I grew up determinedly doing exactly what I wanted with my body. When I was little, there was no way in hell I was going to take a bath unless it was what I wanted to do — or unless my parents could catch me while I tore around the house like a small naked nightmare. I wore the clothes I wanted to wear, which started off as boyish as possible, and then became shorts that were only short enough when they started scandalising the teachers at my religious school. For a while I stopped shaving my legs, then I stopped wearing a bra. The only makeup I wore was lipstick, until I decided I couldn’t be bothered with that either. I was, in all, comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t think it was perfect — sometimes I truly hated it — but I knew it was mine, and no one could make me do anything with it that I didn’t want to.
Or at least, that was the case until I got to university and realised I was bisexual rather than a lesbian, and actually really wanted to have sex with a man. And suddenly my body the way it was started to worry me. Nothing was going to make me put a bra back on, and makeup was way too much of a mystery by then. But I was staring at myself in the mirror and wondering why the hell I was so hairy. I’d gotten back into the habit of shaving my legs a while ago, up to just above the knee. I shaved my armpits, too. But why was the hair on my thighs that dark? Why did my nipples have hair? Why did I have a freakin’ snail trail? Why had I been goddamn cursed.
Practically the only part of my body that I didn’t go over with a razor was my vagina. Sure, I got the nail scissors out and trimmed it, but some part of me was saying stubbornly: that would be a step too far. As if me getting rid of my vaginal pubes would be the true bow to patriarchy, and shaving my arsehole was totally my own decision. As a feminist, I thought, I am choosing to shave my arsehole, because I want to. Not because I’m worried about what a man I haven’t even met yet might think. Nope, definitely not.
In the end it wasn’t long before I learnt that it doesn’t always matter how long you spend getting ready in the bathroom, leg up on the sink. Sometimes a man’s eyes will still skate over your hairless thighs and stomach — perhaps assuming that all women lack hair there, that it’s been no effort or discomfort for you whatsoever — and zero in on your bush, which you’re actually quite fond of. That is actually a comfort to you, growing boldly right in the middle of your plucked and razored body. And he’ll say, ‘Have you ever thought about shaving?’
What a novel idea.