Wednesday, 5 October 2011

So how does your lady garden grow?

This post is explicit, and links to pages which feature explicit photographs. Feel free to look away.

I admit to a passing interest in fashion trends. Well ok, maybe that’s exaggerating my interest. So this may not be breaking news, but I’ve been thinking about it since chatting with a lesbian friend 14 years younger than I am.

We were talking about our bodies, and how we felt about them, and she said she shaved all her pubic hair. I asked her how her lovers felt about this, and she looked shocked and said “they all have too, of course.” When I told her I have never slept with a woman who shaves all her pubic hair, she looked shocked again.

Now most of her lovers have been her age or younger, mixed racially, not identifying as feminist.

Nearly all of my female lovers have been my age or older, mixed racially, identifying as feminists (what can I say, women who love women and don’t like gender oppression, *sexy*).

So there’s a generation gap going on here, and possibly a different analysis about how women look after our beautiful bits between feminists and non-feminists.

Before anyone assumes I’m saying “feminists can’t shave their pubic hair”, let me clarify. Growing pubic hair is one of the changes our bodies go through when we move from childhood to adulthood, and I don’t know about you, but I love being an adult woman. Which includes, for me, loving pubic hair.

A couple of years ago in Wellington’s Comedy Fest, the only humour in common from all the wonderful female comics I went to see were “jokes” about their pubic hair being revolting. This is the bit that is anti-feminist as far as I’m concerned – cultural norms which tell us our ordinary bodies are disgusting and a return to a pre-adult look for our genitals is a must. But our bodies, including our pubic hair? Ours to do what we wish with, of course. Kinda a baseline for feminism.

Quite where our wishes come from of course is another matter. Pubic hair fashion, like all fashion, has changed over the years and most agree that Penthouse featuring shaved genitalia in 1970 kicked off a cosmic shift in hair removal.

90s porn culture targeted a new area of hair growth on women and deemed it unattractive and unacceptable. In fact, trimmed, shaped or completely removed pubic hair has become normative. It is difficult many to remember the previous aesthetic, an aesthetic that did not require a woman’s vulva to be shaved, waxed or shorn to be considered “attractive” or desirable.

The “attractive” thing is clearly not just heterosexual in gaze, as evidenced by my friend. It’s also strongly aged. One national survey in the US found that 38% of women aged 18-44 cf 3% women aged 55 and older believe most men prefer a manicured look to their pubes. And what men want is definitely part of selling the package of pubic maintenance to women:

Most women place a good deal of focus on their pubic hair not only for themselves but for their partners as well. In fact, many women are willing to indulge their partners when it comes to pubic hair styles. Why not?
In a recent study:48% of men preferred their women to get rid of it all.
29% of men said they preferred their women to be natural — that being trim and neat but not bare.
16% of men wanted their women to have a little tuft of hair or a patch — would that be a ‘soul’ patch, boys?

The rates of “heterosexually active men” who answered this small online survey were similarly clear about preferring little or no pubic hair, and the reasons for their preference:

Making oral sex “better”? I guess I have nothing to compare it with, but I’m not really sure how much “better” giving oral sex could get to be brutally honest. One in four men surveyed liking the woman they are having sex with to look younger or virginal while they are having sex with them? Just creepy.

Pubic hair grooming is big business, with a whole heap of options available. Which means companies making the tools to tend to our “lady gardens” can make awesome adverts:

Next time I’m-too-scared-to-call-my-beautiful-vagina-labia-and-clitoris-by-their-non -euphemistic-real-names I’m using tulip. But wait, there’s more:

But the most disgust expressed? The bizarre “neighbourhood is open” series, complete with canned laughter:

I’m really interested in how other people feel about this. But completely uninterested in misogynist expressions of disgust about women’s bodies, so please don’t comment if that’s your thing.


Scar said...

This is something I've really struggled with.

Obviously there is an impetus for trans women to get rid of all their body hair, as body hair is seen (wrongly) as a 'male' thing; especially in areas where it doesn't really grow on cis women.

This carries over into areas that are not considered male; anything that could possibly be construed as a 'male marker' is erased (i.e. hairy legs, hairy armpits, too much pubic hair).
Obviously the desire to conform to feminine stereotypes in order to 'pass' means that we are especially susceptible to trends like hair removal on the crotch.

So as I said, I've struggled with this, because of these reasons.
Despite this, I've managed to embrace my vulvic verdure and let it grow as wild as it likes. As you pointed out, it IS a womanly thing and I embrace being a woman. I suppose I could try to recapture my lost girlhood by waxing the shit out of it, but I would find that pretty creepy and weird. If I ever pine for my lost girlhood, I'll go looking for it in places other than my pubic region.

katy said...

Having no pubic hair makes your body feel different, in the same way that having short/long/no hair on your head feels different and people have different preferences based on how comfortable it makes them feel, not just on how it looks. If more women are choosing to remove pubic hair on an ongoing basis I wonder if it is because more women try shaving/waxing/epilation at some stage (for various reasons, some of which will indeed be uncool) but some decide to continue with it because they like it for other reasons?

From what I understand Sharia law recommends the removal of pubic hair (for men and women). Would be interesting to know if this is widely practiced.

Anonymous said...

Why there's even a funky wee song on the topic...

Gallows said...

Last time my girlfriend and I had sex I found she'd shaved all her pubic hair off. I wasn't into it but didn't say anything.

Tasha said...

I find the generation gap one interesting, although I know a number of my friends go for the shaved I personally have only had one sexual encounter with someone who has been (and a brief and very different context to all my other experiences anyway)

On a personal level the idea of maintaining no hair just sounds like a nightmare, so I tend to trim, partially spurred by a previous partner but has become a personal preference.

The idea of no hair honestly puts me off. It seems creepily per-pubecent. As mentioned I feel like it is part of womanhood and as a women who loves women I love that.

Danielle said...

You can be feminist and still practice hair removal. The two are not mutually exclusive.

I'm strongly feminist and have identified as such for many years, but I still wax my public hair and shave. The reason for this is because I find hair aesthetically unpleasing (on men and women), not because I feel the pressure to do so. In fact, my partner prefers me with some hair down there, but I don't like it. He doesn't practice hair removal at all, and although I wish that he would, I don't pressure him to do so. I am aware that my preference for hairless bodies comes partly from the media and the endless barrage of images and advertisments marketed to women specifially for hair removal, but how does that make my preference any less valid? I don't judge men and women who don't remove their hair (I sleep next to one every night), but for MY body, I will do what I want.

I think that one of the most important parts of being a feminist is that you allow others the choice to do whatever they want with their bodies, rather than judging them for doing something that goes against the traditionally feminist grain. I respect those who refuse to shave or wax, but it upsets me when I don't recieve the same respect or at least tolerance.

Draco TB said...

Making oral sex “better”?

I like eating pussy, I don't like eating hair. And, yes, I think it's more aesthetically pleasing as well.

Actually, I read a letter to a magazine (Penthouse or Playboy) about a woman who shaved her pubic area after her BF asked her to found that the sex was better for her as well due to more stimulation from her partners pubes.

Scar said...

Draco, do you shave your genitalia and would you do so if a sexual partner requested that you do so (i.e. because they don't like eating hair when performing oral)?

Monday said...

Really interesting post - and thought provoking comments thus far. I trim a little, but having tried total hairlessness I found it uncomfortable, unsightly and completely unmanageable!

I used to be a grower (so to speak), but I figured I may as well try it for once and the change has been really, really empowering for me.

We don't make decisions in a vacuum which means any decision about our bodies could be seen as a reaction to the patriarchy. I think the challenge is to understand that, acknowledge/challenge its role in one's decision making, and do what makes one feel empowered with whatever gusto deemed appropriate. All this whilst also trusting and respecting other women's choices a la what Danielle said above.

Monday said...

Draco - What Scar said. I find the pressure thing from a partner really, really off-putting. Being policed by someone who would recoil at same said policing is just not a turn on for me at all.

Elsie said...

The idea that women have to be shaved to be "fuckable" is odious to me. I realise that it comes down to personal preference, but the popular media enforce pubic hair removal to a huge degree and I think it does fetishise this pre-pubescent, Lolita, "virginal" ideal.
The fact that all the research and studies on pubic hair preference interview MEN on their preference really reinforces that this is primarily something women to do appease their sexual partners. I wonder how many men would shave their genitals if their girlfriend preferred it?
I feel very strongly about my body hair, and also love body hair on other women.

Scar said...

Danielle said:

I am aware that my preference for hairless bodies comes partly from the media and the endless barrage of images and advertisments marketed to women specifially for hair removal, but how does that make my preference any less valid?

If I was conditioned to hate my toes by a barrage of media/marketting, would that make my preference to have my toes amputated any less valid?

I guess my problem with what you're saying is that it's not really your preference, is it? If it was, you'd have come to that decission without being influenced by the media.

LadyNews said...

I remember discussing this with a (male) friend of mine, who expressed a preference for everything all being waxed off. I asked (like Scar did, upthread) would he wax all his pubic hair off if his partner said it was nicer/made oral easier/etc, and his rationale for saying no was that there's no hair on the shaft of the penis so it isn't translatable to performing oral sex on someone with a penis. Honestly, I thought it was pretty weak and a huge cop-out : unless someone had pubic hair that was a gigantic jungle of comedy wig proportions that was ensnarled in such a way to mean genital access is impossible (which is unlikely, given that the person would probably need to access their genitals for non-sexual reasons), you aren't necessarily being impeded by the hair. At most it was an argument for trimming/keeping it short, and not necessarily for waxing it all off.

The most recent time I had someone tell me that "all off" was better was when I was chatting with self-identified feminists, one of whom said "but come on, it just feels better, you know?", and I was quietly annoyed that someone felt confident enough to tell everyone in the group what felt good for all of our bodies, which she doesn't exist in. It seems like a lot of the pube-shaming comes from people who choose to wax and have gotten a lot of flak for it, and feel quite defensive about their choice.

Scar said...

To add on to what LadyNews said above; during my time on this earth I have possessed both a vulva and a penis as well as the pubic growth associated with testosterone and no testosterone.

Comparing the two, access to my nethers was more likely to involve 'eating hair' while I had testosterone induced pubic growth and a penis - especially since one of the erogenous zones (the scrotum) was covered in hair, as was the base of the shaft.

Comparitively, non-testosterone pubic hair growth is much thinner and far less coarse - and the configuration of my genitals now means that none of my major erogenous zones (inner labia, clitoris, vaginal opening) have any hair growing on them.

Monday said...

I think the key here is to trust women to make decisions that are best for them and not pre-judge or be scornful without acknowledging the complexities involved and without knowledge of the reasons behind the decision. Even if the decision *is* solely to keep the peace re: sexual presentation, well, we all have to make compromises to fit in in various strata of society (makeup, hair, clothing, language, etc etc) and if a woman feels that this is a compromise she needs to make, then so be it. Chastising shaving / waxing feels about as good as chastising retaining hair.

My decision was not driven by a partner. It was, of course, influenced by the barrage of images around me (who isn't?). I took a long time to decide that on balance *I* wanted to do this *for me* and not to look good/feel good for someone else. Frankly, I'm proud of my bits and I like to see them when I lose my clothes for whatever reason... But I would NEVER tell someone they were doing it wrong by keeping their hair - however one chooses to present their feminism in this regard is fine by me, and I expect the same respect in return.

Elsie - there is the sad reality that women's bodies are policed stringently as the site of sex, which ties in to what LadyNews is saying about some de-haired women being a bit near-sighted about the variation of sensory experience during sex - apparently it isn't about what we feel, it's about how we look and how we make others feel, and if we've invested in that then we'd better protect that investment by keeping the patriarchy afloat! (saracsm, obvs) Ug.

Lena said...

I'm a feminist who sometimes removes all of my pubic hair (well, I pay someone to do it. If I waxed myself that'd be a catastrophe), sometimes removes none, and sometimes removes some of it. I don't really relate it to feminism so much, more the season of year. In summer I spend most of my time in togs, and so I prefer to have very little pubic hair so that there's no chance of it peeking out the sides of my bikini bottoms.

My partner likes my genitals whether I have pubes or not, so that doesn't really come into it for us. When I have none, I definitely don't think I look like a child - adult genitals are different to children's, plus there's the rest of my body which is clearly adult!

In my teens, from about 14 onwards, I had this idea in my head that girls were supposed to fully shave, and that stemmed entirely from one comment that a boy I liked made. It's definitely a common idea.

Bianca said...

This post and the comments are interesting - brings this to mind. Enjoy!

Faycin A Croud said...

I'm 46 years old, female, and heterosexual. I started shaving my armpits and leg hair when I turned 12, after a classmate referred to me as "gorilla legs." I have very thick hair on my head and tend to be hairy on my arms, legs, underarms, and down yonder as well. I am a nurse and I still can't refer to it as a vagina without blushing when talking about my own, foolish though that may be.
I have been celibate for the past 13 years, in part due to physical issues with my plumbing, in part due to having had a lot of bad experiences in picking the wrong men, which is in part due to my mental issues (bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder.) I stopped having partners about the time when the obsession with shaved pubes started. I only had one partner at about this time (1998) who thought that I ought to shave the old "jungle bush." I did it to please him. On the off chance that I ever got involved with anyone again, I would not do it again. It's uncomfortable when it starts growing back in.
I would never in a million years get one of those damn Brazilian waxes. Ye Goddesses! Really, Ladies? Have the hair ripped out of the most sensitive part of your body to please...who? Maybe I'm just an old fart but I really, really, really don't get it! Of course I'm pretty allergic to pain, so that could make a difference!
In the long run I believe that everyone has the right to do as they please with their own body. But for me personally, I'll keep the hair down there.

Draco TB said...

@ Scar/Monday

Shaving the pubes is up to the person not their partner. I've never asked a woman to shave and never will.

Scar said...

That really goes without saying, Draco; I remind you of the environment you're discussing this topic in.
If a partner expressed that they preferred shaven men, would you consider doing it to please them?
If a partner read this thread and then shaved their genitals to please you, would you actually be pleased?

Psycho Milt said...

If a partner expressed that they preferred shaven men, would you consider doing it to please them?

Yes (well, not shaved - would do waxed though). Nor would I have a chip on my shoulder about it - having someone you care about sometimes involves doing stuff they like that you wouldn't have bothered with yourself.

Having had the same partner through various pube fashions, I found I really, really liked the hairless version without quite being able to say why (and no, not because it made her look pre-pubescent - an adult with no body hair has an obviously adult body, not a child's one). I certainly liked seeing it, and I definitely liked not having my face buried in pubic hair.

That said, she can't be arsed maintaining that level of hair removal and it would be unfair to suggest she should - doubt I'd be very keen on it if I were her.

Scar said...

Well, thanks for your response, Psycho, but the question wasn't directed at you, rather I was asking Draco, as it was part of the thread of conversation.

Just an FYI, I'd rather you didn't interact with me at all, since you have made numerous problematic statements about trans people; which makes my skin crawl.
I hope you can respect my boundaries :-)

LudditeJourno said...

Thanks everyone for fascinating and varied responses, and the fab links to Amanda Palmer (new to me but very Peaches and that's always good) and India Arie (always magnificent).
Danielle - I'm certainly not claiming there is a "traditional feminist" response to shaving your pubic hair - sorry if that wasn't clear.
Draco - if you're eating hair when you're trying to give a woman oral sex, as Scar so clearly points out, you're licking the wrong bits. You might like to check that out with your lover(s).
People saying "we must respect individual women's choices, saying shaving is yucky is as bad as saying not shaving is yucky" (summary) - of course we don't make choices in a vaccum and of course the cultural context privileges some ways of "doing" being female, and of course that's applicable to literally millions of things. For me, the detail and the patterns in the individual choices (eg the generational change and move towards hair removal) is what's interesting to examine through a feminist lens. And it's not the same to ask "why is this choice more valued, at the moment, for these women" as it is to have advertising, images of women, businesses, humour, other forms of media all pushing "too much pubic hair is yucky, get rid of it."

Psycho Milt said...

... the question wasn't directed at you...

It's a public comments thread, not a private conversation.

...I'd rather you didn't interact with me at all...

See above.

Luddite Journo: like Draco, I found I liked oral sex better without having my face buried in her pubic hair. Which isn't to say I don't like doing it with pubes, just that I liked it even more without. There isn't really a moral judgement in that, only a personal preference.

LudditeJourno said...

PS - am I the only one finding themselves humming "mow the lawn" in odd moments? Curses on the combination of pop melodies and advertising.....

Psycho Milt said...

If you're going to make an entirely reasonable comment from me disappear, how about removing the one with an offensive accusation about me in it, while you're about it? Just a thought - your thread an' all that.

stargazer said...

PM, your comment was thrown into spam for some unknown reason. i've now rescued it. there was no deletion.

Psycho Milt said...

Sorry for leaping to unwarranted conclusions!

Scar said...

As usual, having one's transphobia pointed out is far more heinous a crime than actually being transphobic.
Is it any wonder we're not protected by the Human Rights Act?
I'll be on my blog if anyone wants to discuss this; I'll be leaving this discussion now.

Gardener Moz said...

Luddite Journe said: if you're eating hair when you're trying to give a woman oral sex you're licking the wrong bits.

I have two responses to that: firstly, isn't that up to the person being licked to decide, rather than you (as far as I know I've never licked you)?

Secondly, while my experience is limited I have not seen an adult woman whose untrimmed public hair doesn't reach her clit. And most women I've been with like to have their clit or surrounds licked. So I think your comment is unlikely. I usually find that I have to clear the hair away before I start, otherwise I'm grinding away my tongue and her clit while I'm licking - hair is not soft in this context. But again, this is personal preference and I imagine that some women would like the extra stimulation.

LudditeJourno said...

Ha ha Gardener Moz, fair enough. I guess I just struggle with this a little bit as a reason for shaving, because I think it's perfectly possible to give oral sex without eating pubic hair. None of which means kissing bits with pubic hair isn't lovely or good fun.
But - I think there is a dexterity issue here re: clits and oral sex. Haven't had the problems you're describing personally.

Gardener Moz said...

I'm not posing it as a problem so much as trying to work out what you're doing that I'm not, that makes pubic hair irrelevant to cunnilingus. I've had partners with lush pubic hair before and it was somewhat irritating no matter what I tried. But there's limits, because making a fuss is more pressure than I'm willing to apply.

She who must be obeyed is currently considering waxing just once to see what it's like. She has also considered waxing me, but met some resistance :)

FWIW, body hair policing is not something that only happens to women. I haven't yet had sex with a woman who likes receiving cunnilingus from a stubbly guy, and most women are quite blunt about what they will and won't allow.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post and discussion here. Personally as a heterosexual 31 year old male I'm not a big fan of body/'down there' hair, I think its unhygenic and gross. What people choose to do with their own hair is their own business but I shave all mine off. That includes arms, legs, feet, pubic region, chest and so on. I feel a lot cleaner since I started doing that. And I prefer ladies who shave 'down there' as well, though I wont pressure them or make comments about it. The effort to keep it up is horrendus, but im not bothered, as it also boosts my confidence for the day.

Danielle said...

Scar: are you comparing removing pubic hair to amputating toes? With all due respect (I'm not looking for an argument and respect your opinion), I think that is a pretty poor comparision, with one being far more extreme and mutilating than the other.

And how can any preference come from the media? We are constantly attacked with images from the day we are born. And if we follow this line of thought, then technically I should like men with hair, because I have personally never seen an advert or heard of men being encouraged to wax. But I don't like it; I actually prefer men to wax.

This is unrelated to Scar's comment, but from what I'm reading here it seems like many people are very negative towards mine and many other women's choices. I don't do it because I feel that I should, I don't do it because I'm being pressured. I do it because it's aesthetically pleasing to me, and at the end of the day, I want to be happy with myself.

Scar said...

Scar: are you comparing removing pubic hair to amputating toes? With all due respect (I'm not looking for an argument and respect your opinion), I think that is a pretty poor comparision, with one being far more extreme and mutilating than the other.

As someone who chose to remove unwanted body parts, I find the term 'mutilating' to be highly offensive.
Perhaps because of my surgery, I have less of an issue with surgery in general - and that's something that doesn't come from the media and mainstream society.
Hence why I used it as a comparisson. Clearly you dn't think it is a valid one, but it doesn't detract from my point, which is: why would you remove something that is a normal part of human existence if you hadn't been influenced to do so in some way?
I think it is important to examine WHY we feel cleaner/nicer/better/whatever from removing pubic hair and not just shrug and fall back on "cuz it's just my preference".

And how can any preference come from the media? We are constantly attacked with images from the day we are born.

You pretty much answered your own question there.

This is unrelated to Scar's comment, but from what I'm reading here it seems like many people are very negative towards mine and many other women's choices. I don't do it because I feel that I should, I don't do it because I'm being pressured. I do it because it's aesthetically pleasing to me, and at the end of the day, I want to be happy with myself.

Have you ever wonder why it is aesthetically pleasing to you?

Anonymous said...

I'm male 40's, het and married to (and living with) a het unshaven woman late 30's, kids.

When I look at my naked wife then her pubes and the smell they retain are all signals to me that this is an adult woman who is sexually aroused by me. (And I have seen myself in the mirror so I know that she isn't really thinking about my appearance). Of course I like it when my wife spreads her labia so I can get a good look and taste but in my experience pubes for males and females do not grow in the optimal target zone for oral sex.

We have shaved each other's pubes a few times. The doing is lots of fun. But the itchy painful growback is not. If an adult woman chooses to shave (or be shaved) then all power to her but even though my wife thinks my hairy belly is a bit gross I don't shave it to please her and it has never occurred to either of us to request that the other make such changes to our appearance.

Hell, if we started with hair, where would it end? We are both imperfect and accept each other and ourselves for who we are.

dave davies

Anonymous said...

Thanks for opening up conversation on this one. I find it interesting after seeing this article stating that young people are more likely to be hairless than not:

I'm cis female and hetro, 23 years. Waxed everything once but didn't feel comfortable due to some disfigurement down there following an illness years ago. I also object to the expense but appreciate that it's a priority for some people. I have young friends who have spent thousands on electrolysis, including that area, they are very happy with the results.


Psycho Milt said...

...I think that is a pretty poor comparision, with one being far more extreme and mutilating than the other.

Actually, it's an excellent comparison, in that it demonstrates just how limited the influence of the media on this stuff is. Consider a media campaign in which all the cool people are amputating their toes and you'll look ugly and gross with your enormous, monkey-like feet unless you do the same - would you really be rushing out to book the surgery?

The media can promote or exacerbate a trend, but there has to be a trend - ie, something to base it on, some actual attractive feature of the relevant fashion that they can work with. As a further example, a media campaign encouraging you to dab some of your own shit behind each ear in the morning to make you seem rich, cool and sexy wouldn't be likely to make a whole lot of headway.

It's safe to assume there's something more to any particular fashion than just "the media done it."

stargazer said...

and yet foot-binding which involved breaking of toes was a thing. as is FGM. as are other invasive cosmetic surgical procedures.

of course "the media" is just the latest way of perpetuating cultural norms and pressure. but the fact remains that what we find aesthetically pleasing is determined, to a large extent, by cultural context.

Psycho Milt said...

I don't believe women have ever been enthusiastic about foot binding or genital mutilation because the media convinced them it was a great idea. In most cases, what you might choose for yourself doesn't seem to have come into it.

stargazer said...

maybe you missed the bit i said about the media being a vehicle etc? in many cases it is a matter of individual choice, brought about by societal pressure. that pressure can be brought about in a variety of ways. media is one of those ways. simplying that to "the media made me do it' is rather misunderstanding the point.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the discomfort at the 'judgy' nature of some of the posts that are on this thread. For me the occasions when I've waxed are nothing to do with what it looked like (i thought a puffy, plucked chicken :P) and EVERYTHING to do with what it felt like. Your lips feel like velvet if you want to know. And for me it made any sexual touch magnified, like when you shave your legs and slip into fresh sheets...feels tingly and silky.


Anonymous said...

Im a early 30s queer woman and personally pubic hair doesn't bother me at all, and more than that I really like women just as they pun intended.Recently tho I was in a relationship where my partner really struggled with pubic hair being near her mouth and would gag if hair got into her mouth, and tho she didnt put any pressure on me to wax i chose to because it was easier and more pleasant for her and it really didnt bother me to do it, once I decided to stop (because of the $, time and novelty wearing off!) we continued to have great, fun and communicative sex in ways that didn't involve her giving oral sex. While I think reflecting on your own attitudes towards pubic hair is important and trying to be mindful about not buying into policing/infantilising women's bodies, I think within r/ships the key it is that it is totally cool not to be into pubes if you dont put pressure on anyone to change for you and you have the communication within you sex life to make sure both your needs are being met in a way that is fun and negotiated and works for both of you, and I know lots of the oral sex I give would get a woman's hair in my mouth, not because I dont know where the clit is but licking for orgasm isnt the only reason for oral sex, what is more intimate than being brought down from orgasm by licking round lips etc?
I do think it is a generational thing too, im early 30s and my friends are mixed in terms of 'grooming' but know for younger women ive been with they've been shaving their pubes off as long as they have been growing them, which I think is a little sad and doubt the real free will or at least consciousness in a 13 year feeling like she has to remove all her pubes.
The other thing that I wonder about, and someone mentioned it earlier, is cultural attitudes to hair, so my partner who found hair in her mouth repugnant was Asian and culturally having hair in food etc was just as disgusting to her(she also gagged and carried on if there was hair in her food!) and Ive wondered before that lots of cultures have sanctions around hair/mouths/genitals and respecting the sacredness of these and what role this plays in oral sex and feeling s about pubes.
Finally there was an article on stuff recently about the number of girls family planning is seeing doing home shaves very young and getting infections, more transference of disease thru nicks on the skin, and they were urging parents to talk to their kids so they know pubic hair is normal, that's gotta be a good place to start right?

red said...

I identify strongly as a feminist and recently started laser therapy to have my pubic hair permanently removed. It's something I've thought long and hard about for a while.

My most recent internal debate was limited to only whether I wanted the hair gone permanently. I'd already decided long ago that I preferred being hair-free down there.

I decided to do it permanently because the maintenance costs in terms of time and money start to add up. Further, I'm currently living overseas and brazilians are over NZD100 at most places here. But mainly, it's because after over seven years of getting brazilians, with only a few growing wild interludes in between, I feel I'm not going to change my mind on the matter. The continuous waxing has also given me a lot of ingrowns which I'd rather do without.

Society does place a lot of pressure on women, and to be honest the reasons in this post for why men like women to be hair-free down there did creep me out a bit. However, this decision is for me. I have coarse hair which grows out of control. I find trimming makes me itchy and I don't like the feel of the newly trimmed ends. I feel sexier without the hair there, and sex, oral sex, general touching and masterbating all feel significantly better without pubic hair – especially oral sex.

I prefer my sexual partners to be hair-free down there, and while I would never pressure anyone to get rid of their hair, I would make my preference clear. I've been lucky because the only two men who I've had long-term relationships with have also preferred both of us to have no pubic hair. Also, not everybody knows that I have no pubic hair – it's different from shaving my legs or wearing make-up in that regard because I think social pressures are more salient for things that we can't cover up in our daily lives.

I questioned for a long time whether I was truly doing this for myself, and I know I am. Except for the bit in between my eyebrows (I'm a very very hairy person), I haven't plucked my eyebrows for the most part of the last six years. I have a few greys, I let them be, and I very much doubt I'll be dying my hair as I grey more. I don't wear make-up, or high heels, and I often don't wear a bra either. Because these things aren't me, or they're uncomfortable, or I just get no joy from them, so I opt out.

I'm very comfortable about my decision to remove all my pubic hair, because more than anything, it feels right for me. I don't think it makes me any less a feminist. What I'm not comfortable with is shaving my legs and plucking my upper lip. I know that a big part of what drives me to do these things are social norms. I used to shave my arms too, since I was 14 years old, and I only stopped doing this earlier this year.

I'm curious as to whether the women who let their pubic hair grow wild and feel that it's unfeminist-like to remove it, shave their legs? I can understand that this is slightly different to pubic hair because we have hairy legs from the outset, but men don't have to suddenly start shaving their legs when they hit puberty. The leg shaving thing is something I struggle with. I like the feeling of my newly shaved legs, but after the prickly part is over, the hairyness doesn't bother me – but it has bothered my previous partners and I do feel self-conscious if I leave the house with hairy legs.

In regard to the generation gap – there could be a point here. I'm 27, and most of my friends my age and younger back in NZ get regular brazilians. I couldn't say the same for my friends who are in their 40s' – mind you, I don't have as many of them.

Carol said...

It seems to me there's not just an issue of social pressure here, but also economic and financial issues.

I recall in the 70s feminists tended to counter the conventional image of hairless women by allowing all body hair to grow. The move to hair removal (waxing, plucking, shaving, electrolysis, lasers etc) came with the shift to neoliberal dominance of social, political and economic life - with this came the increasing commodification of all areas of life.

I think women who are struggling to survive and/or support their families on their income, would not have any money to spare for waxing, lasering etc. And even shaving can require constant replacement or buying of products.

I think it's useful to have some of these services available for removing of excessive amounts of hair in strategic and/or visible places. Beyond that, I'm a bit reluctant to support the ultra-consumerist push on the part of the hair removal industries.

Delysia said...

I'm a 34 year old bisexual woman.

I had a bikini wax done by a beauty salon once... six months of non-stop infected hair follicles and antibiotics followed. Never again!

Shaving also = irritated, itchy skin (and, often, infected hair follicles.)

So, I trim gently with a pair of scissors, but there's no way I'd ever wax or shave again.

Boo said...

Lightning quick summation.

I personally do not like pubic hair on me.

Yes media etc is there as an informer but I am not an idiot so it does not make my decision for me. I think that applies to most people with an IQ greater than their shoe size. (Example: Pastel colours and florals where fashionable in recent memory yes there is nothing of that ilk in my wardrobe despite working and studying in a fashion-centric industry.)

I like my men hairy, despite that also being unfashionable.


I am 23, female and hetrosexual. Most of the time :) I am also a Graphic Design/er and student and an only child. There is relevance there, please bear with me, as I am also dyslexic so tend to ramble.

I started shaving down there in high school and yes there was an external influence in my decision to shave for the first time, but for the most part it was my own idea.

My first sexual experience was at the age of 11 and happened in part because my body matured far faster than my mind. Although the experience was not exactly ideal (to be coy) one thing that really made me think was his reaction to my pubic hair. Yes at 11 I had a full bushy nether region. I was an early developer and as I have dark hair that change was very noticeable. His reaction was influential mainly as it highlighted my own displeasure with it. I had thought myself weird for not liking it. I was very aware of my advanced body in one of my great loves, swimming, in that i had difficulty containing my trouser tribble in a normal swimsuit.

As a rather bookish pre-teen going through the awkward adolescent phase I was not overly influenced by media other than occasional pre watershed TV ads as the magazines I read at the time were robot wars, horse and pony and digital arts. I have no elder sibling and my few close friends had similar interests and one of them did not even own a TV. So the concept of pubic maintenance was my own for the most part.

I still continue with that particular habit now as an adult and one of the main reasons is I play sports still. Roller Derby to be exact. A sport in which i wear tights or tight shorts/leggings and skate at high speeds. As it is winter and I am in the final year of my degree I have been very lazy in what I shave due to money and time constraints. And its driving me 'fruitloop'.

Ironically while I despise body hair on my self I prefer it on men, and actually prefer the feel of stubble to clean shaven during oral. (receiving that is) while getting a pube caught in my teeth is unpleasant I would rather suffer that than choke down an aesthetically unappetising plucked turkey-neck.

Now to the graphics part, very small but i think relevant. People tend to forget that advertisers pay huge amounts of money to conduct social research. I.e. There are lots of lady shave commercials because surveys say women like to be shaved. Its a vicious cycle. This topic has been discussed on my degree course (along with condoms marketed at a catholic audience) and there was a fairly even divide among both male and female students on their preference. A trend thats actually beginning to be shown in media as well. Its something that will change just as beards fall in and out of favour.

I am not sure I would class myself as a feminist but rather an equalist (?) I think whichever gender a person identifies with they should be able to look and do as they please. As long as it doesn't hurt someone else. Same goes for sexual orientation.

Every damn person is entitled to their own opinion just don't whine at me if I don't meet the requirements for yours. sorry thats a bit ranty but I recently have had a lot of this debate floating around and I set out to find out why people see it as un-feminist, and have not had much sleep and a lot of caffiene.

if you've read down to this bit much power too you and thanks for sticking with my rambling conjecture. I have much enjoyed the varied discourse here and the characters it has illuminated.