First a warning: I’ve written before—often with plenty of feminist snark—about the many ways women are told that our genitals need to be pinker, surgically altered, and more aesthetically pleasing. But that was just to lambast some ridiculous new trend in genital grooming (pube conditioner! pube dye! vajazzling!) or pernicious cultural standard. Now I’m going to get personal…very personal. If you happen to be a member of my family, you should probably read no further.
So here it is: my boyfriend recently divulged that he’d always been curious about…well…ladies who take it all off. Their pubic hair, that that is. And he told me this in a slightly sheepish but completely sincere way, suggesting he thought it would be hot but without explicitly asking me to do it. In the past, I had resisted lovers’ attempts to “suggest” how I should shave my pubes or grow my hair long or wear more makeup because it rarely was phrased as a suggestion and instead felt like one more instance of a man trying to tell me what to do with my body. I get enough body-policing from society already, thanks, fellas. But this relationship we’re both committed to Dan Savage’s rule of being being GGG (Good, Giving and Game). Although I personally had no interest being bald down there, it seemed like an easy request to indulge.
Here I insert a disclaimer about doing anything to your body for the sole purpose of pleasing a man. Unfortunately, women are often fed the message that we’re required to look a certain way—usually thin, hairless, young, sleek and odor-free. Men have no such obligation—for proof, look no further than the gazillions of sitcoms and rom-coms where the woman is young, petite, thin and cute as a button but the man is a slob, ageing, overweight or just plain homely. The message is clear: men aren’t required to constantly upgrade or maintain their bodies to please us the way we are for them. So if your man wants you to do something extreme like yank your pubes out by the roots to please him, he’d damn sure better be doing things to make you equally happy.
Fortunately, my man is not only GGG, but also—completely unsolicited—he’s set up my new iPhone, taken apart my dishwasher to clean it, and brought me flowers, cupcakes, and various gifties when I least expected them. Plus he gives me nightly foot rubs and at one point, took it upon himself to gently shave a callus off my foot without being even remotely squicked by it (if he ever needs a career change, he’d be an excellent pedicurist). And he keeps himself buff and manscaped, even though I’d still love him if he weren’t. A partner like that makes it very easy to be GGG, especially when it comes to a temporary and harmless thing like a full bikini wax.
Harmless except for, uh, the pain. Because that shit hurt like a motherfucker.
Full disclosure: About a 18 months ago started getting laser treatments so that my bush went from its former lush glory to a neat triangle that fits into a bathing suit without having to be shaved or plucked. Laser is expensive but much less painful than waxing, and lasts much longer (and eventually, with enough treatments, the hair removal becomes more or less permanent). So it had been a while since I’d been waxed.
I went back to the salon I used to frequent, and my favorite waxer, the sadistic but sympathetic Maya, recognized me and trilled in her thick Russian accent, “Dear, why have you been away?” I explained about the laser, and then told her that I wanted to take it all off, and she was the only person I trusted to do it for me.
The good news is it happened very quickly—this is why Maya’s worth the money*—but I’d never had the hair on the top of my mound removed. Newsflash: it was WAY worse than waxing the pubes on the sides. Also, it bled a tiny bit from some of the follicles, which had never happened before. I was limp and sweaty as Maya slathered on some cortisone cream to take down the swelling. The whole area was so sore that the thought of putting my underwear back on was too much. Fortunately, I was wearing a longish skirt, so I stuffed it in my purse and walked back to my boyfriend’s with the afternoon air circulating around my poor denuded mons. At his place, I took a couple Advil, pulled a large bottle of Absolut from the freezer and settled myself on the sofa with the bottle between my legs like an ice pack (cold cans and bottles are excellent for this purpose if you ever need to reduce swelling in that particular region). Still, my skin hurt for the rest of the day, and it was a full 72 hours before it lost its unattractive, plucked chicken-like texture.
The good news is, my boo was WILDLY appreciative. Like, seriously over-the-moon enthusiastic, and that had some real benefits for me. He’s insisted on spending lots of quality time down there (not that he hadn’t before, but the novelty factor spiked his interest to a new high). Poetically, he calls it “honoring the sacrifice” and will enthuse about how exciting and revelatory it is to have nothing covering my most secret parts. Of course, that’s why a completely hairless crotch is de rigeur in porn these days: you can see EVERYTHING. It exposes parts of you that, frankly, Mother Nature did not intend to be exposed, and to the male gaze, that’s the ultimate in eroticism.
Truth is, I don’t particularly like the way it looks. Honestly, I miss my sculpted pubes. They were like one of those flattering little black wrap dresses that hides all your figure flaws. Without the hair, the small keloided scar on my pubis stands out in relief (I had a precancerous mole removed 15 years ago) and my mons and labia majora form a giant flesh-colored cameltoe with my labia minora and clit poking out like the meat in a vulva sandwich. It reminds me of a plastic anatomical model from a women’s health class. While it’s been enlightening to see what everything looks like without its protective pelt, I think I’d prefer to leave a little more to the imagination.
When my boyfriend told one (platonic) female friend that I had gone the full monty and he loved it, and she gave him a little side-eye and said, “Because you like the hairless 12 year old look?” Which…I take her point, and it’s an aspect of the to-wax-or-not-to-wax debate I’ve always heard and definitely given some thought to. But while it feels weird to be totally hairless for the first time since I was 11, my crotch doesn’t look like a child’s at all; the visual difference between a grown woman’s genitals and a pre-pubescent child’s is significant. I feel like I can scratch that argument against hairlessness off the list, for me at least.
It’s been a month now, and to my relief, there’s some peach fuzz starting to come in on my bald ladyparts. My boyfriend still raves about how I’m the best girlfriend ever for indulging his fantasy. Since it made him so happy, I’ve entertained the notion of maybe doing it again for his birthday or our anniversary (still many, many months away, thank Maude). The experience has given me some perspective on how despite my railing about the unrealistic beauty standards that are forced on us, I’m okay tinkering with them a little as long as I go into it clear-eyed. I’ve written a lot about how the mainstreaming of porn and the pornstar look have affected our perceptions of what’s sexy. I’m not sure we can root those issues out of our culture at this point, so I try to think critically about what I’m doing and whether I’m just doing it to conform to some porno-y body-policing or objectifying cultural norm. In this case, it had more to do with one man and our relationship, not societal standards, and he was totally understanding and appreciative, which society never has been.
*If you’re ever in New York City and want to be parted from your pubes, Maya works at Eve on West 8th Street in Greenwich Village.