Feminism | Posted by Sheridan T on 02/8/2010

A Woman and Her So-Called “Girly Parts”: The Shaving Dilemma

Schick Quatro TrimStyle - one such product made for them girly parts

Schick Quatro "TrimStyle" - one such product made for them girly parts

Pubic hair has become kind of a controversial topic, especially among feminists, who seem to have gotten a reputation for being, well… hairy. But with so little exposure in porn and in the media to what an actual average female looks like… what can we say really? Who knows how many women shave? As far as I know, nobody’s done a poll or drawn up statistics. No one seems to be talking.

Google pubic hair and you’ll find several resources… some of them rather intriguing (You can style it in a Mohawk! You can dye it pink!) but none informative. When women talk about shaving with other women, they often use terrible euphemisms: “shaving the girly parts,” “pruning the garden,” “clearing the entrance,” and so on.

A lot of the anti-shaving argument stems from the idea that shaving is another expression of the male-created archetype of female beauty, mainly through porn. And if you look at porn, few women have any hair at all, usually if they do it’s a thin little strip or extremely well-kept triangle.

I recently had a discussion with my mother who told me that a real woman never removes her public hair, not beyond the crease of the thigh anyways. She told me to “let it grow, let it grow.”  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she was too late. That eleven months ago on a fateful New Year’s Eve, I did the deed.

natural?

natural?

For the first ten minutes after I was extremely upset with myself. “What a stupid idea,” it looked so different so foreign, “That is not my frickin vagina!” But then I saw it in the mirror. Felt my vagina’s presence more than ever had before. And I grew to love it. I’ve kept shaving it since, loving the feeling. It helped put me in touch with my own body.

Many women who shave do it for their husbands or boyfriends. Personally, I haven’t had a male voice dictating what it wants. However, from the stories I’ve heard, men seem to be way too opinionated about the subject.

So my question for all of you: Is there a good way or bad way for a woman to approach shaving? Is shaving your pubes un-feminist? And what do you think is more common? Let’s get talking.

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  • Devin @ at 12:24 pm, February 8th, 2010

    Personally I hate shaving. Everything grew back so itchy that I couldn’t stand it! I tried waxing and I absolutely love it. It’s a lot easier than shaving (someone else does it for me) and I love the feeling. I lost my main girl for a while and figured that I could do without. And then the hair got too long and I couldn’t stand it. I hate having that course hair, so I’m glad to be rid of it.

    My husband is happy with whatever I do (he’s more apt to complain that I don’t wax my underarms enough and that the hair gets too long). He wants me to be happy and would never request I do anything that I didn’t want to do.

    All that being said, it is kind of expensive (I used to pay $75 each time, now I pay $52) and a bit painful (the pain doesn’t last after you leave the salon) but for me, it’s the only way I want to be. I would never tell someone what to do, but if anyone is interested in someone fabulous in Orange County, CA, I’ve got some names! :)

  • ellecarter @ at 12:56 pm, February 8th, 2010

    I come from the sisterhood of do what you want and do what makes you feel comfortable. I also believe feminism is about choice. So if you choose to trim,wax,shave, or “let it grow” you are no more or less a feminist.

  • attie @ at 1:21 pm, February 8th, 2010

    As with so many things (wearing high heels, applying make-up, etc) I don’t think the act itself can be feminist or un-feminist. It all depends on your reasons. If you shave because you think that you have to look like a porn star or you’ll never get a man, that’s very clearly not feminist. But if you love shaving with all your heart but stopped because your s.o. said they wouldn’t have sex with you because shaving made you look like a slut, I’m not giving you any feminist cred for that either.

    Feminism, for me, is about standing up for your choices and your wishes even when public opinion says they are bad. I think going the other way and doing things that are against your own wishes only because you follow some kind of never-shaving, never-bra-wearing ideal of a feminist is not really much better than doing it because the ads told you to.

    The layer where it gets really complicated is when you try to separate your own wishes and internalized messages, because they are really hard to tell apart. Especially reactions of disgust, which I struggle with a lot (but more in respect to food, less body image since my mother had some very strange views on food and I just can’t shake the reaction of disgust *even when I already tried the food and liked it*).

    Being Yourself is some seriously hard work…

  • Juliet @ at 1:47 pm, February 8th, 2010

    I think maybe shaving your pubes is only unfeminist if you are not doing it for your own benefit. If you want to, fine, but if it’s due to social pressure then that is something a little different.

    I don’t shave mine. I just give it a trim every so often to keep it neat and reasonably short. I’m not a high-maintenance kind of girl. :D

  • Lucy @ at 2:08 pm, February 8th, 2010

    I personally never found it all that empowering, as a woman with exceptionally (and I mean exceptionally) tightly curled pubic hair near to the vagina, to feel after a while as if I was constantly sitting on a bouncy hedgehog trampoline.
    That is all.

  • Vanessa @ at 2:32 pm, February 8th, 2010

    I started shaving around 13. In part, it was because I thought that’s what was preferred. From porn and the comments of people around me, I gathered having a lot of pubic hair wasn’t attractive. I continue this after I was sexually active. It wasn’t until I started dating my current boyfriend that I had slept with someone on a fairly regular basis.

    I was 15 then and had been shaving at least once a month, if not every week or two, for at least a year and a half. Several months after we started dating, I stopped shaving on a regular basis. Shaving wasn’t terribly uncomfortable, but I would get unsightly razor bumps and it was a hassle. At first I was afraid about what my boyfriend might think, but he never minded. I began to let it really grow out. My boyfriend didn’t mind, and I wasn’t itchy or concerned about how my skin looked.

    Now, I only shave my bikini line and I trim the rest of my pubic hair. I don’t like to just let them grow free because i find long pubic hair to be annoying and itchy. My boyfriend never complained. In fact, when we started dating he said he preferred it shaven because he liked the feel of skin. Now he likes that I grow it out. He says there’s something animalistic and carefree about it that makes it incredibly sexy.

    Oh, and I did dye my pubic hair blue once. My boyfriend loved it, as did I. I thought it was cute and fun and in a weird way boosted my self image.

    So, do what makes you comfortable. Shave, trim, let it grow free, dye it – whatever. Don’t worry about what you think is normal or if your partner will like it. It’s your body, be happy with it.

  • ACW @ at 2:40 pm, February 8th, 2010

    Is a man any more or less male for having a beard, mustache, goatee, or clean-shaven chin?
    It’s not like Samson and Delilah – no one loses strength or power by removing hair … of any kind.
    It’s a matter of preference, and ‘parts is parts’… hairy or no.

  • Melissa @ at 2:56 pm, February 8th, 2010

    Of course there’s nothing inherently un-feminist about shaving (or more commonly, waxing) down there…depending on why you do it. Is it for you, or is it to live up to that porn standard? From the way the author of the article describes it, it certainly sounds like she does it for herself. The idea of being aware and in touch with your vulva sounds 100% out in hippie feminist land. (And I mean that in a good way.)
    Our society works so hard to dictate that women MUST be hairless, however, that even a lot of women who think they want to do it for themselves…are actually doing it for the patriarchy. Take me for example. I was always very sheltered, never saw porn, never hung around with people who talked about sex, so until about the end of high school I was completely unaware of the concept of a shaved vulva. But time passed, I grew up, and spent about two years getting monthly waxes (unabashedly for patriarchal reasons. At the time, I never claimed anything other than “men expect it” as my reason.) Recently though, I’ve been taking a hiatus from sex. It seems logical that I should stop spending tons of money to have someone drip hot wax on my most sensitive areas if no one’s going to see it, right? But for the first few months of not getting waxes, I felt weird about it. I felt all of those things that women claim when they say that they like for wax “for themselves”…like it was uncomfortable, unclean, and unkempt…even though those things had NEVER bothered me before I got in the habit of waxing. So there’s no way those are genuine concerns for me–it’s just one more way that the patriarchy has infiltrated my head.
    If you shave/wax “for yourself,” great. But a lot of women should probably take a deeper look at whether that “choice” is a genuine one, or a patriarchy-influenced one.
    And of course, I certainly can’t hold it against women who shave/wax and don’t deny that it’s because of men. I’ll probably be among them again when I decide to start having sex again. Is that decision un-feminist? Yeah. But we all make our little concessions and compromises to the patriarchy; I see such concessions more as survival skills than as some evil-bad-thing-feminists-should-never-ever-do. Because we have our ideals, but we’re also humans who want to have lives. In an ideal world we’d all live our feminist values 100%. But to get by in this one, a lot of us can’t always do that.

  • Nak. @ at 4:30 pm, February 8th, 2010

    I agree with ellecarter, feminism is about choice. We have the right to choose what we want our bodies to look like.
    Ironically, the only pressure I have experienced has come from my fellow feminist friends who claim I am “caving into western beauty norms”. In reality, it feels nice to shave my pubs and to leave my armpit and leg hair.
    Again, its all about choice.

  • mvibes @ at 6:04 pm, February 8th, 2010

    I agree, men are TOO OPINIONATED about it. If anything that could be possibly related to a vagina pops up I know a few guys who go “SHAVE THAT BEAVER” Theres even this one guy who has refused to sleep with a girl until she shaved (he even handed her a razor)
    Finally (around tenth grade) I was shamed into shaving.
    I hated it! it was itchy and it looked like I was 7 again.
    Now I keep a neat little triangle (low enough for underwear) and I use a trimmer to keep the hair from being so long it pokes out the cotton in my underwear.
    I think I look very womanly like this. And I love how cute it looks. I find it gross when women shave it completely and that some guys prefer that (esince it looks so pre-pubescent it just seems like early pedo-ness to me)

    But if a woman does it FOR HERSELF and not for acceptance then thats her choice.
    All I know is that if a man EVER tries to tell me to shave it off completely…oh he WILL regret it

    :)

  • Valerie B. @ at 6:09 pm, February 8th, 2010

    I’ve never looked at shaving, waxing, or whatever with your pubes as being unfeminis; it just depends who you’re doing it for. If leg hair drives you INSANE [like it does with me] or you’re a swimmer going for aerodynamics or you’re “sexually active”, then that’s fine, you’re doing it for yourself. We may be feminists, but we have lives too. If you want to look like porn/movie stars or just let society tell you that good normal teenage girls shave their legs, then I think it’s unfeminist then. You’re doing it for society, not yourself.
    Also, I’ve never discussed shaving with other feminists, so it was interesting to read this blog…thanks!

  • Steph @ at 6:17 pm, February 8th, 2010

    “Google pubic hair and you’ll find several resources… some of them rather intriguing (You can style it in a Mohawk! You can dye it pink!”
    brb being awesome.

  • AntiSlice @ at 6:51 pm, February 8th, 2010

    I’ve never shaved or waxed my pubes, but I do try to keep it trimmed. I’ve always thought it looks weird in porn to see adult women with no pubes. Then again, I’ve had a couple friends highly recommend waxing.

    I’ve also dyed my pubes bright pink a couple of times with a group of friends. As far as I know, we haven’t had any guys complain about it.

  • Tibela @ at 7:18 pm, February 8th, 2010

    I have never shaved my pubic hair, which is partly because the trend came in after I was already used to my own body and was sexually active with it. It’s somewhat recent, to those of us who are older (30s). So the pressure to shave pubic hair appears as a strange porn-inspired kind of trend to me, because I remember when it wasn’t a mainstream trend at all. Pre-trend, I was only exposed to ideas of pubic shaving as a practice of queer sex, and it had some positive, progressive connotations, but with some lefties thinking it was “perverted”.
    I like the comments where people interrogated the idea of choice. It’s not so simple. Choice, in this context, is complicated. We think we have “free” choice, and so often we are still so influenced by mainstream notions. But you also have to live in your body.
    So if you like to experiment, why not grow out your pubes, just for fun? If you think this experiment is boring or too fraught for you, then you know best for yourself, and you should feel no reason to do it.

  • PatriarchySlayer @ at 7:45 pm, February 8th, 2010

    Never had it waxed, but I’m thinking about it, (hate pain). I would go one step further though and say that I’m not a big fan of hair on myself or on my partner. Can’t stand hairy men! So, hopefully I will end up with a guy who trims or shaves too. We’ll be perfect together. ;)

  • Zoe @ at 8:32 pm, February 8th, 2010

    I tend to go in and out of shaving down there. Mostly, when I’m not dating someone or being sexually active, I let it grow out. Why bother with maintenance if no one sees? Otherwise, I’ll try and shave every now and then but I refuse to let someone require me to shave for them. Fuck that. I’ll do it when I damn well please.

  • Lexi @ at 8:55 pm, February 8th, 2010

    I kind of have a double perspective on this since, I’m a lady loving lady.
    I feel about this the same way I feel about most things, nothing is sexier than confidence. A lot of people have issues with oral sex on hairy women, but I I think whatever makes that woman feel comfortable and sexy is ultimate.
    Personally, I just clean up the sides a bit, I’m a tiny person in the first place so I’d end up looking like a 7 year old girl.
    Eww.

  • Alex @ at 10:45 pm, February 8th, 2010

    I don’t think that shaving is “non-feminist”, although I do think that it is a standard set by men and the world of porn. I get a bikini wax once a month because I want to, and it’s good to know that my boyfriend won’t mind if miss a bikini wax because I’m busy with exams or something. However, I’m extremely bothered by the fact that most men EXPECT a shaved vagina from women. They definitely do not tolerate a “wild bush”. I find this very insensitive and I wish that men really understood how much effort it takes. Women already have to go through a lot of pressure to have the perfect body, hair, makeup, looking young, etc…and now we have to worry about our hair down there? Women have to face many great disadvantages that men can’t even think of. So the least they can do is give us a fucking break when we don’t feel like waxing or shaving one month. Thank you.

  • Cristina @ at 12:00 am, February 9th, 2010

    I actually really like shaving. . . but just my legs and underarms! I have a really nice smooth razor and I love the way it feels hairless. It may not be a typical feminist view but we’re all different!

    In regards to shaving . . . that. Well I am in my teens so I feel uncomfortable shaving that without knowing much about it. Even when I do know more about shaving that area I don’t think I will. (I do shave the thigh area, just not the actual vagina. I think a shaved vagina reminds me of a little girl, and I am a woman. To me it seems childlike, having a hairless “area”. Interesting topic and discussion though!

  • My life more ordinary @ at 8:19 pm, February 9th, 2010

    This is the first time I have commented @ fbomb, but got this on my RSS reader and had to come over and see what others had to say. I totally agree with an “each to their own” philosphy but, to be honest, I find the idea of wanting to look, sexually, like a child really troubling. I love the things about my body that make it “womanly” rather than “girly” – my boobs, my hips. I think in a sexual context this issue touches on so many things beyond porn like the sexualisation of young girls – when did their genitals become a sexual ideal?

  • Your hair, down there « La femme, le féministe @ at 10:46 am, February 10th, 2010

    [...] for some women a source of confusion, embarrassment and irritation when they do. I was reading this blog on Fbomb and was most interested by the comments, particularly this one: Tibela @ at 7:18 pm, [...]

  • Toongrrl @ at 12:12 pm, February 10th, 2010

    I object only because the vaginal area is very sensitive and you should be thankful you aren’t bald there. I was bathing my baby cousin and I saw how bare she was!!! You went a long way from a baby girl to a young woman on the verge of life as we know it. Don’t irritate your area

  • rockergrrrl @ at 7:46 pm, February 10th, 2010

    Honestly, waxing just sounds REALLY painful, and just not worth it. I shave my armpits and legs, but not extremely often. I do it mostly because I swim. I just trim my pubes so they don’t poke out of my swimsuit!

  • Bree @ at 1:06 pm, February 12th, 2010

    I shaved down there once as a twelve year old and then I went to the doctor and she ridiculed me for it. My mom, to this day, does not know that that is the reason I hated that lady. So, that was a contributing factor, as well as it feels so weird to do it and no one sees it but me anyways. Anyway, it kind of does make me feel like a kid when it’s bare, and that kind of creeps me out.

  • Sarah @ at 2:28 pm, February 12th, 2010

    I personally say go for it.
    If you want to shave your lady parts, there’s nothing wrong with that. Feminism should be about choice, and it goes down to every aspect of your body and lifestyle. So go ahead – let your carpet grow or install hardwood flooring!
    Or even dye it pink, if you really wanted to.

  • jualeah @ at 6:44 pm, February 17th, 2010

    I am searching for statistics on shaving pubic hair, and find it interesting that the only #s I’m finding are regarding men. I am an inventor and my product is designed to help women view themselves like they have never viewed themselves before. I myself grew tired of folding into a pretzel to shave my vagina. While shaving one day I came up with an idea its the Maintenance Mirror AKA The Va-JJ Viewer (website= http://www.themaintenancemirror.com) feel free to view and purchase through paypal, or postal service. I truely think all women need one especially teens because most dont even realize they have 3 holes down there, and after discussing with a friend she purchased one for her daughter because she was having a difficult time inserting a tampon. I am a Certified Nurse Midwife and my teen clients are not cleaning themselves properly which increases UTI and yeast infections, also many women are shaving and leaving patches due to inability to see what they are doing. As a woman who loves myself and encourages every woman to know and love herself, I believe we should be able to see what we look like EVERYWHERE.

  • Amelia @ at 8:08 pm, February 22nd, 2010

    How can it possibly be ‘unfeminist’ to want to look like a porn star? Surely they are women making informed choices about what THEY want to do? So just because the have sex on camera they are not making a choice about what they want to do?! Have you ever considered that perhaps they are playing men at their own game and making money from the countless men that buy porn? From what I can see that is going a whole lot further to fight patriarchy than being hairy!

  • Bethany @ at 9:56 am, February 24th, 2010

    I know I am a little late with my opinion, but I just thought I’d throw my 2 cents in.

    I have shaved, and it was okay. I liked that it felt a bit cleaner than when it was hairy. But, despite my efforts, as it grew back in, it was itchy and uncomfortable for long periods.

    I remember just deciding to stop worrying about it for a while and letting it gorw as long as it liked. I went to take a shower one day and stood in front of a full length mirror and inspected my hairy underarms, legs and pubic area. I felt more like a woman at that moment than ever before. I felt like my body had finally earned the title it deserved, Woman.

    I am not saying that if you shave, you are any less a woman or that women shouldn’t shave, I am saying that *I* personally feel most like a woman, and less like a child, when my body is declaring it for me.

    I shave my underarms now, I smell worse when I don’t, but my legs and my pubic area will remain womanly for me, not childlike.

  • GenXBoy @ at 7:23 pm, March 3rd, 2010

    This point is seldom made: lots of guys born before the mid-1970s had their first exposure to erotica/porn in the age when bushes were full. As such a guy myself, for years I thought the Brazilian wax looked a bit unsexy and possibly hinted at pedo tenancies. Then I started a new relationship with a (very feminist) woman who happened to wax from time to time. And while it still doesn’t do anything for me visually, my other senses have been won over. So it’s not a black and white “porn says do this” issue for all of us.

  • karen lean @ at 2:58 pm, April 9th, 2010

    my first objection is the exra(painful and time comsuming) “mantenance” required above all the other “requirements ” I have encountered…most men I know can’t be bothered shaving their CHINS regularly and find it a bind AND uncomfortable so hey, we are definitlely in a “free” society where women do what MEN want and call it free will. Secondly, yeah it does seem inextricably connected to porn and the escalating acceptability with objectifying younger and younger girls…the expression “jail bait” and the use of school uniforms in any sexual context, for example, sanctifies this inappropriate view of what is acceptable. The more women aqquiesse, the more unequal the liberties taken.

  • Pete @ at 8:30 am, May 11th, 2010

    A man´s point of view! I prefer shaved. I always have although many years ago it was unheard of. I´m 62. My wife prefers to shave her pubes. She does because I like it and she likes it. She finds oral sex more intense. I also shave mine for the same reasons. When we watch porn we prefer shaved pubes. So much more visible.
    Great site, very interesting.

  • almorr @ at 5:54 pm, March 21st, 2012

    Sorry Pete, can’t agree with you, Iam 59, both my wife and I have never shaved our pubes, OK, we don’t do oral sex, she says the penis is meant to go into the vagina, not the mouth. Perhaps if did have oral sex, things might be different, ie. all that hair getting into your mouth, but the way it is for us, we are both 100% natural and hairy, everyone to their own, as they say.

  • Jeff @ at 4:52 pm, November 28th, 2012

    When I shave myself down there I did it beacuse that was the way I wanted it. My wife now likes it that way. Do it how you want it your spouse of lover will be happy the way you keep it.

  • Welcome to the Jungle (sorry, too crass?) | #Ocupa tu cuerpo. #Occupy your body. @ at 12:16 am, March 7th, 2013

    [...] natural for me to do”, “Because my partner likes it better that way”. I read this blog post in which a woman said how after she shaved her pubes for the first time – despite her mom [...]

  • Tom @ at 9:58 pm, April 16th, 2013

    I’m also a guy who shaves it all off. I prefer it that way on myself and I prefer doing oral on women who are also shaved. I suspect very strongly that oral feels better for women who are shaved if their givers are skilled.

    I also caught hell from a healthcare provider the first time I showed up like that. Hey, it’s my choice and they were useless at helping me know what to do about the bumps.
    Now I epilate everything from the neck down and don’t like to let any of it grow and the bumps are lessened by scrubbing everything really well in the shower plus lots of lotion.

    If a woman doesn’t want to shave or suits that’s her decision. Y’all can blame the decision on the patriarchy but the patriarchy isn’t holding the razor (unless it’s a prenegotiated sex act). Hopefully people are able to make up their own minds.

  • Gary @ at 3:29 pm, October 16th, 2013

    Girls/Ladies/Women, let it grow! Shaving is for feeding the media machine. Female body hair is super fun, very exciting and, oh, natural! I hope young ladies will turn the trend and start to show their beauty in a way that says you are not a media tool. Thank you for NOT shaving. Yes, I like ladies with all their body hair… CHEERS!

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