I was sitting in EatWell the other day, waiting for some friends to show up for Sunday brunch, and I picked up a copy of Frontiers, the gay magazine. Even though I live in West Hollywood and I see it on the street, I’ve never really read it. Guess that’s because I’m straight.
The thing that caught my eye was how hairless all the guys in the magazine were. I showed it to my buds, and they thought it was strange too. There also were ads for laser hair removal (on the body) and hair implants (on the head). So, do gay guys not like hair on their bodies? Shaving it off seems kinda girly to me.
Plus, it’s a lot of work. I know because I watch my girlfriend shave her legs.
This is a hard one for me to answer objectively. I’m the guy who, during a brief and regretable residence in Miami Beach, reacted to its hairless Gay Pride parade by promising to organize a hairy marching group for the next one that would carry a sign reading “Say No to Nair.” I sold my condo there a year ago and escaped to West Hollywood where, during my first week here, I watched two gay boys at the outdoor jacuzzi at 24 Hour Fitness discussing the razors they used to shave their legs. I was appalled.
As a community, we gays are all over the place about body hair, although, just as Americans are increasingly accepting gay marriage, we gays are increasingly embracing hairy bodies. For the leather community and bears and otters, about whom I’ve written previously, a hairy body and face long have been a must. A hairy head? Not so much. A hairy body is a requirement for entry into gay life in Silver Lake, where I’m told cops may stop you and ask you to open your shirt to check. No hair? You’re asked to return to WeHo.
In West Hollywood, the stereotype is that we gays are as hairless as Sphynx cats or Chinese Crested dogs. I’ve never seen a reliable survey on the matter. (Although, given that it would require asking guys to take their shirts off and wear only shorts, it easily could be done on a summer afternoon on Santa Monica Boulevard.)
But from personal observation at the gym, I’d say the depilated are better represented in WeHo than on the east side of L.A. There is, however, a trend toward “scruff,” which means a bit of hair on the face of what may well be a hairless body. (By the way, the distinction between the hairy and the depilated isn’t just geographic. It even extends to gay smart phone apps, where hairy guys and those who love them are more likely to be found on the aptly named Scruff, and the hairless guys are more commonly found on Grindr.)
So why do some gay guys shave their bodies? As is the case with professional body builders, some guys shave because they think it makes their muscles more visible. After all, if you’re going to put in all that work to get a six-pack, you remove anything that obscures it. (The six-pack guys seem especially nervous about their abdominal muscles. At my gym they’re always lifting their shirts and looking in the mirror to make sure they’re still there.) These are the guys who are likely to find heterosexual icons like Michael Phelps or Channing Tatum more attractive than the hairier Hugh Jackman or Darren Criss of Glee.
Some guys shave when the body hair starts turning gray. Youth is really prized in the gay world, and especially in West Hollywood, where online sites like Daddyhunt.com don’t seem to have much of a following. There even are young guys who shave their non-gray hair, seeking what I call the “prepubescent look.”
And some guys shave their bodies, or at least parts of them, because they think that smooth equals pretty. Armpits are groomed if not shaved clean. Chest hair is trimmed to a really low level if not removed entirely. Hair around nipples is clipped so that they’ll stand out. Crotches are often groomed. I’ve even seen pubic hair cut into a heart-like shape (which didn’t stir feelings, romantic or otherwise, in me). However, even the depilated love a treasure trail — the gay term for that wisp of hair that runs down one’s navel to the crotch. Except among drag queens, who have to shave for work, shaved legs are much less common in the gay world than they were 15 to 20 years ago.
I think we’re moving away from hairlessness because we are more comfortable with ourselves and reject the old stereotype that “gay” equals “effeminate.” What better way to signal masculinity than with a hairy body?
Questions you can’t bring yourself to ask your gay friends and neighbors? Send them to Henry@WEHOville.com.