber. “In the film Denise Calls Up, none of the characters ever speak face to face…there are great fur scenes as Liev dabbles in some phone sex. The camera follows his hand as he runs the hand piece all over his hairy torso. In another scene we see Liev completely naked with a telephone carefully positioned over his genitals. This is a great film if you have a fetish for hairy men & telephones.” Okay! The site also features debate from purists wondering whether stars like Antonio Banderas and Val Kilmer are hairy enough to warrant inclusion. (Hey, I'm open-minded. I’d let them stay. However, I'd suggest you avoid clicking on the pics of Ed Asner in the bathtub.) A wonderful Nick Cave song begins, “Last night my kisses were banked in black hair.” He’s not talking about chest hair, but the song speaks to me. There’s no feeling like being nestled in forests of dark, warm fur, safe and loved and warm. You girls who are still loving the Shauns and Justins of the world don’t know what you’re missing.

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Izzy Grinspan and Andy Selsberg debate hipster beards. Are they creepy and dad-like? Or do they speak to some kind of primal male fashion urge?



Andrew Sullivan says "I am bear, hear me roar" in Salon.

Charles Paul Fruend considers the connection between Jews and our furry ancestors the Neanderthals in Slate.

Christopher Hitchens gets his thighs waxed in Vanity Fair.

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