Nick Jonas has been all over the internet recently. He has spent the better part of the last month promoting his new single, "Jealous," and his upcoming DirecTV series, Kingdom, with a media tour that has included interviews with several gay publications and some stops at gay bars. The attention seemed to begin when Jonas showed off his abs at a gay bar, engaged in some flirting with the patrons and has spent the last few weeks going out of his way to prove that his affinity for his gay fans is more than a marketing strategy.
The viral internet attention seemed to hit a high point last week (his new show premieres tonight) when his photo shoot in Flaunt magazine became public. The photo shoot included several shots inspired by Marky Mark's iconic 1992 Calvin Klein underwear campaign.
I have to agree with Noah Michelson, the Executive Editor of Gay Voices at The Huffington Post, when he said that the Calvin Klein-esque photos were "not the most interesting thing to come out of the Flaunt shoot." The photo above however is very interesting. It shows something we don't often get to see in media: body hair. There is an incredibly sexy small patch of hair fanning out across Jonas' lower back and creeping down his butt cleavage.
There is so much attention paid to smooth male bodies that you have to look hard for a natural look. It's why one of my favorite blogs is SteveXS's blog All Natural & More, (NSFW) dedicated to "Appreciating Maleness In Its Natural State Plus Other Things We Like." The appreciation of body hair, especially when it's all natural, comes and goes in our culture. Look at most gay porn and the bodies are often very smooth, and the model may or may not even have public hair. On mainstream shows, you never see a full chest of manly hair like Magnum, P.I. anymore. The bodies are hairless.
And when we do see body hair in magazines or movies, it's always controlled and coiffed and constrained to the chest and stomach. Often it's a source of comedy and the person is made fun of for being overly hairy. If you look for the gay scene with hairy men, you have to look to bears, cubs, or otters (all animal inspired names). In our culture, to be hairy seems to mean that the person is animalistic or a Neanderthal with lower intelligence. Even many of the "otters" are trimmed, sometimes severely. Whereas, we do occasionally see limited chest or tummy hair, but hairy backs and asses are even bigger jokes. If you have one (and many, many men do), you can't be the leading man; you're someone's gross dad or lecherous bad date. A sentiment that I wholly disagree with. I know he has a bad rap today, but I will never forget seeing Mel Gibson's hairy butt in "Bird on a Wire" when I was a teenager. It left a hard wired memory in my mind, even if I later found out it was a "stunt butt," which actually makes it better now. I didn't pay attention to the reaction to Gibson's stunt butt, I was too busy staring at that glimpse I was given, but since 1990 when that movie came out, fewer and fewer men are seen with hairy bodies.
Nick Jonas showing his hairy butt is definitely a breakthrough. Though I was never a fan of the Jonas Brothers, or really even Nick Jonas, I can certainly appreciate his once shapely bubble butt. It's a breakthrough because Jonas is a 22-year-old celebrity who many consider a "heartthrob." Jonas may be showing the hair on his lower back to prove to people that he is now a man and no longer a teenager, dare I say, a kid. He's all grown up and he has a gritty grown-up television show. But it can also be a sign of more.
I've based most of this article on the one mentioned above by Noah Michelson (however, I've added many of my own thoughts as well), but I want to end with Michelson's explanation of why he write an article asking "Why Isn't Anyone Talking About Nick Jonas' Hairy Ass?" This is what Michelson wrote in his blog post on HuffPost Gay Voices:
I can already see the comments section of this blog post filling up with responses like "Who cares?" and "Why is this news?" And you're right: This isn't "news." No one else even seems to be thinking, much less writing, about this photo. But before you write me off as just another garden-variety perv (which is totally valid most of the time), I hope you'll consider how important visibility is for creating change.
As more and more queer people come out and we gain more and more "possibility models" (as Laverne Cox has so eloquently put it) in the media, we feel more permission to be exactly who we are, and I believe the same is true for body image. Imagine being a 22-year-old guy and feeling ashamed about your own hairy back or hairy ass and seeing that image. Or imagine being an 18-year-old young woman and seeing that photo and having to readjust your idea of what sexy is. Even in queer culture, with our bears and otters and cubs and wolves, we're no stranger to shaming bodies -- our own and each other's -- and tiny, but visible, moments like this one are important for us too.
I'm not claiming that this photo is some kind of furry panacea for all that ails us. Of course Nick Jonas' body conforms to (or surpasses) societal norms in many ways, and seeing it could inspire body shaming or set unrealistic expectations for some people. I'm also not claiming that men shouldn't shave or wax or laser their bodies if that's what they prefer, but I would like to at least raise the question of why hairlessness is the preference for so many of us and address the stigma that often comes with being hairy. And let's face it: Jonas isn't exactly hirsute, but I believe there is something radical about that patch of hair -- however small, however innocent -- climbing out of his jeans in the pages of Flaunt. And I think it's worth pointing out and talking about, because this is how our culture begins to change -- one image at a time -- and because I want to celebrate progress -- however modest -- wherever I find it, even (especially?) if it's in Nick Jonas' hairy ass crack.
I have to agree wholeheartedly with Michelson. Maybe it will inspire some people to look a little differently at what they view as sexy. Personally, I think that men shave for two reasons. First, they trim their crotch area because they've been told it makes their penis look bigger (and a few other sexually misinformed reasons), when in fact, when it's too trimmed it just looks odd. Second, I believe men do so to make themselves look younger. I teach a lot of teenage guys, and I often hear mixed feelings about body hair. Some are proud of their body hair because it means they are becoming a "man." Others shave for various reasons: trying to make their dick look bigger, because their girlfriend asked them to, because they see it in the media, etc. They are forming opinions and maybe with some positive images of natural body hair, no matter how insignificant, they will see that it's ok to be natural.
The picture below is of the same model: unshaved and shaved. Which so you prefer?