I Will Never Ask A Man To Remove His Body Hair And I Expect Him To Treat Me The Same

"How do you bring up pubic trimming/shaving to a woman?" a guy I know asked me via Facebook message.

Aug 15, 2014 at 9:00am | Leave a comment

ASK ME ABOUT YOUR GIRLFRIEND'S PUBES!

Am I wearing a sign that says that? Because more than one guy has come to me for lady-body-hair advice recently.

Personally, I shave my legs on days I wear leg-exposing clothes and shave my armpits several times a week (I rarely go sleeveless, but I find I'm less likely to stink if there isn't hair to trap B.O.). If I'm seeing someone, I'll shave or wax some or all of my underwear area (I'd call it a "bikini area," but I never wear bikinis); if I'm not, I don't bother. I don't attach an ideology to these choices.

As for everyone else's body hair, I couldn't care less. It's their bodies. Even if I'm touching one of those bodies, it's still that person's body. I don't get a say in how it looks, and I don't think I should.

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I won't tell you what to do with your razor, so don't tell me what to do with mine. I'll wear it like a mustache if I feel like it.

Apparently, a lot of other people don't feel this way, as was made clear to me by one of the aforementioned recent conversations.

"How do you bring up pubic trimming/shaving to a woman?" a guy I know asked me via Facebook message. "I've tried to lead by example, but the message doesn't seem to get through." 

"You don't," I replied. "It's her choice. I think most women let you see what's going on down there in the way she wants to wear it. She's not waiting to take requests. If that's unshaven, then so be it. Is that a deal-breaker for you?

"Yes, it's kind of a deal-breaker," he replied. "Just like her preference might be to keep her pubes, my preference is to keep pubes far, far away from my face."

He then went on to tell me he has stopped performing oral sex on the woman he's been dating because she doesn't shave or wax, and how not asking her to shave is ultimately "unfair to her" because he won't go down on her unless she does.

"If she asks you your opinion on it, go ahead and tell her your preference," I said. "But don't just unsolicitedly be like 'I can't deal with your bush.'"

"But it's unattractive," he said. "I'm psychologically repulsed by it." 

"If you're not attracted to her, then don't date her," I replied. "You'll both be better off."

"It's just weird because I can't imagine a guy ever being offended by being asked to remove his body hair," he said.

At this point, I didn't know what I wanted to lecture him on more: the male gaze, or the fact that his personally not being offended by a hypothetical grooming request doesn't reflect the feelings of all men. So I decided to just close the chat window instead.

Maybe there are some, or many, women who would eagerly tell a male partner to trim his pubes or wax his back because they put their preferences before their partner's autonomy, but I'm not one of them; because as easily as we can attach a "patriarchy" ball and chain to the notion of a man asking a woman to change her body for his enjoyment, I think it's pretty insensitive for anyone of any gender to ask another person to alter their appearance -- especially something as intrinsic as body hair.

Many men have been made to feel ashamed of their body hair, to the point that they're now, as Kat Stoeffel recently noted for The Cut, writing essays about learning to embrace it.

"The implication here is that men should groom themselves based on the imagined tastes of some potential sexual partner," Stoeffel takes away from Andrew Sullivan's takeaway of Mark Joseph Stern's defense of his (and everyone else's) back hair. (It's a body-hair-observation Droste effect, sort of!)

So many women, myself included, have been doing exactly that -- shaving and waxing because they assume it's what a prospective partner would find attractive -- that many men not only anticipate this behavior (and, as illustrated above, freak out when it doesn't happen), some have apparently even adopted the behavior themselves.

And I think that sucks. I'll probably still get the occasional preemptive Brazilian. But it sucks.

But as I said before, I don't attach an ideology to my body-hair choices. I do, however, attach an unwavering ideology to the act of making those choices for oneself.