50 Shades of Grey: The Sexual Nature of Hair
Part I: The Sexual Nature of Women’s Hair
Have you ever wondered why you care about your hair so much? After all, you could easily live without it – it doesn’t hurt or bleed if you cut it, or offer you protection from the outside elements, like your skin. Yet how many times during the day do you look at your hair, touch it, think or even dream about it? How many of you have cried or lost sleep over a bad hair cut or colouring job, hidden away from the world when you have a bad hair day, or glanced enviously at other people’s luscious locks? Why does the way your hair looks, feels or behaves affect your moral so much? The answer is to do with sex.
It’s impossible to understand the importance of human hair without appreciating its role as a sexual object. To caress someone’s hair, play with it, pull it, (think 50 Shades of Grey), even to smell it, is, consciously or not, a sexual act. How we style our hair, how it’s cut, the care we give it and how we display it indicate to the world in a myriad of ways our sexual feelings, insecurities, confidence and inhibitions. Hair is the single most important part of the anatomy affecting our psyche. We can wear the most fashionable clothes, the most expensive jewellery, our skin can be flawless, but if our hair isn’t right, we don’t feel attractive. The reverse is also true.
This all stems from the fact that hair is a secondary sexual characteristic. The primary sexual characteristics are the genitals, but in virtually all cultures the human genitals are deliberately hidden from view. Hair is the only part of the human anatomy that can be sexually flaunted at will. The sexual nature of hair is so powerful that some societies demand its concealment or loss to symbolize sexual morality, celibacy, or punishment. Nuns cut and then cover their hair; Orthodox Jewish and Muslim women cover their hair in public as a sign of modesty; women collaborators in World War II had their heads shaved to de-sexualise as well as to punish them and monks shave the tops of their heads as a symbolic rejection of their sexuality.
Female hair especially is seen as seductive and essentially sexual in meaning. The way in which hair has historically been categorized confirms this. For instance, redheads have traditionally been thought of as wanton: In the Middle Ages they were seen as witches and charged with sexually luring men to make pacts with the Devil. In Jane Austen’s era, married women would wear their hair up instead of down. And it’s no coincidence that Lorelei and the mermaids,who in legends enticed men to their deaths, had long, free-flowing hair.
The most popular female film stars, celebrities, models and pop stars, past and present, have had long, loose hair: Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe (aka the ‘Blonde Bombshell’), Claudia Schiffer, Giselle, Cheryl Cole, Kristen Stewart, Lucy Hale, Jennifer Lawrence, Beyonce, and Nigella Lawson, to name a few. Or there are those who have used hair extensions such as Britney Spears, , Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian, and Katie Price to give the impression of having long, luscious hair, and therefore heightened sexuality. Think of music videos, films and billboards. In all of these mediums hair is used as a way to be sexually enticing. And for those of you who have read 50 Shades of Grey… who can forget the hair pulling scenes? Long hair is thought of as being feminine – softer and more sensual.
We can love our hair, caress it, loathe it and curse it, but the joy of good-looking, well-behaved hair framing your face gives a psychological boosts second to no other.