Life, liberty, and the pursuit of hirsutism

Sooner or later every male high school student has to come to grips with his facial hair or lack of same. For every overachiever who has a five o’clock shadow in 9th grade, there is a smooth-cheeked guy in 12th grade who wonders if he got shortchanged in the hormone department.

I see local high school boys waiting for the school bus every morning. I never see one with facial hair, so I’m sure high school dress codes still prohibit it. Of course, it is always fun to push the envelope. In my day, I did this by gradually extending my sideburns further and further down my ears. Eventually, the powers that be would take notice and say something, so I cut them back…then let them creep down again.

In my mid-20s I grew a full beard and had only shaved it off once, in the late 1970s, when I was between jobs and temporarily working as a movie extra. As soon as the production is wrapped, I let the beard grow back and since then have occasionally trimmed it but not shaved it.

Beards were so rare 40 years ago that little kids used to stare at me in public. Not anymore; today there’s a good chance their fathers, uncles, and grandfathers have beards. Even so, I am amazed by the contemporary fashion of men with beards that cascade down their chests. Today it’s not hard to find men looking like cavemen, like Old Testament prophets, like barbarians, like the Smith Brothers, like Gilded Age Presidents, like two-thirds of ZZ Top…like patriarchs! There, I said it!

Well, no good trend goes unpunished. J.A. Oldmeadow and B.J. Dixson, a couple of Australian psychologists, have studied the attitudes of bearded versus clean-shaven men in “The Association Between Men’s Sexist Attitudes and Facial Hair” in the Archives of Sexual Behavior website.

If you’re not familiar with this site, rest assured that these folks know what they’re talking about. That’s to be expected from an online journal that contains such insightful articles as “Changes in Sexual Behavior and Attitudes Across Generations and Gender Among a Population-Based Probability Sample From an Urbanizing Province in Thailand” and “Concordance of Demographic Characteristics, Sexual Behaviors, and Relationship Attributes Among Sex Dyads of Black and White Men Who Have Sex With Men.” If those topics are too convoluted, you can always read “Penile Strangulation Caused by a Seal Ring.”

According to the authors of the facial hair article, the results are classic good news/bad news. The good news is that men with facial hair did not score higher on “benevolent sexism;” the bad news is that men with facial hair scored higher on measures of “hostile sexism.”

Well, that sounds pretty serious until you note that the authors define hostile sexism as strongly agreeing with statements like “Once a woman gets a man to commit to her, she usually tries to put him on a tight leash,” or “Women seek to gain power by getting control over men.”

This is hostile sexism? Not terribly flattering to the fair sex, but hostile sexism? Well, count me in. And probably the regular visitors to this website. And more than likely, men who have never even heard of this site or MRA or MGTOW.

The authors decided that a hostile sexist grows a beard ”because it maximizes sexual dimorphism and augments perceived dominance.” They then note that men with facial hair are perceived as “more masculine, mature, dominant, and aggressive.”

Gee, considering how much money some men spend on gym memberships, power ties, and tailored suits to appear more masculine, mature, dominant, and aggressive, I wonder why anyone would resort to such an easy, inexpensive way to achieve the same thing? Growing a beard is a totally passive experience. It’s probably the most yin thing a yang man can do.

Ah, but what about the women? After all, what they think about beards is far more important than what men think about them, right? Well, another Australian study by R. C. Brooks and B. J. Dixson (there’s that man again) enlightens us on that score.

In “The Role of Facial hair in Women’s Perceptions of Men’s Attractiveness, Health, Attractiveness and Parenting Abilities,” they discovered that women gave bearded men higher masculinity ratings, but the highest attractiveness ratings were reserved for clean-shaven or stubbly men. The ideal for the latter is ten days of growth. Exactly how one measures this length and maintains it is a mystery. If you remember when stubble was the province of hoboes or men on extended fishing trips, you’re showing your age.

While women may not like full beards, there is one compelling reason for a man to grow one. It’s a direct affront to the feminist chant that women can do anything men can do. Oh, I know some old crones in training have mustaches, but that’s a long way from a full beard.

Well, pardon me, ladies, if I don’t apologize to you for my beard, even though it reminds you of your inability to grow one and perhaps by extension your other inadequacies. And when you look around and note that men everywhere are sprouting beards, gee, it sucks to be you.

Unfortunately, if it comes down to choosing between celibacy and facial hair, most men would likely shave their beards. Even so, I suspect a full-bearded man with a penthouse, a Porsche, a yacht, and a closet full of Armani suits would not have to face that dilemma.

So what would happen if the beard craze spread to the point where all men had one? If women wanted male attention, they would have to learn to like or, at least, overlook beards. But I suppose that would be just another manifestation of internalized misogyny.

The jury appears to be out on shaved heads. Women’s hair may be thin, but they don’t go bald, and they don’t shave their heads, so a bald man may be considered masculine by default. Admittedly, times have changed since the Book of Judges was written, but remember where Samson got his strength. Also, the military buzz cut has always symbolized a young man’s initiation into collectivism.

There may be good reasons to shave one’s head or beard (say, if you’re a fireman), but doing so just to please women is not one of them. Even worse is manscaping, the removal of body hair. Oh, I suppose it reduces drag for competitive bicyclists and swimmers…but that’s a tiny minority of men. The main reasons for doing so are cosmetic.

Apparently, this fad of removing body hair extends down to high school boys. This is a truly mind-boggling development. In days of old, a young man could hardly wait for puberty to arrive. The late-blooming boy who had to shower in public before sprouting pubic hair was a pathetic figure. No one wants to be the anchor man, but some poor schmo will get stuck with that status until his hormones finally kick in and he can announce to the world, “Today I am a man.” It’s kind of like a physiological bar mitzvah.

As with beards, the opinion of women is of paramount importance, and manscaping appears to be more to their liking. But why at this point in time would women be expressing this desire? It could be equality rearing its ugly head, the old goose vs. gander thing…hey, I shave my pubes, so you need to shave yours too. Unlike beards, pubic hair is a unisex post-puberty phenomenon.

I suspect the female pubic depilation fad likely started because scanty panties, bikini bottoms, and thongs made it necessary. Strippers, of course, have always paid close attention to groin grooming, since the sight of a tarantula attempting to escape from a G-string would spoil the aesthetics of their performances.

Female removal of pubic hair is an intriguing topic, but this article is about men, and I don’t want to get sidetracked by the wooly monkey’s endangered status. A man may have some preference for the appearance of a potential partner’s mons veneris, but I suspect that once the squirrel cover comes off, he’s not going to recoil in horror no matter what it looks like.

For both sexes, removal of body hair simulates neoteny, the persistence of childhood characteristics into adulthood. To increase sexual marketplace value, women want to appear as youthful as possible at all ages; a man may be able to exploit boyishness and cuteness up to a point, but eventually it won’t wash anymore. At some point, a man’s got to look like a man’s got to look and to shave his body goes against the grain. His body is just as smooth as it was before puberty, just bigger. There are women who prefer that look, but why? Is it because the idea of dealing with a boy is less intimidating than dealing with a man? Or is it a cougar/maternal thing? A mother’s control over her son is much greater before puberty than after.

There are even worse implications. A man without body hair resembles a neutered man. Surgical castration removes testosterone from the body, which eliminates the growth of body hair. For obvious reasons, eunuchs were sought after to guard harems. Another form of employment was in store for the castrati of Italy. These were boys who were castrated before puberty to preserve their soprano voices. No need for a wax job for eunuchs or castrati…there was nothing to wax. In fact, in Sex in History, author Reay Tannahill substitutes the adjective “shaved” for “castrated.”

A hairless little boy will one day grow up to be a man; a castrated man has an incurable case of arrested development. The more hair you remove, the more domesticated – i.e., submissive – you are. A man who removes his body hair is symbolically emasculating himself.

Of course, if that describes you and you believe in truth in advertising, then go ahead and shout it out.

Personally, I wouldn’t brag about being a thoroughly modern mangina.

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