Pin It
Ashley armitage pubic hair pubes bush natural
Photography Ashley Armitage, via @ladyist

Your body, your choice – are pubes disgusting or desirable?


TextBeccy Hill TextSimran Randhawa

No more beating around the bush: Sister magazine’s founding editor Beccy Hill and journalist and model Simran Randhawa debate the presence and politics of pubic hair

Never, ever, underestimate the power of pubes. Short hairs curling over the top of an underwear waistband or straying outside a crotch seam, framing a full, 70s-esque bush, can cause outrage or indifference (particularly on women) in equal measure. Ditto a completely hairless space that’s regularly shaved, waxed, bravely lasered off or vajazzled early TOWIE-style. However you let your pubic hair grow, and salon-grade removals are off the table while we’re socially distancing, it should be your decision.

Except it’s not, at least not completely, due to shifting societal and cultural standards, porn culture, and particularly aggressive and effective brand marketing. Forward-thinking brands like Billie (female first razors)  and Fur (pubic hair oil), and photographers like Ashley Armitage, are going out of their way to normalise natural body hair and the right to choose. But the openly hairless bodies of celebrities (J.Lo and Kim Kardashian have admitted to removing their pubes) and beach-ready Love Islanders of all genders, plus product innovations from Gillette Venus, and Veet are far more visible in the mainstream. 

In the various surveys conducted about why people remove their pubic hair, a partner’s preference is unsurprisingly important, alongside feeling more feminine and comfortable oral sex. 40 per cent of men aged 18-35 who responded to one across Cosmo, Esquire and AskMen’s social channels admitted that they’d asked their partners to change their pubic grooming habits, while only six per cent preferred their other half to be au natural. Again, for all those at the back, the only pubic hair you’re in charge of is your own.

Here, two journalists unpack the influences and experiences behind their decision to keep or remove their pubic hair, and feeling pressured either way.

KEEP – I’M LAZY AND HELPING TO NORMALISE PUBES IN PRINT

Text Beccy Hill

My stance on pubic hair stems solely from a place of laziness. I’m not trying to make any kind of statement historically associated with female pubic hair – like taking ownership of my body, being a proud member of the women’s rights movement or a general FU to conventional beauty standards. Those things are all valid, but the reality is that body hair removal costs time, money, and energy – all things I am lacking – so I am usually sprouting a full bush, hairy pits, and legs. 

While I am definitely a pro-pubes gal, I can’t stand here and say that I fully embrace and appreciate my pubic hair. That wouldn’t be true. As someone who grew up in the early-00s, the only time I remember pubic hair being spoken about was from a perspective of total disgust by pre-pubescent school boys and girls alike, so I definitely have a complex relationship with them. In my old(er) age (28), I now realise that this is a result of being conditioned by porn culture, where female pin ups of the era were skinny, bleach blonde women with enormous silicone tits and absolutely no body hair to speak of (Pamela Anderson, I’m looking at you). Page 3 models were a staple of British culture until very recently, and that was how a generation of men believed women should look. 

The association of a woman having pubic hair being dirty or unclean will not sound unfamiliar to most I’m sure. Pubes are unhygienic, right? They make you sweat and smell. But that, as I hope you already know, is simply not true. Pubes provide a cushion against friction that can cause skin abrasion and injury, protection from bacteria and other unwanted pathogens, and keep your bits toasty. In fact, by removing them you’re actually making that area far more susceptible to infections. Combining the irritated and inflamed hair follicles with an undoubtedly moist environment is a nasty bacteria’s haven (not to mention, the regrowth is itchy as hell). So take that, boys at the back of the bus in 2004! 

But, enough about the male gaze, it’s 2020 after all. Thanks to social media and a thriving fourth wave of feminism, women have been able to portray themselves through their own lens. Visibility of different body types, different beauty standards and different opinions from all over the world are now easily digestible and accessible online, which have in turn shifted mainstream advertising. Brands like Billie, who were the first razor brand to show actual hair being shaved, have paved the way for bigger brands like Venus to now do the same. Always using red blood instead of blue gel when advertising sanitary pads was a much needed step, thanks to these topics widely being discussed in online communities. I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of femvertising, or brands capitalising on pushing female liberation as a trend, however I can’t deny the importance of visibility to a younger generation. Being able to see yourself is what matters, and I feel hopeful that people will now grow up being more exposed to the above. 

Having run an independent feminist zine since 2012, I’ve long felt that normalising pubic hair, amongst countless other things, has been a part of Sister’s responsibility. This is weaved in through the people we feature and work with. Activist and author Chidera Eggerue who recently made a Channel 4 documentary entitled Bring Back The Bush: Where Did Our Pubic Hair Go?, Amika George who is not only a remarkable period activist, but wore a custom set of bleeding vagina nails complete with pubes for our cover shoot, and artist Jess De Wahls who uses embroidery to teach (hairy) vagina anatomy workshops are just a few examples which spring to mind. 

But while there’s been an undeniable cultural shift, how many women do you see publicly rocking the outgrown look? Influencers stunting for the ‘gram in thong swimsuits with such a high cut brief that they’re in constant danger of a lip slip, are removing every stray hair down there. I feel like pubic hair on women is still considered counterculture – you have to search for it to find it. And despite moving towards a more gender fluid world, why is hair still only acceptable in certain places on a ‘feminine’ body, but fine anywhere on a ‘masculine’ one? Perhaps what would be truly radical is not advertising razors or hair removal products at all, corporations not profiting off people’s body insecurities at all, and just letting us live, pubic hair and all. 

REMOVE – MY PUBE REMOVAL EVOLVED FROM SHAME TO SELF-CARE

Text Simran Randhawa

Now that I am 25, I have learned to mix and match hair removal  treatments in a way that is subjective to me. I began waxing and lasering because of shame, now I do it as a means of self-care and de-stressing. I do not feel the need to adhere to demands of gender and male gazes I have been taught to pursue. Nor, do I remove my pubes because I view it as ‘hygienic’ or ‘prettier’,  but because I want to. I still maintain that laser hair removal was one of the best investments I made for myself. I do not consider myself morally inferior to the women that don’t shave. The choices we make are not made in a vacuum that strictly consists of Western patriarchy – it’s to do with socialisation, culture, personal preference, and privilege. 

Growing up as a brown girl in an Indian household, I was surrounded by hair removal. Weekends were spent accompanying my mum to her waxing appointments. The ‘hairy Indian’ stereotype is something I have had to fight most of my life – ex-boyfriends have body-shamed me into shaving, hateful comments on social media have pointed out my arm hair, and make-up artists have covered up my pubic stubble with concealer on set. Embarrassing at the least, degrading at best. This stereotype was something I had internalised by the time I was modelling at 18. In the industry,  pubic hair removal was an uncommunicated norm guised under ‘maintenance’, but as I grew up I wondered if it was to due to having more hair, or our cultural obsession with removing it. The hair removal industry encapsulates everything from razors to at home laser kits to sugaring, the choice is wider than ever with laser hair removal alone said to be worth $3.4 billion (!) in five years time. 

 Having the privilege to enjoy hair removal treatments means I have also had to define what beauty means to me in my own way. There’s a differing standard for women of colour with body hair (not necessarily a reason for removal), my body hair is naturally coarse and dark, not the blonde barely there hair you see often in mainstream feminism. It seems like hairiness is a sign of feminist freedom, whilst hairy bodies of colour are still deemed agressive. One only needs to look at the praise Julia Roberts still gets for having hairy armpits at the Notting Hill premiere, and compare it to the backlash Nike model Annahstasia received for the same thing. 

Femininity has been denied to women of colour in different ways across different ethnicities. For Indian women, it is often through our hairiness: the visible growth on my stomach, back and upper lip (to name a few) and the argument for nuance in hair feminism is not something new. I only need to look at the multifaceted normalisation of hair removal in my childhood, and being given Nair by an aunt, to realise that body hair is something women of colour in western societies are taught to view as an inconvenience from a young age. Something my mum notes, reflecting on her own migration experience: “It was only really when I came to this country I was encouraged to go to the salon, back in Malaysia I never really waxed or shaved. I’d go to the beach hairy.”

Acknowledging the differing perceptions of body hair on women of colour does not mean I am using it as justification for getting Brazillians. Whether I remove my pubic hair or leave things to grow for a couple of months does not affect my view of myself, I do not feel more confident, sexy or attractive bare. Like many others, I go through phases. I grow it, I trim it, I shave it off, I leave a strip. By emphasising the personal decision, with no right or wrong answer, it is clear how unreasonable stigma is either way. As Molly Soda says: “Choosing to shave doesn’t mean that you’re insecure. The strongest statement you can make is to take control of your body and present yourself in whatever way that makes you feel comfortable.”

The choice to remove pubic hair (for whatever reason) should not be berated. It doesn’t mean I am less critical of my socialisation or any less aware of my oppression.  It is the result of a specific cultural and societal sphere I have grown up in, now it’s a choice I make for myself. I’ve learnt that my body is valid and I personally prefer to pick and choose my battles. My pubic hair is not one of them. 

Read Next
Erika Lust group masturbation session
Erika Lust is hosting the world’s largest group masturbation session Beauty Feature
sojinails sojin oh nails nail artist Los Angeles
Sojin Oh pushes nail art boundaries with her nature-inspired creations Beauty Feature
Jazmin Bean pictures gallery Dazed 100 2020
Meet Jazmin Bean, the paradoxical pop star with an otherworldly look Beauty Feature
Naomi Pat McGrath Labs
Naomi Campbell has been crowned the saintly first face of Pat McGrath Labs Beauty news
Morgane Martini
Morgane Martini’s high glam make-up will have you daydreaming of blush Spotlight
Jackie Kennedy Onassis
Jackie Kennedy Onassis’s skincare routine has been uncovered Beauty news
Justin and Hailey
Hailey and Justin Bieber are threatening to sue a TikTok plastic surgeon Beauty news
iomikoe johnson woods vitiligo tiktok social media
The Vitiligo Goddess is here to spread awareness on TikTok Beauty Feature
La Piscine
We found the best SPF sunscreens for your every need and desire Beauty Feature
Jawzrsize2
Reviewing all the sponcon beauty products you definitely shouldn’t try Beauty Feature
Till Janz Magic Youth
Dazed Beauty Club is officially open for business Beauty news
Abby Roberts artistry tiktok makeup
TikTok superstar Abby Roberts on artistry, identity, and her huge following Beauty Feature
Harris Reed, Thriving In Our Outrage
Harris Reed on the angelic, sordid beauty of their final collection Beauty Feature
Isamaya Ffrench
Isamaya Ffrench announced as the new Burberry beauty director Beauty news
Miley Cyrus
Watch Miley Cyrus predict the return of the mullet back in 2008 Beauty news
Fred Harding large hands viral tiktok
TikTok teen goes viral for his extremely large hands Beauty news