I was in the shower, singing along to a song by some boy-band, when I noticed it—I was sprouting hair down there.
“Mom!” I yelled in a panic. When she didn’t come immediately, I called again, “Mom!”
“What is it?” She ran into the bathroom with urgency, leaving the door ajar. Steam escaped into the hallway.
“Look,” I said and pointed. “What’s happening to me? What do I do?”
She surveyed my worried eyes, and then smiled, “You just have to shave it. That’s all.”
You see, I was around 12 years old, and I had never seen pubic hair before. I had seen my mother naked, and she was always that—shaved. I hadn’t even known pubic hair existed.
Naturally, I listened. It was mother’s advice, and it didn’t seem so foreign—I had been shaving my legs for over a year at that point. So, I shaved every other day for the next six years—my legs, my vagina, and eventually my armpits when hair showed up as well.
It wasn’t just me either. During high school I observed various friends and their relationship with body hair and shaving—a quick swipe along the bikini line before heading to the beach, or wearing jeans in Florida’s summer heat, because of laziness or not having time to shave one’s legs.
We girls rejected spontaneity and the freedom of summer, by running to the bathroom to shave before throwing on shorts and heading out for adventure, sunsets and friends. We made ourselves physically uncomfortable—sweating in skinny jeans, due to the risk of someone noticing our unshaven legs. All of this because of hair. Hair!
It clicked for me eventually—hey, I don’t have to do this.
So I stopped.
Three years have passed since I made the decision to let my hair grow freely—everywhere. This is how I feel the most comfortable within my body now, and it is very interesting to many people.
“Will you ever shave again?” they ask.
The answer is—maybe. I don’t have some grand aversion to it. I might want to have smooth, hairless legs again someday. Who knows?
I am now aware that shaving is an option. Unfortunately, many blossoming girls aren’t.
With so many people in modern society leaning toward hairlessness—an open line of communication, in regards to this topic, is crucial in order to aid in creating a well-rounded healthy body image.
Some of us may not be sure how to convey this information to our young daughters, so here are some simple starting points we can use, to help open up the conversation:
1. Body hair is not something to be ashamed of. It is not a burden. It is a natural aspect of the human form.
2. You are not defined by your body. Whether you have or don’t have hair on various parts of your body says nothing about the greatness you possess.
3. Your family and friends don’t have to live in your body. Therefore, they don’t have a say in how you keep it. If you don’t want to shave, then don’t shave. If you want to, then you should. You also have the power to change your mind on the matter whenever you want.
4. Shaving is optional. It always has been, and always will be, a personal preference.
In this update I aim to address the controversy sparked by my original article; or rather, that the word vagina did. You see, the area I was technically referring to is scientifically known as the mons pubis. However, I can’t recall a time in which I’ve heard mons pubis used in casual conversation about the female nether regions.
So, what’s all the hoopla about?
There was the concern that my attempt to empower women could have conversely led to a mass of misinformed women, and therefore achieved the opposite of its intent. It is important to keep in mind that the article was not anatomy based; it was aimed at tackling the body image, stigma and aptitude issues that plague our youth. If lines become blurred regarding the intent of a message, sometimes no message is received at all. We must pick and choose our battles, hence my wording.
But alas, many have become distressed at the thought that the general population of women is unable to properly identify the different parts of the pubic area, and although I will continue to broadly use the term vagina in describing that part of the body (a type of generalization we do in many other aspects of life as well), I do find precedence in being familiar with and understanding basic anatomy and how the body works.
So, let’s talk about the vagina.
Starting at the top, where pubic hair is most abundant – this is called mons pubis; when you shave your “vagina” you are actually shaving the mons pubis. Below the mons pubis is the little button that is known as the clitoris. All hail the clitoris. This is one of the most sensitive parts of that part of the body, and its sole purpose is pleasure. The bigger lips that you can see clearly are the labia majora and the folds within them are labia minora. Within these smaller lips lie the urethral opening (through which urine extricates) and the vaginal opening.
Here is a diagram to help bring all of that information together:
So, now that we all understand fundamental anatomy, let’s get back to the issue at hand…
Shave your vagina. Or don’t. The choice is yours.
Author: Jenna Meyer
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina