A Body Hair Experiment

A Body Hair Experiment: An Intimate Lens on Gender is a thought-provoking mix of visceral photographs and elegant prose. This exceptionally perceptive photo essay features photographs by O Zhang and text by Eli Cohen. Cohen reflects on the always tense relationship that body hair has with the human body and, via his experiment, highlights how body hair is acceptable on certain bodies and (mostly) unacceptable on others.

The experiment had Cohen completely remove all the hair on the left side of his body only, leaving the other half naturally hairy. He mentions that hairlessness was never an option for him, not even the rejection of it. His lines on how he had never viewed himself as a subject of desire make the readers question how society terms certain bodies as constitutive of being desirable and others as not.

Preceded by Zhang’s close-up of a man’s stomach (one hair-covered arm angled towards the tuft of pubic hair in presumably an act of concealment) and succeeded by spliced halves of a close-up of the nipple—one side completely hairless with the pores sharply defined and the other with wiry black-grey coils, the question of subjects of desire also gently extends in the reader’s mind to body parts significant of desire. Cohen’s wondering about the ‘feminine choices’ regarding body hair and the natural extension of perceptions of women who choose to make a feminine choice shows us just how insidiously notions of seriousness and frivolity are tied up with femininity. 

I am giving A Body Hair Experiment: An Intimate Lens on Gender by Eli Cohen and O Zhang 5 out of 5 stars— Zhang’s gorgeous photography graphically brings home the reality of gender norms being broken and unsettles ingrained notions of gender-specific beauty practices. Cohen’s writing and his musings on what this act of deliberate part-hairlessness and part au naturel involves—from the physical sensation of smoothness, of hairiness, of the preparation, of the embracing, and of the disconcerting sensation of unevenness—invite readers to the possibilities of body hair while also highlighting the strong cultural notions it carries.

About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on December 14, 2022, in Book Reviews, Five Stars and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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