Illustration: Kim Steinhilber

When I was 16 years old, my boyfriend asked me, "What do you think about hardwood floors?"

"Um, they look good in a house," I replied, unsure of why this topic was being introduced. Neither of us were particularly close to home ownership, being teenagers. "I guess I prefer them."

He laughed. "So you do prefer them."

"I don’t know why this is funny," I told him. I often felt left out of his jokes, and not because they were particularly clever. 

"My friend was asking me today if your carpet matched the drapes. And then he was like, ‘Or better yet, does she have hardwood floors?’ So I was wondering if you could do that. Get hardwood floors."

"You want me to shave my pussy?" I asked. 

"Yeah, from now on."

Many years later, I now wish that I had broken up with him right then and there, for this reason and many others, including the fact that this jackass threw me into a wall when I didn’t want to give him a blowjob on my birthday, at my birthday party, while my friends were hanging out 20 feet from us. But by the time that happened, I had been shaved and itchy for a while; I was raised to give men what they wanted. I knew that if I didn’t shave for him, it would be a problem. Maybe not a getting-thrown-against-a-wall problem, but there would be conflict nonetheless. 

It is in the spirit of this mistreated 16-year-old girl that I later made the rule that if a man or woman tells me what to do with my pubic hair, I break up with them—although so far, no woman has made this request of me. 

I made this rule not because of this one terrible, Nirvana-blasting teenage scumbag, but because, other than basic hygiene, no one has the right to demand body modification from their partner. There are too many men who care more about their idea of what’s hot than what I actually want to do with my body, and I don’t want to date people like that. So these days, if you make a pubic hair demand, I break up with you. Sometimes, I’ll give a PSA-like announcement at the start of a relationship about this rule, but most of the time, I don’t.

You get to decide whether you trim, wax, shave, go full bush… use your pubic hair to create dinosaur-shaped topiary…  

Too often, I have met men who think it’s their right to ask me to change my body for their pleasure and preference, men who sulk if I didn’t want to wax, as though I were cruelly denying them some great joy because I didn’t want to spend $80 to have hair ripped out of my labia and spend the rest of the day dabbing at blood and waddling, pained and pantyless, through my engagements. 

There is, of course, a difference between coercing, guilting, or forcing your partner into doing something they really don’t want to do with their pubes, and a voluntary exchange of desires and preferences between partners. Maybe your partner loves a landing strip, a full bush, a close trim, a full wax, or what-have-you. Sharing these desires with each other is cool! The issue isn’t when you offer honest communication about what you like to do and what you like your partner to do, but when one partner pressures the other into doing something they’re not into.

Societal expectations that women be completely bare are obviously bullsh*t. 

Proponents of Brazilian waxing often claim that it’s more hygienic, but that’s entirely untrue. In fact, you are 75 percent more likely to contract an STI if you shave or wax because the process creates micro-tears, which allow more bacteria to permeate the skin. Of course, you can reduce this risk with condoms and other forms of protection. 

What actually popularized the Brazilian is porn, simply because it is easier to see the action if the actress isn’t au naturel. So if you grew up masturbating to porn that normalizes and eroticizes a hairless pussy, there’s a strong likelihood that you’ll desire the very same. This doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person if a waxed look gets you going, but it’s not right to guilt or push someone to fit your subjective standards of beauty. Women already face enough pressure to conform to this pricey and painful fashion; it’s patriarchal bullsh*t at its finest.

In fact, it seems that nature had a reason for all that hair—some studies have shown that pubic hair traps pheromones to attract mates, and reduces friction during sex. Imagine that! 

This doesn't mean you have to go full bush to be a good feminist or whatever.

I have absolutely been curious enough to go to the sugaring parlor and have my pubic hair torn out. This stemmed from what I can only guess is my own volition, but I’m still not sure. I wanted it done on a whim—no one had put in a request—but with every blood-spotted wrench of the sugar wax, I mentally cursed the patriarchy and verbally issued an unintelligible stream of curses.

I thought I wanted to be there, but it turned out that I do not really enjoy the pain-to-payoff ratio as much as other people might, and so there felt like a level of societal coercion at play there. But I wondered, half-crazed on the table, if it’s possible to be a feminist and wax. Obviously, yes, yes it is. If you like altering your pubic hair, then you’re making your own decisions about your body, and you should go forth and be merry. 

Just don’t let anyone tell you what to do with your bush; it’s not their decision, and if you end up doing something that doesn’t feel good to you, you’re preferencing their desires over your own, and that’s not the way to happiness. May you always do what you like with your pussy, because it’s yours and you love it, and dismiss anyone who interferes with that special bond.

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