How To Talk About Grooming With Your Partner

We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions will remain anonymous. Now, onto this week’s topic: how to have a conversation with your partner about your pubic hair.

Q: “I read your article on trying to figure out if you should shave your pubic hair if your partner wants you to. I found it helpful, but since my boyfriend has also brought this up, I was hoping you could give me some tips to help navigate a conversation around this. I prefer not to shave at all, but he says it's ‘nice when it's trimmed and shaped.’ He's never asked me directly to get rid of it but I know that's his preference, and I feel weird rocking a full bush anyway knowing that, since, like, I sometimes ask him to cut his actual hair or not wear this ugly pair of pants. How can we talk about this and see if it's really a thing for him without my freaking out or getting all defensive or him ending up an asshole in my eyes?”

A: Thanks for the question! It was fascinating to me to see what a big response the last article on pubic hair got! Apparently there are a whole lot of you out there who aren’t sure what to do with your pubic hair. If you haven’t already, I recommend checking out that article first, since it gives you a more general overview of how to make your decision. Here, I’ll share six tips for having a pubic hair chat with your partner.

Figure Out How You Feel

The most important step in all of this is figuring out if this is something you actually want to compromise on or not. There’s no point in opening up a big conversation if this is a hard boundary for you. You said you prefer to not shave at all; why is that? Is it a convenience issue? Is it a feminist issue? A health issue? Is your pubic hair important to you?

I want to offer up two guidelines to think about: First, if you’re going to ask your partner to make changes in their appearance, you should probably be open to making changes in yours. You mentioned that you’ve asked your boyfriend to change his hair and his clothing. Like I mentioned in my last piece, pubic hair can be more of a political topic than pants, but it’s still a good rule of thumb to think about. Second, I want to encourage you to recognize that your partner may have a slight preference for a more trimmed look, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t think a full bush is sexy. This isn’t an either-or type of situation — just like you might prefer seeing him with a bit of five-o’clock-shadow scruff, but still find him hot when he’s clean-shaven. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you need to change your appearance because it’s the only way your boyfriend will find you attractive.

Communicate Your Boundaries To Your Partner

If you realize that you don’t want to make any changes to your pubic hair, let your partner know. You can say something like, “so, I took your request seriously, and I thought about it, but I realized that I’m actually really attached to my pubic hair, so I don’t want to make any changes. I just wanted to let you know.” If you want, communicate your reasons to your partner, so he understands your reasoning. Maybe it will even open up an interesting debate about pubic hair politics!

Get Clarity

You mentioned that your boyfriend has brought up the topic of pubic hair a few times, but has never outright asked you to make a change. I would highly recommend directly asking him if he’d like you to switch up your pubic hair situation. If you're not sure whether or not you'd be willing to groom, say something like, “I know we’ve talked about pubic hair before, and you’ve mentioned that you like the way things look trimmed. Do you actually want me to trim my hair? I’m not sure how I feel about it yet, but I wanted to ask."

It’s likely that your boyfriend was trying to drop a few hints, but you never know. You might be feeling all this angst for nothing! This gives you the chance to make sure you actually heard him correctly, and offers him the opportunity to say what he wants. You also make it clear that if you end up trimming, it’s something special you’re doing for him.

Navigate The "Maybe"

So now let’s consider the trickier situation — what to do if you’re not sure of whether or not you want to try a new pubic hairstyle. If you’re not positive about making a change, you can say something along the lines of, “I’m not sure if I actually want to go through with it, because of [share your particular reasons why]. But I’m willing to hear you out. What were you thinking? Why do you like it? Why would you want me to try it?”

Your partner’s reasoning may sway your decision one way or another. For example, he might say something about being able to see your labia more clearly when he goes down on you. That might help you feel more excited about the possibility of trying something new. Or he might not have a particular reasoning. Maybe he just says something simple like, “I just like it a little bit better, but it’s not a big deal.” If it doesn’t seem like he cares all that much either way, you may feel more comfortable keeping things as-is.

Educate Them

Here’s another possibility that might arise out of asking your partner to share their reasoning for wanting you to change your pubic hair — he might give an offensive reason. Your partner might say something like, “I’m just used to seeing it that way in porn,” or, “it’s weird when women don’t shave or wax.” From your question, it sounds like you’re worried about the possibility of him giving you a bone-headed response. If your partner is generally a nice guy, try to give him the benefit of the doubt and give him a bit of education about pubic hair politics. Talk to him about the fact that porn sex isn’t real sex. Share your experiences of being socialized to believe that your genitals are “weird,” “gross,” or “icky.” You can even try cutting him off at the pass, and opening up your conversations with these types of conversations.

Consider A Temporary Trade

I hear what you’re saying about not wanting to blow this too out of proportion. It really depends on your personal relationship with your pubic hair. If it’s not that serious for you, and you want to make this conversation feel a little more playful, try bartering with your partner about your pubic hair status! Tell him you’ll try a pubic hair makeover if he tries out a haircut makeover. Or that you’ll get a wax if he gives you oral whenever you want it, for a whole month.

The bottom line? Don't do anything with your body you fundamentally don't want to do — but don't feel bad about being open to a temporary compromise, either. It can always grow back!

Images: Bustle; Giphy