To Shave or Not to Shave

That is the question. Like Jessica, I was fascinated with the question put to Salon’s advice columnist, Cary Tennis, today. Not so much because I find whether women shave their bits especially interesting, but because I find it curious that it never occurred to the writer (who is so “horrified” by men who like the look of a shaved pubic area—“what did he want with a crotch that looked like a baby's?”—that she refuses to date them) nor Cary (who also references “the infantilizing of the female genitalia”) that perhaps gazers upon the vagina, be they straight men or lesbians, might prefer hairlessness because it enhances the view.

Leaving aside for a moment all the practical and aesthetic reasons women themselves might have for wanting to be shaved, as we’re contemplating why a woman’s partner might prefer it, it’s astounding to me that getting a better look is a less obvious answer than infantilization. (The writer is rather vague, referring to shaving her “crotch,” which I’m taking to mean “vagina,” and not necessarily that triangle of hair on the lower abdomen; if there’s still hair there, there’s no mistaking a woman for prepubescent, and so infantilization is probably wrong as a default logically, too.) That the ability to peer intimately at the female genitalia without the obstruction of hair is not an evident possibility seems indicative of the notion, held by many people of both genders, that, without mincing words, pussies are ugly.

There was an episode of Sex and the City in which prudish Charlotte was charged, as she so often was, with representing the puritanical view, and wrinkled her nose at the suggestion that vaginas are beautiful. No, she revealed, she had never looked at her own. “I think it’s ugly.” A lot of women internalize this perception of their own genitals, and even if they don’t believe their vaginas are ugly, they still find it difficult to believe that anyone could find them beautiful. Our culture has done little to dispel the notion; while penises can be found in artwork at the nearest museum, the first overt display of a vagina women are most likely to come across is in pornography, and the perceived vulgarity of the context is easily transferred upon the opinion of the object at its center. Meanwhile, we are marketed an endless stream of products to “freshen” our genitals, informed that their odor is objectionable. The sense of dirtiness we learn to associate with our vaginas is not suggestive of beauty.

But most sexual partners who are attracted to the feminine finds vaginas alluring. It’s no wonder to me that a man or woman who wants to touch and taste and explore a vagina would find it beautiful, and want to see every fold of its glistening landscape of pink or red or brown as clearly as possible. We shouldn’t be surprised that there are men and women who prefer their partners shaved, but surprised that we don’t consider vaginas lovely enough to want to view unobscured.

And, from a pragmatic standpoint, some of them might want to go downtown without getting a pubic hair stuck in their throats (ref. Larry David; Curb Your Enthusiasm indeed).

As always, to each woman her own. Shaving isn’t for everyone (is anything?). But it’s certainly nothing over which to dismiss a potential partner, for fear s/he is a pedophile in hiding. If I had any advice to give to Cary’s questioner, I would tell her to respond to a partner who wants her to shave by handing him the razor. A bowl of warm water, some soap, and a pussy-loving partner with a steady hand can turn a shave into quite an enjoyable afternoon.

(Side note: I don’t think shaving is just a female thing. I know plenty of men, gay and straight, who shave, or trim, all or part of their genital hair, too—many of whom have also found that turning it over to the gentle hands of a partner makes for spectacular foreplay.)

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