Is it a fetish or mere fascination? It may pay to find out

I met the bald woman of my dreams on in the spring of 2007, and I can't tell you how grateful I am that she didn't summarily dismiss me as some creepy dude who simply had a bald fetish.

When I saw her photos on MySpace at the time, I thought she was as fine as they come and I let her know it. Yes, I knew she was bald due to alopecia areata because that was one of the first things her profile stated and she was bald in all her photos. However, it didn't matter one bit: She had me at hello and I had no intention of ever letting us say goodbye.

One of the reasons--certainly not the only reason!--I was so fascinated by her physical appearance is that she was bald and beautiful. Not bald but beautiful, but bald AND beautiful. I mean bald looked as good on this woman as hair does on Rapunzel! But even more importantly, when I shared my feelings about this with her, she received the compliment as a compliment rather than automatically rejected it as faux pas flattery from some sicko who gets off on the follicular dyplasia of unsuspecting women.

Well, to make a long, enthralling and never-ending love story short, Cheryl, the co-founder of Alopecia World, and I ended up dating long distance for two years and eventually married on April 18, 2009! Loving and being loved by her are two of the best things that have ever happened to me, but none of it would have been possible if she had thought it was impossible for a man to love a woman not in spite of her being bald, but because she is bald.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Cheryl is a person who loves being bald. She didn't feel this way for the first few years of her life as an alopecian. But she grew to love not just her baldness, but also herself as a woman who was bald due to alopecia. These days, I like to think that her decision to so embrace herself eventually brought both of us unspeakable joy!

As noted in Psychology Today's Diagnosis Dictionary, despite the fact that "there is a degree of fetishistic arousal in most normal individuals who find particular bodily features attractive," there are fetishists who depersonalize and objectify people because of their physical attributes. In fact, a true fetishist is so aroused by, say, a woman's bald head that "it interferes with normal sexual or social functioning." The fetishist looks upon the woman's bald head as though it is an orgasmic talisman and thus treats her like an impersonal object of obsession rather than a personal subject of genuine affection.

Nevertheless, the mere fact that someone compliments your bald head is not sufficient cause for paranoia, panic, or repulsion. As Cheryl and my relationship demonstrates, it very well might be worth your time and energy to patiently but also prudently get to know what else the complimenter has to offer as well as say to you. Who knows, such openness may also bring you face-to-face with the serendipitous love of your life.

Views: 3377

Comment by amym on October 18, 2013 at 4:53pm

What wonderful written words, and I can feel the love between the two of you through them.

Comment by Erin Brown on October 18, 2013 at 4:55pm
Love this!
Comment by Mary on October 18, 2013 at 6:06pm

You two are such a beautiful and inspiring couple.  I'm happy for you and for anyone who finds love as you both did.

BUT, I have to disagree strongly with what you said about fetishists.  There's a BIG difference in a great guy like you who just knew a beautiful woman when he saw her, and a guy who is a head-shaving fetishist.  From what I've seen online, the SSF (my shorthand for Shaving Sexual Fetishists) ARE cause for "paranoia, panic and repulsion"!

Have you SEEN the photos on their Facebook pages?  Photos of women bound and gagged and being forcibly shaved? In case anyone hasn't, here's a very typical one:

Did you see the recent video that incorporated video I and and Alopecia World and others have put on YouTube - video of me dancing, video of young women dancing at a NAAF conference, that was combined with photos of head shavers and shaving video?  I was almost physically ill when I saw it, and through the efforts of some amazing women in our community, it was taken down.

It's not about admiring a beautiful bald woman or even just being aroused by the bald look. There is ALWAYS an element of domination, sadism, and subjecting a women to the most humiliating thing (supposedly) that can be done to her - shaving her hair off. 

The women in our community, IMHO, need to be aware and on guard for these men.  Yes, be open to an otherwise nice-seeming guy who is interested in you.  But, if his Facebook page Likes include the obvious head-shaving, sicko pages or groups, run the opposite direction unless you want that sort of relationship (which, if you do, is fine with me).  

Comment by Mary Crowe on October 18, 2013 at 6:19pm
I need me a man like that!! Congrats to you both!
Comment by rj, Co-founder on October 18, 2013 at 7:00pm

Mary, if you disagree with what I said about fetishists, it's only because you misread and misunderstood it. I described true fetishists who depersonalize and objectify their victims while, at the same time, encouraging my readers not to overreact to or misjudge someone merely because they paid you a compliment. In other words, "be open to an otherwise nice-seeming guy who is interested in you," as you stated, but be careful not to allow anyone to treat you like you're less than human.

That said, a point on which you and I truly disagree is that head-shaving like that portrayed in the photo you posted is necessarily and "ALWAYS" degrading and demeaning to women. Unlike far too many people in our society, I happen to be of the mind that BSDM involving mutually consenting adults can be as morally pure and meaningful an act of self-expression and intimacy as so-called conventional sex (whatever this means). The key question, as far as I'm concerned, is whether is each adult is a willing participant. Of course, the latter is not something one can readily determine just by looking at photos or videos.

In other words, one should be careful, very careful, not to foist on others what is no more than their own preferences, tastes, wishes, and aversions. As hard as it is to imagine, there ARE scores of women, including women with alopecia, who take as much pleasure in BSDM as you do in dancing, drumming, traveling, and promoting IAD. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't warn alopecians to be careful--indeed, you should!--but try also to bear in mind that one (wo)man's pain can still be another (wo)man's immense pleasure!


Comment by Mary on October 18, 2013 at 7:30pm

rj, that's EXACTLY what I meant when I said "unless you want that sort of relationship (which, if you do, is fine with me)."  

The problem as I see it  is that too many women in the alopecia community (I was one until I became aware of SSF) have NO clue that this form of BSDM exists (I never saw that acronym until you used it and I looked it up).  

All my comment is meant to do is raise awareness and warn.  I've seen SSF who post fake photos and names (as a bald woman, for example) on their Facebook page, or identify their page as being for and in support of women with cancer or alopecia - NEVER disclosing what their actual interest or identity is (except inadvertently through their posted Likes and Groups.)   

Comment by Mary on October 18, 2013 at 7:37pm

And, there are also SSF who are interested in bald CHILDREN, and they use similar deceptive tactics to gain access to photos of kids with Alopecia that they can use and share for sexual gratification.  I think we can all agree that that's not a valid "preference"?

Comment by baldisnotbeautiful on October 18, 2013 at 7:45pm

I agree with you Mary this is why I never use photos of myself in the internet and would never put a photo of a bald child.

WOW I am commenting in a controversial thread

Comment by Mary on October 18, 2013 at 8:06pm

Exactly why we need to spread the word!  When I started posting videos and photos of myself in 2008 when I lost my hair, I did it to help other women going through what I was.  I had NO idea the whole shaving fetish thing existed, and only found out when I looked at the YouTube accounts of guys who subscribed to me.  Imagine my surprise when I saw all the videos of women encased in rubber, with ball gags in their mouth, being shaved!  If I had known, I might not have posted my photos and videos....that's why I feel so strongly about warning other women with Alopecia.  But, I DIDN'T know. 

Comment by Mary on October 18, 2013 at 8:15pm

rj - while I'm letting this all out - here's what REALLY bothers me.  Yes, everyone is entitled to enjoy their own preferences and tastes, as you say.  They can take their OWN photos  and shoot their own videos with willing participants, and share those materials on their pages, etc.  What is NOT okay is when they use images of women with Alopecia or cancer in their SSF videos and on their BSDM pages.  Those young women dancing at NAAF did not consent to being used that way.  I did not consent.  Agree or disagree?


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