I’ll never forget the day I heard those infamous words spoken, much to the amusement of my friends and I (we think she meant Oprah’s term ‘vajayjay’). I was a freshman in high school and attending one of my first youth conventions that happened to be held in my hometown. The turnout was small but cozy – we all got to know each other pretty well.
We split into boys and girls, as we typically did. The girls all ended up in one hotel room, where we were having some good old-fashioned girl talk. The older girls suggested we have a conversation in which the younger girls could ask any question – about sex, about our bodies, about boys, etc – and it wouldn’t leave the room. They were offering us unsolicited advice about growing up. Those of us who had a question wrote it on a slip of paper, anonymously. I can’t recall what my question was or if I was even brave enough to ask one. One courageous soul asked if she should shave her “vagigay.” Despite the humor in her misspelling, she was truly concerned about this. I don’t think I realized the implications of the question at the time. This was the answer she received: You can shave it if you want to, but most guys don’t want a girl whose genitals look like those of a child. Real women have pubic hair, and it is meant to be there. Some guys even find it sexy.
Fair enough. Although the response centered on pleasing guys (priorities?), I agree with leaving it up to the individual. At the age of 14, I had never even considered shaving my vagina. I couldn’t imagine why that would be necessary. It sounded like a painful and arduous task to me. I never attempted to trim or shave my pubic hair until an ex-boyfriend requested it. I know now that that’s not a very good reason, but he convinced me that it would feel better if I shaved (for him or for me?). I refused to shave it bare, but I trimmed it down like he asked and that was that. Honestly, it was not more comfortable, but I just shrugged it off since it made him happy.
I also grew accustomed to shaving my legs when I knew I would be around him. He didn’t like it when my legs were hairy. For the most part I wouldn’t shave, especially in the winter – except when he was around. I felt like I could not live up to his expectations if I didn’t keep them smooth and hairless. I felt like he wouldn’t want me, which is truthfully not a far cry from the reality of things. Most guys are appalled by women who do not shave, be it legs or armpits or vagina.
Among the plethora of body insecurities that females are socialized to obsess over, hair seems to be of major concern to many women, and I can’t help but think that this is mainly dictated by the “needs” of men. We are supposed to have hair on our bodies. It is there for a reason. Why is it acceptable for us to have hair on our heads but not anywhere else? Pardon my feminism, but I’m not going to shave my legs or my vagina because a man asks me to. If I am more comfortable with the hair, which I am, I’m going to let it grow. At least that’s how I look at it nowadays.
My vagina lives in a forest, and I like it that way.