Not an Odalisque

Myth Number four: Hair is Disgusting.

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Well, some hair is disgusting. Hair separated from the body is yucky, hair in the mouth is horrid and hair mixed with soap suds then gently mouldered in the plughole is absolutely revolting. The hair on my head, however, is a feature I’m often complimented on. Sometimes, in the theatre, strangers seated behind me ping my curls. Once, a man asked if he could come in it. That was sort of disgusting.

There is a widespread misconception that body hair is inherently disgusting, if found on women, in spite of the fact that the hairy human race was merrily reproducing before the advent of the affordable razor. Western women’s underarm shaving can be dated from 1915 and legs came even later. If body hair was universally repulsive, we’d have a hard time explaining 1970s porn films and the existence of the merkin.

I started shaving when I was eleven. My boyfriend (defined as such by his gift of a box of roses—the chocolate, not the flower—the day before) put his hand under my skirt during history, and I heard very little of the Norman Conquest because I was worrying about the follicles touching his palm. After school I ran a bath and stole one of my father’s disposable razors. My boyfriend didn’t comment on the bloody gashes in my leg during geography the next day.

My initiation was followed by years of depilation. I shaved. I waxed. I applied hair-melting creams (they don’t work). I spent a fortune on bubble-gum-pink razors and aloe vera imbued creams. I screeched as waxing strips were torn from my legs. I toppled over in the shower and diffused pink clouds into the water. I flinched at the idea—just the idea—of slicing my clitoris off as I approached my genitals with a razor and afterwards faced the itching and redness as it grew back. Then I stopped. It wasn’t a premeditated decision; I didn’t reason it out and decide I wanted to be a hairy-legged feminist. I just didn’t get around to shaving.

I had some clues that body hair didn’t matter all that much, over the years. Take this conversation with a man whose advances I was resisting, for example:

“I’d do anything to be able to be with you,” he said.

“Anything?” I queried.

“I just mean that you’re worth a lot to me,” he said.

“How much?” I asked.

“Oh, at least a thousand pounds,” he told me.

“But I haven’t shaved my legs!” I replied.

“I’ll knock a pound off, then,” he concluded.

You may be wondering why I brought up leg hair at that particular juncture, but you try thinking of a suitable topic when a man appears to be offering you a grand to sleep with him. The fact was that as a percentage of my overall attractiveness, the absence of leg hair was a mere 0.1%.

Then I had a girlfriend who thought of herself as a dykey type. She didn’t shave, while I did to maintain the femme persona required. Did I ever think to myself “I don’t want to do this, she’s too hairy?” Not even once.

So I moved to a new city and forgot to pack a razor. When an older man offered to show me around the town and then invited me back to see his etchings I wasn’t going to refuse on the basis of a forgotten razor. He was old enough to have lived through an era of female hairiness, I reasoned, and at that age was lucky to have me, regardless of the state of my legs. A few weeks into the relationship I asked him about it. “I like it” he said. Then he asked me how much more my underarm hair would grow. I explained that this was the extent of it. He seemed a bit disappointed.

It turns out some men are really into hair. Not just men I’ve slept with, either (that sample would be biased since they may be willing to overcome their distaste in view of my other charms, or may be converts to it after a moment of enlightenment in my arms). Numerous men of my acquaintance have admitted a predilection for hair, subscribers of Furry Girl pay to see it and hair-loving searchers have made the first page of Google results for ‘Hairy Women’ porn sites. I’m not saying that everyone likes it, but noting that a goodly number of people will go out of their way for it.

I am not anti-shaving. I am, after all, the girl who once spent so much money on a corset that she couldn’t afford food for the rest of the month. Beautify yourself in whatever extreme and painful ways you like, don’t just stop with a slick of lipstick, you have my blessing. Fortunately, stunning as I look in it, don’t have to wear my corset everyday. My femininity isn’t reliant upon an artificially minimised waist. I defy those who demand that femininity requires hairlessness.

Why is this important? Well, partially because I just have better things to do with my time than shave my legs. Also because when we change our bodies we make statements. Going to a club in only a corset, stockings and heels was quite a big statement, and I knew I was making it. Getting into bed with a man after I’ve painstakingly removed all of my pubic hair? What does that say? Things I don’t want to say again.

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Written by Not an Odalisque

January 19, 2010 at 12:33 am

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