14 September, 2009

The Politics Of The Bikini Line

The somewhat hyperbolically-titled "To Wax Or Not To Wax: Have women ever faced a greater dilemma?" raised some interesting questions for me, and after discussing the matter with my fellow femis, here's a blog on this apparently terribly important matter.

The article itself seems to gently persuade the reader to 'give it a go', which irritates me somewhat because it seems very evident that she doesn't actually want to. It bothers me that Rowan Pelling compares a painful, expensive procedure which literally rips the hairs from their follicles with hot wax to...buying a pair of racy stockings. "It suggests a woman has put a bit of extra effort into seduction." Pelling states, which is a horrible smug little sentence, almost suggesting that a woman should depilate herself in order to show she's actually putting some effort into her sex life, regardless of the fact that stockings can be put on and taken off with no pain, discomfort or itchy regrowth. Pelling gives the illusion of choice whilst not so subtly promoting the joys and 'benefits' of a hairless undercarriage...even Iranian women do it, she simpers, as if Iranian women ought to be the benchmark of backwards sexual practises.

Of course, the real issue here is addressed in the comments. A startling number of people argue that a Brazilian is cleaner, which is complete rubbish (if it were cleaner, wouldn't thousands of years of evolution have gone some way to addressing that? And if hair is so unhygenic then why aren't men removing theirs?) Among other things, pubic hair cushions and protects the genital area, keeping it warm and protecting the (very) sensitive skin down there. It also traps and holds pheremones, which are an integral element of human sexuality as we understand it. There's a reason we all have pubic hair! (and besides, hair or no hair, if you don't wash regularly it will be unhygenic!)

Of course, it should be up to the individual whether they want to bare all, and in an ideal world we could say that every woman has that freedom of choice. But thanks in part to the rampant pornification of society, and the expectation for all women to match the plucked and preened centrefolds young boys are growing up with as their representations of the naked woman, there is an immense amount of pressure on women to have the full Brazilian wax. There's a strange idea that women with pubic hair are somehow unkempt and untidy, and therefore ought to spend countless woman-hours removing every last sprig.

What Rowan Pelling should have made abundantly clear is that any man who tries to persuade his partner to wax or shave when it's quite clear she doesn't want to is being a domineering prick. It is a decision that should be made by the owner (or non-owner) of his or her own pubic hair. If a woman wants to have a full Brazilian, or even just a bikini line trim, fair enough - that's her decision, and nobody has the right to tell her she's wrong. But there's a lot of unfair pressure on women to imitate this fashion statement, the fear of being found unsexy or not making enough effort to seduce. We're already cowed into removing our underarm hair and leg hair whether we like the idea or not (a practise made popular in the early 1900's - not so long ago!). Surely 'what lies beneath', abdundant foliage or otherwise, should belong to us, and only us?


  1. great post as always :o)

    i don't think there's anything wrong with wanting tidiness, in yourself or your partner. but, though this depends on how hairy you are naturally (TMI alert: i have often been taken down a peg or two by female friends about this sort of stuff, as i seem to be less hairy than other people and thus not know what i'm on about sometimes lol) i think trimming is more than enough to keep "tidy", and total hairlessness is a distinct step beyond that.

    quite apart from the infantilising (many would say, paedophilic) issue, i do wonder if the pain of waxing is part of its appeal to patriarchy...

  2. I don't know...I think wanting cleanliness is completely reasonable, but tidiness...I guess I'm just uncomfortable with the idea of someone's partner imposing any sort of aesthetic standard upon them. If they're clean and healthy, I think even tidiness should be down to the individual and what they're comfortable with, in my opinion. If they're happy to resemble the Amazon rainforest, that should be their call! (And of course, the courtesy ought to extend to those who freely choose to 'bare all')

    I do find a slight creepiness in completely bald genitals. It does seem somewhat pre-pubescent...

  3. Why women should even consider torturing themselves, just so they can look like a porn star or an 8-year old, is beyond me. Where is "just say no" when we really need it?

  4. Languishing in the 1980's with the rest of Grange Hill, alas


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