The last time I had pubic hair in any measurable quantity was about the time I first started sprouting it. Blame porn, blame the sexualization of teenage girls, blame the expectation that women will be as smooth and hairless as Barbies from face to plasticized crotch, but I was not down with a hairy vag, ever.
And sort of like how I’ve long since forgotten that exact shade that grows naturally out of my head, after a decade and a half of shaving, I didn’t really remember what it was like to have a wild and untamed thatch of pubic hair. My preference for a hairless snatch is real, but I know from whence it came, and it’s got a lot more to do with a desire to fit into some sexy porno fantasy than it does any real benefits of depilation.
So in the interest of moving up and onward, I decided to give body hair the old college try. And then, about a week later, I freaked out and shaved it all off. Repeat this cycle several more times, before I finally managed to keep a little grass on the field without completely panicking. Turns out pubic hair for me is like nails on a chalkboard or the sight of blood to other people — I just cannot stand it.
Let me be perfectly clear: There is nothing inherently “gross” or “unclean” about body hair. The idea that women need to shave whilst men do not is a social construct designed to keep women too busy running a plastic razor over every inch of our bodies to have time for world-changing political action. That said, I fucking hated this experiment.
And of course, it took FOREVER to grow. That’s months of having to navigate a forest of steel wool pads and fishing tackle to get to my clitoris. I found I couldn’t stop playing with it — twirling it around my fingers while I worked (at home) or talked on the phone. How do those of you with a bush keep your hands out of there? It’s not like it even feels good, like the comparatively silken hair that sprouts from my legs.
Speaking of which, I decided that if I wasn’t going to shave my pubic hair, there was no real reason to shave my armpits or legs either. After a few weeks of this, I said to my boyfriend: “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve stopped shaving–”
“No, just for an article…” Then, in the grand tradition of trouble-bound women everywhere, I decided to inquire further.
“What if it was forever? You’d have a problem with that?”
“Well, I wouldn’t really like it. I wouldn’t break up with you or anything. But people woud be like ‘So your girlfriend has hairy legs.’ I’d have to be like, ‘Yep, that’s her.'”
“What about the pubes?”
“I don’t care about that.”
He truly doesn’t, despite my best efforts to get him to declare a preference. Nor has he ever tampered with the hair on my head — “That’s your business,” he’ll tell me when I inquire if he likes me better with shorter or longer hair, bangs or none. Amongst his many other good qualities, the man keeps his laws off my body.
So I was a little suprised but not offended to find that he does prefer smooth legs and armpits. For the record, he displayed no more or less sexual interest in me during the time in which my vagina began to resemble one of those aliens from Attack the Block.
Partly, having a full bush is just a big change for me — akin to drastically changing the style on my head after having it one way my whole life. My discomfort is magnified by the fact that it’s a style choice that is intimately connected to sex and my conception of my own sexuality.
Because on other people, I can see pubic hair as very hot. I adore how everyone in porn before the 80s was flabby, pale and covered in hair, as opposed to surgically altered, tanned, toned and hairless. But more innately, I have spent most of my life as a sexual being reflecting back what I thought would be most pleasing to the man/men in my life.
That means being a willing participant in any fantasy said men might have without consideration of my own interest, encouraging boyfriends to sleep with other women both with and without me, and giving head so enthusiastically you’d think I had a clitoris in my throat. Speaking of which, clock this interview snippet between Nora Ephron and Linda Lovelace in Esquire, shortly after the release of “Deep Throat.”
Ephron: ‘Why do you shave off your pubic hair in the film?’
Lovelace: ‘I always do. I like it.’
‘But why do you do it?’
‘It can get kinda hot…’
‘Well, I think it’s weird.’
‘Well, I don’t know anyone who does that.’
‘Now you do.
Linda Lovelace had a future vagina! And like hers (read her heartbreaking memoir “Ordeal” if you want to feel suicidal), my story is one of childhood trauma and lack of sexual boundaries leading to an insecure woman who pretzels herself into the mold best masturbated to. Now I have improved considerably with the love of a good man, who saw through my kittenish ways. But this is why I have been shaving my pubic hair since I was 13 years old. This is why I find myself, a month into the experiment, searching “hairy” on Craigslist Casual Encounters just to read ads from men who prefer my new look.
But I wouldn’t tell you guys this stuff if I thought I was unique among women and that it was relevant only to me. These messages about what female sexuality should be are transmitted out to all of us. Some of us, depending on how inadequately we are protected from them and what we are taught explicitly and implicitly to believe about ourselves, absorb them more than others. And laying off the razor for a month isn’t going to undo that.
There’s this idea that those of us who have intentionally or unintentionally “opted in” to societal concepts of sex and beauty are somehow choosing the easier path, that resisting is going to “make for a much harder life,” as Jess put its in her choice feminism piece. But if that were true, porn stars and strippers would be the happiest people on Earth. Trying to compete in the world of “patriarchy-approved” activities is just as painful as rejecting them, I promise you that. It’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t system.
And this all turned out awfully serious for a piece about vagina styling, but along with leave-in conditioner and crumbs from my late-night “naked snacks,” my pubic hair is FULL OF ISSUES.
In the end, I don’t think it matters much how you wear your pubic hair, and I will be shaving mine off within seconds of hitting “save” on this post. What’s important is thinking about the reasons why we want our reproductive organs to to resemble the lunar surface, or why we don’t.
Oh, and let other people make those decisions for themselves without ridicule or judgment. That means no “Ewwww gross, pubez!!!!” and also, no insinuating that preferring a shaved look is akin preferring sex with children. I’m not a child, I’m an adult woman who shaves her pubic hair, and there is nothing child-like about my naked body.
I suppose it’s inevitable that the comments section will now become abuzz with pubic preferences, so let’s do this thing. What’s in your pants?