This is what removing all of my pubic hair actually felt like—and why I've decided to never, ever do it again.
In Amanda de Cadenet's new book, It's Messy ($27, amazon.com), the host of the celebrity interview series The Conversation writes candidly about her own life story, from her days as a teenage talk show host to becoming a mom at 19 to her high-profile marriage—and divorce, by the time she was 26. In this excerpt, she gets real about about an especially intimate subject: her pubic hair.
If you’re like me, you probably know the details of your girlfriends’ below-the-belt grooming habits, whether playboy or playkini, Brazilian or landing strip or 70s bush. But the trend I’ve noticed on my outings to the all-female, all-naked Korean spa I frequent?
Bald hair. No hair. Totally gone.
I don’t know if you’ve ever taken off the whole lot. I did it once, just for the hell of it. It was brutal. (Never get a wax when you are about to get your period—it’s that much more excruciating.) I screamed and cursed so loudly that the beautician asked me to be quiet or she’d leave me with a half-waxed vagina. After my shearing was complete, I reached down to touch my newly hairless vagina and felt remnants of sticky wax on my labia. In fact, as I awkwardly felt around, I realized that my labia were stuck together.
“Excuse me, miss,” I said, “um, my labia are sealed shut. There seems to be some wax that you left down there. How do I get this off?”
“Oh, don’t worry. Let me put some oil on you and that wax will come right off,” she said, reaching for the baby oil.
“Actually, I’m not entirely comfortable with you rubbing my genitalia. Give me the oil and I’ll do it. Myself.” I think I was partly horrified, and partly worried it would feel inappropriately good. I also debated whether to tell my husband about this (like the time the foxy masseur started rubbing my boobs with massage oil whilst I was asleep on the massage table).
I’m not sure which option offered less dignity—having her oil me up or lying on the table and doing it myself while she cleaned up the wax strips now covered with the hairs, that for so many years, had covered my mons. I don’t mind having someone inspect every inch of my vagina at a gynecological exam, but to go through that for vaginal vanity? Not so much.
Removing all of my pubic hair revealed some big surprises. The first one being that I have stretch marks. Big silver lines, snaking their way from one side of my pubis to the other. They look like a dry riverbed seen from space, winding across a once fertile land.
Why do so many women choose to go bald, to go through this ordeal regularly? Why do so many men encourage us to? In my humble opinion, it’s simple: Porn culture has woven itself into the very fabric of our bedsheets.
Boys and girls as young as nine years old are googling the terms "porn" and "for free"; in fact, free internet porn is often their first exposure to sex—it’s serving as most kids’ sex ed these days. It’s no longer parents, siblings, friends, schools (or books of Greek mythology) that are teaching kids about sex, but the distorted lens of pornography. Porn culture is influencing our most private life experiences in an unprecedented way.
* * * * *
It’s sunny outside. It’s always sunny in Los Angeles. I reach for my shades as I get into my car and drive down Ventura Boulevard, which is lined with billboards advertising strip clubs, escorts, places to meet a sexy local—all showing me ladies with barely any clothes on and the promise of a good time, and I’m sure, hairless vaginas.
I've joined the club, I think as I drive home. I’ve got the bald eagle! Except I wish it weren’t so sore. I’m sweating now, and the sensitive just-waxed skin on my vagina is stinging like mad. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. I just want to scratch it. What if someone sees me furiously scratching my vagina in my car? Not a good look.
I spend the next few weeks trying not to itch myself incessantly at inopportune moments as the regrowth emerges. As my pubes come back to life and my vagina starts to look like that of a grown woman, and not a plucked chicken with a bad rash, I tell myself, Remember this the next time you feel like your vagina needs to meet the social norm. It is YOUR vagina and you should do with it as you please. No matter what anyone else says.
If having a bald vagina makes you happy, then I say go for it—but make sure you are doing it for YOU, not because porn culture or anyone else tells you to.
Reprinted from It’s Messy by Amanda de Cadenet (Harper Wave 2017)