I was a freshman in high school the first time I was fingered. My boyfriend at the time, a studly senior who was trying to lose his virginity before he graduated, didn’t hide his aversion to pubic hair. “Do you shave?” he asked as he unbuttoned my jeans, hesitating to go any further. “Yeah, of course,” I said to his relieved face. I had learned from my older cousins that prepubescent-level baldness was en vogue and that to leave but a trace of fuzz in the pubic area would turn men away. It took me a while to realize that this wouldn’t be the norm. Fifteen years later, this boyfriend remains the one and only sexual partner to ever question my pubic hair style, which has, like most things, changed over time.
I’ve since tried many different styles: fully shaved, which always yields a painful razor burn; complete Brazilian waxes that make me wince in pain at appointments; landing strips, just for fun; full-bush Brazilians that have felt comfortable and natural; basic bikini waxes that make it relaxing to hit the beach; and then my current and longest-running style of choice: a full bush.
After trying out many of the above styles, I realized I just didn’t want to deal with worrying about my pubic hair. It was easy, painless, and comfortable to let it be. My bush-having days started out as something I fell into by default, but my untamed pubes have since become something I’m prideful about.
I don’t want to do anything to my body specifically because it’s what I think men want. I want, frankly, to do what I want.
In a society so saturated with gender norms and stereotypes about how a woman should be, look, and feel, I just want to be, look, and feel comfortable. Celebrities have contributed to my comfort level: Everyone from Solange Knowles and Ashley Graham to Emma Watson and Cameron Diaz have been vocal about their pubic hair.
I don’t want to drop $50 a month on a Brazilian wax, where I’m sticking my legs over my head or spreading my ass cheeks in front of a stranger solely to bare all. I’m not eager to run a razor over my labia and risk cutting myself. And I don’t want to do anything to my body specifically because it’s what I think men want. I want, frankly, to do what I want.
I’ve found, when thinking back on my pubic hair style choices, that most of them were made with men in mind. It took me years of wondering, what will they like?, to finally conclude that how I wear my hair down there is about me, what I like, what I prefer.
However, though I’m proud of and comfortable with my choice to rock a full bush, that high school boyfriend’s skepticism occasionally creeps in the back of my mind as I navigate singledom in New York City. I tell myself that if a guy gets weird or makes me feel awkward about something as trivial as pubic hair, he is certainly not the man for me. I do always wonder, though, if the men I’m with care, despite keeping their mouths shut.
I have friends whose sexual partners have asked them not to shave, citing the fact that they look like little girls without pubic hair. I, however, have been fully grown for so long that I’ve never encountered that.
I once tried the full-bush Brazilian, a wax that clears vaginal lips and butt crack of all hair, leaving the top grown out. Reports on the trend cited it as a way to satisfy “sexual expectations of the modern hairless hookup” while still feeling a bit au naturale. But with no men ever speaking up about whether they preferred this style, I decided to stop spending the money on it and just do what felt right for me.
Nonetheless, creating a clear path for oral sex partners was, and still is, a concern — I’m mostly worried all that hair will get in the way. And I’m not the only one. My friend Jen, who’s pansexual, says she prefers to keep her own pubic hair waxed or shaved with a small square on top for those she’s dating to play with while they cuddle. But she’s not a fan of a full bush on the women she’s sleeping with.
“I dated a woman with a full bush, and I had to use my hands to make a clear path. I would sometimes end up with irritation on my chin, so sometimes friends could tell that I had just gone down on her,” she says. “But I’m not one to judge, I think people should do what’s comfortable. It’s just easier to get the job done if there is a clear path.”
However, when I asked a few straight, male friends about what they think, one said he hardly notices what the hair situation is when he’s touching or going down on a woman. The rest admitted to having a preference, but noted that they rarely feel the need to voice it. And to be fair, I’m never thinking about my or my sexual partner’s pubic hair when we’re in the middle of things.
If a special man in my life ever mentions he would like me to get rid of my bush, I’ll cross that bridge. If I feel respected and comfortable enough with someone to make a change down there for them, I’m open to it. I’ve often thought that I’ll let them foot the bill for a wax if it’s what they really want, but realistically and in the long run, I’m going to continue to do what I feel most comfortable with, hair or bare or somewhere in between.