Social Question

jo_with_no_space's avatar

(Poss NSFW) What are your thoughts on the gendered aspects of body hair grooming?

Asked by jo_with_no_space (1457 points ) May 6th, 2010

I ask this question on two levels.

Firstly, a sociological/gendered level – does it seem fair that female-bodied people are expected to groom/remove their body hair to a far larger extent than male-bodied people? Where did this idea come from that female body hair is disgusting and abominable, but male hair is masculine and desirable? Should we not encourage equality of grooming habits? What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?

Secondly, and related, on a personal level – what are your personal preferences when sleeping with male/female partners? Do you like it au naturel, trimmed or removed? Does it seem unfair to you if you groom more than your partner? Have any of your sexual partners had a complaint or request regarding your body hair? Is it wrong to wish that, if you make grooming efforts, your partner(s) should do the same favour?

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58 Answers

slick44's avatar

I peronally find hair on females yucky for lack of a better word. And i also like my men clean shaved. Bald is beautiful.

majorrich's avatar

Being of an Asian background, I am blessed with very little body hair. I’ve not been with very many hairy women, so have very little experience to base my preferences on trimmed, mowed or overgrown landing zones. Female leg hair is pretty soft and I don’t recall that as bothering me. Of course, that was 23 years ago so my memory is kind of dim of my wild oat days. I am very hetero so absolutely no experience with Sasquatch, although I think it would be interesting to see someone have their body corn-rowed.

Seaofclouds's avatar

This site has a nice timeline about the history of shaving. About ⅔rds down it talks about why women started shaving here in the states.
It says, “It all began with the May, 1915 edition of Harper’s Bazaar magazine that featured a model sporting the latest fashion. She wore a sleeveless evening gown that exposed, for the first time in fashion, her bare shoulders, and her armpits. A young marketing executive with the Wilkinson Sword Company, who also made razor blades for men, designed a campaign to convince the women of North America that:(a) Underarm hair was unhygienic (b) It was unfeminine. In two years, the sales of razor blades doubled as our grandmothers and great grandmothers made themselves conform to this socially constructed gender stereotype. This norm for North American women has been reinforced by several generations of daughters who role-modeled their mothers.”

For me personally, I hate shaving my legs (luckily I don’t have much leg hair), but can’t stand not having my underarms shaved. As far as other areas, I was told by my GYN that shaving your pubic hair is a bad thing to do and can increase your risks of infections because of the tiny knicks you may not notice with shaving. He said if you must do something down there, just trim it.

I like my husband both clean shaved and also with a bit of facial hair. It’s all up to him. I’ve never been with a man that shaved his pubic region, so I’m not sure what difference that would make. I personally think if he wanted to do anything down there, I’d prefer him just to trim. I know from my experience with shaving down there that as it grows back, the stubble can get really irritated with sex.

wonderingwhy's avatar

I can’t really address the first part all that well other than to say we should encourage people to do what they feel they like best and most enjoy.

For the second part, I prefer trimmed, it just looks “neater”. Removed is fine too, but I don’t have the obsession with it some people I’ve met seem to carry. I greatly dislike hair between my teeth (though it’s far preferable to those little popcorn shells, oh how I hate those). I’ve yet to come across a woman who felt it was “unfair” that she groomed more, though I’ve heard plenty of complaints and annoyances over the process. I’ve had requests before, none of which I had any issue in complying with though I do draw a line at times. In most cases, if that’s her preference far be it from be to let it “get between us” (pun intended I suppose). I’ve never found it an unreasonable request. I’d only consider it wrong if they strongly (and with at least a little logic) object to it, relationships need give and take, sometimes you have to accept it won’t always be the way you want it.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

It’s completely misogynistic in the sociological sense. That is, women are supposed to look “feminine” and we’ve decided that body hair is manly. I couldn’t tell you the history behind that I’m afraid, but it’s basically a socialized fetish, particularly in the US, but elsewhere too.
As for personally, I couldn’t care less how much hair my partner chooses to shave, not shave, leg hair, no leg hair, whatever. There are enough social pressures on this topic for women that I don’t need to add any. As for me, if requested I’d shave most anything, but much like the rest of my shaving, it would probably be extremely erratic. I’m perceived as male, so I get the privilege of getting away with that sort of thing, just to get back to the misogyny of it.

BoBo1946's avatar

either is fine with me!

And why people expect differently, is beyond me!

jo_with_no_space's avatar

@slick44 And why is that yucky to you?

@majorrich Lol. My boyfriend complains that regrown leg hair is quite rough and scratchy, how’s that for unfair? I’ve made the rod for my own back! As in, once you start shaving, you have to carry on :(

@Seaofclouds Thanks for the great link! That’s really interesting, I had no idea the trend could be traced so directly to one specific event that really changed the lives of most women who came later on. It makes me so mad that male desires and female insecurities are exploited so ruthlessly, but of course I expect nothing less. Did you know, incidentally, that, at least here in the UK, female-market shaving foam/gel is about twice the price of male-market products? We really have been played for a load of fools!

As for personal preferences, my last ex shaved everything down there and though we were only together a short while, I guess it’s something that I came to get used to and now want with my current partner who, so far, has resisted my requests in spite of the fact that I regularly shave for him.

@wonderingwhy For me, the “unfair” aspect comes culturally yes, but also personally between my partner and I. I regularly shave and though he’s said he doesn’t ask me to, he has also said that it’s nicer in a certain style. I would love the give and take that you speak of, and in general he’s very flexible and open-minded, but when it comes to this, well we’ve been together for a year and he has never agreed to shave or even trim. Having never done it before, he is probably intimidated and had his own gendered issues regarding somehow feeling perhaps like less of a man without it. I have phrased this request in a number of ways – some more calm than others :P – and have offered to help him and so make it more sexy. Also, I have said, he only has to do it once, if he doesn’t like it he doesn’t have to do it again, but I would respect that he at least tried and didn’t like it, fair enough. When you talk about letting it get between you, well I would say it has interfered with us at times, and I don’t know why it has to bother me so much, except to say that I feel like I’m making more efforts than him and that feels unfair.

@JeanPaulSartre I completely agree on the misogyny. I can’t speak about the US, but it is certainly a very dominant trend here in the UK too. There are huge social pressures yes, and I hate the thought that they interfere with my relationship with my partner. I am trying to push forward away from these restrictive gendered ideals to some extent, and yet feel trapped by them in another way :(

@BoBo1946 How do you mean?

Cruiser's avatar

I don’t care how pretty they are…dating a Sasquatch would not be my cup of tea! Shave baby shave!! ;)

BoBo1946's avatar

@jo_with_no_space it is not an issue with me…in the scheme of things, just not high on my priority list!

And, the people who feel differently, certainly respect their opinion, but not something I really don’t give a lot of thought too! Can say, people who don’t shave closely, it can be a little annoying…..without be too descriptive!

BoBo1946's avatar

footnote to prior comment: excuse me, with being too descriptive!

ucme's avatar

Better to kiss a peach than a monkey’s arsehole.

Facade's avatar

It’s definitely unfair that women are expected to be virtually hairless and thin and cheerful and work and have children…, while men can be hairy and fat and grumpy and lazy and not raise their children with little to no scrutiny.
I prefer my man to trim (which he does out of his own will). Hairless would be nice as well. He has the same preference as I do.

DominicX's avatar

Well, women do naturally have less body hair, so it’s not really much of a mystery as to why they’re the ones who are expected to shave it as opposed to men.

As for me, my boyfriend is definitely hairier than me; I’ve never been that hairy, I guess it’s because I’m blond; I’ve noticed that trend among plenty of blond guys, although not all, certainly. As for my boyfriend, he trims his…nether…hair and shaves when necessary (he doesn’t have much in the field of facial hair), but that’s it. I wouldn’t want him to do anything more.

As a gay guy, I don’t have much of a preference about women and body hair. Yes, I would think it was odd if a woman didn’t shave her legs, but that’s only because that’s what I’m used to.

wundayatta's avatar

I prefer natural. I think shaving down there is creepy, like everyone needs to be ready to be a porn actor at a moment’s notice.

faye's avatar

I prefer natural but also dislike much oral play with hairy, hairy testicles. -could trim them a little.

tranquilsea's avatar

@wundayatta Great answer.

I’ve been thinking about this probably a bit too much since the topic was first raised. It is crazy in my mind that there is this underlying assumption that women need to shave, wax, trim or they are gross. This is not an issue of cleanliness. One of the biggest parts of going through puberty is gaining hair in areas you didn’t have it previously. It is perverse to start shaving it off. It is equally perverse that the porn industry seems to be the one driving this.

Having a healthy amount of hair is a sign of good health.

My guy doesn’t complain about it just as I don’t about him. In fact, I like it.

jo_with_no_space's avatar

@BoBo1946 It’s good that these things don’t matter to you :) I wish I could not care too!

@Facade Glad it’s not just me that thinks that way! This is so gendered in ways that people don’t really think about or care to think about.

@DominicX True that women are typically less hairy than men, but doesn’t explain why the amount of hair that they have normally and naturally – given that it is, as you say, typically less than that of men – is still seen as so much more unacceptable just because of the sex of the body to which it is attached. And you’re used to women shaving their legs, as we all are.. that’s the thing that bothers me. When something is seen as usual although as @Seaofclouds has shown us, this is a fairly recent trend, it is expected and when pressured social expectations are not met, mud is thrown and scorn is poured. And I know that this pressure exists upon men as well in different, and equally insidious ways.

@wundayatta and @tranquilsea What a wonderfully healthy way of looking at things!

@faye This is true. If I want to floss, I’ll floss~

@tranquilsea I think the thing that bothers me is that it is expected much more of women than men. I know that men in porn are also usually shaven or at least trimmed, but somehow that seems to have seeped less into men’s consciousness and actions than into women’s… guess we just love having another excuse to feel bad about ourselves and inadequate – sigh…

BoBo1946's avatar

@jo_with_no_space when i there, what hair!

tranquilsea's avatar

I should edit my answer a tad and say that if you feel like shaving then that’s fine. I would never do it, but to each his own.

@jo_with_no_space I agree that I don’t like the pressure involved in getting women to conform. We already have so many external pressures!

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I agree with @JeanPaulSartre about the discriminatory aspects. In our relationship, we each took care of the other vis a vis body hair (I’m a Sasquatch, except on top of my head). Meg was lucky and needed very little shaving; I required a lawn mower.oops, that was humor; am I going to be modded?

BoBo1946's avatar

loll..excuse me, when i’m there, what hair!

deni's avatar

this actually really pisses me off and it’s my own stupid fault. i like shaving down there, and i like the way it feels and looks and everything—for the first 24 hours. then it gets stubbly, and it’s fucking awful, and it itches, and I HATE IT. but i know my boyfriend likes it when i shave so i try to but often times i get lazy. and i don’t really mind the hair to an extent but once it gets too long i find it unpleasant and unattractive. this is my opinion, not his. i dont think he really cares. the problem is i can’t take it when it’s too long, especially with having sex a lot, so i shave fairly regularly. and every time i say to myself “THIS IS THE LAST GOD DAMN TIME!!!!!!!!!!” when it starts to come back in and i’m itching in public. and then it gets longer and i get disgusted. it’s a vicious circle. W. T. F.

Scooby's avatar

I’m ok with or without, hair on women that is :-/
Myself personally, I trim myself at least once a month neat & tidy, Lol.. I have in the past been shaved bald by an ex, but I guess for no other reason than she liked to do it herself…depending on the partner I just follow their lead, I’m easy! :-/

faye's avatar

@deni- just trim without shaving. I do that for the cleanliness factor.

deni's avatar

@faye well i have tried that approach before. but the thing is, i can tolerate and i don’t really mind the top hair…this is so hard to describe. you know, the triangle. but aside from that, i prefer none…so when i try to shave everything and then just trim that, i just end up shaving it all. i think “what the hell. where do i, literally, draw the line?” its so silly.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@deni Have you tried to just trim al of it? You don’t get the feeling of no hair, but there’s no itching when it starts growing back.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’ve always thought it’s as easy as making greater the distinction between female and male. Males have coarser and usually more body hair so they like to keep theirs in place while the female is more often finer and more sparsely haired so the focus has been to run with that and become fuzzless in order to further “feminize”. Just my personal take.

My personal preferences are for clean shaven faces, trimmed nostrils and pubes on men. I prefer to floss my teeth with waxed string and really like to run my tongue on smooth skin if at all possible, know what I mean?

HTDC's avatar

It’s a very new trend, as @Seaofclouds talked about with Harper’s Bizarre starting it off. It’s funny to think though that for thousands of years men and women were hairy and au naturel and in just several decades, women now fear the thought of walking outside the door without shaving their legs. *Sigh.

For all of society’s successes, boy….has it had a lot of failures. And of course the media are to blame for 90% of these. :) Just one more of those things in life that enters the category of unfairness.

deni's avatar

@Seaofclouds i have….that never works out either because it always seems easier just to shave. and i feel like waxing might be worth it because then i’d only have to deal with it growing back like way less than i do now but im way too scared lol.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@deni Hot wax and ripping out hairs there has never appealed to me. So I’m with you there. Have you ever tried rubbing deodorant on your pubic area (not near your vagina, just above it and the crease where you leg bends)? I’ve done that before and it helps with the irritation when the hair starts to grow back (especially where my underwear rub against the skin).

deni's avatar

no but i will definitely definitely try that! thankyamuch

slick44's avatar

@jo_with_no_space… IN my opinion women just dont look good with armpit or leg hair. What you do down below is up to the individual. I like to be clean and smooth, everywhere. After all i am a woman.

Sophief's avatar

@deni Do you have immac where you are, that is much better than shaving.

deni's avatar

@Sophief never heard of it, what is it?!

Sophief's avatar

@deni It’s like a cream that kills the hairs. I use it about twice a week. I like to be clean and tidy down there.

deni's avatar

how long do they stay gone? is that the name of it, immac? i cant find it :(

Sophief's avatar

@deni Try Veet. A couple of days, and it’s quite good, it doesn’t itch either.

deni's avatar

ill buy it TODAY, THANKS!!!

Sophief's avatar

@deni You have it there then?

deni's avatar

we definitely have veet. i never really looked at the different varieties but i’m sure we do.

Facade's avatar

@deni @Sophief I tried using Nair down there once. I got some pretty good burns =( Be careful!

deni's avatar

BURNS? how? :(

slick44's avatar

@Facade…lol sorry to laugh.. but it says not to use it down there. your so silly.

Facade's avatar

Left it on for too long. No serious burns, but it hurt for a few days
@slick44 I knowwww lol. I was young :P

Sophief's avatar

@Facade Yes I agree, I used Nair once and it didn’t agree with me, it made a little blotchy.

jo_with_no_space's avatar

@tranquilsea There are too many pressures, I agree. I really wanna fight the power! But I feel trapped in the cycle, as @deni describes it.

@deni, I wish you didn’t have to be disgusted by it! There must be some other way :) The disgust you feel is partly the way we’ve been conditioned.

@Scooby Definitely good to have a bit of upkeep in the general area :)

@Neizvestnaya, I know exactly what you mean! Interesting take, I hadn’t thought of that before. As if shaving/grooming is used to exaggerate what is seen as our “natural” hairlessness relative to men.

@HTDC Unfair, totally. I think we should stage a protest! Fight the power! Love the hair! :D

@slick44 Of course you are a woman, but as women we are not naturally hairless… I guess I just want you to be able to see the less obvious aspects of the preference so many of us have.

@Sophief I’ve never used depilatory creams in the pubic area… does that work well? Because they advise against it on the packaging. Can you use it on the whole area? There’s some pretty sensitive junk down there :(

@slick44, @majorrich, @Seaofclouds, @wonderingwhy, @JeanPaulSartre, @BoBo1946, @Cruiser, @ucme, @Facade, @DominicX, @wundayatta, @faye, @tranquilsea, @stranger_in_a_strange_land, @deni, @Scooby, @Neizvestnaya, @HTDC, @Sophief – thank you all for your answers!! I guess another part of this question is that I want some adivce about what I should do… As I have described, my lovely and usually very open-minded boyfriend is stumbling at my request to shave or at least trim pubically, I think because he has never done it before and his own gendered issues related to maybe feeling less manly etc. I want to not care, but I do!! We have been sleeping together for 14 months now and over the past few months, every time I find it “untouched”, I feel a little disappointed. I don’t want thisto interfere with our sex life and fear it may eventually. We have talked about this, he knows how much it matters to me. A few months ago he said that, if I could come to terms with issues surrounding my own gendered relationship with my body hair, then he would consider dealing with his. Well, since then, I have taken it upon myself to groom in a number of styles, from fully removing everything to approaching full bush, to show that I am comfortable anyhow. Still he hasn’t done anything himself. I would like to be like those of you who can take it come as it may, and I used to be like that, but I’ve just got fed up of making unrequited efforts as I’ve got older. And somehow not shaving makes me feel better about myself, but not him. Should I talk to him? I’m certain we would just argue, and obviously he’s less likely to want to if we’re at each other’s throats.

majorrich's avatar

Perhaps you might get a beard trimmer some time and as a part of foreplay ‘play’ trim him down to level ‘a’ let him get used to that, then get him again. I don’t think I would take it to skin with a beard trimmer, but at least start with that. The combs will prevent damaging his nutsack or any other important part, which might be part of his fear of shaving. If you include it into your pre-coital play, it might go over better. Heck, at some point he may get turned on enough by it that he might let you shave him. For that matter, I might let you shave me! LOL! (Old guy sex ewwww)

wilma's avatar

I can think of some hair that would be a turn off to me. A real hairy back on a guy isn’t my cup of tea.
Actually I’m not real fond of chest hair, but it wouldn’t stop me from lovin’ my man.
I’m kind of with @wundayatta and @tranquilsea, I’m not into porn, so I don’t really want to look like that. Trimmed is great, bald doesn’t seem right to me.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@jo_with_no_space I agree with @majorrich, maybe you can put it into the foreplay somehow (if you can get him into it). If not, the next time he asks what you want for your birthday, anniversary or whatever, tell him you would like him to trim for you. I would start with that and then go from there. He could have a fear of hurting himself, maybe by offering to do it for him that would help. Explain to him that you would have a better view of the area than he would and that with the two of you working together, you will have more hands to control things (like him holding things a certain way so you have 2 free hands). Beyond that, if he isn’t willing to compromise and try it out, I’m not sure what else you can do.

jo_with_no_space's avatar

@majorrich We’ve discussed me doing it with him before… hm, I’m thinking now. He does have a hair/beard set of clippers already as he cuts his own (head) hair with it… that has a series of gradation attachments. I don’t know how I would just produce it one day, given that it’s been such a big issue up until now.

@wilma I think that point of view is great and really healthy, and it would probably make my life a lot easier if I could embrace it fully!

@Seaofclouds Man, I lucked out cos we’ve just used up my birthday and anniversary dates, guess it’ll be Christmas next! Lol. I have offered to help before but maybe I should do it in a less pushy and confrontational way. It has kind of become a bone of contention to the extent that I worry slightly that I can bring it up and he won’t automatically flip into defensive mode, as I am so often wound-up when it comes to this topic.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@jo_with_no_space Since you know that you are often “wound-up” with this topic, I think it’s a good idea to definitely try to do it when you are calm and there are no other stressors going on. That way you can try to control your feelings. Perhaps wait until you guys are getting cozy, excuse yourself to the bathroom, grab his clippers and put on something sexy, then walk back into the bedroom with a seductive look while holding the clippers and just smile at him.

prolificus's avatar

I wish I could have a goatee (like this or this), a French beard, some sort of sexy stubble, or a thinly trimmed beard, and I’m a woman. So, unless I want to join a circus or get a sex-change operation, I’d better not shave my face and attempt to grow facial hair, or I will look like a freak.

prolificus's avatar

Why isn’t this okay in our society: YouTube videos: Beautiful girl with a beard and Woman with beard. Picture of a bearded woman nursing a baby (NSFW warning: picture was tastefully taken, but breasts are exposed).

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@jo_with_no_space
I often think a lot of the pressures females feel about their physical appearance is tied up in marking the distance between distinguishing male and female traits. Men are generally taller and bulkier than females so females strive for thinness, smoothness, fineness of features are seen as more desireable. The stereotype of the thick and stumpy country peasant woman is always portrayed as common, less refined and less feminine than the aristocratic, petite and fragile acting woman.

Sophief's avatar

@jo_with_no_space Yes it does say that, but I use it all over. I use the cream for sensitive skin and it works well. Never had any side affects. But like @Facade said, don’t use Nair because that is pretty nasty stuff.

kekeke's avatar

Depending on where you live, expectations are different. No, it’s not really fair, but think of the hair removal industry. If it were acceptable to go au natural, jobs would be lost. For the economy, shave your legs! seaofclouds already has the awesome reference.

Personally, I’m more comfortable when I’m lacking particular bits of body hair. Trimmed. It’s more maintainable. Not enough experience to have preference. Unfairness – well, I’d really rather call it compromise – after all, the default seat position for the toliet is down, isn’t it?

Scooby's avatar

@jo_with_no_space

If all else fails, subtle powers of persuasion exhausted & your patience are in tatters that he still hasn’t taken the initiative & groomed himself up for you (which I think he should) then that leaves only one course of action left to you from where I’m sitting for the penny to finally drop.
After all, you have broached the subject more than once & explained yourself countless times ( I really do not think it an unreasonable request) as to how you would prefer him to present himself ,so to speak!!

Tie him down & just do the deed! ;-)

Oh what fun you could have with those clippers & to stop his complaining, gag the swine & turn the music up.. :-/

See if he gets the message then….

Good luck, Lol…..

jo_with_no_space's avatar

@Seaofclouds Good idea… I think you know exactly the pickle I’m in, and that’s probably one of the better ways out of it. Thanks :)

@prolificus You are awesome! Imagine how different things would be! It’s funny to see the woman’s initial prejudice in the first video, I think that is typical of so many people, though a tempered version of how many would be :( By the way, I used to live in Brighton where the first video was shot :) It is such a wonderful place! And if there was going to be anywhere that bearded ladies would be welcome, it would be there… it is such a forward-thinking place.

@Neizvestnaya You’re spot-on with that point – the differences between male and female are exaggerated so much that I remember being amazed, upon my first few sexual encounters with men, at how similar we really were! We are marketed as two separate species… God forbid the thought that male and female could exist on a gender continuum or some such pickled idea – men and women aren’t even from the same planet, apparently! I wonder how helpful these concepts are to anyone, really.

@Sophief OK, cool, I may look into giving that a try, when I’m in one of my hair-removing moods, lol.

@kekeke I know there is a hair removal products industry, but just because an industry has built around something, doesn’t mean it’s right that it exists – just look at the tobacco industry! I know what you mean about compromise, but it should work both ways in my opinion! ;)

@Scooby Haha, glad someone else understands my frustration! :) I’ll try the more polite ways first I think. And I totally don’t think it was ever an unreasonable request… it became a bigger thing in the process of him being hesitant and that bothering me more.

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