I heard the ding of a message notification and immediately knew who it was—an Australian named Mark. We sort of dated but formed more of a casual sexual relationship than an emotional bond. “I want your hairy legs all over me,” it said. He was serious. I laughed, thinking his attempt to be seductive felt more like a bad rom-com line.  

Let me explain: Mark is a heterosexual man without any known body hair fetish. I am a heterosexual woman who more often than not doesn’t shave. Mark wanted to have sex with me and knew I would be hairy. This message was his way of letting me know he wanted a hook up and didn’t seem to care about what else came with it.

It’s odd to hear such enthusiasm for body hair, or in this case, leveraging it to entice me. Men, and even women, are supposed to overwhelmingly hate female body hair. The shaming we see daily is proof of that. Plus, it’s always been that way.

When I share stories like this with others, their normal reaction is to say, “Wait, what? You actually hook up with people without shaving?” They usually remark they’re shocked that neither of us—myself nor my partner—would mind.

Being a ‘woman’ in our society means being hairless. “Hairiness is viewed as a distinguishing characteristic between men and women,” explained Marika Tiggemann, a researcher at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.

Researchers explain that women are taught early on to engage in body hair removal to be attractive and sexy because gender is linked to physical traits, not achievements. A hairless woman’s femininity isn’t questioned—she fits in. This ideal carries into sexual relationships, informing preferences.

Body hair shaming by the numbers

Cosmopolitan recently ran a survey of pubic hair grooming patterns. The results were exactly what we’d expect: the majority of women (57 percent) went bare, and nearly half of men (47 percent) preferred their partners to go bare. Forty percent of these men have asked a partner to change their pubic hair. In another unsurprising find, Cosmo reported that “Men (30 percent) are also likelier than women (19 percent) to say that a partner’s pubic hair might make them reconsider dating someone.”

This echoes a 2014 study of university-age students grooming patterns, which suggests that men are more likely to prefer a hair-free partner, and women report feeling cleaner, more comfortable and sexier when hairless.

If these results still don’t clarify it, I’ll reiterate: hairy women are seen as disgusting. Study after study indicates the deep-rooted abhorrence of female body hair and the common expectation for females to shave to be a ‘good’ sexual partner.  

Research indicates my hairiness makes me less of a woman and a less attractive sexual partner. Being hairy should make things problematic then, right? Not quite. Mark isn’t an anomaly. My sexual partners haven’t seemed to mind. In fact, some have overemphasized their acceptance. Perhaps the abstract concept of a hairy woman is gross but the practical application isn’t as fear-inducing.

Is going hairless an American thing?

It’s important to note that nearly all of my sexual experiences have been with non-Americans. Therefore, my partners’ acceptance may be indicative of a difference in cultural expectation. However, researchers explain that negative attitudes towards female body hair often traverse cultural landscapes.

A few weeks after Mark asked if I would caress him with my Brillo Pad legs, I was at a club in Melbourne. A friend and I finagled our way into the VIP section to a table of executives from Pakistan. There was a man who liked me and bought me drinks. Later, he came close and whispered: “I want to lick your entire body.”

Oh, yeah? I thought. Wait until he sees what’s below these pants. Testing him, I lifted up my armpits, exposing a small bush. “Even my hairy armpits?” I questioned, waiting to see his face change.

“Yes, I’ll lick those, too,” he said without hesitation. I even caught a side glimpse of a fiery-eyed wink. I tried not to burst out laughing. I’m not a very serious person, so hearing this reaction shocked me more than my hair probably shocked him. Nothing came of this flirtation, but it was an interesting social experiment nonetheless.

A few years earlier, I had a similar encounter. I was in Spain and met a man who went out of his way to approve of my body hair.

We sat side by side at a bar, chatting about his work at a winery. He reached over to put his hands over my crossed legs peeking through the slit in my maxi dress. A flirtatious gesture. My legs had been mostly hidden, so he couldn’t have seen the hair. I felt his fingers make their way over the rough surface and turned to him. “Just to let you know, I’m really hairy,” I admitted. I like to give a sort of warning because even though I am body hair positive, I understand it’s not the norm.

He shrugged. “You know what they say,” he said, looking at me and glancing back at my hair, “Vello es bello.” He said, “body hair is beautiful,” but in Spanish vello sounds identical to bello, making a sort of play on words. That time, I couldn’t help but giggle. I was glad he was accepting, but the cheesy line deserved some teasing.

So, if the majority of men are supposed to detest hairy women, are my experiences just an odd few? I often assume men will react a certain way, but they surprise me. What’s happening here?

A preference is just a preference

At least when it comes to pubic hair, Dr. Debby Herbenick, a sex researcher at Indiana University and author of six books on sex and love, explains that hairiness might not be as important of a factor as it’s assumed to be. “A preference is just a preference,” she said. There are certain traits we like a partner to have, she explains, but if someone catches our attention in a different way – maybe they make us laugh or treat us well – it’s not a “deal breaker” if they don’t have those desired traits.

“…most people do NOT have a ‘strong’ preference based on such a relatively minor feature of a human being….especially as they become experienced and, hopefully, compassionate and interested in more than just body traits,” said Herbenick.

So in a one-time hookup, or even with a casual sexual partner, the person might not enjoy body or pubic hair, but there are still other factors at hand determining if they are interested. Perhaps I made a funny joke or impressed someone with my dance floor flailing. There was something about me beyond my body hair that my partner found attractive.  

And thus, the surveys might demonstrate an overall preference for hairless women, but in practice, it may be less important. I’ll continue to shave when I want but also be lazy about grooming when I want. And they’ll continue to ask: “How do you hook up without shaving?”

And I’ll continue to meet people. I might strike up with a conversation with someone and we’ll end up leaving together. He’ll see my hair and shrug. Maybe he’ll even say “beautiful hair.”

And that’s how you hook up without shaving.

Featured image by Marisse Caine

Get our weekly digest for advice on sex, periods, and life in a female body


Continue the conversation


  • Thank you so much for this! You have helped me to be more confident with something that is completely natural!
    Much love xoxo

  • I am a northamerican man who loves natural women hair on legs and etc. I always asking my wife to shave not more than once or twice a month and to be proud of her body. But she doesnt agree with me and say that i want a guy because i love hair… So dont forget many men and women hide their preference to others because they dont want people get laughing at them..

  • So you as women don’t have problems getting some strange while being hairy. All that means is that 1. A big part of the male population is desperate enough to have sex with you despite disliking your bodyhair but want to get laid so they pretend as if it doesn’t bother them. 2. You being visibly hairy attracts men with a fetish for hairy women.
    Stop complaining about being shamed for your laziness or wearing your political agenda under your armpits. As you have stated yourself it looks down right disgusting to most people and they aren’t obligated to pretend to like your Chewbacca ass just so you can feel better about yourself. If I decide to walk around with a ridiculous cowboy hat with peacock feathers attached to it I’m gonna get some weird looks and most people will think I’m an idiot for doing so. But I don’t go on the internet and write an article about public cowboy hat wearing shaming.
    And don’t give me the whole “but it’s muh NATURAL bodyhair” bullshit. Yeah guess what sweetie cancer cells are also natural. Doesn’t mean we can’t do sonething about it.
    And since you are trying to turn this into a men vs. women issue. Men also have to live up to standards (much higher than shaving your armpits I might add).

    • > Wow Dolores you sound very unhappy! I’m sorry for whatever internal struggle causes you to be a bully, but it’s not appropriate. My boyfriend explicitly asked me to stop shaving. I was completely hairless, and its SO nice to have a man that loves everything about me. I, and this author, are very happy and have found loving relationships. I hope one day you can say the same!

    • > Jesus lmao
      Sounds like someone needs a hug!
      Calm down dear, all you’ve done is make yourself look angry and bitter.
      This isn’t even remotely a man vs woman issue, don’t know where you came up with that…and I’m tryin to figure out what these aesthetic struggles men have that you claim women don’t….

      It’s not a case of being “lazy” for a lot of women, I myself suffer with two hormone conditions which cause fast growing and extensive body hair….I do my best to keep it short and wash as regularly as anyone else, but it’s still there naturally.
      Does my otherhalf care? No.
      Im lucky now, but received a lot of ridicule and abuse in the past from others.
      A preference is a preference, I wouldn’t expect everyone to be ok with it. That’s life.

      Your opinion is your own, but that doesn’t mess you have to emphasise it by being a dick about it.

      We get it. You disagree. Pipe down.

  • Are you really comparing cancer cells to body hair?…Cancer cells can kill you, virtually everyone grows body hair, not everyone gets cancer…they’re not even comparable

  • I have never had a man complain. It’s always women. Sad they get so angry because they’re not comfortable with themselves.

  • Since about 2000, it seems, society has lost its mind on this issue. For absolutely no good reason, somethinig as natural as body hair has been deemed undesirable (even gross), when nothing could be further from the truth, To me, it would be like deciding that fingernails and toenails are gross and seeing the masses have them pulled out, Or eyelashes – that’s body hair. Go ahead, pluck out your eyelashes one at a time. The removal by woman of pubic hair and hair on their arms, face, bellies and legs, etc. makes just as little sense as those silly examples. I adore hairy women, think (know) that hair is natural, and find that hair capturing the odor of sex is a natural, wonderful part of sex. On the other hand, when I am with a woman who has shaved her vag, I have to try very hard – and suspend the reality – to become sexually aroused. I agree with others who compare it to having sex with a pre-adolescent. Which obviously is very messed up! Did this movement come from men who like the idea of have sex with a young virgin. I do not know, but men are a big part of the problem. And women don’t stop at waxing their bikini line or shaving their vagina. It seems like most go all the way with their hairless fetish, using wax, a razor, electrolysis to remove hair from everywhere but their head. I find it freakish, unnatural and very disappointing. So many women (and men) have forgotten how sexy hair can be on a woman’s face, arms, belly – not to mention armpits, legs and nipples for some of us. Take a look at women before 2000 – Sports Illustrated swimsuit models and even pornstars. Kathy Ireland for example. She is a very sexy woman and part of that is the incredibly sexy hair on her arms, belly, thighs and face. Porn stars before the 2000s didn’t shave and were very sexy women (e.g. Christy Canyon, Barbara Dare). Like the rest of our twisted society, models and porn stars now look like hairless little girls. Something went terribly wrong around the turn of the century. There is very little that saddens me more!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *