By Dairanys Grullon-Virgil*
While reading Paulo Coelho’s novel Aleph over the semester break, a passage jumped out to me. Coelho, the main character, sees Hilda, his love interest, naked and notices her shaved genitals: “When I met her in her past life, when I first saw her naked she had pubic hair. Today the woman in front of me has shaved all of it, something that I think is abominable, like if all man are looking for a infant to have sex with. I ask her to never do that again.”
What? He is actually fine with her having pubic hair and begging her not to shave it all ever again?! That is certainly not the message I’ve gotten as a young woman. Then thinking about it he makes a very important point. Pubic hair on a woman or a man is the symbol of becoming, growing, age. However, thanks to the media and social norms, we often feel repulsed or embarrassed by having pubic hair. Especially for women, we are constantly targeted with messages on how our vagina should look when we wearing a bikini or before having sex. I am not saying that all women feel this way, but many of us have felt that that way including myself.
For instance, there’s that moment in the Sex and the City movie when Samantha expresses shock and disgust over Miranda’s visible bush. Miranda, currently separated from her cheating husband, feels like Samantha is blaming her for letting the sex die out in her marriage, simply because she skipped a couple of waxing appointments.
Going deeper into the removal of pubic hair I encountered an article in the Hufftington Post in the women section about the “war on pubic hair” and negative side of removing it by Emily Gibson a family physician. According to Gibson in this HuffPo article, the hair removal market was estimated to be worth $2.1 billion in the United States in 2011 and teenagers are becoming a main market for the waxing industry.
The fact of the existence of market that is constantly increasing in respect to profit and customers make me realize how businesses keep penetrating people and comodifying their existence. Something as simple as pubic hair is being commodified in many parts of the world as profit maker. My question then is, is that fair to ourselves? Is not our body valuable enough and sacred that we are allowing outsiders to keep extracting from it?
Prior to reading the above passage in Aleph, I was one of the women who believed in the necessity of shaving my pubic hair in order to have a more satisfying sexual experience. However, I’m now realizing that my pubic hair symbolizes that I’m becoming an adult, a woman, that I am not a child anymore, and therefore there is no reason for me to be ashamed of that fact that I’m changing. I am becoming a woman and this is how my body is maturing and protecting one of the most powerful areas of a woman’s body.
I believe that my body is such a wonderful and sacred place that I need to be more respectful of the job it does in communicating to me that fact that I have become an adult and that protection that it brings to my sexuality. I am not a girl. I am a woman. And I want my body to express this womanhood when I am sexual, not be bare and shaven like a little girl.
*Dairanys will graduate from the City College of New York with a degree in International Studies this June. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Dairanys came to the United States when she was 13 years old. She has worked with AmeriCorps, the AMESIP School of Street Children in Morocco, and attended the United Nations World Development Conference in Brazil. She is currently enjoying life outside of school and focusing on learning self-love.