Pubes. Just why do we go to such extreme lengths to deny their existence?

I’ve always been against removing my pubic hair but never had the words to explain why, I just thought it was weird. But I did it anyway, because all my friends were doing it and it was apparently what guys preferred. The older I got, the more money I was spending on hair removal cream for sensitive skin and the more distain I had for my nether regions for it’s quick regrowth and sensitivity, the more I thought about why it was exactly that we had to remove our pubic hair so religiously.

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So, first lets start with my my pubic hair timeline (because you know, I’m the writer):

  •  When I was thirteen I first became aware that my vagina was sporting a style undesirable to members of the opposite sex. I was also thirteen when I first removed my pubes. A friend and I put together our weekly pocket money and bought a self wax kit from Superdrug one day after school. We waited until Friday night when my parents were out and my friend was staying over and our evening was spent removing our pubescent pubes. We screamed and giggled as we helped each other rip of the strips of hot wax on the most sensitive part of our bodies, leaving the skin red, raw and bleeding. I can still remember the pain of that first wax. Was this what women had to go through every month? I watched Sex and the City and girls in my year were being fingered left right and centre, the appearance of their goods being examined and discussed amongst the boys at school. I was well aware that the preferred appearance of my vagina was the opposite of how it naturally looked. The pain of the wax my friend and I suffered that night over gossip and Haribo was painful, what was more painful however was the regrowth. I itched away at my poor vagina for the next week. After consoling in my friend I learnt that this wasn’t the case for everyone. Her regrowth had barely began and when it did, she informed me, it was a little painful but bearable. This was the first time I thought of my vagina as anything other than what an organ from which I urinated, bleed and eventually use sexually and to give birth. My vagina wasn’t as ‘good’ as my friends vagina. At thirteen years old I didn’t just envy my friend’s hair or handbag but her reproductive organ. From then on my relationship with my pubes has been a rocky one. 
  • When I was fourteen I lost count of the different products I had bought in an attempt to remove me of my unwanted, unruly hair without it leaving my poor neither region mirroring a fresh amputee. I had my first boyfriend who was cute and popular and I felt lucky to be with him. I felt it my duty to ensure my pubes were removed for him. The problem was, my vagina was only picture perfect for so long before the stubble appeared and the rash followed. It gave me a 24 hour window. This meant that when I went round to my boyfriend’s house after school I would have to plan out the shaving/waxing/hair removal session at he right time. If for some reason our make-our session got postponed, I was furious, much to his dismay. This meant I’d have to stop him from exploring down there for a few days until the hair had grown back enough that I could remove it again. The whole thing was exhausting and not something any fourteen year old should have to go through when navigating the highs and lows of their first whirlwind relationship. I never discussed this with my then boyfriend and he never asked why sometimes I only wanted to kiss.
  • When I was fifteen a friend of mine was ‘romanced’ by a tree in our favourite drinking spot one Friday night and a rumour about her bush spread the school halls. The kids in our year group giggled over it in hushed whispers. I searched high and low for solutions to my problem. I spent money on numerous products aimed at hair removal for sensitive skin, lotions to ease the inevitable rash and ingrown hair prevention gel. I read Amazon reviews on one product which promised to completely stop post hair removal rashes in sensitive areas but had a high risk of causing cervical cancer. Thankfully, I’m a hypochondriac.
  • When I was eighteen I had a lovey boyfriend who never asked me to wax or shave and we had an incredible sex life. One day I decided to shave it nearly all off. I can’t remember why. He was over the moon and went down on me for longer than usual. I started removing it more regularly.
  • When I was 19 my close friend was showing my lingerie she had bought for her boyfriend. Mid change she saw her vagina in the mirror and proceeded to apply foundation on it to ‘even it out and  cover up any red parts.’
  • When I was 20 my best friend who I loved and respected more than I knew possible was shocked when I told her I had never got a wax before. “I have always got waxes, I just feel so much more comfortable” she said.
  • When I was 20 I booked my first Brazilian. I cried so much the unsympathetic beautician stopped after a bikini wax and told me to come back another time. Friends suggested having a couple drinks or taking some pain killers before next time.
  • When I was 21 I had a boyfriend that never went down on me. He said he didn’t like it. I told my friend and she replied ‘well, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t expect my boyfriend to go down on me if I didn’t wax or shave down there.’
  • When I was 24 a guy I was seeing asked me to shave. I protested and rambled on about feminism. He apologised. The next day I shaved. He was happy. 

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I can hear some of you relating to these experiences and I can also hear you wail: “it’s my decision to shave my pubes” and “I get waxed because I prefer not having hair there” there’s the “sex feels better without hair and my man prefers going down on me when I’ve shaved” and “it’s my body and I chose what I do with it” and “i don’t want pubes showing when I’m at the beach” the list goes on but I have to call bullshit on every single one. Let me tell you why. Imagine you grew up in a society that favoured pubic hair. You saw some women without it but they were usually older, your Mum or Aunt for example. But you knew from a young age that the preferred style was to have hair. The more the better. Imagine the 70s bush if you will. The most desired women in porn were covered in it, guys seemed to love going down on a full main of hair. When you were a teenager there was a rumour going around that a girl in your year had removed all of her pubes. I mean keeping it tame was a preference but this girl had shaved everything! What a freak. Everyone giggled about her in hushed whispers all week. You’re told that having hair there is natural and normal and healthy and removing it is just bizarre. Hairless girls are only shown in fetish porn, it’s commonly agreed that any man who asks their girlfriend to removed their pubic hair is presenting peadophilic behaviour. Even when you remove some of it your boyfriend avoids going down on you until it’s fully grown back. You’re telling me, honestly that you pay for a painful wax once a month to ensure your vagina was hair free? I’m not talking about keeping it trimmed or having a bikini wax in the summer, I’m talking full blown consistent removal of all of your pubes. No fucking way.

Let me be clear, I’m not judging anyone here. To quote Samantha from Sex and the City ‘that’s not my style’. The other day I went on a date and with the possibility of sex looming over me I went to town down there in the shower with my razor. I didn’t remove all my hair, no. But I gave it a good old tidy. I respect women who leave their armpit and leg hair to grow as mother nature intended, I however am not one of them. Get a wax every two weeks or have never removed a pube in your life? We’re all trying our best to navigate our way through life. What you have to ask yourself is ‘where did this expectation stem from?’ and ‘do i have to adhere to it?’. If your response is ‘I don’t give a fuck why it’s expected of me I just know that is and I’m okay with it’ then you carry on, apparently it’s good to have a drink or some ibuprofen before a wax. If, however you are wondering why on earth you’re going to so much effort to remove all evidence of your natural female form then put the razor down, pick up a book and tell your Tinder date to go down on a barbie doll if hairless is a quality he requires.

pubes10Pubes on TV

It was watching that terrible show that has now, thank God, been cancelled, Naked Attraction when I was reminded just how many women buy into the need to remove every last morsel of their pubic region. All of these girls seemed so awkward. Close ups were shown of their freshly shaven vaginas while they pouted and posed and it all seemed so uncomfortable, more so than when their male counterparts stood bare. The presenter asked questions like ‘Sarah has a little pubic hair there, what do you think about that?” and the guy would respond “usually I don’t like any pubic hair but it’s just a little so I think i’m okay with it, plus she can always get rid of it!” watching Naked Attraction was like seeing the world fall apart around you but no one reacting, like in Final Destination when the protagonist is trying to convince everyone that something terrible is about to happen and everyone stares at them like they’re crazy. I announced to my friends ‘have you seen that show!? it’s horrendous! and all the girls are completely bald down there, and if they’re not is commented on, even ridiculed!” to which my friends had little reaction. “Well most girls shave down there these days” and “I would make sure I was freshly shaven if I went on that show, I don’t think it’s weird” were the general responses. The show had just been aired on TV and came up in a conversation with a Tinder match. In this guys bio he noted his approval of feminism yet when we found ourselves in a conversation about the controversial show and I brought up the lack of pubic hair on the women he responded ‘what do you have a bush or something? Haha’.

Lena Dunham’s Girls is one of the few shows we have where characters are shown with pubic hair. The character Jessa is shown to have a strip of hair in her sex scenes with boyfriend Adam and Lena’s character Hannah sports a full bush in a recent episode but this does’t go without comment as her holiday romance proclaims ‘woah you’ve got a lot of pubic hair!’ before Hannah proceeds with a much needed response about how pubic hair is natural and she won’t apologise for it. ‘I’m not saying it’s bad’ Riz Ahmeds’s character continues ‘i’ve just never seen that amount of pubes on a girl before.’ Here is where the problem lies. So many girls are removing their hair that boys are getting to later ages before ever seeing a natural vagina. A friend told me recently that, at the age of 24, her boyfriend had never seen pubes on a girl before her. In fact he has never seen any hair below the neck on any girl he has ever slept with, that he could recall. Only several months into their relationship when she became more relaxed with shaving and waxing consistently was her man exposed to anything other than hairless, baby-soft skin.

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Pedo 

This brings us on to the elephant in the room that lack of pubes is, of course, reminiscent of a pubescent child. With the media’s obsession with women remaining youthful with things like cosmetics and botox, it is a question fairly asked among many whether the mainstream removal of vagina hair is not simply a trend, but a deliberate attempt to encourage women to attempt to look as young as possible. In an article called ‘You’ve heard of rape culture, but have you heard of pedophile culture?’ Alicen Grey writes that pedophillia in todays society is normal and celebrated. That ‘sexuality is constructed around what seem to be pedophillic desires.’ She discusses the popularity of ‘barely legal’, ‘teen’ and ‘schoolgirl’ videos in the porn industry. Grey talks about the increased amount of women getting labiaplasty done, surgery that sculptures vaginas to be perfectly semetrical and neat, making it more picture-esc for men who dare to venture down there, because their experience of female’s vagina’s is of course of the utmost importance. Later in the article the author writes about an experience with a man who at once had found her attractive stopped pursuing her when he found out that she kept her downstairs natural. In other words, she writes ‘men stop being attracted to me when reminded that I am a woman, and not a young girl.’

What are their purpose, exactly?

 We have all been conditioned to think that pubic hair is unnecessary, undesirable and even dirty. When in actuality, like most things that occur on our bodies naturally, pubes serve a purpose. They provide a cushion against friction that can cause skin irritation, protection from bacteria and other unwanted pathogens. Recent research also shows that keeping your pubic hair prevents the spread of STI’s. The removal of pubic hair also irritates the skin on the majority of women. Whereas the removal of arm-pit and leg hair is a) less hassle than pubic hair and b)it’s existence offers less purpose. Have you ever seen your friend itching away at their legs announcing ‘I had to shave the other day and the regrowth is killing me.’ The fact is, arm-pit and leg hair, although also ridiculed on feminists for keeping, are far less intrusive and painful when it comes to the removal. In fact the only actual benefit that comes from removing pubic hair has been the decline in pubic lice. But this is a rare and very curable STI which also occurs in other body hair, including eye-lashes. Before you scream ‘that’s reason enough! I don’t want pubic lice’ please refer back to my little description of a utopian world that was opposed to pubic hair and ask yourself again. The fact is, like a lot of things that occur naturally, pubes serve a purpose.

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It’s all a social construct and really good marketing

Renae Regehr writes in her article How the History of Pubic Hair Removal Exposes Society’s Illusions About Your Body that the bottom line of the hairless Brazilian wax or nearly hairless genitals is ‘a socially constructed idea of sexiness that is ultimately driven by consumerism and marketing.’ She continues that we are spoon fed words like ‘empowering’ ‘fashionable’ ‘clean’ and ‘more comfortable’ so you will buy the products necessary for hair removal. No big revelation there, this is the same tactic used for most products out there. Bar a few essentials, there is little out there we actually need to be clean, empowered and comfortable. Fashion is a separate thing. Yet hair removal on pubic hair doesn’t only apply to my few friends who attend London Fashion week every year. It is something my hippie, laid-back and otherwise feminist friends seem to adhere to. Something I did for years whilst presenting my arguments to those around me about the wage gap and the Miss/Mrs/Ms and Mr war – why aren’t men’s title’s reflective on their marital status? Regehr continues on in an article I relate to hugely, though no surprise there being that I found it on everydayfeminism.com ‘your genitals are your own – and spending too much time or money on it isn’t going to help you become stronger, speak better, or think quicker.’  What irritates me more than the compliance of women everywhere regarding this issue, is how powerful media is. Planted is this idea that removing your hair downstairs means xyz and we flock to it, buy into it like fucking morons. I mean, how fickle are we? So easily manipulated, humans are, that we’d probably paint our entire bodies green everyday if we were bombarded with enough reasons to do so. They don’t teach you at school that media distorts the truth to sell you products and that it’s the most powerful tool known to man. Manipulating us now for centuries. Ever wondered why men fork over their hair-earned cash for diamond engagement rings when they want to propose? When I looked into the history of diamonds and diamond engagement rings I wasn’t surprised that it’s all a scam. That they’re actually not that rare, make a terrible investment, fund wars, cause the pillaging of the earth and are merely a very fucking good marketing invention of Madison Avenue and De Beers. Not just a cheap date me, but a cheap bride and all.

Women are expected to maintain a high level of appearance, be it wearing make-up, dying their hair or getting their nails done. These are all forms of keeping ourselves look youthful and attractive. So, no, if you remove your pubes, it’s not really any different from getting your eyebrows waxed. However I know I won’t be the only one who has faced more judgement from having naturally occurring hair on my vagina than having chipped nail varnish or split ends. Let’s face it, removing your pubic hair has become more than a current trend, it has become an expectation and just as I don’t in not getting my nails done, it’s something I refuse to feel shame in not adhering to.

To conclude on pubes…

To sum up. If you remove your pubes and you don’t mind the cost, you experience no irritation or negative side-affects and it’s what you prefer, then carry on! You do you girl. If however you feel like a monthly wax is too painful and an unnecessary cost, you experience irritation and discomfort in the process and/or the regrowth and you don’t see the benefits of it’s removal, then please don’t feel like this is a necessary component of femininity. Let’s stop the continuation of girls and women everywhere feeling pressured into this practise when it offers absolutely no advantages. You don’t need to put yourself through anything you don’t want to. Conformity is boring. It’s about time men were exposed to some natural vaginas and as an added bonus all the important stuff is naturally hairless anyway.

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