Choosing Myself: The Social Ramifications of Living With Body Hair

Just over a year ago I got a text from my lover at the time. We were planning to attend an event together and had been discussing our plans and what we would wear. “Shave your armpits for me?” She asked. “Shaved armpits are my fetish.”

I felt like I’d been punched.

For most of our relationship I had tried to find a compromise between my body hair and her preferences. I kept my armpits shaved most of the time and my legs shaved almost all of the time. Eventually she took me to get a bikini wax - my first - and continued to maintain it at home, waxing the sides of my bush into neat lines and taking the hair off my labia. I justified it as potentially being good for my career. Perhaps it would make for better images if no hair stuck out of my lingerie. Maybe I’d book more glamour shoots.

But when I looked in the mirror after that first wax I wanted to cry. My bush, a cherished symbol of everything I loved about myself, no longer looked natural or complete. Its roaming borders had been tamed, and I felt like I had given up a piece of myself I would have been better off keeping.

Even so, we continued to maintain my bikini line, and I kept my legs and armpits shaved and smoothed for her. She was so happy with my new look, and I chalked it up as a necessary sacrifice to make the relationship run smoothly.

Things probably would have continued this way for quite some time if I hadn’t gotten in a car accident last June. My injuries were devastating and during my recovery I ended up growing out all my body hair. Showering was hard enough and I often needed help - neither myself nor the friends and family caring for me were concerned with keeping my body hairless. By the time I recovered enough that shaving was again possible, I found myself vehemently opposed to the idea. I had always loved the aesthetics of body hair and the injury had given me time to remember how attached I was to mine. At a time when there was so little I could control in my body and in my life, I was grateful to have found something I could control - even if it was merely whether or not I took a razor to my armpits and legs.

Choosing to grow or shave my body hair was always a profoundly personal decision for me. Throughout my life I have exercised both options as a way of regaining autonomy and declaring ownership of my body. From the first time I shaved my legs as an act of rebellion to the day I decided I wanted to stop, this was the one aspect of how I looked and behaved that I was always solely in control of. That’s not to say I never faced judgement for those choices, but that I had never let anyone else decide what I should do in that arena. Claiming complete control over grooming decisions was a way to claim my body as an adolescent, then to reclaim my body after assault. Through it I declared my independence, explored personal preferences, and grew to love and accept my body.

When I joined the artistic community with a fully grown bush, the body acceptance I found from artists and fans was incredible. That acceptance led me to dabble with growing out my armpit hair off and on for shoots with amenable photographers throughout my career, and even before the accident I had felt pulled towards keeping it grown full time. For the most part I have found that the people who appreciate the skills and talents I offer are willing to accept the decisions I make with my body as being a part of that package. I have worked hard to feature body hair as a part of my unique look, and I often get hired specifically because I have it.

As such, the shift I was gearing towards was not a surprise for the artists that I worked with, or for my wonderful and dedicated fans. I was merely deciding that, for me, the loss of one or two jobs a month was well worth the personal gains of refusing to modify my body regularly just to increase my income. I had already made that decision regarding my pubic hair at the beginning of my career, and now I decided to expand my brand to include armpit hair as well. Because I already had a good grasp of what techniques I could use to market myself as a model with body hair, I faced very little professional and fiscal loss as I made this change

I knew, however, that personal loss could be imminent. My lover would not be happy about the decisions I had made, but I was determined not to lose these aspects of myself I held so dearly. I didn’t want to shave or wax again, and I no longer viewed my hair as an acceptable sacrifice to make for the good of a relationship. My newly grown body hair was a reminder that I could grow through trauma and tragedy, that my body kept on working and wasn’t completely broken.

The night she texted me with her request, the implication - shaved armpits were her fetish - was that she could not find me sexually attractive unless I complied. It hurt immensely to realize that she saw my hair as undesirable, unhygienic, merely an unnecessary feature of my body to be plucked and trimmed away. The same part of my body that made me feel powerful, strong, and desirable suddenly made me feel small and unwanted. I cancelled our plans that night and stayed home, trying to assess who was right. Was I truly being selfish by denying my lover the pleasure of a hairless body?

Ultimately I chose to feel strong, powerful, and desirable again. I chose myself. And in truth, that’s what my journey with body hair has always boiled down to: choosing myself. I choose to do with my body whatever makes me feel powerful and fulfilled, and I hope that others do the same, whatever that entails.

About the Author

Eleanor is an accomplished traveling nude model and has been pursuing her art since 2010. Her work has been published in a variety of magazines, books, and galleries, including a special event at the Louvre. To see more of Eleanor’s work you can visit her website.

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