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Getting in line for the barber queues: A brief look at ‘haircut fetishism’

In a previous blog I briefly examined trichophilia. According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, trichophilia is a sexual paraphilia (sometimes called trichopathophilia, hirsutophilia, and/or hair fetishism) in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from human hair (most commonly head hair). Since writing that blog, I have come across (what appears to be) a sub-type of trichophilia – ‘haircut fetishism’ that appears to share some behavioural and psychological similarities with depiliation fetishism (that I also examined in a previous blog). According to an article written for Wikipedia:

“A person with a haircut fetish is sexually and/or emotionally aroused by having their head hair cut, by cutting the hair of another, by watching someone get a haircut, or any combination of these. Haircut fetishist can be either male or female. The haircut fetish usually manifests as a desire to see head hair, often long hair, being cut off or even shaved, and often extends to a desire to witness or fantasize about non-consensual haircuts (including punishment, revenge, military/school /prison/religious induction or other kinds of forced haircuts)”.

One of my oldest friends that I was at university with owns a number of barber shops in the north of England and told me that haircut fetishism is well known in hairdressing circles and that there is a real niche market in ‘forced haircut fetishism’. As far as I am aware, there is no published academic or clinical research on haircut fetishism although there is a lot of anecdotal information about its existence. For instance, there hundreds of haircut videos on the internet, with a substantial majority of these that cater for those who are sexually aroused from seeing someone having their hair cut against their will (i.e., non-consensual coercive ‘forced’ haircuts). The article written for Wikipedia appears to confirm my own observations:

“[Haircut fetishism] would appear to be a widespread fetish, as there are many hundreds of websites devoted to it, based in countries all over the world, but it is a seemingly secret fetish, largely unrecognized by or commented upon by the media, or even acknowledged in western culture. There is no evidence to suggest that haircut fetishism extends to any significant practice of actual imposed non-consensual haircuts. Some haircut fetish websites advertise for and pay individuals to be filmed and photographed having their hair cut off. Other websites publish fantasy stories about haircuts, or track the long-to-short hair makeovers of celebrities. Some sites provide lists of haircutting scenes in literature or movies”.

There are (and have been) various hair-fetishist magazines (most of which are American), such as The Yankee Clipper, The Razor’s Edge, and The Bald Truth (although the latter may appeal as much to depiliation fetishists as haircut fetishists). There are certainly loads of websites that haircut fetishists can visit including CutsCuts, Bald Beauties, Haircut.net, Extreme Haircut, and Barber Shop Video (to name just a few). No-one appears to have any idea about the prevalence of haircut fetishism and the claims made in the Wikipedia article on the topic does not contain a single verifiable reference. For instance, the article asserts that:

“The haircut fetish can also extend to a general sexual preference for women or men with short hair or shaved heads. A haircut fetish is essentially pretty benign and harmless. In most cases, you aren’t hurting anyone by engaging in this fetish. In many cases, the fetish can even by a positive thing. It can add a certain degree of excitement to one’s sexual life and can lead one to take notice and care of his appearance. Many haircut fetishists, both male and female, claim their fetish began when their own hair was non-consensually cut short during childhood or puberty”.

One of the real problems in evaluating anything beyond the existence of haircut fetishism is that the paragraph above could apply to almost any niche fetish. I could replace the word ‘haircut’ with (say) ‘nail manicuring’ and the paragraph would still read well and still have face validity. Almost all fetishes are arguably harmless, don’t hurt anyone, and develop during childhood and adolescence and are often associated with a specific incident or event. Despite the lack of empirical research, there are certainly indicators that there are enough haircut fetishists for group events and conventions. For instance, the Wikipedia article notes:

“The first organized haircutting club for women was the ‘Progressive Hair Club’ first established in 1994. It sponsored [four] Ms Bald pageants in the USA and produced numerous haircutting videos. Similar clubs for men, such as the ‘International Leather Men’ have a subgroup of [haircut fetishists]. Some men form national and local groups to arrange ‘Clipper Parties’. In 2000, the first of the new breed of erotic headshaving websites came on the scene, ‘Headshave’, now known as ‘Bald Beauties’. Run by Katt and Wolfe, ‘Bald Beauties’ was the first website to portray head shaving as an erotic art on the Internet. For men, numerous websites have existed since the early 1990s [such as ‘Le Man To Man’, ‘Male Short Cuts’, ‘Slickville‘, and ‘Buzzed Hard‘]”.

In the name of research, I did check out all these sites and they all appear to cater for haircut fetishism (apart from Slickville that is more concerned with the fetishization of male hairstyles with creams and gels). From my own online research visiting these sites, it would appear that haircut fetishism is enjoyed by both males and females, and that such websites cater for both gay and straight individuals. It would also appear that for some people, it is themselves getting haircuts that is the primary source of arousal, whereas for others it is watching someone else get a haircut. There also appear to be individuals that are sexually aroused by both (i.e., themselves or others getting haircuts). The Wikipedia article adds that:

“The fetishist is often aroused by images (pictures, video, or fantasy) of the action of seeing hair being cut, the surrounding environment (barbershop / salon), and the tools used in haircutting (barber chair, barber cape, hair clippers and clipper blades, scissors, combs, hair tonics, pomades, dressings, dryers, shampoo bowls, etc…The haircut fetish finds its roots in both ancient Greece, biblical stories and religious rites. In mythology strength is associated with hair (Samson and Delilah). In Christian, Buddhist and Hindu religions, Tonsure is an established rite combining hair deprivation with purity of the body”

The other dimension in relation to hair fetishism concerns whether the haircut is voluntary or forced upon the individual. This latter dimension overlaps with both sexual sadism and sexual masochism but this aspect appears to have been all but ignored in the few online writings I have come across. The only article of any length on haircut fetishism is an online essay written by Robert Kesse who writes from the perspective of being a hair fetishist himself. Kesse defines haircut fetishism in the same way as found on the Wikipedia page but then goes on to say that the fetish isn’t necessarily harmless or benign:

“[Hair fetishism] CAN compromise one’s quality of life. In my case I no longer could feel an attraction towards my boyfriend because he had longer hair, and found myself compulsively and continually getting extreme haircuts that did not suit me. Suddenly, this interest in haircuts had become more of a curse than a blessing and I became depressed and lonely”.

I found Kesse’s account interesting because he attempted a psychological analysis of his own fetish toward haircuts and described his treatment intervention. He sought therapy for his fetish and also managed to get a number of different psychotherapists to talk about his case on an online forum. According to Kesse, all the therapists agreed that the underlying factor in Kesse’s haircut fetish was a fear of emasculation (i.e., a deprivation of his male identity). This clearly appears to be related to the fact that Kesse was a gay man. For instance, in a section entitled ‘A Portrait of a Typical Haircut Fetishist’, Kesse argued:

“At some point in these [male haircut fetishists’] lives, their subconscious mind made an intrinsic connection between their masculinity, and the length of their hair. They may have felt effeminate in some aspect of their lives. Almost all of those who have this interest are gay men. Society usually associates male homosexuality with effeminacy. In fact, when most people say ‘real man’ what they really mean is ‘a heterosexual man’. Thus, it is quite possibly the case that these men subconsciously internalized a fear of being found not to be a ‘real man’…At some point, their subconscious mind received the idea that their masculinity and hairstyle were unbreakably linked. They may have received such a message from their parents, peers, even the media. Many fetishists remember being forced into a short haircut as a child, or admiring the short haircuts of boys or men who embodied masculinity growing up. Thus, these men came to associate masculinity with short hair, and came to judge their own masculinity and that of other men by the length of their hair. This association can become so strong that many men feel emasculated when they do not have a short hairstyle. They may subconsciously use their hairstyle to feel more masculine in the presence of other men as well as women. As a result, they may feel a compulsive urge to get a haircut more often than is really necessary”.

Kesse goes on to assert that these sub-conscious associations are irrational (i.e., masculinity is not inherently linked to hair length) and that the desire to have one’s haircut (at least in his own case) is compulsive. He then claims that gay men adopt other behaviours to hide the feelings of emasculation (e.g., wearing leather jackets, appearing macho in front of others, talking in a misogynistic fashion, etc.). Kesse then talks about other haircut fetishists and how the internet potentially makes things worse for them:

“Most of the men I have met in the haircut community have been men in their 30s [through to] their 60s. The fetish is not as common among younger men. (Probably because it was more common for people to question a man’s gender identity by the length of his hair in the past than it is today.) Studies have shown that fetishists tend to have poor social skills and tend to become isolated from others. This seems to be the case for many of the haircut fetishists I have met. Most are perpetually single, and can suffer from bouts of loneliness. The internet, which at first seems a blessing, can become these men’s worst enemy as it gives them a means to interact with other fetishists without having to leave their home and no motivation to do anything but indulge in their fetish. We may find that the internet community will only serve to further isolate these individuals, and perpetuate already latent addictive/compulsive tendencies”.

Kesse then went on to describe the intervention used to overcome his irrational thinking (i.e., rational-emotive-behavioural therapy [REBT]). This approach appears to have been successful to Kesse but he does go on to say that there are other methods of treatment for pervasive/invasive fetishism including pharmacotherapy, aversion therapies, and other (unnamed) psychotherapies. However, Kesse found REBT to be “the most direct and fastest means to change” in overcoming his haircut fetishism. I would love to see a more formal (clinically published) account of Kesse’s treatment as such an intervention might be of great utility to others that feel their fetish is not benign and harmless.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Kesse, R. (2007). The anatomy of a fetish. June 27. Located at: http://haircutfetish.wordpress.com/2007/06/22/the-anatomy-of-a-fetish/

Wikipedia (2013). Haircut fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Kaldari/Haircut_fetishism

Shaving accounts: A brief overview of depilation fetishes

In a previous blog I looked at hair fetishism. While researching that blog, I came across what might be considered the opposite (i.e., depilation fetishes – those who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from lack of body hair). The fetish appears to take many different forms and might include being sexually aroused by (i) the sight of a shaved area of the human body such as a bald pubic area, (ii) the sight of someone actually shaving an area of their body (e.g., their pubic region), and/or (iii) the actual act of shaving someone’s body parts. The fetish may overlap with other sexual paraphilias such as olfactophilia (i.e., deriving sexual arousal and pleasure from certain smells) as those individuals with a depilation fetish may find the odour of shaving cream or aftershave products additionally attractive.

Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices devoted a reasonably large section on sexual depilation and claimed that in some countries, the origins of sexual depilation preferences are conditioned by early pre-adolescent experiences. She claimed that:

“Shaving or removal of the pubic hair was practiced in Rome, the Middle East, Japan, China, India, and North Africa. Sex in many of these countries began during pre-pubescence before either partner had developed pubic hair. The male and female became conditioned to respond sexually to bald genitals. Some later in life became impotent at the sight of pubic hair on a partner”.

She also referred to the act of pulling out clusters of pubic hair produce an orgasm in some men. Her research had indicated that this particular type of sexual service was offered in Moorish baths in North Africa, by women who were skilled at this art. A short article on the Alternative Lifestyle website claims that depilation fetishes are usually genitally based and may overlap with those into sexual sadism and sexual masochsim. More specifically:

“Men especially are often attracted to a shaved public area and enjoy watching or performing depilation on a partner. The entire act is often very sensory and erotic. In cases of both female and male depilation, shaving creams usually are applied and lathered which can cause arousal from touch. There is a huge aspect of trust involved in depilation as a fetish too because razors or scissors are in such close proximity to the sensitive genitals. Depilation can also be a fetish is a much different way, especially in BDSM. Because hairstyle is very important in many cultures, dominants often shave the heads of their slaves. This is particularly true in cases when a female is in the submissive role”. 

Such practices were also noted in Dr. Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices as she noted that depilation or shaving is used in sex play as part of body worship and bondage. She reported that dominant partners “shave their slaves to put them into a psychological role of submission, exposure, humiliation and shame”. It was also noted that depilation may be a necessary for aesthetics in transvestism, infantilism, and/or body painting.

As far as academic research goes, I have only managed to find one study that has specifically examined depilation practices. A paper published in a 2008 issue of the journal Body Image led by Dr. Yolanda Martins (“Hair today, gone tomorrow”) and compared body hair removal practices among gay and heterosexual men. The team based at Flinders University (Adelaide, Australia) A sample of gay (n=106) and heterosexual men (n=228) participated in a survey assessing “whether they had ever removed their back, buttock or pubic hair, the frequency with which they did so, the methods used and their self-reported reasons for removing this hair”. The results showed that most men had engaged in hair removal practices but that heterosexual men (33%) were much less likely than gay men (63%) to have removed their back and/or buttock hair at least once in their lives. In relation to removal of pubic hair, heterosexual men (66%) were again much less likely than gay men (82%) to have removed their pubic hair at least once.

The authors also reported that the frequency of hair removal “was also associated with the motivational salience component of appearance investment”. In laymen’s terms, men basically removed their back, buttock and pubic hair to improve their appearance (either for themselves or others). The men surveyed also reported that they preferred the feeling and sensitivity of smooth skin. Results also showed that the removal of back and buttock hair was never done for sexual and/or fetishistic reasons. However, in relation to pubic hair removal, 9% of gay men and 20% of heterosexual men had removed their pubic hair for sexual and/or fetishistic reasons. It was also reported that 14% of gay men and 10% of heterosexual men had removed their pubic hair to make their genitals look bigger and/or more appealing. Dr. Martins and her colleagues concluded that their findings offered further support to the premise that gay and heterosexual men exhibit similar body image concerns.

In a previous blog on fetishism, I wrote at length about a study led by Dr G. Scorolli (University of Bologna, Italy) on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data. It was estimated (very conservatively in the authors’ opinion), that their sample size comprised at least 5000 fetishists (but was likely to be a lot more). Their results showed that there were 864 fetishists (less than 1% of all fetishists) comprising non-head body hair fetishes including depilation sites, beards, and pubic hair.

As far as I can ascertain, there have been no case studies published examining depilation fetishes. The Sexy Tofu website interviewed ‘Adam’, a 45-year old male depilation fetishist from Illinois (US) about his sexual interest in depilation. Adam was asked about when his interest first occurred:

“It started when I first got pubic hair. I’m not sure why, but my first thought was ‘Shave it’. I did, but I had to be careful as a teenager — having shaved pubes in the boys’ locker room back then would have made me pretty ‘out there’, and I wasn’t ready for that. So I’d shave only during the summers. I didn’t have much chest hair back then but once I got to college and it started growing, I would shave it fairly often. I finally took the plunge and shaved my entire body about 15 years ago. I have remained mostly hairless since…It’s both the act of shaving, changing my body look, and being smooth skinned. I have done some shaving as part of sex. Once I let a woman tie me up and she shaved my pubic hair and my head. That was really a hot scene…Sadly, I have not been able to find too many partners willing to shave me or be shaved”.

Unfortunately, there is too little information provided by Adam in his interview to make any informed speculation as to the causes and/or motivations for his depilation fetish. They obviously started in early adolescence and has developed over the subsequent thirty years. Clearly the visual element is crucial for sexual arousal (but that is the case with most paraphilias and fetishes). Adam’s account also suggests it is a minority interest based on the fact that the number of willing and/or reciprocal partners has been minimal. Like many other fetishes and paraphilias that I have examined in my blogs, this is yet another one where there is a great need for further research.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

The Bedpost (1999). Depilation for the terrified. Located at: http://www.cleansheets.com/archive/archarticles/bdsm_3.10.99.html

Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.

Martins, Y., Tiggemann, M. & Churchett, L. (2008). Hair today, gone tomorrow: A comparison of body hair removal practices in gay and heterosexual men. Body Image, 5, 312-316.

Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.

Sexy Tofu (2011), Fetish Friday: Trichophilia. December 2. Located at: http://sexytofu.com/2011/12/02/fetish-friday-trichophilia-hair-fetish/

To baldly go: A beginner’s guide to acomophilia

“Hello, I am a genuine single guy who just loves the look and have always wanted to date a bald lady – bald by choice or not. This is not a fetish or a flash in the pan. I am a forty something” (Alan, UK)

According to various online articles, acomophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from bald people or with the shaved head and/or shaved genitals. Dr. Anil Aggrawal (in his book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices) made a passing reference to being ‘acomoclitic’ but this only refers to being sexually aroused by hairless genitals. Dr. Brenda Love – in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices – also briefly mentions ‘acomoclitic’ in her entry on sexual ‘depiliation’ (but again this only related to hairless genitals (rather than bald or shaved heads). In one (unscientific) survey asking a self-selected sample what their favourite fetish was, acomophilia accounted for 2.08% of all respondents (although the actual number of respondents was not reported) so it’s hard to evaluate how representative the findings were.

An online essay by Craig Butler examined the erotic potential of baldness (The ‘B’ Spot: An Examination of Erotic Fixations on Bald Men). He began with some quotes from a number of women:

  • “There’s nothing that really sends me into orbit like my man’s bald head”
  • “There are days when the way that the light glints off my guy’s beautiful, sleek dome makes me so ‘distracted’ that I can barely keep my mind on my work”
  • “I care way less about some guy’s money, or his brains, or even his ‘equipment’ than I do about how smooth his scalp is”

Assuming these are real quotes from real women (and I’ve no evidence that they are not), they appear to indicate that the focus of sexual attraction can be a bald head (in and of itself). It’s worth pointing out that to be classed as a paraphilia or fetish, the baldness is the prime source of the sexual pleasure and arousal (rather than being part of the overall look and/or general attractiveness of the person). In short, true acomophiles would have an erotic fixation on baldness and/or hairlessness. Butler interviewed psychologist Dr. Nancy Dreyfus for her thoughts on acomophilia. She said:

“An erotic fixation is a preoccupation with either an object, say, gloves or bathing suits or theoretically Saran wrap, or a non-genital body part – often feet – that is a habitual part of an individual’s sexual arousal system…Acomophilia is the formal word for a baldness fetish, although it is usually used in reference to a fetish related to bald women”.

Butler also interviewed Isadora Alman, a marriage and family therapist (who has also written for Psychology Today magazine’s Sex & Sociology blog). She was reported as saying:

“People have all sorts of erotic preferences. Some, such as American men and breasts, are cultural, and some, such as small high breasts versus large round ones, are fashion fads. Of course these are trends and not everyone in the culture or time period adheres to them. Some erotic preferences are conscious, but many are of unknown causes. I had a friend who liked thick ankles and legs on women – not a popular turn-on. He remembers being a baby crawling around under the table in his mother’s kitchen when her women friends, who all had thick ankles, visited; he found that exciting. One of my clients adored his partner’s bald head because he said it looked like a penis”.

Butler noted that while it’s perhaps flattering to be an object of intense erotic attraction, it could be off-putting for people who felt they were loved for their baldness and not themselves. In relation to this potential downside, Dr. Dreyfus commented that:

“If a man is a boob man, a woman wouldn’t reject him out of hand because he never tired of her breasts. She would just want to make sure that he loved her soul and liked her as a person. If a woman feels really liked and seen for who she is, the boob fascination is an add-on that could make her feel feminine. If she doesn’t feel cared for as a person, it will make her feel objectified and annoyed. I don’t think it’s that different with a baldness fixation. You have to ask yourself, ‘Does she like me as person and approach me with care?’ In some circles, male baldness is seen as cool and a little avant-garde, and you’d want to know if your lover’s interest was personally erotic or image-based. A man might wonder ‘Would you still want to make love with me if my hair grew back?’ The idea that any erotic connection with anyone, however intense, can last over time without real relating is a rarely achieved fantasy. If you have felt insecure over your baldness, a partner getting rapturous over it could temporarily be a reparative high, but it does not a relationship make”.

In her interview with Butler, Dreyfus admitted that she was in fact the partner of a 61-year-old man who has had alopecia universalis (i.e., no hair on his body at all) since his twenties. As a psychologist, she subsequently admitted that she may have been subconsciously drawn to her current partner because her (a) own father started going bald in his twenties, and (b) husband of two decades had lost most of his hair by the time they got together as a couple. She met her current partner online and was attracted to his baldness. However, she did comment that the fact he had “no eyebrows, eyelashes or pubic hair was an acquired taste”. She also claimed that:

“Studies have shown that the one quality that most women prize most in men is presence – a feeling of “there-ness” – and when you think of the sense you can get that a man is somehow hiding under a beard, mustache or excessive hair on the head, you can appreciate why many women find bald men sexy. [Women want] to be let in. A man with no hair, particularly one who has gotten that way against his own choosing, has had to battle a small demon, become more visible and self-accepting, and hopefully has become realer and less defended in the process. This is a man who is hiding less, and the woman he lets in will treasure him for it”.

I’m not aware of the studies she is referring to and much of what was said is speculative (to say the least). I know of no academic research on the topic of acomophilia, so any psychologist can speculate to their heart’s content.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Butler, C. (2011). The “B” Spot: An examination of erotic fixations on bald men. September 27, Located at: http://www.hairloss.com/home/hes-hot-and-has-hair-loss.html

Cougar, C. (2009). Acomophilia. April 16. Located at: http://www.christy1.dynamicmediadirect.com/index.php?option=com_myblog&show=Acomophilia.html&Itemid=89

Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.