I get anxious about going on dates for a few different reasons. Am I going to say the wrong thing? Am I not showing enough cleave? Most importantly: what the fuck do I do with my pubic hairs?
Admittedly, my goal on dates is less finding a soul mate and more getting laid these days. And as we’ve established, I aim to please to a point where it’s pathological.
I think my obsession with pubic hair began when I started dating the biggest asshole I ever dated when I was 17. He was hypercritical about my pubes and suggested that I allow him to shave mine off. In fact, most women I’ve spoken to initially removed their hair at all at request of a partner. For some of us, the idea that our pubic hair is gross doesn’t occur to us until someone tells us so.
You can’t predict what kind of pubic hair a guy or a lady will enjoy. I have less experience with women, so I can’t speak to that (please share in the comments if you can), but I’ve found that older guys care much less (and are more likely to enjoy straight up bush), while younger guys prefer no hair. I think we can chalk this up to the fact that guys in their late 30s were probably were more likely to sneak a Hustler or Playboy that actually featured pubic hair during their formative years, whereas guys under 30 probably have been raised on the infantalization of women in porn and are more likely to prefer that. But based on my conversations, this can vary wildly, so that theory can pretty much be thrown out the door.
The real trends I think can be seen based on sexual orientation and gender more so than age. The cis-gender straight men I spoke to, generally, have pretty specific ideas on how they’d like their ladies to be gardened. Personally, I found a lot of these standards kind of impossible to live up to. Not too shaved, because it makes them feel like creeps, but not too hairy, because they don’t want to have to brush you out of their teeth the next day. Most of them seemed totally aware of how pornography and popular media has shaped their ideas and thoughts on pubes, and yet still held these standards without much of a challenge.
Part of me is still even critical of the “I was brainwashed by porn” excuse in terms of policing vag hair. Sasha Grey, one of the most well-known and celebrated (NSFW) porn actresses of our time, is a proud proponent of bush. I’ve seen a decent selection of her work (mostly the scenes with James Deen as her co-star – did GOOD scoop Persephone? I digress). Her pubic hair seems to be well groomed and abundant. About a year ago, after her appearance on HBO’s Entourage, young men took to Twitter outraged at Sasha Grey’s audacity to not shave for them. The Portland Mercury reported on her Twitter response, which I found admirable and confusing all at the same time:
A lot of bush comments after tonight’s #Entourage episode. If you’re curious…that’s what a grown woman looks like. Besides, I shave where it counts, I’m happy to contribute to making it ok again:) All “fashions” have their cycles!
I’m not sure where it counts either, but more power to her.
That’s not to say all hope is lost on men into ladies – I spoke to a few guys who have been actively working to overcome standards on pubic hair. AW had particularly interesting commentary on the trend of bare pussy.
I will never understand the fashion trend of shaved pussy. And that’s all it is, fashion. During the Victorian era, prostitutes would have to shave to avoid lice, but they’d need to wear pubic wigs called merkins since the lack of hair made clients wary, probably of fucking a little girl. And really, that should make men wary too. Men’ve been too uncritical in their pornography consumption, and eventually begin to expect the same theatrics in their own sex lives. And women’ve internalized this”¦ The connection between an uncritical consumption of pornography and sexual fashion trends [have] really became apparent to me.
Another guy, AC (guys with names that start with A seem to like pussy hair, y’all, just sayin’), thought in a similar vein: “I think it’s because of the idealization of the Barbie Doll as a female ideal. No smells, no hair, no menstruation. They want to fuck women but don’t want them to be the natural women they are.” AC, however, is queer identified, which I think is important to note.
Queer folks I spoke to generally had an attitude that was somewhere more along the lines of “What people do with their vagina is their own business, and I am just happy I get to see it.” Amanda put it succinctly when she said, “It only makes me sad when women feel like they have to shave or wax or be hairless. As I say, the only thing I have to do is stay Black and die.” My guess is that queer-identified folks have a better understanding of body and sexual policing and how harmful that can be – empathy breeds acceptance.
So with that, I’m gonna run down our different pubic hair options, and weigh the pros and cons for myself. If this interests you, I highly recommend you check out The Frisky Feminist’s take on this subject from a few months back, The Hair Affair. It shares a ton of awesome tips and information about pubic hair removal. Please share your own methods, and bonus points for sharing your own neuroticisms about it as well.
I don’t do this. I know plenty of friends that do, and their rationale is, “I don’t give a shit.” I admire this. I know some girls who will straight up wear a bikini, lay out on the beach with their bikini lines half way down their thighs, and they seriously couldn’t be bothered about it because they really just went out to sunbathe. These women give me hope.
I don’t do this for a few reasons. My pubic hair, after years of shaving most of it off, is now sort of sparse. It’s my own fault for that reason, but even if it weren’t, I think I’d still avoid this, because I tend to find this, for myself, unsanitary. I also have a piercing, and when I don’t at least trim, it gets tugged at in the most inopportune moments like when I’m sitting in a lecture or meeting a significant other’s parents.
The most significant reason I don’t do this though is I fear judgment. I am spineless. Will someone see my full bush and read it as “I don’t take care of myself”? One guy I spoke to pretty much confirmed this fear when he said, “If it is kept neat, however, I lead myself to believe that the rest of her body, inside and out, is in working condition. If she takes the time to trim/shave/ whatever, she probably also brushes her teeth and washes her hair, regularly, right?” Not necessarily, in both directions.
I have been experimenting with this more because I think I am being just too hard on myself. As my friend D said to me, “If a full bush is good enough for a damn supermodel, it’s good enough for me.”
This is probably the most controversial of all pube-removing methods. The internet is out on whether this is good practice or not. There’s a real cost-benefit analysis that needs to be done before one shaves, and if you’ve never done it before, it’s difficult to know how your skin will react to it. Some people experience bad breakouts and in-grown hairs, while people like myself have been doing this for so long, a little aloe vera gel will prevent most unsightly problems. Bikini Zone gel is also really helpful, and helps with itching because of the ingredient lidocane, but I try to purchase all-natural, organic products these days (oh, the irony).
One thing that no aloe vera gel in the world can prevent? The dreaded vag stubble. D says, “I have dark brown hair, so really any shaving doesn’t really work ’cause it’s like a damn five o’clock shadow the next day. Plus you get bumps and all that shit, ingrown hairs, none of that is cute.” I have a similar problem. During a recent hook-up, I realized I started stubbling a mere three hours after I shaved.
Another confusing factor of the shaving method is how exactly do we shave? I don’t exactly have the kind of funds to buy myself a new Gilette Venus every time I need hair removal, but using a dull blade (and let’s face it, after one use on this Italian lady, they’re all dull) seems dangerous, and it just doesn’t get the job done properly.
Other folks swear by electrical razors. A former roommate purchased the Seiko Cleancut and reported pretty decent results from that. She was a full bush shaver.
I have never had a Brazilian. The thought of it makes me nauseous for a number of reasons. First, fucking ouch, right? D said, “I don’t care what anyone else says about it; it doesn’t get less painful the more you go [get it done]. Maybe slightly, but really, you’re still ripping hair out of very sensitive areas, which is not fun.”
The pain is really only part of it though (and anyone who has ever accidentally nicked themselves while shaving knows what I mean). What I can’t get over is having someone all up in my vag who doesn’t hold a medical degree. I think gynecologists need to start offering this service. Nothing against cosmetologists, but a med degree beats out a cosmetology license every time. Doctors are held to a standard of confidentiality and ethics, and I’m not so sure that is the case with cosmetologists (feel free to correct me if this is not the case; and almost all cosmetologists I know are amazing, stand-up people, but I’ve had some bad haircuts so I can’t imagine a bad Brazilian).
It’s not just a selfish type of hesitation either – it also comes from a place of real empathy. I wouldn’t wish having to be elbow deep in vaginas all day on anyone unless they were making serious bank. I mean, I just recently started getting pedicures, and it took some serious soul searching/privilege checking to even allow myself to do that. My white guilt was off the charts when each and every time it’s a woman of color scrubbing my feet. That’s another article entirely, but let’s just say I don’t think there’s a tip large enough for me to feel okay about having a Russian immigrant rip out my pubic hair for me. It’s totally respectable work, don’t get me wrong; I just can’t wrap my mind around it.
So, I’m probably never going to let the bush do its own thing–I think I’ll always be trimming or sculpting in some way. I’m a fan of my current routine – just trimming the fupa (or mons pubis for you scientific-y folks) and shaving the labia. I think it’s about finding what works for me, even though that sounds obvious. What can I do that is comfortable for me, that isn’t painful, that feels good even? I think it’s a part of my greater mission in learning to not give a fuck.
How do you all remove your pubic hair, if at all? Why do you remove it? How much do you consider your sexual partners when making grooming decisions? What makes you feel good?
This is part one of a three-part series: Next week, read all about men’s pubes, and the week after that, we’ll discuss butt hair. Let me know your thoughts on these topics in the comments (or drop me a line on Tumblr or @ me on Twitter), and I may end up quoting you! Stay tuned!