Body Hair Revisited

body hair

Way back in June of 2011, I wrote about body hair and its social and personal implications. A lively discussion ensued, and I ended up writing a follow-up post about my own techniques for body hair management. More lively discussion. The whole experience of sharing those intimate details and hearing about your own experiences and views was fascinating and eye-opening, and it felt good to read and consider the gamut of opinions.

Since then, I’ve had a rather intense experience with hair removal. I’m still processing it, but am honestly curious to hear if any of you have had similar feelings, opposite feelings, or never considered the issue one way or another. And I’ll warn you up front, this will get detailed and intimate pretty quickly.

I got a Groupon deal in late summer for laser hair removal, a technique I’d paid for in the past and felt was pretty darned effective. My little Sal-beard had started to become rather robust, so I signed up for some chin treatments. The clinic I’m going to (shout-out to Clinical Skin Therapeutics in Apple Valley – they ROCK) had some ongoing deals, so I chatted with my tech about various areas and, on what seemed like a whim, decided to get my bikini line lasered. I had settled on my chin because it’s among the most visible areas where I get irritating hairs, so, in retrospect, going for my bikini line next seems really odd. I’m a married monogamous woman whose husband could care less about body hair. What’s that about?

Well, I told myself that it was about pain and regrowth. Just like many of you who commented on those first two posts, I basically cannot shave within about three inches of my bikini line or I get the most unbelievably painful crop of in-growns, zits, and welts imaginable. So, mostly, I just didn’t shave there. And that meant I was extremely tufty well beyond the bounds of my panties. Boyshorts are fantastically uncomfortable on me, so for years I just dealt with the seemingly boundless overflow that issued forth from my undies. Just let it go prairie. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had decided that getting that area lasered would be a great way to minimize regrowth pain.

But if I wasn’t shaving that area at all to avoid creating the pain in the first place … was it really about the pain?

Answer: No. It was about the shame.

Once I started getting the treatments and seeing results, once my pubic and leg hair was brought into check, once everything stayed tucked neatly inside my knickers, I felt SO MUCH BETTER. I hadn’t realized how upset it made me to be so bushy down there, how much shame and discomfort I derived from looking at my tufts. And once they began to recede, I was elated. Elated, people.

And that got me thinking about cultural standards and gender and subliminal messages. Because, hell, if my only sexual partner didn’t care about all that fuzz, why should I? And the answer is that I had literally never seen another woman with that much fluff, in print or in person. I felt like a freak, and I felt gross. No one in the world had ever told me that I WAS gross, but I still felt that way because I’d never ever seen another woman who looked like me. I’d seen men, though, and that added another layer of confusion. I began to realize that part of my issue was tied up in the gender aspects of body hair; As a woman, I wasn’t “supposed” to look this way, and since I did I appeared masculine. It became clear that what I was feeling was, in part, manufactured and imposed upon me by outside forces.

But being tuft-free radically transformed how I felt about my naked body. I felt sexier and prettier and more confident. I felt better about my body than I had in decades, and the only thing that had changed was I’d removed a two-inch strip of fuzz from my bikini line.

And those feelings of increased confidence are valid, even with all their baggage and hypocrisy. Just as I feel that weight loss, cosmetics, and any voluntary alterations to appearance are totally optional, so do I feel that we all have the right to choose them. Our bodies are ours to utilize, change, and present as we see fit, and many of our decisions will be influenced by outside forces. While it may be damaging to constantly force ourselves to conform to the beauty standard at any cost or without any critical or personal examination, we must trust ourselves to balance our choices.

So tell me: If you feel strongly about your own body hair, do you think any of that is tied up in shame? Gender norms? The beauty standard? How do you cope with your feelings, if so? Do you feel you are able to balance your choices about how you present your body to the world?


  • If you feel strongly about this issue, express your views respectfully and civilly or they will not be published. I’m happy to participate in a discussion that includes contrary opinions, but will not tolerate cruelty.
  • Be courteous and kind to each other when responding to remarks from other readers.

Image courtesy Boden

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172 Responses to “Body Hair Revisited”

  1. Colleen

    Sal, I think I can simultaneously feel happy for you that the treatment made you feel better, and sad that we live in a society where you felt shame in the first place.

    • Plop

      I always found my untrimmed bottom to be fun and lively, until my boyfriend began to suggest me to shave regularly… Somehow, I feel a bit self conscious about it.
      So I have a bit of the same feelings as Colleen !

        • Cass

          I’m not her boyfriend (or a boy), but personally I just trim. I don’t like tufts because I feel like my underwear tugs at them, but I don’t like the hassle of keeping up with regular shaving, or the itchiness the first several days after shaving there, or the possibility of ingrown hairs. And the pain, effort of upkeep, and money associated with other treatments do not appeal to me in the slightest. A boyfriend once said I should shave or go get waxed or something, to which my first reply was, “All right, you first then.” I just felt uncomfortable being expected to do something uncomfortable and painful to my body that I personally didn’t feel the need to and that he wouldn’t even consider imposing upon himself, and he eventually understood with some explaining.

          I understand that some people have certain things that they find more or less attractive in their partners, and I understand that you’re not going to find someone who 100% fits your idea of attractive and vice versa. But I also think part of relationships is sometimes accepting things about another person rather than asking them to change them, depending on the circumstances. And this is one area where I really don’t feel comfortable altering myself to fit into someone else’s ideal.

          • Lisa

            It’s a problem of this era. Used to be we were supposed to shave, sort of, but we could get by without. The one thing I don’t understand about this generation is why the hairlessness? Not to say I think less of you all for caring, I feel for you and the societal pressure. But I’m completely mystified as to where it came from.

            • mimi

              In a word, it comes from porn, and the pornification of our regular lives.

              • Northmoon

                I agree with mimi, much of the new ‘normal’ for female appearance was considered slutty back in the 50’s and 60’s. So now we have short tight skirts, cleavage, high heels out of a fetish film, and it’s all fashionable. The bare crotch of a child comes from the same source, so now shaving has become common.

  2. Beth Anderson

    This brings back embarrassing memories!

    Almost 20 yrs ago, a friend invited me to her house for a laze in the pool. First swim of the year and I had completely, completely forgotten to do anything about “down there”. Why I didn’t notice when I put on my bikini I have no idea.

    At any rate, I jumped into one of those circular floaty things – you know what I mean. Butt down, arms a-straddle, legs just hanging in the water… when her little brother (teens) starting laughing and pointing. Oh GOD! Yep, you guessed it. It didn’t help that the bikini was skimpy. Had this been boy shorts or whatever…

    I should mention at the time I still had a great bikini body, does that make it worse?

  3. Xtine

    Sal – I was like you with the bikini line and had similar feelings. I think the reason you never saw anyone else like you was the shame factor – I know I would never go to the pool or beach and let it all hang out! Getting laser hair removal was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. It’s been 10 years and is still smooth and hair free – what a relief!

  4. Sue

    Thank you SO MUCH for posting that. Without doing a TMI photo reveal, I dare say I am equally, ahem, tufty. Like Sal, I have literally never seen another woman with hair outside the bounds of panties or a standard bathing suit bottom. I figured there had to be others like me, but that they removed the hair. Me, I hate shaving because of the bumps etc., I won’t wax because I can’t bring myself to cause myself so much pain, and I won’t use depilatories because of the nasty chemicals. The result of that plus what I perceive as a super-strong cultural prohibition against revealing any of that hair means that, among other things, I haven’t worn a bathing suit with standard-cut legs in decades (I used to wear shorts over a regular swimsuit, but last year I did find a reasonably non-frumpy swimsuit with a shorts-type bottom). I too feel shame, from those deeply programmed cultural norms of beauty and what’s considered appropriate to reveal about the genital area, and at the same time a very strong unwillingness to cause myself pain in the name of those cultural norms. I have hairy legs, too, and for a while I didn’t shave them either, but I got tired of struggling not to care that I looked different from what seemed to be every other woman out there. I don’t shave my underarms either (though I do trim the hair with scissors when it gets tufty–geez, Sal, I love that word you used!–and just try not to care, but it’s hard sometimes.

    • Plop

      I do the scissor-thing to trim at the beginning of summer, I think it helps enough. Plus seriously, a few small hairs are almost invisible and that’s probably the reason why you don’t see them ^^’

      • M

        I’ve tried using scissors, and they actually create more chaos for me than most anything else. The blunt hairs seems to poke through my underwear/tights/leggings, which then usually seems to get caught or pulled by the other layers of clothing I am wearing. This also happens to me if I shave. Leaving things natural seems to leave the naturally tapered ends of the hairs in place, making things less annoying and hurty for me.

  5. annajcook

    I’ve been very furry since puberty, not only between my legs and on my thighs but also up my tummy to my belly button. I’ve always been rather fond of the fur, but have at various points have felt awkward about letting it be seen (swimsuits, short tees, etc.). I’ve tried shaving a couple of times and definitely had the regrowth problem (OW). I also don’t shave my legs, mostly because I can’t be bothered with up-keep. Luckily, my partner loves my fur very much, and likes to pet my tummy, so it all works out :). I think perhaps I’d feel more conflicted if I did a lot of swimming or other activities that involved more skin exposure in those areas …

      • Kweirley

        Yeah tummy trail… that caused me angst in my adolescence. Thankfully my husband seems to find it adorable, which has helped me feel way less self-conscious about it.

  6. Heather in Oregon

    I don’t feel shame but I do sometimes feel like others expect me to feel shame about my hair removal choices. I shave my legs in the warmer months but I don’t shave my bikini line and underarms at all and haven’t in almost 10yrs. I’m not obviously “hippie-ish” (apparently hippies and women over a certain age are the only people who don’t practice some form of hair removal in those areas. I am exaggerating but I have also been asked many, many times if I was a hippie). My hair is fairly dark and so not all that unobtrusive. I’ve been told by women in places like the grocery store that if I’m not going to shave my underarms then they shouldn’t be visible. I honestly don’t think about it at all most of the time and so am shocked anew every time someone says something. I do have a little understanding of what you felt though. I have dark, long, and fairly unruly eyebrows that I do nothing with 99% of the time but each time that I get them waxed (once every couple of years) I suddenly feel stronger and more attractive and like people might be able to see me more clearly. It makes absolutely no sense and yet it’s like that EVERY TIME I get it done.

    • alice

      Wow, I’m sorry people feel the need to go up to you and comment about your body hair! That’s so inappropriate and mean.

      What you said about people being able to see you more clearly though, makes me think a little. I can see how looking outside the norm can skew people’s first impressions of you and be possibly distracting. That’s what I find fascinating about outward appearance and how you can use it to create an image for yourself. For me, I find it valuable to establish a style that feels right to me, but also conveys a sense of maturity and professionalism. And this has totally strayed from private body hair topic, oops!

    • notemily

      I think I’m similar to you hairwise–dark, unruly eyebrows and similar hair elsewhere. I went through a long period of not shaving anything before the shame I felt when people could see my underarm hair got too great. I hate that I feel that shame, though. I always think of the history of shaving–the modern idea of women being “smooth” everywhere was heavily promoted to sell razors, so when I feel that pressure to be “smooth,” I feel like the advertisers have won.

      But like Sally, I did start feeling more confident once I started shaving. Now, I don’t shave all the time (especially in winter), but if I know strangers are going to be looking at me, I usually will. I’ve never removed pubic hair though, because the idea of a razor getting anywhere near my genitalia makes me shudder. That’s one norm I steadfastly refuse to conform to, because I think it’s nobody’s business but mine what kind of hair I have between my legs.

  7. anotherjen

    I agree with Colleen, but want to take it further. How do we change this if we keep adhering to the norms? Because I think it should change so that a diversity of bodies are acceptable.

    • Sal

      I don’t know, and am struggling to figure that out. This is a segment of personal grooming in which I struggle to just be comfortable with myself and let go of the norms because adhering to them makes me feel SO MUCH better. I wish I had a solution, or even a suggestion.

      • anotherjen

        Well, people are full of contradictions, that’s kind of what makes us human. And fun. And frustrating! Adhering to the norms does not make me feel better and that’s why I wish there was some diversity allowed. Because right now our culture feels very repressive on this issue, and feel that repression particularly hard because I’m a pretty hirsute woman who thinks it is a waste of my time/energy/money to have to remove body hair to meet other people’s expectations. And these are people I don’t care about, and who don’t care about me, my SO doesn’t care at all, which make it somehow more sinister and frustrating.

        Being hairy limits me, I rarely swim and stopped going to the gym (I still exercise a lot, just not in a gym) and don’t wear certain things etc. This seems unfair, and also stupid, as in juvenile, and also contradicts the whole message about ‘being yourself’ and ‘choice’ and ‘diversity’ being okay. Clearly those things are not valued for themselves, but only within particular limits. And that makes me more angry than anything else – it is a crock, a smokescreen, we have not come that far.

        Sorry, ranting a bit, but hopefully constructively!

        • Anne Nonimous

          Hi anotherjen, I responded to a comment of yours down below before I saw this one, hope this isn’t verboten to address the points you raise here, too.

          I would say, if you WANT to go to the gym, go the gym! The body hair issue is one of those false choice imposed upon The Other, such that whatever we do is political and therefor problematic to *someone*. So, suit yourself first.

          I groom when I know I’ll be exposed to disapproving people I *do* care about – weddings and funerals. (Capitulation? Sure, but I’ll do that for my grandmother). Otherwise, I usually don’t bother; this means that I do swim, jog, and go the gym with visible leg and underarm hair. Are strangers rude about it? Sometimes. But there’s pretty much nothing they can say that would be as awful as things said to me in middle/high school, so I just let it slide unless I’m feeling extraverted, in which case I ask them why they care. Nobody has ever given me a good answer, but most become aware of their rudeness, apologize, and back off.

          • Louise

            Thanks for this. ‘Why do you care?’ is going to be my stock riposte to strangers questioning my appearance from now on! I’ve always been tongue-tied when challenged about anything to do with my appearance, those 4 words are suitably cutting without being *too* challenging.

            • Lorri

              My standard reply to intrusive questions has become “Why do you ask?” with as puzzled a look as I can muster. If it’s someone with whom I need to maintain a relationship (co-worker, etc.) I may substitute “I’m glad you feel comfortable asking me something so personal, but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with it.”

    • Evelyn

      That’s a great point. I definitely believe that women should make the choices that make them comfortable, but unfortunately right now that means that there is almost no visible leg or underarm hair, let alone pubes.

      I am pale and blonde, so my hair does not stand out noticeably from my skin color, although my lower leg hair is fairly coarse, and of course my pubes and armpit hair are a little darker and quite fluffy. I had never shaved my bikini area with any regularity because it hurt so much. About 10 years ago, when I was a junior in college, I stopped shaving my legs. I was extremely self-conscious about it but felt strongly about it and decided to be strong for one year and revisit the issue then. I never shaved my legs again. Since then, I’ve realized that very few people notice on me because of my light hair and that those who do notice don’t actually give a darn. I have had a few people ask about it out of curiosity, and I just tell them that I don’t like the way shaving feels, I am too lazy to shave often enough to avoid crazy amounts of stubble, and I don’t think that leg hair is unacceptable on women.

      Armpit hair was the next frontier. I used to shave during the summer and let it grow during the winter, but in the past few years I have been letting it stay natural. My husband occasionally requests that I shave one because he likes the way the smoothness looks and feels, but he also likes the contrast: one tame pit that has a 9-5 office job and one wild child pit that parties all night! (Strangest anthropomorphization ever? Maybe.) I don’t know if anyone other than him has noticed my asymmetrically groomed pits, even when I’ve played sports outside in only a sports bra, but I like that it’s a little trasgressive without being too in-your-face. I’m surprised that people don’t comment on my pit hair occasionally. Even though it looks pretty prominent to me, maybe it’s just not that noticeable either.

      I do think pubes are a bit different from leg and armpit hair. My husband thinks my pubes are sexy but occasionally complains about it going up his nose during certain marital moments. (TMI, but that’s the nature of a pubic hair comment thread.) Like a commenter below has said, I don’t exactly feel shame about my pubic hair, but I do want it to be private, so I wear boy short or skirt bathing suit styles. I do wish there were more people visibly wearing bikini bottoms with a little fuzz hanging out because then maybe I would be able to change my mind about keeping it completely private.

      I fully understand that my fairly fine, light hair gives me some amount of privelege in not being noticed, and that not everyone can make the same choices I do without getting much more attention than I do, but I like to feel like my willingness to leave my legs and armpits hairy and make that choice somewhat visible is a tiny step towards making all body hair situations acceptable. That may be a bit self-aggrandizing, but it’s how I feel.

  8. LinB

    My mother contends that it is extremely sexy for a husband to glimpse a bit of pubic hair around the edge of his wife’s panty or bathing suit bottom. I never had any trouble attracting men, even at my hairiest. Then I married, and the 80s-90s hair phobia happened, and now I am an old woman who covers up as much as possible all the time. Alopecia is the gift of old age for some of us. It means that I now have to remember to pencil in eyebrows or risk looking perpetually surprised.

    • Cheryl

      I so appreciate your post, Sal, and the thoughtfulness of your readers. Just like LinB, I have much less hair than I did when I was younger. As
      annoyed/conflicted/confused as I felt as a young person about hair removal, I am now grateful for my hairy inheritance because I still have
      something to comb on top of my head.

  9. Sallie

    I recently had a very weird experience with a group of women where somehow the conversation turned to how we “manage” our pubic hair. I was alarmed to find out I was the only one out of my friends who doesn’t go regularly for a brazilian wax! What?! I had no idea so many people did this! I immediately felt like a hairy freak!

    A few days later I went to the beach, by myself, for the first time this year and after taking off my dress I looked down and – to my (new) horror – my hairline was creeping past my bathing suit! I felt so embarrassed at my “unkempt” state I almost left right away. But I didn’t ๐Ÿ™‚

    Body hair shame is a new experience for me. I’m naturally not a very hairy woman so its never really been an issue. Even my creeping pubic line was minimal and only visible up close – but I still felt like I was somehow doing something wrong. Like I missed the memo that all women get at the age of 18 to GET RID OF THAT SHIT! STAT!

    In that conversation with my friends one of the main things they said is that men expect women to be hair free down there. This definitely seems to be because there are NO images of women with pubic hair in the media – except of course the random throw-back retro Playboy from the 70’s which is only shown to mock the amount of body hair…

    • Grace

      I, too, “missed the memo”!!

      There’s a funny circular logic at play… “Men expect women to be shaved “down there…” Which men? No man I have ever been with has said Boo and I have NEVER shaved or trimmed my curlies.

      Then again, I DO shave my legs and armpits and although I let them get a bit fuzzy before doing so, I feel “cleaner” and more dressed up when I’m shaved.

      • LisaZ

        I too have “missed the memo” and at 41 could care less except that it makes me sad this has become the norm. To me pubic hair says “WOMAN” as opposed to “little girl”. I have never had a single issue with my pubic hair, though I do shave the bikini line in summer. My husband says not a thing either way and you know what, he’d better not!

      • Halo

        I agree with this. I have never had a man say anything about my natural pubic hair. I have never liked shaving, and even when I was on swim team in high school, managed to just go about my business without worrying about a stray hair here or there peeking out. I do shave my legs and armpits a couple times a week, but I have light, sparse body hair there.

        A few months ago, I got a Brazilian sugaring (safer and less painful than waxing) just to see what the hype was about. None of my friends my age (38) here, in a rural small town do anything to their pubic hair, though I do have younger friends here and all my friends back home in an urban setting who do. Anyway, I have been told that sex feels better with no public hair, but guess what? I can’t tell a difference, really. I’ve kept up the Brazilians for the past few months just to see how I like it in general, but am beginning to think that $60/mo and some discomfort aren’t worth it.

        • Halo

          p.s. My boyfriend said the “baldness” is kind of weird, but that he doesn’t care one way or the other what I do with my body hair.

      • Suzzy

        From my limited experience boys and men are happy enough to be getting anything at all that they don’t fuss too much about a little hair here and there in places where it shouldn’t be

    • Sara

      Women over 18 – try women over 14. One of Sal’s weekly roundups linked to how younger girls are getting waxed. Which brings up another question – if we have conflicting feelings over our pubic hair management – how the heck do we teach our daughters what the “right” thing to do is?

      • Celina

        Agreed! My mother and I were completely shocked when my cousin told us that when she turned TWELVE and started growing hairier, her mother immediately took her to the salon to get a full body wax. My mom was so confused as to how her sister would develop such a notion to take her 12 year old child to get a Brazilian and get her legs and underarms waxed as well. This was definitely not something they learned growing up, because my mom has always been hairy and natural and never gave me any inclination not to be as well.

        I feel like its important to mention as well that my mom’s side of the family is Chilean, and my cousin and aunt live there, so this is not at all a “first world thing”. It’s everywhere.

  10. A.M.

    Thank you for sharing this. As well as being sad that you had that shame, I’m also sad that this seems like such an incredible brave thing to put out there.
    It’s the season where I’m starting to think about buying a swimsuit I won’t be ashamed to be seen in, and this is exactly the stuff I’m wrestling with.

    • spacegeek

      I’ve been looking at skirted bikinis this year, to avoid this entire issue… So much more to say, but I don’t really feel comfortable on a public forum.

  11. JB

    Hmmmm…I am a tufty lady, and I can’t say I ever felt SHAME about it, but just like pubic hair is private in the same way genitals are private, and I wouldn’t want anyone else to see them unintentionally. So it is only an issue for swimsuit season (it sounds like for Sal this bothers her even when she is fully clad, is that right?), and I have gone the boy shorts route since then.

    It is funny, because I have plenty of body hang ups, but not ones around pubic hair (or genitalia). I am 34, and it seems like there is to some extent, a bit of an age divide on this one. Like, the brazilian wax/take it all off business didn’t really become a thing until a few years past my dating years, so I just never had any qualms about going “natural”. Though Sal, you are the same age as me, and clearly this is a concern for you, so maybe this is more due to my San Francisco hippie upbringing where I saw so much body hair on women growing up.

    • Nethwen

      The difference between private and hidden because of shame is a good point. I’ve seen women wear swimsuits without shaving above the knee and although I noticed because it is different, I didn’t think they were doing anything wrong or that they were less attractive. But I also prefer not to have a visual attractant at a body point I don’t want men looking at, so I shaved.

      This year, I stopped shaving above my knee so that my razors would last longer. I seldom wear anything shorter than a few inches above my knee and I wear shorts over swimsuits to prevent my thighs from chaffing and bleeding, so I decided there was no point in shaving hair that only I see. Several months in, I like feeling natural with my long upper leg hair.

  12. anonymous

    Thanks for this post Sal… I too rarely shave down there and have always been self-conscious about it…. it is nice to know I am not the only one! I think part of the problem, as you said it, is that women don’t ever get to see female bodies that don’t conform to gender norms, such as in media, advertisements and films and on TV, so we come to see ourselves and our grooming habits as the exception/weird rather than normal. As a collective, our society seems to present WOMAN as hairless, bronzed, slim, naturally perfect hair, toned, etc., as if this image is the norm. The message is that this is the proper way to be/look and if that if you don’t have this body you should try to achieve it. While I am all for beauty treatments that make you feel better about yourself, I can’t help but wonder how much of this feeling is conditioned by gender/beauty norms outside of our control.

  13. D

    I honestly haven’t had much of a struggle in this area; for whatever reason my skin is generally okay with shaving down there if I choose to, and my husband doesn’t care at all. I do find it interesting that the one or two times that it has been brought up in a shamey way, it was by females in my own family. So I guess I have some shame, which is likely caught up in cultural norms, but I don’t feel very strongly about it. Haters gonna hate.

  14. Jamie

    I used to have a lot of issue with body hair. I shaved or waxed everything except my head (even hair on my arms). I really do think that it was a related to gender norms. I felt like girls were supposed to be soft and smooth and doll-like, and hair wasn’t really adding to that. I felt uncomfortable with just the littlest bit of body hair.

    I feel like I’ve matured since then, and I still wax my ‘down there’ area. But that’s just mostly for my own personal comfort. Somehow not having hair down there makes me feel better, and maybe it was a shame sort of aspect. My SO doesn’t care at all about my body hair (if I have it or don’t) and it does make me wonder why sometimes.

  15. Seraphinalina

    It is amazing the range of attitudes there are towards body hair and yet the frequency that shame is part of it.

    I worked in aquatics through high school and university and I did not have tufts to the side so I didn’t realize anyone shaved there at all for quite some time. But I would have if I had hair there, I would not have wanted to have that out on display for 40 hours a week in the summer.

    I am finding the past few years that the hair on my thighs is getting darker and longer and I find I don’t like that. I don’t think it is shame, I just don’t like the way they look, I feel better when they are gone and I look more like how I perceive myself to look.

    I have a friend who has light brown hair and puts highlights in it. I think of her as a blonde, she has come to accept that is the way she likes to look so she continues to highlight her hair. I don’t see myself as someone with long dark hairs on my thighs so I feel better when they aren’t there. Not for someone else, I don’t like them and I don’t have to keep them (even if I really don’t want the upkeep).

  16. Aziraphale

    Interesting discussion!

    I’ve been in enough locker rooms and seen enough bikini line regrowth to feel pretty confident that most, if not all, grown women would have tufts poking out of bikini bottoms if they didn’t remove them by some method, so I can honestly say I’ve never felt like a “freak” for having a lively growth of pubic hair. That doesn’t mean I’m immune to cultural norms, of course — I still remove the excess hair before walking outside in bathing suit! But I’m not a die-hard hair removal fanatic. I too get itchy bumps, although I don’t get them so much if I only shave once a week, which is about how often I get around to it. One time I got a brazilian bikini wax, and while it was sort of a fun little novelty for my husband (and me), I wasn’t sufficiently enamored of the bare-down-there feeling to keep it up. Plus, was it ever ITCHY while growing back! Yeesh. Never again.

    One time my stylish mother-in-law was getting teased by the men in her family for wearing a bathing suit with a skirt. They thought it was a “grandma” bathing suit. She looked at my father-in-law and said bluntly, Well, you’ve got two choices: you can have pubic hair, or you can have a skirt. Take your pick. LOL — well said! There’s many a time I opt for boyshorts these days, just because I don’t feel like shaving.

    • Velma

      Actually, I’m a nearly hairless type (Scandinavian by heritage)–definitely no “tufts” emerging out of the sides, top, or bottom of my typical underwear, let alone a swimsuit. I am 43.

      This has been an interesting discussion for me to read. I can well remember how embarrassed I was when I was in middle school in the early ’80s, changing for swim team, and realized how much hair every other girl had. I felt like a little kid. I guess things will have changed for my daughter when she gets there in a few years . . . but I’m not sure that the hairless norm is any better than the vigorously bushy one! ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. diane

    Every woman should love their lady business. Feeling like you have a cute cookie is better than the best pair of shoes out there. Go Sal!

    • Aziraphale

      Oh, I don’t know. When I wear cute shoes, I glance at them admiringly all day long. I don’t spend a lot of time looking at (or thinking about) my pubic bush, regardless of neatly groomed it is. ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. K

    I’ve never been ashamed of my hair, but from the moment I realized I didn’t have to be hairy I’ve been removing it. This means I’ve been shaving my legs since around age 12 and, unlike a lot of women I know, I shave my legs everyday. To be fair, for me this just means pulling a very dull razor over my legs for about 30 seconds, I don’t go through the whole production of applying shaving cream and really taking the time to get it right. I frequently miss spots and don’t care. But my hair is almost black and my skin is very light and I hate the look and feel of being hairy.

    I used to shave my bikini line too, but I started getting the brazilians a few years ago and now do that instead. This does mean that I have a slightly hairy bikini line for a couple of weeks when it grows out, but again, doesn’t really bother me.

  19. anotherjen

    So it sounds like an initial solution might be to have some representations of women with pubic hair out and about. And talking about it more. Thoughts?

    • Anne Nonimous

      Hi, anotherjen. You raise a really good point. I’m not optimistic about ever seeing a more diverse set of body-hair representations in the media, sadly; I think it’ll have to come from ‘role models’ around us.

      My own comfort with body hair (such as it is, admittedly) stems in part from my mother’s example. She doesn’t shave, bleach, or wax anything. She’s not particularly hairy – I’m far more follicularly-blessed than she is – but she was a great model of that attitude that what other people think about one’s grooming choices is *their* problem.

      My other role model in this regard was a friend who had PCOS and attendant mad facial hair issues. She shaved for special occasions, but the rest of the time she sported a 1/2″ long goatee. And sideburns. Much like our Sal, she had translucently pale skin and very dark hair (adorable curls on her head, too). I looked at her and saw her great life: career, loving family & friends, etc, and let go of a lot of my fear of being unloved/ostracized for having hair – which is so much less obvious than hers.

    • Sara

      I really enjoyed seeing the armpit hair on Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish movie – really disappointed that the English movie didn’t honor that, even though it speaks to the characters unwillingness to please men. Certainly more movies could show some armpit and leg hair and not for comedic effect either (Without a paddle had a scene where some guy though Rachel Blanshard was a real hottie, which she is, until he saw that she had hairy legs [they were in the middle of the woods!].

  20. Marie

    I hate the double-standard. Men can have body hair, but on women itโ€™s disgusting and unclean?! It is an absolute uproar and I will rant about it to anyone who will listen. Sadly, I am not brave enough to actually display any visible body hair because of societal pressure, the dirty looks and rude comments. It is such a time-consuming chore and I resent it. My feelings about body hair are not reflected in what I present to the world but that makes me want to fighter harder against sexism.

    • Anne Nonimous

      I like how you think, sister!

      Just letting you know that I’m on that. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I swim and jog in public with unshaven legs exposed. When girlfriends express hatred for their facial hair (it’s usually facial hair that gets talked about), I try to gently push back. Some come back that I have it ‘easy’ – although rather hairy, my hair is blond/red, so it’s much less visible than light skin/dark hair-having women’s. They have a point.

      I don’t think we should feel pressure to do things we’re not comfortable with, in either political direction. I wouldn’t want someone to go around hairy and self-conscious just to model that humans, on average, have hair. The best thing one can do, probably, is to verbally express a tolerant, body-accepting attitude to any young daughters/neices one may have.

  21. Trudy Blue

    My husband is, by any ordinary standard, a model Gen-X feminist guy. But
    his sister recently told me a story from when they were teens and went swimming with my now-husband’s best friend. When my sister-in-law pulled off her shorts, her brother stared at her with a horrified look on his face and snapped: “Oh, my god! Would you tuck in your pubes!?” She was mortified (of course) and soon embarked on a lifelong campaign of bikini hair removal. So, yeah. Shame is a big motivator. (For the record, he has apologized muchly in the intervening years.)

  22. Anne Nonimous

    Another woman who ‘can’t’ shave here. Of course, I *can* shave, wax, N’air etc, but I choose – it’s a very conscious choice – to privilege my (physical) comfort over the relief-from-anxiety I feel when I do adhere to the grooming expectations. Frankly, the Brazilian trend of the last few years has made it much easier to let go of my feelings of shame and obligation about pubic hair – if it’s now expected that we’re all gonna do *that*, then I politely decline to reify your unreasonable expectation, there.

    Like other commenters here, I’m in my mid-30’s; I don’t doubt there’s a generational component to my response to the current (apparent) norm of total hairlessness. I had the misfortune to go through puberty in a place & time that basically acted like you were an offense just for being female; the comments from classmates and strangers who found my unshaved 14-year old legs offensive (and my body hair is blond, people! Invisible from a distance, even at its most luxuriant!) still ring in my ears. It’s partly because of the abuse that I’m deeply skeptical of grooming norms. It’s hard for me to feel that shaving etc. is ‘voluntary’ when the alternative is to be told in no uncertain terms that you are disgusting, you transmit disease, you should be killed/tortured for this offensive choice, etc. This stuff all came from other teens, of course – but kids that age are coming from an unfiltered place with respect to the Cultural Id, so I bet a lot of adults *feel* similarly but don’t *say* so.

    I don’t wear shorts. I do wear swimsuits – the lap-swim tank kind; not the cute/sexy kind. I use an electric beard trimmer to keep my pubes of a length that won’t get painfully tugged at by pantie-elastic, etc. I figure anyone who looks closely enough to see the red-blond hairs that crop up below my swimsuit edges can look someplace else – and that includes me! I put on the suit and then forget about it, to the best of my ability. So, yeah … lots of torment here. I don’t mean to imply that anyone else here should make different choices. I’m not even fully at peace with my own.

    • LisaZ

      I agree there must be a generational component to this, which makes it almost worse for me. The fact that we as a culture have gone ass-backwards on this instead of forwards toward embracing who we are and what we’ve got must be at least part of why this topic is pissing me off enough to actually curse in a comment! The pornography component to this also gets me going. Sorry, Sal. You’ve shared something very personal and honest and I don’t mean to belittle that but I also feel that like others here I need to share my feelings.

      On a practical note, like you I also use an electric trimmer to shorten and almost completely (but not quite) shave the bikini line means I don’t get the red bumps and itchies, and if anyone is looking that close they need to re-think their concern…

      • Jennifer

        I actually learned about the trimmer tool when Sal had this conversation last time – so glad people recommended it! It’s just enough, painless, cheap, no appointments to make – there are many reasons it works for me. I too was someone who wore boy shorts as a solution before, but then got pregnant, wanted to keep swimming, and the only suits I could find were tanks. The trimmer works great!

  23. Olivia

    I have never done much to maintain my pubic hair because mine is not terribly thick or dark. I don’t swim much and when I do, I wear longer shorts because I like more coverage. Never had a man say anything about it, so I don’t know who these men are that insist upon it. I say if a man is lucky enough to get that intimate, then he should be thankful and not complain. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s funny that my husband, who doesn’t have a lot of body hair, shaves his arm pits and his pubic hair. Says he tried it once and just likes the way it feels, but he doesn’t give me grief for not doing it.

    I tried not shaving my legs for a while, but found it made my skin itch so now I just shave below the knee. Above the knee is fine, soft hair. Still shave my pits because I think it makes deodorant more effective. I have shaved my pubic hair a couple of times, but found it really hard for me to do myself and I’m too cheap to go to a professional. Plus the regrowth was hell.

  24. Sarah

    Honestly, the reason I don’t get waxed as often as I should is that I don’t want the waxer to see my cellulite or smell any lady smells that may waft, based on my fear. But then, I wait too long and and it hurts as much as the first time. The hardest part is that my booty is so hairy, I have to have them wax in there, too. Grody. I mean, it feels fantastic once it’s all off, but I guess I’m too empathetic for the waxer.

    • Sam

      I totally have the same hangups! (Plus, I’m too cheap. So I shave every month or so.)

      That said… I bet you anything your waxer, like a gyno, has seen and smelled eeeeeeeeeeverything there is to see and smell.

  25. Anne

    I’m in the process of getting my bikini line lasered right now (I also got a Groupon and things have been going really well, I still have a few treatments left but I’ve already definitely noticed a difference). For a long time, I shaved completely down there- my skin gets a bit irritated but nothing terrible. But I’ve always thought it was much sexier (on other women) to have pubic hair. It was kind of a shame thing for myself, I guess (although you can’t deny some of the great… sensations you get with completely smooth skin!). Since I started getting the laser treatments I’ve been letting some hair grow down there and my boyfriend actually likes it a lot. I’ve also been getting more lax about my underarms and legs (I used to shave everything daily, now it’s every few days). My comfort with my body hair seems to correlate with my body image.

  26. Harriet

    Of all the things I’ve never worried about, this is one. I shave legs and armpits when I know they will be seen, and have tried various things to deal with the dark hair on my face (which I’ve had since I was in my 20s), but I feel those are more grooming issues than anything else — like trimming your nails or keeping the hair on your head neat. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had the body for a bikini or short-short anything, but that part of my anatomy is never on public display. I don’t like swimming and rarely go to the beach, but it’s not because of that.

    I do think the hairless ideal for women is a crock and yet another thing to make women feel ashamed of their bodies. Also, in some parts of the world, hairy legs and all the rest are accepted as a matter of course. So some of it is cultural. But you know, if anyone ever laughed at me or tried to make me feel bad about myself over my hairiness, I would feel it was their problem (and certainly would reflect more badly on them than on me).

  27. l

    This does make me very sad! Of course our emotions over anything are always valid to be considered and respected, but how do we decide for some things to keep up the fight against how culture would oppress and disfigure our nature selves, and for other things we just roll over and give in??

    I’m in the same boat. If I were totally consistent on this I would be sporting the goatee and sideburns my great great grandmothers probably did through all the generations in the old country! I too feel most cute and pretty when much of my body is totally smooth and hairless. But I continue wrestling with this! I do NOT accept from culture that I must look younger than I am (with body hairs removed) or like someone from a different culture who does not have body hairs. I think we are so twisted in the modern culture and I battle this within myself constantly!

  28. S

    Oh what an interesting discussion! I’m delurking (finally) to note that I refuse to do much about my general tuftiness despite my husband’s strong preference for hairlessness. It has actually caused conflict at times but I believe that one should be loved as one is.

    On another note – there was recently an article in the New York Times discussing the increasing prevalence of “boyzilian” waxing so apparently the expectation of hairlessness is spreading ( On the one hand it makes me ridiculously and irrationally happy that this is not just a “woman thing” anymore but also depressed that one line of reasoning that I used to justify my decision not to de-tuft — namely that it was about societal expectations of women — may no longer hold. Sigh!

    • Aziraphale

      Sadly, you may be right. My running partner is a woman ten years my junior, and while out on a morning run a while back, we got on the topic of body hair. It turns out that she is disgusted by chest hair on a man, and makes her husband wax his off. I laughed so hard I had to pause for a bit! I had NO IDEA that men who aren’t actors or porn stars ever did this sort of thing. (I personally like a bit of hair on a man; it makes him look like, well, NOT A BOY. ook.) Anyway apparently she isn’t the only one in the under-30 crowd to find male hair off-putting. I didn’t like to ask her about how she felt about her husband’s pubic hair, but it didn’t surprise me to read what you wrote about “boyzilians” being the next big thing. I sure hope it’s a passing fad. This obsession with hairlessness is getting out of control.

      • hellotampon

        I’m 27 and I like my boyfriend’s body hair. Shaved chests on men are kind of a turn-off for me. As for the pubes, as long as they are trimmed down to a manageable length, I don’t mind. Every now and then my boyfriend will shave his off and then parade around like it’s the hottest thing ever. I hate to burst his bubble but I really couldn’t care less about that!

      • Jules

        Yes, as a mid-twenty-something woman married to a very hairy mid-twenty-something man, I can definitely confirm that there is a BIG bias against hairy chests and ESPECIALLY backs. My husband possesses both. In abundance. I actually quite like his chest, which is unusual for my age group. But–and I’ve never told him this, and wouldn’t say it here but for the anonymity–I have all sorts of weird shame issues about his back hair. His! Not mine! Gosh. What right do I have to care? But I do.
        I am ashamed/embarrassed, both for him and for me, when we’re at the beach. I worry about the judgment that I’m fairly sure my peers are passing, on him and on me by extension.
        His hairiness doesn’t seem to bother him, though. So I keep my mouth firmly shut, because I don’t want to hurt him for my own stupid benefit. But every summer’s difficult. It’s a gross feeling on my part and I hate having it.

        (And, as a rather hairy girl myself, I have a whole other set of shame issues regarding my own body. Half Portuguese and half Irish, I’m doomed to dark-haired, pale-skinned fuzzdom. My bikini line’s a disaster, my underarms get a five o’clock shadow, I’ve even got a sweet little mustache as well as a small set of stubborn chin hairs. I hate all of them. I’d love to come to peace with them, but simultaneously can’t wait for the day when I can laser my bikini line and mustache into oblivion…)

        • Sara

          That reminds me of the sex and the City episode where Charlotte makes her boyfriend wax his back before they go to the pool party. But after waxing his back is so red that she is still embarrassed and she forbids him to take his shirt off and he rebels and takes it off and goes swimming anyway.

          • Jules

            Ugh, I hope I never come to that point! This is entirely MY problem, not his. And I never want to impose my issues on him.

            If I could be as accepting of myself (and body hair in general) in the face of societal resistance as my husband is, my life would be a heck of a lot better.

  29. A regular reader

    This is not a philosophical comment but more a practical tip. There is an-between option between going full-on prairie and full-on removal, if you haven’t considered?

    I use a beard trimmer, with a hair guard attachment, like this one:

    It trims the hairs so they don’t get too long and tufty. There’s no ingrowns because I’m not removing the hair at the roots.

    But yeah, philosophically, I’m conflicted too about the whole hair-removal for women standard.

    • Sam


      Actually, my pubic hair grooming approach – developed and solidified during my first sexual relationship at age 18 – boils down to the following:

      My pubic hair –> male facial hair
      Full bush (not my style but fine for other women) –> long beard (not my style but fine for other guys)
      Shaving (occasionally) –> shaving (occasionally)
      Using a beard trimmer (usually) –> using a beard trimmer (usually)
      Shaving/epilating the bikini zone when “bearded” –> shaving the neck and cheekbones when bearded
      Fun designs (e.g. landing strip) –> fun designs (e.g. handlebar mustache)

      This philosophy has treated me well so far, self-confidence-wise. It’s also kept me from judging on other women, like I might otherwise be tempted to (being a product of my culture and all).

  30. Sal

    Hey friends, in case it was unclear, I’m not getting a laser Brazilian. Just the bikini line area. Although I respect each person’s right to do what she/he sees fit with hair management, Brazilians aren’t for me. I want tuft management, not total hairlessness and have some concerns about what total lack of pubic hair in women can represent sexually and developmentally.

    Also I’m always amazed by how many people come forth to say that they feel pressured to do Brazilians. I’ll admit that I haven’t been in the dating pool in a damned long time, but I’ve never met a single man (or woman) who wanted or expected a hairless pubic mound. I’m sure they’re out there – so many women speak up about it, and I know they’re not lying – but I’m yet to encounter them myself.

    Thanks TONS for another lively, varied, insightful, and respectful discussion here today.

  31. Emmy

    I’m the reverse of you all – I have alopecia universalis and therefore have no body hair at all. I confess I don’t miss shaving my legs and armpits, but I really miss having a proper lady garden. Looking like a little girl, even though nobody sees that area of my body, is sad and I don’t like that my pubic region is now “ideal” because of a health condition. I used to trim my bush but never waxed or shaved and it feels wrong to have an undercarriage that conforms to social expectations I really dislike.

    • K.D.


      Might it help to realize that your vulva probably actually looks like a woman’s and not like a little girl’s? I know that pubic hair is a big symbol of maturity, but the rest of the region sort of develops as well. Even if you don’t have hair there any more, your vulva’s shape, size, color, and even position relative to your body are very visibly different from a child’s.

      Just a thought — I certainly can understand mourning the loss of hair there and elsewhere!

    • JS

      Hi Emmy,
      My mum has exactly the same condition and has expressed the same view! She doesn’t miss her arm, armpit or leg hair but finds having it all bare “down there” to be weird, as she never did that before. She also misses her eyebrows, nose hair (constant runny nose) and head hair!

  32. Lisa W.

    Seriously, thanks for addressing this, Sal! Tuftiness or not, seems to be a trend, a style, a fashion. I think that’s kind of weird, but I get it. Hair, in general is a political thing in culture and always has beenโ€” look at the American 60s!

    I’m a 40-something married mom of 2 boys who generally devotes as little time as possible to my looks. I think I woke up about 4 or 5 years ago, suddenly realizing that I missed the memo on the hairless thing. I admit that I have since tried to pay attention to my grooming down there but I see that as more self-care & love, rather than fashion or societal motivation. That said, I will make a point of removal if I’m going to take my boys to the pool or enjoy a planned date with Mr. W. While I know my outlook has been molded by what my mom/friends/society has foisted upon me, I groom because I feel better for it, right or wrong, which is what I think you’re saying, Sally. My husband’s enjoyment of my body is important, but MY enjoyment in my own hairy or hairless skin is MOST important. Any other onlookers can look the other way, IMO!

    FYI: The first time I heard the term “Lady garden” was on SNL by Amy Poehler. I laughed SO hard! So perfectโ€” I love her.

  33. tiny junco

    hallelujah for growing up in Berkeley in the 1960’s!! Between hippies and the disability mobility movement, you see it all out here. Pubes of every stripe (courtesy of hot tubs, nude beaches, saunas, etc.), people of every shape, size, color and missing this that and the other. I still got a ton of questions about “what happened to your pubes?!?!?”. How many times have i wanted to respond “It was a tragic flatulence-lighting accident……” But in reality, i’m just not a hairy gal.

    To me, hair is hair and why not style it how you like! But i was lucky to grow up in a free-wheeling time and place, and had other issues to deal with myself. steph

  34. Trystan (the CorpGoth)

    Body hair is a topic that comes up amongst my girlfriends occasionally, usually in rant form against any kind of “you must do XYZ” mentality. We’re all kind of womens-studies-ish, very feminist, very “every body is beautiful in it’s own special way.” And we’ve come to the conclusion that this Brazilian, waxed bikini area trend was really promoted with the explosion in Internet porn. A waxed/shaved pubic area makes it easier to see & film genitalia & close-up sex acts, the widespread (no pun intended ๐Ÿ˜‰ adoption of the Internet — esp. broadband — made porn cheap & easily accessible for more people (ok, men), & thus, the idea of what’s “normal” changed.

    It’s definitely generational, as some here have pointed out. Men under 40 or 30 tend to expect less tufty women, & women under 40 or 30 seem to have more concerns about their own pubic hair.

    There is a similar issue for guys, not in the pubes, but for chest hair. Young women today tend to exclaim that hairy-chested men are “gross” & unappealing. But in the ’70s & ’80s, Tom Selleck & others with hairy chests were considered super studs. Nowadays, the big Hollywood male stars have waxed nipples!

  35. Mel@VasiliasVintage

    Great topic, Sal! I’ve been fascinated by all of these comments! I truly feel sorry for young women today…I came of age in the 80s, when beauty standards were just starting to get out-of-control, so I can only imagine the pressure that 20-something women feel today to conform to the hairless “norm.” Adults have body hair – why can’t people see what an awful double-standard it is for women to be told that they “must” be hairless?

    Myself, I just do all kinds of different things with my “undercarriage” as one commenter called it! Sometimes I shave it completely, which feels great for a day or two, and then the itching drives me nuts! Too poor and too shy to get it waxed professionally, so other times I just let it grow in. My partner came of age in the 60s, and actually didn’t even *know* that hairlessness was all the rage now – she thinks it’s absurd! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I shave my legs (to the calf only) and my armpits all the time, but I kinda think the blond hairs on my thighs are cute! Ladies, be comfortable and confident no matter what! ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. K-Line

    Fascinating! I haven’t read the comments yet, but I’m looking forward to some lively discussion. I have never been ashamed of body hair because I’m not very hairy at all. In the scheme of things, I’m like the least hairy person. But I am a bit, not ashamed – but not entirely happy about – the thickness of the hair on my head. I would love to have very thick hair (who knows if it would suit me, it’s just the thing I always wanted to have) and mine is extremely fine. I have small facial features, so having a cropped haircut works very well, but I wish I could have long, flowing locks. Weirdly, my daughter (who takes after her father’s side of the family) has the most fantastic, wavy, thick amazing hair. I’m so happy for her. I always want to brush it and touch it because it is so lustrous. Note: She doesn’t appreciate the constant attention ๐Ÿ™‚

  37. nestra

    I’m not a waxer but I am a regular trimmer and shaver. I feel cleaner when my pubes are short. I have shaved it all off in the past and frankly think it looks a creepy, a little too pre-adolescent for my taste. The upkeep is too much for me too!

  38. nestra

    Wanted to add that I find the bald look creepy on me, not that I think it is weird on everyone.

  39. Katharine

    What a timely post — I was just looking at my legs this morning and wondering if I have the ‘nads this year to go full-growth all summer long. I … haven’t decided yet. If I didn’t have an office job, I would be all over it (and in fact I DID spend a summer going to my office job with full fur, and no one said anything). And I think that’s more my own judgement than anything — which is mildly hilarious, since I personally love the look of women with natural body hair, and fully approve it in public on others.

    I’ve never shaved my legs above the knee, though, not ever. And the hair on my thighs is very short, sparse, and blonde — I sometimes wonder if the lower leg hair would’ve stayed the same, if I’d left it alone? The lower leg hair is sort of middling — neither dark or light, a bit heavy and noticeable only round the inner ankle and just below the kneecap. It shows more or less depending on the light — and yes, probably nobody notices on a usual day.

    (Pit hair, though — people notice that. During the summer of not shaving — during which, incidentally, I DID have my hair close-cropped with clippers — not quite a full shave, but nearly) I got all kinds of grief at the gym. Not directly to my face, either — but all sorts of full-grown adult women making rude comments to their friends in their Outside Voices about how horrible it was that any female should display that kind of disgusting dirty hair. (This, usually, when I was fresh out of the shower, and putting on my clothes. Whatever, ladies.)

    The thing with shaving is I hate stubble — hate it — so once I start, it’s a daily shave until the blessed relief of fall tights, and I stop. My partner, who also, it seems, favours an au naturel aesthetic, has been encouraging me not to shave…

    As for the ladygarden, well, I also got a few Brazilians during one short period, and disliked the whole thing intensely. Not just because absolutely nothing I did and no potions I used stopped the rashes and the fierce ingrowns, but it just felt — awful, naked, with no nice soft hair cushioning and protecting it. I just don’t get it, anyway. As I say, I hate hate hate the feel of even the slightest stubble, and even with waxing, there’s some regrowth within a week, so unless one is using more permanent methods, the whole idea is the antithesis of sexy, on me OR a partner.

    • Katharine

      Head hair, close cropped, that is. Other hair flourishing freely. I was into a pretty butch aesthetic that year. Given the topic, that sentence was way more confusing than it needed to be.

  40. Quin

    Usually I trim down there, because I prefer it myself, and it helps me feel more confident in bed, which translates to both me and my boyfriend having a good time. Sometimes I shave, but you’re totally right, regrowth is a bitch. The bf never really says he prefers one way or another, though I don’t think he’s every seen my lady garden in it’s completely untrimmed state. More of a lady jungle at that point, really. But he’s not one to complain about sex in any form. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I cannot imagine waxing, though. Ouch. I don’t have a very high threshold for pain, however. I’m 20 and I’m still scared to death of going to the doctor to get shots.

    This lady, Laci Green, does AWESOME sex positive youtube videos. I want to be her best friend. She did one on pubes recently, I thought it was very funny/well informed (there are some swears, just FYI):

  41. Stephanie

    I’m actually just starting the laser process for a partial bikini in a few weeks. My husband has never minded nor did anyone who saw me in all my glory before him but I don’t like having to worry about it at the pool. I guess that is a bit silly but that is really what it boils down to for me. I’ve been buying swimwear with boy shorts or skirts for years. I’ll add too that I didn’t realize until talking to my mother about this that some women have more hair then others so while I have to shave to wear a regular swim bottom she has never had to.

  42. K

    Talking about these things is good, but it also makes me feel like more of a deviant when I hear about how much so many women care about this stuff. Even if they are saying they wish they could stop caring so much (and presumably be more like me) part of the message is “everyone DOES care about this.” And that’s not super fun to hear for someone who doesn’t.

    Also, it’s interesting that many of the women who said that they don’t practice hair removal or who “missed the memo” offered some kind of reason or excuse — like saying they’re older and there’s clearly a generation gap, or that they have light-colored or sparse hair anyway, or that they prefer to wear skirted bottoms or shorts. That suggests to me that even those of us who “don’t care” feel a little uncomfortable with our indifference (as I do).

    I don’t have any of these excuses, yet I put in very minimal (though nonzero) effort when it’s swimsuit time, and it’s not perfect, and it doesn’t bother me that much.

    Until I read about how much of an issue hair removal is for everyone else, which is what makes me wonder whether something is wrong with me.

    Again, I’m not trying to say this is a reason not to have this conversation. It’s just…tricky.

    • Anne Nonimous

      As one of the non-shavers from upthread who used all of those excuses, this is a very insightful comment. Thanks for this.

      I *think* that I don’t care that I don’t care; however I am concerned about seeming to dismiss other women’s stated pain on the subject with an attitude that “I don’t care (and neither should you).”

  43. JaneJetson

    This issue is especially hard for young girls. My daughter is beginning to develop. She will probably have hairy legs like me. For years I was pretty peeved that my body hair was part of my semetic roots. I had the hair on my legs, underarms and bikini line removed with laser and it was money so well spent. I feel more confident and comfortable and I like how it looks. I had trouble with shaving due to ingrown hairs and razor burn. My husband also likes it.

    Anyway – I told my daughter she didn’t have to shave her legs if she didn’t want to. She claims she wants to because she doesn’t like hairy legs. I told her she has plenty of time to decide. I know how hard it was for me when I was younger I have told her I will pay for her to have laser work when she is older if that is what she wants. I tried to tell her any way was fine but she wants what she wants. But how can she truly know what she wants if she has not seen anything but smoothe?

    There are two semetic girls in our neighborhood who have full mustaches. One has a conservative mother who will not let her address the hair. The other mother helps the daughter wax and bleach her facial hair. I feel very sorry for the girl who cannot shave. Maybe she is striking a blow for feminism, despite her traditional upbringing, but I see that it brings her a lot of pain.

    I also wonder if this is not an ethnic/class matter. Northern Europeans traditionally have less body hair. One friend of Norwegian descent told me she was surprised to learn some women felt the need to shave above the knee, I was so jealous that she didn’t even have visible hair above her knee.
    Northern Europeans and Anglos came to the US much earlier than those of us from southern and eastern Europe. The earlier immigrants were generally taller, thinner and blonder than the later immigrants. They also had fairer skin and were more likely to be Protestant than Catholic or Jewish. I think in some way these early immigrants still set the standard for appearances, at least in the US.

    On a completely unrelated note – I do not like the look of underarm hair on anyone. I wish my husband would shave his underarms as he would look better, his deodorant would work better and his shirts would last longer before pitting out.

    • Lisa W.

      SO interesting, your comment on Norther Europeans setting the standard for appearances! It’s easy to point to the omnipresence of the media for where we get our imagery now, but style and politics pre-date newspapers, so it’s interesting to think about. I also think CorpGoth’s suggestion that internet porn is responsible for the Brazilian being a trend sounds right on. I’ve found much to think about while discussing our nether-regions. (my 7 year old is fond of that term!)

    • Elizabeth

      I’m convinced it’s that ethnic history that’s behind the valuing of straight (head) hair over curly hair. Curly hair supposedly looks “messy” or “unprofessional.” And how many women do you know that destroy their hair with chemical straighteners and flat irons? But you’re much less likely to have curly hair if your ancestors came to this country on the Mayflower than through Ellis Island, or in the most extreme example, in the hold of a slave ship.

  44. Secret Squirrel

    Sal, thank you for tackling this again. I have remembered from time to time your previous posts on body hair when having my usual thoughts about “should I shave that?” “can I get away with it?”. Yes, I can.

  45. hellotampon

    I normally shave my legs and underarms year round and enough of my bikini line in the summer so that nothing is hanging out. If I forget to do it for a few days and have stubble or if I miss a spot, oh well.

    I have gone through several phases where I didn’t shave anything. The first one was when I was 16 or 17 and that lasted maybe through the first month of summer before I gave up. Every few months when i thought my legs couldn’t get any hairier, they did. I just felt ugly, and then I felt ashamed that I felt that way. The next couple times I did it I was in a committed relationship (the same one that I’m in now). He didn’t care about my furriness but I still felt like my legs looked ugly so one day I just said “oh for christ’s sake, why I am I doing this if it’s making me feel bad?” and shaved. Strangely enough I never minded how my hairy armpits looked but they’re so HOT that every time I shaved them after growing them out I instantly felt 10 degrees cooler. And having hair there also makes it harder to wash the BO out. My boyfriend barely wears deodorant and never smells but I’m one of those gross people for which no deodorant works! I don’t sweat a LOT, but the little bit that does come out stinks to high heaven.

    Being stinky AND hairy is too much for me. I think one of the reasons I feel ugly with body hair is that I don’t wear it well. I always felt like, if I was a lithe young woman with golden tresses who farted rose petals and looked good braless then I’d rock the leg hair with no problem. But I’m short with glasses and a big nose and I’m all boobs, and the super-intense leg hair made me feel even more messy and unfeminine.

    • M

      I have dark hair and light skin. Over the years, I’ve shaved, waxed (myself) and let my hair grow. When I was shaving, it was during periods of feeling like I was obligated. Waxing, because of the grow out time, was always more about enjoying the softness of my skin after the hair has been waxed (not that hair isn’t soft, but bare skin is a different type of softness) and being able to continue to not shave for a while longer. I’ve dated both men and women over the years and no one at any point has ever made a comment to me about what I do or do not do. That’s something only my mom holds the title for.

      And in some ways, I feel like that explain most of what happened. More than society’s pressures, I think I felt my mom’s pressures growing up and then spent years trying to tease out what I really found to be important. I sometimes only take a shower once a week now, supplementing with bird baths in between. Once upon a time, I shaved my legs every day because my hair grew so fast and was noticeably dark. I don’t even shower often enough for that now. I have a lot of other stuff to do in life besides constantly showering and shaving hair away.

  46. Carol N.

    Great topic, Sal. I am immensely hairy with porcelain skin and dark almost black hair. I’ve always shaved as long as I can remember and am going for the chin/upper lip/cheek laser treatment this summer. I had wondered if I could get the bikini line laserd so this answers that question. I am one hairy girl who personally does not like it on myself and intend to take care of it.

  47. Heidi L.

    Interestingly in western culture our looking negatively on body hair seems linked to increasingly skimpier clothing,this would mostly be in the 20th century.If you’ve ever seen “naughty’ photos from Edwardian or Victorian times there is no hiding pit hair etc.It’s even emphasized in certain cases by the pose. Thoughts?


  48. hellotampon

    Oh and the pubic hair debate is so fraught! I remember stressing out about that when I was like, 13 and hadn’t even kissed a boy yet. Everyone else my age was obsessed with it too– there were these internet forums that everyone at my school posted on, and every other topic was a poll asking, “should girls shave their pubes: YES or NO?” For some reason, that was a very big deal.

    I’m 27. My boyfriend of 8 years has made it known that he would like me to shave (like some ex girlfriends), and I flat-out refuse. I did it a couple times before we started dating, just to see what it was like, and by the next day my danger zone was VERY itchy and sore and generally uncomfortable. Not to mention, shaving your legs is easy- shaving your pubic hair off is difficult… too many nooks and crannies and edges; too many areas of delicate skin that I am not comfortable putting a blade against; too much bending at the neck. Never again! He maintains that it is “not that hard” to do, even though he DOES NOT HAVE A VAGINA so I don’t know how he could possibly know exactly what it is like. We actually used to get into fights about it. It’s not like I’m a total mess down there either… I trim it very short with scissors, which is relatively easy, costs nothing, and doesn’t come with any itchy, bumpy side effects. If anyone has a problem with that he can pound sand.

    • Marie

      Yes! Vulva shaving has a level of difficulty and discomfort that is waaay beyond face or leg shaving.

      • jenny

        I used to trim with a pair of scissors – be very careful. Instead of cutting the hair, it pulled the hair, then pulled my skin into the blades and I cut myself. Extremely painful and embarrassing! “Hey Doc, it was a trimming accident, you know?” I use one of those battery operated trimmers now to avoid that ever happening again!

  49. Chelsea

    I always quietly think it’s awesome when women eschew societal standards about body hair, but of course I would never comment on a random persons body, one way or another. Too bad the people that are uncomfortable with other peoples natural body hair aren’t polite enough to keep their uptight opinions/stares to themselves! Just wanted to chime in to let people know that not everyone cares/judges if you don’t feel like fighting a losing battle with your body hair. Unfortunately it’s often the more rude/immature that are the loudest on any given topic. ๐Ÿ™‚

  50. nmm

    Board shorts, that’s all I can say. As a woman of “a certain age” I can say I’ve tried most of the grooming options for the undercarriage. My conclusion on those men I knew who wanted a woman to be entirely bare down there was that they didn’t want a woman they wanted a little girl and someone they could control.
    A few years ago, I just started wearing board shorts mostly because I was doing water activities and didn’t want to worry about the bathing suit falling off. They look cute ( yes, I’ve gotten compliments on them!), they stay on, they keep your thighs comfortable, they are more comfortable to sit in after you get out of the water, you don’t have to worry about ride up or slip down, and I don’t have to worry about lady garden as a bonus. Since neither I nor my partner can stand stubble at all it makes us both happy. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Sal

      TOTALLY. In fact, even post-laser treatments, I prefer a bikini top and board shorts. I feel more like myself: Sporty, strong, and awesome. Plus less thigh chafing in my case. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  51. Audi

    I think that for all sorts of reasons, we’re all products of the age we live in. So enjoy your smooth bikini line and be thankful you don’t have to squeeze yourself into a corset or have your feet bound!

    • Sam

      Amen to that!

      Plus, no labour-intensive pincurls or beehive hairdos…

  52. JB

    I suspect that to some extent this issue, like so many body image issues, is about control. Finding a way to tame your body hair, in this case, isn’t just about aesthetics — it’s about showing your body who’s in charge. So you feel the same kind of satisfaction as someone who has achieved their goal of losing 20 lbs or getting in shape to run a marathon. All of these examples involve aesthetic changes to the body, but the good feelings that result are about so much more.

    • Sal

      YES. In fact, I am already thinking about how getting the pubic hair under control AND cutting my hair into a much less “wild” shape are related to control.

    • Sam

      That is such a fantastic point! I hadn’t ever thought about it that way… but you’re right, of course.

      There are so many ways for women to feel “in charge” of their own bodies through asthetic : Showing/covering body parts, removing/growing/dying/bleaching hair on their bodies and heads, getting their skin tattooed/pierced/tanned/bleached, sculpting their bodies through excercize/diet/plastic surgery, etc.

      And I, for one, would rather err on the side of NOT judging women’s aesthetic choices, regardless of where they are on — god, I wish there was a better phrase for this — the nature-vs-artifice “political spectrum”. I know plenty of strong, intelligent, admirable women who’ve had breast enhancements and tummy tucks. I know even more who’ve let their body and facial hair grow free.

      I find the issue of control over one’s own appearance to be strikingly similar to the issue of control over one’s own reproductive organs… particularly in that women get judged a whole lot more than men on either topic.

  53. Chelsea S.

    I feel so validated reading this post. I think we’re bikini line twins, as mine has been an ongoing battleground since puberty struck. After trying waxing and shaving and nairing, all of which left me with grotesque cysts of monstrosity that have scarred my skin, I finally discovered using a lady parts trimmer and only trimming down so that the hairs are still just poking out from the skin and won’t have as easy a change of burrowing back in. And this has been a great solution, however I still suffer with skin reactions from time to time. Yet, I keep doing it because when it gets too fuzzy out there and peeks out of my underwear, I, too, feel gross. And embarrassed. Even if I’m not sleeping with anybody, changing at the gym makes me feel weird. And when I am sleeping with someone? Especially someone new? Fuzzy bikini does not feel sexy… and feeling sexy is so important!

    Because of this ongoing battle and the actual pain and discomfort caring for this area has caused me over the years, I know that at some point I will also pay for laser hair removal. And to me, it will be worth it even though it’s probably the most I would spend on something cosmetic that really shouldn’t even be a socially mandated thing.

  54. Marisa

    I definitely like to keep things trimmed *down there* (and, yes, definitely prefer when my husband does, too – and he sometimes does). But – as with the rest of my body hair – I sometimes go long stretches without doing any maintenance. Some summers I just can’t be bothered to wax my legs or my pits, for instance. My husband doesn’t seem to care much one way or the other.

    Also, when I read your comment about not ever seeing women with untamed pubic hair – if you ever have a chance to visit a Korean or Russian day spa do it. Seeing a lot of other women’s (naked) bodies helps reinforce the idea that “normal” really encompasses an enormous range of things. We spend so much time only really looking at airbrushed models that it’s easy to lose sight of this fact!

    • Ruth

      On the other hand, someone I know went to a Turkish bath in north Africa. Committed the faux pas of going in naked, when all the locals kept their knickers on. And, as she stumbled through the steam, was taken aback as hands reached out and tugged at her pubic hair. Apparently they were all clean shaven, and thought that having hair was hilarious!
      Not sure that this adds much to the debate (although I suppose an insight into cultural norms etc, bla bla …) but it made me smile.

  55. anna

    i’m about where you’re at, sal. i see the problems with cultural expectations of hairlessness, and there were a few years where i went au naturel. i got tired of the harassment, and now i shave 1x/week in the summers (i would probably shave more if i were hairier, full disclosure. i’m only lightly furred). i trim down thur around the edges to keep it within the swimsuit. i’ve capitulated.

    i guess i should own it more, and i appreciate your statement that the positive emotions behind conforming to cultural values are valid. i believe they are. i am however skeptical that anyone can say their decision to conform is strictly their own, or not remotely related to cultural shame. it’s not impossible to escape our cultural boundaries and then, as if by coincidence, line up with the majority. but i think it’s not very likely, either.

    • anna

      i hope that wasn’t intolerant of me…i wouldn’t speak for anyone else, and if people say they are unashamed, but just prefer to be hairless i will take them at their word. i just feel like the cultural directives toward womens’ bodies are pretty overwhelming, and i wouldn’t know where to go to escape them, myself.

      • Sal

        No, I agree. But I think there is a balance to be struck. To say that we are all powerless against cultural norms at all times and under all circumstances and that free will doesn’t exist strikes me as … well, depressing for one thing and untrue for another. At the very least, discussing our feelings about conforming or not conforming, discussing why norms exist, and pushing against some of them is a valuable practice and helps us to remain aware of the norms and their power. Even if, in the end, we succumb to some.

        • anna

          thanks for your response, sal. i most definitely think discussing our feelings about these issues is one of the most productive things we can do, and i love that you’re unafraid to tackle ‘hairy’ issues on your blog (haw haw ugh i’m so ashamed of writing that).

          anyway, to be clear it’s not that i think we don’t have free will. i just think all choices we make (or anyone makes, really) are irrevocably impacted by the environment we are a part of. we will either conform to or push against what our environment tells us, or some combination of the two. but there is no vacuum of context-free choice, and that is why i’m skeptical of those (unlike you) who say their hair decisions are just a personal preference, and unrelated to the culture we live in. for example i’m betting in cultures where women aren’t expected to be hairless the majority of women wouldn’t go out of their way to become so, even if they might like the way it feels.

          i hope that makes sense.

          • anna

            i meant to expand that last thought, that women in cultures that aren’t focused on women’s hairlessness probably don’t go out of their way to achieve it. but i think it’s more than that. i think they wouldn’t get the same sense we do (some of us) that body hair is gross or dirty or unkempt. it itches at us because our culture tells us it is ugly. but that judgment is arbitrary, and so, i think, to some extent are our feelings. not invalid. but under different circumstances, they might be different.

      • Meg

        Anna, I tend to agree, and I do absolutely think it’s fine to remove body hair – hypocrisy be damned! YOu put it really well: “itโ€™s not impossible to escape our cultural boundaries and then, as if by coincidence, line up with the majority.”

        Especially as someone who chooses not to go that path though, I also think that we all have to take responsibility for not shaming others for their choices and bodies, especially if we are in a position of being the ‘norm’. As I said in another comment, I often get odd looks and judgement about my body hair choices, even though my body is privileged in a lot of ways – white, buxom, medium weight.

  56. Meg

    Hey Sal,

    I find this really honest and interesting. Being the proud feminist that I am, I don’t shave at all most of the time. This habit formed sometime in university, when despite my avowed feminism I still felt compelled to shave, because I saw body hair on women as damned ugly. Then I started spending a lot of time with another activist – she wasn’t as much of an outspoken feminist as me, but she was a bit of a hippie. She was very hairy, and very beautiful. I just couldn’t see body hair as ugly anymore, when J was so lovely in every way. I stopped shaving, and found I rather liked my underarm hair, despite the fact that I am very hairy, and dark-haired. I realised shaving and hair-removal had taken an enormous amount of time and always been painful for me.

    Nonetheless, I still find my hairy body a challenge. Much as I love my underarm hair, I find my bikini line and leg hair troubling, and sometimes unattractive. What’s more, I find that while body hair ‘goes’ with casual summer looks, it’s jarring against some of the more vintage styles I like to rock, and which are otherwise comfortable and suited to my body type.

    Other women look at me with distaste in the gym sometimes. Woman on woman body hair judgement is very real.

    At least two of my more serious boyfriends, while definitely not daring to tell me to shave (cue fear of my outrage!) have used their ‘preference’ and social pressure to indicate disapproval.

    My current lover is the best about all of this, but she can’t always ease my sense of disquiet.

    I think that even though it’s popular to believe we have agency on the body choices front, women’s bodies and body hair are powerfully socially disciplined and constrained. I do have agency, clearly, as do you, but when others’ and my own preferences are so shaped by beauty norms and the beauty industry, it’s a limited agency, and there are social costs for my ‘choices’ not to shave.

    So thanks for making a space to talk about this. I think this post is brave, and I am glad that you’re in a better place about your body hair now.

    • Sara

      I REALLY like your mention of vintage and how body hair can look jarring against it. How do you wear an elegant 50’s sundress and sandals with leg and armpit hair and not look like you’re being ironic?

  57. K.D.

    I’ve never had that reaction with pubic hair, but I had a really powerful moment of that the other week when somehow I ended up here: NSFW – naked ladies!

    It’s women who have body types like my own — big and droopy natural breasts, full and round thighs and hips, tummies that pooch out, and generally untanned skin with a bit of cellulite. And you could tell that most of the women in the pictures *felt* sexy and happy with themselves and with their bodies! It’s not like I’d never seen women shaped like me, or even seen fat women naked. But to see women who looked like me, naked and confidently sexy, in all the ways I’m told a hundred times a day I shouldn’t be — I don’t think I’d ever seen that before. It felt like someone was telling me I was OK and normal too. It was amazingly validating, though I thought I’d moved past the need to be validated a decade ago — apparently not!

  58. kt

    I have to second the comment about going to a Korean or Russian spa (although I’ve only been in Japanese or Finnish situations of nudity). Things are really different in different cultures, as well as across generations in the US!

    I have *never* had a guy indicate anything but positive emotions re: my hairiness, except one who suggested trimming (not shaving) for practical reasons. Women, on the other hand, have said plenty of snarky things. I think this is very much a woman-enforced norm for 30-somethings.

    I do try to wear boy-shorts and avoid sleeveless dresses if I haven’t shaved, I must admit. It makes my life easier. Women for president ok? Sure. Unshaved woman? Heck no, not in our society!

  59. ModernSauce

    I think your post last June was how I discovered your blog in the first place! Aaaand we’ve come full circle. ; )

    Thanks for bravely sharing your feelings/experiences about such a “private” matter (I hate myself with the puns). As a lady person who has been blessed with excess tufting I can tell you I’ve always hated it. Shame?! I has it! For all the same reasons as you describe. It took me awhile to separate my own personal feelings about it from outside influences – something I’m still not quite sure I’ll ever separate from. After some soul searching, pubic hair sculpting and one winter in high school where I refused to shave my legs to purposely give a hairy middle finger to some other girls who thought it was gross, I realized that I actually prefer smoothness (everywhere). Yes I’m conforming, blah, blah and it’s easy and is one less thing I have to worry about when swimming. (Hey, even if I’M okay with it, you can still tell when someone is sending you judgey eyes.) But more importantly, *I* also liked it because I felt sexier and more sensuous because all that super sensitive tender skin is now exposed! It just feels good to me! However, if a partner ever said he didn’t like tuftiness I’d probably grow it out just to give him a hairy middle finger too.

    So congrats on your lasering and your new-found attitude! Maybe Santa will bring me a stocking full of groupons this year!

    • M

      I totally understand the “skin more sensitive” part, but, this might be tmi, I also find hair to be a very sensitive addition. Kinda like whiskers on a cat, simply lightly touching hair can also produce some awesome, anticipatory feelings. Also, possibly more tmi, but I’ve had some piercings in more private places and while for a period of time, they made things more sensitive, over time they actually had the opposite effect of making me overly sensitive to the point where I almost didn’t feel anything anymore.

  60. Lorri

    After reading this thread in its entirety, I find myself wondering if some of our preferences could be rooted in the various regions in which we live or grew up. For many of us of a southern persuasion, we would no more go out in the summer without legs and underarms shaved than we would without at least enough minimal makeup to look as though we’re not wearing any. Age plays a part, as well – I am in my 50’s now. Looking back, I can’t say I felt any pressure to groom these areas, and my mother didn’t ever do much in that regard, so it’s not her example I’m following. I can’t remember much in the way of input from either of my ex-husbands. I have always loved the way my freshly shaven legs felt against clean sheets, and for many years shaved my legs and underarms every single day, jokingly saying “just in case I get lucky” when my friends would tease me about it. Now that I’m single I admit to having cut back a bit on shaving (more like once a week til summer arrives) but I do continue to groom my pubic area via trimming tufts and tweezing my bikini line, even though it’s been several years since I’ve worn a swimsuit in public. Surely what’s important here is that my choice to shave and yours not to should both be made by what we truly prefer, not by any pre-determined standards of what a woman should look or feel like. I sincerely hope that by 2012 we have come at least that far!

  61. anna

    i’ve commented already up thread, but i also want to mention the problem with not actually seeing other women with body hair. i think it was brilliant of sally to mention this. the affect of seeing only ‘perfect’ women as desirable/successful over and over is probably a lot deeper than we are aware. i remember the shock i felt at seeing modigliani’s (art history major here) hairy nudes for the first time, and how confused i felt because they were damned sexy, pit hair and all. i couldn’t reconcile the two, because i’d grown up seeing body hair as the opposite of attractive. but clearly modigliani didn’t feel that way, so what changed between that era and this?

    along that vein, and this might be weird to say, but i actually find it very comforting seeing ordinary women naked. at the gym, or at mothers’ meetings (i just had a baby) where there is a lot of breastfeeding going on. i’m to the point now that i will sometimes just watch people on the street just to think about what a great variety of bodies there are, all of them ‘normal’ and beautiful in their own way. two thin, white women can have completely different proportions, and both be just fine (as well as all other kinds of women, of course, i just have been trained to expect bodies with similar qualities to conform to each other, but they rarely do, and that’s great).

    anyway, i think it would be really effective if we could have more images of normal women’s bodies, and present them as acceptable. that might really make a dent, i think, in some of the body image anxieties women feel.

    • ily

      I wanted to comment on this as well. Like Sally, I’ve never seen a woman that was as hairy as me, either. But I think this is mostly selection bias. I don’t do anything to my bikini area, but then again, I always wear boyshorts when I swim (luckily I also find them comfy & attractive). I have a hairy stomach, but no one ever sees it aside from the one day a year that I might wear a bikini. My chest is a little hairy, and I have a neck beard, which I sometimes shave. I’m Italian/Eastern European, so, combo of some of the more hairy ethnicities. This is one place where I feel lucky to be genderqueer (at other times, it’s a huge pain), because I don’t have the feeling of my body needing to suit any particular gender ideal. I dunno, when it comes to body hair, I try to have a sense of humor about it, and that has really helped.

  62. Terri

    I only swim nowadays in the company of family members so I have rarely worried about the stray hair here and there. And while I don’t shave this part of my body, I have been known to take a pair of scissors and thin it periodically.

  63. Sara

    OMG when I read your post I thought I could probably leave about 6 comments, and I think I have already just in reply to other commenters. I hear a lot of people saying that they only feel uncomfortable with their pubic hair when they’re wearing swimsuits, and I totally agree. I’ve been to nude hot tubbing and nude saunas and I feel totally comfortable with my body hair and tummy and cellulite when everyone is just naked. But put a swimsuit on me and I’m holding my tummy in and paranoid about body hair. What’s up with that?

  64. Sara

    When I was about 17 I asked my boyfriend what the deal was with shaved armpits and he said it looked more feminine. I said that having body hair is part of being a woman, so how does removing it make you more feminine? That is an answer that has still never been answered in a way that I can accept. I eventually offered that if he wanted them shaved, he could shave them himself, and he did (shave my armpits for me) which was actually kind of fun. I never shaved my legs until several years after I was married, and that’s not a generational thing, I’m only 33. It is bothersome that women are expected to shave everything and men aren’t, but lately I’ve found a new way to look at it. In my office if women wear bare legs or sleeveless shirts they shave their leg and armpit hair, showing body hair would be deemed unprofessional. But the fact is that the men don’t ever wear shorts or sleeveless shirts in our office, so I guess that it’s also unprofressional for men to show body hair in an office environment. At least women have a choice. We can cover up, or we can show more skin then the men and get away with it as long as we shave. It’s not so oppressive when I look at it that way.

  65. Sara

    I would also like to say that I hate the Venus commercial with Jennifer Lopez that has her playing on the beach in her shorts with her kids. It’s like a bunch of marketers realized that there was an untapped market of women that don’t have a man to impress and could they find a way to convince women to shave their legs for their kids?

    • Elizabeth

      I will say that my young children, with their smooth and perfect skin, complain mightily about sitting in my lap when I haven’t shaved my legs and I’m wearing shorts or a skirt. But it’s not about appearance, it’s about itchiness.

  66. Shaye

    I guess I’m pretty bushy on the inside of my thighs. (All the more frustrating since over the last five or so years I’ve started to lose my pubic hair WTF?!?) I too cannot shave – at least not close – without serious ingrown hairs. My solution is to wear a skirted bathing suit, keep it short and not worry about it. This is helped by the fact that my thighs are substantial enough not to reveal large portions of inner thigh under most circumstances. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I don’t really care about it in private. I think having hair is sexier than no hair – I’d feel like one of those weird hairless cats! – but in public I do want to keep its exposure to a minimum. But that’s more about public vs. private bodies than anything else. I don’t want strangers at the pool to see my pubic hair because to me it’s part of my “privates.” It would be like wearing a top with my nipple peeking out. There’s nothing wrong with nipples – in fact, they’re pretty rad – but they are not for random people to see.

  67. sigourney

    I just realize how lucky I am to have a guy who doesn’t get the shaving craze. I’ll trim my pubes with scissors to get them in shape but that’s all.

    I don’t see how anyone would have the right to comment on this. It’s my body and no one has ever dropped dead from seeing it. But then I’m in Europe and that is different, not so normative.

  68. Thankyou

    Wow, fascinating discussion. And one of the things I have enjoyed the most is learning a whole lot of new terms for the female down there area. Some of these have made me laugh out loud – thanks ladies!!

  69. Sophia

    I think that feeling better about fitting in or conforming to norms makes us feel less conspicuous and thus less vulnerable. We prefer to choose the bits that don’t conform so we feel more in control of what people think of us, ie we choose to wear bright colours or snappy shoes because we like them or want to make a statement. We don’t have much control over our body hair so it makes us feel powerless to the potential criticism from other people.
    Also I think that pubic body hair is a rather private item of the body so perhaps some of us feel that it exposes or alludes to parts that we otherwise choose to remain hidden.
    My question is: does laser hair removal of bikini line or underarms hurt and how often do you have to go? I think I am only ‘averagely tufty’ but there are skin tags under my arms that make shaving irritating. My bikini line almost always makes a rash so draws more attention than a few stray hairs would :o)

    • Sal

      Sophia, I think it depends on the clinic. Some claim to be “painless,” mine doesn’t. It does hurt, but not tons and not for long. Most areas take 6-8 treatments, and in my experience, the removal is just shy of permanent. However, the laser technology has evolved a lot in the past 10 years, so maybe this round WILL be permanent! Drop me an e-mail if you’d like to know more, OK?

  70. Callie

    Sal, congrats on the laser hair removal! I LOVE laser hair removal. Though my body hair was sparse, I shaved and waxed various areas until I could afford laser. I’m puzzled by the political overtones of many hair removal discussions. If the world were ruled by women for women, some of us would still prefer smooth skin. Isn’t skin a warm, sensual thing?

    Hair retains heat, which annoys me, because I run warm. Also, certain areas of the body are much more, ahem, *sensitive* without hair soaking up the moisture. And hair retains odor more than bare skin. Parts of my cycle are much less intrusive to my senses because of my smoothness.

    I LOVE laser hair removal. Don’t apologize for having a keen aesthetic sense that makes you enjoy your body more after you’ve done with it what YOU wanted.

    • Mary

      I commented below, but I wanted to say I really agree with you, Callie!
      The reason I wax is because I like it and it feels better – I’d rather feel skin than hair. It’s not political at all for me. And you’re right: even if the world were ruled by us and for us, some of us would still feel different about our body hair.
      Rock and roll, bushy ladies! And rock and roll, laser ladies too!

  71. Callie

    K.D., earlier in the comments, said the “vulvaโ€™s shape, size, color, and even position relative to your body are very visibly different from a childโ€™s.” This is true! As a child, I was very curious about my body. The vulva *is* quite different before puberty. Anybody who calls the smooth and silky look childlike has forgotten what a girl child looks like. Plus, how I move and use my body now, as a smooth skinned woman, is quite different from how I behaved as a child. ๐Ÿ™‚

  72. l

    I’m uncomfortable with the ethnic oppression/ethnic self hatred of it. Outside of specific conditions such as PCOS that have many other accompanying symptoms and problems, if we are middle easter, jewish, eastern european, asian indian, or for whatever reason of genetics we have the body hair we do – why should we want to try to have the bikini hairline of a woman of a different ethnicity? We may as well be of African descent straightening and bleaching out our hair, or wearing coloured contacts, or whatever. Yes, maybe on some level these things are “fun” but they just are not an expression of self acceptance and peace.

  73. fruitbat

    I love my body and my body hair. I’ll alter it for society’s illogical desires. But the gray hair coming on my head and my beautiful bush are how I was made and I love them.

  74. lisa

    I’m delighted to read so many don’t shave down below. Frankly, from what I’ve gathered from talking to others, this is rare. And I read that a contemporary production of the musical “Hair” had many of the actresses wearing wigs, which makes me giggle every time I think about it. Many if not most women I talk to shave completely. This is just a personal opinion, not a judgment, but I have to say I am appalled at this hairless trend. But I think that’s because when I see a hairless women, her nether regions look prepubescent to me, and the thought that men are turned on by what looks like a twelve year old girl between the legs freaks me out. I am in my forties and we didn’t shave when I was younger and I just can’t get behind this newer trend. Luckily I’m married to a European who is as appalled by a woman shaving as I am — the bushier the better, as far as he’s concerned. Any shaving even remotely near that area is a painful, bumpy, red experience for me, and I haven’t even attempted even a tidying up of the area in years. I think it looks natural, normal, healthy. I am proud of it. I wish other women could embrace it and didn’t feel subjected, as we do about so many things, to societal rules or expectations. Who makes these rules anyway?!

  75. virago

    No discussion about body hair is complete without mentioning Patti Smith and the iconic cover of her 1978 album Easter. When I worried aloud about appearing at a party with unshaven armpits, a friend assured me, “You look cute! Just like Patti Smith!”

    Check it out (Patti, not me):

    “I showed armpit hair on the cover of my Easter album, and it was so disturbing to people, which I still donโ€™t understand, so they wouldnโ€™t rack it in the South.”*


    • Sal

      Husband Mike just mentioned Patti last night as I was talking about this thread! Frida Kahlo, too. Both iconic women who grew and displayed body/facial hair.

  76. ThatGirl

    I feel like it’d be good to get a teenager’s opinion on this out there. I’m 15, and I have bright red hair. Shaving my pits and legs hasn’t really been a question since I was 11 or 12, it will just happen. Period. I hate the feeling of hair there. Pubes, though, are a different story…. what even exactly constitutes shaving your ‘bikini line’? I shave what would go around my bathing suit, but I’ve seen girls who go hairless down there. It’s not like anybody sees down there but me, but it still just makes me feel better being nice and cleaned up!

    • Sal

      Thank you for speaking up, ThatGirl! I think “bikini line” definitions vary, but essentially it just means shaving anything that might peek out of a swimsuit bottom or pair of underwear.

  77. Mary

    A little late to the pube party here …
    I’ve been going to get a bikini wax every couple of months for the past four years or so. I hate doing it – the strip coming off doesn’t get easier – but I LOVE getting it done and overwith. I always leave a landing strip but get everything else taken off.
    I feel more comfortable having it done, and the couple days’ worth of tender treatment it needs is all fine by me. I love being able to throw on a bathing suit if needed and not feel the need to keep something in my lap or my legs crossed. I love walking around my apartment in underwear and feeling neat and tidy.
    I must admit, I do feel the body-hair-opinion-climate and there is pressure to go really, really bare. But the truth for me is that I just really like having it done. I feel better and that’s all there is to it!
    BTW I never shave my bikini line – my hair is thick and dark, and the stubble is worse than leaving it untamed.
    I asked my boyfriend last year what he liked, out of curiosity, and he said, “I don’t love a jungle, but I don’t like a desert either. I kind of like just a couple of trees, like you have.” I said, “So you like the Serengeti?” He agreed.

  78. Virginia

    ohhh… so many feelings about this. (Well yes, that’s why I went to beauty school and learned to actually do the g-d waxing…) But I am mostly happy for you/jealous because I totally want laser hair removal! I also react terribly to shaving and waxing and for all the work I do on loving my body, I cannot embrace the tufts.

    At the end of the day, i always say this shouldn’t be about forcing ourselves to break up with all beauty standards — it should be about picking and choosing the ones that matter to us, thoughtfully. And you’re clearly doing that (while absolutely not imposing that standard on anyone else) so i say kudos and enjoy bikini season!

  79. Jo

    Very interesting to come across this topic as I did indeed have a ‘tidy up’ this morning (I’m british, can you tell!) I have been trying to manage increasing facial hair (chin) for, well, must be well over 10 years and I am late 30’s. I swear I must have plucked 1 hair a long time ago and they just bred from there. I had electrolysis for a long time, I did have a few laser sessions a good few years ago in London, but it was pretty cost prohibitive back then, and not so much in the mainstream. I hover over laser group on offers regularly, but am resisting as hubby and i are trying for a second baby & lasering & pregnancy don’t mix. I tweeze my chin area obsessively every single day, and I truly hate the hair on my chin, but removing it temporarily 365 days of the year seems to have become my grooming norm. One day I’d love to eradicate it all together. As for downstairs, I’ve been managing that out of preference too for many many years, trimming with an electronic lady shave and mixing waxing & depilatory creams for the tufty areas as shaving gives me hideous itchy regrowth bumps. I do much prefer less hair, but never fancied the brazilian look or the ‘landing strip’ as someone called it once! It worries me that I seem to have to remove more from further down my inner thighs and above my bikini area with every passing year! But the fact is I am happy with pubic hair, as long it’s tidy, and contained :0)

  80. Angela

    I am super late to this discussion but had to chime in. I shaved to the knee and underarms religiously. I have had the same bed partner for 21 years. But my best girlfriends and mother howled at me when I was about 30 ( 11+years ago) about trimming….I had no idea and still cringe with embarrassment about it. I didn’t get the memo either. My husband doesn’t care so I do it sporadically but I felt ashamed when they told me, over wine in a restaurant. I felt like I was 12 learning about sex, I was gob smacked..I have a 15 year old daughter who wears skimpy undies and I’m pretty sure she is trimming, but I didn’t say a word….still is a sore subject for me ๐Ÿ™‚

  81. Ziona

    This happened to be the first post I read when I discovered your blog and I’ve been thinking about the subject for two days now. I have body image issues. Whew…kind of hard to admit but everyone’s doing it, its all the rage. I think most of the issues come from having a lot of body hair. The shame I feel, even when I’m alone at home, I think comes from being ridiculed by my younger, virtually hairless sister. If that wasn’t enough imagine my horror when I started to grow visible thick hairs on my chin and neck when I was 19. Sometimes I feel like an ape. Sometimes I feel like a man. I find myself eye-ing estrogen pills in the pharmacy and wondering if that would fix what I feel is an obvious testosterone imbalance in my body. I feel like something must be wrong with me. I sweat too much, I have big shoulders and a short torso, I have hair everywhere. I can’t wear thongs because I’m afraid they will get irreversibly tangled and have to be surgically removed. I would rather die of shame, and on many occasions feel like I will. Times when I’ve just been face to face with my bf and then I go look into the mirror only to realize I’ve got the facial hair of a 13 year old boy. Or times when I’m in my chef coat at work and I walk into the bathroom and notice the hair from 5 feet away. When you work in the kitchen you want to talk, walk, and act like the guys but you don’t want to look like one. Florescent lighting and chef’s whites are unforgiving. So are the millions of eyes that I imagine are judging my every move. The day I read your post I had to go out. It was hot I had on shorts and I had not shaved my legs. I told my self I would go out no matter what people thought but I couldn’t get outside my front door, even, with out that dread creeping up on me. If I had gone out like that, I think I might have had a panic attack and passed out. If I had laser treatments I think I would love everything about life. I think I would stop judging myself so harshly, I think I would be more confident. I think I would talk to people without being so awkward. I think I could love myself. I want to be my version of normal. Whatever that happens to be, hair/no hair or what have you, is what allows people to be comfortable with themselves. But living with what they feel is abnormal can be mentally crippling.

    • Anonymous

      Dear Ziona, I am in my early 50s now. In my late twenties I went to see an electrologist about my chin and upper lip hair. I had coarse chin hair that I would pluck (then break out because I had persistant acne too) as well as dark upper lip hair that I used to wax off myself…sometimes I’d wax my chin too. Anyway the kind electrologist suggested I see an endocrinologist because if I did have a hormonal imbalance the electrolysis wouldn’t be as effective. I took her advice and yes, I did have higher than normal levels of testosterone and DHEA. The doc put me on some medicine that brought the levels to normal. The electrolysis worked (eventually) to get the facial hair removed and I later had good results with the laser on my my underarms and legs (I have medium to light skin color and had plenty of dark body hair) and later bikini area too. I was glad to find out there was a cause and a solution for what I considered my excessive facial hair and I felt much better about my looks and about myself during and after the medication and electrolysis. Maybe it would be worth it for you to look into this since the hair causes you so much distress. Hormones could indeed be part of the issue. Blessings to you.

  82. Wendy

    My husband is above-averagely hairy, and he doesn’t like it. It definitely contributes to his discomfort with his body. He recently overheard some female work colleagues talking about how much they hate male body hair. It is crazy that we are so obsessed with removing a natural and harmless part of our bodies.

    I feel best when I “tidy up” with my bikini line clippers, but I tried waxing and it was just awful. (I have sensitive skin). I also prefer to wear shorts for swimming, not just because of body hair issues, but also because I feel just a little bit less naked in shorts than in a higher leg swimsuit. My view is that if hair removal makes me feel better about myself it’s a positive thing – but I will resist being pressured into anything that I’m uncomfortable with. But why do so many people think it’s ok to make judgemental comments about other people’s body hair and choices? That is just not cool.

  83. R

    I am in my 40s and have had to deal with much shame & self-consciousness re body hair. At various times I have let leg and armpit hair grow but I’ve always hated my pubic region. Many times I have refused invitations to the beach or pool. Every trip involves planned grooming – spontaneity is impossible. This reluctance to be exposed extends to choice of clothes – no shorts, no dresses that the wind might catch.

    I’ve tried many methods and for now use an epilator, a trimmer and shaving. If I had a dollar for every time I wished I was blonde or ethnically a race that had little body hair, I’d be rich.

    The trimmer is excellent for keeping it tidy “down there”, the epilator is tedious but easier than home waxing and good for doing armpits. Its a constant battle against ingrown hairs though.

    As I get older I’m getting more body hair – chin, chest – daily tweezing is part of my routine. I dislike this hair, it’s dark and coarse and to my mind unnecessary. Excessive pubic hair has always made me self-conscious about my body, especially in the bedroom. Even now given I’m older and supposedly wiser, I still do regular hair removal grooming, even though I’m single and not dating. I always think what if I was in an accident and taken to ER. I wouldn’t want the nursing staff to comment on my hairiness. That is silly I know but I do think of things like that.

    Your honesty is appreciated. I would like to have laser hair removal one day just to be free of this lifelong secret shame and to feel less of a freak even if nobody ever saw me naked again.

  84. Anonymous

    I’m aware of the societal issues, but for me, hair removal is more about self-care and dealing with personal issues related to my upbringing.

    I was a *very* hairy teenager. My parents were very conservative and uncomfortable with the whole issue of dealing with puberty. Instead of helping me to decide how to deal with my hair, my mother chose to avoid the topic altogether. So it wasn’t until I was able to drive to the drugstore and buy my own razor, that I had any control over my own body hair.

    So, hair removal, for me, is about taking care of myself — and about *not* capitulating. I do let some areas of hair on my body grow naturally, but the difference is that it’s MY choice.

    One of these days I will probably go for laser hair removal. I see it as very similar to my decision to get my teeth straightened (rather than letting them stay “natural”, which just happened to be crooked). It’s all about taking care of myself, the way I would have liked to be taken care of during my earlier years.

  85. Sarah

    Great conversation ladies! To Sal: You go, GRRRLLL! If you are feeling better about YOU, then I am all for it.

    I too have a daughter coming up, 10 now, that I have to navigate the minefield of female grooming. She has a slight fuzz on her upper lip (to which ancestor do we owe that honor…I have very little facial hair, and her dad is Asian, and also mostly hairless) that has been noticed by a boy at school and has caused some teasing. Having never dealt with that myself, I don’t even know the best way to react! Ignore (the current, though not long term approach), wax, bleach, laser removal? I don’t think she even thinks about it, except for one this one little jackwagon says something.

    As a role model for leaving well enough alone, I shave to the knee and do my pits in the summer, leave things along when cooler weather rolls around (which here in Seattle this year means I may NEVER touch my legs), trim the lady garden when a swimsuit goes on. She asked me why I shave my pits one day, and I said I thought it was ugly hair before I thought about what that message really was.

    Speaking of lady garden, the first time I heard that term was on a British TV show, so now I think of that term in with a very droll English accent. Same TV show also provided me with the term “man relish.” And on that note…

  86. esme noir

    i can’t agree with you more. “excess” body hair has been the bane of my existence since early adolescence. laser hair removal has been transformative (if very painful). such a pity that women need be ashamed of body-hair, but that’s the culture. now the cult of hairlessness seems to be even affecting men, which is really sad… might enjoy the post i wrote about why humans don’t have fur:

  87. henriette

    What an interesting discussion. Because of my coloring – reddish hair, pale freckley skin – I couldn’t get laser hair removal even if I wished to. It saddens me that each time women escape the harnesses of one expensive, shame-fuelled trend (yay: we stopped foot-binding! yay: we stopped using lead-based foundation or aresnic-based face powder), we come up with another (oh dear: corsets!) Sure, hair removal mightn’t be as extreme an example as some of these, but still.. Did you know that in the US, the annual female hair removal market has reached almost $1 billion, with girls starting to remove their body hair at a younger-than-ever age? Could you imagine what we could do with that money if we directed it to, say, scholarships or womens health initiatives, instead?
    All of this is not me judging women harshly. I occasionally wax, myself. I guess I’m just sad that we spend so much time and effort and money changing a very natural part of ourselves and I do wonder if it couldn’t all be spent in much more important pursuits.
    I spent a while perusing a NOT SAFE FOR WORK site with many photos of naked/ mostly naked women with some body hair. It was nice to be reminded of how pretty women can look when their bodies are not plucked, waxed, shaved and clipped into near- baldness or given strange topiary-like patches here and there. I wish our daughters had a wider range of role models when it came to idealised bodies. Here’s the NOT SAFE FOR WORK nudie site:
    I do believe that the prevalence of internet porn has had a much bigger impact than most of us, here, realize. By the time an average American boy has his first real-life sexual experience, he will have seen more than 1000 images of naked female bodies online. How can some poor 17 year-old girl deal with that…?

  88. Alicia Cumming

    i too have chin hair, and hair below, well beyond where it’s “supposed to be”. i also have quite a bit of stomach hair. laser hair removal is good and all, but it’s frustrating how it seems you need a million treatments in the same area to get permanent results. i’ve gotten a few treatments on my stomach, and low and behold! still as much hair as there was in the beginning. apparently they need to catch the hair in its “growing phase”–but that is impossible to pinpoint, hence the million-and-one treatments. i’ve gotten the “something must be up with your hormones-too much testosterone” deal. because it isn’t “natural” in women, this hair–or so we think.

  89. Michelle

    I have the same problem you do, and I am pretty sure times squared. But they do require shaving of any area to be lasered, as I discovered when I had my face done.

    I wish the 6 treatments on my face I did with a Groupon had been enough, but they weren’t. They just made my face a bit better. Can’t afford a larger area.

    But I sure wish I could!

    Luckily I don’t have sensitive skin, so Magic Shaving Powder is my swimsuit season lifesaver. The rest of the year I use Shave Secret and I get no ingrown hairs anywhere. I would recommend looking into Shave Secret (I can only find it at WalMart in the men’s shaving area, or order it online).

    Sadly, if I paid to have my bikini line and legs lasered… it would only be temporary.

    And yes I get a lot of compliment son my hair and how thick and wonderful it is. (But only the hair ON MY HEAD!)