The politics of porn and pubes: from the public to the personal

by J Whitehead // 16 February 2010, 20:33

Around six years ago, I had unfortunate sex with an unfortunate fellow. It was unexpected and we ended up fumbling around in his bedroom. When we paused for him to put on a condom (one saving grace), he looked between my legs, looked back at me and tugged my pubic hair, pronouncing, “This has got to go…” I was young - and absolutely mortified. Rather than turfing him out of his own room and branding his behind with “this boy is bad for women’s self esteem”, I squirmed and giggled nervously, before getting back down to business. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t much fun after that, and I sure as hell didn’t feel very sexy.

Last Thursday, I went to a talk at the Women’s Library in London entitled 'The Politics of Appearance'. As is often the case at such events, the audience question and answer session at the end proved to be the most telling and thought-provoking discussion of the evening. One woman put up her hand to say that she had a 20-year-old daughter who refused to go for a cervical smear unless she’d had a Brazilian. A smear test is a standard medical procedure, not Girls Gone Wild. Why should the poor woman feel such shame? Why was it so important for her to be trimmed and “tidy”? And, why was I embarrassed, rather than incensed?

For the uninitiated, a “Brazilian” is when all your pubic hair is removed except a neat “landing strip” of hair on your pubic bone. They have become de rigour amongst many women, some of whom apparently consider anything resembling natural pubic hair as “grim” or “gross”. Why is this?

One response to this question argues that the increased availability and (some could argue) prolificacy of pornography in society has seeped through from the public to the personal domain. Virtually all females in pornography are shaved and plucked within an inch of their life, and many people view this online and then request it or expect it from their real-life sexual partners.

If feminism is about choice, then women who make the decision to embrace the Brazilian, in isolation, should be respected (although as we don’t live in a vacuum, such a choice is no mean feat). Those who succumb to peer or partner pressure, body issues or unrealistic images of femininity, should also be respected, at the same time as being treated with compassion and empathy. The politics of disgust are hugely complex and it’s not easy to stand tall and furry while people crinkle their noses in disgust at you.

More worrying is the reality that looking at pornography is increasingly many teenagers’ first exposure to sex and sexuality. I acknowledge that in some instances it may offer an educational insight but, for the most part, pornography presents a very distorted image of sexuality. Female roles and basic female physiology is particularly problematic; available women with a very specific and narrow body type (in every sense of the word), who tend to perform rather than engage, is not the most positive representation of consenting sexuality, a concept I believe to be absolutely crucial for young people.

My escape from feeling insecure and inadequate about my body was increased security, maturity - and feminism. I still wouldn’t be 23 again, with all the body insecurity, loathing and shame that this entails for the average female. Let’s hope that time enables the 20-year-old referred to above to feel more comfortable in her own body.

Exploring feminism, educating myself and gradually accepting myself as I was my salvation. And it’s a work in progress. That and recognising that a partner who pulls your pubes without your permission is no rock and roll fun at all.

Comments From You

Jessica901 // Posted 16 February 2010 at 21:34

I think a Brazillian looks joke- like and gross - as if giving your vag a careful hairstyle or something. A vagina isn't the prettiest thing whatever gets done to it. I think only a trim becomes necessary, shaving at the very sides in bikini occassions - I think mine like this looks about as good as a vagina can get (although no accounting for taste I guess). I thought a trim was popular, not that ugly brazillian mock of a mohican. Vaginas imho are ugly, although precious, things. They have hair covering them for a reason! What the hell is it with that little piece of random hair? (hmm, think I already know the answer. something to do with, it's not so random, girls have a natural 'landing strip' in prebuscent years, and given the very popular 'barely legal' branch of porn... yada yada). Don't get me started on the pedophilic 'shaven haven'. Since when did plucked chicken skin become the 'must have minge'. Ew.

For the record, why do some feminist groups have to always bring up vaginas? I'm an ardent radical feminist but can't stand the Vagina Monologues etc.

coldharbour // Posted 16 February 2010 at 22:13

I think it's incorrect to conflate mainstream pornography with pornography as a whole as there is a large selection of pornography/erotica (for gay woman and straight guys) that includes woman with natural hair. I was always used to hanging around with radical woman that were proud to show natural body hair although I was always aware of general societal hostility to it from listening to peoples general opinions on the matter. I think unfortunately the mainstream press especially the "glossy's" like Cosmo and Marie Claire are nothing more that ultra-aggressive marketing tools to shame woman into looking a particular way and consuming expensive clothes and make-up. Conversely the "lad's" mags and tabloid newspapers seem to promote views on sexuality or aesthetic diversity fit for a twelve year old. I see it as far more to do with the capitalist marketing powers influence on socio-cultural discourse than what most men actually find sexually attractive in reality.

saranga // Posted 16 February 2010 at 22:18

first, that's the best opening sentence of a blog post ever!

after that, I agree that porn has influenced women's self image and when pressure is put on women to act/appear in a certain way, specifically when it's linked to porn and therefore performance and men's sexual gratification, that is a very bad thing.

Women should feel confident to appear how they like, and not according to other people's dictats. Your young fella's comments and actions are pretty vile.

On the other hand, I shave my pubic hair because I prefer the feel of a hairless muff when I'm having sex. I don't however shave my legs or armpits very often, because I see no problem with the hair being there, and I hate the whole process of shaving. I also find the idea of women's hair being disgusting, to be a pretty foul idea in itself.

anyway, good post :)

Jenny // Posted 16 February 2010 at 23:02

I am 33 and I still haven't fully got to grips with this one. My natural choice is to remove enough hair so that nothing is visible when I wear a swimming costume and I think that is fair enough but I have had opinions from elsewhere that have made me feel as if I am somehow a prude or behind the times. My last boyfriend said that he was used to women who go for Brazilians and while my naturalness in all other ways was something that attracted him, in terms of my pubic hair he would have rathered I removed it. I refused but then the relationship was not particularly loving or committed so I was unlikely to budge much from my original position.

The other source of reaction to this was from my friends. These are not young girls who are easily swayed by peer pressure but intelligent women in their 30s who are in committed relationships. Their partners like them to shave off their pubes and they don't mind either way so they do. I have no problem with the women's decisions. What I struggle with is the men's attraction to bodies with no pubes. Adult women have pubic hair. Pre-pubescent girls do not. Adult men should not be fancying pre-pubescent girls. It's wrong and I am very uncomfortable with it.

I am currently single and do not know how I would react if any future partner asked me to get rid of my pubes but as I sit here writing this, the more convinced I am that the answer would be no!

Jennifer Drew // Posted 16 February 2010 at 23:47

But pornography cannot be separated out into child porn and so-called 'adult porn' because pornography is solely about dehumanising all women and girls into men's and boys' sexual service stations. The reason why so many normal adult males are increasingly viewing younger and younger girls as 'sexual commodities' is because porn is now mainstream and the only value a female has is in being sexually available to males.

Removing pubic hair emanates from pornography and given porn is now mainstream it has become de rigeur for young women to shave all body hair because it is supposedly 'unattractive to men.' But I suspect the real reason is because porn turns adult women in to adult children whose sole desire is to sexually service men.

Porn tells men that women are childlike adults whose sole desire is to sexually please the superior (sic) male.

Why do not males shave all their pubic hair? After all if women are subjected to such pressure then so should men. Not forgetting of course it is women who are being even more constrained and subject to male sexual demands - not the reverse. The more women demand full human status the more pornography depicts them as dehumanised sexualised commodities.

Not forgetting that pubic hair exists for a reason. Shaving pubic hair oten results in hair growing inwards not outwards and that is not forgetting the extreme pain and discomfort of shaving. Don't forget women are still being told they should douche their genitals because they supposedly smell.

Olivia // Posted 17 February 2010 at 00:04

Hey Jenny,

I too am singe - fortunately we don't have to deal with it just yet then. I think a good compromise is a trim with clipper scissors when out on the town - just getting rid of the 'bush'. We shouldn't have to, but I think it's a fun compromise. No pain is involved, the distinct lack of pimply nether regions, the shower doesn't get littered with thick unpleasent hair, and it arguably looks a bit better depending on how you like it.

I think a trim is presentable, whereas I think shaving below (unless you're into it) is a big ask for women, with the regrowth and the itching and the pedophilic connotations. A lot of girls who start shaving find it hard to keep up. It grows back in less than a day!


Being truthful, I've had sex as a single gal, more times than not with a full bush. That's in these times, with young lads who haven't minded one bit. Maybe it's older men? Statistically, apparently as men age they become increasingly attracted to nubility and teenaged girls. Or it's the relationship factor. As a single woman up for sex, I'd say my way or the high way. Whereas relationships it's more... a guy starts to get control, his issues with her, she gets attached and the dynamic changes. If a man wants a prepubescent vagina I bet in most cases, it's his way.

Paul P // Posted 17 February 2010 at 03:38

Wherever we go go we see billboards and ads telling us that natural or organic etc. is good. Why shouldn't it be the same for our bodies?

While my wife shaves her armpits routinely, something most western women have done since they for started growing hair there, she 'trim' up to her bikini line only when we're headed for the beach. She won't pluck the 2 or 3 hairs growing from her areola either.

Our son at 24, however has gone the smooth route, when we found out, he ridiculed us for our natural state. I just thought, I know how hard it is to pluck a chicken and what about the upkeep and the unnecessary risk of razor cuts/burn.

Oh, and Jessica, I'm yet to see an ugly adult vagina, shaved, trimmed or completely natural.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 17 February 2010 at 09:19

Great post! I agree there's something very disturbing about the pre-pubescent nature of shaved vaginas, and also that a lot of the change towards hairlessness has come from the proliferation of porn.

Amy Clare // Posted 17 February 2010 at 10:22

This is a subject that gets my goat too.

When I first started having sex (around 15 years ago) the presence of female pubes just wasn't an issue. The word 'Brazilian' was in no-one's vocabulary and surprise surprise, men still managed to enjoy having sex with women!

I'm not sure where this pube-free (only for women, mind you, not men!) trend originated (beauty industry or porn industry or both) but there's no doubt in my mind that it is damaging. I watched a TV programme a while back, where the presenter had a 'Hollywood' (i.e. everything off) wax just to see what it was like. Firstly, it quite clearly HURT. But what disturbed me most was what the beautician's comments. Firstly, she said 'There you go, you look like a little baby down there!' and then a few seconds later... 'Men find this very sexy!' Did she not realise what she was saying? In what way is it appropriate to say 'little baby' and 'very sexy' in (almost) the same breath?

This is the main problem for me, as Jenny said above - the fact that hairless vulvas only naturally exist on prepubescent girls. What exactly is attractive or sexy about sexual immaturity?

I would hate female pubic hair to go down the same road as female armpit hair (i.e. universally acknowledged as disgusting, removed by vast majority of UK women). I'm not particularly optimistic, given that a very profitable industry concerned with its removal is already up and running. I think this trend is worth fighting against, however, and sex education in schools (to counteract porn education) could be a valuable part of that.

I'm lucky in that I'm in a relationship where my partner couldn't give a fig what my pubes are like, and I feel for those women whose partners request they remove them. It makes me angry actually, because it shows a sense of entitlement - the media/porn industry says that sexy women are pube-free, so some men feel that therefore they are entitled to a pube-free, 'sexy' girlfriend.

When will women be allowed to just be themselves?!

George // Posted 17 February 2010 at 10:29

I know for a fact that all of my Shit Boyfriends:-

a) insisted on pubic hair removal
b) watched A LOT of porn
c) openly admitted that they 'learnt the tricks of the trade' from porn.

I really don't think that it's a case of correlation over causation when they openly admit that the reason they like a certain practice is that they saw it in a film ...

earwicga // Posted 17 February 2010 at 10:46

Wonderful post!!!

Delving back into my murky past - I have had two partners who prefered less bush, one of which also removed his own pubic hair, which I really didn't like.

Like Jenny, I remove enough wear a swimming costume without hair poking out the sides, but otherwise am happy to 'stand tall and furry'.

I think the OP is spot on to link this with pornography.

I did once remove all my pubic hair (for myself) and found it quite disturbing tbh, and feel the same as Jenny re the pre-pubescent look.

I quite like the work of The Muffia, and love their merken pics: http://www.themuffia.co.uk/index.htm

Denise // Posted 17 February 2010 at 13:02


I trim my pubic hair because I like to (my partner hasn't asked me to), but I wouldn't like to shave or brazilian (isn't that AGONY?! btw?) it all off. Of course others may want to and that is their personal choice - to me it would feel like trying to revert to little girlhood again, and the sort of men who want women to look like little girls.....need I go on.
If any man did ask me to get rid of my pubic hair I would think he didn't want me for myself, but wanted to modify an aspect of me to fit his ideal (and more modification attempts would surely follow!). So goodbye. Whenever I read dating ads in newspapers I'm often shocked by the detail with which most men describe the kind of girlfriend they want - eye/hair colour, age, even height! while most women just say something like 'GSOH'. Chillingly telling.

When I was 18 a boyfriend said 'there's only one thing spoiling your beauty'. I felt a shock of insult and insecurity and said 'what?' He said 'those fine hairs on your upper lip and arms'. It made me feel really insecure and suddenly conscious of something I'd never thought about. I did depilate the hairs on my upper lip, but couldn't be bothered to do my arms. Next time I saw him I smiled with my de-haired upper lip and said 'd'you notice anything?'
NOPE!!!!

Cycleboy // Posted 17 February 2010 at 13:30

"Adult women have pubic hair. Pre-pubescent girls do not. Adult men should not be fancying pre-pubescent girls."

Mind if I just re-write this a little?

"Adult men have facial hair. Pre-pubescent boys do not. Adult women should not be fancying pre-pubescent boys."

So, why do so many women (not all) hate facial hair on men?

Back in the 70s and 80s, pubic hair in magazines such as Men Only was the norm. It's just fashion and may change again. My suspicion is that it's partly to do with beach wear becoming narrower. Think of Ursula Andress's bikini in the Bond film. There was enough material to cover eveything. That doesn't apply now, so the hairline became trimmed. It's a relatively short stem from trimmed to shaved.

gadgetgal // Posted 17 February 2010 at 13:39

@earwicga - I used to see this guy who shaved his pubic hair too, I thought it was kind of odd myself! Possibly because I go in for the hair (on me and whomever I'm with).

I think hair is quite sexy on men AND women, it's just a turn-on for me to be a sexual grown-up who's with another sexual grown-up - I was a bit of an early developer and looked forward to the days when I'd be a proper grown-up having sex, so I associate that with hair, I guess, because when you get older you get hair. That, and a lot of the porn in the 80s still had the 70s-style pubic hair going on (although with really bad perms instead of really bad moustaches!)

Jill // Posted 17 February 2010 at 14:40

Jenny wrote: - ''Adult women have pubic hair. Pre-pubescent girls do not. Adult men should not be fancying pre-pubescent girls. It's wrong and I am very uncomfortable with it.''

I completely agree with you and that is why I refuse to shave or have a Brazilian, My partner of 21 years would prefer I shaved it all off but it's something I am not prepared to do. His argument is always - I'll shave as well - but that just makes it worse as I think men without body hair look unreal and plastic.

Adults have body hair - children don't

Laurel Dearing // Posted 17 February 2010 at 15:19

i guess i go for guys with less hair naturally and shaved face... but i wouldnt care enough about their hair to ask them to change it, and if it bothered me that much id rather not see them than infringe on that choice. i think theres a few lines, like some guys wont particularly want to go down on a woman with full hair, which i think is fair so long as they can accept and compromise on similar things themself without implying that one person must need to change something for the other. also i think that theres not one defined ideal in the media for what women want. there are a lot that like hairy or muscular, with the muscular being most pushed by the media, however personally i like boyish and slender and smoother skin. the media shows one way for women to be and for men to like, even if thats not true of all, or possibly most men. i think men with beards, tend to style them in ways that are interesting to themselves most the time. i dont know anyone with beards that have never been trimmed or cut, but i think with women, its natural, trimmed or nearly all off to impress the one person that sees it or else its somehow disgusting. a guy trimming his beard wont thing that if it grows a little higher its suddenly obscene, whereas a small amount isnt.

Mary // Posted 17 February 2010 at 15:30

Haha, cycleboy... I think 2 in every hundred women prefers facial hair on men (a nice peice of info from How to Look Good Naked). Just like men would never go for bald women, but there's no evopsych to back these things up - surely no hair on female heads shouldn't matter? And surely women bend over backwards for hairy manly men?!

What does this tell you? Evopsychology is bullshit when we're so strongly driven by culture to hate the bald look on women and facial hair on men. All these things are a product of culture, not nature. Thus, shaving pubes - if you're uncomfortable, tell your boyfriends to stop being sheep. Lack of hair doesn't make you more female just as, lots of hair on males doesn't make them more manly. e.g My very tall, handsome, muscly friend doesn't have *any* hair on his legs as he's blonde.

Hair is hair is hair - culture is the only thing that dictates who should have it where. Just like the Egyptians... hair on males and females was removed because of hygiene reasons. Porn is our culture at the moment, massively feeding the 'nubile/ barely legal' fixation and the accessories that come with it.

Aimee // Posted 17 February 2010 at 15:48

Cycleboy - adult men get a CHOICE. They can have beards or they can shave. Nobody looks upon them with shock or disgust if they choose to have beards. Nobody says 'Eww that's so unhygenic' if they have a little bit of stubble. Women are not given a choice. They either shave and conform or don't shave and be branded disgusting by society.

Deya // Posted 17 February 2010 at 16:16

No rock and roll fun - like a party that's over before it's begun? I hear you.

One boyfriend did shave all his in an egalaitarian attempt to lead by example. Did not work.

sianmarie // Posted 17 February 2010 at 16:44

i used to get waxed and i stopped because i couldn't understand why i was doing it. it made me feel uncomfortable with myself! i am happier not waxing. plus it really hurts!
i do think this influence of porn is a very real thing, a very real threat. going beyond the waxing issue is the issues young women have with labiaplasty and the heartbreaking messages on the discussion of the 'channel 4 embarrassing bodies' thread. it's so awful! but so easy to fall in to that trap, i do it myself.
we have lost sight of what a non-pornified woman's body looks like. i don't know how to turn this around. i am only 25 and the influence of porn was strong when i was a teen but it seems even worse now, as our culture becomes even more flooded with this highly fake sexual imagery.
but i guess discussions like this are a great starting points, to hear other women's experiences and understand that there is no norm, there is no correct way to look...

A J // Posted 17 February 2010 at 17:33

Cycleboy makes a good point. To claim that the fashion for shaving hair is somehow based on male paedophilia is fairly ludicrious. On that basis we should be expecting pornography to be full of women with very small breasts...

Some women prefer their men to have very little or no chest hair - others love a rug. At the moment, more men seem to feel pressure to shave their chests than 20 years ago. That's simply the fashion - it's not evidence that women want their partners to be under-age!

Hopefully most men and most women will simply accept their partner as they are, or certainly not put too much pressure on them to change for their benefit. But we all do in reality sometimes make judgements on such trivialities as things like hair, and I don't think that's really going to be eliminated. We just have to learn to accept a bit more variety once in a while.

If the worst effect of mainstream pornography were (and I'm not suggesting that it is) that some women want to do a bit more shaving, then frankly it's a bit of a non-issue.

Anna // Posted 17 February 2010 at 19:00

'But pornography cannot be separated out into child porn and so-called 'adult porn''

Um, yes it can. One is images of children being abused and raped. The other is (exceptions notwithstanding) consenting adults, regardless of shavedness of minge involved.

Personally, I like a Brazilian; I prefer the way it looks. My partner had better have a pretty close trim if they want me to go anywhere near, too.

Jessica901 // Posted 17 February 2010 at 19:56

AJ how is pornography a 'non- issue'. How is all women feeling the need to shave by society telling them they're ugly/ invalid, the same as women not being turned on by beards? Society shames women, where it doesn't men. Women find a lot of things unnattractive about men that men would never feel pressured to change. It doesn't work the same for women - what men find attractive turns into expectations and standards.

So porn is not about degrading women? (Every video is 'barely legal', and 'school slut gets what she deserves', so, so much for it being an entirely seperate thing from child pornography - when the two are inextricably linked).

I'll laugh if you try to use 'i can argue' logic to rally that porn doesn't degrade women, so don't bother.

Amy Clare // Posted 17 February 2010 at 20:01

@Anna:

How would you classify the reams of 'barely legal' porn, then, or the Sun counting down the days until a particular model turns 16 so she can show her breasts on Page 3?

Aren't these both signs that porn fetishises sexual immaturity? Even if actresses in 'barely legal' videos are technically 18, they are portraying characters whose age is supposed to be on the bounds of legality. The fact that these women are 'almost' children is part of the thrill of it, isn't it? Is that not, well, a bit wrong?

@AJ:

I really don't think it is a 'non-issue' and neither do many on this thread, it seems.

I think the difference between men shaving beards/chests and women shaving pubes is that there is no shame attached to men if they decide not to shave. People don't generally see a beard or chest hair as unhygienic, or express disgust at it.

You can see how this works when a female celebrity goes out on the red carpet with a slightly hairy armpit - the 'OMG that is so disgusting' coverage form magazines such as Heat is almost blanket. When a male celebrity grows stubble or a beard there is nothing like that reaction.

I think when drawing comparisons, you need to compare like with like. Never mind beards or chest rugs - men are not expected to remove their *pubes*, therefore neither should women be.

Anna // Posted 17 February 2010 at 20:55

Of course I have moral reservations about barely legal porn, and porn that makes the actors appear underage. That doesn't mean it's anywhere on a level, with, you know, children being raped.

A J // Posted 17 February 2010 at 21:23

@ Jessica901

I didn't say pornography is a non-issue. Have a read of what I said again.

But the idea that men never change anything about themselves to please women, and that women are so weak they are instantly compelled to do whatever men want is frankly pretty demeaning to both sexes. Women have 'expectations and standards', and so do men. Fortunately, there's quiet a bit of variation from person to person. If it's an issue of your partner wanting you to shave areas you don't want to, then, man or women, the answer is usually relatively simple - break up and go find someone else who is a lot less picky about trivial things like shaving. But I'm never going to condemn a man or a women for the way they choose to groom, or indeed their body hair preferences. That's a matter of personal taste, and we all vary in what we prefer.

Child abuse images and adult pornography *are* completely different things. And it pretty offensive to the victims of child abuse to suggest otherwise. Whatever your views on adult pornography might be. You can laugh all you want at that, but it won't make it any less true.

@ Amy Clare

I think The Sun counting down the days until a girl turns 16, or 18 for that matter, is pretty distasteful. But its hardly evidence that all men, or all pornography, fetishises sexual immaturity. It's one paper being distasteful.

There are plenty of women who find beards on men disgusting! Quite a few men I know, when their girlfriend is away for a week, first thing you'll notice is that stop shaving nearly as much if they can. I don't think that makes them oppressed, or their girlfriends potential child abusers. It just means that their girlfriends don't like them with beards.

I don't think we're actually arguing from diametrically opposed perspectives though. And I don't want this to become a women vs men argument. I hate the idea that a women would feel compelled to shave their pubes, or underarm hair if they really didn't want to. But ultimately, if you don't want to do it, don't do it. A man who makes a massive deal about it is probably not someone you want to be spending your time with anyway, to be honest - and there are plenty of men out there who *don't* mind.

(On the matter of men feeling the need to shave their pubes, incidentally - I don't think it's nearly as unusual as you think. There are quite a few devices on sale at your local Boots that exist for the primary reason of allowing men to either shave or trim their nether regions...)

Cathy A B // Posted 17 February 2010 at 21:49

It's completly bizarre-on the one hand women are encouraged to show as much flesh as possible and yet as we move towards equality (not quite there in law and a long way to go as far as attitudes go) we are encouraged to cover up,cut off and even cut out parts of ourselves.
To me it's part of the backlash but also economics ,where else can the cosmetics industry go other than telling women that whats completly natural is infact abnormal-hey i we can help you fix it-whether it's razors,hair removing cream or surgery.
I'm not sure how old the author is but if the hair tugging/comment had been done to me at say 20 i would have probably reacted in the same way as i was already conditioned to take more notice of how other people judged my body than how i felt in it.I'm older and wiser now but think that the negative information young women and girls get about their bodies these days has increased manyfold.
Not sure how we tackle these things individually and things are always easier said than done but perhaps next time we get a remark about hair which is perfectly natural and normal we could say(with a look of disgust on our faces)
"well i find it quite disturbing that you want a fully grown woman to look like a prepubescent child.

angercanbepower // Posted 17 February 2010 at 23:44

Amy Clare,

"Aren't these both signs that porn fetishises sexual immaturity?"

We seem to have been butting heads a little recently. Sorry, I usually really like your comments!

That said, this seems a little unfair. I could as easily say that "squirt" porn is a sign that porn fetishises fountains, or that "mature" porn is a sign that porn fetishes death.

Pornography is an enormous category and to try and say what porn fetishises is like trying to say what art depicts. I'm not sure there is necessarily a problem with people being attracted to pornographic images of adults who look young, but even if there is, to say that porn per-se fetishises anything seems to me like an overstatement.

Deya // Posted 18 February 2010 at 00:36

Cycleboy and AJ, way to miss the point.

No one is saying all shaving is a result of porn. We are talking specifically about women’s pubic hair. Men’s beards are not analogous. We are not talking about individual men’s preferences of bodily variety. We are talking about how certain factors which are ingrained in society have shaped this one particular preference.

Women and their pubic hair now exist in a world where

1. We learn from childhood that women’s bodies are associated with sex in a way that men’s are not. We learn that “sex sells”, and we learn that what that phrase really means is that women’s bodies are used constantly by organisations to sell products. Our breasts, asses and legs are already in the public domain. We are already used to being told what to do and how to think about the whole of our bodies way before our first sexual encounter. At best we learn to shrug off thoughts of shame.

2. Porn is often the first ‘sex education’ that children receive. Mainstream porn is a narrow view of male heterosexuality as projected on females, and says zilch about female sexuality. As a result we learn that sex is something that men have with the assistance of our bodies. When you hear things like, “any man who says he has not watched porn is lying”, from Cosmo advice columns and your male friends alike, you realise the weight of porn-influence being carried around by men before they come to bed.

3. Mainstream porn is obsessed with women who look like adolescents, under the guise of “harmless fantasy”. Sure it’s fantasy, but if twice watching a KFC advert makes me go out and buy a zinger burger, imagine the positive conditioning power of an orgasm to “barely legal” porn that boys are supposedly watching and that we supposedly better just get used to.

There has been no social structure in place whereby, since the advent of print and broadcasting media, men’s bodies have been used to sell all consumer goods, nor have men’s bodies been subject to scrutiny from mass media or being linked to a man’s intrinsic worth, nor is there a powerful inundation of porn giving the message that sex is something done to a man by a woman, much less any predilection for adolescent-appearing men in this porn. Lastly, beards are not next to the part of the body capable of producing orgasm. Fashion in men's beards over the centuries in Europe has been a series of trends decreed by powerful men and not due to what women found attractive. Women are taught to get what they are given.

Hence forget about comparing your facial hair to our pubes.

Elmo // Posted 18 February 2010 at 10:07

surely beard shaving is much more comparable (um, did i just make up that word?) with women shaving their legs and armpits? I think pube shaving is only comparable with pube shaving

sianmarie // Posted 18 February 2010 at 10:09

hi AJ
i think the problem is that the pressure on women to look and behave a certain way sexually is very real and very much related to the porny culture we live in. so the problem is much bigger and much more cultural than a couple arguing over whether the man should have a beard or the woman should have a brazilian. it goes to the idea that in society female body hair is seen as ugly/disgusting...even unnatural! this can mean armpit hair, leg hair. even arm hair! where i used to work we airbrushed a woman's arms because they were 'too hairy'. the result is we only see images of women who are hair free, all over their bodies. (except their heads. not having hair there is a whole different kettle of fish!)
so when we talk about the issue of body hair, i personally see it as going far beyond personal relationships and far more about how women's bodies and images of women's bodies are owned and public property.
the images of women that are presented to us are hairless. these images are set up as images of sexy or beautiful women. the link is then created that to be beautiful or sexy you have to be hairless, so having body hair is seen as non sexy. and so it is one more area where porn censors the reality of women's bodies and women's sexuality in favour of a fake version. which leads on to my earlier comments about labialasty...
and to finish! this is why it is not analogous to beards or chest hair. women may have a personal preference, but we don't tend to watch a porno, see a bare faced man and go 'right, that's what a real man looks like, that's what a sexual man looks like' and then judge all men's sexuality or normality on those images. men's facial hair is not seen as 'unnatural' in the same way women's body hair is. (ps i'm not saying all men do this about women, but that porn culture does)

Ruth // Posted 18 February 2010 at 10:23

I'm lucky in that none of my boyfriends or my husband have been very fussed about how I styled my pubic hair. I'm also confident enough these days to say that he has no choice about what I do to it. I do regularly wax to the knicker line, and I will trim the area around the lips a little - but my husband complains about the sharp hair ends from that - so I can't imagine that fully shaved could feel comfortable for the partner, unless it's shaved immediately before sex every time.

I had a friend who asked me once how my partners liked me down below - I told her that they had to take it as they found it - her boyfriend preferred it bare, so she took all her hair off all off - but I don't think she was very happy about that, as she said the regrowth was hellish, though she would have happily neatened it up around the edges. I don't think she was confident enough to tell him no, which is a shame and I hope these days she would be stronger than that (and that she wouldn't use hair removing cream again to do the whole job!).

Elmo // Posted 18 February 2010 at 10:24

plus women also remove facial hair. And they pluck their eyebrows, their toe hair, they even remove arm hair. And theve been doing it for a very long time. The Mona Lisa had her eyebrows shaved, as was the fashion, while in the ancient greek play Lysistrata, the women decided not to go on "plucking their triangles". Renaissance Italy also had a craze of women shaving their hairlines back. In the 18th century women shaved all of their head hair off so they could were those huge wigs. The roman women used goats blood on their legs.

Lord Darnely, Mary Queen of Scots second husband, was the only man at the scottish court without a beard (as was the fashion), and the only people who complained were other men, since it was their opinion that counted. The beard is pretty much the only part of a man he has ever been required to shave, and even then, it was other men who requested it. Today its the same-mens shaving fashions are dictated by other men.

So now, after thousands of years of plucking and shaving and waxing and threading and smearing things all over ourselves, could we not get a break?

Mobot // Posted 18 February 2010 at 10:49

I had a boyfriend a while ago who I used to have this exact same argument with... fortunately he was at least open minded enough to spare me any negativity about my choice to not remove my pubic hair, but he did take it personally that I was so affronted by the popularity of vaginas that look like they belong to a 9 year old girl. To him, it was as if I was accusing all men (so obv, by extension, him) of some kind of deep seated paedophilia. This obviously was not the case- why on earth would I be in a relationship with someone I believed to have paedophilic tendencies?!

But it was a case of him coming from a privileged perspective (i.e. one that, argue as you might that there is pressure on men to modify themselves, it is difficult for most of them to understand the daily pressures on ALL women to hate and modify their natural bodies). The guys commenting on this thread are displaying the same thing: trying to argue that there is some comparison to be made where there is not. Unless you have had a female body and grown up exposed to the millions upon millions of images and messages that tell you there is something wrong with you because your breasts look too small/big/uneven, you are too hairy (this is one I used to loathe myself for), too fat, too thin, etc. you won't get it.

Sure, there is growing pressure on men to conform to unrealistic standards - this is because companies are starting to cotton on to a gap in the market (in a reflection of the process that got women shaving off their body hair in the first place). But it is not coupled with a massive history of misogyny which still prevails. Nobody is saying that women are just 'too weak' to withstand this pressure... but it's insidious, it creeps in everywhere and is so normalised, it's often difficult to notice, never mind resist it. And resisting is hard. I don't shave my armpits and must admit that, after a year, I'm still sometimes embarrassed by this, and still on the receiving end of abuse about it. Whose business is it what I choose to do with my armpits anyway? Ok, I'll get off my soapbox if you guys (i.e. cycleboy and AJ) take a step back, realise that we are not accusing you of secretly fancying children and that you cannot fully understand the anguish women and girls are so often made to feel at the sight of their own bodies.

gadgetgal // Posted 18 February 2010 at 11:08

@Elmo - great comment, you reminded me of a documentary I saw a couple of years back on the Beeb called "F*** Off, I'm a Hairy Woman" which showed the lengths women have to go to fit into the hairless "norm", and included much more than just underarms, legs and pubes, and also how far back the trend goes. Here's an article the presenter of the show wrote for the Guardian before it was broadcast:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/feb/14/gender.fashion

But I have to say it was very much worth watching, so if you get a chance you should check it out!

Amy Clare // Posted 18 February 2010 at 11:41

@angercanbepower:

That's quite all right. I do however think that *a lot of* porn (okay, not *all* porn) fetishises youth and immaturity. Furthermore, the porn that does fetishise it is mainstream (Page 3 etc). How many times do you see the 'naughty schoolgirl' stereotype played out in magazines such as Nuts and Zoo, or papers like the Sun and Sport? It even pops up in mainstream media - Britney Spears' 'Hit Me Baby One More Time' video springs to mind.

The flip side of this is that girls are being sexualised younger and younger. Thongs in pre-teen sizes are available, as are t-shirts with slogans such as 'hot babe' and the like. (I wasn't immune to it as a kid - I remember asking my mum when I was about 10 whether a particular outfit made me look 'sexy'. She was horrified.) There is also stuff like this:

http://www.feministing.com/archives/008881.html

So, while I can accept that not all porn fetishises immaturity, please do not try and tell me that there isn't something dodgy going on in mainstream society regarding young girls and sex.

@Anna:

"Of course I have moral reservations about barely legal porn, and porn that makes the actors appear underage. That doesn't mean it's anywhere on a level, with, you know, children being raped."

But it is, don't you see? A person who is underage *is* a child. If 'barely legal' films are depicting girls of an ambiguously young age having sex with older men then it doesn't matter if the actresses are actually 18, what they're *portraying* is the rape of a child (or 'might' be the rape of a child). The point is that people who watch this stuff get off to the fact that the women in it look like children.

I'm well aware that child porn spans all ages, but what you seem to be suggesting is that if the child involved is nearly at the age of consent then it's not child porn (or a child porn lookalike). I disagree.

And need I remind anyone that when you're watching any kind of porn, you can never be sure that you're not watching rape?

@AJ:

I think it goes way beyond 'distasteful', personally. I think a more appropriate assessment would be 'extremely damaging to young girls and women alike', but there you go. (It's not just one paper either, as I've said above.) And I don't believe anyone on this thread has said or even suggested that 'all men' fetishise sexual immaturity.

Interesting that you say you don't want a 'women vs men' argument, when no-one on here, neither the OP nor any of the commenters, has suggested such a thing. This thread has merely opened up a discussion about how women feel about the pressure to remove their pubes, and where this might have come from. Cycleboy and yourself, by mentioning beards and chest hair (I don't think the level of disgust is remotely comparable, by the way), are derailing that somewhat, even if you don't intend to, and in fact *making* it a women vs men issue, when it doesn't need to be.

If women feel like there is a problem with this trend, then there is a problem. Neither you nor anyone else can walk into this discussion, say 'beards' and then expect us all to say 'oh ok then, fair enough, we'll stop being upset about it now'.

Saying 'if you don't want to do it, don't do it' is pretty naive really. Do you know what reaction women get if they don't shave their armpits or legs? There is one particularly charming advert doing the rounds on Channel 5 at the moment where a young woman goes without shaving her pits for a few days, and a fella at her gym actually said 'She looks like a man'. Her entire femininity was negated by a tiny patch of hair - imagine! This is what we're up against. I'm pretty sure clean-shaven, chest-waxed men, like bearded, hairy men, are still widely viewed as men.

If pubes go the same way as armpit hair - which is what seems to be happening - then soon enough women will be being constantly told they look like men down there if they don't shave/wax, and women will be so frightened of being undesirable that many will just do it. We're already being told that pubes are unattractive, unsexy, unhygienic. And it's worse than that, because these are intimate parts of our bodies that are being criticised and judged. Parts of our bodies that we should have autonomy over, as part of having autonomy over our sexuality. It's all part of a wider issue of female sexuality being seen as something to be feared and hated: we are sluts if we have lots of sex, we are men if we don't shave our pits/legs, we ought to be ashamed if our inner labia hang down, and now we are disgusting and dirty if we don't shave our pubes off. Enough already.

A J // Posted 18 February 2010 at 11:42

Lots of very interesting comments! Apologies if i've annoyed anyone with anything I've said - that really wasn't my intention.

@ Elmo - I'm not sure that examples from the 16th (17th? - my history is rather dodgy I'm afraid!) are necessarily very applicable today. I wouldn't dispute that beard fashion in centuries past has often been driven by powerful men, but I don't see that as being the case in the last 20 or 30 years. And as for the beard being the only body hair a man has ever been required to shave - try telling that to a man with a hairy back! ;) (Which incidentally is an example of where male body hair very definitely *is* viewed as disgusting in contemporary society).

Oh, and 'comparable' is a good word, but sadly somebody though of it before you did, I'm afraid!

@ Deya - I don't think I was missing the point, I was just disagreeing with you! I do agree though that there is a big problem where porn acts as the first sex education a teenager receives. That, though is as much a result of the terrible sex education often available in schools, especially early on, as it is the fault of porn existing. Sex education in most cases deals with a very narrow and restricted view of sexuality and related topics, and I do think that better education generally could have a big impact on body image issues like we're discussing in this thread.

I really don't buy the argument that all mainstream porn is "obsessed with women who look like adolescents" though. As I've pointed out previously, if that were true, women in porn would have small breasts, and men across the country, on your analysis, would presumably be wanting their girlfriends to get breast reductions. Somehow, I don't think thats the case, though! ;) 'Barely legal' pornography is distasteful, but ultimately constitutes a tiny proportion of the market, as far as I'm aware. Judging all pornography on that basis would be like judging all television on the basis of Jeremy Kyle. Ultimately mainstream pornography is obsessed with women looking like mainstream pornstars, nothing more, nothing less. Is that a problem? Probably, but just as much of an issue is that the mainstream is so dominant. In comparison, pornography aimed at gay men is, as I understand it, much more varied in the types of bodies (and body hair) it portrays, and so perhaps much more accommodating of different body images and preferences.

More generally, though, I don't think we're necessarily really disagreeing on the problem as much as it may seem. I think its terrible if a woman feels compelled to shave parts of her body she really does not wish to, whether the pressure comes from her partner, other men, other women, or society in general. But ultimately I think the best solution to the problem is a) to educate boys, and where possible, wider society on body hair issues, and the falseness of the images of women (and men) as often portrayed, and b) to help women and girls to have confidence that hair is natural, and to stand up, if they wish, to unwanted pressures to remove it - to make their own choices on the matter. Sometimes they may be willing to accommodate their partner's wishes (and I don't believe there is anything inherently wrong in doing so if they are comfortable with it), other times not - so long as the choice is that of the woman concerned, and is informed and free, then I think that is something to be respected (even if you disagree with the choice they make). If men find that being overly picky about body hair is making it harder for them to date women, then I think you'll find they'll quickly change their attitudes towards it...

I think also, as Ruth's comment exemplifies, we have to remember that there are still an awful lot of men out there who aren't that bothered about public hair at all.

Kate Grace // Posted 18 February 2010 at 11:54

This is an interesting topic and I love reading the range of reactions to the post; I feel a long response coming on as body politics is a big thing for me at the moment and I think it's a seam that runs through so many feminist issues.

First and foremost, I agree with previous comments that the practice of removing body hair does not originate from current pornography, rather it's one choice of grooming yourself as a man or a woman. I have personally gone months without so much as trimming down there (even as a 'single girl about town') but am currently with a steady boyfriend who I occasionally allow to shape it up with a beard trimmer- he thinks a little bit off is 'neater' and helps him 'see things better'. I do not for one minute believe my boyfriend is a paedophile who lusts after totally hairless childlike bodies, particularly as he removes some of his own pubes on a regular basis. His personal preference is to have an even, medium sized bush- on me and him! My personal preference is that I am lazy with most aspects of personal grooming and have better things to do than wax, shave, or otherwise self-depilate. I like hairy men and I love the sight of dark hair in a woman's armpit or a full bush in a European 'art film' (!) However, I believe that men can love the look and the feel of a totally bald minge without being a disgusting dehumanising paedophile, and that a woman can choose this totally hairless effect without being pressured by the man/ men in their life, by porn, by society, or by anything else. . . again, it is a personal preference.

Obviously, what makes this problematic is the vogue in contemporary mainstream porn for the fully shaven woman-doll, along with fake tan, heavy make up, trout pout and submissive attitude. It's a really narrow, warped view of female sexuality and I bet some women who do actually like themselves best without hair down there have felt annoyance and shame at these images- they don't all connect their own individual choice to being childlike and servile. It's not fair to berate women who remove their pubes just because there is a proliferation of pornographic magazines and films featuring the shaven minge. I think it's disingenuous to claim that most porn isn't dehumanising towards women in its misogynistic insistence on rigorous 'beauty' standards (see obligatory female porn star attribute list earlier on in the paragraph) while the men can be as wobbly, bald, hairy, weird or ugly-looking as you like. However, there is another obvious purpose for women in porn to take off their hair- it means everything is more visible, which is surely the point. Last time I checked (and I am by no means a porn expert, advocate or afficionado!) hardcore porn was all about maximum genital exposure, with the men also frequently removing their pubic hair to make their members look bigger, and to have as much unadulterated flesh in the frame as possible.

Coldharbour raises some good points. There is porn out there that deviates from this same old same old- just like music, art, etc, a consumer can always find an alternative to the mainstream should they want to. We don't have to accept what we're spoon fed; if you want erotica that doesn't celebrate underage girls, submissive girls or whatever, find or make what you do want to see. And again, Coldharbour is right to bring up the issue of glossy womens' magazines. . . they make my blood boil, page after page of advertising and faux-sisterly 'advice' based around the premise that all women really want is a man, lots of orgasms and a new pair of shoes every week. And who writes, edits and puts together mags like Cosmo and Marie Claire? And who buys them? When women-created, women-consumed, women-centred mass media is so bland and self-loathing, why do we expect miracles from lad mags?

I do think there's a trend with young people of both genders just accepting what's passed down to them or pushed onto them in terms of politics, social mores, education, fashion, music and everything in between. I'm sure I'm going to get shouted down for saying that women are part of the problem but this passive, bovine attitude, bordering on a victim mentality, is especially pronounced in young girls. If girls and women are really going to get upset about being asked by callow (and not so callow) boys to wax their body hair, they need to learn to push those feelings outwards in anger and rebellion against far weightier feminist concerns- the pay gap and other socio-economic inequities that are at the root of the ongoing tensions between men and women.

AJ says it best:

But the idea that men never change anything about themselves to please women, and that women are so weak they are instantly compelled to do whatever men want is frankly pretty demeaning to both sexes. Women have 'expectations and standards', and so do men. Fortunately, there's quiet a bit of variation from person to person. If it's an issue of your partner wanting you to shave areas you don't want to, then, man or women, the answer is usually relatively simple - break up and go find someone else who is a lot less picky about trivial things like shaving. But I'm never going to condemn a man or a women for the way they choose to groom, or indeed their body hair preferences. That's a matter of personal taste, and we all vary in what we prefer.


We all know our individual lives and personal experiences are not what we see in glossy mags or lads mags- we (hopefully!) know what reality is. So my message to young girlsgrowing up today would be to have some guts, know what you like, and don't buy into what you don't want to buy into.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 18 February 2010 at 11:59

i guess the comparison is, imagine having a channel four freak-show style documentary about men who do/dont regularly shave their faces. men who shave their pubes might generate some interest, but faces? hmm

Elmo // Posted 18 February 2010 at 12:17

Gadgetgirl- I will try and find it! I think shazia Mizra is very funny. It's on my to-watch list- along with Fuck off im ginger


A J, i really dont want to argue about whether mens shaving has the same pressures, but I would still say that mens body hair is only comparable with womans body hair, and mens pubic hair is only comparable with womans.

Men-expected to remove facial, back and chest hair

Women-expected to remove all of the above plus arm, leg, underarm and pubic hair

I thought comparable was a real word, but i wasnt sure-somtimes i just make then up!

gadgetgal // Posted 18 February 2010 at 12:58

I'm enjoying these comments a lot, it's interesting getting loads of opinions and ideas on this topic.

@Kate Grace - interesting comment, you're right, it's definitely not a modern thing. In the link I mentioned above it brings up art and it's impact over the years (although, bear in mind, what we see as fine art today was once considered porn - for example, there are many representations of Cleopatra and Venus throughout the art world because you weren't generally just allowed to show naked ladies for naked ladies sake. You had to imply there was a greater purpose in mind, such as denouncing their virtue whilst paying a woman to take her clothes off for you and all the people who would view the pics!).

As to the variation in pornography today, being an avid consumer of it (I know, there are many on this thread who will now despise me but I have my own issues to work out with this one) I have to say it's not as varied as you would think, at least, not so far as body type is concerned. And although you can look for alternate forms like erotic books, anime, gaming, etc. etc. the same kind of shaved female body is still the most widely used one in all of these (in fact quite a lot of modern erotica written for women will usually include at least one scene of being shaved, either all over or just the pubic area). Whether this is done for the youth thing, which some of it is, or for the purposes of a better view, which some of it also is, isn't so much the issue - it's still a very narrow definition of the female form.

I definitely agree that women are more responsible than we've been hearing further up the thread - it's always been my argument that so long as we keep buying the magazines that sell us this kind of body image then it will keep perpetuating the myth, and that's down to us, not men. I don't think you can say that women are bovine-like and also agree with what A J said, though - he's arguing that women AREN'T that easily swayed, and you're saying that they are - it can really only be one or the other, or balanced somewhere in the happy medium, not both at the same time. I can only say from my perspective, as someone who has ceased to care so much about looks as I did when I was younger, I will hold my hand up and say of course what I see sways me - I may disagree with it out loud, but most women I know simply aren't in a strong enough position to just go their own way on this one, since female hair is so tied up with dirt these days!

But as to comparing women shaving to men I have to agree with the women who say it's not the same thing. Maybe it's different in London, or bigger cities, but most guys I know round here have hairy backs, haven't had them waxed, and have told me so - a woman round here would NEVER EVER reveal the lengths she would go to keep hairless (which, if I'm honest in my case, and when I get round to it or I'm going out - shaving legs, underarms, bikini line, trimming pubes, plucking eyebrows, shaving or plucking toes and tops of feet, and plucking a few dark or white hairs on breasts, stomach, arms and face). Compare this to my husband, with his full beard, or his bandmates, all 4 of them, with their full beards, or most of the men I know in this town over the age of about 25, with their full beards, because as you all must realise now full beards are back! It's just not the same - a beard isn't considered dirty, it's considered a personal preference, being a hairy woman isn't really an option anymore unless you want to stay covered up or deal with outright hostility. Really, not the same...

I do have to come down on the side of people who say it should be an individual choice, though - in a perfect world, where no one cares if there's hair or not, it should be down to how you want to express yourself, or whether you even want to! I see no harm in either shaving, not shaving, being hairy, or not being hairy, so long as it's a free choice, not something you must do in order to be who you are!

angercanbepower // Posted 18 February 2010 at 13:05

Amy Clare,

I'm trying to think this one through because all of these ideas carry a considerable amount of baggage and I find it can be. If I've understood you correctly, your points are:

(1) A significant amount of porn fetishises youth.
(2) It is generally mainstream porn that does this.
(3) Society sexualises young girls.

Is that right? I think we all agree that (3) is objectionable. You seem to be suggesting in your response to Anna that (1) is also concerning. I don't see why it is per se, unless your point is that (1) causes (3) which is why (2) occurs (i.e. why such porn is so prevalent), which presumably in turn feeds back into the continuing sexualisation of young girls.

It's plausible, but how can we know whether it's true? If this is the case, how come there is porn which does not infantalise adult women? If sexuality is so malleable, how come there are consumers of mainstream culture who are not attracted to child-like women?

I don't really know the answers to these questions but I don't see how you can so confidently draw the conclusions that you have.

aimee // Posted 18 February 2010 at 13:34

Do you know what?! I don't CARE whether porn influences the need to remove our bodily hair, neither do I care whether or not it's paedophillic... I actually think it's more to do with a need for patriarchal society to modify and control women's bodies by giving them a long list of things to change before they can be considered 'normal', which probably stems from that horrible, ancient idea that women are imperfect or incomplete.
But anyway.. what I really care about is that I am constantly told that my body is wrong; it is too fat, too hairy, the wrong colour, the wrong shape, too big in places, too small in others, my hair isn't right, my lips aren't right.. i am all wrong. Women have the right to remove their hair yes, but we have to remember that they're removing their hair within a context - in which they are told that they MUST and until that context is removed I actually think that it's kind of irresponsibly to continue removing hair for aesthetic purposes because it's perpetuating the context in which the need exists.
I think that women need to stop doing things that they're told to do so that society wises up and starts to understand that women's bodies are women's property and not the property of men and society and that it's not okay to tell women that their natural bodies are disgusting. I think we all need to stop shaving and stop acquiescing to the idea that we have to look a certain way. When they get the point THEN start to remove hair to look like you want, but until that happens I think we need to show society that our natural bodies are FINE how they are.

I know this might seem contraversial and I understand that every woman has a personal choice and I am not arguing against that. I just think we should use that choice to open up MORE choices for ourselves, and continuing to do exactly what society tells us to do isn't going to help that.

Mobot // Posted 18 February 2010 at 13:35

Hmmm, as a youth worker (and a woman young enough to remember vividly the awkwardness of being a teenage girl growing into her adult body) I take issue with the idea that teenage girls should just be more assertive. Er, yeah if it was that straightforward, wouldn't we have all employed this technique and be done with it? It's all very well for those of us who are media literate and secure in ourselves enough to critique the narrow presentation and constant scrutiny of women's bodies in the media & society to at least try to fight back. Young people's identities within their emerging social networks are generally vastly important to them. As a grown woman, I would not for a second tolerate a man proclaiming that something was 'wrong' with my body, but as a teenager, I just wanted to be validated as 'normal'. It's not as easy as simply getting a grip or growing a backbone for everyone! I am not claiming a victim stance for women, however - I think education for all genders is key here.

Also, re: the idea that women are simply 'passive' or 'bovine' in their failure to resist societal pressures to remove hair. Errr, woman blaming much?!

A J // Posted 18 February 2010 at 13:51

@ gadgetgal - just to clarify slightly, I wasn't trying to suggest that women aren't in reality sometimes swayed by what they see, or societal expectations - more that it's rather demeaning just to see this as some inherent defect of womenkind. Or, in other words, that any 'bovine' element which might exist can often be fought against by women themselves, and doesn't simply need to be accepted as immutable fact (not that that is always easy, of course). So in that respect I think Kate Grace and I were quite a bit more compatible in our views than you were perhaps suggesting.

@ Elmo - the way I see it Shakespeare made up words all over the place, so I don't see why we can't ;)

Tiff // Posted 18 February 2010 at 13:56

Kate, it may be women who write, edit, generally put together and buy women's magazines, but it's men who either own them or own all the ads without which they couldn't survive.

someone // Posted 18 February 2010 at 14:07

If you think men's beards are considered disgusting by society, you should try being a woman with facial hair (and there are more of us than you might think). I can't help feeling angry reading some of the comments on this thread - I used to spend HOURS a DAY (literally) removing facial hair - and no, it wasn't because I was weak or easily swayed, it was because I would have been scared for my *safety* had I left the house with obvious facial hair. I have been shouted at in the street for having a boyish haircut, for goodness' sake - I imagine much worse would have happened had the same people seen me with facial hair.

In the end I paid £1000 to have it removed by laser surgery. Please don't tell me that the pressure on men to remove hair is anywhere near the pressure on women.

Another thing I would say is that if you don't want to bother trimming/shaving pubic hair for swimming, buy mens' trunks. I've been wearing men's swimming trunks for about four or five years and they look good with a bikini top. I think it's really bad that they don't make women's swimwear with more coverage of the lower body. Even the women's swimming shorts are too short for me.

H // Posted 18 February 2010 at 14:16

I've really liked reading all the different reactions to this in the comments. The removal of body hair, especially pubic hair, is something that isn't questioned enough.

Cycleboy mentioned that greater hair removal is possibly related to decreasing amounts of material in bikinis, and I think this is a good point that's rarely acknowledged. Knickers in shops very rarely cover the pubic hair that's just in the 'normal' triangle area, so when you buy pretty new pants and put them on you're immediately disappointed with how they look. Topshop is one of the worst offenders.

I'm also interested in how the discussion has branched out into male body hair removal. Male friends have mentioned to me that they trim their pubic hair as a matter of course, whilst two friends who have lots of dark hair got their backs waxed before going on a beach holiday. I also think that having to shave your face every day can't be very nice, although I disagree as everyone else has with cycleboy's link between facial hair removal and wanting your partner to look like a child. I know men who have full beards simply because shaving every day irritates their skin and gives them bad spots. Shaving your face and shaving your legs are seen as part of looking smart for men and women, but it's so much easier to 'get away with' not shaving your legs. Male hair removal is definitely something that's becoming a bigger concern with the expansion of the male beauty market in general.

Jessica901 // Posted 18 February 2010 at 15:26

This site always gets to the point where most of the comments go... 'it's noo issue, reaally!' Whether it's rape, domestic violence, you name it.

After we all boggle up and forget everything. Child pornography, OK, yes is fairly distinct from mainstream. I don't need to apologise, neither does Amy Clare, however, for stating our feminist concerns over porn and the barely legal aspects of it.

As far as 'porn is widely varied' and 'squirting' is concerned.. first, squirting doesn't really raise the moral concerns 'barely legal' does, when a lot of the girls do genuinely look 13. Second, variety is one thing, but the vast popularity of barely legal almost consumes porn - the barely legal aspect of any site dominates. So I think we're right to see feminist issues with it.

Zoe // Posted 18 February 2010 at 15:46

Really enjoyed this post, and completely agreed. I have always been wary of shaving and the like, but only recently realised that I have nobody to impress but myself.

I was about to say that I'm lucky because my boyfriend agrees and is happy with my 'naturalness'. Then I realised that it's nothing to do with luck - I am with him because he is a wonderful human being and a fantastic feminist, and believes that I should do what I like with my own body. And he's attracted to it because _I'm_ attracted to it - I look how I like, and I like how I look, and he likes both of those things.

Articulate, no?

Anyway, thanks for this post, and thanks for mentioning the Woman's Library, which I am now going to check out for myself.

This blog is really helping me :-)

Zoe

Kate // Posted 18 February 2010 at 15:52

'We all know our individual lives and personal experiences are not what we see in glossy mags or lads mags- we (hopefully!) know what reality is'

Kate grace, so the gist of your argument is stop complaining about porn and glossy mags, just ignore them!

The problem there? People *don't* know their individual lives from how they're continually represented on the TV. People don't have a choice, or young people, the ability, to switch off from the media, and the messages. I see the vast evidence of people having the inability to disentangle from the media.

There needs to be something changed hopefully within our lifetimes, instead of these constant non- reactions and dismissals. If every person who eventually sighed and said 'that's life' actually protested, picked up a back bone and did something, those messages might start to go away.

Amy Clare // Posted 18 February 2010 at 16:23

@angercanbepower:

Again, I'm struggling to see what you're getting at, or why you're singling me out for criticism even though I've not said anything very different from many other commenters.

The three points you've highlighted are broadly right, and yes I think they are connected, although not strictly in the way you suggest. I don't see how the presence of porn which doesn't infantilise women, and the presence of people who don't find child-like women attractive, negates that. You seem to be saying that unless every single person and every single porn film/magazine dances to the same tune, there can't possibly be a trend to speak of. I think that's incorrect.

I think we can identify a damaging trend in society without saying that it is true 100% of the time for 100% of people.

Unlike you I do think the fetishisation of youth in porn is problematic 'per se'.

I have not conducted a scientific study into this issue so I'm afraid I can't give you what you seem to need, which is proof that these trends exist, are linked, and are damaging to women and girls. I'm only stating my opinion based on what I've observed, and I'm not the only person on this thread who has noticed these things.

@AJ

"I really don't buy the argument that all mainstream porn is "obsessed with women who look like adolescents" though. As I've pointed out previously, if that were true, women in porn would have small breasts, and men across the country, on your analysis, would presumably be wanting their girlfriends to get breast reductions. Somehow, I don't think thats the case, though! ;)"

I just wanted to address this point. AJ, you are oversimplifying.

To say that porn is 'obsessed by women who look like adolescents' is not to say that the porn/media ideal sexy woman has the *entire body* of an adolescent.

When porn/media/society constructs the ideal sexy woman, it makes a doll out of various fetishes. Big breasts are one fetish, so you get porn actresses/glamour models with huge breasts, often (these days) fake. Childlike genitals are another fetish, hence you get shaved pubes and labiaplasties. Long hair is another fetish; ditto hairless bodies, pouting red lips, white skin, skinniness, long legs, and so on.

To say that because porn actresses generally have large breasts this means that there is nothing to be concerned about as regards a trend for impossibly neat, hairfree genitals is naive. No part of a woman's sexually mature body should be under pressure to look sexually immature.

Anna // Posted 18 February 2010 at 18:21

No, I don't see. It leaves me cold that youdo. What something looks like is not more important than what it is. A little boy or girl being raped and having that filmed is NOTHING like a twenty year old woman putting on a schoolgirl outfit and consensually fucking someone else on video. No matter if it's watched by the same people, no matter if she looks twelve. I'm out of this thread from here on in, I think.

Kate Grace // Posted 18 February 2010 at 19:06


Can I please make it clear that I do not view women as essentially or inherently bovine and passive? I was careful to say that *all* young people (and I mean young people in this society, in this country) have a tendency to be heavily influenced by the media and I said that I see young women as more inclined that way than young men. As a feminist, I believe that this is due to social structures and values being largely in the favour of men, often to the disadvantage of women. We grow up with greater pressure on us to look and behave in certain ways BUT that's no excuse, in my view, to just sit back and complain about how hard it is to be a woman in a man's world, and then do nothing about it.

To me, feminism is about choice and having the right and the ability to choose what kind of life you want. So yes I do believe we each have a personal responsibility to question the status quo and if that makes me a 'woman blamer' then so be it. . . I blame men *and* women for the crappy state this country is in and I think we *all* need to work together to sort it out, maybe starting with apparently trivial, day-to-day, personal interactions like telling someone to eff off if they feel they have the right to express distaste at your bush.

If you can't stand up for yourself- and I do know how hard it is when you're young and insecure but that's no excuse not to try- then who is going to stand up for you? Some of you seem to think girls should be given a free pass because the stresses and strains of society and the media and just being a girl/woman are so harsh that everything always leads back to being the fault of a man or men or patriarchy. Well, I see that as a cop-out and so defeatist. We should be picking apart the notion of patriarchy and unfortunately that comes with the realisation that some women do, either actively or passively, collaborate in their own degradation and dehumanisation. You can only blame society so much and then you have to stand on your own two feet and try to fight your corner with women and men who see things as you do. I'm not saying it's easy, but some of you seem to dismiss the idea that we can all help each other and help ourselves rather than bleating about how hard life is for us girls.

Mobot- I see what you're saying, that it's all very well for me, at the ripe age of 26 to look on younger women and feel impatient; I completely agree that education is the key for both genders as they grow up. I do reserve the right to say that a lot of young women tend to be passive and just accept what they are told or sold though- and this is where I think the education system needs to change but this will lead off into my ideas about how society should change and that's a bit off-topic so. . .

Tiff- I don't see how men owning the magazines and being in charge of advertising has anything to do with the decision of individual women to work for them?

Kate- the gist of my argument is certainly not to stop complaining about porn and glossy mags, just ignore them! I quite clearly say *do* something- i.e: don't buy into it, buy something else or nothing at all. If we all put our money where our mouths are, these industries would change or shut down. This is what I mean by women colluding in their own abasement.

I'm not claiming to have all the answers here and now, but we need to trust ourselves and our younger sisters to form self-esteem on a more solid foundation than what they are fed via TV, film, radio, magazines and tabloids.

"There needs to be something changed hopefully within our lifetimes, instead of these constant non- reactions and dismissals. If every person who eventually sighed and said 'that's life' actually protested, picked up a back bone and did something, those messages might start to go away."

I couldn't agree more.

Politicalguineapig // Posted 18 February 2010 at 20:27

I dislike body hair on men AND women. Purely on aesthetic grounds.

Deya // Posted 18 February 2010 at 22:41

"that's no excuse, in my view, to just sit back and complain about how hard it is to be a woman in a man's world, and then do nothing about it."

Kate Grace, is that what you think we are doing right now? I am curious. And also, are you quite sure that we are doing nothing about it?

As I understand it, this website has a format whereby someone writes an essay on a topic and others discuss, or bleat, as you'd have it. Some of us think it is the first step towards reaching a consensus. I for one am amazed at how many others have shared similar experiences with this particular thing as mine (especially with the boyfriend offering to/actually shaving off all his own) and it is an amazing realisation that our individual moments of confusion/shame/hilarity are not unique experiences.

The fact that we are spending time understanding the background of this particular issue does not mean we are convinced things will never change.

Exploring at length how patriarchy works is not equal to saying that we are incapable of overthrowing it.

Deya // Posted 18 February 2010 at 22:56

A J - I think you've sort of skirted around the point that I thought you were missing just now, once again: you say that as long as a choice is free (from coercion) and informed, it is ok. The point is that with the removal of women's public hair, it is not free. When it comes to women's bodies, whether or not, but especially if, it is to do with sex, choices do not get made in a vacuum.

aimee // Posted 18 February 2010 at 23:01

I agree with Kate. We DO need to take responsibility. We need to stop saying it doesn't matter and show people, especially younger girls that our bodies are fine naturally and we don't need to continually modify ourselves to please society. If you feel comfortable with your body when it's hairy, then I think it's important to consider WHY we feel uncomfortable with it!

gadgetgal // Posted 19 February 2010 at 08:22

@A J - I don't think we were disagreeing with what you last said - I don't believe women being swayed by outside pressure is an inherent defect at all either, in fact I think it's all upbringing and society, I would never suggest it was something inside a woman! I would also never suggest it was just "sometimes" the case, though - pressure to conform for most women is enormous, it's not a "sometimes" kind of deal, and although I do agree that it's women themselves, in the end, that will have to make most of the changes, I can understand the kind of opposition they face when they try to do this - so do you, I reckon, so I think we were agreeing, it was just a case of different semantics! :)

@Kate Grace - I think lots of people have been having a go at you because of, again, semantics - basically calling any woman, in any way, "bovine-like" on a feminist website is usually a big no-no, even if some of us agree to a certain extent with the sentiment :) And, surprisingly, I do agree with some of what you've said - I don't think people in general take enough personal responsibility for things, we would prefer someone else to sort it out for us! Action does need to come from us.

I don't think avoiding things is doing that, though. Aside from the fact that you can't just ignore them by not buying magazines, because even if you don't there are always billboards on buildings and buses, TV shows, movies, ads everywhere, etc. etc., in fact hundreds of other places, which make it physically impossible, I also think that's not really the most proactive way to solve it. For example, when you say here that women just shouldn't buy the magazines, you're basically saying this to a bunch of women who probably don't buy the magazines in the first place - bit of a wasted effort, in the end! What I try to do is influence other people - my family, friends, workmates, anybody really, by making it known I don't like the magazines and why. I won't preach, I usually work it in as a joke or conversation filler, but I won't be a part of the problem by tacitly agreeing with the person I'm standing next to who is buying it. That's a solution - just ignoring it won't solve anything either, especially when I'm in the position of being old enough and strong enough to defend myself against the onslaught of images but many women (and men, too) simply aren't. It doesn't demean people to acknowledge that fact - when I was 15 you wouldn't have heard a peep out of me and peer pressure ruled, and even at age 26 I was an entirely different person to the one I am now. I would never assume everyone is in the same position to disagree as I am, or even able to take their money where they want to and not buy into things - it can be much more difficult and complicated in reality. You already said as much yourself. You're right about how that shouldn't make us just not do anything, but I think there are better ways than just ignoring it - that would only help myself, not other people. If I can do both then that would be my preference.

Juliet // Posted 19 February 2010 at 10:33

Kate Grace, bit disingenous on Tiff's very good point, I think! Men owning women's magazines may well not influence the decision of "individual women" to work for them (although I bet that's why a lot of individual women DON'T work for them) but it sure as hell has everything to do with advertising content and copy content, which relentlessly pursues the 'woman as commodity' theme. Surely you get that.

Amy Clare // Posted 19 February 2010 at 10:46

@Anna:

"No, I don't see. It leaves me cold that youdo. What something looks like is not more important than what it is. A little boy or girl being raped and having that filmed is NOTHING like a twenty year old woman putting on a schoolgirl outfit and consensually fucking someone else on video. No matter if it's watched by the same people, no matter if she looks twelve. I'm out of this thread from here on in, I think."

Are you serious? Have I really said something *that* terrible?

Whether a girl in a porn video *is* 12 or just *looks* 12, the effect is the same for those watching, and those influenced by it. Plus it encourages watchers to find sexual immaturity arousing, which was the point of my whole original comment. I don't know how you can say that the women (if they are women) in barely legal videos are 'consensually fucking', either. The age of consent doesn't mean a person consents to all sex once they turn 16. For any given porn video, how do you know the actors have not been coerced?

I think child pornography is absolutely abhorrent, and believe me I am under no illusion as to what it contains because my mother was a children's social worker for over 30 years and worked with many abused kids. I find it very offensive and upsetting that you are implying I don't care about child pornography, or I don't think it's that bad, or I think it's somehow the same as consensual adult sex.

My point was that 'barely legal' porn is not the same as consensual adult sex. It doesn't portray that, and there is a question mark at best over the consent of the participants.

To get off on watching someone portray the rape of a child (even if the actors involved are adults) is wrong. It is a very small step from watching that stuff, to watching actual underage girls, to younger children.

I think I'm out of here too now, as I'm getting upset at this implied slur on my character from someone who doesn't even know me.

Cycleboy // Posted 19 February 2010 at 12:59

Interesting discussion. However, on the issue of facial hair and pubic hair, I was not trying to make an equivalence between the two, merely mentioning the former by way of comparison. The point is that I feel we all (and I include myself in this criticism) analyse things from our own pre-conceptions. This is perfectly natural, but it can be misleading. This is especially the case where people attribute motives to others when they have not gone through the same experiences; men and women, cross-cultural assumptions, archaeologists etc. Of course, our assumptions may be perfectly correct, but we should be aware when we make these assumptions and be at least open to other points of view and the possibility we might be wrong.
In the case of shaving pubic hair, I'm uncomfortable with the equivalence some have made between the hairless pre-pubescent pubis and the shaving of adults. Just because the latter resembles the former does not – ipso facto – mean a liking for the latter means someone actually lusts after pre-pubescent girls. Of course, there are men who like little girls and they should be, and are, roundly condemned by (most of) society, but I'm not convinced every adult male who expresses a preference for less hair is therefore a nascent paedophile.

On the subject of the 'sexy schoolgirl' I have a theory, for which I have absolutely no proof and don't know how you'd test, but I believe it has more to do with fantasy than reality. As has been so eloquently expressed on another thread on this site, what one fantasises about bears no relation to what one would wish to actually happen.
I think that for most men this is simply a harking back to their teenage years. While teenage girls tend to pine over older men, teenage boys lust after their female schoolmates, though they can also lust after older women, of course. Given that most young boys are (or were in my day) sexually inexperienced, the prospect of catching a glimpse of the forbidden is unbelievably exciting, something the adult man does not feel – such things no longer being forbidden. Paedophiles aside, I don't think adult men genuinely lust after an actual schoolgirl, still less want a relationship with one (what would you have in common?). Most of the pictures you see in magazines are adult women posing as schoolgirls, which taps into the exciting teenage memory, but holds out the possibility of more adult fun. The 'adult-schoolgirl' is a way of re-kindling this teenage passion. Discuss.

Beth // Posted 19 February 2010 at 13:09

my boyfriend has watched porn all his life and actually was *less* happy when i shaved it all off (i like the feel of it - makes me feel extra naked and the area is very soft and sensitive underneath all that scratch). He likes a little hair there, he finds hairy legs sexy, and when my underarms are a bit prickly and unattended to he thinks its cute.

Porn is definitely putting terrible standards on womens bodies, but it may comfort my fellow women to know that despite it, i've slept with men who've loved body hair, small boobs, fat thighs, all kinds of things that are banned under porn body fascism, despite lifetimes of porn use.

Doesnt really add anything to conversation and don't mean to detract from excellent points being made; so many standards we have flung upon us that it can be genuinely surprising and confusing to get into bed with someone who likes you the way you are; i've told men in the past that they've been LYING about finding me attractive because i cant understand why porn would be that way if men didnt want it! so its a pretty sorry state of affairs definitely.

but basically what i'm saying is cheer up lasses, coz there's no point trying to please men who expect you to be a certain way when there are tons of men out there who will expect you to be an actual real grown up proper woman :)

Amy Clare // Posted 19 February 2010 at 14:00

As an addition to my last post:

I was sexually assaulted aged 15 by a man who was around 22. He had groomed me for months beforehand and I had been under the impression he was my friend. After the assault he tried to talk to me and explain away what he had done by telling me that he thought I had enjoyed it, and that I was clearly 'up for it'.

He did not think of himself as a paedophile. Men who do these sorts of things tell themselves that 15, 14, even 13 year old girls are sexually mature. ('But your honour, she didn't look underage!' etc.) But they're not - they are still children. I was a child. I blame things like barely legal porn (which I suspect my attacker consumed), the Sun's horrible countdown etc, in part, for what happened to me. These things tell men that being sexually attracted to underage girls is normal*, and moreover, that underage girls love sex, and would probably therefore love to have sex *with them*.

So yes, it's not just about pubes or the lack thereof: barely legal and the like do have real world, real life effects on real children. I can't separate it from child abuse in my mind, but if you can, then whatever.

Derail over.

*The Sun was talking about this particular 15-year-old's breasts long before they actually photographed them.

Kate // Posted 19 February 2010 at 15:03

Anna: "No matter if it's watched by the same people, no matter if she looks twelve."

What?! Nothing like child porn at all then... apart from the fact she looks twelve.

Juliet // Posted 19 February 2010 at 17:17

Amy Clare, that's awful what happened to you. Horrible that you think somebody is your friend and then he goes and does that and has the nerve to say what he said afterwards! I am so sorry.

Cycleboy, fantasy is all very well. The great big elephant in the room problem is that a lot of men cannot or do not want to separate fantasy from reality.

Kaycee // Posted 21 February 2010 at 06:39

Personally, I don't see what the problem is with women the way they are. I just make sure nothing shows when I go to wear a bathing suit and I keep it trimmed a little bit just because the longer it gets, the harder it is to stay clean when that time of the month comes. But that's it.

I understand that everyone has preferences. If you're a woman that prefers this, fine. But I don't think you should be embarrassed if you keep it. It's a natural thing.

Lolly // Posted 21 February 2010 at 12:16

Amy Claire,

I'm pretty shocked to find no one has responded to your last post. I'm really sorry that someone did that to you. I'm not going to go on and on as there's only so much you can say, except a friend of mine 'slept with' a much older man when she was 15, after being groomed for some time.

Also I totally agree that people being turned on by the imagined rape of a child is horrific.

Gwytherinn // Posted 21 February 2010 at 19:55

"Cycleboy makes a good point. To claim that the fashion for shaving hair is somehow based on male paedophilia is fairly ludicrious. On that basis we should be expecting pornography to be full of women with very small breasts..."

It isn't so much about pedophilia as it is about a long tradition of infantilizing and disempowering women in order for them to be considered "sexy." Yes, that means the schoolgirl stereotype, or any other numerous examples. I think it's the pretty deeply entrenched power dynamic between men and women that, unfortunately, comes out in a multitude of ways in terms of infantilized=sexy and is rather disturbing.

Jess P // Posted 22 February 2010 at 00:26

I have no problem with the way other people wear their body hair. I just wish they'd stop worrying about mine.

NancyP // Posted 23 February 2010 at 04:04

Trust me, all the nurse practitioner or physician cares about is that the pubes have been washed recently.

Tei Tetua // Posted 02 March 2010 at 13:41

I say (being male) hurrah for any woman who lets her body stay natural. And if there are stray furs poking around underwear--that's a sign of something in there that doesn't want to stay in captivity! Doesn't anyone else think just sharing your unchanged unadorned self is the sexiest thing imaginable?

Sorry ladies, I'm attached.

coldharbour // Posted 03 March 2010 at 15:25

I'm interested to hear what peoples views on gay male porn are and how it affects traditional second wave feminists views on pornography as a whole.

Sally Pants // Posted 29 March 2010 at 16:22

Letting a sex partner's preference determine our grooming habits is a personal choice. When it comes to sex and attraction, people have a vast array of fetishes, turn on's and turn offs, in some cultures, to some individuals, hairy is hot! However as a feminist, I will not be shamed because I do not like messy pubes that collect moisture in an already moist area, or because I enjoy the smooth feel of it during sex. Let's not forget to stand up for a woman's right to groom herself as she sees fit. The problem of women feeling that they must have some certain physical characteristic to be attractive is a self esteem issue, in a real world, you simply have to learn to tell people to shove off if they don't like you as you are.

Jill // Posted 29 March 2010 at 18:32

I think whatever SHE is comfortable with is what she should do. Some folks dont like any body hair and prefer to "keep a clean workspace", but that is completely their choice, and doesnt mean they were pressured. And if you are on the other side and want a bush, go ahead. Stand up for yourself, and dont bitch about it. Whatever vag haircut you pick, stand behind it. If others dont like it, too bad for them. Thats what I say.

Shea // Posted 29 March 2010 at 18:34

I have had telling experiences with this. When I was a teenager, I did a moderately dramatic shave a few times, and found it uncomfortable. (Prickly!) Thereafter, aside from the occasional trim and shaving around the edges, I have stuck with the "all-natural" route.

Only one sexual partner (in a round-about way) hinted anything about having a problem with this. Not coincidentally, he was uncomfortable with sexuality in general. He had to have some sort of distraction during intimate time (usually the TV going), and didn't want to take off his shirt... He didn't want hair, I think, because it was a tactile reminder of how intimate he was being with someone. While he was very sweet to me in other ways, our pairing didn't last long.

My very next partner was far and away the least sexually inhibited person I've been with. And, when we were intimate, he would rave about the particular merits of my nether regions. I hadn't realized there were so many nice things to say about it. He was glad I didn't shave.

My current boyfriend is wonderfully committed, feminist, and comfortable with intimacy. Once, when camping, I couldn't shave my legs or underarms for about a week, and I was a little self-conscious about it. He said he wouldn't be any less attracted to me if I didn't shave at all. "You don't have to change your body for me to like it," he said, simply.

And that's what it comes down to, isn't it?: How can someone be a good partner if he can only be attracted to you if you change? If you're a girl who really doesn't mind Brazilians, then I suppose you wouldn't be changing by accommodating that preference. But I do mind Brazilians. And I don't think it's coincidental that my best partners have found them (at best) superfluous.

Mark // Posted 29 March 2010 at 20:26

There's a very simple reason. Men don't like to have pubic hairs stuck to their teeth when they do down on a girl. All the girls I know or have been with told me they want a man to at least trim for the same reason. As for men not shaving, I'd argue that 80% of men in their 20's trim or shave their pubic hair.

Sara // Posted 30 March 2010 at 03:59

One thing that I don't think has been brought up nearly enough is the hygiene aspect. I've always chosen to stay hairless because frankly, it disgusts me to find a short and curly in my bed or the shower or anywhere else. I've tried going natural occasionally and hated the feel of excess sweat, especially during my period. Shaving followed by a quick moisturizer as always made me feel just a little less gross, and it has nothing to do with appearance.

j // Posted 30 March 2010 at 06:19

speaking as a dude, I wish my partner would shave or at least trim a bit closer downstairs for 1 reason and 1 reason only: hairy vaginas makes oral sex less fun because pubic hair tends to collect odors and tastes that i'd rather not experience when i'm trying to focus on making her cum. it's the same reason i trim downstairs and doesn't really have much to do with porn at all.

just my 2 cents, for whatever it's worth.

Danielle // Posted 30 March 2010 at 06:48

I think the equation of shaved or waxed genitalia with pedophilia is about as relevant as the belief that people attracted to a person's rear end subconsciously want to have sex with it. In fact the whole anal sex craze among young men these days strikes me as another trend hand-in-hand with the absence of pubic hair that has been championed by the prevalence of the porn culture. That said, I hardly think that there's a line between porn depicting anal sex and male homosexual attraction. That's what this pedophilia argument sounds like to me.

I personally really enjoy a trimmed or nearly bare vagina, on myself, and on other women. (I'm going to let everyone know I'm a lesbian right off the bat because I don't feel like getting gutted for "coming at societal pressure from a privileged perspective" or some such nonsense.) I'll be honest and say that one reason is that it makes oral sex a lot less complicated. That's not to say I can't perform oral on a girl with a muff, it's just a whole tactical procedure. The second reason though, is that I adore vaginas. I think they're absolutely beautiful and having a completely unobstructed view, especially when I am encountering it the first time, is very very sexy. This doesn't make me a pedophile, and a number of women have found my fixation on their more delicate parts quite flattering.

And my final point. I trim and occasionally shave my pubic hair, by choice, and I am extremely feminist. I realize the original intent of the article was to say that a woman's choice to shave or not to shave should be left completely up to her, but somewhere in the comment section I think that intent was turned into, "porn shames me into shaving my pubic hair and turns men into pedophiles." Well, my nearly naked mons pubis is not a condition I was pressured into, and I found (after trail and error and a lot of solid advice from other women on the web) that it's also a very pleasurable condition. I like the way it feels, and I feel more intimate with my vagina itself when it's not obscured by hair. I feel like I was seeing what was down there for the first time, and the reality was much prettier than I imagined.

SparksFly // Posted 30 March 2010 at 08:27

Some of the commenters mentioned the bare look has not been pushed upon men, but I beg to differ. It has, of late, become popular amongst men to go completely bare although for entirely different reasons; as a "how to" video made for men by Gillette stated, "Less underbrush makes the tree look taller!" Google the Gillette video on Brazilians for men. I laughed me arse off when I stumbled it!

ellie // Posted 30 March 2010 at 10:24

Hi. I'm Ellie. I'm 17.

I completely agree.

Today, sex is what makes the world go 'round. And the new "fads" with sex are disastrous. Pornography tells LIES about women, but the truth about men.

I don't think a "real" woman is one who shaves/waxes. I think a real woman should be comfortable in her own skin and confident. Not doing something to make others happy.

I don't shave my legs/armpits/pubes because I don't like to. I see no point in conforming in what modern day society consider a "woman". I am happy and comfortable in my own skin, so whats the point in it?

My ex boyfriend did mention something about my leg hair, funnily, he didn't mention my pubes or armpits.

Sorry for this massive post.
Ellie
x

Jen // Posted 01 April 2010 at 06:23

I'll get a Brazilian when he does ;)

Jeff // Posted 01 April 2010 at 11:28

"Pornography tells LIES about women, but the truth about men."

This isn't quite true, just as porn depicts the vast majority of women as big breasted and stick thin, it also depicts the vast majority of men as built like arnie and with penises (is that spelled right) the size of your forearm. Neither of these things are true.

JenniferRuth // Posted 01 April 2010 at 15:01

Jeff

I don't think that quote is referring to the way porn stars look but rather how they act.

bob // Posted 06 April 2010 at 04:47

I think Danielle nailed it. I am a man and I love vaginas - they are beautiful! However, a full bush blocks the view and gets in the way of great oral sex. A trimmed or shaved vagina isn't sexy because it looks like a little girl - exactly the opposite, it's sexy because I can see all the beauty of a full-grown woman.
BTW I also keep myself very closely trimmed and love the feeling - my nearly bare skin is far more sensitive than my old bushy self was. I would go completely smooth except my wife doesn't like it ... rather ironic don't you think?!

aimee // Posted 06 April 2010 at 16:47

Do you know what? It's GREAT, if you prefer a shaved vagina and your partner prefers a shaved vagina and you're both completely happy with your decisions and both feel no societal pressure to shave any part of you.

HOWEVER.
That is NOT the case for most people. Not when we're told that if we don't shave then we're disgusting or unfeminine. It's great to hear all these anecdotes from happy shaved people, but they are missing the point, the point being that we should not have to feel pressure to shave parts of ourselves, and to be told that women in their natural state are disgusting, unkempt and wrong.

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