May 1999

 
The body hair pilot


 

All of us gay men have similar stories to tell. We're out on the town with a friend, and he says, "Oh look there, he's gorgeous!"

We look in the direction he's pointing to and can't see a thing. "Who? where?"

"Him! The one in the blue T-shirt with a red umbrella!"

We look at the one in the blue T-shirt with a red umbrella. "For goodness sake, I wouldn't give him a second look!"

Or take the time when I was with an American visitor at a well-known shopping mall which gay Singaporeans call Cruise Central. It was a slow day; there were fewer than 10 guys hanging around the balcony. He went, "Oh my God, they're all so delectable."

I looked around, and I couldn't find a single "delectable" guy. They're were all too skinny or too princessy for me.

Sexual attraction must be a goldmine for researchers. It is so very complex. There is culture, individual taste, personal experience, pheromones and possibly other factors (genes?) I have not yet heard might be involved. What weight each factor has probably differs from time to time, person to person.

This whole subject of course is mired in political correctness. One is easily accused of being racist, ageist, or plain shallow. But it is a fact that tastes vary and if we look at behaviour without ideologising it, physical attraction is a fascinating field. Some gay men prefer older men, around their 50's or beyond. Others get a kick at the sight of 17 year-olds. Some like them fleshy, others go for skinny. And then there is race -- a subject that has been extremely sensitive for the last 2 generations, so we find it even more difficult to discuss this angle dispassionately.

Occasionally, whenever I raise the question of why and how physical attraction varies, I come across people who tend to close the subject immediately, often by saying, "It varies, who's to know why." I get the vibes that I'm not encouraged to delve into it. Well, such comments only make the subject more intriguing for me, (not that I can find any answers though) as it suggests a certain defensiveness about their own criteria, and they don't want the subject to be scrutinised. I think I can guess why. In everything, we carry with us a lot of stereotype images (even GAMs who prefer GAMs carry stereotypes of GAMs that make up their preference), and we may hate others to point out that we are prisoners of stereotype.

I think we should try not to be bothered by such loaded words. So there's stereotype, so what? Everybody hauls cartloads of stereotype as he goes about his daily business. We shouldn't go on some crusade to eradicate stereotypes -- so no need to feel defensive -- because if it's just confined to personal choices and private behaviour, it's our own business. Hurts nobody else. Live and let live.

So on that note, I'll tell you what I did. 

Last August, I decided to tiptoe into this area by taking an experimental peep at preferences in body hair. I put up a pilot survey on the internet, just to see whether I could get coherent answers, and was quite pleasantly surprised. Quite a lot of responses came in within the first week, though strongly skewed towards Singaporeans. For what it's worth, there is a simple analysis of the findings below. However, do bear in mind, it is skewed and like all internet surveys, there are no controls for sampling nor even truthfulness. Since I ensured complete anonymity, one can't even test-check any answers.

Anyway, I meant to follow up that pilot with a larger survey, spread over months or years, to tap into a larger response base, but you know how it is, one thing led to another, and so the pilot study was the beginning and the end.

* * * * *

 

Brief results from the body hair survey

This pilot survey opened on July 31, 1998. 88 responses (mostly Chinese) came in within the first 14 days and are analysed below.

Briefly, it found that about half the Chinese preferred their sex partners to have a degree of body hair similar to their own relative hairlessness. The other half said their ideal would be hairier than themselves. It was difficult to draw any meaningful conclusion about other groups because the sample was too small.

 

It also came out very clearly from the results that gay men were more tolerant if their sex partner was less hairy than their ideal, compared to if their partner was hairier than ideal. Those who preferred relative hairlessness in their partners were more picky about body hair than the other way around.

On the whole, however, body hair is not the chief consideration in casual sex. The overall physique is, followed by face/looks.

The opening question asked whether the respondent agreed with this statement: "How much or how little body hair on my sex partner is of absolutely no importance to me."

 

 

 

 

1. "How much or how little body hair on my sex partner is of absolutely no importance to me."  

  Number Percent
Agree 11 12.5
Disagree 77 87.5
Total 88 100.0

  

Priorities

The 88 respondents were asked a follow-up question. They were given six characteristics (age, body size including height, cock shape and size including whether cut or uncut, body hair, face/looks and skin colour) and asked to rank them 1 to 6 in importance.

The results were grouped thus: Those who said that body hair was not at all important (11 persons) were in one group, and the other 77 were in another group.

The rankings given by the respondents in each group can be seen on the right as Tables 2 and 3 respectively.

The smaller the average points, the more important that characteristic is. 

In both groups, body size comes up very clearly as top priority, followed by face/looks. For each of these two properties, more than half the 76 respondents rated it as either rank 1 or rank 2.

Of the six physical attributes, cock is way at the bottom. Nearly half of the larger group (30 out of 76 persons) ranked it as least important.

 
Two main groups of respondents

The 76 respondents came mainly from two groups: the Chinese and the Caucasians. The details are in Table 4.

Note: "Others" comprise 3 Malays, 1 Indian, 1 Malay/Indian mixed, 1 Thai, 1 Bornean and 1 Chinese/Dutch mixed.

 

2. The 11 persons who agreed with statement #1, were asked to rank six physical features in importance: 
  No. of persons who ranked thus:  
  No.1 No.2 No.3 No.4 No.5 No.6 Average
Ranking
Bodysize 2 5 4 0 0 0 2.18
Face 3 4 2 1 1 0 2.36
Age 4 1 3 3 0 0 2.46
Skincolour 1 3 1 0 3 3 3.91
Cock 1 0 3 3 2 3 4.55
Bodyhair 0 0 0 2 4 4 4.73

 

3. The 77 persons who disagreed with statement #1, were asked to rank six physical features in importance:

  No. of persons who ranked thus:  
  No.1 No.2 No.3 No.4 No.5 No.6 Average
Ranking
Bodysize 22 21 15 11 4 1 2.36
Face 19 21 16 7 7 6 2.74
Age 19 15 12 9 10 10 3.04
Skincolour 9 6 18 10 16 16 3.83
Bodyhair 1 12 11 21 19 11 3.99
Cock 2 6 4 16 16 30 4.61

Note: One person did not answer this question. The total responses was thus 76, not 77.   

 

The results are best analysed (a) as a total group of 77, (b) for the Chinese subgroup of 52 persons and (c) for the Caucasian subgroup of 17.

 
Ideal degree of body hair in partner

These 77 respondents were then asked to look at 7 types of body hair distribution in these two graphics. They were asked (a) which type they themselves were and (b) which was their ideal type in a casual sex partner. 

 

4. "Where do you live?" 
Race SE Asia East Asia Elsewhere Total
Chinese 47 2 3 52
Caucasians 8 0 9 17
Others 8 0 0 8
Total 63 2 12 77

 

 

 

 

The data distribution is given in the Tables, 5, 6 and 7, but don't bother looking at them, unless you want the details. I'll point out the salient features in the paragraphs below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost all the Chinese (49 out of 52) [see table 6] were themselves of types 1 to 3. About half of them preferred the same type (ranging from type 1 to 3), another half preferred the higher types. 

 
 

The small sample of Caucasians (17 persons) [see table 7] showed a strong preference for Type 1 in their partners. This has probably to do with the fact that the pilot survey tended to reach those who liked Asians, skewing the results. All the more, therefore, we need a bigger study!


 

 

5. Of all 77 respondents for whom body hair was of some importance, "Which figure above represents the ideal type you desire in your sexual partner?"

  Ideal desired in partner:  
Own type Type 1 Type 2 Type 3 Type 4 Type 5 Type 6 Type 7 Total
Type 1 6 4 1 1 4 0 1 17
Type 2 2 6 2 1 0 2 2 15
Type 3 6 2 5 5 5 2 2 27
Type 4 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 4
Type 5 1 0 0 1 2 1 0 4
Type 6 4 0 0 0 1 0 1 6
Type 7 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 4
Total 21 13 9 9 12 6 7 77

 

6. Of 52 Chinese respondents for whom body hair was of some importance, "Which figure above represents the ideal type you desire in your sexual partner?"

  Ideal desired in partner:  
Own type Type 1 Type 2 Type 3 Type 4 Type 5 Type 6 Type 7 Total
Type 1 5 3 1 1 4 0 1 15
Type 2 2 5 1 1 0 2 2 13
Type 3 4 1 4 3 5 2 2 21
Type 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
Type 5 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1
Type 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Type 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Total 12 9 6 5 10 4 6 52

7. Of 17 Caucasian respondents for whom body hair was of some importance, "Which figure above represents the ideal type you desire in your sexual partner?"

  Ideal desired in partner:  
Own type Type 1 Type 2 Type 3 Type 4 Type 5 Type 6 Type 7 Total
Type 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Type 2 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1
Type 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 3
Type 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
Type 5 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 2
Type 6 4 0 0 0 1 0 1 6
Type 7 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 2
Total 9 2 1 2 2 0 1 17

 

Tolerance for partner who is different from ideal

A series of questions in the pilot study asked how much one's sexual pleasure would be affected if the partner's degree of body hair differed from the ideal. The results showed very clearly that the effect was not symmetrical. People were more affected if their partner was hairier than ideal, than if the partner was less hairy than ideal.

The questions asked for the effect on their sexual pleasure should the partner be:

  • 4 grades hairier, for example, if the respondent's ideal was a type 1, how he'd react to sex with a type 5;

  • 2 grades hairier, for example, if the respondent's ideal was a type 2, how he'd react to sex with a type 4;

  • 2 grades less hairy, for example, if the respondent's ideal was a type 4, how he'd react to sex with a type 2; and

  • 4 grades less hairy, for example, if the respondent's ideal was a type 7, how he'd react to sex with a type 3.

 

 

 

8. "How much affected will you be if your partner deviated x grades from your ideal preference?" 

  If your partner deviates from ideal by
Effect on you Four grades
hairier
Two grades
hairier
Two grades
less hairy
Four grades
less hairy
"Won't affect me" 1 20 29 12
"Slightly, may distract" 8 32 5 9
"Substantially reduce pleasure" 24 9 0 4
"Severely; I may discontinue sex" 10 3 0 0
Total valid responses 43 64 34 25

Note: Each respondent answered the questions applicable to him. If his ideal was, for example, a Type 1, he would not answer questions about sex with partners less hairy than his ideal -- there is no such thing, his ideal is nearly hairless.

 

Eleven persons chose the answer "Severely; I may discontinue sex". Two of the eleven selected this answer twice each, making a total of 13 such responses. Those eleven persons were 9 Chinese and 2 Caucasians. Interestingly, the 2 Caucasians were themselves Types 1 and 2, which is quite rare among them.

Not all the respondents were asked the question of what if your sex partner were 4 grades hairier than ideal. Only those whose ideal was Type 1, 2 or 3 (43 persons) were given this question. These eleven persons who might discontinue sex halfway through the act constituted 26% of the 43.

 
General conclusions

Body hair does not rate highly as a factor with sex partners. Body size and face/looks are the most important.

Almost all the Chinese respondents were themselves type 1 to 3. About half of them preferred that sex partners to be types 1 to 3 as well. The half preferred hairier partners.

A majority of the Caucasian respondents preferred type 1 in their sex partners. Beware, the survey was probably skewed to the "rice queens" living in Asia.

People were more intolerant of sex partners hairier than ideal, compared to sex partners less hairy than ideal.

Yawning Bread 


 

 

Footnotes

None

Addenda

None