My Best Friend’s Pubes

My Best Friend's Pubes
 

I’m not exactly sure what we were doing when she told me, but I like to think we were eating, because I distinctly remember being shocked enough to choke. As my friend Freya was looking to recommence dating again after a serious relationship and a very un-serious fling, she confessed to me: “I’ve never had sex with pubes”.  As ReproJustice uses February to celebrate female body hair, I want to revisit and celebrate the relationship that burgeoned between my best friend and her pubic hair, what caused the adverse relationship in the first place and whether many young women are facing the same hairy awakening.

Freya spent three years in a sex-filled relationship and never once had a sexual encounter with a single hair in or around her pubic area. That’s over three years of a totally bald vulva and pubis upon every sexual encounter with her partners at the time. I think both of us have always been of the opinion that how a woman choses to present her body is her choice and her choice alone, but reflecting on Freya’s experience, the concern comes in the fact that the relationship in question started when she was just seventeen. Where did the idea that she should need or want to keep her intimate area completely bald for sex come from?

47% of young women in the UK remove all of their pubic hair, according to a 2016 YouGov poll for Cosmopolitan. Known as the Hollywood-style, it seems that while 35% of young women and men consider it to be the preferred grooming style for women, the same is only true for 14% of those over 30. It can be hard to understand why exactly it is such a popular style, considering it’s a potentially expensive style of grooming, it’s uncomfortable (upon removal and regrowth), many argue that it infantilises women to look like girls and it potentially makes sex more uncomfortable – hair is, after all, there for a reason. It is understood that the purposes of pubic hair are to reduce friction during sexual intercourse, as well as perhaps even acting as a sort of filter for harmful bacteria and pathogens. It may also be possible that pubic hair bears pheromones – hormones that are important in triggering social responses between beings of the same species.

When asked where she got the idea that she shouldn’t have any pubic hair, Freya quickly replied “porn and boys’ comments at secondary school”. Yet Freya’s dislike for her pubes began at just eleven, when she started trimming because even though she didn’t know what it was, she knew she didn’t like it. By the time she was in a serious relationship and her boyfriend said that he didn’t like pubic hair on a woman, Freya explains that “it made me self conscious, so I continually groomed,” but she also adds that, “it was fine for him to have hair”. In this same relationship not only did her boyfriend state that he considered pubic hair to be “disgusting” but he also ridiculed her for having razor burn. Despite this, Freya says that she felt as much pressure from her boyfriend to shave, as she did from herself.

When Freya first told me she had never had sex with pubes, I was shocked but I wasn’t entirely surprised. Nowadays, when we see female nudity it has a tendency to be smooth and hairless. I did think Freya ought to try on her pubes for size though, and suggested that with her next partner she let things grow, if only a little. Freya was keen to reconsider her relationship with her intimate body hair, and considered the idea of growing it to be a “new lease of womanhood after leaving un-empowering relationships,” but when push came to shove, she still felt incredibly nervous about being seen with pubes. Describing her first sexual encounter with pubic hair, Freya says, “I was really anxious, covers up to my neck, no head action down below - my 'it's-complicated' almost-boyfriend at the time commented and told me that he would rather me be comfortable with pubes than sore from a rash without. This made me reconsider and also gave me the realisation that not all men enjoy a bare fanny, yet instead a tidy garden is more of a turn on.”

“Eventually it became a sexually liberating experience - a sexual revelation to not be uncomfortable or to have added friction,” Freya continued. “My current boyfriend also prefers a tidy garden and keeps himself equally as groomed. I've begun to realise maybe it's an age thing with men - the older they get, the less they care about the pube situation. Maybe it's younger men looking for the 'porn experience' who want a bare fanny.”

The YouGov poll supports Freya’s hypothesis, as the preferred bikini style for women, according to men and women over 30, is the “standard bikini line.” In the same category, the Hollywood style is equally as popular (or unpopular) as untouched, unshaven, natural growth (14%). The study did not consider the sexual preference of those surveyed, and one begins to wonder whether the phenomenon is only present in heterosexual experiences.

Three years on, Freya prefers sex with pubes rather than without, describing how her current style is “a tidy garden (a clean bikini line and groomed length) for the most part and a bare underneath with a landing strip for special occasions.” Freya finishes our conversation by declaring that, “it took me so long to embrace my natural hair, I'm not going bare”.

In the age of body positivity, pubic hair remains a sensitive subject and while how a woman chooses to style her pubes will always be a personal decision, let’s hope more women will be styling their pubic hair out of love, rather than disgust, in the future.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

 

 

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Hilary Webb

Hilary Webb is a writer based near London. She enjoys writing about female health, literature and culture, and blogs about all of the above, including her own reproductive health here.  You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram