When pubic hair first appeared on my adolescent body, I was mortified. I wanted it gone as quickly as it sprouted. It just felt, for lack of a better word, bizarre to have it there. But at the age of 11, waxing was not option. Well, maybe it is nowadays, but in the late ’80s, that was not a something that happened.
By the time I got to college and started getting naked with boys, I felt mortified afresh when, after receiving oral sex for the first time, my boyfriend stepped back from my vagina, and pulled a long pubic hair out of his mouth. I thought I would never recover. He didn’t seem to mind one bit. It was 1996.
After we broke up, I started sleeping with an older guy who was absolutely wild about giving cunnilingus, full bush and all. His enthusiasm made me start to like my pubes.
And then, something weird happened. The new millennium rolled around and thongs came into style. Sisqo’s “Thong Song” hit the charts and every woman I knew, including my mom even started wearing butt floss. I ran out to the GAP and bought a pair. Not long after that, all my girlfriends started talking about this thing they were doing down there called bikini waxing. And who can forget “Sex and the City”‘s Samantha Jones complaining about the man who sexually rebuffed her for her four errant pubic hairs.
Four? I thought. I have 4,000!
It was my mother who took me to get my first wax. Bikini line only. She suggested that I get it done along with my mustache. Thanks, Mom! It hurt so bad I cried. I am a dark-haired girl, with a coarse carpet to match the drapes.
I felt like this waxing thing was something I was supposed to do. Because my mom and the rest of the world seemed to want me to. The same way I was supposed to get rid of my panty lines. Because they were tacky.
My monthly wax became something I got used to. The men I had sex with seemed to like my more neatly coiffed vulva. But then again, they seemed to enjoy my vulva no matter what state it was in. I started to feel like my pubic hair, and in turn, my vagina was somehow more manageable, less threatening, with a neatly trimmed landing strip. I never considered going completely bare down below. I mean, that would just be creepily pre-pubescent, right?
Vulva fashion continued to move in the “balder is better” direction and Brazilian wax jobs (completely bald down there) became all the rage. In a recent Atlantic piece “The New Full-Frontal: Has Pubic Hair In America Gone Extinct?” Ashley Fetters examines the trend toward hairlessness for women:
“Once upon a time, all vulvas were coated in a protective layer of coarse, woolly tresses. Hard to believe, right? It’s kind of like the revelation that horses once had toes, or that the Ford Mustang once had tailfins. But like any evolving species, the vulva has morphed into something sleeker, starker, and altogether more modern. Today, it is smooth, baby-soft, and hairless.”
Riding the wave of this vaginal hair evolution, I decided to try something I never thought I would: going bald.
I hated it.
First of all, the ripping was so painful for me that I was sweating, swearing and weeping on the waxing table. I couldn’t believe I paid $75 to have that done to me. It was worse than the time I got a root canal. Seriously. And then there was the aftermath. I went into the salon’s bathroom to wipe my mascara and take a piss. Do you know that when you have no hair on your vagina, the pee squirts everywhere? I didn’t. Let’s just say, it looked like a drunk dude had just used the toilet. When I finally collected myself and left the salon, I stepped outside. It was the dead of winter. My vagina was freezing; it wanted its coat back. I went home and disrobed. I felt as ashamed as I did as an 11-year-old. In fact, I felt 11. This thing that was supposed to make me this sleek, sexually appealing woman, made me feel like an insecure pre-teen.
I grew the landing strip back immediately. And my vulva hairstyle has remained that way ever since.
Recently, I told a guy I was dating that I was going to get my coochie waxed.
“How about a new hairdo down there?” he asked. “Bald maybe? I think that would be hot.”
Offended, I shot back. “Do you have a problem with my pubic hair?”
“Of course not. It’s just easier for guys when women are bald. But I would like your vagina any way it was. Even full bush.”
“Well, this is how I like it. And it’s not changing,” I asserted.
Our exchange really made me think: Why are more women going bald? Is it really for us? Are we doing it (even subconsciously) because it’s easier for men to deal with us that way? That’s not an acceptable reason to me. I know that most of us shave our legs and our armpits. But pubic hair is different. It’s more closely related to sex, and our sexuality.
My sexual experiences of the last 15 years have taught me that men enjoy whatever vagina is being served to them. When the fuller look was in, men loved my pubic hair, when it was out, they encouraged me to go bald. But through it all, they’ve always loved my vagina. And given the choice between vagina and no vagina, they will choose vagina every day of the week. So ultimately, our vulva fashions are really up to us.
Female sexuality is such a complex thing, because it’s so tightly intertwined with the male gaze. Even for lesbians. Our collective, sexual unconscious is so heavily influenced by what we are told is sexy by pop culture and porn, that I fear we’ve become far removed from how we really feel about the appearance of our own vaginas. I know women who swear by being bald down there. I do believe that they love their hairless vaginas. But I feel differently.
I think the disappearance of pubic hair is a tragedy for women. Because going hairless is an unnatural form of female evolution: a movement from womanhood towards girlhood. It seems counterintuitive. Not to mention apologetic for our natural state.
Then again, maybe I’m over-thinking this. I did pluck the crap out of my eyebrows in the ’90s. That trend has since ended and I’ve let mine grow into a more full and natural arch. Either way, I intend to keep my eyebrows and (at least some of) my bush. I hope other women do the same.