There are two kinds of gay men – those who like a hairy body, and those who prefer a smooth (hairless) one. We all have our choices and our preferences, but our choices and “likes” are also influenced by the media and the things we see around us, something that is referred to as “social conditioning”. And if our preferences are in a way conditioned based upon what we see around us, how immune or susceptible is the gay community to this conditioning?
The answer in short is very susceptible. As a marginalised or persecuted group, for many in the gay community, the only interaction they have with other gay men/groups is through the portrayal in popular media. But popular media is not rebellious. It instead loves to stereotype people and project a certain image of people, based upon its own interests (or the interests of its advertisers).
When huge amount of advertisement revenues are coming from razor companies, it becomes important for the media to also enable the business of the advertiser so that the revenue source doesn’t come to a halt. It is then that the media constantly bombards us with certain types of men to influence our thinking – men who are hairless, have a smooth body. When we grow up looking at (or seeing around us) men with smooth and hairless bodies as the only ones being projected as models, or desirable, we soon internalise the thought that the ideal male body is the one which has no body hair. And if the body has hair, be it on the chest, or the stomach, it needs to be either shaved or waxed.
Today a more diverse and realistic portrayal of men is being demanded from the popular media. Probably if there was a more diverse representation of men in media, we would be able to make our own choices, and hairy body will be in that choice.
Sukhdeep Singh is the Founding Editor of Gaylaxy magazine which is India’s largest English language LGBT magazine. He grew up in Kolkata, in a Sikh family and in a liberal atmosphere. While studying in college he launched Gaylaxy magazine in 2010, which is now also available as an App. His message to the world is: “Treat everyone equally, with love and dignity.”