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
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