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Well, with summer’s start tomorrow I know we’re all freaking out about getting ready for bathing suit season right? What, no? Ok, you’re right: bathing suit season is low on the list of things competing for space in my mind right now. This is the time of year, however, when the mainstream media like to post helpful tips and tricks for getting ready for the aforementioned “season” – and for women, that usually involves some kind of well-intentioned piece about how to whisk away “unwanted” hair.

That’s why I was amused (and sort of pleased) to see an article in the Toronto Star called “My First Brazilian Wax“. Written by Victoria Ptashnick, the article charts her first foray to the salon for a full Brazilian – ie. a wax after which very little is left to the imagination. Victoria doesn’t break any ground with her tale – it’s charming and funny and pretty much exactly what you would expect – but I did think it was refreshing to see a young woman opting out of what appears to be the dominant pubic-grooming practice of her age. In a video added to the site yesterday, Victoria answers reader questions about her article and experience. She is very clear about one thing: her future will not include intimate waxing.

Speaking of intimate procedures, I recently learned about “ball ironing”, sometimes known as “tightening the tackle” (apparently) in a brief article on an offshoot of the NY Magazine’s website called ‘The Cut’. According to the article, the thin testicular skin gets wrinkly and discoloured with age, so men can now pay good money (and lots of it) for a procedure that “involves using lasers to remove hair, erase wrinkles, and correct discoloration on the scrotum.” Will we ever run out of things to worry about?

 

 

 

 

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I just came upon a really well-written and interesting post written by a young woman who has wrestled with the question of how and why to love her own pubic hair. Interestingly, she doesn’t love it, but she doesn’t love that she doesn’t… her writing on the issue is really great — raw and real. These are the confessions and the conversations that make the internet so amazing.

A second, similar entry on the Feminist Dating website — called “A Bushy Dilemma” — is also worth a read. Both articles raise all kinds of issues around socialization and body-hatred (an important issue that never seems to go away, no matter how we wrestle with it).

The site itself doesn’t seem to be particularly active, which is a shame, ’cause it’s got some good stuff on it.

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Never Gets Old

Nope, pubic hair continues to thrive as a topic for debate in online forums everywhere. Today, I will direct your attention to an article on Salon.com called “Is Everyone Manscaping?” which mostly goes on about the same old stuff. This little tidbit did pique my interest, however:

“Last year a study out of the Kinsey Institute found that there is “no one dominant pubic hair style” among women. Young ladies are far more likely to have experimented with different degrees of deforestation but most women have “at least some pubic hair on the genitals.”

Agree?  (The article is mostly about men, however).

And more man-stuff: you can follow one man’s (very detailed) recounting of the experience of getting a Brazilian wax at RVA News. Nathan Cushing tells his story in three parts, the second of which is here:

http://rvanews.com/entertainment/going-south-deep-into-the-danger-zone-part-ii-of-a-brazilian-wax-story/52358

And finally –

If you haven’t read it yet, I would strongly recommend you cast your eyes over this fascinating and disturbing article by Marie Myung-Ok Lee that ran recently in The Guardian. The article explores cosmetic gynaecology – the demand for which (at least according to the article) has “never been higher – taking us behind the scenes at a disturbing little convention where women’s vulvas really do become straight up commodities.

I’d love to hear what you think about anything you’ve read.

 

 

 

 

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Bare Boys

A friend recently sent me a link to this great article that appeared recently on the Bitch Magazine website (don’t know Bitch Magazine? start here…)

The article is called “Isn’t He Lovely: Bare Down There And Everywhere Else,” by Cristen Conger.

The well written article is about the new hairlessness among young men. The author talks about the notion of a “sanitized ideal” for men that seems to be taking the mainstream by storm. As she writes:

We’re talking hair-free, sweat-free, odor-free; in other words, the same unrealistic standards peddled to women for so long, à la leg and underarm shaving. And like the hairless female ideal, it isn’t just the most visible fur that men are tending to these days; statistically, men groom their pubic hair more than any other type of body hair (sans beards).

Though I haven’t formally embraced looking at male body hair practices (I’d love to though… just give me time). The article does point out (and rightly so) that while the increased pressure for me to depilate is sort of disturbing (in the sense that any widely normalized, readily embraced mechanism of body control is), men don’t face nearly the same levels of stigma that women do should they decide NOT to embrace the practice.

And again, the article asks some of the same questions I have around women’s pubic hair grooming habits: will the trend persevere as men age and settle down, or like with women, is the trend very much a short lived practice tied in with youthful, commitment-free sexuality.

I remember one of the young women I interviewed telling me about one of her regular ‘hook up’ partners, and the fact that being hairless was, in a sense, part of the ritual:

“It’s definitely more appealing,” she told me. “There was this one guy.. we were hook up buddies, I guess. I invited him over, and he was like ‘oh, I just shaved for you,’ and I was like ‘oh, cool…oh, I just waxed too.’ It was like, I did this thing for you. It was a positive thing…you know what I mean?”

There must be something in the casualness of the hook-up that is balanced by the ritualized grooming practice: it seems to acknowledge that ‘I know that we have this meaningless, strings-free intimate relationship, but I still did my part before showing up’.

You know what I mean?

 

 

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I’ve pondered this question before, of course: what is it that men think when it comes to women’s pubic hair? Because from what I’ve heard after talking to a lot of younger women, many remove their pubic hair because they understand it’s what the men they sleep with like. Of course, generalizing is never hugely productive, but many of my conversations have gone like this:

Female Interview Subject (aged 19): “I think… guys prefer no hair… or at least the majority of my friends who are guys.”

Me: “how do you know that?”

FIS: “You ask them. Or, like, I’d say, ‘I’m going to get my va-jay-jay waxed today, what are you doing?”

Friend of FIS: She’s so open! It’s so easy for her to get information like that!

Me: And what do they say to that?

FIS: They’re like…’oh, cool.’ It’s chill. But if I ask them, they say it’s better without hair.

FoFIS: You have a lot of (girl) friends – do they all get waxed, too?

FIS: yeah, I think they do.

Guys: please write and let me know what your preferences are when it comes to pubic hair. How did you develop these preferences?

I was interested to come upon this article online this morning, when I was vaguely trolling around in search of interesting pubic-fodder for consideration.

Posted a couple of years ago on the website Your Tango: Smart Talk About Love, the article is called Male Perspective: Women, Grow Out Your Pubic Hair. Though the author, John DeVore, doesn’t divulge his age, he does (with humour and eloquence) tell us about his preferences when it comes to women’s intimate bits.

His is a plea for women to re-embrace their natural selves in a world that he fears would sooner have us become a “hairless race of squeaky smooth dolphin people.”

I think his point here is interesting:

“it’s not just the weird underage girl thing; aesthetically, a hairless hoo-ha is kind of antiseptic. It doesn’t look … human. The vagina almost becomes like an object, and that’s just not any fun. Sex is not an à la carte buffet of different body parts, and I know dudes who are obsessed with the physical appearance of the nanny. It’s a strange fetish, since how it feels is more important to me than how it looks.”

It’s a point worth considering, since many would argue that pornography has acclimatized us, culturally, to appreciate the body in turn-on-able pieces chunks (something women have been guilting of doing — reducing our bodies to a collection of parts, mostly flawed — for ages).

Naturally, the comments in response to this article are great — from men defensively defending their right to prefer things hairless (almost as if they hadn’t got the point of DeVore’s article at all), to this right-on comment from a female reader:

I love this guy!!!! 

One thing I can’t understand is a generation of women that is supposed to be so sexually liberated and free would let themselves be pushed into getting rid of pubic hair. It’s part of your sexuality. It’s there to attract attention to your genitals. It protects you. It hurts to get rid of it. There are health risks to your genitals from waxing.

I know there are some women who want to be hairless, but I suspect most are just doing it to look nice for your boyfriends. We’re humans and we’re animals. We have hair.

 

 

 

 

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The internet never ceases to amaze me.

Here, for your amusement/interest is an online discussion about pubic hair. It’s called “Your Opinion on Pubic Hair” and it includes the voices of people pro and anti-hair on both men and women.

Some of the highlights include

No hair on a girl whatsoever!!! I dont allow it! I wouldnt hesitate to get a can of deodorant and a lighter to flame off a hairy gash! Urgh! I dont want a welcome mat laid out for me!!!!

and

I personally like pubic hair. I prefer it, as it helps the wetness of a girl to be spread a bit better so when I go down, it’s not like “look at all of these clumps of my white stuff.” Not to mention, having hair down there actually helps to keep out bacteria from entering your vagina ime. Moreover, whenever I’ve shaved or trimmed thin, I feel wet… all… the… time. Your clit rubs on your pants, making it very uncomfortable in public. I have hair and prefer hair. Looks more natural that way.

I’m always just a little amazed that people take the time to post their opinions on these kinds of forums.. but then, I guess I do write a WHOLE BLOG on the topic. There’s certainly lots to consider here.

 

 

 

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Going Down

One of the arguments I hear a lot in support of pubic hair removal is this: oral sex. There’s a message out there (one that I worry a lot of young women are internalizing) that seems to suggest that guys will (often begrudgingly) perform oral sex, but only if women keep themselves meticulously groomed (ie. hairless) so that things are neat and tidy and easy to find.

That’s certainly the message that this guy is promoting:

This guy is particularly obnoxious, because he first makes a big deal about how much he likes performing cunnilingus, but then makes it clear that unless the target area is well kept, it’s not going to get any attention. People: if you keep your pubic hair tidy and clean, it really shouldn’t interfere with oral sex. Here’s a radical idea: don’t get rid of it, just MOVE IT OUT OF THE WAY.

People have been giving and receiving oral sex since long before intimate waxing was de rigeur and everyone seemed to do just fine.

What I worry about most is the fact that a lot of young women today say they won’t let a guy near their nether regions unless everything is in tip top shape, while they are expected to give out blow-jobs like they’re shaking hands. It’s a mindset I feel like we’ve got to try and change.

If this guy really is a masterful as he seems to imply he is when it comes to oral sex, he should be embracing it whenever he can get it — not only when the conditions are ‘right’.

And unless he’s keeping his business impeccably waxed, he’s got no right to suggest that his sexual partners do the same. Addressing “women” over YouTube about what they should be doing with their pubic hair is just straight up obnoxious.

Hair removal should not be a pre-requisite for anyone’s pleasure.

 

 

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Oh, Boys…

You’re facing pressures of your own, no? Though I’d argue that it’s less common to hear of a guy being seen as dirty or disgusting for leaving his pubic hair au-natural, I’m reading/hearing about men facing an increasing amount of pressure to go hairless.

Poking around on the internet this morning, I came across a website selling (surprise!) hair removal products (anyone see a theme when it comes to hair removal?) for men.

I was particularly taken by the narrative they were doling out: that in removing their pubic hair they would be more attractive to the opposite sex, and that, in general, things would be more ‘hygienic’ — essentially the same arguments women seem to be readily internalizing.

This site not only tries to sell men on the idea of whisking away their pubic hair (“Back in the day having a hairy chest and body was sexy but these times have changed. Women now find smooth, clean male bodies more attractive. But pubic shaving isn’t just about impressing the oppisate sex but also about personal hygiene”) but then it actually tries to sell them a fancy electric “bodygroomer”, as well as a special powder for the inevitable post-shave itching:

Here are some pubic shaving tips for guys who are ready for their first pubic shaving experience:

– DO NOT use a razor blade

– DO NOT use an electric shaving machine

– DO NOT use regular body soap

– DO NOT use after shave

So how do you properly shave your balls? Easy, the one and most important tool you need to avoid cuts and enjoy your pubic shaving experience is the Philips Norelco Bodygroom.

Sigh.

Of course you do. WHAT A SURPRISE.

(Seriously, people – how has it happened that we’re all caught up in this? I’d love to hear what you think).

 

 

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I just wanted to draw your attention to a piece of commentary in Monday’s edition of British newspaper, The Independent. Written by Mary Ann Sieghart, the article is entitled “Time to overturn the tyranny of porn”. In it, she raises all kinds of important points, like why Christine Lagarde, the new head of the IMF, is being judged for her ‘sexiness’ in the media.

As Sieghard rightly points out:

“it’s no longer enough to be successful in your chosen field: to be a good lawyer or economist or minister. You are expected to look gorgeous too. Yet who would ever expect the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to be sexy (let alone the sexiest man in the world)? Or the head of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick?”

She later goes on to consider the influence that porn in having on all of us — and gets specific in the demands it has placed on women’s fashion and body practices:

High heels stop you running for a bus. They stop you running from danger. You can’t stride out in them; indeed, you can’t even keep up with the man you’re walking alongside. In a word, they make you submissive – just as having a Brazilian makes you look like a submissive pre-teen or willing porn actress.

See the pattern? These trends are sold to us, in a hideously Orwellian fashion, as “empowering”. No, it’s not empowering to be hobbled by excruciating heels. Nor is it empowering to be encouraged to dance suggestively with a pole. It’s tacky, it’s tarty, it’s undignified and it’s wholly inappropriate unless you’ve embarked on a career as a prostitute.

This seeping of sex, and a particular type of porn-inspired plastic sex, into ordinary life is really debilitating for women. I never thought I’d sound like Mary Whitehouse – God knows I loathed her prudishness when I was growing up – but sex should be a beautiful, loving, private, natural, exciting thing between two grown-up people, not an arid, artificial, commodified, public and frankly pervy pressure on the way women are supposed to look even to men for whom they have no desire.

The whole article is definitely worth a read, if you’ve got a few minutes.

Get it here:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/mary-ann-sieghart/mary-ann-sieghart-time-to-overturn-the-tyranny-of-porn-2319938.html

While you’re at it, I’d also recommend scrolling down to read some of the comments. These comments, posted by rt356 particularly caught my attention:

I’m 20 and every single man (excepting one) I’ve either had sex with or discussed this with (mostly in a situation similar to this, debating feminism etc) has flat out said they wouldn’t have sex with a woman who didn’t wax/shave down there. So it’s definitely a generational thing, given that the men I generally come into contact with are under 30, and have mostly grown up watching porn, anything else seems ‘weird’ or (as is often incorrectly assumed) ‘unhygienic’. Some have even admitted if they see pubic hair on a woman then they find it impossible to get in the mood.

Her comments kind of blow my mind, but then I’ve heard similar things anecdotally. These are strange times, indeed…

 

 

 

 

 

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When people find out what I study, they’re either a) intrigued, b) uncomfortable, or c) defensive.

In fact, one of the most popular defensive tactics is to either tell me that women remove their pubic hair for their own pleasure (and thus I should not be critical of the practice), or to try to justify it as a lesser problem because “guys are feeling pressure to do it too.”

So here’s what I have to say to that:

As much as it concerns me that young men are feeling increasingly societal pressure to do away with their body hair (the result being more and more young men who may be feeling insecure about their bodies as-they-are), I don’t think it’s fair to compare them.

As far as I can tell, a man doesn’t view his bits as less-than-worthy if they are wearing a furry sweater.

There’s a lesser chance that he will be seen as someone who is “not taking care of himself” if he is not meticulously groomed (he may merely be viewed as someone who has better things to do – or he may be cultivating the scruffy look).

To speak generally, consumer culture simply doesn’t target men the same way that it targets women.

So when we DO hear about men getting intimate wax jobs, we’re still a little amused. We can cavalierly toss around terms like ‘metrosexual’ (the wikipedia definition of which is “a heterosexual urban man whose lifestyle, concern for personal appearance, and spending habits are likened to those considered typical of a fashionable male homosexual”) and speculate about what would compel him to press hot wax to his family jewels.

We certainly wouldn’t judge him if he opted to let it all grow in for awhile.

I’m thinking about this today because yesterday I happened upon a really great article on the topic in The Good Men Project called Waxing Insanity. The article, by Ted Cox, tells the hilarious tale of his first Brazilian wax and its resulting discomfort, all while exploring how our culture views body hair on men and women. It’s definitely worth a read. Here’s his most-excellent concluding line:

“But I do know this: any guy who expects his partner to get waxed, if he’s not regularly getting waxed himself, deserves to be set on fire and run over by a fucking bus.”

Read the whole article here:

Ted Cox gets a Brazilian wax and considers our relationship with pubic hair — The Good Men Project Magazine

 

 

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