Mammally Factual

(The title of this post is based on a poem by Alix Olson called Armpit Hair (Mammally Factual), which I highly recommend.)

I’m trying something new. I’m growing out my armpit hair.

It started simply enough. I decided that shaving is a nuisance (I’m thinking my legs will be the next to become engulfed in hair), and my partner told me that my armpit hair was fun. The more I think about it, however, the more benefits I see to being hairy. I’ll save money that would have to be spent on razors. I can take shorter showers, saving time and preventing water waste. Other, more personal social benefits haven’t eluded me either: Being hairy is an easy way to ward off unwanted sexual advances after my partner moves.

I’m not saying this will work every time. Different people like different things. But I’ve been thinking about this and I see some connection between the state of mind that allows people to treat women like objects not worth respecting, thus creating an atmosphere in which people feel free to make unwelcome advances, and the whole “Holy shit, hairy pits! AH!” attitude.

Not that women should have to do anything to keep creeps at bay. They should be left alone if they don’t appear interested. But it’s nice to think that while I’m busy trying to challenge the socialization that creates unrealistic beauty standards for women, that my armpit hair can do some good and help me stay focused.

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67 comments for “Mammally Factual

  1. August 13, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    I stopped shaving my armpits about 2 years ago, and it was fantastic. I actually stopped shaving my leg hair before I stopped shaving my underarm hair; I always thought of armpit hair as “gross.” Now it’s just hair, like the hair on my head, my eyebrows, my arms, and my legs. I’ve found it very, very liberating taking that extra step to reclaiming my body.

  2. August 13, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    I think armpit hair is totally hot.

  3. August 13, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Go for it! I experimented with not shaving my armpits or legs in grad school for a contest. I could only last 3 months or so before my armpit hair got too long to be comfortable for me. One of my housemates, though, shaved every single day. Without fail. Now that, I can’t imagine.

  4. August 13, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    I’ve had armpit hair of widely varying lengths for widely varying reasons, and one of the most interesting (to me) things was that fuzzy armpits are actually a great cooling system. The sweat that would just sit on the surface of the skin creates a tiny swamp cooler effect in a well fuzzed pit. Possibly because of that, I have less problems with sweaty pits and potential odor when I’m not shaving, despite the frequent claims that clearcut armpits are somehow ‘cleaner’.

    If you currently use deodorant, may I recommend trying one of those deodorant salt rocks? Goopy stick deodorants + armpit hair can be potentially less than ideal. Not all salt rocks are created equal (some have scary sounding chemicals, some don’t), so shop around.

  5. Jadey
    August 13, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    I shave my armpit and leg hair very infrequently, but I am sometimes overtaken with a “need” to, and the need is always in the form of, “Oh crap, I’m meeting someone new/important/potentially judgy and if I wear the skirt/pants/shirt I want to, they’ll be able to see my hair!!” I never, ever shave my legs or armpits for my own physical comfort, but always for “comfort” in dealing with other people. It bothers me, but all of a sudden the stress of “what will they think?!” gets to me and I do it. I’m very socially insecure, and it undermines me.

    Interestingly, there is one part of me that I shave regularly – my head. And I do it for reasons that make me happy (more comfortable, more economical, less stressful) even though it could potentially draw ire from other people if they have ideas about what a shaved head on a woman “means”. I stopped shaving for a few years because I was transitioning in my employment and needed to do more job interviews, because I wanted to do some more theatre and shaved is trickier than just short, and, okay, once because my mother paid me not to (she doesn’t like it, but agreed not to bring it up again when I explained how much her complaining hurt me). As soon as I got into grad school (as well as got through my amateur theatre bug for a while – three consecutive productions was enough!), I went back to shaving. I have my own shears, courtesy of my grandfather, so every couple of weeks I take it down to the nubbins and I’m ecstatic every time I do. Life is best when my leg hair exceeds the length of my scalp hair, for sure.

  6. August 13, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    I’ve never been able to shave. It’s just too much a waste of my time when the hair on my head demands so much attention. I really don’t get why people find armpit and leg hair unattractive. It’s very soft and nice <3

    I hope it works out well for you.

  7. eemp
    August 13, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    I went without shaving anything for juuust about a month before my armpits got too gross-feeling- not the hair, either! I have this thing about pit stains and my super industrial deodorant wasn’t cutting it anymore. If I have to choose between two extra minutes in the shower and having junior-high-pit-stain-flashbacks every day, I’m gonna keep shaving.

    Leg hair is another story. I’m like a ginger cactus!

  8. Brianne
    August 13, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Body hair on women is, to my mind, one of the last great taboos. I stopped shaving when I was 15, all too conscious of its sociological purpose to control women and reinforce shame of one’s body. I’ve always valued what’s ‘natural’ — why be averse to body hair or struggle against what is?

    It’s a tough road to take, though. Never underestimate the power of socialization. My mother said things to me that undercut any self-confidence I had and still make me cringe. Most people don’t understand why I can’t just do what everyone else does “to fit in.” Nearly everyone acts disgusted. I rarely meet any other women who don’t shave — even in a women’s college and the alternative culture of The Evergreen State College. We definitely need a more supportive community that values people for their character, not their bodies.

  9. Amelia
    August 13, 2010 at 4:54 pm


    I’m the same way about shaving! I like to go without shaving but find that I often do when I know I’ll be in a situation when I feel I may not be accepted if I’m not adequately shaved. It’s annoying.

  10. August 13, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I stopped shaving as a teenager, too. I wish I had a better reason, but mostly it was because I was tired of irritation and rashes (I have really dry, sensitive skin that reacts to everything), but it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I proudly went sleeveless with my hairy pits.

    I have less problems with sweaty pits and potential odor when I’m not shaving, despite the frequent claims that clearcut armpits are somehow ‘cleaner’.

    This is so true. I hate having to explain to people that hair isn’t dirty because it’s, well, hair.

  11. Arkady
    August 13, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Gradually gave up leg shaving about 2 years ago, but still do my armpits every couple of weeks or so. Once it gets past a certain length I find I have to use a lot more anti-perspirant, and I dislike going shopping for toiletries more than I dislike shaving. A big part of that is that I also rarely cut myself when doing armpits, whereas with legs I was cutting myself pretty much every time. The stubble becomes obvious after about a day tho, so still feel like I’m challenging the status quo ;-)

    Leg shaving was something I only started doing under the peer-pressure of not wanting to stand out and become a target in the school changing rooms, so I’ve always resented it. Have been gaining confidence in revealing my hairy legs in public too, starting with the gym then worn shorts into the city centre on a really hot day (I live in the north of England, so this summer only had one such day!). Only negative reactions I’ve had so far were one horrified stare from another woman at the gym, and possibly some comments from two teenage boys. So much for the dreaded social consequences of rejecting beauty standards!

  12. Miss S
    August 13, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    I shave under my arms and legs. A few times I shaved my arms and one time I got my back waxed because I was going on spring break with my sorority sisters and we were going to be on the beach. I’m more hairy than most women and I have a light olive complexion with dark hair so it stands out.

    Now I leave my arms and back alone. My arms looked weird to me with no hair. I shave my underarms and legs because I don’t like the feeling and it itches when I don’t.

  13. DrMcCoy
    August 13, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Congratz. :)
    Likewise, I, male, stopped shaving my face over two years ago (or was that three?). Hair ftw. :)

  14. Erica
    August 13, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    I stopped shaving for a variety of reasons, but actually found that I had problems with odor (general dampness level stayed the same, but the time until damp transitioned to smelly got shorter) when the hair got over a certain length. Now, I keep it trimmed with my partner’s beard trimmer :D

  15. Burn
    August 13, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    It’s interesting. I sometimes feel like I’m two different people when I’m in the city, where I tend to really enjoy certain types and don’t mind shaving my legs and armpits because shaving gel is fun to use, and when I’m doing fieldwork in the desert, mostly by myself, for weeks to months at a time, and I have a totally different look. I stop shaving, tend to cut my hair really short before I go, and generally do everything as practically as possible. (Things That Are Hard #1: Shaving in a solar shower. I tried this once when I was younger and stupider. It was a huge mistake that I quickly learned from. But more importantly, hair growing back in is really itchy if the humidity level gives you perpetually dry skin.)

    The bonus to being unshaven in the field is that when I do go into town, it does “keep the creeps at bay”. That and the rest of the uber-practical getup mean I can enjoy a nice cold beer in the bar without ever having to explain I’m not there to be interested.

    I’m about 90% asexual too. I kind of wish that I could get out of the habit of my city-grooming, because it automatically seems to place me in the mode of “vaguely conforming to gender norms, therefore probably sexually available” even when, for me, it’s really just the former. (That and, “I just got home, I want to stand in the shower for an hour and use every tool available to me because OMFG my own running water, yesssssssss.”)

  16. Andrea
    August 13, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Lasciel: I really don’t get why people find armpit and leg hair unattractive. It’s very soft and nice.  

    Ha, maybe yours is. Mine is definitely not. I was a swimmer in high school and it was tradition to not shave for the entire season until just before the state meet. I got voted hairiest legs all four years. It was easy for our blond team captain who had soft down on her legs, but for me it was torture. It was itchy, it poked through my jeans, it was thick, it was black and there was loads and loads of it. I’m not very good about shaving, I do it less than once a week, but I’ll never let it grow out again. Not everyone has nice soft leg hair.

  17. Bushfire
    August 13, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    I only shave my legs and pits once in a while. Usually I don’t think about it at all, but once in a while I get in the mood to be smooth. One time when I had hairy legs I was on a transit bus and an 11 year old boy gave a horrified face when he saw my legs. How strange that people are horrified of something that occurs naturally on every body. I hope I’m not the only hairy woman he ever sees, and that he’s less frightened next time.

  18. August 13, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Miss S, you just described my ordeal with body hair. I never got my back waxed, but (especially going through puberty) I was extremely self-conscious about it, because (living in the Land of Blondes) it was pointed out to me all the time….even though realistically, I didn’t have any more body hair (and often times, less) than the nordic-types that predominated where I grew up.

    It’s very soft and nice

    Mine isn’t. My arm hair is, and the general “peach fuzz” on most of my body, but my leg hair is significantly coarser than my arm hair, and my armpit hair has the coarseness of a stiff brush. On that TMI note, I don’t shave my pubic hair, but its coarseness is modified by being really curly (which my armpit hair isn’t–it’s straight). I believe people who say their pits smell less when they don’t shave, but the opposite holds true for me (and I love crystal rock deodorant—no yellow stains!). I get lazy about leg shaving (even in the summer), but never with the pits. For me, no hair means no stink.

    What’s probably worth a mention here before everyone gets all rah-rah about how not shaving is a big strike against The Man…is how much ethnic appearance as well as body hair impacts how “feminine” a woman is—‘nother words, the lighter (whiter) you are, the more “feminine” you are (in a white supremacist society). Darker, thicker body hair is regarded as “masculine”—even when it’s shaved. As in, I’ve had folks make commentary about the five-o-clock shadow in my shaved pits. Womenfolk, even. Or should I specify, white womenfolk. Some of us get the body police no matter what we do.

  19. August 13, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    I’m glad you’ve undertaken this endeavor. This might be a bit off-topic, but it struck me as rather interesting that there is a whole area of pornography devoted to women who keep themselves natural regarding body hair. It’s apparently not as uncommon or undesired as we might initially think.

    I think part of the reason I find it desirable is that I’ve had male partners, and body hair kind of goes along with the territory.

  20. herong
    August 13, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Yay for body hair! I am currently (as in right now) very hairy all over except for my head! My head hair is shorter than my armpit hair, actually. I love the shorter showers and I actually have less odor problems. This may be because I don’t use an antiperspirant and when I do shave, the sweat that would normally be trapped in my hair transfers to my clothes and smells. I am privileged to have dark but soft and fuzzy hair.

    In about an hour, however, I will retire to the bathroom to shave my legs for the first time in about 6 months because, like Jadey, there are some situations where I still feel better with shaved legs. Very sad that even those of us that are comfortable having hairiness still find situations that make us want to shave.

    However, three cheers for hair! Hip hip hairay! Hip hip hairay! Hip hip hairay!

  21. Jadey
    August 13, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    I wanted to follow up with another thought…

    Women’s body hair is one of those politically rife subjects that I didn’t remotely comprehend the scope of until getting involved with online discourses from various perspectives that challenged the generality of my own experiences. Re-reading my earlier comment, I see also how much my social privilege of being in grad school (since grad students and academics in general aren’t necessarily expected to be, uh, polished in appearance, regardless of how many actually are), and being a white cis woman who doesn’t need to regularly defend her femininity or female identity plays into my ability to go hairy with relatively few consequences encountered. It was much harder on me when I was more beholden to what other people thought or might think of me, although as I said earlier, I’m not exactly 100% free of these burdens now. But they are lessened.

  22. sophonisba
    August 13, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    I’m more hairy than most women

    But everyone says this — everyone brunette, anyway. I never know whether to laugh or cry. In a culture where nearly all women remove some to all of their hair, you have no idea how hairy most women are. You really have no idea. All you know is you’re naturally hairier than most shaven women, which, so are we all.

  23. Bonn
    August 13, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    I haven’t shaved anywhere in over a year EXCEPT for my pits. I have on/off hyperhidrosis in my pits, and when I use my super-powered antiperspirant, it won’t soak in as well if there’s a lot of hair there. This is also my theory for why most guys I know stink despite their efforts not to–too much hair and the deodorant is just not cutting it. It’s one case where I’d say that it’s “cleaner” to be hairless.

    The only case.

    I don’t show off my hairy legs, though. I’m pretty content to wear tights all the time. I wear lacy tights sometimes, but you really can’t see the hair. My body hair is thick, but not very dark.

    I didn’t think of shaving my arms until a little girl kept rubbing them and declared them “like a man’s.” Over and over and over. Most women in this country seem to shave their arms. And backs. And faces. And legs and pits and everywhere but the crotch. Because that would make you a hussy. Anyway, having never shaved my arms before and not wanting to have my entire arm itching up a storm, I don’t think I will. From 10 feet back you wouldn’t even know that I have arm hair. All it took was two little girls (and one mom going, “HEY, HER ARMS ARE HAIRY!” in response to the daughter) to make me feel insecure.

  24. August 13, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    YEAH BODY HAIR. I’m a fairly sweaty lady and am not yet ready to give up my approximately bi-weekly pit shaving just yet, but I’m also not super conscious of “oh, going sleeveless today, better shave.” I just find that once my pit hair gets past four or five days’ growth I feel damper, sooner. But a few weeks ago I began to grow out my leg hair.

    So far it is coarse and hilariously patchy. It may be TMI to share this, but my head hairs are dirty blonde and my pubes are black and my legs appear to me to have patches of pube-like hair (black, coarse) with patches of arm-like hair–very light blonde, and fine, in some cases finer than my actual arm hair so I’m peering down at my legs going, “Do I have bald patches? Am I even a mammal?”

    Lately I’ve been playing a lot with the way I perform femininity, generally. It’s fun to go out and be a totally foxy fat lady in a pretty sundress and wicked accessories and LEG HAIR. It’s unfortunately not terribly visible from far away due to the patchiness but I keep hoping. And what you say about fending off advances definitely makes sense–I think it’s fair to say that a guy who can’t understand my decision not to shave my legs after some discussion is a guy who is too un-feminist for me to be involved with.

  25. August 14, 2010 at 1:09 am

    I gradually stopped shaving over the last two years and the only thing left that I even trim on any sort of “regular” basis are my pubes (even trying to say why is probably TMI).

    Yes it’s true that the BO smell comes along more quickly, or to be more accurate, is more noticeable when it does.

    Yes it’s true that on occasion I get pit stains because I stopped using antiperspirant.

    It’s also true that, once the hair grew out, I stopped having any kind of irritation on my legs and armpits altogether.

    And it’s also true that while the BO smell happens sometimes what never happens anymore are the weird stains on my clothes from my antiperspirant or the funky smell it gave me. While I am not a fan of BO smell, I’m even less a fan of whatever that smell was.

    It’s taken trial and error but I have a deodorant “regime” of sorts that generally works (salt stick when I get out of shower, Queen Helene tea tree oil deodorant when I’ve dried off and Burt’s Bee’s Outdoors spray deodorant if my pits get damp or start to smell later in the day) and overall everything about my personal body care is less hassle and my sensitive skin seems happier.

    I totally get the social anxiety in certain situations but I have found ways to cope and cover up when it seems “appropriate” and am still working on “just getting over it” when I’m in a situation I have every reason to be comfortable in anyway (which for me is basically everything but formal occasions).

    It’s been good for me, is the brief message.

  26. August 14, 2010 at 7:50 am

    So, do many/most cis men find their body hair is itchy? Why don’t they shave it off, do they suffer from it?

    I imagine my skin would be pretty sensitised for a good while if I’d shaved it off, and then grew it back.

    Rock deodorant lasts for ages anyway, but a cheap source is an Asian grocery, look for rocks of “alum”. It’s the same stuff. It’s not toxic, it’s a food ingredient.

    I’m cis female but fairly butch, I’ve never felt the need to shave. I was taunted at school for so many other things anyway. I’m not USian, which helps I suspect. Nor am I *very* hairy. I’ve never before considered the privilege aspect of not shaving (I’m white/middle-class), hmm, food for thought.

    I live in the tropics, and tea tree deodorant is perfectly adequate to stop me from broadcasting my lovely pheromones too widely. Even though I sweat like a hog in the humidity. Mind you, it’s too hot to wear t-shirts, so I can’t say anything about wet underarms, I just wear singlets. And I don’t know if shaving would make a difference, I suspect not. I thought underarm hair wicked away sweat anyway.

    I was made to be a bridesmaid (blahh) for a dear highschool friend, but I refused to shave. I dyed my underarm hair blue to match my dress instead.

  27. August 14, 2010 at 8:10 am

    Awesome. I haven’t shaved my legs in about…hmmm, 6 years. It was just a total waste of time for me, and I got annoyed because every time I did it it was a hassle for me, took way too long in the primping department for my taste, I didn’t enjoy it, and I asked myself “why in the hell am I doing this?” I couldn’t come up with a good reason at all. It was nothing that benefited me, and it is my body. I felt like a tool.

    I stopped shaving my armpits about 3 years ago…mostly. The armpits are a much bigger deal to other people (in my experience) to take negative notice of. My whole life I would not shave my armpits in the winter since I never wore anyhing to reveal the hair, but come summertime I would shave them since they were exposed.

    I then met an awesome lady who didn’t shave hers ever, and I thought it was rad, and it helped me get over some of the self-consciousness of having hairy armpits, along with my husband telling me he thinks its more attractive than shaved.

    Every once in a while I feel like I want to shave my pits, so I do. I still haven’t figured out if this is because I simply want to for me, or if I have some underlying insecurities that makes me want to do it. And yes, sometimes I find myself shaving them because I don’t feel like putting up with other peoples negative reactions, it gets tiring. So, I still can’t decipher if thats for me in a way that I’m benefiting because I don’t need to put up with the reactions, or for others so they don’t have to experience it. Either way I always find myself irritated in the end after shaving my armpits.

    Also, for me, regularly shaving my armpits fucking hurts. There is those owie ingrown hairs, and shaving the stubble is painful, and when I do have my little armpit shaving episodes, it’s much easier and not painful and a much “cleaner” shave. My mom always told me not to shave anything too regularly, it grows back thicker and is harder to maintain.

    Oh, I just remembered a time where a friend asked me to change my tank top to a t-shirt to hide my armpit hair because we were going to meet up with some of her friends. It was interesting.

  28. August 14, 2010 at 8:42 am

    You really have no idea. All you know is you’re naturally hairier than most shaven women, which, so are we all.

    I have a damn good idea. I still remember being teased for my hairiness before puberty, long before girls started shaving. I was hairier. Adults commented on it. Also, I know women (all of northern European ancestry, incidentally) who don’t shave and haven’t for years….and yes, I am hairier than they are—in amount, coarseness, and darkness of my body hair. Mediterranean people are some of the hairiest folks on our planet. I come by it honestly, and I shouldn’t have to pretend that if only I stopped shaving, my body hair would be just as sparse, thin and light (and un-noticeable) as the average Anglo-Saxon’s.

    The “peach fuzz” on my back is clearly visible. So are my “sideburns”. I have thicker, bushier black eyebrows. Long, jet-black eyelashes. I mean, this is as plain as day. It’s common knowledge that Mediterranean men are hairier than other men on average—well, the same is true for women.

  29. August 14, 2010 at 9:20 am

    La Luba,

    I understand that there are women who are much harrier than other women, and men for that matter. I understand that this can cause discomfort for some since it’s so thick and coarse and unmanageable and overall irritating. However, I’m not certain if the state of being uncomfortable with it stems from the simple fact of it being overly unmanageable, or because of the way women are pressured to think that having hair anywhere other than their heads is disgusting, and in turn are not used to having hair where it naturally grows, and then it feels unmanageable and physically uncomfortable because we are so used to having it managed.

    The woman who inspired me to stop has very thick and dark hair, and she told me that she shaved her pits once for the hell of it and felt weird and naked. It’s interesting and curious to me. I really feel that if you’re happy and comfortable doing whatever to your body then go for it, I just can’t help but question it all since women are criticized so much for body hair.

  30. oldlady
    August 14, 2010 at 10:04 am

    I just want to add that I stopped shaving anything in about 1970, before many of you were born. Assorted lovers over the years never complained and many cheered.

  31. August 14, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Mizz Alice, I think its both. Meaning: hair can be physically and mentally bothersome. I know men who are really hairy who’d like to have the option of removing hair, but “can’t” because of masculinity issues. And I won’t deny that I am also mentally bothered by body hair because of the reaction it gets from (less hairy) others. That probably wouldn’t be an issue if I lived where everyone was as hairy as I was, and it was as unremarkable as having hair on the head.

    I’ve found my balance. I love shaving my pits as much as I love showering, because of the no-stink factor. Would I shave my legs in the summer? Maybe, maybe not. It’d probably depend on my mood, just like when I decide to cut my hair really short, or grow it out long. (in the winter, I’d still shave ’em. wool socks make my legs itch when they’re hairy!)

    I just wanted to point out that it is more complicated than merely hair and femininity….it’s wrapped up in ugly racial and ethnic “othering” as well. I don’t think women who haven’t had to deal with that aspect of it get that. I mean, when I was being called a “gorilla”, it wasn’t just about my hairiness. It was about my second-class, lesser-than humanity, too. Everybody that bothers to make a comment about my back hair isn’t really doing it to claim I’m less of a woman; it’s a form of “eww…those people sure are hairy! sure am glad we aren’t like that!!.

  32. woodland sunflower
    August 14, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Which, I totally did. I wondered if I was supposed to put in closing tags. You might wanna add those to the little crib sheet to the bottom, possibly with an [example text] in between?

  33. anna
    August 14, 2010 at 10:43 am

    If women want to shave their armpits, legs, and pubic hair, then fine.

    But this idea that women are dirty and unkempt if they don’t, while it’s perfectly acceptable if men don’t, is sexist bullshit. I’m glad you’re challenging it.

  34. August 14, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Unless you’re wearing something sleeveless, I don’t see how it wards off douchebags….

  35. August 14, 2010 at 11:45 am

    La LubU (sorry), I agree, it is much more complicated than a woman’s perceived femininity. People can be outright cruel for the most ridiculous reasons like you’ve pointed out. There are certainly more negative responses for someone who has more than one stigmatized status which I do believe needs to be pointed out.

    I and totally agree with how men are also negatively affected by all this too, reminds me of how my husband likes to wear skirts and dresses because they are more comfortable and, well, he just likes to (we just went summer dress shopping together, it was fun), but he’ll change out of them to run to the store because he doesn’t want to put up with the way people will negatively react.

    I think it just sucks that I can’t shave or not shave without feeling guilty for one reason or another, like what if I really do just feel like it, with no other reason than that, but then I question why I feel need/want in the first place. I guess I just need to find my own balance, like you have.

    Thanks :)

  36. Lucy
    August 14, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    I’ve gone back and forth with shaving. In general I shave my legs and armpits most of the time. Sometimes I *carefully* shave my pubic hair- all of it- sometimes I don’t. Not because I feel particularly bound to an idea that I “should” (in fact, when I was twelve and thirteen, my mother was like IF YOU SHAVE YOUR LEGS, IF YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT IT I WILL KILL YOU SO HARD, and she’d probably kill me even harder if she knew about the pubic hair) but because I just happen to like the way it feels and looks. I also realize that if I don’t do it, it’s of relatively little consequence due to the fact that I’m a white woman with naturally fine dark-blond-barely-light-brown body hair. I remember being in high school and my thick-black-wavy-haired best friend couldn’t believe that I hadn’t shaved my legs in several months, because the hair barely showed. (To her. I could see it, of course, but often people claim to not notice that I actually have leg hair when there’s really tons of it. They also don’t seem to notice that I actually have TONS of arm hair, but it’s also pretty light.) I’ve definitely noticed that my friends who are not white and/or have thicker or coarser hair have much more of an imperative to shave because they experience a lot more negative judgments when they don’t, regardless of how hot they look otherwise. I don’t think there’s anything inherently feminist or not about having hair or not having hair, because people have been shaving their body hair since the beginning of civilization for lots of reasons. The more destructive part to me is losing sight of why you’re doing it- if you shave when you’d rather not because that’s what you’re “supposed” to do, or if you don’t shave when you kind of want to, because you can’t reconcile your feminism with having no body hair.

    I do have kind of a funny story about armpit hair, though. The summer I was 19 I decided that I wasn’t going to shave my armpits all summer. The hair wasn’t bothering me, so I just let it go and it received relatively little comment. That is, until my annual GYN appointment. My GYN, who at the time was this nice little baby-faced man, came into the room and was like, “Okay, time for your breast exam, take down the top of the gown and put your arms behind your head.” So I did. And he looked at my armpit. And I looked at my armpit. And both of us just kind of silently looked at my armpit for a good 45 seconds before he caught himself and was like, “Uh, okay- uh, lie back.” The whole breast exam he kept going out of his way to avoid my armpit. I thought it was kind of amazing that a man who in a few minutes was going to practically put his whole hand in my vagina didn’t want to touch my ARMPIT HAIR.

  37. August 14, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    I find it interesting, but not surprising, that with a pit shaving discussion comes discussion of “odor”. The general sense I get is that many folks here are more-or-less comfortable with breaking the armpit shaving norm, but not with breaking the “sanitized” norm.

    If we can get as far as understanding that hair is natural to a body, it seems to me that we could understand that bodies naturally have smells. I don’t think that rubbing potassium aluminum sulfate (be it a stick of paste with oil and perfume or a pretty crystal) on thin absorbent skin every morning can be good for you. It just seems like a bad idea. There have even been some links between high aluminum levels and alzheimer’s.

    I smell like what I am. I smell like a woman who works for a living and sometimes gets sweaty doing it. I smell like me. Sometimes I wear perfume, which I have picked to smell good with how I already smell, but never anti-perspirant.

    Sometimes I trim my pit hair. If the big black tufts ruin the line of a dress I want to wear, I’ll prune them a little.

    I didn’t just wake up one day to discover that I had magically let go of cultural expectations about my body. I had to decide that I thought it was a good idea. I had to process my feelings and push myself a little.

    My armpit hair and my smell and my journey with them make me feel more at home in my body.

  38. Amelia
    August 14, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    @Amanda Marcotte: Good point! I failed to mention in my post my extreme distaste for sleeves. I’m not sure why, but I am very uncomfortable wearing sleeves, and I usually don’t unless it’s to cover up to go outside when it’s cold out. So in that way, it might be a solution for me personally. One that would be more effective in the warmer weather, like what I’m experiencing now.

  39. Lauren
    August 14, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    I haven’t shaved my armpits (except for the occasional experiment or wedding where I knew it might detract from the occasion) in 10 years! Nor do I regularly shave my legs. I love it, think it’s totally sexy, and am lucky to be surrounded by hetero, homo, bi, queer, cis, and trans women who have also chosen to embrace the hair that is mammally factual (I love Alix Olson!) and wonderfully human.

    I also have friends who do choose to shave for various reasons, and I love to live in a subculture (I don’t know what it is exactly — modern green bohemian academics?) that supports this choice. Those of us sporting hair in atypical places do get funny and disgusted looks from folks at the grocery store, dressing rooms, etc. on occasion — but I just figure I’m expanding someone’s horizons, or I’m not. Either way, I’m content with my body and my choices.

  40. August 14, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    I don’t think that rubbing potassium aluminum sulfate (be it a stick of paste with oil and perfume or a pretty crystal) on thin absorbent skin every morning can be good for you.

    I don’t know if it’s harmful or not, but it sure stains the hell out of white and very light clothing. The crystal deodorants are aluminum-free; that’s why they don’t stain. They’re mineral salts that inhibit the growth of the bacteria that cause the stink (sweat itself isn’t stinky).

    With that said….I’m 100% sure that my aversion to BO is purely a sensual matter—not learned as a social norm. No one ever told me that dumpsters stunk, either—it was self-evident to my nose. FWIW, I think a lot of sour and/or fermented smells are really bad—sour cream, mayonnaise, blue cheese….yick! Old sweat that microbes have been feasting on all day smells bad to me in the same way….like rot. I know when I stink, even if other people can’t smell it yet….my nose is closer! And since I live with my own nose, all day everyday, I’m running for the shower after a good, healthy sweat.

  41. August 14, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    I remember when I was in 6th grade, a new kid in school and the first time I was in public school… the most popular boy in my class asked me at recess why I didnt shave my legs. I went home and asked my mom to teach me. and she did. there are three really unsettling aspects to this story for me. 1. an 11 year old boy “knew girls are supposed to shave legs” 2. I , an 11 year old girls wanted to now that I learned that I “should” 3. my mom complied and showed me.
    about 2 years later, I went to Italy with my dad and nona, and i stayed with my Zia Lucia, (my fave relative of all) and she being the fabulous woman that she is, does not, has, not and will not ever shave her armpits or legs. And she wore Versace and Gucbie etc. She is a “high class fashion diva etc etc etc” who wears the latest most expensive Italian fashions unshaven. It was then I began my tango with body hair. I began not shaving in the winters at all. and then shaving only summers. When I moved to New Mexico I started shaving according to the moon cycles. I would shave on the new moon when the moon was not visible (like my hair) and let it grow until the full moon and shave again until the new moon. It was a little awkward, but i felt that syncing up my shaving with a natural order, made more sense than cultural impositions. Then I spent about 2 years not shaving at all. Now a days, I trim my armpits with a pair of scissors, trim my pubes with safety scissors, and shave my leg hair once in a great while.
    When past lovers asked me to shave my hair at all, I always answered that I liked my hair, and if they didnt they would be more than welcome to shave it for me. Only once did anyone take me up on that and he hated it.
    The reason i do trim now is because after a certain length, my armpit hair just gets a bit to long. I like a fuzzy tuft on me, rather than a whole bush. I trim my pubes because it has become enjoyable for me and my partner.

  42. AK
    August 14, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Thanks for this thread. I’m reexamining my body hair choices…I’ve never liked shaving at all, but always felt like I had to. I like my body hair. So I’ve stopped shaving my legs which isn’t such a big deal as I almost always wear pants. I stopped shaving my armpits too and haven’t had any obvious negative reactions. I also find that I do smell less when I don’t shave. I work outside doing hard manual labor and it’s at home (and we still have to truck in water as our home is a work in progress in the desert) so sometimes, if no one’s around, I’ll just be sweaty and dirty for a few days. When I was shaving, I really couldn’t do that as my BO after a hard day’s work even with good deodorant was bad enough to bother me–I had to at least do a sponge bath or something. Now even if I don’t put on deodorant I don’t smell very bad. My partner even mentioned it on his own so I know it’s not just me. ;)

    I actually feel really sexy and empowered by not shaving. I had an abusive partner early in my life who really shamed me for not shaving my pubic hair and essentially forcing me to do it, and since then shaving has really felt to me like something I do purely to please men (and it really kind of is, since I don’t do it for my own comfort, I had just never really thought about shaving body hair before). It kind of feels like reclaiming my body, and I wish I’d felt comfortable enough to do it 5 years ago.

    But I think it is important to realize that not all women feel that way, and I appreciate La Lubu drawing attention to that.

  43. FYouMudFlaps
    August 14, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Cool to see so many proud “hairy” women. This cis het guy has absolutely no issue with it. In fact if I come across a woman who has hair part of me wants to congratulate her in a non-invasive way. One girl that I was in a bit of a “Friend With Benefits” setup with had armpit/leg hair and even sideburns (I called em girlburns), and it was awesome.

  44. Merry
    August 15, 2010 at 2:56 am

    Adding my own drop to the bucket:

    I’m eighteen, and I’ve been shaving since sixth grade or so. This summer I gradually decided to stop, originally out of pure unwillingness to make the effort, and then I realized that hey, my legs didn’t itch horrendously anymore! When I pointed it out to my mother (who has been begging me to stop scratching as long as I’ve been shaving), she came as close to pitching a fit as she ever does, because OMG HAIRY LEGS HOW HIDEOUS AND UNNATURAL AND UNLADYLIKE. My father’s reaction, on the other hand, was to compare leg hair lengths. For perspective, my mom is an ex-hippie and self-identified feminist, and my dad is a moderately conservative banker. It was funny and a bit illuminating to see the disparity in their reactions, and how it really didn’t line up with my own preconceptions about their attitudes.

  45. Alyssa
    August 15, 2010 at 9:30 am

    I started shaving in sixth grade, when I was on a summer camp field trip and the girl on the bus next to me looked at me with utter disgust and disdain, and then declared me to be the hairiest girl she had ever seen. After that, I shaved both my legs and arms for years. Even after I stopped shaving my arms I was so insecure about the slightest bit of stubble on my legs that I shaved them every day. I only stopped shaving them (in the winter, at least) when I got to college and got a boyfriend who gave me lots of positive reinforcement about how beautiful I am regardless of my incredibly hairy legs. I wish that the security to stop shaving my legs had come from inside myself instead, but there it is. I am still not confident enough to stop shaving my legs in the summer, however. I know that I have come a long way in developing positive body image, but the fact that I still feel so self conscious about my leg hair bothers me. I’m the type of person who doesn’t put up with much bullshit, especially not sexist bullshit, and whenever I hear any comments from women about how they “have” to shave or hear any man or woman say that leg hair is “gross” I will make my opinion quite well known. However, I still inwardly feel afraid that I will be judged for my leg hair.

  46. August 15, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Regarding whether or not body hair will keep the unwanted sexual advances at bay…

    I’m a hairy girl from way back. I used the high school swim team tradition as an excuse while in season and then just, well, didn’t shave.

    I have found, over the years, that I get hit on a lot. And that I get hit on less when I’m wearing shorts. But not much less.

    When people can see my body hair (tank tops and shorts are my favorite outfit), I get a lot fewer of the misogynistic, practiced, objectifying advances that irritate me. I do, however, still get flirted up a lot. The main difference is that the flirting is easier to sideline into a non-sexual conversation (if I’m not interested in the person sexually). It’s also easier to give clear, concise denials when someone isn’t sidelined or I don’t want to talk.

    Basically, I’ve found two flavors of people willing to flirt with my hairy self – feminists and fetishists. I find both pretty easy to deal with. I hope you have the same experience!

  47. August 15, 2010 at 11:14 am

    I only shave on and off, becuase due to medical issues, shaving results in extreme pain and loads of scar tissue. Seriously, I’ve had to have some of it cut out becuase it was restricting my movement.

    As a black women, who is already considered bestial and masculine by virtue of existing, sometimes, even with the extreme pain it causes me, I shave at times. Having an anxiety disorder that involves other people’s perceived judgments, along with not having great fine motor control makes shaving an exercise of intersectionality for me.

  48. D
    August 15, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    I don’t like shaving; never did like it; and never have, of my own volition. But I’m a dancer, ballet and ballroom, and several times I can remember in my life, someone running a show I was in has discretely pulled me aside and pointed to the legs and the pits and said, “you know – for the show – that’ll have to go.” As in, we can’t disturb the audience by making them look at your hairy self. The first time this happened, I was 12.

    I’m not really sure what to do here. Honestly, I’d prefer to not shave for shows, because it makes my skin itch, and it makes me develop little red bumps that sometimes bleed, which I find more un-sightly than the hair itself. But then, I do have to work, and I do love to dance. So, whatever.

  49. W. Kiernan
    August 15, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Kite: So, do many/most cis men find their body hair is itchy? Why don’t they shave it off, do they suffer from it?

    Since you ask, the answer is no. I have never experienced any uncomfortable sensation whatsoever as a result of hair anywhere on my body.

    There have been times in my life when I had to shave my face every day (e.g. in order to keep a job). Most guys don’t find this as difficult as I do. No matter what razors and lotions I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to shave my face more than about four or five times in a row without having all the part under the edge of my chin turn red and sore all day long. This is particularly awful during the Florida summer, which lasts six or seven months.

    I’ve also never been able to trim my beard without having it look weird and lopsided, so I shave it off completely every four months or whenever it starts to interfere with my peripheral vision, whichever comes first. When it grows back there’s a period of maybe three or four days when it’s kind of itchy, but it’s never very bad. After that short period it feels just fine.

    When I shave my face people tell me I look better. Sorry to let all my fans down, but given the choice between a.) looking better and my neck hurting all the time, and b.) looking less good with no pain, I choose b.). My advice to everyone is the same. If it’s even a little bit physically uncomfortable for you to shave this that or the other, balanced against someone else being mentally uncomfortable when they look at you, f*** ’em, tell them to point their stupid eyes somewhere else!

  50. AK
    August 15, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Dena: Regarding whether or not body hair will keep the unwanted sexual advances at bay…I’m a hairy girl from way back.I used the high school swim team tradition as an excuse while in season and then just, well, didn’t shave.I have found, over the years, that I get hit on a lot.And that I get hit on less when I’m wearing shorts.But not much less.When people can see my body hair (tank tops and shorts are my favorite outfit), I get a lot fewer of the misogynistic, practiced, objectifying advances that irritate me.I do, however, still get flirted up a lot.The main difference is that the flirting is easier to sideline into a non-sexual conversation (if I’m not interested in the person sexually).It’s also easier to give clear, concise denials when someone isn’t sidelined or I don’t want to talk.Basically, I’ve found two flavors of people willing to flirt with my hairy self – feminists and fetishists.I find both pretty easy to deal with.I hope you have the same experience!  

    That’s actually been my experience too. I get a lot of male attention, but I notice when I do get hit on now, if I’m wearing something that shows my legs it tends to be much more polite and often more the type of guy I’d be interested in if I weren’t in a committed monogamous relationship. I wear sleeveless shirts pretty much exclusively during the summer but my armpit hair isn’t really obvious unless I raise my arms, so when I’m wearing pants I don’t notice a difference while socializing. I have noticed a lack of obnoxious comments in my work away from home, where I usually wear polos with short sleeves that usually leave some hair peeking out, but I’m not sure how to explain the details of that to a non-agricultural audience without writing a lot of otherwise not relevant details about my work (I’m a farrier, aka horseshoer ;)).

    @Alyssa, honestly, I don’t think I’d have had the courage to stop shaving if my partner hadn’t been supportive, so you’re not alone in that. Now I wouldn’t start shaving if we split up or whatever because I’m used to it and I own it, as it were, but when I first started I was terribly unsure and he gave me a lot of support. It’s hard to stand totally on your own, especially for women who are socialized to believe our major value lies in our appearance. Major props to women who can, but humans are social creatures and it’s not unreasonable to require some support when deciding to flaunt social conventions!

    As a side note, the reason I stopped shaving was actually Mo’Nique, the actress. I followed a link to an article with a picture of her in this fantastic dress for some awards show or another, and the article was about her not shaving. I remember the picture that stuck out in my mind was her in this gorgeous gold dress with a huge smile on her face, hiking up her skirt a bit to better show off her legs, and I was like fuck. yeah. I want to be like that. I’ve only known one other woman personally who doesn’t shave (who I also admire but I met after reading about Mo’Nique and seeing the pictures), so Mo’Nique’s attitude about it really helped me. /dorky aside

  51. Alexis
    August 15, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    I have only shaved my underarms twice in the eight years since I turned sixteen. My mum shaves (underarms and legs), but my dad doesn’t like it because it’s about making women look younger, look prepubescent. While I don’t mind at all about any particular woman (individual choice, always) I prefer women with hair. I was delighted to see Stieglitz’s photos of Georgia O’Keefe’s with hairy underarms. (I find porn featuring women without pubic hair to be really, really creepy.)

  52. Maur
    August 15, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Hm, i actually find removing (not shaving, no!) my hair makes skin and body in general pleasant and quite sexy. And that includes every place, even head hair.

    I’m cis man though. Funny how these thing go.

  53. August 15, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    I never shave armpits, but that’s no big statement since I am nearly hairless there. I haven’t shaved my legs in a very very long time, but I am not terribly hairy there either. If I was more hairy I’m not sure I’d be able to shave since when I used to shave my legs I would get uncomfortable red bumpiness, itching, and ingrown hairs. No thanks.

    My wife OTOH is fairly hairy (and yes, unlike what someone said in comments it is actually possible to know how the hair on your body compares to other womens’ if you have some experience with unshaven women). She will shave during the summer so that she feels comfortable going to the pool and will shave her pits from time to time.

    I think experimenting with can be a great idea for everyone — you should know what it’s like to be in your body in a “natural” state. But be unshaven won’t be for everyone.

  54. KW
    August 15, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    I hate the hassle of shaving but I love the feel of (my own) smooth legs so I shave my legs almost every single day. Sometimes I will go a couple days between armpit shaving. For me, it’s all about what is comfortable and enjoyable for myself. That’s all it should ever be about. I think it’s ridiculous that people are made to feel obligated to be trim and smooth all the time. I think we should all be able to be as hairy or smooth as we want to be. :)

  55. marrrkat
    August 15, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    In high school, I never shaved my armpits, legs, or bush. I loved the “decoration” of armpit and pubic hair, and I kept the leg hair just to keep it consistent. I don’t know if it started out as an attraction to grown hair, a political statement, or pure laziness, but I know it was perpetuated by all three.
    I have encounter incredibly negative reactions ever since. My mother at points refused to be seen with me in public. School mates ridiculed and shamed me. Even in college, total strangers have verbally expressed their disgust. In fact, if I managed to somehow piss someone off I didn’t know (like wearing some sort of lefty tee-shirt or something), that person would often criticize me not by entering a politcal debate but by telling me to shave. In the same way that some people who I piss off like to remind me that I am fat.
    Now I mostly shave my legs in the summer, because I like the look of smooth legs with my short skirts. Not saying it’s right, but I’m socialized to think it looks right. Still don’t shave my armpits too often because I like the look of them, but I do shave when they get too smelly. Same for the pubes. I don’t think this means I am subscribing to the idea that “hair is dirty” or human smells should be eliminated and covered up: it’s just at some point stench can distract others from the person you are, not enhance their sense of you. If you know what I mean.
    Additionally, the long bush was really getting in the way of some important business.

  56. Lulu
    August 16, 2010 at 2:32 am

    La Lubu: I just wanted to point out that it is more complicated than merely hair and femininity….it’s wrapped up in ugly racial and ethnic “othering” as well.

    My hair and skin color is similar to what you described yours as and I remember being mocked by white children as early as elementary school. This is one of the main reasons I shave. Ethnicity/race means the difference between being perceived as a spunky, anti-establishment feminist and an unkempt “ethnic”.

  57. Paraxeni
    August 16, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Fuck shaving.

    I am hairier than most other women. I know this not because they all shave (I’m not American), but because any woman that can grow a beard in three days, is hairy. Any woman that looks clothed when she’s naked, is hairy. Sure I’m white, dead white, but my body hair is dark brown or black, even though my head hair is naturally a mousey-blonde colour, and I have blue eyes.

    I just refuse to be made to feel shame over my natural body, over something that’s *supposed* to be there. I hate doing something that hurts me, takes hours, and leaves me exhausted for days, just because society thinks I should. I hate itching for weeks, and smelling bad because there’s nothing to catch the sweat. I feel weakened, less powerful, naked without my fur.

    So bollocks to society. It’s my body, I’ll let it do what it wants to.

  58. Randomosity
    August 16, 2010 at 11:23 am

    As a teenager I timed myself. Each leg took 30 minutes, each pit took about 15 minutes. I’m hairy with dark, thick hair, and it grows back almost instantaneously. My head hair is down to my butt. I’d guesstimate I have 36 gauge hair (if you compare to wire sizes.)

    I had better things to do than spend 90 minutes in the bath/shower in addition to normal hygiene every couple days. So I stopped shaving.

    My parents had a fit after I went hairy for an entire summer and wasn’t the least bit self-conscious. I supposed they thought I’d eventually develop a sense of embarrassment. Nope, so they insisted I shave. Never mind how painful, how time consuming, how fast it grew back. Now, I only shave before a performance if that part of the body will show and be out of character, usually it’s just the pits.

  59. anna
    August 16, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    If you want to shave or not, I don’t care. But the idea that women must shave their legs, armpits and pubic hair to be considered sexy or even clean while men aren’t expected to has got to go. I think it would be great if more people spoke up when women talked about shaving, just to let them know “hey you don’t have to if you don’t want to.” Some support you know? And telling people to cut it the hell out if they talk about how women’s body hair is dirty, smelly, etc. I can’t tell you how many men have said that to me. “Eeewww I would never date somebody who didn’t shave, that’s disgusting.” Yeah, and what about your hairy legs? And what about when you, who wouldn’t dream of getting hot wax near your private parts, want oral sex? But she’s got to have a nice “clean” bikini wax for you. Uh huh. Fucking double standard bullshit.

  60. me and not you
    August 16, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    shaving sucks hardcore and I prefer not to do it. I cannot stand when women complain about shaving hair, but then looks at you like you’re nuts when you suggest they stop. Or when men insist it’s somehow an obligation that women have to *them* to shave. Most men who have shaved for one reason or another tend to agree that it’s a pain, and shouldn’t be a social requirement (though some of them have stated that they do prefer shaved, they know it sucks).

    That said, after moving back to the deep south I started shaving again. Most stares i can ignore, but the last straw was when I was changing in the gym and an undergraduate ran off to go get her friend to come and gawk at me. I don’t need that kind of random stress in my life. I still refuse to shave once a day (I get a five oclock shadow) and pretty much only deal with it if I’m going to be exposed… it drives my mom nuts

  61. sadie
    August 16, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    it’s probably been..oh, 20 years or so since I shaved my pits or my legs. I don’t have time. Or the inclination, really.

    and the idea that hairy armpits will protect you from skeevy men is kind of bizarre to me; I’ve been sexually active, mostly with men, all 20 years of not shaving. never had anyone suddenly change their mind when they encounter my hair.

    But I also have to add a disclaimer, i rarely go sleeveless because it’s rarely warm enough where I live (though I go for it when the weather is warm enough or when I travel) and I don’t have the kind of job or social circle where there’s much of a cost to me resulting from my shaving choices.

    Really though. i long to live in a world where no one’s body is policed, no one gets judges or stared at for shaving…or not shaving.

  62. Jennifer
    August 16, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Kite @26–that blue armpit hair is totally awesome!!!

    I hope you like not shaving–no one should feel they have to, for sure. I tried it awhile back and found that my armpits were smellier and felt clammier, and my leg hair got caught in my socks and hurt. The hair both places was really long. Admittedly sometimes my pubes get pulled/hurt and I don’t shave those, but that’s because it hurts/itches to shave there whereas shaving legs/pits (infrequently) doesn’t seem to bother me.

  63. Andrea
    August 16, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    me and not you: shaving sucks hardcore and I prefer not to do it.I cannot stand when women complain about shaving hair, but then looks at you like you’re nuts when you suggest they stop.  

    Seriously? You can’t imagine why a woman who hates shaving would continue to do it? I’ve been called names All. My. Life. because of my body hair. I was teased without end starting in 2nd grade, and people suggested I start shaving my thick, black leg hair in 4th. Maybe those women don’t take your advice because the don’t want to deal with the crap they’ll get from society? Maybe some of us are too hairy to get away with it without drawing all sorts of unwanted attention and comments if we stop? I hate shaving. I hate the comments and judgments I get if I don’t do it more. You can take my feminist card if you want.

  64. Megan
    August 17, 2010 at 1:48 am

    White, blonde, cis woman, and I shave pits, legs, and pubic hair. Pit, because I’m really ticklish and anything longer than a half-inch drives me batty. I really like the feeling of smooth legs, and I discovered that shaving my legs usually cools me off by a few degrees, which is major for me, as I’m a bit sensitive to heat. And my SO doesn’t demand or even really care if I shave my bush, but we’ve both worked out that Bare Down There (on both sexes) makes things easier and more fun for both parties. Not something we do all the time, but for special occasions.

    What boggles me is modern people who can’t seem to comprehend the idea of having sex with a woman who doesn’t shave her legs/bush/pits. I mean, women shaving everything, or shaving at all, is a really recent and mostly Western requirement of beauty, cropping up in the last century or so when razors became cheap and easy to manufacture. For the other hundred thousand years of human existence, women did not shave. And yet men (and women) still had sex with them.

  65. UnFit
    August 17, 2010 at 10:13 am

    I know I’ve said this before, but the first documented hair removal techniques come from ancient Rome, Byzantine and medieval Arabic courts.
    Not to put too fine a point on it, but let’s keep it historically accurate.

    And just for the record: my crotch hair kept snagging on my underwear, poking through it and getting disgustingly (and very uncomfortably) sticky and during periods. A lot of the time it seemed to irritate the skin underneath just by being there.
    So I shave it. Very thoroughly when I’m with my partner, a little less regularly when I’m on my own or at times I’m single, but I always do shave it or get it waxed given time and money.

    I agree that there are a million problems with social conventions that demand women (and men) to shave and smell like a flower patch. But I don’t think simply not shaving is in any way more feminist than shaving whatever the hell you want to.

    You see, I probably had the opposite problem from most people here: Through my early teens and into my twenties, I was heavily involved with the radical left and a certain flavor of feminism where I constantly had to defend my shaved legs and armpits.

    Social pressures just suck, regardles of who’s pressuring who about what.

  66. shfree
    August 18, 2010 at 1:12 am

    I went for years and years without shaving, about seventeen in fact, and I’ve started shaving my armpits about a year ago and started shaving my legs this spring. And I know that I’m giving into cultural pressure, because I found myself not wanting to wear particular things because I had what I called “hair socks”. From my mid calf down I had darker, coarse hair, while the rest of my legs were covered with fine pale hair. Ultimately, it just got too weird for me to deal with.

    And in the winter it was really, really itchy. Sometimes I would scratch my hairy legs until I would draw a little blood, but I haven’t experienced that at all since I’ve started shaving.

    But really, the major reason that I have returned to shaving is because of my age. I’m forty now, and the whole “Fuck you I’m going to do what I want!” is over for me now, at least in my mind. So cultural norms feel more necessary to me now. I will, however, support my daughter’s decision to shave or not to shave, and I have seen armpit hair stick out from underneath her shirt.

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