No-Shave November Made Me Think About Femininity

I did No-Shave November this year. Not to raise money for anything (although I did contribute some dough to a family member’s Movember collection, in awe of his new beard). I just wanted to give it a shot.

I’ve been a pretty consistently clean-shaven lass ever since puberty. Ever the precocious child (and an early bloomer, hormones-wise), I wanted to know what shaving was like, so I started shaving the hair on my legs and pelvic mound almost immediately after it first came in. I have a vivid memory of my mom spotting my shaved mons in the bath (so I must’ve still been young enough that my mom was bathing me?!) and her saying disapprovingly, “That’s something adult ladies do.” But still, I continued to shave.

Like every girl, I was ushered into a world of brainwashed, media-hyped, sweet-and-sanitized femininity. There were no hairy-lady role models in my life, sexy or otherwise. As I grew into adolescence, the girls at my school became increasingly mean and judgmental, as middle-school girls are wont to do, and I never dared deviate from any norm for fear of social ostracization (which, sadly, happened anyway).

Throughout my first sexual relationship, I kept my pubes and pits shaved. My partner went through a phase where she was desperately curious to know what it would be like to go down on a bushy twat, but I would not grant her that favor. I found pubes insufferably itchy and they also noticeably cut down on my sexual sensitivity.

My second (and current) partner was surprised the first time he put his hand in my panties, having never encountered a hairless lady-garden before. This, in turn, surprised me when he told me later. I had thought of shaved pussies as the norm until then, perhaps due to the porn I sometimes watched.

These days, I’m hanging out in a lot of queer and feminist spaces, as usual, and these are the sort of environments where body hair is accepted and sometimes even encouraged. But even still, I tuck my legs under me to hide their stubble; I keep my cardigan buttoned so no one will see my fuzzy pits. Though I purposely fill my head with hairy-lady inspiration (Amanda Palmer and Sadie Lune, for example), I still feel… well, dysphoria isn’t quite the right word, but perhaps what I feel is a very mild form of it.

And the trouble is, I don’t know whether my feelings are media-influenced or whether my particular brand of girly/femme-y gender identity just doesn’t mesh with body hair. How can anyone ever know whether their feelings are culturally induced or personally valid or both?

During No-Shave November, I also grew out my bush, though I kept my labia shaved because they really do itch horribly when I let ‘em run wild. My partner has no qualms about any body hair configuration I choose – he always finds nice things to say about my body, no matter how much fur it has amassed or is missing – so that didn’t influence my decision. I grew out the longest bush I’ve ever had and spent a lot of time combing it with my fingers, marveling at how weird and unusual it felt in the context of my own body.

Ultimately, on December 2nd, after snapping the photos used in this post in my bathroom mirror, I shaved my pits. And then, earlier this week, I attacked my bush with scissors and then a razor. The smoothness feels odd after all this hairiness but it’s also reassuring; I feel more like me again. I don’t feel more attractive; I just feel less weird.

What’s your relationship to body hair?