"Honey, I noticed a little fuzz this morning..."
March 16, 2009 8:27 PM   Subscribe

Growing up with a mindset that bodyhair is icky and no one should see any of it ever ever ever, I now find myself questioning just how crazy most people get about removing it, or discovering it on their partners. I feel so naive about the whole thing, it's embarrassing. Are women expected to be silky-smooth every day? Is leg stubble horribly mortifying? Do men run away screaming when they find unsightly patches? (Well, probably not.)

For example, shaving for me nearly always meant ingrown hair, no matter how I did it and no matter how religious I was about exfoliating, and I've never considered that a pretty sight. So, I've been extremely shy with partners if we were getting together during those in-between days when I didn't look my absolute best. Even if I've been dating the guy for a few months, seeing him every day, I just had this paranoia that I wasn't reaching some level of smoothiness perfection. But I never brought this up, because hey... embarrassing and whatnot.

I'm guessing most people don't quite get their knickers into knots over this, and most guys don't expect your average non-airbrushed-lasered-girl to retain that softness for every hour of her life. And yet, I'm still really weirded out over the whole thing.

What's normal? What's expected? How the heck does this work?
posted by Bakuun to Society & Culture (40 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
What's normal is what makes you happy and comfortable. Personal tastes vary greatly. As a male when it comes to women? Hair has flair. Even stubble can be fun. It's a reminder that you're touching a human.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:32 PM on March 16, 2009

Agreed with Cat Pie Hurts, but just to add some of us find hair sexy. If you have a regular partner, why not talk about it with them. I think happiness and confidence in your body is sexier than any particular detail about it, and if you want to, you can feel great about yourself whether you spend an hour a day at the wax shop or don't ever pick up a razor again. Trust me, there will be folks to appreciate you in either condition.
posted by maxwelton at 8:41 PM on March 16, 2009

You're likely to get a chorus of answers along this line, so I'll chime in--as with most hang-ups (am I too hairy? too old? too fat? etc.), liberating yourself is the only important part. If, in that journey, you find someone who thinks you are too hairy, too old, too fat--that's their fucking problem, and you should liberate yourself from them with all due haste.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:42 PM on March 16, 2009 [8 favorites]

Unless you date practically-airbrush-perfect guys, they should not be expecting a perfectly-perfect-woman. The guys who do have the really high standards, but not the looks themselves to back up their fantastical tastes, are just assholes. You are best rid of them.
Try not to worry so much about it. And good luck.
posted by tamarack at 8:47 PM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

He who loves me, loves my leg stubble and un-waxed vag.
posted by tristeza at 8:56 PM on March 16, 2009 [14 favorites]

I've always told girlfriends I like smooth legs & pits, don't mind a bit of stubble (heck, sometimes I skip shaving on the weekends), and going au naturelle hippychick can be sexy too - it's only "I couldn't be bothered to reduce my heavy stubble for you" that is a turn-off.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:57 PM on March 16, 2009

Are women expected to be silky-smooth every day? Is leg stubble horribly mortifying? Do men run away screaming when they find unsightly patches? (Well, probably not.)

Run? And pass up the opportunity to engage in loving teasing of my ladyfriend? "Its like sandpaper. I think I have to go to the emergency room."

Seriously, we are generally incredibly forgiving of that kind of stuff. There's always douchecastles who are weird on this stuff, but in general we're just regular people.

We like you for who you are.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:01 PM on March 16, 2009

I do prefer smooth ladyfriends, but I don't exactly care when they're inevitably non-omigod-perfectly-hairless from time to time, either.

I can see how that might be important on a first date or very early in a relationship, but once you get comfortable with someone, you can't possibly maintain some kind of barbie-doll illusion indefinitely. And I doubt anyone expects that.

About the time you don't mind the morning breath, you should stop worrying about the stubble.
posted by rokusan at 9:01 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

There is something about the new-ness of a relationship, where you try to be perfect, and try to make sure every brow hair is perfect, every Brasilian wax is on time, and eyeshadow stays in place overnight. And he does the same thing, in his own manly way. It's a great time, it's giddy, and happy and shiny and new.

Then, you move to the more comfortable part... and it is still wonderful. This may take three days, three months or three years. These times are just as giddy and happy, but they are more comfortable, in my opinion.

Just go with it. Don't worry. If you are comfortable with it, he should be, too.
posted by kellyblah at 9:06 PM on March 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

It depends on the guy. It really, really depends on the guy. They run the gamut from fairly indifferent to a grudging acceptance to flat-out demands for the painted lady. Some men care about makeup and nothing else. Some men go wild for well-groomed locks but could not give a dang if your legs have not been shaved in a week.

I can't deal with body hair. There, I've said it. Go on, guilt trip me. I lose another twenty feminism points. I don't care about makeup, or pushup bras, or hairspray, or fancy clothes (as long as you wash them), but damned if I can deal with leghair and armpit hair. Yeah, I know it comes with the package.

My hideous facial fur is also part of the package, and nobody wants to see that. Unless there are women out there who are particularly turned on by the kind of beard that suggests being a high-ranking suspect on the FBI's most wanted for some kind of ghastly serial crimes in a trailer park (ladies looking for inbred-lookin' banjo-pickin' love, call me!), I buck up and do my part. That means dragging a razor across my face, plucking any errant hairs, and making sure I do not get the Mentat eyebrow thing. Yes, I will get out the clippers and eliminate any hair that looks like it might soon qualify as a tuft.

I'm the guy who creeps out of bed at 5 a.m. so I can shower, shave, brush my teeth, and generally look nice by the time my bedmate wakes up, so I am putting forth at least as time as I ask for. Which, in a roundabout way, is my point: date someone who puts in as much effort as you do.

Looking good for each other is an additional impetus to keeping fit, having your teeth cleaned, getting that odd mole checked out, and otherwise not treating our bodies like cruddy station wagons; just don't turn it into a neurosis.
posted by adipocere at 9:08 PM on March 16, 2009 [6 favorites]

Smooth skin is considered sexy by an overwhelming majority of men and women nowadays. So is going through the effort of looking your best, whether it is working out at the gym, getting a haircut, or subjecting yourself to painful waxes. Hearing comments like "Wow, you did this for me?" from my pleased boyfriend (I gladly let him think that) feels very rewarding to me, but not nearly as much as knowing that he is turned on by my dedication to be the best me I could be, physically and otherwise.

Having said that, let me note that we are mammals. We are hairy, and there is nothing wrong with that. Nobody could possibly look their best every single day--that sort of perfection exists only in the movies. Your comment about feeling feel uncomfortable on "in-between days" with even long-term partners strikes me as odd, however. As long as your, eh, neglect doesn't cause physical discomfort (prickly regrowth after shaving certainly falls in that category, in my book), nobody will notice, and even if they do, nobody really cares all that much. If you are doing everything else right, hair should be the last thing on anyone's mind. In bed.
posted by halogen at 9:08 PM on March 16, 2009

The only thing that bothers me is getting whisker-burn from a girl. I don't really see how it's any different from how women feel about a dude's facial hair. Some like clean-shaven guys, some like a mustache, or a beard or that five'o'clock shadow. If it's a first date you try to look your best of course, but if you're seeing the person often, they should expect in-between days. Not really a big deal, and if it is, then that person needs to meet more real women and read less nudie magazines. Besides, haven't you heard? Bush is back [most definitely NSFW].
posted by runcibleshaw at 9:10 PM on March 16, 2009

Ahaha. I just re-read your post, and I assumed you were also talking about pubic hair even though you never explicitly mention it. So, uh, sorry about that last link.
posted by runcibleshaw at 9:13 PM on March 16, 2009

What's normal? What's expected?

On special occasions, going out fancy, a special effort is important and significant. And the memory of that sticks with most folks. What that means in terms of physical, er, smoothness, varies.

There are certainly men that have unrealistic expectations, and at some extreme, well run.

Having someone to hang with on a sunday morning in comfortable but tattered sweats when neither is worrying over details of stubble or whatever, well, that can be just perfect.
posted by sammyo at 9:19 PM on March 16, 2009

It's cultural, too. In much of the Balkans down to Turkey, female body hair is considered pretty abhorrent and its existence on a woman would cast doubts on her cleanliness, class and reputation. This has been true for centuries. I have very fine hair and could get away without shaving my legs for many weeks, but I still shave every day and I'm comfortable with that. But not everybody has the same upbringing as me, and you should just do what you're comfortable with.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:21 PM on March 16, 2009

I'm lazy. He gets what he's given. Usually with bonus jokes thrown in.
posted by sarahw at 9:33 PM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

I don't have a problem with hairy women, be it pits, legs or ladybits. Then again, I don't self identify as a hippie, but if you looked at me, you'd say, "Damn, that guy's a hippie." So take that with however large a grain of salt that you will. Anyhow, my SO doesn't shave and I think it's pretty sexy actually, mainly because that's HER. It kinda goes along with being a little smelly and sweaty perhaps. That's what she looks and smells like naturally, so I find that incredibly attractive. But again, I might be a fringe case.
posted by friendlyjuan at 9:53 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hmmm. It seems some people here would be horrified to know that I went about a year without shaving anything (pits included). No guys ever made a bad comment (although some women had mean things to say about it) and I got hit on just as much or maybe more than ever.

I started shaving again when I had to look professional. But the moral of the story is that it doesn't matter a bit as long as you act confident and aren't apologetic about your body.
posted by speef at 10:30 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

He who loves me, loves my leg stubble and un-waxed vag.

Pretty much this. It may be an age thing or a hippie thing but when I met a guy I was interested in getting naked with, it was pretty clear that the hairy-or-not state of any of my parts was going to be

1. a non-issue at the time
2. a continuing non-issue

I feel fine with people having preferences anywhere along that spectrum but it's important to realize that it's a spectrum and for everyone who really has an issue with it, there will be as many people who are either okay with anything or actually like you just the way you are, however that is, because YOU like you. I've gotten ragged on by teenaged boys before for not having shaved legs but I've never, ever, gotten the least bit of weirdness from any partner about it. I think that partners like the idea that you've thought about them when getting ready to see them but whether that's "oh hey I put on that perfume you like" or "oh hey I waxed my ass for you" I don't think it matters.
posted by jessamyn at 11:04 PM on March 16, 2009

A common unspoken deal is that your body hair is ideally groomed how your partner likes it - as a special favour for them because you like them - and they likewise groom themselves as per your preference. And neither party is allowed to expect their partner to do them this favour, and shall be appreciative if their partner does, in fact, make that extra effort, and shall recognise that there will be always times when it's not going to happen, even when you are lucky enough to have a partner who makes the extra effort so often that it's normal.

So it depends on the partner. And how nice you are feeling.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:06 AM on March 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

While drunk at a party in uni I went around and asked all the guys how they preferred female pubic hair to be (i.e. how much of it), and the overwhelming majority said that they preferred hair, but that it be "trimmed". Sounds fair to me. I once was seeing a guy who didn't like it shaved down there at all because it might chafe his sensitive bits. (I know you're talking about leg hair, too, but it was worth mentioning).

I also dated another guy a long time ago who was anti-body hair to the point that he shaved his entire body from head to foot. He complained about me not being the same, and I ended up with the sort of mentality you're talking about (worrying about having any stubble or body hair) that I still have to kick myself about now and again. And that was too bad, because it was his body issue, not mine.

Any guy (or girl) who complains if you don't upkeep your body hair on a daily basis is, frankly, being a jerk. The good ones are the ones who don't even notice the difference.
posted by sinderile at 12:55 AM on March 17, 2009

Hair Down There can be somewhat offputting for oral play, so a little trimming at least will be much appreciated, with *cough* enthusiastic response. However, other than that it's entirely a non-issue.
posted by fearnothing at 1:33 AM on March 17, 2009

I stopped shaving at 18. I'm now 48. No problem finding fun, interesting boyfriends. My happy hairiness might weed out a few guys, but if they don't like fuzzy mammals, we won't have much in common.
posted by PatoPata at 6:26 AM on March 17, 2009

Nobody really cares if you shave or not. I think stubble is frowned upon more than furry legs and pits.

People might _say_ they care, but I assure you: they do not. I'm talking about puritan sensibilities, spoiled types even. They think it's a really huge deal and they would neeeever have sex with a girl with more than a landing strip--lets not even consider that some ladeez don't shave the pits or legs--but when it comes down to it, they have been mistrained by fashion magazines and their dicks can't get in line with this mode of thinking. Effort in your appearance does not correlate to amount of body hair--anyone who thinks that is wrong.

In summation: anyone who has issues with body hair has exactly that-- issues.
posted by shownomercy at 6:42 AM on March 17, 2009

The same thing applies in reverse: women have different preferences for smoothness, too. I am emphatically not a naturally smooth guy(anywhere, really), as much as my wife might wish otherwise. This isn't a deal breaker in the bedroom, but I have shaved my torso on a few occasions and been met with rather enthusiastic delight... until the stubble starts to come in, at least.
posted by owtytrof at 7:01 AM on March 17, 2009

rokusan sums up my thoughts exactly (and, if I may be so bold, the general thoughts of most of my dude friends).
posted by Simon Barclay at 8:00 AM on March 17, 2009

My rationale is that if a man wants to demand that I have perfectly smooth armpits and legs every day, he can have perfectly smooth pits and legs himself. Since most men don't do this, I don't feel that any of them have the right to demand it from me.

Lucky for me, my boyfriend is fine with this attitude. He does tease me when my legs get particularly coarse, but it's not like it grosses him out.

American women didn't start shaving their legs or pits (or anything at all) until the 20th century. I'm sure they were still naked when they had sex, and the men didn't run away in horror.
posted by fructose at 8:00 AM on March 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

There is a pretty ingrained opinion in the US towards not shaving -- my current body hair routine is leave it alone until it starts to bother me, then nair it all off. I've gotten a number of awkward/disapproving/disgusted looks for this, and I'm still not entirely comfortable in shorts or a bathing suit in public towards the long-hair part of the cycle for that reason. If you are a woman and you go past the stubble stage, people will tell you you need to shave, regardless of whether you think you do.

However, partners I've had really don't mind at all. Honestly. All the negative input I've received has been from friends or acquaintances.
posted by mismatched at 8:20 AM on March 17, 2009

i go through stages - i'll shave everyday for a month then i'll let it grow for 2 or 3. some boyfriends haven't liked this. most haven't cared. my current petit chou-chou actually requests that i don't shave from time to time. he finds the hair to be cute (he also likes it gone).

i've gotten way more negative comments from girls than from guys. it almost feels like girl on girl hate - like, "i have to shave all my parts so you do too!" sort of thing.

i prefer trimming the nether bits. i also prefer if my partner trims his. every set of partners feel differently about these things.
posted by nadawi at 8:55 AM on March 17, 2009

My boyfriend particularly likes to rub my legs when I haven't shaved for a while. This mortifies me, but he thinks it's funny.

In an ideal world, I would be permanently hairless wherever I prefer and it would be no work to get there (meaning no pain and no cost). This is not an ideal world and I am only human, so my boyfriend will have to deal with my hairy legs in the winter (shaving maybe every other week or when I can't get out of wearing a dress) and stubbly pits (though for my own sake, I take care of those every other day or so). I prefer to be tidy down there and smooth everywhere else, but it doesn't always happen.

I love being comfortable enough with someone that I don't need to worry about these things when they're just not at the top of my priority list.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:17 AM on March 17, 2009

What's normal?

To do what makes you comfortable. From your post you currently don't sound comfortable. Any potential SO who wants to start making demands in this area should find themselves someone else who has time for that crap.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:32 AM on March 17, 2009

I prefer change. It's nice to have her smooth, but then it's nice when it grows back again. Then it's nice when she's smooth again. You get the idea. She has seasons, too, and so do I.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 9:37 AM on March 17, 2009

"Hair Down There can be somewhat offputting for oral play"

Really? I consider it a delightful invitation to explore and get lost.

But as others have said, it's a subjective thing. A "figure out what you and your partner are into" kind of thing. So talk about it, and if his (or her) demands are off-putting, you might have to go looking for another one.
posted by bardic at 10:00 AM on March 17, 2009

I'm old enough to have experienced both hair and hair free sex.

It's not even close- sex is better without the hair. It's much better if both partners are shaven below the equator.
posted by Zambrano at 10:27 AM on March 17, 2009

I don't particularly like it in her pits or on her legs. Trimmed up in her pubic region is good, too, but bald smooth isn't necessary. There's no need for it to be "date"-quality all the time, but long enough that it gets past stubble is too long a maintenance interval.

Me? I'm a guy. We're hairy. We're supposed to be. That's not to say that certain things might not be up for negotiation, but pits, arms, legs, and chest aren't some of them. It's a double standard. Sorry about your feminism.
posted by _Skull_ at 10:37 AM on March 17, 2009

Sorry about your feminism.


Having body hair has nothing to do with feminism. Being able to decide for yourself what you will adapt to fit your cultures beauty standards--now that's the stuff.

So in general guys prefer smooth legs. Most guys aren't fanatic about it, some don't care, and a few prefer hairiness. Nobody's perfect, so don't worry about that, but if it makes you feel sexy and desirable to shave em, go for it. If it feels oppressive and annoying, don't. If it's a deal-breaker for some guy, tough cookies for him, it's your choice. Doesn't make him evil to have preferences, though...I'm sure you have your own.

Also your question is unclear about which if not all parts you're talking about: the order of preference for lack of hair is as follows:

Hooha: Sure, but some hair is good too.
Legs: Usually, at least until a few months of dating
Pits: Please yes, tho there was that one german exchange student who totally pulled it off
Nipple: Whoa, you get hair there? Whoa.
Face: Always, sorry.

posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:09 AM on March 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

My gf and I are utterly hairless from the neck down. We both use my shaver (although razors are more convenient in some areas for both of us).
posted by coolguymichael at 11:58 AM on March 17, 2009

Women are "supposed to be" hairy too, what with being the same species and all. This whole hairless thing is a recently made-up notion, geographically and culturally limited. Expressing an aesthetic preference one way or the other is fine, particularly if you're willing to accept similar judgements on yourself, but making sweeping pronouncements about how women and men ought to be merely makes you a jackass. (In cases such as these, OP, having body hair is a lovely screening device. You don't want to date this kind of guy.)

Anyway, for the OP, I had just as much angst as you initially when skin problems prevented me from conforming. As it turns out, it had zero negative effect on falling in love and getting married to an excellent guy. ;) (Unfortunately, my internalized fear of social censure, mostly from other women, has kept me from showing my legs--without opaque tights--or underarms in public, even when it's very hot outside and this is extremely uncomfortable. Sigh.)
posted by wintersweet at 2:37 PM on March 17, 2009

this isn't to do with the main question, but is just in response to the implied stubble complaint. i hate shaving and always use alternative hair removal techniques - have you tried removal creams, waxing or an epilator? i don't get ingrowns or stubble with those, and my hair has actually grown out a little thinner over the years as a result. worth a try i think!
posted by skaye at 9:44 PM on March 17, 2009

Response by poster: Mefi is so sweet! Thanks for all the answers you guys :)

skaye, I seem to get really annoying ingrown hairs on my legs regardless of whether I wax, shave, or epilate (and using creams just takes forever with the dark hair I have). But, I did go in for a laser treatment some weeks ago - so keeping maintenance with an epilator should be better now that there's going to be less to pull out. My question wasn't so much one for advice on removal, as anecdotes and feelings on running into stubble or hair.

Thanks again, though!
posted by Bakuun at 7:38 AM on March 18, 2009

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