The Anatomy of a Fetish

June 22, 2007

TIP: Please read the entry in its entirety, from beginning to end, for full benefit and understanding. Each subsequent section builds on information from the preceding section.

What Is a Fetish?

A fetish is the association of sexual arousal, with a non-sexual act, object, or body part. In clinical psychology, fetishism is considered a paraphilia, or sexual disorder. I believe, however, that to some extent fetishism is a natural part of human sexuality. Most of us have personal preferences regarding what we desire in a partner. Some men like women with blonde hair, others prefer redheads. Some women prefer men with broad shoulders, while others pay more attention to a man with soulful brown eyes. These are all very normal sentiments, and important for genetic variation and in the process of natural selection.

However, when these preferences become exaggerated to the point that a person is no longer able to function sexually without the fetishistic stimulus, trouble arise. A fetish becomes a problem if one or both of the following criteria are met:

1.) The fetish leads one to harm others.

2.) The fetish compromises one’s ability to have a healthy social life and a complete and satisfying sexual/romantic life.

What Is a Haircut Fetish?

One has a haircut fetish is he is sexually aroused by having his own hair cut, watching others have their hair cut, or giving others a haircut. Also, most such fetishists feel sexually attracted to those with short or extremely short hairstyles, much of the time to the exclusion of men with long hair.

Is It a Bad Thing?

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.

However, in my case and the case of many other fetishists I’ve had the opportunity to talk with, the fetish 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. Sudden;y, this interest in haircuts had become more of a curse than a blessing and I became depressed and lonely.

You will need to evaluate your own situation to determine whether the benefits outweigh the shortcomings.

The Psychological Analysis of Haircut Fetishism: Why Am I the Way I Am?

I actually worked up the courage to (anonymously) link my therapist and several other psychologists to some of the more popular haircut fetish websites (among them the Haircut Story Archive and the Buzzboard) for their opinion on what was going on here. Oddly enough, their diagnoses turned out unanimous. EVERY SINGLE ONE of these mental health professionals picked up on something that I realized was the underlying factor at the heart of this fetish: a fear of emasculation.

A Portrait of a Typical Haircut Fetishist

At some point in these men’s 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.”

These men consequently latched onto things that would allow them to assert their masculinity and prove to themselves and those around them that they truly were “real men.” At some point, their subconscious mind recieved the idea that their masculinity and hairstyle were unbreakably linked. They may have recieved 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 hairsyle 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.

These associations are, of course, irrational and the resulting behaviors, compulsive. In the case of haircut fetishists, they have come to define their masculinity based on the length of their hair. Masculinity is not inherently linked to the length of one’s hair. Having short hair does not make one a real man. Having long hair does not detract from one’s inherent masculinity. Most men do, indeed, wear their hair relatively shorter than women. However, although short hair may be a manifestation of innate masculinity and can serve to emphasize masculine traits (shorter hair can bring more attention to secondary sexual characteristics, such as a large brow and a square jaw, although long hair actually has the same effect much of the time), it does not follow that short hair is a defining factor of one’s manhood.

It should be noted that many of these men also turn to other methods to prove their masculinity: some adopt a macho persona, donning leather jackets or a suit and tie, or even turning their fear of emasculation into to a hatred of femininity: misogyny is common among this community.

Just reading through some of the posts on the Buzzboard, phrases such as “take it like a man”, “look more neat and masculine”, “a REAL MAN’S cut” are commonly used. Some lament on the “feminization” of today’s men. Many of the posts even have a markedly misogynistic tone (in which a person may rant about women in the barbershop).

Most of the men I have met in the haircut community have been men in their 30s thru 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.

How Do I Cope With This Fetish? Is There a Cure?

The “cure” for this fetish is actually more of a coping plan. The strategy presented here is based on that used by rational-emotive-behavioral therapists. The plan is to:

1.) Recognize and immediately correct the irrational thought patterns (the link between one’s sense of masculinity and the length of one’s hair) that perpetuate this fetish, and thus:

2.) facilitate control over the compulsive behaviors that result from these thought patterns.

In my experience, as soon as one realizes the underlying irrational assumptions that perpetuate this fetish, one feels an immediate effect. As soon as you find yourself linking your own feelings of masculinity with your hairstyle, stop yourself. Recognize that the association is irrational and makes no logical sense. Masculinity is not intrinsically linked with the length of one’s hair. A short haircut does NOT necessarily make one more masculine (and thus more desirable). When you change your thoughts, you change your actions.

I found I was able to have an inner dialogue with myself, in which I made myself realize that my masculinity was not linked to the length of my hair and, furthermore, that there was nothing wrong with femininity. I realized that my innate masculinity would still be present even if I grew long hair. I realized again that men with long hair can be equally attractive as those with short hair.

The association between sexual arousal and a haircut has become less and less as time progresses, my new thought patterns took hold, and I’ve been able to have a more fulfilling relationship with my boyfriend, and other men and women.

There are, of course, other methods of treatment for pervasive (invasive?) fetishism. Medication, aversion therapies, and talk therapy have all been enlisted at some point. However, I have found the method outlined above to be the most direct and fastest means to change. I encourage those with especially persistent fascinations to seek professional help.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to post your comments/questions!

Much luck,

Robert Kesse



June 22, 2007

Hello all,

My name is Robert, and I’m here to share some experiences and insight that some of you may find of interest. This will primarily be of interest to any of you who has ever wished they did not have a haircut fetish. For the longest time, I struggled with this fetish, which eventually developed into an unhealthy fixation. I realise I risk terrible unpopularity by stigmatizing/pathologizing a seemingly harmless fetish, but, for me at least, this interest came to compromise my quality of life: I no longer could feel an attraction towards my significant other because he had longer hair, and found myself compulsively and continually getting extreme haircuts that did not suit me. For myself and other fetishists I know, this interest in haircuts has become more of a curse than a blessing.

These problems led me to begin research into the nature of fetishism – why does one get a fetish in the first place? Is it normal? Is there any cure? I enlisted the help of several therapists and researchers in the field of human sexuality, and have since gained tremendous insight.

So, if you are asking: Were you able to “cure” yourself of this fetish?

The answer is: Yes! I’ve created a blog in which I outline my findings on what this fetish is, and how to go about coping with it should you feel it is compromising your quality of life. This work represents a collaborative effort between myself and a team of psychologists and psychiatrists. Among the professionals I have engaged in dialogue with have been cognitive-behavioral (CBT) therapists, rational-emotive-behavioral (REBT) therapists, psychoanalytic psychiatrists, and sexuality counselors. My bias is towards the CBT and REBT schools because they focus more on change and treatment, but the work is essentially a holistic treatment of the topic.

I hope some of you find this information as useful as I have,
Much Luck,
Robert Kesse