An Honest Conversation About Female Body Hair
If you’ve read my account about going 30 days without showering, then you know I’m not shy about topics usually dubbed as “gross” or “cringeworthy” by a good portion of the public. And while I would never label this topic as such, some may. And therein lies the problem. So today, we’re going to have an honest conversation about female body hair.
After reading Allie Nelson’s series on the oversexualization of women in entertainment, it really got me thinking about the influence of the hetero male’s gaze in general and its impact on womens’ behaviors — particularly grooming habits in the season of sporting skin. With National Bikini Day making its debut on July 5, I can already feel the intrusive, wandering eyes scouring social feeds and packed beaches for bro-approved eye candy. And as a woman — not an object — who enjoys rocking small bikinis simply for the sake of a killer tan (not that I should even have to explain), it really just grinds my gears. But what eats at me a little more than unintentionally putting on a show for my unwanted male audience is my ingrained behaviors to fit the mold that they — and even some of my female peers — oh-so-wish to see during hot-girl summer season: zero body hair.
Now, before I continue, it is important to acknowledge that not all hetero men feel this way about female body hair. But, it is equally important to point out that while we know quality males exist in abundance in society, so many of us continue to adhere to the standards set by their crude counterparts, myself included. And I’m here to start a movement — a movement of getting their opinions outta my brain.
I guess you could say my heated beliefs behind the topic of body hair started as a kid. When I was in middle school — the start of the insecurity era — I was bullied by some boys in my class for my blonde arm hair. Words like “monkey” or “ape” were continually thrown my way. Even my grandpa, whom I lovingly shared an affection for monster movies with, would tease me that I was turning into a werewolf as he gently brushed my arm hair. And while he loved me deeply and never meant any harm by this, being that I had not yet bloomed into the powerful woman I am today, I took the combination of all of these digs to heart.
I longed to be desirable like the popular girls in my class who blossomed early and had no hair on their arms. But the boys in my class weren’t seeing me that way in my eyes. Thus began my obsession with a razor at age 12. And how I wish I could’ve seen that the core problem stemmed from needing to feel desired in the first place, but I wouldn’t learn that lesson until much later.
That insecurity followed me into adulthood. I could not go on dates, have sexy time or wear anything the least bit revealing without removing every strand of hair from my body (apart from my head).
Mortified at my “gross status,” my zero-scaping didn’t just end with my legs and armpits; it extended pretty much to the entirety of my body. I still remember the first time I shaved the entirety of my nether regions. I did it alongside my best friend (we were close). Once we were smooth as a baby’s bottom down there, she and I exchanged excited glances and exclaimed that we felt like “Victoria’s Secret models!” To which we officially topped the experience off by admiring the clean skin beneath or brand-new Victoria’s Secret undies. And what inspired the act in the first place? A boy, of course.
I was in the beginning stages of exploring my sexuality, and as my first boyfriend explored my body, he commented, “Oh, you have hair down there…” to which he later followed up with a text that evening, saying, “You should shave it all off down there. That’d be hot.” Feeding my preexisting adolescent insecurity even more. I wasn’t hot already?
That insecurity followed me into adulthood. I could not go on dates, have sexy time or wear anything the least bit revealing without removing every strand of hair from my body (apart from my head). The level of anxiety I would feel if I had forgotten to shave prior to hitting the beach or “movie and chill” time (Netflix didn’t exist yet) was astronomical. And I’ve had enough conversations with the women in my life to know I wasn’t alone in these feelings.
It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles in my 20s and began to find myself that I started to shed the mold I had allowed others to put me in. My self-love journey started with examining why I felt ashamed of my body in general. Seeing other women in the city own their body hair like it was hotter than the balayage trend also inspired me, and I soon found myself craving a more natural “look” to make up for all the years I had rejected my God-given vessel — both on my face via a lack of makeup and with my pubic hair. While the idea of leg hair didn’t “gross me out,” I simply loved the feeling of freshly shaved legs against freshly washed sheets, and it’s a silly sensation I (still) refuse to give up. But as for my pubic hair, after years of razor burn and anxiety around even the least bit of stubble, I was ready to grow her out.
My self-love journey started with examining why I felt ashamed of my body in general.
I rocked a natural, groomed V for a long time, and I grew more and more comfortable with the hair that had inspired so much angst all the years passed. I was finally owning my womanhood. That is, until my pubescent insecurities reared their ugly head and decided to make an adulthood debut.
I had been dating this bad boy for about a month, and I was completely infatuated. Shocker, I know. He was tall, sexy, wild, and his adrenaline-pumping motorcycle rides made for some steamy dates. I felt so alive with him. However, there were definite abusive red flags right off the bat, like crazy jealousy and controlling behavior. But I had buried them in the sands of the beaches we strolled on, until they were thrown in my face.
We had come home after a night of partying with friends, and with alcohol and desire in our blood, we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. Eventually, we made our way to the shower. As I washed my hair, I opened my eyes to find a razor inches from my face. Confused, I instinctively felt my stomach drop.
“I thought you’d want this,” he smirked, as his eyes left mine and darted to my fuzzy nether regions, a twinkle of distaste hidden behind his dark irises. And while I was met with initial horror and embarrassment, the self-love that I had been working to develop the last few months kicked into overdrive. Those feelings of shame were quickly replaced by anger and disgust with him, and I stormed out of the shower. “What’s the big deal?” He angrily shouted out after me. What was the big deal? The big deal was he felt entitled to an opinion I never asked for. He felt entitled to tell me how my body should look. He felt entitled to me appeasing that vision. And in a very real way, he felt entitled to governing my body — and that was the big deal.
As we go into summer ready to soak up that sun in our skimpy bikinis, it’s high time we put an end to allowing unsolicited opinions to influence the way we present ourselves.
And then it clicked. All the men (and on occasion, women) who had offered their unsolicited opinions of my body hair my entire life felt entitled to the same things. And I was done enabling them.
Needless to say, I dumped him not long after.
We might not be able to change how someone feels on the topic of body hair — and it’s not our job to. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but they are not entitled to sharing that opinion when it’s not asked for. It is not anyone’s business to tell you how to groom your body. And as we go into summer ready to soak up that sun in our skimpy bikinis, it’s high time we put an end to allowing unsolicited opinions to influence the way we present ourselves. If you want to shave — baby, shave. If you want to rock tendrils under your arms, on your legs, and everywhere in between, do that. Your body is your temple. You decide how it’s adorned.
So whip on that bikini — hair or no hair — and remember that confidence is the most attractive thing you can rock. Hair haters be damned.