New book ‘Fur’ explores the glories of woolly masculinity in gay culture
Mainstream culture continues to argue publicly about “the gay debate:” Is it innate or a choice? Behavior or orientation? Worthy of marriage protection or too ho-hum. We’ve heard all that before, and for a lot longer than talk radio has been discussing it.
As gay issues go, it may seem less political than employment rights or marriage equality, but it’s no less furious within the community, covering all manner of subcategories: “Masculine” versus effeminate; twink versus bear; au naturel versus manscaping.
The new book Fur: The Love of Hair doesn’t come any closer to resolving the debate than we have as a culture. But it’s sure has a lot of fun raising the issues.
You can tell just by the subtitle what side the editors, Ron Suretha and Scott McGillivray, fall on. Fur revels gloriously in the pursuit of the hirsute, with enticing, downright erotic drawings, photos and renderings of men (all, presumably, gay) enjoying their own woolly natures and those of their fellow bears. There are nudes (some couples — or more) and closeups of body parts that develop their own fuzzy ecosystems, from beards to legs to other nether regions. There are realistic drawings and impressionist paintings from a slate of artists and photographers. There are butch as well as tender pictures of hair- and tattoo-covered men of all shapes and sizes. As a coffee-table book, it’s not something you’ll want to leave out while grandma is over.
But there’s more to it that the stunning images we’ve come to expect from publisher Bruno Gmunder. There are also essays that extol the virtues of hairiness (hair makes man appear larger, stronger and more mature, they opine — advantages in hetero mating as well as the gay sex ritual). There are quotations from fur-lovers, and an explication of “bear codes” and its role in culture from fashion to fetish to politics. In short, Fur is an exhaustive and historical look at the meaning of manhood from the POV of the follicle.
Go ahead and shave if you must; admire the boys who look as fresh as pealed pears. You can probably avoid this. But Fur does such a thorough job at capturing the wonderment of body hair, you might actually find yourself convinced to put away the clippers, at least for awhile, and admire the brute beauty of scruff.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 22, 2012.