Happy No Shave November, everyone! (not sure who came up with this…)
Since when is body hair gendered? Doesn’t it just seem logical that people are hairy? Warmth for winter, right?
Apparently if you live in mainstream America, the answer is no.
From a young age, girls are expected to shave their body hair – it’s been turned into a coming-of-age ritual, a tradition passed on from generation to generation. From armpits, to legs, to toes, to stomachs, to pubic hair – what’s left untouched by the razor?
And speaking of the razor, if you shave, do you buy Gillette? Venus? Disposable? Safety guards? Men’s, Women’s? Four blades vs. two? And what abut Nair? Or threading?
I started cutting my actual arm hair with scissors at age 8, when I thought no one was looking. I began shaving my armpits when I was 9. They were hairy, and I just remember feeling that it was unacceptable. My mom taught me how to shave in her bathroom. We lived in Utah.
A year later, I asked my mom if I could shave my legs? She told me no. Why was it acceptable to shave my armpits and not my legs? I threw a fit. Everyone else was shaving their legs. She let me begin shaving shortly afterward.
Hair became disgusting to me – absolutely repulsive. I felt that it was a growth that hampered my life.
I had stopped cutting my arm hair at this point, and at 13 I bought bleach. It was bleach that is made for body hair. I bleached my arms and was thrilled with the results, shocked if no one else noticed the improvement I had made to my body. My dark black arm hair was now a whitish blonde. I had made it disappear, like a magic trick, I thought.
It wasn’t long before the magic trick became dull. My arm hair wasn’t enough. Plus, had you seen how dark my stomach hair had become? Unacceptable, I thought. I had to get rid of it. It was a need, a thirst. I began including my stomach in my ritual-bleaching extravaganza.
After I’d been bleaching for a few months, a friend told me that when she bleached her arm hair and went to a school dance, the hair glowed under a black light. I couldn’t imagine. I had nightmares about this happening to me. How embarrassing, I’d thought.
I stopped bleaching, but couldn’t give up my hair’s mask. I couldn’t allow my hair autonomy and visibility. I began shaving my arm hair and stomach hair, in addition to my armpits, legs, and pussy. I even started shaving those few hairs that grow on each big toe.
My body hated me; she screamed. She cried out with screaming little red bumps. I tried to use creams to satisfy the uncomfortable razor burn; nothing worked, but I refused to stop shaving. Hair was gross, or so I thought. I even waxed my bikini line and thought the fiery bumps, like anthills sprouting across my skin, were better than hair could ever be.
Hair. Everyone has it. Hair has a purpose.
At 18, I went to college. I began attending F-word meetings, the feminist group on Florida State University’s campus. People started talking about No Shave November. They were pledging which body part they were going to stop shaving. I couldn’t imagine. Stop shaving? But then what…? Did these people still wear shorts? Tank tops? We lived in Florida! I was appalled…and intrigued.
It took a few years but gradually I stopped shaving my legs every single time I showered. I shaved my armpits less frequently. I even began arguing the gender politics of hair and choice. My pussy? Meh, the hair was a helluva lot better than those screaming red bumps, and the only Bush I trusted was my own anyway, right?
Five years later, I sit here with trimmed hairy armpits, the occasional shaved leg, a black-haired stomach, a bush, and believe it or not, toe hairs. I realized that I don’t care. I shave when I want to, and most of the time, I don’t. If I appall someone because of my body hair, then I don’t care to have them in my life anyway.
Occasionally, I find myself becoming self-conscious of my body hair, checking myself in relation to who’s around me. I blame the patriarchy. I blame American society. Those razor ads, those derogatory statements. What’s with the equation to body hair and being “clean?” The self-consciousness is only occasionally, and each time it catches me off guard. It’s hard to shake off the ingrained societal standards.
This morning, when I realized it was No Shave November, and the hashtag (#NoShaveNovember) was trending on Twitter, I wasn’t uncomfortable. I was proud, and angry. Angry at the comments that were trending:
Not only are the comments sexist, but they’re heterosexist, and there’s sure a lot of internalized sexism going on. A lot of people assume that heterosexual women cannot have sex if they have body hair. Why are people made to feel so disgusted? And what about the racist remarks? Hairy people are not terrorists. It’s important to not be Islamaphobic.
Maybe people should start using Twitter to begin educating folks. I tweeted out to #NoShaveNovember that I don’t shave my armpits and encountered an empowering exchange that I wasn’t expecting:
I will retaliate against the patriarch’s beauty standards. I will shave nothing this month. I will embrace my hair, love my hair, and love me.
WE ARE NOT YOUR FANTASY COME TRUE FOR ONE NIGHT WITH NO EMOTION….
Don’t we have hearts? Aren’t we human? Don’t we deserve love?
As a transgender woman I know how this feels. I was born in the wrong body, Dammit! It’s not my fault. The best choice I made in life was to change my gender. To become one with the person who I identify with inside. I never considered that it would be a life of emptiness and loneliness. But the question remains, why? Why is it so hard to be loved and appreciated for the woman that I am?
I met a guy a month ago, he told me all the right things. He looked into my eyes and hypnotized me as he spoke so confidently and dominantly, I mean, this man had it going on. Damn he was fine! Tall, dark, handsome, and athletic. On the third date he said, “you’re beautiful, I would love to take the next step with you. “My heart started jumping. The feeling of being wanted always does something to me, sort of the equivalent of an orgasm. After dating this guy a few times I thought for sure he was into me so I saw no problem with taking the “nextstep.” I mean, I wanted it, too. And it was amazing! A night full of passion and romance.
I knew for sure he was the one, the way he looked into my eyes as he made love to me, the passion of his kisses as he mesmerized me. I knew for sure this had to be real….NOPE! it just wasn’t so… it was almost as if he was a robot and the human switch had been turned off. When he was done, it was over. No more eye contact or communication. I thought to myself, how can this be? Didn’t he experience the same amazing thing I did? As I lay there in bed, I watch him get dressed without saying a word, my body filled with ecstasy, but my heart with pain. I knew I’d never see him again. A feeling that comes often after taking the “next step.”Why so? Aren’t I human? Don’t I deserve love?
I find that this is where the feelings of emptiness and loneliness come from. We tend to blame ourselves at this point and feel like something’s wrong with us. That is simply not true. We are worthy and if a man doesn’t see that in you, be strong! Keep moving and know your worth because you are beautiful and once you own that you’ll be well on you way.
So yes, we deserve love and every other part of life that this world has for us. Through this journey I will be exploring some of the deepest, darkest well-kept secrets of the trans community with you. So come along as I shed light on these things and help encourage one another for the better.
(También en español) “The ‘raging frenzy’ of the sex drive, to use Plato’s phrase, has always defied control. However, that’s not to say that the Sumerians, Victorians, and every civilization in between and beyond have not tried, wielding their most formidable weapon: the law.” From Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire by Eric Berkowitz)
In 2007, while Eric Berkowitz was writing about legal history as a journalist, a friend posed the question, “What was the first law about sex? Curious as always, Eric found that the first known laws, from Ancient Mesopotamia, were highly preoccupied with sex. He followed the trail and unearthed a bounty of details spanning millennia. He was intrigued, challenged, and entertained and now we all can be too with the 2012 much-lauded publication of Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire. Check out the book’s cool website.
Eric discovered that many early sex laws sprung from the belief that the sex lives of individuals could bring risk to everyone — one person’s pleasure could be society’s destruction. And this tradition of insinuating the government into our sex lives “for the good of all” carries forth to the present day, as any glance at a newspaper shows.
After more than a year of research in Los Angeles and three years in Paris writing the book, Eric’s joyful fascination with the subject matter permeates every page-turning chapter. We are drawn into this fascination through his scholarly but entertaining and often heart-rending analysis of the flashpoints of sex, law, and politics throughout history. Eric fills the void between dry legal academic offerings, which no one reads, and the generally research-free books in the open market.
This book is also a roadmap of how sex laws provide a window into how societies define themselves. It’s a fresh and completely different point of view that will stoke your own desire for sexual freedom, renewing your drive to eradicate bullied and needless laws about sex, particularly the more modern regressive laws against women and other sexual minorities.
Talking recently, Eric said he’s not against laws about sex. Rather, laws should concern restricting violence and intimidation. He advocates for a world where all other laws about sex, particularly punitive sex registries marking people for life, have become part of our own ancient history.
Eric will be participating in this weekend’s Sexual Freedom Summit (September 21-23, Silver Spring, MD, produced by Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance), and is slated to be a part of the much anticipated Author’s Roundtable on Sunday. Look for more about Eric and his book here next week.
“Keep pushing, and push harder,” is how Eric summarizes his call to action aimed at committed sexual freedom advocates. “Keep the pressure up [to end these laws], and especially consider that those living in poverty are always the last to derive benefits from society’s advances in terms of access to healthcare and freedom from police bias.”
Many people often view sex as scientific, or fact: babies are born male or female, and they behave as men or women. I view sex as the core of deeply rooted systems of oppression all over the world. I say this because sex is so closely connected to gender identity, race, religion, sexual orientation, and even class. A key intersection point among all of these cultural identifiers is sex and the binary most people operate under. We have been told that those born outside of the male-female binary are somehow inferior, or alternative. And we have been told that those who do not perform their gender, making it align with the “correct” sex, are confused. Women have limited control of their own bodies in some places in the world. Our sex is at the core of our identity. Freedom to express one’s sexual identity, whatever that may mean for an individual, is so important because if we can free each other at the core, other forms of oppression will fall as well.
Let us know what you think. Make a video, write a poem, song, or an essay — or even create an original work of art — and express your thoughts on these topics. If we feature your contribution on the site, we will send you a free VenusPlusX t-shirt to thank you.
Editor’s note: This is one of a series of position papers Dan Massey and I are creating and will soon index on our home page. They briefly explore the evolution of our points of view about a range of issues related to sex, gender, and racial freedom. Your feedback is always welcome.
Gustave Doré – Paradiso
The world’s secret history is strewn with tales of visionaries and pioneers who have advocated for the primacy of erotic joy in connecting each person with the universe at large and endowing each of us with supreme power to shape our own destiny (however that is defined by the individual).
For eons, these practitioners have operated in secret to protect this inherited knowledge (and more frequently, their lives) from self-appointed minorities who by their nature suppress this information and fear its neutralizing power. Tantra survives today. More recently, today’s guardians of this secret knowledge have warned us that lifting the veil on people’s direct connection to the power of erotic joy is a bad idea. We are told average modern people will not understand this power, that they are not yet ready to wield this power, that there will be disastrous results.
Today, we ask the question, “What could be more of a disaster for the vital and progressive spirit of humanity than the current state of the world?”
Revelation of the long-hidden knowledge of the primacy of erotic joy in shaping vitological (spiritual) experience is the precise antidote to practically every problem on earth. When entirely materialistic values and coercive systems are cleared away by worshipful engagement with erotic joy, verifying the primacy of love, not only does everything get better—but also we each release the power of truth, beauty, and goodness to reign our world. Voluntary associations replace these obsolete and now useless systems that are based on fear, bullying, violence, and spiritual oppression. In this way the collective of humanity fosters the best future, the intended and inherited future, the future that each new child born into this world deserves and would choose.
We campaign for Sexual Freedom to enable all to experience erotic joy free from human superstition, performing its intended function to expedite the emergence of a society based on love and service.
You will find more about how you can bring Sacred Sex and Erotic Joy out of thecloset on our websites (venusplusx.org and its sister en espanol, venusmasx.org), including the serials, A Course In Immortality and in Spanish, Un Curso de Inmortalidad.
Basking in a park, this young woman shares her ideas about the differences between gender and sex, and how sexual freedom can vary in different environments. She says gender as a continuum, with extremes and many ambiguities in between.
How does locale affect the experience of sexual freedom? What do you think about a continuum for gender as a new way of thinking beyond the binary?
We want to hear what you’re thinking. Send us a video, write us an essay, put your thoughts in a poem, song, or piece of art. To thank you for participating we’ll send you one of our fabulous VenusPlusX t-shirts.
Gender can be a confusing subject for LGBT and straight people alike. Many people often mistake sex and gender to be the same thing, for example, or when a person’s gender doesn’t match the stereotypes associated with his or her sex, the results often include some form or discrimination (though it can be unintentional), verbal challenges or confrontations, and refusal to accept that this person does not want to accept society’s biased demands.
Creative Commons image: Tombe
This disparity stems from a long-standing tradition throughout the world of assigning how an individual should act, dress, etc. based on nothing more than the genitalia assigned at birth. Not only do these gender ideals change throughout time, but they also vary according to location. If what society wants us to be can be so easily changed, we may wonder how we are supposed to live up to its expectations. A simple, yet often overlooked answer is that we shouldn’t.
The fight against gender stereotypes is timeless. It has lead to the immersion of new gender idea such as transgender, transsexual, and agender. However, there are many more terms than these many people have trouble wrapping their minds around concepts such as a “male lesbian” or a person having no gender. While it is fantastic that people have fought against oppression and created a new system of self-expression, in some ways, this still plays off of the original system. This is not to say that these people are wrong to assign their own gender; however, it is interesting to think about the concept that this new system would not be necessary if the concept of gender were wiped away entirely.
Although his may seem like a radical idea, but there are still flaws in the current system. A main flaw is that a majority of people tend to think in terms of gender binaries: male or female. This generally leads people to conclude that a person will overall act in a way that fulfills a most, if not all, aspects of a male or female idea. However, there are many people who cannot easily be placed into either category. Their response is often part of the newer system that involves creating one’s own gender identity. Even so, there are people who feel distanced from the terminology that has evolved from this movement. They may not understand what some of the terms mean, or even feel like they can fit into any of these categories, despite there being a seemingly infinite range. Others have no interest in categorizing themselves.
Drawing off of this last group of people, if we were to drop all names for gender, the possibility could exist that people would have the freedom to be who they want to be without worrying about a gender label. People would be able to act in a way that was previously perceived as the way a person of the “opposite gender” would act and not be believed to be homosexual for simply being themselves. This possibility opens the door to question what would happen if we no longer held the belief that gender is a vital part of humanity. What would happen if we all just let it go?
Much of sex education is fear-based. How does this approach hinder sexual development?
Do you think speaking openly about sex from an early age leads to a healthier and safer sex later in life? If not, why?
Make a video, write a poem, song, or an essay — or even create an original work of art — and express your thoughts. If we feature your contribution on the site, we will send you a free VenusPlusX t-shirt to thank you.
“Teen birth rates are eight times higher in the U.S. than in Holland. Abortion rates are twice as high. The American AIDS rate is three times greater than that of the Dutch. What are they doing right that we’re not?…
“Coming out of the sexual revolution, the Dutch really decoupled sex from marriage, but they didn’t decouple sex from love. If the first piece is that there weren’t these immediate associations of teen sex with danger, the second is that it remained anchored in the concept of steady relationships and young people being in love….
“It seems terribly sad to me that we view teenage love as being about “just hormones” and teen boys as incapable of being in love — but then we turn around and bemoan this culture of “hooking up,” when we’ve basically given adolescents no space to actually have loving relationships….”
If embracing sexuality is proven to be so healthy in Europe, how does America justify its aversion to it? It’s quite clear that repressing sexuality does not improve relationships or encourage healthy sexuality activity. We are denying young people one of their most basic human rights, real sexual freedom.