My first memory of pubic hair is being at the beach with my aunt as a kid and seeing little dark hairs poking out from her bikini line. I didn't know what they were; I just knew that I had never seen them before. I don't remember being embarrassed — only keenly aware that I'd viewed something ... adult. Sexy, even.
But as I grew up, society taught me otherwise. As a late bloomer, I was just happy to finally grow pubic hair in the first place. But I didn't want to be the weird one who kept hers intact. So I shaved my bikini line, and when I got to college, I often waxed. As a freshman, I once got a sadistic "full-body wax" before my long-distance boyfriend came to visit me, thinking it would make me sexier. It was the most painful hour of my life, but by the end, I was like a red-skinned, hairless cat — the hair on my arms, legs, face, nipples, neck, and even those little blonde hairs on the small of my back, were gone. My vulva, of course, was also bald. In the end, my boyfriend seemed more befuddled than turned on by my new appearance — and I felt raw as hell, and kind of stupid.
It wasn't until I got into my mid-20s that I started internalizing the fact that I didn't actually have to shave anything. Once I'd had more than a few boyfriends, I realized that I didn't need to undergo any form of expensive or itchy torture just to be considered attractive. In fact, the type of guy I liked — feminist, sexually open, not porn-obsessed — seemed to dig my bush.
While I still sometimes shave my bikini line when I'm in a swimsuit, my default is now decidedly full bush. And I'm not going back. Here's why.
1. Evolution Gave You Pubes For A Reason
It's important to know why pubic hair is there the first place. Vaginas are made of mucus membrane, a type of skin that is more delicate than that on the rest of your body. Your pubes are there to cushion and protect your vagina from everything the world throws at it — dicks, other vaginas, sex toys, bacteria, viruses, you name it. Pubic hair helps ensure that your vaginal folds don’t stick together, which can result in rash and infection. It also protects your vagina from friction during sexual activity. As if that all weren't enough, the hair also acts as a natural barrier, preventing potentially harmful bacteria from entering your pussy.
As Bustle's sexual health columnist Emma Kaywin put it, "The hair covering your vaginal region is there to cushion these tender parts from the rough and tumble of the outside world. Think of it as a homegrown moat working to protect your special castle."
2. You'll Be Less Likely To Contract An STD
Keeping you pubic hair gives you additional protection from STDs spread through skin-to-skin contact. Every time you shave and wax, you create microscopic tears in your skin, which viruses can enter (and they're there, even if you can't see them). Opting out of hair removal prevents these tears from developing. As Kaywin explains, if you don't remove your pubic hair, you're less likely to contract "genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), HIV (which isn’t transmitted skin-to-skin, but can be transmitted through microscopic skin tears), and molluscum contagiosum, a skin virus thought to be increasingly prevalent specifically because of the bikini waxing trend."
I can testify to this. My ex had molluscum contagiosum at one point, and though we were having unprotected sex before we found out he had it, I never caught it. This may have been because I'd gotten the HPV vaccine, but it likely also helped that I had a full bush, without any microscopic tears in my skin for the virus to enter through.
3. ... Or Other Types Of Infections
In addition to STDs, you're also more likely to contract cellulitis and staph infections when you remove your pubes. Those tiny tears from waxing and shaving are always there, whether you even see them or not, and the hair removal process itself can lead to infections.
4. You Won't Have To Deal With Razor Burn
It wasn't until I stopped shaving that I realized I actually looked and felt a lot better with hair. Sure, I had been getting rid of the supposedly-ugly hair along my bikini line, but I was replacing it with little pink bumps, which in retrospect, weren't very sexy or comfortable.
5. ... Or Ingrown Hairs, Folliculitis, And Itchiness
And then there's the itchiness. Growing back your pubes has got to be one of the most uncomfortable things there is. Even if you don't end up with an infection, there's no way around the awkward feeling of having stubble on your nether-lips.
6. It Protects Your Vagina From Getting Irritated By Sex
Remember point #1? That natural cushion is your friend when it comes to all that bumpin' and grinding. Because your pussy is way less likely to get irritated during sex with a full bush protecting it, you can go longer and harder without ending up quite so raw at the end.
7. You'll Be Less Likely To Get Bacterial Vaginosis Or A UTI
Beyond just making sex feel better, pubic hair also helps protect you from getting bacterial vaginosis or a UTI, by working as a net that catches the bacteria that flies around during sex. I know that since I stopped waxing, I get fewer infections.
8. It's A Good Litmus Test For Whether You're Sleeping With A Douchebag
You know how they say if you go to someone's house and they don't have books, don't fuck them? Well, if you show someone your pussy, and they give you any shit about having a full bush or pubic hair at all, don't fuck them. Seriously. It's a sign they've probably watched too much porn, don't know enough about feminism or body positivity, and may or may not have a fear of grown-ass women with mature bodies.
I've never had someone reject me for having a full bush, but I can say the one partner I had who vocalized that he "preferred" less pubic hair also happened to be the most unskilled in bed, and said he "just wasn't that into going down on women." The guys who dug my bush, on the other hand, tended to be the best at giving head. Coincidence? I think not. If you love pussy, you're not afraid of pubic hair, or women looking like grown-ass women.
9. You Can Use It To Your Advantage During Sex
Fun sex hack: if you have a full bush, you can grab it during sex with your hand in order to pull back the hood of your clit and expose your pleasure button for even more stimulation. Particularly if you have a hooded clitoris, doing this during sex can make a huge difference — you could use your other hand to rub your clit, a vibrator, your partner's hand ... the possibilities are endless.
10. You'll Spend Less Money
All that waxing and shaving over a lifetime is expensive. On top of that, the "female" razors have an unspoken "pink tax" — meaning women have to pay more for them than for the "male" versions of the same product. On average, women spend $1,351 a year in extra costs due to the pink tax. We already also spend a ton of money on menstrual hygiene and all the other cosmetic upkeep taxes society puts on women, so why not eliminate this one?
11. It Might Make You Be Feel More Body Positive And Womanly
For me, going full bush has made me feel like more of a "natural woman," as Aretha calls it. When I look at myself in the mirror, I feel less like a girl, and more like a classic painting. I've come to find the hair sexy, rather than something to "manage" or rid myself of.
In fact, that's the reason I probably will keep shaving the bare minimum of my bikini line when I wear a swimsuit (or opt for boy shorts). I feel like my pubes are very intimate and sexy, and that you should have to earn seeing them. That feeling isn't based in shame now — it's based in pride.
12. It Is A Feminist Statement — If You Want It To Be
Look, while the full bush is definitely making a comeback, we still live in a society that for the most part shames women for existing in our natural state. We're told we have to alter the way our bodies look, smell, and even taste — often for the benefit of the male gaze and the reinforcement of porn culture's beauty standards. Opting to forego pubic grooming in favor of you health, your sex life, and your pocketbook can indeed be a feminist act. That is, as with all potentially feminist acts, if you want it to be.
I shave my legs and armpits (well, usually, that is), because I like the way it feels, and because it doesn't open me up to many health risks. I'm opting in to one beauty standard, but the point is, it's my choice, rather than something I feel obligated to do. For a while, getting rid of my pubes felt like a fun choice, too. And then, it just felt like a painful obligation. It was powerful to realize I could just opt out. Turns out, I'm still sexy.
Want more women's health coverage? Check out Bustle's new podcast, Honestly Though, which tackles all the questions you're afraid to ask.
Images: Bustle; Giphy; QuickMeme