Photo of me by Steve DeMent Photography
Lately, I am all about bushes. I like the way mine looks, I like how they look on others, and I like the idea of them in general. Sexually, I love the way it captures my scent, and I enjoy having it played with and tugged on. I also like that it’s lower maintenance, and I often twirl it around absentmindedly, as if it were a beard. It makes me feel sexual, feminine, wild, natural, and free.
I must admit though, that my love of bushes is only a recent development. Up until last year, I was completely bare ever since I was 16, with the exception of a few days of stubble or letting it grow long enough to wax it all off. I never even thought to try a bush until Jake suggested that I grow one out to see how it looks. Although it felt a little weird at first, I liked the way it looked, if anything because it was so different, but also for the reasons I mentioned above. And now that a bush or at least some sort of style of hair has been my norm for about a year, I’ve been thinking a lot about my previous (mostly negative) attitudes toward pubic hair and why I always felt the need to shave before.
Some of the main theories explaining the popularity of going bare and brazilian waxing in the US are porn and Playboy, bathing suits and bikinis, wanting a “clean” look, an obsession with trying to look young, or pressure from men who supposedly have little girl fetishes.
While I can see how porn can cause pressure to look a certain way, in my case it wasn’t a factor in my decision to start shaving, since at that time I didn’t watch porn or read adult magazines. My early shaving days began with not wanting anything to show in a bathing suit, and I started with just my bikini line. For awhile this was enough, until I had my first steamy, semi-sexual make-out session with my boyfriend. We didn’t actually “go very far,” but when his hands roamed down over my panties, I remember thinking that I didn’t want him to see my hair, and I shaved it all off shortly after.
As far as the pressure to look young, that didn’t affect my early attitudes either, as I always wanted to look older, not younger, and I associated waxing with being mature. However, I did associate hairlessness with femininity starting at a very early age. I started shaving my armpits as soon as I started getting hair there in 4th grade because my girlfriend Jessica did, and she was one of those girls who was so outgoing, sure of herself, and “cool,” Shortly after, I began shaving my legs in 5th grade, after watching my babysitter’s teenage daughter sitting by the TV with a bowl of water, a razor, and some shaving cream. Looking back, starting to shave at age 9 or 10 seems very young (and most of my friends didn’t shave yet at the time), but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the norm now, as young girls seem to look more and more “mature” at a young age nowadays.
Once I began removing my pubic hair in High School, the idea that shaving or waxing, not bushes, was the way to look sexy was reinforced by my friends, as well as my cool college student nanny, who told me about how she paid a lot and went to many sessions to go get laser hair removal. She was one of my biggest role models at the time, and I never really thought to question why hair was something women needed to remove so badly; it all just seemed normal and the thing to do. I also remember seeing my Mom’s huge, untamed bush, and thinking that it was weird, and that she must not care about looking “sexy.” We didn’t really discuss sexuality openly since I was raised Catholic, so I never thought to ask her about pubic hair, what was normal or not, or anything like that.
In my case, going bare was a result of a mix of things but mainly the idea that shaving was feminine and sexy and the influence from friends or women I looked up to. I can only imagine the pressure for young girls in today’s society to shave, since now they have the added ease of access to porn, as well as the examples of pop culture, like Sex and the City and celebrities who promote Brazilian waxing. Although I think whether or not you shave should be up to you, I don’t think this pressure to look a certain way or to feel the need to shave to be sexy is healthy or natural. Another big issue is pressure solely from partners, which isn’t positive or healthy either if it’s not what you want.
So, what is the solution then? I know for me and many others it’s talking and thinking critically about society’s beauty standards, such as pressure to shave, as well as celebrating pubic hair by growing bushes and showing them off proudly in erotic photos. There has also been a resurgence of bushes and pubic styles in some porn as well as in fetish scenes, and many people think bushes are cool and “retro” looking now. I think this new variety and deviation from the standard is awesome, and I wonder if having a bush may even soon be the norm again. Trends come and go though, and I hope that women will take away the idea of self acceptance and choosing whatever is comfortable for them from this movement, rather than the idea of growing a bush just to be cool, to be different, or because someone on TV or their favorite porn start did it.
For others though, the answer to battling societal pressure to shave is to judge and vilify shaving and women who do it. I’ve heard a lot of comments that feminists don’t wax (or shouldn’t), that women only shave to satisfy their partner’s unhealthy obsession with looking pre-pubescent, and that shaving it all is gross and unnatural. I often hear bush comments at Bedpost Confessions, such as “I don’t shave because I don’t feel the need to look like a 12 year old girl.” This whole attitude really bothers me.
I understand that many women feel pressure to remove hair and that it may be “feminist” to have a bush instead, but pushing women to look any certain way isn’t helping, it’s just doing the same thing that patriarchal society is: telling people what they should or shouldn’t do to their bodies. It’s also presumptuous to judge people by their grooming habits and assume they’re doing it for certain reasons like to satisfy partners or to look like porn stars. Everyone has different sexual preferences, and if you think going bare is gross because it looks child-like, that’s fine, but you shouldn’t assume that everyone who shaves does it for that reason, and there’s no need for judging, condescending comments towards others’ personal choices.
For example, what about men who shave? Are they doing it because of societal, patriarchal pressure? Maybe some are, but many people do it because they like the clean, smooth feel and aesthetic. It is important to point out that shaving isn’t actually “cleaner” and can cause ingrown hair, infections, and may even make you more vulnerable to STIs, but still, my point is that many people do it for themselves, not to satisfy a partner or look like a porn star, and you should do whatever feels comfortable for you. Of course I do think it’s imperative to think critically about your own attitudes though and how they may be influenced by society, but ultimately it’s your personal decision and preference.
As free as I feel to have a huge, wild bush now, I will probably shave it all off again at some point. I like the way my vulva looks and feels in all sorts of ways now, with a bush, with a strip, bare, whatever; it’s just another hairstyle. And if I do shave it all off again, it’s definitely not going to be because my boyfriend is pressuring me to do so or to look young, it will be because I want to.
The most crucial thing to me in the topic of pubic hair (as well as other sexual and personal choices) is acceptance of diversity. I think it’s awesome to celebrate bushes and natural styles, but more importantly I think everyone should celebrate whatever option they chose and the personal power to do so. Open discussion of sexuality and societal pressure is critical, especially among teens and young adults, but I think we should stress that any choice is fine, not that you shouldn’t shave because it’s just subscribing to the norm, or that you should because it’s “sexier” or better.
Personally, I think all styles can be sexy, and I like this comment that Jake said when I asked him about his preference: “I don’t care if there’s hair or not, I’m just excited to see a vagina!”