- Category: Feminist Consciousness-Raising
By Kelly Mangan
There's a topic of great social and political importance that's been on my mind lately... crotches. Specifically, my crotch. More specifically, whether or not to shave my crotch.
After several months of dating and never giving much thought to my fuzzy-friend-to-the-south, I was surprised to hear another single woman I know struggling with the question of whether or not to shave her nether-region. She felt that it was expected of women, and was worried that men would find her hair repulsive.
The only time I'd ever shaved my pubic hair was in high school, at the insistence of my high school boyfriend, who wouldn't perform oral sex otherwise. While his hair had never bothered me, I demanded he do the same, simply because—well damnit— if I was going to the trouble, he should too. He initially agreed but called it quits after discovering that crotch-stubble is itchy and uncomfortable. None of my subsequent sex partners shaved their junk, and none of them expected me to either.... Or did they?
Upon hearing my friend's fears, I promptly panicked. I wondered if all my past flames had secretly wished I’d had less hair. Shortly thereafter, the guy I was dating asked me if I would shave it all off. Great, I thought. Apparently I'm repulsive in ways I'd never conceived of. Do most women sheer their sheep and I just never got the memo? Was I sick the day they taught pubes-shaving in high school?
I decided to do a little investigation on the subject. I asked 10 women I know of various ages and backgrounds about their coiffures, and what they think about men shaving down below, to determine the real story on bush. Here's what they had to say:
WOMAN 1: "I shave my bikini line, but as for the rest of the hair, it just stays trimmed. I trim when it gets too long... so once every week or two. I don't like it when guys shave any hair on their body: it makes it all prickly. But I do like it when they trim, especially if they have so much chest hair that you can't tell them apart from a gorilla. I think it is nice if they trim ‘down there’ too. I have never asked a guy to do that, but a lot of guys I have been with have. I find that a lot of guys like it when a girl is neat down there, so they feel obligated to do the same.... I have a ton of guy friends and they all say the same thing about it: they would prefer a girl that trimmed or shaved, especially if they are going downtown. However, I don't personally think that is a guy's decision."
WOMAN 2: "Whatever I do to my pubes, I do it for myself. I feel cleaner and prettier both in and out of my clothes... As for shaving—I prefer not to because of razor burn and re-growth-stubble, so I pluck/wax into desired form. I shaved it all off for the first time about a year ago for a friend's art project (photography), and it just looked too weird. Alien, almost."
WOMAN 3: "I don't shave, ever (except for around the sides). I find bald crotches ugly and the razor burn is painful. I can't give any justification for why I'd do it except [if] a guy asked, and that's completely not a worthy justification. I do trim a bit for my own comfort, but I'd never do the hairless crotch thing again... To be honest about when I shaved myself, the guy never demanded it outright, but I was told by friends that men preferred it, and when I've asked the guy if I should shave, he said yes.... I've been pressured to shave completely by previous partners. I complied, and in doing so realized how much I hated it because of how uncomfortable/painful it was. Now I only shave the sides and trim and it's not a big deal for me. I genuinely, aesthetically prefer a crotch with hair than one without one.... I like men with body hair. No man I've been with has ever shaved himself anywhere. I probably wouldn't ask my partner to unless he was just incredibly hairy to the point of him looking more like a gorilla than a human. I suppose that the [man's body hair] has never been an issue, which is interesting because my crotch hair has definitely been one."
WOMAN 4: "I have shaved just on my legs (bikini line area, where hair would poke out of your underwear, if I'm going to wear sexy underwear--I think it looks sexier if hair isn't falling out of underwear).... The whole thing pisses me off really. It's like they want us to be little girls.... I have felt more attracted to men who liked body hair—who weren't turned off by at least some underarm hair or leg hair: it feels sexier that they like me.... I don't want to sound like this hasn't been a problem for me at all. Some guys have made small comments— particularly when I was seeing this guy… for about a year. I'm pretty sure when I pressed him on the subject, he said ‘it's cool if you can get your girlfriend to do it’… I have shaved one other time… for him, because he acted like he'd really like it if I did it. Afterwards he was like 'cool,' but that was it, and [shaving] just wasn't worth it for that level of reward."
WOMAN 5: "Personally I wax— regardless of what other people say— for comfort (comfort, as in, not so much itching). If someone demanded that I shave because they thought my hair was essentially disgusting, I don't think I could be with them. There seems to be a GREAT deal of media pressure to promote hairlessness... EXPECTING women to shave seems to be reaching backward to a perversion of wanting to sleep with adolescent girls (or boys). Who else is naturally that hairless?... The only time I felt pressured into doing hair removal was actually when [a female friend] saw my lower stomach and told me I looked like some famous, hairy tennis player! At that point I formed the opinion that "oh, hair is bad", something I hadn't really considered before....”
“For men I would rather have them natural... but I've never been for a super hairy guy either. I'm not sure it would matter if that were the case, but I can't really say yes or no for something I've never experienced. The only hair on men that ever really bothers me sometimes (sometimes not) is facial hair. The guy I am with shaved his balls just for the hell of it. He wanted to see if I would enjoy him more sexually with smooth genitals. I never asked him to do it, and I think it was better left alone really!"
WOMAN 6: "I have done the shave-thing and I have done the only-trim thing... I was pressured by ex boyfriends to change: the very first guy I fooled around with asked me to trim and I told him no. The next 2 guys didn't say anything, but I started to trim and shave. [The next guy] wanted me to shave more... we dated about 2 years; later I did shave [the crotch] (due more to him not fooling around/going down on me than him actually SAYING he wanted me to); no other guy has said anything. Although the current man has said he doesn't like it shaved; he hasn't said too much to me. I don't feel pressured anymore... Now I keep it trimmed and shaved on the sides... I like the way it looks... Plus my underwear looks better when I shave the sides...The razor burn did suck when shaving all of it, and it was annoying to keep up. I've never been with a guy who shaved— a few who trimmed— mostly they don't do anything. [My last partner] only trimmed sometimes. I didn't ask him too. I did tell him to stop shaving his chest and he did. No other guy has shaved anything."
WOMAN 7: "I shave the 'bikini line' area— i.e. anything that would hang out of my mom-style swimsuit. I occasionally trim the rest of the hair, not super short, but to a shortish-length... I never did this till I met [my partner]. He likes trimmed hair. I am sure he would like it completely bald, but I did that. Once. It was HORRIBLE growing out. Big red bumps, itching like crazy, ingrown hairs, etc... I would not say [my partner] has PRESSURED me into it— he never nagged— but he expresses a lot of appreciation when I do it, I will put it that way: clever, positive reinforcement…. I was with a guy once who shaved his back— two words: razor stubble— sooooo not hot. I do not care how much hair a guy has.... I guess if he came with less hair it would be my preference, but I have asked him ‘please do NOT wax your back’, I cannot have sex with a man who has back stubble. Yuck. Don't care about pubic hair. That's just me. A couple of times I have been with a guy who shaved or trimmed part of the hair, it just looks weird to me."
WOMAN 8: "I do not shave my pubic hair but I do trim with scissors from time to time... I do shave the surrounding 'bikini' area but that generally gets let go until there's a chance I may have to put a bathing suit on or it's an occasion for fancy underwear like an anniversary. I guess I do the trimming because [my partner] does like to give oral a lot and I feel like the least I can do is clear the way a little. I can't even remember at this point if he ever complained about it... Now that I think about it, I may get the positive reinforcement when I am trimmed (much like when my legs are shaved: 'Oooh you're so smooth!'). So that's a reason to do it. My hair preference for men is 'neat'... As far as down there goes, I really could care less if it's shaved since the part where most of my business is concerned is hairless (penis). I say, let the balls be hairy; I'm not licking them anyway. But no, I have never been with a guy who shaved down there (or anywhere). I do get rather grossed out when guys have long sweaty armpit hair and wear tank tops."
WOMAN 9: "I do not shave my crotch on a regular basis. During the summer for swimming purposes I do get the 'bikini line' waxed so the hair doesn't stick out of my bathing suit. The reason why I now do waxing for that is that shaving is much worse. With shaving I get a horrible rash; whereas the waxing there is no rash and it lasts a few weeks. So I think it sounds more barbaric but it is actually much better. I feel like 'thank god' that [my partner] hasn't asked me to shave that area. He actually said he thought it would be weird. But I know quite a few woman that have done it.... I didn't used to shave my legs, but then I started to. There was a convergence of factors: 1) In NYC all women seem to shave their legs and I really started to feel like a freak... I wanted to be able to wear a short skirt to weddings without feeling freakish 2) [My partner] didn't ask me to do it, but then he REALLY rewarded me for it when I did it for the wedding, telling me how smooth and silky my legs felt. I was like 'yeah right, it will be stubble within 24 hours!' But it did make me want to keep doing it, like he was more attracted to me."
WOMAN 10: "I have never shaved the entire area. I have waxed (oww!!!!) my bikini line, and now shave the bikini line. And I 'trim' everything else. I don't think I've ever noticed when guys do this. Most guys I've been with have not. I've never asked a guy to do it. One boyfriend trimmed. And he pressured me like crazy to start trimming, so now I do—
forever impacted by that pressure. I also hear my girlfriends talk about their boyfriends pressuring them, which pressures me—because I start to worry that every other girl does it, and I don't know about it. This poll should be nationwide so we could really get the facts straight!"
It would seem from this sampling that few of us actually go bald, though virtually every one of us removes hair along the bikini line and trims regularly. Some people also shape their crotch hair through shaving, plucking, or waxing. We listed a variety of reasons for doing these things: for comfort, cleanliness, looking or feeling pretty, to get oral sex, because of pressure from a specific guy, or because we just felt that we “should” (as indicated by male friends, female friends, and/or media).
About half of us said we had shaved it all off at least once. The most common reason was that it had been for a guy (usually because he asked, or because he affirmed that it was what he wanted). Some other reasons included curiosity, doing it for an art project, or simply hearing that it's what men like. None of us who had completely de-forested our lady-parts said that we liked it. Reasons we don't do it anymore include inconvenience, time, itching, pain, and thinking it looks weird/creepy. A few people said their men didn't like shaved crotches or indicated that they didn't care. Several people said that while our guys may not request hair removal, they certainly reward us for it and seem more attracted to us when we do it.
A few said we'd been with men who trimmed, but only one person had been with a man who went completely bare down there. In terms of what we prefer for men, most of us said we didn't care or think much about men's body hair. A few preferred it be trimmed or "kept neat." A few women requested their men stop shaving themselves (i.e. chest, back, balls) because the stubble was uncomfortable.
To me, the biggest theme here is that— regardless of the amount— women are going to much effort and/or discomfort to remove our body hair, whereas men are not. Moreover, it seems that men are far more concerned with our pubic hair than we are with theirs. And if we happen to find a guy who isn't concerned with our body hair (or just doesn’t mention it), are we supposed to feel lucky? It seems to me that guys are getting the sweet end of the deal here.
Like men, women are mammals. That means we have body hair. Unlike men, if we don't remove our body hair, we're considered freaks. Do any other women find this to be a prickly and irritating double-standard?