Is that anti-feminist?
“Okay on the count of three,” says the woman between my thighs “one, two…”
“Arggggghhhhhh” I scream.
In the sterile room, my knees are spread wide, my vagina on show. I squeeze Kit’s hand hard, digging my nails into his palms, but he doesn’t complain. Instead, he kisses me on the head: “you’re doing really well.” I just want it to be over.
“And again,” says the woman.
“Owwwww! Holy Mother of F….”
No, this is not a flashback of childbirth. This was last month at a waxing parlour where, for the first time, I was getting my pubic hair ripped out at the root. And it was Kit’s turn next…
You may ask why I was on a body-hair removal date. Surely this should have been a solo escapade - a private matter between me and the professional sadist. Well no, I’d argue that what we do with our pubic hair is not always a purely personal decision. Especially when pubic grooming is constantly lobbied for by external parties. Be it porn, peers or partners, be it fashions or fetishes, a lot of the time, what we choose to do down there is some sort of reaction.
“I have always had a laissez-faire approach to body hair but here I was with a lover who’d laid his preference bare”
I have always had a laissez-faire approach to body hair but here I was with a lover who’d laid his preference bare. Full disclaimer: Kit did not ask me to get rid of my pubes, or even say that he did not like them – that would have been a deal-breaker for me. Instead, the first time we slept together I read a flicker of an expression which prompted me to begin shaving it all off. But shaving so regularly results in rashes, like taking sandpaper to skin. And fed up, one evening I announced to my girlfriends that I was thinking about waxing. This comment was met with about as much disdain as a full bush among 15-year-old boys.
“That’s so anti-feminist” – “You shouldn’t do it for a man” – “If he doesn’t like you how you are, tell him to get lost.” All, on the surface, valid points. Yet I am not emotionally nor politically attached to my body hair. Over the years, I’ve shaved it all off, I’ve left it all on, I’ve shaved bits, I’ve left bits. Whatever. Ironically the most militant I ever was with the razor was when puberty first hit, as if ashamed of my newfound womanhood. But as I grew older I came to consider pubic hair to be quite cool-looking and the pain element ensured I never even thought of waxing.
However my girlfriends, who incidentally all wax themselves bald, did make me wonder: was it anti-feminist to wax for a man, and weren’t they doing so without realising? They maintain their maintenance is for them, reasoning it makes them feel cleaner or sexier. But is it really cleaner? Pubic hair’s purpose is, in fact, to keep your vagina safe and clean, helping to prevent the growth of bacteria, while waxing can leave you susceptible to infections as it causes microscopic tears in skin that are an entryway for bacteria. As for sexier? In 1970 it definitely wasn’t - hair was all the rage. Let’s not beat around the bush, the bald look rose to prominence in the 1990s when internet porn became accessible. Suddenly the male gaze could feast its hungry eyes on clearer shots of the P entering the V. That’s it.
Waxing is both expensive and painful. Like the morning after pill, in the world of casual sex, it’s a woman’s silent prerogative to pay the pounds. Our waxes cost £35 and hurt like hell, the first time always smarting the most. Some friends tell me they now split the price with their boyfriends. Others lament the wasted money when their dates don’t go to plan. Only when bald balls become a mainstream trend will we see a plummet in the price.
“Partners in the bedroom are just two people doing what works for them. We all have our preferences.”
Still, I stand by my decision to wax because I don’t personally consider it a large concession. The pain was worth the gain. Partners in the bedroom are just two people doing what works for them. We all have our preferences. That’s fine, as long as we don’t impose them on others.
But are men that aren’t attracted to a natural vagina inherently misogynistic? Kit certainly isn’t, he was next to the chair, willing to go bald to educate himself. While he left shocked at the price and the pain, he still prefers no hair. A lot of men are the same, but they’re as much a product of this patriarchal society as any woman. The status quo is not the fault of the individual and protests in private are pointless. The onus should be on pornographers, photographers, magazines and media to showcase diversity. When girls consider their natural state to be equally clean and sexy, then the choice can truly be their own.
As I write, it’s been nearly two months since our trip to the parlour. Our hair has grown back and Kit and I are no longer together. But I have no regrets in breaking my lifelong waxing ban. What’s between my legs is between me and whomever I share it with. It doesn’t belong to society or the public, and it’s not politics or fashion. It’s mine. I’m free to do with my body whatever I like, for whomever I like. To say that I’m not would be “so anti-feminist.”