To shave or not to shave, that is the question

Don’t you just love women?

Well, yes, actually, but what the hell. This morning an ‘article’ was published in the Guardian about the trend towards pubic hair removal. Ostensibly about permanency, it soon turned, well, ugly. Actually, downright offensive (as well as factually inaccurate)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/feb/11/womens-pubic-hair-removal-porn
I have several problems with this piece. The first is perhaps the juvenile nature of its rant: ‘If porn told you to jump off a cliff …’ This is pitiful, playground stuff. This is meant to be an intelligent paper. It’s no surprise that comments were not opened.

If Bidisha wants to discuss this intelligently, then all well and good. She might consider asking people their thoughts. She might find that for some, it enhances sexual feeling, especially cunnilingus, and allows the ‘linguist’ greater access to sensitive areas … this leading to more pleasure for the woman. Surely that’s allowed?

Bidisha makes one frankly stunning assertion: ‘They [men] are not going to make the effort to do anything to please a woman, at the cost of their own comfort.’

Really? What a sad bunch you must think we are. And you respect that? Good heavens. This is offensive and, quite obviously nonsense.

More to the point, I believe that more and more men are following the trend – it’s not called a back, sack and crack for nothing.

But she ignores the vast, gaping hole in her argument. Men have been shaving for years. Now, what on earth does shaving one’s chin represent? Let’s ask Shakespeare:

Fulvia perchance is angry; or who knows

If the scarce-bearded Caesar have not sent

His Pow’rful mandate to you:                                                (Antony and Cleopatra, I.i.20-22)

Now Jove, in his next commodity of hair,

send thee a beard                                                                      (Twelfth Night, III.i.44-45)

You may light upon a husband with no beard.

What should I do with him? dress him in my apparel

and make him my gentle-waiting-

woman? He that hath a beard is more than a youth,

and he that hath no beard is less than a man;                   (Much Ado About Nothing, II.i.32-37)

Hmm. The prosecution rests with the fearsome Beatrice.

So, by Bidisha’s logic, shaving the chin is designed to imitate the youth. Or, in Shakespeare’s terms, the boy. Imagine if I, a man, wrote this:

‘A woman who likes a man without facial hair despises adult men so much that she wants us to resemble children. She should stay at home instead in front of a computer, masturbating alone to the hair-free images she reveres.’

And yet she feels it is fine and dandy to write this:

‘A man who likes a woman without pubic hair despises adult women so much that he wants us to resemble children. He should stay at home instead in front of a computer, masturbating alone to the hair-free images he reveres.’

And we’ll not even think about all those men who wax their chests … none of whom are ever presented as sex objects to women. No, no, no.

Now I don’t in any way intend to belittle the many, many serious issues that pornography raises. The fact of the matter is, that is articles like Bidisha’s, this is what the author unwittingly does.

She draws a delightful conclusion thus:

I worry about these men too, of course, those poor poonani-policing body fascists. They are now in danger of returning to a Victorian naivety. They may well believe that, like the hairless, passive and benign feminine allegories of grand masters’ paintings, women naturally do not have any body hair. Upon seeing some real hair on a real woman for the first time they may well vomit or faint, or both. That is something I’d like to see: a man so dizzied by the shortfall between reality and his own ignorance that his brain can’t take it and he loses consciousness.

Bless her and all who sail in her, as they say (don’t be filthy minded).

She finishes with this rather odd paragraph:

‘As for the women, don’t you have anything more interesting to do than dutifully coif your cassoulet? I got “cassoulet” from The Joy of Sex, by the way. It means “general musky pussy area”. Check out the original 70s hand-drawn illustrations. The couple are as hairy as anything, but they look like they’re having a lot of fun, fur and all.’

Now, ignoring the possibility that she doesn’t know what a cassoulet is (in the Guardian? Purlease!), and no, I’ve never heard it used as a euphemism, either, I wonder whether she thinks that the hairy figures in the Joy of Sex are any less stylised than the ‘grand masters’ paintings’. Furthermore, might she vomit or faint should she encounter partner who doesn’t have a lot of fun, ‘dizzied by the shortfall between reality and her own ignorance’?

Bless her. And I’m being ironically patronising. Because I can be.

Well, I’ve got that off my chest – now then, ought I shave, wax, or curl?

9 thoughts on “To shave or not to shave, that is the question

  1. What we’re talking about here is the interpretation of symbols. It’s the favoured approach by con artists throughout the ages. Sometimes it’s written in the stars; sometimes it’s animal entrails. In this case is it’s the symbolic meaning of a shaved pubic region. The snag with “seers” is that that they always see what most benefits themselves and have the advantage that it’s a taboo to oppose their sacred status. Opposing those who make their determinations by meditating upon their inner womb goddess is proof that you’re just the sort of uncouth and unfeeling person they were complaining about.

    She even concedes the main fallacy of this approach: most men in porn are shaved in the pubic region. Doing a Google image search for the term “hardcore porno” illustrates this. As does a search for “gay porno”. So, her theory doesn’t even stand up to any testing. Not that a feminist in the Guardian ever had to produce a thesis which was falsifiable in any way, as long as it puts men down.

    I hate this aspect of the Guardian. If a columnist constantly submitted articles that theorised about Jewish conspiracies against Aryans or the latest quote-unquote evidence of the moral harm being done to society by common homosexual activities, they’d get into trouble. The content of the article that you’ve quoted is much stronger than anything Jan Moir could ever hope to get away with.

    I suspect that the participants in pornography are shaved down below for two reasons. Firstly, to prevent the spread of lice. Secondly, and most importantly, to give the viewer a better look at the action. Feminists like to manufacture elaborate theories about the semiotics of porn and the consequent political intent, but the content almost is purely driven by what produces the strongest erotic impulse in the customer, usually a man. The limiter is what is allowable by law. Let’s be honest, if a female participant didn’t shave in that region, you wouldn’t really see anything.

    I suspect that the reason that we didn’t see women completely shaved in that area in earlier eras is because the only commercially produced material at that time was “glamour”. That sort of material had to comply with obscenity laws, and those laws specified that certain parts of a woman’s genitals must not be shown. If the woman was shaved, this would lead to the production of loads of shots that wouldn’t have any commercial value. Even models doing hardcore on the continent would want to be able to work in glamour.

    But the thing that really, really gets me about her ignorant rant is the fact that majority of men in porno are mutilated. Male genital mutilation is three times as common as female genital mutilation, worldwide, and it is carried out for no medial purpose, legally, in the UK. Y’know genital mutilation, that thing that feminists are always going on about as being a symbol of something or other.

    You’ll have to forgive me, I’m writing a book.

    • Well, obviously what she’s talking about is the removal of symbols … but i suppose all one need say is ‘merkin’.

      You are preaching to the converted, mind … what really sums it up is that they neither replied to my email nor did they expose her to the white heat of the comments thread. That would have been funny.

      Oh, and by the way, writing a book is never a valid excuse … unless you mean you wrote such a long post because you’re too busy writing your book to write a short one …

  2. Much as I could waffle, I have two points that seem unwilling to stay in my head:

    1. The author writes of Victorian naivety and ‘poonani policing body fascists’. She does not clarify this statement but I feel she is utilising the default setting for repressive prudery. It would seem that if you are writing an article with leanings towards sex then the Victorians must be mentioned. For where else in history…

    2. The personal statement: I have been single and predominantly sexually inactive for several years. My tangled diamond has been kept trim throughout.

    I like it.

    It is my preference.

    It is for me.

    PS. I believe the Victorians were particularly keen on keeping pubic locks as love tokens. Just thought I’d say.

  3. You have a great point about men shaving our beards. She has a great point, however, in that the shaved-pussy look that has become de riguer over the past 20 years or so is alsmot entirely inspired by porn. I have no problem with someone shaving because that’s the way they feel most comfortable, but I do have a problem with conformity. To me, the most attractive person is somone who is comfortable in his or her skin. Personally I prefer the natural look, but more than that I like variety.

    • I think her point about rigid conformity has some legs, yes. Naturally, the shaved chin look has a similar history.

      The problem with her article is, however, its insanely and wilfully offensive nature – I can’t decide whether this is due to flat ignorance or brinksmanship, but either way it’s unforgiveable.

      I have no problem with however someone likes their own pudenda pruned, but I have a serious problem with who preaches that if you like it denuded, you are a pitiful, conformist pervert,

      A good, rational argument always takes into account the converse view, even where it disagrees violently. Bidisha seems incapable of any such empathy – to her any disagreement is treachery.

      I fear she doesn’t understand what feminism is.

      Most of all, however, I object to her being given a forum for her offensive and idiotic views, and I sure as hell object to her being paid to promulgate them.

      Oh, and if you have followed her thread on art and motherhood (less offensive, but really quite stupid), you will notice the astonishing amount of comments which have been moderated – none of which were (i read them before they vanished) in any way offensive. The guardian is, it seems, becoming somewhat stalinesque.

    • I know this is a dead thread but I have to say…bullshit.

      I started getting rid of my pubic hair NOT because of porn — in fact, I was a teenager and had never seen anything other than some magazines. I did it because I loved to swim and had a bathing suit that wasn’t lined as well as it should be.

      After that, I kept on because I liked how it felt. I didn’t have to worry about leotards when I worked out. It was easier to stay clean during menstrual periods. I love skimpy lingerie but hate, HATE the look of gorilla hair sticking out around my pretty satin and lace.

      The bonus is that it makes oral easier and makes it easier for my partners to find the target, as it were. I certainly appreciate my partner shaving his face rather than hitting me with sandpaper, and trimming up before I head downtown. Since when is quid pro quo amongst lovers a bad thing?

      Mostly, I don’t call this woman a feminist, or at least, she is not MY kind of feminist. I believe we were fighting to get the right to choose what we wanted to do with our bodies. In dictating and trying to shame others to her standard, she is NO different than the worst conservative who believes we should all cover ourselves for same at being female.

  4. Actually I thought her article was interesting. The language was overblown and she drew some weird conclusions but….it is true that the only female with a naturally bare pudenda is a child…..why would you want your sexual partner to look like an infant?

    • It was an interesting article, indeed – but one which evidenced the rather illogical and spurious workings of her thinking rather than any seriously considered points on the issue.
      You do seem to draw an odd conclusion yourself – in fact, a formal fallacy, in logical terms, as your conclusion most definitely does not automatically follow from your premises. Firstly, it does not necessarily follow that the act of denudation is imitative – there are several other reasons why a person might prefer their partner bare, and secondly you, too, seem to assume that it is done purely for the sake of the other.
      It is strange that both you and Bidisha automatically assume the most insulting reason for this action at the expense of many other perfectly good, and far more likely, ones – as evidenced by some other comments here.

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