The Sex Goddess Blues: Insecurities About Body Hair & Grooming
Remember when supermodel Tyra Banks had a talk show? I watched it fairly religiously every day after school when I was maybe fourteen or so. Of course, like many mainstream "women's" programs, the show was riddled with internalized misogyny that I didn't identify as problematic until later. Once, they had a panel of random straight men on to talk about sex. For some reason, they were surveying these men about the "most attractive" way for a woman to have her pubic hair shaven. Of course, some shock-jock type of guy started crowing about how much he disliked natural pubes. I believe there was some analogy about a jungle involved. Even though I was still a couple years shy of my first sexual forays, profound shame washed over me. Shortly thereafter, I started shaving all of my pubic hair completely. The thought of anyone glimpsing it was mortifying.
I don't mean to imply that unshaven pubic hair is the "right," "liberated," or "feminist" way to go. If having your pubic hair shaven makes you feel more comfortable, by all means, shave it. However, deciding to go totally unshaven, or anything in between, is just as acceptable, and those options are equally valid. Any partner who consistently makes you feel otherwise (and probably, most partners won't: ten bucks says even that guy on Tyra doesn't actually say, or even think, those things when he's in bed with someone and not performating on television!) does not deserve your time or attention -- end of discussion. To disparage you for the choices you make regarding your own body shows that your partner doesn't care much about your bodily autonomy nor about what makes you feel happy and comfortable. That's not the kind of person you want to have any sort of relationship with. Will they grow out of it? Yeah, maybe. Until they change their behavior, though, they don't deserve to have sex with you. Feel free to tell them so. Despite what our mainstream media's messages surrounding women and body hair would have you believe, you can do whatever you want with it. Dye your pubes blue if you want! (Just be careful with chemicals around your genitals, please.)
Same goes for the rest of your body hair. You can shave it if it makes you feel comfortable, but it's not a requirement. In fact, this same mentality applies for pretty much anything and everything regarding the decisions you make about the way you present yourself. Some straight guys will ever-so helpfully declare that they find X, Y, or Z thing massively unappealing, whether it's unshaven pubic hair, piercings, red lipstick, short hair, long skirts, or whatever else. If a potential or current partner starts criticizing the way you look, they're dismissing your right to make decisions about your own body and the way it looks. Clearly, they care more about what turns them on than they do about what makes you feel happy and comfortable. A sexual relationship with them will almost certainly end up taking a toll on your self-esteem, since they're making clear they don't really see you as your own separate person so much as they see you as a vehicle for their own ideals or desires. And even if you somehow managed to meet their arbitrary standards, you would inevitably "fall short" in other areas of the relationship -- the criticism would probably not stop at your looks.
If someone likes you and wants to have sex with you, whether or not your pits are shaved should not deter them. If it does, that's on them. If someone has an issue with your body, that is their problem; it's never, ever that there's anything wrong with you. You get to make all the choices about your own body and the way it looks; you entirely have that right. In fact, you are the only person who has that right. Your sexual/romantic partner doesn't have the right, and neither does anyone else in your life. You shouldn't have to ask yourself, "But what will my partner prefer?!" It shouldn't matter, although societally it often feels like it does. If you like what you've got going on in the appearance department, your partner should too: who your parter should prefer is just you, as you are and like to be.
Additionally, there's just no real reason to fret over what a partner might want. There's no reason to stress over the preferences of some theoretical person. You'll work yourself into a tizzy of self-doubt if you start going in that direction. People are into all sorts of different things -- you don't need to change yourself to adhere to some imaginary objective standard. If you personally feel good about whatever look you choose to sport, though, you'll make yourself abundantly clear. Any worthwhile partner will respect that.
This is a section of a larger piece, The Sex Goddess Blues: Building Sexual Confidence, Busting Perfectionism. To read the whole piece or another section, click here! Illustrations: copyright 2014, Isabella Rotman.