Today I’m going to talk about a subject near and dear to my heart (nay, vagina): Pubic hair.
Ever since I hit puberty, after a particularly embarrassing sleepover incident where my friends gasped in horror at the sight of my full, newly sprouted, bush, I have felt mounds of anxiety about how to groom down there. Shaving leaves me red, bumpy, and itchy, the thought of waxing terrifies me, and I’m definitely not wealthy enough to afford whatever fancy sorcery the Kardashians use to permanently remove all the hair on their bodies (aka laser hair removal).
I prefer to just let it grow, but every time beach season rolls around or I’ve met a new possible lover (yes that word is a bummer but its an accurate descriptor and I live a crazy life with no regrets), the anxiety about proper grooming swells up again. I decided to have a chat with my coworkers about their pube preferences to see if I could finally get to the bottom of what goes on top (of your vag).
Khadijah: I remember exactly when I started shaving. It was in 8th grade, the Vanessa Hudgens naked photo had just leaked and all the boys were talking about it in art class. There was a censor bar right over her vagina, and the guys were like “Thats okay, we don’t want to see it anyways, if it isn’t shaved it will be gross.” My friends and I overhead and were all like, Ooh we are supposed to shave? And from then on, we always shaved. It was just the norm.
Kejal: I love this topic, and when I started thinking about it, I realized that my pube trajectory has changed as I’ve gone through different phases of life and as culture has shifted. When I was in high school, starting to fool around with my first gentleman friend, I had a full bush but I would shave my bikini line. Then it became very en vogue to have a Brazilian. I shaved all of my pubes off when I knew I was going to be with someone. That continued all through college. If I knew someone was going to be seeing my 'gine, it had to be totally hair free. When I graduated from college and started working, I replaced shaving with waxing but it was still full Brazilian. Now that I’m married and have a baby I feel much more at home with my pubes than ever before. My preferred default state is just a nice trim; fairly short, but still there, with the sides shaved. And that, I think, is my happy place. I’ve got a little hair, it feels natural, but you can still get to it.
Although every now and then, just to keep my husband on his toes, I’ll totally switch it up! Shave it all, or grow a full bush. Just for variety, you know? He loves it! He’s like, “ooooh, new wife!”
Melissa: My first experience with shaving my pubes was at boarding school. I remember my friend being like, “You have to shave, because what will guys think if you don’t?” I shaved everything for years, and I thought that was what you were supposed to do. It felt like I was just maintaining my pubes based on someone else’s interests.
In the past two years, and to be honest I don’t even know if this started from a place of me, or the last relationship I was in, but I just kinda let it go. I don’t trim that often but I trim about once a month or once every other month whenever I’m feeling kinda just like, oof, its a little too wild. I’ll just trim it kinda short and then let it grow out again.
Especially working here, I don’t really mind having pubes. I don’t like the feeling of hair growing in and this is just me personally, but I feel more in control of my woman power when I have some pubes - like a sexy 25 year old woman. But thats just me - I know some people like to shave it, but I feel a little more empowered now that I have some pubes.
Kelly: I very viscerally remember in early high school having this realization, like, whoa, there is a lot going on down there. Just that sudden self-consciousness. I didn’t remember growing hair, but all of a sudden one day it was a crazy bush. I thought, I gotta do something about this! I started with scissors, and always felt like I messed up. Then when I started seeing someone, I definitely went down that “It’s all gotta be gone! I gotta clear it out!” road. Now that I’ve grown into recognizing my own preferences, I keep it short and trimmed. I shave everything underneath, then just keep the triangle trimmed.
I definitely support being all natural, but I have to say as a lesbian, there is some anxiety hooking up with people and not knowing what you’re going to get. Like, I have to put my face in there, that’s personal. I honestly feel bad, you should do whatever you want with your pubes, but I really respect having some clear access.
Kejal: That’s why I like to keep it short, because I feel bad if a guy is going down there, like I don’t want him to have to part the amazon.
Kelly: Its literally an anxiety.
Kejal: Have you ever said “no thanks” because its been too wild?
Kelly: I have never personally encountered someone that was too wild where I was like “I can’t”. I do kinda feel like if I encountered someone who was 100% completely all-natural, I don’t think I could. That makes me feel guilty, but we all have our lines.
If I was unexpectedly with somebody and I hadn’t taken care of things for a while and I anticipated it wouldn’t be a good experience for them for any reason, I probably wouldn’t let them go down there.
Maria: Right because you have that anxiety like, I have not prepared. Its interesting how we dress our bodies up for people. And that idea is so ingrained, we find reasons to be anxious.
Kejal: It seems like, when you are younger you are doing it solely for someone else, then as you mature, its almost like a reciprocation thing. You are thinking about the other person, but also thinking about how it makes you feel. You are being conscientious without compromising your preferences.
Kelly: I even use it as a form of texting, like “I’m so smooth for you, I’ve prepared for you.”
Maria: I have a similar trajectory. I started shaving in middle school, that’s when I first started doing stuff. I didn’t really have women in my life that were supportive in the sense of - do this for you - up until I went to college. So everything I did to my body was based around how I was interacting with some guy. Even though I shaved for years, I never waxed because that scares me. I had a horrific eyebrow waxing incident and I was like, why would I ever want to try that down there??
I shaved for the longest time, and I hated it, I hated every second of it. It was a chore, like oh, this is one of those annoying women things I have to do, like my period. And it wasn’t until college when I started surrounding myself with more sexually positive, sexually empowered women that I was able to look at myself and be like, ok, well what do I want? It was actually mind-blowing to me the first time I was ever like, I can do what I want based on what I want, not other people. It seems silly now but it was pretty revolutionary back then. Now I just keep a light bush, I’m like a ‘Busch-Light’. Like the wine-coolers of pubic hair. I do the bikini line and then thin it out, but still keep the stuff that’s going on underneath on the labia.
Kelsey: I have shaved my vagina literally one time in my whole life. I was 12 and I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. I remember reading Girl’s Life magazine and trying to figure out whether I was supposed to shave my vagina or not.
I did it and it was awful, it was very bumpy and kind of swollen and red, and I was like, oh I don’t like this, I don’t like how it makes my body feel, so I literally never shaved again. I just keep it trimmed, but typically its a full bush situation. I like it because it makes me feel safe and comfortable and it makes me feel very womanly and very natural. Also, growing up in Maine, that was kinda the norm. None of my friends had shaved vaginas then and none of them do now. None of us really talked about it, but we would see each other naked all of the time and they barely even shaved their legs. I also got some really good advice when I was young from an older friend. I was like, “I really don’t like shaving but what if a boy wants me to shave when we start having sex?” and she said, “In my experience, I’ve never had a sexual encounter where a dude didn’t want to have sex with me based on how much pubic hair I have.”
Maria: I think there are so many myths when you first start having sex surrounding everything about it. We don’t have a healthy conversation about it in this country. Not many people have very positive Sex-Ed and if we just change the way that we talk about it we wouldn’t have these anxieties. Our trajectories could have been totally different if we had just been open and made people feel comfortable to ask questions.
So what did I take away from this conversation? The anxieties about bodily changes during puberty are universal, there is absolutely no right way to look down there, and the people of Maine are emphatically chill (though I’m pretty sure I already knew that).