(Occasionally, I get a question from a reader that is compelling enough to become an article all its own. This is one of those questions.)
“Greetings, Ev`Yan! I would LOVE for you to discuss the desire within our current culture for women to be clean shaven in their under arms and between their legs. When that change in my life came as a young girl, I was honored and finally felt like a woman. It feels to me that this hair is looked at with shame and to be hidden, when it is completely natural. I’m not against a little grooming down there, but the hairlessness is an epidemic!
Also: What does your bush look like?” — Brenna
I adore you for prompting this discussion & for so boldly asking a question that helps me analyze my own pubic hair preference.
I agree with you that there is a lot of shame surrounding women & the amount of hair they have on their bodies (mainly in the States). It’s all very contradictory, because on one hand sprouting little strands of hair in our private areas is a rite of passage into womanhood; we know we’ve hit puberty the moment our legs, underarms, & mons pubis begins to grow fuzzy.
On the other hand, that glorious sign of physical maturity gets cut short (literally) because shaving is as much of a rite of passage into womanhood I think as is growing hair.
When I was coming to the age of full blown body development, I simply couldn’t wait to grow hair so that I could shave it off. Shaving my legs & underneath my arms was such an adult, womanly thing to do in my young eyes. I watched my mother do it, I listened to my peers gush about it. Like entering middle school, it was a step up & into being an all knowing teenager.
I was an effervescent bundle of joy on the day I was given the green light by my mother to be rid of the peach fuzz on my legs (she, at the time, didn’t trust me with a razor so she bought me a putrid-smelling depilatory lotion instead).
For me, shaving was like wearing makeup. It was an indicator that I was no longer a child & blossoming young woman. And because I valued this feminine ritual, I stayed on top of it for no other reason than to exude faux maturity.
(Perhaps this is the way many other women entered into their own shaving habits, from an area of pride & excitement for growing up & older.)
It never occurred to me that my pubic hair would be included into the category of It Grows Therefore It Shall Be Celebratorily Cut Down, because I was brought up with the notion that my private parts were indeed private. My legs & underarms were constantly being exposed to the public; they needed to be maintained. But my pubic hair remained untouched by the hands of others & was therefore beautifully (& freely) unkempt.
That is, until I started dating boys at school.
I remember my best friend at the time explaining to me what the act of “fingering” was, which then lead on to a conversation about being “eaten out.” These were both things I had never heard of, & while she spoke of them she made it quite clear that boys expected girls to be “tidy” down there, or else they wouldn’t do these things to you. She didn’t explain why this was, but declared it so. I took this bit of advice with a grain of salt, still not understanding the purpose of getting rid of your pubic hair.
Because not that long ago I was celebrating these tufts of hair, admiring their implied adulthood, enjoying the secretness of it. And now boys wanted me to cut my womanhood off?
This notion was even more reinforced when I watched as a classmate of mine got ridiculed because she had stray pubic hairs poking around her bikini line. It was then that I got the message loud & clear, yet I managed to evade this expectation. Instead of bikini bottoms I wore board shorts, still disturbed by the idea of tending to an area that no one was seeing anyway.
And then, I found myself in a committed & sexual relationship at sixteen, & suddenly my boyfriend was pressuring me to shave down my pubic hair.
“I just prefer it to be clean shaven,” he said indignantly. “It’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
After months of listening to he & his friends imply the grossness of a girl who has her pubic hair long (& the “fishy” smells that often accompany her), after witnessing my boyfriend’s distaste for the way my pubic hair was (unacceptable in his eyes), & after being bombarded by messages (from friends, media, magazines, & otherwise) that waxing, shaving, or using depilatories were the norm… I finally relented. With shaving cream & a slightly dull razor, I shaved off every strand of hair down there.
And I’m happy to say that I never did it again (much to my boyfriend’s dismay). There was something very unnatural about having a blade so close to my lady bits. I also couldn’t deny the fact that shaving yet one more square inch of my body required an upkeep I didn’t really want to commit to. And don’t even get me started on the razor bumps & ingrown hairs.
Perhaps this was just one of the reasons I got dumped by my ex. While the breakup was traumatic on my heart, it was quite liberating for my pubic hair.
It wasn’t until I started watching porn that I understood why my ex-boyfriend (& all his delusional friends) preferred a clean shaven vulva. Unless it was made in the 1970s, no woman in porn had a plethora of pubic hair. They were either completely bare or had a thin, measly strip of hair that horridly resembled Hitler’s mustache. The expectation was spurred by pornography, & then reiterated by Victoria’s Secret’s Swimsuit collection.
The fact that women are expected to look like little girls down there is disturbing to me. It sends this message that grown women (beautifully aged & fully developed) are unattractive when compared to youthful, immature girls. When I see a clean shaven mons pubis in porn my initial thought is “prepubescent.” I have strong disdain for what pubic hair in porn (or lack thereof) is implying to & about women, & therefore what we’re interpreting from it.
Of course, what people choose to do with their pubic hair is none of my business, so I don’t want to express my viewpoints any further than that. But I do think it’s worth considering our pubic hair preferences, & why we shave (or wax). I think it’s important to ask ourselves if our pubic hair preferences came about organically or if they were formed by the opinions & partialities of others.
My philosophy is that if it grows naturally then it is meant to be there. (This applies not only to pubic hair but to weeds & wisdom teeth.)
And as for your last question, Brenna, about what my bush looks like:
Trimmed neat & short with a clean bikini line (it’s the only modest thing I can hold onto when I’m wearing such risque booty shorts to pole class).