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(Warning: Some people might not like this content or find it offensive, in which case I suggest you don’t read it.)
Hair is a feminist issue. Or that’s what we are led to believe. Revulsion at the very idea that women might have hair anywhere other than on their head, or their eyebrows, is something that seems pretty universal. (Now fashion has swung the other way, and augmented eyebrows are the way to go… I’m waiting for the moustache comeback.) You’re either a “normal” person who takes it for granted that she’ll shave her pits and/or rip out her armpit hair and pubes from the root after pouring hot wax on them or… You’re a dirty feminist.
For a long time now I’ve idly wondered why the majority of women de-fuzz themselves, removing moustaches, armpit hair, leg hair and most of all, pubic hair. We are told that this patch of hair between our legs somehow represents our political ideals. We’re led to believe that the hair in our armpits needs to be removed lest we have a Julia Roberts moment and inadvertently reveal our true, hairy self to the world.
Julia looking hawt. But kicking off a media storm in the days before social media by revealing that she’s – shock – a normal human being with armpit hair!
And for me, I have had a fairly ambivalent relationship with my body hair, particularly my hair down there. Setting aside head hair for a bit, which is a whole ‘nother thing (I think we treat head hair and body hair as separate entities, so maybe that’s for another post), the process of IVF and multiple invasive and gynaecological investigations has made me a whole lot more conscious about my pubic hair.
Eras of consciousness, as measured by my pubes
Bear with me a moment, because I’m going to reminisce.
The time before knowing
It took me a while to put two and two together and realise that adults had pubes whilst children didn’t. Of course I knew my mum and dad had pubes (and this was before the 90s or whenever it became trendy to remove them… I wonder how today’s children are going to deal with the realisation that women are probably just as hairy as men in the crotch department) but I didn’t quite cotton on that I would get them eventually.
As a child, we are conditioned slowly into thinking nakedness is bad. We just didn’t care. I had three siblings and two parents and bathed with all of them. (Not kidding; we had a giant bath.) This was the 80s where there wasn’t the hysteria about anything to do with children like there is now. I’m sure parents don’t bathe with their kids any more. Or brothers and sisters. But we did. We were quite familiar with our nakedness and we also spent a lot of time on the beach, where we didn’t cover up either. The girls wore the same size little pants as the boys did. We had no need to wear bikini tops. There was nothing sexual about nakedness.
Suddenly there’s the adolescent age where I started becoming aware of the changes that would happen to my body. They happened very slowly! I was far less developed than any of my friends. (I think white people develop differently to people of my ethnicity, as I was super slow.) And suddenly it became painfully obvious that I needed to reach these milestones. I was s-l-o-w. I didn’t need a bra till I was 16, and I didn’t start my period until after I was 16. I was worried I was abnormal. We even went to the doctor’s to check. (He said I was fine and to come back if I hadn’t started in a year or whatever.)
The kids at my school didn’t help. I was bullied pretty badly, and one of the bullies’ favourite topics was my “missing” pubes. Let’s just say I wasn’t hairy like they were. One of my best friends, the archetypal blue eyed blonde haired white girl, had a big bush. (I’m sure she doesn’t now!) I was teased for being undeveloped and still looking like a child in that department. (In hindsight this has probably saved me a fortune in waxing bills.) So I went from not being aware of pubes to wanting them very badly.
The punk years
I eventually got “normal” pubes. It just happened more slowly than for my white friends, who all had magnificent bushes by the time they were 14 or something. Mine was a slow grower. I was generally a slow developer. It was probably normal for my race. (By this time my siblings and I had stopped sharing baths, so I didn’t know.)
I grew up. I turned into an adult. I had a boyfriend and we slept together. It was no big deal. Pubes just weren’t a thing back then, and aside from him occasionally calling it “punky” (it had a tendency to stick straight out) I didn’t really give it a thought. I guess I was “au naturel”.
During these years I was perfectly bikini confident in the way that I didn’t really worry about how it would look. I wasn’t sufficiently hairy to consider having to trim the sides, otherwise I probably would have done. (Nobody wants to see pubes sticking out the sides of your swimsuit. I think that’s a step too far, but probably not the most revealing thing you could do. Personally I’m too busy worrying about my own flabby bits to police other women’s bikini lines.)
I was growing into adulthood in the 90s, the era of minimalism, of Kate Moss, of toning down the supermodel excesses and the big hair and going pared back.
I don’t know when I first heard the term Brazilian. But somewhere over time it seeped into the collective consciousness that pubic hair was non grata, and it very definitely wasn’t cool. I guess the rise of the Internet helped propagate ideas more quickly – the normalisation of p*rnography and the stripping bare, literally, of women. Apparently this all started so cameras could see the action more easily, but what happened was that people – men and women – began to find body hair revolting.
(Not sure why I starred that… Possibly because I don’t really think this blog is what folk are looking for when they search on that term!)
During the 90s, I trimmed but I didn’t really let it worry me. I mean, I’d gone through my adolescence being teased for not having enough, so it seemed a bit counterintuitive to get rid of it. And nobody ever complained. I didn’t know any better, and Brazilians seemed a bit exotic and a bit like hard work.
The naughty noughties
(That was predictable, right?!) I met my long term partner in the noughties, and sh*t got real. We did what new partners do. A lot. Turns out he also was into adult movies, which in the beginning I found pretty exciting and so we watched them. A lot.
Turns out women didn’t have pubes after all! A lot of men didn’t, either. I became familiar with the whole spectrum of lady gardens (or lady patios, given the lack of shrubbery) and started to feel a vague sense of having to do something about my own unruly backyard. (I’ve never liked gardening. Pruning nature doesn’t seem worth the cost benefit to me… Most of the time I think it looks fine unrefined, but I’m appreciative of well maintained gardens – I just don’t want to spend time doing it myself. Metaphor ends.)
It was at some point I saw my sister’s (I know, right?) and I commented that she didn’t have much, and she told me not to be silly and that she shaved. (My sister, though younger, has always been the quicker to grow up than I was.) So what did I do? I started shaving. Trim and shave. Keep the thing tidy. Not quite to adult movie standards (I really still find it ridiculously amusing that people have a little Hitler tache on their undercarriage) but eventually it got down to a tiny little patch.
I guess I did a fair amount of shagging during this time. And I’d sort of been conditioned to think that hair was dirty, and pubes especially, and that the ideal was to get rid of them as much as possible without “looking like a child”. Various men over time made their feelings on the subject known to me – usually this was “You should keep it minimal but not nothing”. So I did.
Waxing and waning
The time came when I broke up with my ex. It wasn’t fun at all, so I’m not minimising it. I lost a lot of weight and went a bit crazy. And like a lot of single people, I took advantage of the freedom of not being tied to one person. (Word to the wise: One nice guy is worth a million of the ones who just want to shag you.)
It was during this time I was introduced to waxing by one of my best friends of the era. She couldn’t believe I’d never done it. I couldn’t believe that the majority of my friends actually paid someone to pour hot wax on their bits and rip out their pubes. It’s amazing what is normal in western society!
They persuaded me to go and try it. I went to a very trendy place in Covent Garden where they have made it look like a nightclub and I had it done. It hurt! I felt like it was a weird thing to do. I think it’s less the pain and more the ignominy of it. Being asked to part your butt cheeks so someone can wax your assh*le is an experience I could do without.
And I’m not even that hairy! As I mentioned, it was an effort to grow pubes at all. Maybe I’d feel differently if they were the swimsuit-bursting type but they’re not.
I did it a few times but then went back to shaving. You kind of get stubble either way and I’d rather not pay for something I don’t enjoy. (There’s a reason I’m not a member of the gym.)
I think my attitude towards pubes began to change gradually over time; like most of my views. Towards the end of my relationship, I began to question some of its foundations. (For instance, was watching hardcore adult content really as liberating as it seemed? I kind of wanted someone to feel like sleeping with me without watching someone else have an unrealistic encounter on screen. Does anyone actually do that side eye whilst giving a BJ? Probably not as there isn’t a camera!)
My changing attitude towards body hair probably coincided with my increased acceptance of my body, with all its failings. At a certain age, I think you have to accept that you are just the way you are. I’m still not entirely happy with my body – it’s heavier than I’d like, and it would be great to change my face, not to mention infertility – but I kind of get that I’m not going to turn into a supermodel any time soon. I can change it within limitations. I can’t make it grow or whatever. I just have to make the best of what I’ve got.
Meeting T helped a lot. I think before I met him, I was all about trying to project a certain appearance. When I met him, I had no interest in having a superficial relationship. I’d come out of a really long term relationship and I was traumatised by another short term but very negative relationship. I’d even been out with a guy who fetishised my ethnicity, which was just the weirdest thing. (It sort of made me feel attractive and not attractive at the same time.)
So by the time I met T, I was done pretending.
T has never tried to be weird or kinky. My ex was super kinky and wanted to watch adult stuff and do strange things (that I used to shock my friends about when I told them – I was that person; funny how those people who have the most “exciting” lives are probably the most unhappy). I just wanted a guy who wanted to be with me for me. Warts and all. (I don’t have warts – just saying.)
So when I met T, I literally said this is me. And for some reason, he stuck around. (He probably regrets this bit, haha.) And over time, I loosened the mad grip I had on maintaining a body that wasn’t my natural one. I stopped starving myself. I started doing what I wanted to do with my clothes and makeup. I slowly freed myself from the expectations that had built up. I was not some kinky little boy toy. I wasn’t someone’s fetish. I was just… Me.
So where does that leave my pubes?
It’s difficult to say. I really don’t think about them very much, which means they are probably rather less maintained than they used to be.
I’ve only thought of them more in the context of having lots of internal examinations due to the IVF process and the various ops (hysteroscopy, HSG and whatnot). Sometimes when I went in for the baseline and stims scans I would think “OMG, perhaps I need to shave?!”
Sometimes I did; sometimes I didn’t. I’ve never whipped it right off again and I haven’t gone Brazilian-esque or anything. I definitely have pubes, and they aren’t in any kind of shape other than the one they grow in, minus a bit of tidying. So I guess that’s almost au naturel, apart from removing the scraggly bits (when I can be bothered).
If T is bothered by it, he has never mentioned it. Maybe I owe it to him to ask. But I think: I’ve never asked him to change anything about himself. I haven’t asked him to trim his pubes or armpit hair or change his haircut or wear different clothes or lose weight. (All things that my ex explicitly or implicitly asked.) To me it is not my decision what he does with his body. If he asked me, I would give an opinion.
And that opinion would be: Do whatever you want. I love you.
If that makes me a dirty feminist, then I’m okay with that.