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Hair Trouble

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Jessica68 asks:

I'm 15. Okay, so I do swimming squad, and sometimes it's embarrassing wearing bathers, cause of pubic hair. I don't know how to get rid of it. Like once I was at my friends house, and she is obsessed with sex, so she watches porn, and I saw some too, and the women have no pubic hair whatsoever! And I get really bothered about that. I mean, what if I'm going to have sex with a guy, and he's like "Eww, you're all hairy. That is disgusting?" I'm really scared about that. If you can help, it would be great! Thanks!

Sam W replies:

Oh, pubic hair. One of those subjects that, when brought up, generally kick-starts a furious debate about which option (shaved, trimmed, left alone) is the most attractive, the most empowered, the most hygienic, etc. And, depending on how much you follow this debate, you may end up feeling like no matter choice you make, it is somehow the "wrong" one.

So, lets get this clear now: whether or not you decide to shave/wax/otherwise groom your pubic hair is completely up to you. Both in terms of what makes you feel comfortable physically (e.g you find one less itchy than the other) and what makes you feel best mentally. Just like you get to make all those same, open choices about what you do with the hair on your head.

Pubic hair is just another part of your body and one that you get to manipulate or leave be as you wish, anytime.

A word about bathing suits and pubic hair. If you're someone who finds that your hair isn't completely covered by your bathing suit bottom, you may feel like your groin is surrounded by flashing neon lights reading:

"Now Appearing: Pubes!"

But, in all honesty, other people are probably only noticing them barely or not at all (especially since the same is probably true for them and their pubic hair). For real. Keeping that in mind may help you feel more comfortable.

If you're still not super comfortable with how prominent your pubic hair is, but you don't want to deal with shaving, you can always try out a swimsuit with "boy cut bottoms," as they provide more coverage in that area.

Now, onto your bigger worry that having pubic hair will cause a future partner to be disgusted by you. There's a few parts of that worry that I'd like to address.

The first is that you're trying to predict what a hypothetical partner will or will not find attractive about you AND how they will react to that particular trait. That's one of those thought experiments that can launch your self doubt skyward without giving you a concrete problem to actually tackle. Because, no matter how much we may want it to be otherwise, there is no way to predict the preferences of future partners. People are complex, and that complexity often goes into overdrive in matters of attraction. People are also wildly diverse, so one partner may dig one way of having your hair, while another likes something totally different, again, just like the hair on your head. Are you going to keep growing out your hair then cutting it all off because of what somebody else likes? Probably not. What you're more likely to do is to do what you want in terms of that hair: same should go for pubic hair.

Instead of imagining what a hypothetical partner may want from you (especially in terms of something as minute as pubic hair), it might be beneficial to expend that same energy imagining what YOU want from a partner. How do they treat you? How do you feel around them? What's their personality like? Answering those kinds of questions for yourself means that, when a potential partner does arise, you'll have a more solid sense of what you're looking for from them.

If you do find yourself with a partner, lets take a moment to discuss how much input they have over your cosmetic choices. The simple answer? None. One of the realities we have to accept when dating is that the other person is never going to match every one of our ideals, and their appearance is no exception. And when we are into somebody, we will be into some of the ways they groom or style themselves, not into others, and neutral about plenty: that's all okay, because being with someone isn't about making them into our abstract ideal of everything we like or are into. It's about being with them because we like who they are.

To demonstrate what I mean, let's go back to haircuts. Say you decide to trade in your long, flowing locks for a short look. Your partner may love it, hate it, or be completely indifferent about it. Those are their emotions, and they get to have them, but they don't get to forbid you from cutting your hair. And odds are that they will grow a beard or cut their hair, or only wear clothes in neon plaid patterns, or something else that you think is not a good look for them, but they like. And you'll respect it anyway because it's their decision and their body. I thinks it's good for everyone to remind themselves now and then that the effect other people's cosmetic choices have on them is negligible.

I can already hear some of the people reading this saying "But pubic hair is different." It's not. It's just another physical trait, like head-hair length, styling or a lack thereof. It's proximity to genitalia does not make it some totally different thing.

And should you find yourself getting sexual with someone only to have them react with an "Eeeeeew, gross, pubic hair?" Then that's a mighty good sign that said person isn't someone to have sex with just yet (or at all). After all, if someone's not mature enough to the accept the fact that pubic hair is something that most people post-puberty have, then they probably aren't mature enough to be having sex with someone else. Sure, people get to find certain traits attractive or certain traits icky. But those preferences cross the line into being-a-big-jerk territory if they start making other people feel gross or bad for not conforming to their tastes.

I want to caution you about drawing your ideas of what "normal" sex or bodies look like from porn. Porn is seldom an accurate portrayal of the average person's sex life, just like Hollywood movies or TV rarely portrays love or teen life very accurately. I like to think of it as similar to reality television. It's a version of events that are, indeed, happening, but the actions has been staged and stylized for the camera. The same usually goes for the bodies of the people performing it. Think about the lack of pubic hair you often see as, in many ways, a uniform the performers are wearing because, for their job, that's what is being asked or expected of them in order to get and keep that job.

The fact that you don't look like the women in porn? Completely and totally okay, just like it's okay to not look like the women in advertisements or the women in music videos. All those images have been designed to get something out of people (money, mostly), and to do that they show a fantasy version of the world. And by virtue of narrowly defining what's "desirable," these fantasies erase the incredible diversity of bodies, identities, and tastes that actually exist. And even when they do reflect or shape our tastes on the theoretical level, we can still end up deeply attracted to people who don't match that idealized appearance. Imagining your perfect partner as blonde, tan, and muscular doesn't mean that you won't end up dating a short, skinny redhead who you can't wait to put your hands all over. Attraction is complex like that.

In the end, what you do with your pubic hair is totally in your hands. And odds are that if you find a partner who likes and respects you as a whole person -- which is really the only kind of partner anyone should be picking -- you'll find a partner (or partners) who will like and respect you no matter what decision you make about your pubes.

Here's some more for you to read around this if you'd like:

written 23 Apr 2014 . updated 23 Apr 2014

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