How to Reclaim Your Relationship with Your Pubes

When society has conditioned you to feel a certain way about body hair, is it even possible to have a truly genuine personal preference?

Let's talk about pubes, shall we?

To my own dismay, I recently spent the entirety of an afternoon debating the unfounded and unfair double standard of body hair — particularly of the pubic sort — with one ironically burly man (who had a whole lot of hair and a whole lot of audacity) and a bush-embracing female friend. What started as a heated conversation left me questioning my own relationship with my pubes.

How to Reclaim Your Relationship with Your Pubes , Woman hugging shrub
Getty Images - Design: Alex Sandoval

I'm not a hairy person; I'm a redhead, and neither the hair on my head nor the hair on my body grows very long, dark, or thick. It's both a blessing and a curse — and a long-running joke amongst my circle of friends since we hit puberty together. How classic that being unable to grow hair as a teenager made me feel less like a woman than my friends, but, as an adult, society relentlessly reiterates that having hair isn't womanly enough either. So, from my pre-teens onward, I joined the leagues of womxn who shaved everything consistently.

"I used to hate my body hair, but I don't think that came from me," says London-based nude model and musician Camille Alexander, 24. "I think it came from a construct, which I understood afterward, of course. I felt really bad when I started to grow body hair because my skin is really pale, and my hair is really dark. I used to be really, really ashamed of that."

When Alexander was a kid, she says her grandma started shaving her legs for her. She began waxing by the age of 11. It wasn't until years down the line that she ever questioned why she was doing it. She started growing her body hair out, not for a statement, but because she didn't really care anymore, she explains. And, when she shaved it again for the first time, her then-partner asked her where it all went.

Now, she says she doesn't feel the need to shave. Shaving and waxing consume both time and money, after all. And she actually earns money from maintaining her "big bush." Not only does it help her feel more comfortable and pose more freely in her nude shoots, but it's also become a staple reason behind her dedicated following on OnlyFans.

"[Growing out my hair] just felt more comfortable because I was actually able to shoot and pose freely — probably more freely than if I didn't have anything there," she says. "So I [asked myself]: why was I doing this? I just started questioning a lot of things in my head. 'Are you doing this for you, or are you doing this for others? What do you actually like?'"

If you compulsively remove your body hair, have you ever asked yourself why? Like, genuinely, why? Until a few years ago, I'd never truly unpacked whether my own "why" had been for me or for the comfort of and validation from others, such as partners. (

"Pubic hair can be an uncomfortable topic for discussion at the best of times, but especially within relationships," says Megan Harrison, L.M.F.T., the relationship therapist behind Couples Candy. "After all, everyone has their preferences — for both themselves and sexual partners."

I've never talked to a partner about pubic hair or lack thereof because I never deemed it necessary. I got rid of it consistently, so there was nothing to talk about, really. In fact, up until a few years ago, I'd never talked about pubic hair with anyone. It's just so damn taboo. It took until I was 25 years old in Tangalle, Sri Lanka before I ever even thought twice about shaving. I was sitting on a beach, and the only thing hairier than the coconut I was sipping was me. The hair on my body was reddening in the sun. I hadn't even noticed it before because, well, I'd never let it grow to be visible.

I'd been traveling by train across the country for weeks on end — through rolling rice fields, terraced tea plantations, and blanketed mountains. Showers were few and far between, barring the occasional bucket bath. But, despite how desperately I needed to bathe after endless nights sleeping with strangers packed like sardines in sticky railcars, I felt as beautiful as the nature around me. Perhaps because, in all my sweaty, filthy, hairy glory, I, too, felt totally natural. (

I had allowed the hair under my arms to sprout beyond a stubble because I neither had a shower nor a care in the world. It'd been well more than a decade since I saw the strawberry blonde hair on my legs catch light, and it was the only time in my life that my bikini line had grown past peach fuzz. And I couldn't give a damn. I was traveling alone where no one knew my name — where I had no one to "impress" but myself. And solo trekking across South Asia impressed me far more than silky smooth skin ever could.

I spent that afternoon in Tangalle with other lone travelers I'd met on one hell of a train ride. It was with them that, for the first time, I'd really talked openly about — dun-da-dun — pubes. One of the women sported pubic hair that curled outside her bikini bottom. She preferred it that way — not because she spent weeks traveling in trains like me, but because it made her feel feminine and sexy.

This woman had the kind of confidence I'd been craving for years of shaving to subscribe to society's standards. Getting to know her "why" gave me the permission to explore my own personal preferences, devoid of others' unsolicited opinions about my body. (See: I Was ~This Close~ to Lasering Off My Pubes for Life — Here's What Stopped Me)

Harrison says that experimenting can be key for people who are undecided about whether or not to purge the pubes.

"Remember, no matter what you decide to do with your pubic hair, it will not be permanent unless you opt for a permanent treatment [such as laser hair removal]," she explains. "If you opt to remove pubic hair through shaving or waxing, it will grow back. If you opt to leave it to grow, you can remove it at a later date. You should feel free to try different approaches and find out how you feel about each of them through trial and error."

Although my version of "hairy" is someone's else's version of "freshly shaven," I let my hair grow freely for weeks beyond my train travels in Sri Lanka. I was curious about how it'd make me feel — if I could unlearn everything I "knew" about body hair and learn how to feel the way my new friend felt. One thing I never felt though, was gross. (Well, not because of my body hair, anyway; the whole living-out-of-a-backpack thing didn't quite feel fresh.)

There's a wealth of misconceptions and myths surrounding womxn's pubic hair that lead people to believe it's unhygienic — and that leaves people feeling ashamed and self-conscious about possessing body hair when it's something so natural to the human body. But that's simply not true, says Harrison.

Some research suggests that many women shave to feel "clean." Other research echoes that both hygiene and "a cultural trend, epitomized by representation of genitalia in popular media," are culprits.

The truth is that pubic hair has a purpose. It reduces friction during sexual intercourse, it protects the vulva's sensitive skin, and it may even reduce the transmission of bacteria, playing a part in preventing the spread of some sexually transmitted diseases, according to Harrsion.

"As long as you wash regularly, there are no major hygiene disadvantages associated with keeping your pubic hair," she says. "In actual fact, because the area tends to be warm and moist, pubic hair removal may actually be associated with greater hygiene risks, because irritation [caused both by hair removal and lack of hair as a protective layer] creates an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive."

She also adds that common pubic hair removal techniques, such as shaving, waxing, and lasering, are indeed associated with some health hazards, such as razor burn, abrasions, ingrown hairs, infections. In fact, research shows that at least a quarter of people who groom their pubic hair injure themselves at some point along the way.

Still, some people choose to ditch the hair simply because it boosts their self-esteem or for other totally valid, personal reasons, according to research. Harrison adds that some people find pubic hair to be uncomfortable. It may catch on underwear and make the region feel unpleasantly hot, for example.

"Nevertheless, it is important to stress that, for the most part, the decision of what to do with your pubes will be based on personal preference," she says. But when society has conditioned you to feel a certain way about body hair, having a truly objective, genuine personal preference is actually harder than it sounds, if not impossible.

And then there's the partner factor. Studies show that more than half of heterosexual men prefer bald body hair partners. And, according to a Cosmopolitan survey, 40 percent have even asked their partners to change their pubic hair in some way or another. And many people do make the accommodation. So is it okay to change your pubic hair as per your partner's preference if it differs from your own?

"I don't think I would be with a person in the first place who would actually ask me [to shave or wax]," says Alexander. "It's my body."

While shaming has no place — in relationships and, frankly, in general — Harrison adds that compromise can be reached, as long as you want to compromise. "As a general rule, you should only shave, wax, laser, or otherwise groom your pubic region because you want to," says Harrison. "With that being said, pleasing your partner is a valid reason for wanting to do so, as long as the desire to please them is coming from within you. Crucially, you should not feel pressure to do something you do not actually want to do." Having an open and honest conversation with your partner about pubic hair preferences might feel awkward, but there's a way to do it respectfully, and that's by acknowledging that nothing asked is a demand, says Harrison. (

It's also worth educating yourself and unpacking your own personal "why," as well as finding out your partner's "why." Knowing why you make the informed choices you do and why your partner has the opinions they do can help you navigate the conversation with respect. For example, if your partner thinks you should shave for cleanliness, you can respectfully enlighten them. Or, if your partner thinks you should wax because the people they watch in porn are waxed, you might have a whole different issue on your hands.

Then, if you choose to forgo the pubes, it's your choice. If you choose to trim 'em, it's your choice. And if you choose to just let 'em live, that's also your choice. After all, there's no such thing as "normal" anyway.

"The misconception that 'everyone' is grooming their body hair or pubic hair a certain way is one that has been peddled in the media to push a certain narrative, specifically about womxn's bodies — and all it does is make people feel othered for whatever their own grooming choice is," says Laura Schubert, co-founder of Fur, a women-owned and consciously inclusive skin and hair care brand that allows consumers to define their own beauty. (Yes, it's the company that makes the now-kinda-infamous pube oil that body hair-positive celebs including Emma Watson love.) Fur launched in 2016 after Schubert and her co-founder, Lillian Tung, recognized a void in the market. Most products focused solely on body hair as a "problem." (

"The market is definitely skewed toward only catering to pubic hair removal, and that's because, for so long, that was the only grooming routine that was seen as legitimate for most womxn," says Schubert. "If you didn't remove your hair, there were false associations of being 'unkempt.' It was a very conscious choice on our part to make sure that Fur products can take care of your skin and hair, whether you choose to remove part of your hair, all of it, or none of it."

At the end of the day, making a choice that's based on how you feel about yourself — rather than on what society dictates you should do — exudes confidence, says Schubert. And confidence is sexier than any landing strip, bare mound, or bush.

Alexander agrees that everyone should feel validated. While she says she believes that confidence is key in helping womxn to feel more comfortable in growing out their body hair, she acknowledges that it's not easy for everyone.

"I don't really want to speak for all womxn because I am privileged… Although I grow my body hair and it seems like an unconventional thing to do, it's the only unconventional thing about me," she admits. "And I guess that makes it easier for people to accept… But everyone should be able to grow their hair out and be validated. The more we have representation, the more the mentality will change."

While she says she doesn't believe that the solution is for everyone to stop shaving, the choice should be universal. But how do you make a choice if you don't understand that you actually have one — or if you don't experiment?

I, personally, don't think I'd ever given growing out my body hair a chance had I not met someone along my travels who showed me that I could. While I ultimately change my mind on my body hair with the wind — as I do with the hair on my head — I make conscious choices rooted in what I want, when I want.

In other words: Don't knock it until you try it. Or, don't try it. Hell, your pubes are your prerogative.

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