The Naked Clam and Other Preposterous Pubic Hair Problems


By Quinn Davis, Intern (2011)

Vaginas and vulvas are confusing enough without pubes. Even though we’ve all got them, we end up feeling like we have way more hair down there than we should. It’s easy to see why; in magazines, on MTV, and pretty much everywhere else in the world where it’s PC to show the bikini line, the mass waxification – and Photoshopification – of women has led us all to feel like we’re secret yetis.

There’s a reason we have pubic hair. It protects our genitals, which, considering how much crap they have to go through, it’s a legit job. And yet when the words “products for removing” are typed into Google, the first suggestion good ‘ole Google has for us is “products for removing pubic hair.”

Before I sound like judgemaster flex over here, I need to admit something: I am currently going through the process of laser hair removal. Yes I, feminist that I am, have gone thrice now to have some machine from the future suck at my skin and zap my evolutionarily fit bikini line.

I could give you all the reasons in the world why I’m doing this, but it doesn’t matter, does it? I was damned because I didn’t and now I’m damned because I’m doing. I was ashamed of the tiny red bumps from hell I got from shaving that trotted next to my underwear, and now I’m ashamed that I’m doing something about it to be more aesthetically pleasing and, well, less painful.

I think it must have started on the bus.

“Do you shave your beaver?” a greasy-yet-popular boy asked me on the bus. His friends, two other popular boys, sat a few seats back, giggling and waiting for my answer. I was 14.

As far as I knew, I didn’t even have a beaver, and I wasn’t sure why I would want to shave one in the first place. Aren’t their pelts waterproof?

After a few more questions of similar nature, I got the gist of their query and was completely horrified.

“No! Why, why would I do that?!” I asked. All I got back was a shrug and a look that told me that if I didn’t get rid of all of the hair I had down there, no boy would ever be interested. Besides, the thing probably smells like fish anyway.

At 14 years old, I highly doubt that these boys had ever really seen a vulva – at least not in real life. But you know what they did see? Porn, their moms’ Victoria’s Secret catalogs, and pretty much everything else you can think of that a pubescent boy would use to, um, squeak one out.

So, in ninth grade, it was suddenly my responsibility to become that image for them. I blame them for sexually harassing me, yes, but rape culture and the media’s presentation of a “normal” woman did the rest.

Dear World: 14 years old = child! It’s not cool for women to feel like they have to change the way their genitals look, let alone someone that is two years too young to get her driver’s license.

Later, in college, I had a boyfriend that requested that I shave the whole thing all the time, even though it made my vulva flame up like an irritated puffer fish. His interest in the idea was amazingly creeptastic. Um, isn’t it good enough that I have, y’know, the plumbing you like?

But of course, I didn’t think those things at the time. Instead of trusting my instinct (which would have provided him with a swift kick to the rest of his family tree – besides, evolutionarily fit men want bush!), I bought into the pressure, trying different razors, creams, gels, and waxing. It all hurt, it rarely looked good – and yet I still tried to please him.

Women are told every day that their genitals are disgusting, and the critics range from prepubescent boys and the media to female friends and our own mothers. You’re lucky if you get close enough to even see the thing before we snap our legs shut out of terror that you’ll see a hairport instead of, well, us.

Yes, both men and women should feel free to express their sexual wishes. However, we have to take into account whether or not those wishes would, or even might, be harmful to our significant others. The person I was with never considered the psychological repercussions that such a suggestion – nay, requirement – might have had on me, never mind the physical effects.

He also managed to gloss over the obvious pain I was in after my dupa pulled a Britney circa 2008. I mean really, what would you think was going on if your girlfriend was walking around like a bowlegged man waiting for his balls to drop? Newsflash: It means things are going pretty rough for the muff.

I’ve given up on the naked clam look (and that winner I was dating), choosing to laser my bikini line alone, but I still worry that the hair is too long, too thick, too short. There’s also the shame that surrounds even talking about it. I mean really, how many times have you sat down and had a conversation with another woman about what your pubic hair looks like?

If you have, congratulations. Now shut up and go get a Brazilian.

Related content:

Period Panties & Body Shame: An OCD Journey Through My Underwear Drawer

A Place for Me: Art, Porn, Feminism, and Race

Sex, My Body and Giving it Up



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