"I refuse to be ashamed of it."
So writes Mark Joseph Stern over at Slate in a piece titled "In Defense of Back Hair." He goes on:
For years, I've struggled to keep my hairy back and shoulders out of the public eye. As a teenager, I drowned my problems in Nair—for an insecure 14-year-old, a mild chemical burn is a small price to pay for shirtless self-confidence. In college, I once experimented with waxing, a scorching, chthonic catastrophe I swore never to repeat. I've even contemplated laser hair removal, but the procedure requires a perfect balance of affluence, desperation, and masochism that I have yet to reach.
Hello, Mark. Many of us ladies know just how you feel. Leg hair, underarm air, pubes — we're usually forced to conform and get rid of all if it. So welcome.
Mark, who is gay, adds:
Gay men, except perhaps for a certain subset of deeply dedicated bears, quiver at the sight of it. And back hair has the dubious distinction of being the one type of body hair that straight men—who generally get carte blanche in the personal grooming department—might actually consider to be embarrassing.
He goes on to talk about self-love and acceptance and embracing yourself, and, fuck it, I agree. In the past I found back hair rather displeasing on a gentleman and I am hereby tilting my worldview.
Noted author Andrew Sullivan was so moved by Mark's passion that he penned a response titled "Back Hair Is Beautiful." He also says: "One of the greatest bodily regrets of my life – apart from having my foreskin chopped off as an infant because it was allegedly too ample – is that I have no back hair." Wow. Wow. And there's more:
The earliest porn I ever saw I had to create myself. I drew sketches of the men I longed for in a scrapbook and they were all covered in fur. Maybe it's because body hair is such a powerful visual indicator of testosterone and maleness; maybe I'm just a perv. Or maybe because when a man allows his body to be what it is, and doesn't try to micromanage every inch of it, he's inherently sexier than the manscaped, plucked and trussed twink version.
It's to be expected, in a way, because the pendulum always swings back and forth. After the free-wheeling all-natural 70s, we ended up in the waxed-and-plucked 80s and 9os, and it's taken a while to slide back to "let it be" territory. But with ladies letting it grow and posting pix on the Hairy Legs Club tumblr — and women in China uploading images of their armpit hair — why shouldn't men feel comfortable about the skin (and hair) they're in?
Image via Getty.