A reader writes in with a good bloody question (I’m back from England but the language is still a bit transitional):
In your latest episode of beard-blogging, you write that “Men …. will grow beards if they do nothing. The case, it seems to me, has to be made by those who want them to scrape the constantly growing hair off their face every day with a metal edge.” As a bearded man, I wholeheartedly agree with that statement (and your many others proclaiming the aesthetic, health, and philosophical advantages of beards).
However, as a bearded straight man, I find myself wishing that our culture would allow women to make the same “defer to the default” decision about their body hair. Ever since I was a teenager, I have found it really hot when women don’t shave. For a while I tried to surpress this preference, having internalized the cultural message that women’s body hair was deviant or gross. But I now realize that those who push for the removal of ever-more body hair are the ones who ought to explain themselves.
After all, our best theory about why pubic and underarm hair evolved is that it helps with sexual signaling – either olfactory signaling, by catching and concentrating pheromones, or visual signaling, by serving as a visual cue that someone has gone through puberty.
I realize that it would be incredibly problematic for me to say that women should stop shaving simply because I find underarm or leg hair attractive. People should do what they want with their own bodies, full stop. But I can’t help but think that we are in an unfortunate equilibrium where heterosexual women shave because they think they have to in order to be attractive to men, and heterosexual men don’t speak up about their true preferences because they don’t want to sound deviant or weird. I have been in several relationships with women who shaved who – when I told them that I wouldn’t mind and in fact would find it attractive if they stopped – were more than happy to stop wasting time and effort on shaving.
I just wish we could remove the social stigma surrounding women’s body hair so that women could make decisions about shaving their legs and armpits in the same way that men are increasingly able to make decisions about whether to shave their faces: based on their and their partners’ preferences, and without having to seem completely countercultural for making what is ultimately the more natural choice.
I have to say I should stay entirely neutral on this, for obvious reasons. But if I were required to shave my legs and armpits every day, I would regard it as a form of unnatural servitude. But if it objectively helps women get laid, who am I to stand in their way? It’s a woman’s choice – coerced by men. Or am I wrong?
Explanation for the above image:
ChinaSMACK is reporting that a user on China’s microblogging site Sina Weibo has invented “hairy stockings” as a way for young girls to fend off perverts. It’s hard to tell if these are real or imagined but given that some people in China have been putting dogs in pantyhose, these might just be the former.
Update from a reader:
Could a false beard to be worn by females be next?