The Naked Clam and Other Preposterous Pubic Hair Problems

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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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Comments

  1. It’s interesting when body hair issues are brought up and porn is almost always mentioned, but porn didn’t adopt the bare beaver look until the mid-80s or so. Before then, porn had quite a bit of bush (more of a jungle). This can be tracked by looking at Playboy images through-out the decades.

    Due to my genes, I have to deal with a mass amount of fast-growing hair combined with sensitive skin that can’t stand shaving. I use to be very, very shy and embarrassed about becoming intimate with people I was attracted to well into my young adult life, because I didn’t know how to feel comfortable with my body hair but didn’t have the option to shave it like many of my friends. It prevented me from having many encounters which would have otherwise been fun and carefree.

    Since then, I have discovered that while it takes a couple days for me to heal, my body can withstand organic waxing very well. My pain tolerance is high so the waxing process doesn’t bother me, and I am able to finally feel fresh and clean…

    However, it is the strangest thing but since I started waxing (about two years now), I have become more comfortable with my body hair. I accept that I do have hair and that, hey, it isn’t that awful of a thing. Hell, sometimes I feel proud when I show off my hairy legs and some guy gets jealous because I have more body hair than he does…. After all, it’s who I am and I should love it regardless if it is the mainstream standard or not.

    And now, since I’m tight for money, I have to deal with being all-natural because I don’t have the 150-200$ it costs to maintain waxing.

    Also, kudos on writing the article. Good body hair articles are rare and hard to come by, especially ones that question removing the hair at all (most end with links to shaving/waxing sites).

  2. I keep telling myself that I’m going to get my pubic hair waxed, just for me, and I’m going to start wearing pretty underwear. I really hate the feeling of pubic hair. I don’t want a full Brazillan. I want to leave some hair in front, but get rid of the hair in the crease that soaks up sweat like a sponge. I trim it constantly because it feels disgusting when I have to wear a menstrual pad. I keep putting it off because I don’t have a partner to impress, and I’m not feeling very good about my body. But I know I should get it done for me, and for no one else.

    Speaking of people criticizing women’s bodies, my aunt told me that I was buying into the beauty standard by shaving my legs and underarms. And she calls herself a feminist! Whether I remove my body hair or not is none of her business. Anyway, my decision to shave isn’t entirely based around society’s expectations. I remove my body hair year-round, even when no one is going to see it.

  3. I agree with Deena and some other comments that “hygiene” is a smokescreen. The real reason behind “no hair down there” is aesthetics as defined by porn peddlers. Pubic hair never discouraged me from having oral sex, either. May I die flossing.

  4. Great article. I never can wrap my head around the hygiene argument, it just seems like marketing-bull to me. Hair isn’t all by itself either clean or dirty. It’s acceptable for example for women to have hair on their heads, if you wash that hair, then it’s clean. Pubic hair isn’t any more unclean than the hair on the head, it’s simply an extension of the vulva or vagina as being gross or dirty that has created that myth.

    In response to the purpose of pubic hair, it, along with the labia serve to keep things out by protecting the vagina Also by shaving or waxing one can get mirco-abrasions which can actually increase ones chances of contracting an STI. (However if you wait a day or two after pubic hair removal prior to engaging in sexual activities this risk is much smaller as they have has time to heal)

    I personally don’t shave and frankly think a bare beaver looks bizarre, but to each their own. If it really knocks your socks off, go for it.

  5. Speaking from an evolutionary man who wants bush perspective, I’m really surprised and shocked that a guy would actually request and require someone they supposedly love to shave.
    If you had any sort of compassion or love for your girlfriend, you wouldn’t ask her to, say, lose weight, because you know it would offend her and challenge her self esteem. How is asking her to shave any different?

  6. After getting a good giggle after reading the piece by Quinn, I have to give kudos to my partner :0)
    It is true, we are conditioned to see our vaginas as yucky or ugly or somehow not perfect by media etc, so for the longest time I was embarrassed about letting my partner see my “gina” in all her glory, especially since I am also 8 years older than him. But he has always softly encouraged me not to be ashamed, tells me he thinks I look and feel beautiful.

  7. @Verlin The link connected to “the hair is too long, too thick, too short” is a piece from one of our amazing partners, Feminist Fatale. In the linked piece she takes a critical look at hair removal products and the pressure to go bare “down there.” Thanks for joining the conversation! -Sharon

  8. Verlin Steele says:

    I love that within your own well trimmed article (did you have to keep it to a certain length? :-P ) if you click on the highlighted sentence “the hair is too long, too thick, too short”, you get taken to a web page with links on it for genital hair removal products.

    Having noted that… it doesn’t matter to me if your carpet matches the drapes; if you have a shag carpet, a landing strip or a Larry, Curly or Moe vulva cut (that’s bushy, with bangs, or bald), it’s your vulva and I’m just happy to be down there in the first place.

    Society, mothers, female friends, and idiot males should stop telling women what is right or wrong with women’s private parts….. the key term is private! Right?

    thank you for sharing tho…. may you never experience the Puffer Fish syndrome again!

    ~Verlin Steele

  9. I’m gunna second Ashley on the consideration part in terms of oral sex. As someone who has engaged in oral sex with both male and female partners, there is just something really unpleasant about having to stop and pulling pubic hairs from your teeth… Thus why I generally prefer my partners to have groomed nether regions. Shaving all, most or some should be a personal preference, but grooming is something I consider to be a matter of personal hygiene- and that goes for all genders!

  10. MaryJean says:

    @SamanthaPink: Pubic hair serves the same purpose as eyebrows or eyelashes, that of protecting a mucus membrane from microscopic organisms and bacterial threats. If you don’t have any pubic hair, you’re increasing your risk for infections.

  11. I shave simply for hygiene and always have. When I was on my middle school swimteam I felt the need to shave because our team shaved our legs right before a meet so I figured I would shave everything. I liked it because it seemed cleaner to me. I continue to do it for this same reason. On a side not my vagina looks like a porn-gina (i.e. no dangly bits) because of this and porn I did not until recently understand that vaginas come in all shapes and sizes. I also didn’t understand how brainwashed our society is about vaginas until I understood that I had been. I don’t think any woman should ever be ashamed of her body but i do understan that society makes it almost impossible for us not to be.

  12. I have to agree with Ashley on the whole part about consideration. It only works both ways. If he doesn’t shave and requests that you do…then we have a problem. But other than that, I don’t mind getting waxes and such. I personally just think it’s so messy during your period that having no hair is a lot better than having hair. You mentioned in your article that the hair is supposed to protect your vulva? Please explain the actual function of our pubic hair because I’m not too sure what it’s good for.

  13. I think that trimming and removing are two entirely different conversations. I have noticed that when my hair is a bit longer, it chafe when I ride my bike! Ouch! However, I personally am against having to remove all hair for the sake of someone else’s emotional comfort or preference. As the article states, it is there for a reason. It is a shame that young girls are being met with these expectatations about the “yuckiness” of their genitals. I loved the line “evolutionarily fit men want bush”. All the great men I know prefer hair down there!

  14. My man trims and shaves his and requested that I do the same, saying that he didn’t like to get hair in his mouth during oral. I didn’t mind the request, honestly. And I felt that since he was giving me some consideration that I honestly preferred for him (minimal hair down there) then why couldn’t I do the same for him. Now I feel like if I really wanted to grow it back out, I could and I would, and he would just have to get over it.

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