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Image by Karen Okpoti, IG @Kazxart

Chidera Eggerue has shed light on the controversy of shaving with the “#BringTheBushBack” hashtag. She asked why pubic hair became so controversial. A few months back on Azealia Banks’ Instagram story, she talked about her Pussy pop soaps and there was something quite striking that she jokingly pointed out about shaving. This triggered a thought a lot of women may have at the back of their mind’s, “why is my bush the problem!”.

The views black women have (or lack of) on shaving habits serves as food for thought. To summarise Azealia’s views, “lotioning your genitals and regularly oiling” after hair removal “while you’re young is important”. She provides this care with her soap bars e.g “Wallace’s Moisturizing Success Soap” that she sells through her skincare line CheapyXO. It is a covert struggle for black girls to shave and not have a spec of ingrown hairs and dark marks, due to being born with “4c Pussy hairs that grows in and on top of itself”. ‘4C pussy hair’, is a hair type/ curl pattern some black girls have, that also grows in the same form on the mons pubis (bit of black science for you there).

I was today years old when I began considering laser hair removal; this coming from a black woman that’s tried it all and settled for shaving with a hair trimmer. Despite the millennial white woman who may not seem fussed about body hair. A laissez-faire attitude has not grown popular amongst black women. Only the likes of Amanda Stenberg and Chidera publicly stand againt the armpit razor. There has always been pressure from the beauty industry’s standards. From advertising campaigns — “the market spends 600 million” to create new and improved products that will temporarily remove hair, we’re told we don’t want. Roshida Khanom continues in a hair removal market report “Goaded by the pink plastic shaving-industrial complex into spending your money and your time maintaining a key feminine ideal”. The NPD will encourage people to trade up to more expensive hair removal methods.

Pampering is time-consuming and the upkeep is costly. It will continue to be a ever growing business in the beauty industry simply because hair grows back. Melissa’s warbrobe celebrity stylist and influencer spoke about her hair removal journey on her Instagram story. She promoted a particular clinic she had gone too and explained her experience quite simply, from pain tolerance to positive results. We are more inclined to trust the information given to us by influencers, as they test most things they promote. As a black female influencer that always receives positive feedback from products she has promoted, she has socially engaged other black women with an expensive but safe and effective way to remove hair.

“I literally only shave when I’m seeing my babe otherwise I don’t care”, said 24 year old Make-up artist, who hosts beauty workshops when she’s not writing. “I purposely don’t shave to cock block myself” she says. To which I responded “this is me also omg”. Media likes to make us believe that men aren’t attracted to naturally hairy women. More time if you’ve been dating for a while men usually get to a point where they no longer care.

22 year old Graphic Designer told me about a sex-perience she had a couple years back in university in halls. Rushing because she had no track of time “one night I was shaving with shaving cream only to later realise she missed a spot” she shaved as part of usual sexual routine, and her boyfriend had intended to go down on her. “All you could smell was hair removal cream”. Embarrassing as it sounds, “waxing has become a priority and is my preference for longer lasting results”.

Men are never even judged for not shaving, but women are constantly bashed when we’re not trying to please men. To be clear the pressures we put on ourselves with regards to the various ways of hair removal, has been passed down to us from an earlier time. Advertisers have helped convince women of their faux pas. Razors have been promoted to women since 1915 as a must have accessory, just like lipstick. Historian Rebecca Herzig addresses these questions about hair removal in her book Plucked. The twentieth century was a time hair-free limbs were expected for women. Turns out “visible hair growth particularly on young white women was perceived as a sign of political extremism, sexual deviance or mental illness”. You can already imagine the narratives created when it came to black women. By 2000 Americans were removing hair using all methods possible to achieve smoother skin. Marlene Komar in a Bustle article states, the first advert that drafted the new rules, that would change femininity forever was in a Harpers Bazaar magazine. Redefining what it meant to be a “proper woman polite in society”.

“Why are black women expected to be as smooth as a dolphin?, I don’t like to shave but I like my partner to shave”, says 23 year old Artist. She definitely doesn’t succumb to society’s beauty standards. The upkeep is costly, “it’s impossible to always be prepared and perfect when it’s about to go down”. Why should shaving be prioritised in her life schedule and not his, “do you want me to floss with your pubes?”.

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In this moment honest communication is key beforehand. From personal experience I’ve been perfectly ok with my ‘fwb’ at the time, telling me how he likes it. As long as it goes both ways. Some men expect so much but are not, giving the same energy in cleanliness they want to receive. Healthy sex in both parties cannot be compromised. If there’s no talking there will be disappointments.

“Does lust overshadow mens true feelings about unshaved puss?” — 23 year old singer thought deeply about this one. Similar to how they “don’t care” about unprotected sex, until after and then have that deeply regretful feeling lurking over them. “I once had a partner that enjoyed recieving oral, only trimmed his pubes when asked and had the nerve to critique my two day stubble”, a 22 year old writer recalled. She stated to have not shaved for a month, and he further complained to not being able “to find my clit because he couldn’t see past my pubes… We never slept together again”.

Is it our men that apply pressure before pleasing? This debate dragged on until we started talking about colourism. The idea that some black men that choose to date outside their race, do so because they feel certain races have delicate features, and believe they won’t have to deal with us (black women) and our ‘over sexualised, angry’ stereotype. There is definitely a preference of presentation, and the men of black twitter are not afraid to tell you what it is. It took me a really long time to master the perfect shave without having to fight ingrown hairs and buy special oils for dark marks. Which most white women have the luxury of being catered to in the beauty industry, due to the plethora of products available to them (their skin/ hair type) that are easily accessible. Whereas black women have to find products in specialist stores, mostly with big price tags. Black women have to go the extra length to be socially accepted.

The most sex positive person I know, is the number 1 advocate for staying fresh before and after. “I love to dress up and make the night super special for whoever I’m dating” 23 year old Dancer described passionately. She comes with an “I’m going to please you, no matter if you deserve it or not” energy. Shaving for her allows for both parties to win in that moment, and she never wants to make them feel uncomfortable. She has mastered all preparation tricks in the bedroom. Her only tip is to shower!!!!!!! Take care of yourself! Whether you choose to shave or not.

This isn’t a full consensus, however the majority of opinions show black women are inclined to shave, if it’s been expressed that it’s a preference. As much as society will instil images of beauty in our minds, shaving and the removal of body hair is not a priority for a lot of black women, nor is it everyone’s preference. It’s all about how comfortable you are in your skin, your body, and your sex life.

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