The story goes that when John Ruskin caught sight of his wife’s ‘down there’ on his wedding night, he was so repelled that they never consummated the relationship.

Possibly apocryphal, but weirdly relevant at the moment.

The explanation I hear most often is “I have a boyfriend, you know.”

And I find myself thinking….so?

With the physical, psychological, and political liberation imparted by the woman’s movement of the 1970s, I grew up believing that men and women were intellectual equals, that women could compete with men in the workplace, could have sex before marriage — and that things like bound feet, corsets and belladonna eyedrops (to enlarge the pupils and make women look more like babies) were things of the past.

So would someone be so kind as to explain the current obsession with waxing and shaving?

For those new to my despair at the fall of feminism, may I refer you to a previous rant and a reminder that the biggest consumers of hardcore internet pornography are 12- to 17-year-old boys. Now, the majority of 12-year-olds are not having actual sex, which suggests that internet porn is serving as a classroom for sex. And what lessons about sex does pornography teach?

  1. Contraception doesn’t exist.
  2. Breasts should be surgically enhanced.
  3. Pubic hair is disgusting.

Among other things.

So next time you shave or wax in order to suggest to your partner that you are not, after all, a real woman, but a pornografied version of a pre-adolescent girl, why not have a good long look in the mirror and ask yourself where it will end. Will you have your breasts enlarged? Your vagina cosmetically improved? Will you starve yourself like Hollywood starlets, have all your imperfections erased, refuse to age?

Like retailer H&M, will you put a real head onto a digitally created body?

And will someone love you more for it?

With our help, society is evolving an image of women that is impossibly skinny with huge breasts, perfect teeth and the hairless pudenda of a ten year old girl.

Because we’re worth it?

Worth what, exactly?

Not a lot, I’d say

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22 thoughts on “OK, that’s it. We’re having the body hair conversation.

  1. ComaCalm 5 years ago

    So I don’t gross other bloggers out, lets just say I just whatever the hey I like with all my hair and the OH doesn’t give a s**t. I do however have a fascination with eyebrows. Plucking your eyebrows to death seems to be the new norm and I find it quite bizarre. I should mention I’m 20 and do not wear makeup or pluck my eyebrows, because I find this weird. I do shave when I feel like it but as I don’t go out of the house often, well…

    Ihave the mind of a married 30 year old. Oh Lord.

  2. Kathryn Evans 5 years ago

    It’s not just girls – many many of our male Bulgarian students (farm workers) shave their legs, chest, arm pits (have not witnessed elsewhere) – Do teen boys do this is the Uk? I know quite a lot shave their chests – maybe this is not just a feminist issue?

    1. Meg Rosoff 5 years ago

      My friend who works in a sexual health clinic says muslim women AND men come in fully shaved. Maybe I’ve got it wrong and it’s all based on the poodle-ification of the UK.

    2. Heather 5 years ago

      In preparation for their wedding night, most all of my Kuwaiti girlfriends had every last bit of hair removed from below their waist via the sugaring technique. It’s the tradition and a common wedding custom in addition to henna painting on the palms. (At least one was quite horrified, but went through with it anyway.) Most all also regularly wax their face and arms because they tell me they personally don’t like the look of the dark hair. So, Muslim culture and/or Arab culture and/or Gulf Arab culture? I’m not sure.

    3. Heather 5 years ago

      Oops, should have said “below their neck”, not waist, as armpit/arm hair goes, too.

    4. Meg Rosoff 5 years ago

      I don’t know the reasoning behind it, but I’m suspecting it’s the same impulse — that body hair=womanly=sullied, while hairlessness=child=purity.

    5. Heather 5 years ago

      Oh yes, I agree!

    6. Shelley Souza 5 years ago

      I’m not sure but I believe Parsis do something similar. I remember being a house guest of a wonderful Indian sculptor, Piloo Pochkhanawala, in the seventies. She took her teenage daughter to have her arm hair removed. As a woman and and an artist, Piloo was a progressive thinker. I asked her why she was going to make her daughter suffer the pain of having this hair removed and my understanding is that the removal of noticeable arm hair, as her daughter had, was part of her culture as a Parsi and possibly as an Indian.

    7. Wendy Meddour 5 years ago

      No -it’s for entirely different reasons. In Islamic tradition, BOTH men and women shave are encouraged to shave for hygiene reasons. It is considered to make ritual ablutions and personal cleanliness far easier. The ‘sinful’ connotations associated with female body hair seem to have emerged largely in the West.

  3. bookwitch 5 years ago

    Saw the film Shame in preview this week. They were low on the clothes budget, so ample opportunity to see a variety of body fashions. I’ll have natural any day.

  4. Dawn Finch 5 years ago

    I was talking to my 18yr old daughter about this and and the whole internet porn thing because she says that the main issue her friends find is that not only do boys have unrealistic physical expectations, but they have unrealistic sexual expectations. She says that her friends grumble that their boyfriends have a very selfish set of needs due to being (*ahem*) “educated” by complex (and often niche) video internet porn. Time was all boys had was a photograph, a frozen moment to trigger the imagination coupled (if you’ll pardon the pun) with copy in a magazine. Now they have access to every niche sexual taste imaginable, and that’s not how first sexual encounters should be. It seems a shame that young people are no longer even able to discover each other the slow way, together, the clumsy mistake-filled slightly embarrassing way – i.e the right way – because one of them arrives with a set of complicated expectations which can be both terrifying and crushing for self worth and confidence for both parties. Bring back sneaky magazines shared and swapped and let young people discover what they want in their own way and time.

    1. Meg Rosoff 5 years ago

      Amen, Dawn. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Didn’t, in fact. Thank you.

  5. Martin 5 years ago

    It isn’t just a female thing. Plenty of dumb guys go in for the back, sack and crack waxing, apparently, to impress the ladies.

  6. Maxine Moss 5 years ago

    Well you KNOW I agree. And Amen to Dawn too.
    Internet porn = the worst thing ever created. A monster. And a monster that not only causes this kind of distorted thinking, but destroys relationships.
    And I don’t give a flying **** if that makes me sound like someones Grandma

  7. Jon M 5 years ago

    Totally agree with this but speaking as a man of a certain age, I reserve the right to keep my nasal andear hair under control for the benefit of all I meet.

  8. Judy Astley 5 years ago

    I tend to think a certain trimming of the under-carriage is only polite so one’s partner isn’t forever picking pubes out of his/her teeth. Also it doesn’t poke out of your swimwear. But otherwise, yes – the idea of looking pre-adolescent is pretty repulsive. Also a fully waxed grown-up woman looks more like a plucked pinky-purple chicken.

    1. Meg Rosoff 5 years ago

      I love the word under-carriage. Never fails to make me laugh.

  9. Tina Jenkins 5 years ago

    I think it’s all driven by porn. I understood that Middle Eastern women were just hirsuit and so shave everything – which we shavers know to our costs just serves to make us hairier!!!! The moment you shave once – that’s it – you’re a shaver for life – there should be leaflets given to teenage girls. I once got caught out by some sugar waxers in a basement in Olympia who – before I even knew what was happening – had stripped areas I had never previously touched. Now those odd areas are occupied by very long but spartan straggly hairs – nice! But this transfer of vulnerability to men to make them shave too is partly due to the dominance of gay culture and vanity and just shows that expectations work both ways. You know if you were conjuring up and then expecting a barbie doll for yourself in early sexual encounters – you also have to comply by certain standards of perfection. Male shaving – a ridiculous trend in my view – is all part of that strive for perfection. It’s all so lost, our innocence – how can we ever get it back?

  10. Elise 5 years ago

    Couldn’t agree more!
    I’m often disgusted at seeing other girls of my age (fourteen and up) dolling themselves up in the toilets in school and mostly talk about nothing else except for make up, boys and the ups and downs of shaving your legs. Long, straight hair is in fashion and everyone who thinks or does otherwise can go hang themselves… or that’s at least how they are around here. Most of them also love acting dumb, just to make the popular boys feel less stupid and ignorant. (not that they actually mind being ignorant, it’s part of being “cool” along with laziness.)
    It’s also quite funny how in most schools you don’t have to wear uniforms anymore, yet they give themselves a dress code: skinny jeans, horribly tight T-shirts and huge handbags that could house an elephant.
    Also: why should women be expected to shave their legs if it’s perfectly okay for men?
    I really don’t get it.

    1. Meg Rosoff 5 years ago

      HI Elise
      You might not believe it, but what you’ve described is pretty much exactly the same as when I was in school. Which was a long time ago….
      Maybe things don’t change very much. (Until you leave school. At which point everything changes. So hang on….)
      xMeg

    2. Elise 5 years ago

      Actually, I don’t find that too hard to believe… I always feel very close to the main characters in your books, and I guess an author puts something (or a lot, no idea) of themselves into their characters, right?
      I’m doing better now, ’cause I’m doing home schooling since October, but I’m probably going to have to face it again, next year. So thank you very much for the heads up and the reply!

    3. Dawn Finch 5 years ago

      Oh Elise, I’m sorry that you have had to deal with all that crap – and Meg is right, it was the same in my school too, and then I had to watch my daughter (now 18) go through the same thing – girls can be evil selfish bitches!
      It might not feel like it now but it does get better. I was Plain-Jane at school and never fitted in with the cheerleader crowd and could never afford all the clothes and trappings of the pink-brigade crowd. Now, many years later, I have the great pleasure of seeing how yukky they all turned out with their yellow hair and orange leathery skin and crappy jobs and failed lives. All the study and knowledge I have accumulated has given me a far far better life and I’m a better and stronger person then they could ever be.
      These years are short my love, a transient moment in a long and rewarding life, and even though it does not always feel like it, it WILL get better and you’ll be the winner in the long run.
      Hang on in there and Merry Christmas!

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