I’m sat around a dinner table with three of my closest friends. It’s a spontaneous Wednesday evening out, there’s no wine flowing, instead it’s strictly a Diet Coke and the biggest burger on the menu kinda night – the type that fits in well around busy lives and childcare. The conversation jumps from topic to topic: reflux babies, big news from our Facebook feeds, and then onto pubic hair. Or, pubes, as we tend to call them.
One friend hasn’t even thought about hair removal in months, maybe years. She can’t decide if it’s because she’s not fussed either way or because she’s just been busy. Another friend is on a strict Hollywood wax (everything off, just FYI) once-every-six-weeks schedule because it makes her feel cleaner. Another likes a landing strip and can’t bear the idea of having no hair at all. But it got me thinking that it’s such a personal decision and yet one that still feels scary or taboo when discussed with mates – as though we’re still scared that our choices might differ from those of the people around us.
I chatted with four women to hear their thoughts on pubic hair: bushes and all.
“I shave my pubes for me and not for my boyfriend”
“Gone are the days where if there was even the slightest chance I would be getting lucky I would ensure every single part of me was bald and hair free (in fact, and there were even a couple of one night stands that resulted in me rushing to the bathroom and hacking at my pubes with the first razor I could find).”
“Shaving down below is time-consuming, uncomfortable, causes ingrown hairs and – I don’t know about anyone else – but stays smooth for a grand total of 23 minutes. Would my boyfriend prefer it if I was always cleanshaven? Yes, most probably. Does that mean he would turn down sex if I wasn’t? Of course not.”
“I now see shaving/removing my pubic hair as a special occasion thing i.e. if I’m going on holiday, having a romantic night away or even if it’s been a while and we’re having an at home date night because I will admit, I do feel slightly sexier and I do think my fancy undies look a bit nicer. However, taking away the pressure and necessity makes it less of a chore and more of something to add to my pamper session (along with fake tan, face mask etc – the works) if I fancy it, and only when I fancy it.”
“I felt pressured at school to get rid of it all”
“I first attempted to hack at my pubes with a razor when I was in year 10, mostly because my best friend looked like she’d seen a ghost when she first caught sight of my bush whilst we were getting changed. I started by just doing the edges, but soon felt pressured to remove it all (by girls, and not boys, you understand). And I never looked back.”
“I felt fresher, cleaner – somehow sexier- with all the hair gone. And that feeling only intensified when I had my first wax (Hollywood) in my early twenties. It’s a pricey treatment to have done every six weeks and absolutely not something I’ve done religiously since. There have been years where I’ve made do with a disposable razor every month or so, and other periods of my life where my waxist knows everything about me. I like to think it’s my choice to be hair-free, but I know my early relationship with my pubic hair got off to a rocky start. And honestly? I can relax a lot more during oral sex when I’m freshly groomed.”
“I wish I was more carefree about it and didn’t link sexual enjoyment with how the amount of pubic hair I have.”
“My son asked why I had a ‘lion down there’ and I’ve never been prouder”
“The pressure to have a trim pubic area arrived early for me (going to a girls grammar school will do that). I started out using Veet (the smell! The stinging!!) to get rid of the first signs of pubescent fuzz at about 14. I think the culture of ‘pubes are gross’ ran so intrinsically through the verbiage of the boys we would hang out with, that having anything more than a tiny strip felt dirty.”
“Sadly, that feeling prevailed through university years where I would have a wax monthly. I have been absolutely butchered before by beauticians in the groin area and left with bleeding and bruising. Looking back I can’t believe I thought that level of pain or discomfort was necessary. Actually it’s not even the memory of the physical pain (which diminished with each wax) that bothers me, it’s the societal pressure I felt to conform to this smooth pubic region that really upsets the woman I am today.”
“I’m not sure when the transition to only a quick ‘trim for a swim’ happened, but now six years married and one kid down I have never gone back to waxing. My husband and I have had a few chats about pubes, and obviously I take his (thankfully not too far away from my ) views into consideration, but it’s not really something that’s up for discussion in our house. Going through fertility treatment and all the scans and examinations it brings (not to mention giving birth vaginally) lead me to reassess my relationship to my body. I would also hate my son to grow up to be one of those boys that I spoke about earlier. When he was two he pointed at my crotch whilst I was showering and asked why I had a lion down there. I’ve never been prouder.”
“I’m scared of what men will think of me if I have any pubic hair”
“As a teenager, pubic hair was one of those taboo topics that I certainly didn’t discuss with my friends never mind my mum or sister. And among the males in our friendship group the consensus was that pubic hair was a sign of uncleanliness and that a girl was dirty and didn’t look after herself if she had any.”
“Going on holidays with my friends for the first time at 18, all of the other girls were sexually active and comfortably getting bikini waxed beforehand. I felt really embarrassed to even discuss this with them. Personally, it was one of the main reasons why I was terrified to do anything of a sexual nature with a boy until I was 19, because of the fear of not looking the right way. And honestly? I still feel this pressure as an adult at 27.”
“After the first year of being in a relationship, I felt the pressure come off as my partner didn’t care as much as I had anticipated he would. In my day to day life, pubic hair was something that rarely ever crossed my mind. But now, recently single, it is back in the forefront of my worries about potential partners. I worry that a man would be put off by any pubic hair and that is why if there is a potential that things would progress to the bedroom, I would prefer to have removed it all in advance. It is something I will easily admit that I do to please someone else. I am trying to come to terms with how silly and nonsensical this worry is. Logically, I know it is a natural thing that I have no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed of. More importantly, I know that no person has any right to dictate what I do with my own body. However, the constant niggle of embarrassment and fear that a partner would recoil in horror if there were even a single hair is an irrational fear of mine.”