The Problem with Pubic Hair

I whipped up this photo in response to an article I wrote about the painting "Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing" by Leena McCall

I whipped up this photo in response to an article I read about Leena McCall’s painting, “Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing“.

Women’s pubic hair is a topic of conversation I’ve been reading about a lot in the past month…  I love my pubic hair and quite often have quite a bit of it too.  After this March’s Madonna has pit-hair instagram thing, a few articles have jumped out at me recently:

…female pubic hair is considered irredeemably, and problematically, erotic. The documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated revealed that the 2003 Vegas flick The Cooler was given an NC-17 rating thanks to 1.5 seconds of Maria Bello’s pubic hair. The whys and ways of the MPAA rating board are somewhat mysterious, but after directors agreed to cut the pubic hair (though not the oral sex leading up to it), the film earned the far more commercially viable R rating. Meanwhile, films that show horrific violence against women—like The Killer Inside Me, which lingers over the graphic murder of its female leads, or The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which features a long anal rape scene, are given an R rating.

Although women outperform men all over the place, we still feel light years away from shaking off a generalized squeamishness at the functions of the sweating, bleeding female body. Body hair is one of the most visible manifestations of this.

“It seems so odd that at a time when women are more powerful than ever, there’s a simultaneous impulse towards diminution, which is what hair removal represents, since it’s returning an adult female body to an aesthetic akin to that of a prepubescent child,” says the feminist writer and psychoanalyst Susie Orbach. “We remain very scared of the smells, blood and secretions of the human body, especially the female form, and are more comfortable erasing the reminder of these functions all together. All female bodies, whatever their age, weight or appearance, are beautiful, but we’d rather punish ourselves than acknowledge this.”

Evolutionarily speaking, sex is the whole game. Sex with the wrong person can kill you and your genetic line – through disease, infertility, misfortune. With the right person, it can assure that your genes are transmitted to the next generation. Armpit hair signals sex because it grows during puberty and is one of the first signs of maturity (and fertility). And it signals sex because it transmits the scents that lead to mating. It triggers disgust because it reminds humans how dangerous sex can be. And that’s why we shave it off. Because armpit hair betrays the western fantasy about sex, which is that sex is fun, pleasurable, innocent, and inconsequential, a fantasy that elides the evolutionary truth. The revulsion at armpit hair might be evolution’s way of saying “proceed with caution,” and its removal one less barrier to cross.

When I played the "Wet Spot Fairy" in the Slutcracker, I always felt intensely sexy and empowered, hair and all! Photo by Hans Wendland, cropped for this blog by me.

When I played the “Wet Spot Fairy” in the Slutcracker I felt intensely sexy and empowered, hair and all. Photo by Hans Wendland, cropped for this blog by me.

Here are some of my thoughts on the subject:

Once I hit puberty I shaved regularly for about one month.  Thinking it was so boring and dumb I stopped and have never gone back.  Even now as an adult I find that hairless armpits make me feel more uneasy than hairy ones.  I think the shading and shape of hair makes the arm look more muscular and inviting, and less weirdly undefined and whale bellyish…  but that’s me.  The few times I have shaved in my adult life I’ve had the unsettling experience of feeling a lot of shame as it was growing back.  Thankfully though, once it’s happily past the stubble and itchy scratchy stage, I feel quite comfortable and confident about having my body hair back again.

I wonder if because I am someone who feels major safety issues around sex and male behavior in general, that my brain attaches to the idea it is dangerous or a warning sign to have body hair – the idea that I’m maintaining barriers and telling people to beware?  I don’t like to think of it that way though, I like to think about how it shapes the contours of my armpit, how soft it is, how it regulates my temperature, and holds my animal scents for lovers who are lucky enough to get that near…

Cunnilingus, in my opinion, is so lovely when your lover has a full bush.  It smells nice, is soft (not stubbly and ready to give me a rash), and when it is long enough it aids in parting the labia aside to delve all the way in.  I don’t find loose hair abounds when the hair is long enough.  And I love to stroke it before and after being intimate.  It is beautiful to me.

I remember changing after swimming at the YMCA with a friend of my mother’s, I was probably 10 at the time.  She had armpit hair.  I remember falling in love with it, being shocked yes, but thinking it was beautiful and wild and sexy and that I wanted to be like that too… maybe just seeing another woman accept her body was enough to make me want to accept my own in that way.  Years later I still think back on that moment and now, as an actor and burlesque dancer, the presence of my body hair on stage shouts out to every audience member there:  I exist!

Mission accomplished.  Love for my body maintained.

To Breath and Being,
~ Karin

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~Thank you.

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