Last week the topic of body hair was introduced, focusing on the relationship between body hair and society (See last week's article here). This week the discussion shifts to focus on those who don't necessarily fit in with the norms American society has created.
Marginalized Groups and Body Hair
Members of the LGBTQA community often do not adhere to body hair norms following the fact that they do not adhere to sexual orientation norms. There are subsets within any community we look at. Men as a group can be broken down into heterosexual and “other,” other may be broken into GBTQA, and within each of those communities, there are even further subsections. Looking specifically at the male gay community, there are many different substrata including “Twinks” “Bears” and “Circuit Boys” among others, all of which (along with other defining characteristics) have different body hair expectations. Gay men have an interesting relationship with body hair because it is so varied within the community. For men who identify as being one “type,” body hair may be praised and desired by potential partners, while in other substrata any body hair is abhorred. Body hair is reflective of sexual orientation at an even more detailed level within the gay male community.
The “Bear” subset within the gay community exemplifies that body image is important, no matter our gender or sexual orientation, and that hair is a huge component in how we define ourselves. In a study focusing on this group conducted by researchers Hajek, Lozano, Moskowitz, and Turrubiates, results showed that Bear culture may have come to fruition because of a certain demographic of men not being able to attain the overarching ideal gay male image of hairlessness. Men who self-identified as Bears, “were more likely to be hairier, heavier, and shorter than mainstream gay men” (Hajek et al.) Men who were part of this community also tended to have lower self-esteem and be more likely to participate in sexual activity that would not be considered “mainstream” From this information we are shown that hair ideals can make those who cannot attain them feel less desirable and even push them into what may be considered demeaning behaviors. The implications of this study highlight that gender and sexual orientation expectations are complex; a person can be in accordance with one, while in opposition with another. This reinforces the idea that American body hair expectations are unreasonable and often unattainable.
Stay tuned for weekly installments of the essay, each discussing a different facet of the issue.