One topic we can’t seem to revisit enough on Stuff Mom Never Told You is hair. How did hairlessness become a female beauty norm? Why do (some) modern women groom their public hair? Do blondes really have more fun? For a species that lost an entire coating of fur during our evolution, humans are almost disproportionately preoccupied with the whys and wherefores of our body and head hair.
What many answers to our hairy questions have in common is sex. Body hair on our armpits, faces and genitals signals our sexual maturation, for instance, and long hair on women has long been considered an outward sign of fertility. See also:
Hence, it wasn’t a surprise to learn of the connection between the sexual symbolism of women’s head hair and the ancient tradition of female veiling in “Let Modesty Be Her Raiment: The Classical Context of Ancient-Christian Veiling” by Tahmina Tariq. What I didn’t know, however, were the Greeks’ uncanny notions about just how literally sexy women’s hair was:
Influential medical writers of the classical age also had much to say about hair and its sexual function. According to Hippocrates, hair was a product of the congealing of sexual fluids such as semen. Hair was primarily hollow and absorbed semen. Men’s warm bodies allowed for hair to grow prolifically all over their bodies while women’s cold temperatures limited growth to the head. It was believed that during intercourse, ejected semen would travel to a woman’s hair. If, however, a man had long hair, the semen would simply detour to the man’s head. Ejaculation of semen was a defining characteristic of masculinity. Men’s long hair would place that sense of vir in extreme jeopardy.
According to this theory, hair becomes an extension of the female genitalia…
It’s no wonder then that by the time Christianity, Judaism and Islam began developing in Mesopotamia, their religious doctrines that are still followed today by many, urged women to cover their lusty locks in public. Otherwise, it would be the figurative equivalent to uncovered women walking around without any bottoms on, all of which is yet another reason why we can’t learn enough about hair and its many tangled meanings.
Related Stuff Mom Never Told You: Why Men Have Short Hair