Whether Or Not I Shave 'Down There' Is No One's Business But Mine

Photo: Axel Bueckert / Shutterstock
woman covering herself

The first time I ever even heard of extreme below-the-belt hair removal was in a magazine article in 1997 (I tried to find it for you but, you know, it was almost 20 years ago). The author talked about this crazy thing she was trying called a Brazilian wax and joked about her vulva looking like a plucked chicken after.

My 18-year-old-self felt confused and kind of grossed out imagining what had to happen in the salon to get rid of all the hair but I read on as the author talked about test-driving her new ‘do in bed.

To this day, the one sentence I remember word for word is this: “I was blown away by the feeling of his breath on my bare skin.”

Well, that sounded fun as hell to me!

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Now the Brazilian has become ubiquitous.

These days, a freshly shaved vagina is as likely to be rocked by your PTA president as your nearest stripper, and this has ignited a firestorm of debate.

An article by physician Emily Gibson called for an end to the “War on Pubic Hair.” And in searching for examples of the debates regarding pubes and feminism I found myself up to my bikini region, as it were, in articles and blogs and letters and what-not (my favorite title was “My Labia Are Not Feminists”). 

My question is: Can’t we just leave each others’ labia alone?

I mean this across the board.

Do you think it’s a ridiculous beauty standard forced on women? It wouldn’t be if we left each others’ labia alone.

Do you think a woman can’t be a feminist and go bald down below? What would you think of that same woman if you judged her actions and left her labia alone?

Really young girls want to be waxed? They probably wouldn’t if we left celebrity labia alone.

I shouldn’t know what is going on in the pants of a Kardashian — any Kardashian. 

Or, on a slightly more disturbing note, if their mothers would just tend to their own labia and leave their daughters’ labia alone.

Everybody just leave each others’ labia alone!

I want to be really clear. When I say “leave each others’ labia alone,” I am by no means saying either “stop waxing” (or shaving or lasering or whatever it is you do) or “get thee to the salon!” Do whatever makes you feel sexy and comfortable and the best you can feel.

Grow it, wax it, shape it, dye it, bedazzle it, rig it up so it shoots off fireworks when someone removes your panties, whatever the hell you want. I don’t care. It’s none of my damn business. This is 100% your choice and no one else gets a say unless you want them to have one.

Yeah, I know. Easier said than done.

The world is already all up in your labia, so to speak.

Television, movies, magazines, porn, blogs (even those written by badass redheads), your friends, and potential partners can all feel like they’re weighing in, so for some people, it could get tricky to even remember what it is they want for themselves in the first place.

I’m not immune to all this. My watershed moment in terms of hair removal came when I found myself with a new partner during a lapse in waxing. As clothes were coming off I said something — I don’t remember what specifically, but I do remember it was some form of apology. And then something in me snapped.

I thought, “Are you effing kidding me? Did I just apologize to a dude who is getting to see me naked for the length of my pubic hair?”

It was clear to me that it was time to evaluate why I waxed and who I waxed for and did I want to wax at all.

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I asked myself a couple of questions:

1. Why do I do this? 

2. Who do I do this for? 

3. What would happen if I stop doing this?

Now, I’m not telling you what my answers were or what I ended up doing hair-wise because, leave my labia alone, jeez! But I will tell you what I concluded on a larger scale.

I realized that usually when I find myself doing something I feel like I need to justify or apologize for, it’s a pretty good indication that I’m not clear with myself about my own motivations. I've learned to ask myself these same questions whenever something isn’t quite sitting right so I can own the choices I make.

The last question particularly helped me see that I was terrified of being judged by others and consequently, was pretty quick to judge myself. When I made my decision on the matter I had to let go of the idea that there was a “right” way to be a woman, that my (or anyone else’s) feminism, sexiness, power, or anything could be defined by this one grooming choice.

Looking at it like that, it seemed a little silly.

Silly that I was giving it so much thought. Silly that anyone else would care.

I made my choice. I own my choice. I don’t judge anyone else’s choice.

I think that owning our choices is how we keep stuff like grooming from becoming a “tool of oppression."

An important component of a body-positive, sex-positive, and, hell, human-positive world is the freedom to make our choices free from judgment. We see time and again from slut-shaming to mommy wars to feminist infighting, folks looking over and saying, “Your choice is different from my choice. Therefore, you’re wrong!” — and suddenly we’re arguing over pubes. Seriously?

My two cents: Pubic hair doesn’t deserve the press it’s been getting (she says 1,000 words in). This is a non-issue. 

Stand down. Make your choice. Own your choice. And leave each others’ labia alone.

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JoEllen Notte is a writer, speaker, and researcher. Since 2012 she has been writing about sex, mental health, and vibrators. She's currently working on her first book, The Monster Under The Bed: Sex, Depression, And The Conversations We Aren't Having. Follow her on Twitter @JoEllenNotte.

This article was originally published at The Redhead Bedhead. Reprinted with permission from the author.