Do I Have to Shave?: Deciding How to Manage Body Hair

There is a lot of concern about taking care of body hair. Razor ads are prevalent and pictures in magazines often show women whose legs and armpits are hairless. Over the past decade or so, there has also been a widening discussion of shaving one’s pubic hair. Men face pressure to shave their face, and may feel some pressure to shave their genitals, but much of this pressure is most heavily directed towards women. There’s a lot to think about when it comes to body hair, and there is a wide variety of grooming options, from eyebrow shaping to bikini waxing.

shavingThe first thing that you have to remember is that you are free to do what you like with your body hair. Though popular culture and advertisements may make it seem like hair should be removed from just about everywhere, you are the owner of your body and it’s up to you. If you don’t like shaving your legs, you don’t have to. If you like how having shaved armpits feel, go for it. If you are shaving your legs, or armpits, or pubic hair because you are ashamed, stop and think about why you feel that shame and whether or not it is necessary. Evolution designed our body to be naturally hairy, and you are free to groom or not groom it however YOU like!

If you choose to groom your body hair, 

it is important to make sure that you do it in a way that is safe for you. This is most important for pubic hair, which is on sensitive places of the body, like the vulva or near the scrotum. Some shaving creams or gels can be irritating to sensitive skin. Scented or harsh products can cause irritation, which could lead to infections, especially vaginal ones. Also, never share a razor with anyone else. 

If you are curious about shaving, tweezing, waxing, threading, or laser hair removal, do your homework beforehand.

Another aspect of this conversation that is important to think about is how you treat other people’s body hair. If you see a woman with some hair around her lips are you rude to her? Why? How does that behavior help you or the other person? If you are having sexual contact with someone are you accepting of the way that they choose to groom their body parts? If not, how might this be hurtful to your partner? When we talk about issues like bodily shame, it is important to recognize not only how we feel about ourselves, but also how we act to those around us. This can help all of us love and accept our bodies a little bit more!

What to Say & How to Say It

We’ve talked about communication before on Feronia, and how it’s a key part of so many different things – consent, exploring new activities, embracing your own desire, not to mention the roles it plays in all of the rest of our lives. But while wanting to communicate well is a good (and necessary!) first step, it’s a bit vague as a roadmap.

Whenever I see advice that says “communicate with your partner” and doesn’t offer specifics, I’m reminded of the South Park Underpants Gnomes:

Thankfully (though somewhat sadly) this is a really common problem, so you don’t have to start from zero.

Often, we find ourselves tongue tied when we want to talk about trying something new. Writing things down can often be easier than talking about them in the moment, though. And when it comes to communicating around sex, silliness can sometimes help break the ice a bit. One way to bring up new possibilities is to fill two bowls with different slips of paper – put actions (kissing, touching, massaging, etc.) on one set, and body parts on the other. You’ll get a few odd combinations, and laughing about them can help make it easier to try new things and talk about what you like and aren’t so into.

That brings up another tricky set of conversations – talking about things that you don’t like. While it can feel really awkward to bring up, know that your partner wants to know this stuff! One way to bring it up gently is to pair a statement about what you don’t like with one about something you like better – you’re still being clear about your desires, but you’re making it easier to move forward to things you enjoy. (Note: this is advice for talking about specific activities within an otherwise good dynamic. If anything is seriously off-kilter, you don’t want to risk rushing past it by doing this.)

There are a lot more hurdles to clear when dealing with communication issues – judicious use of advice columns and the self-help aisle can provide a lot more for tips more specific to your particular situation. There are a lot of great advice sites out there – I can recommend Go Ask Alice, Ask a Queer Chick, and Autostraddle, and there are a lot of other places with good tips about communicating outside of romantic relationships, too.

With all advice, though, be sure to take it with at least a grain of salt. I like reading Dan Savage, but I know to be wary around his columns that talk about bisexuality and trans* issues (particularly for things in the archives). And there’s a lot of useful information in books like the 5 Love Languages, but you have to sift through a fair bit of dross to get to it. (In that example, the author only talks about opposite-sex relationships, is pretty proscriptive about monogamy, and has some other ideas that made me roll my eyes pretty often.)

Whatever you’re talking about, here’s to making it less intimidating, more fun, and connected to getting more of what you want, in your relationship and beyond.

Fun Friday: A TED Talk Beyond the Gender Binary

As the conversation shifts from marriage equality to transgender equality, let us provide with you with a very simple talk that breaks down the differences between assigned sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. You’ll also learn great tips on how to be an effective ally.

Transgender Children and Teens

child in a dress standing before three bathrooms - one with a male symbol, one with a female symbol, and one with the transgender symbol

Image via the USC Daily Trojan

I recently saw a video created by a mom describing her transgender child’s journey through childhood. From a very young age he knew he was a boy and was very vocal about wanting to be treated as one. I clearly remember when having a gay child was a huge deal and in some quarters it still is. Having a trans* child would be even more challenging. I’m fairly well versed on adult trans* issues having even been shown a brand new vulva by an extremely proud and excited nurse who transitioned from male to female while working at a local hospital. Deciding I needed to learn more about children and teens, I began to read.

An article from the New Yorker chronicled a teen who started taking testosterone and had a mastectomy at sixteen. Some children have been switching genders as early as preschool. According to some estimates, thousands of American adolescents are taking hormones to delay puberty until they decide if they want medical or surgical interventions. Around age sixteen, they can stop the hormones, allowing puberty to continue or start taking hormones to begin their transition. Puberty suppressors have the advantage of teens not fully developing breasts, menstrual periods, facial hair or muscle mass. If they do continue to transition, they more closely resemble their affirmed gender.

Not all children who experience gender dysphoria continue to experience it as they get older, though. Some research has shown that a majority will stop meeting the criteria for the diagnosis as they age into adolescence and adulthood, so not every child will pursue these options. And on the negative side, hormonal transition will cause most people to lose fertility, so these are life altering adult decisions made using a teen brain.

The best, but often difficult advice, to my way of thinking is to treat all children as individuals and allow them to express themselves in the ways they feel most comfortable. Wait and see how they feel as they develop and love them no matter what. Slowly, society is becoming more tolerant of differences of all types.

Resources that may be helpful:

A Libido Pill for Women?

A company called Spout Pharmaceuticals is trying to receive FDA approval for a drug called Flibanserin. The company claims the pill can dramatically increase a women’s desire to have sex. In their study, the participants reported a distinct increase in sexual desire and in the number of satisfying sexual events, as well as a marked decrease in distress around having sex with their partner.

two pairs of feet in bed

image via Rodale News

Unlike Viagra that works to increase blood flow to the genitals, it works by increasing the chemicals in the brain. The drug works by increasing dopamine, norepinephrine and decreases serotonin. While this sounds like an easy fix, it isn’t. First, decreases in libido are not always linked to one cause. A person’s sexual desire can be changed by fatigue, children, emotional problems, menopause, hormonal changes, medications, etc. The reasons can vary so widely that it is unclear if changing brain chemistry will erase all of the other potential culprits of not wanting to get frisky with their partners. Second, the medication has not been approved by the FDA.

While I’m all for focusing more on female desire and sexual health, I don’t know how I feel about taking a mood altering drug that has unknown sides effects and potential risks for long term use. If someone is having trouble with a decrease in sexuality they may want to evaluate their personal and professional life.

Psychological Issues
-Poor body image or low self-esteem
-Prior sexual or physical abuse with previous partner

Relationship Issues
-Feeling disconnected
-Lack of communication
-Not feeling happy with your partner
-Constant fighting or arguing

-Medical problems
-Pain during sex
-Hormonal changes
-Lack of desire after surgery

If you are experiencing a decrease or lack of desire it’s important to realize that you’re not alone. By pinpointing the problem, you can find the resources you need to get your sexy back. Many people benefit from counseling or seeing their doctor if it’s a physical problem.

Fun Friday: Consent Explained the British Way

When it comes to sex, consent is pretty straightforward – everyone needs to be into what’s happening, and if you’re not sure about it, ask.

But Allegra, you night wonder, what makes explaining consent a Fun Friday kind of topic? Consent itself is awesome, but talking about people who don’t get it really isn’t all that enjoyable.

Well, a fabulous blog titled Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess has broken it down a bit, using the quintessentially British (and surprisingly perfect) analogy of making someone a cup of tea. It’s further proof that tea makes everything better.

Also, her follow up piece about how surreal it’s been to have that post be spread so far, so fast is pretty great, too, and talks about some important follow-up points.

Restroom? Papers, Please!

We’re (sadly) all too familiar with the ways in which politicians want to insert themselves into medical issues when it comes to reproduction, but here in Florida, we’ve not got politicians wanting to wedge themselves into another inappropriate, private space – our bathrooms.

HB 583 and SB 1464 are bills that would make it a crime for someone to use a public restroom that doesn’t match their legal sex – punishable by a year in jail. And business owners who ‘allow’ that to happen would also be violating the new law, putting cafe managers and gas station attendants in the position of having to decide who looks like they ‘should’ be going into which bathroom. Anyone whose appearance doesn’t match up with cultural gender norms will be put in a difficult, and sometimes impossible situation if this law passes.

Why has this even come up? Rep. Fred Artiles, a state senator from Miami, has claimed that an ordinance passed in Miami-Dade County banning gender discrimination would open up the door to sexual predators infiltrating restrooms across the state. First off, this law is unnecessary – people can legally use either restroom now, and we haven’t run into these kinds of problems. Neither have any of the twenty-one states in the US that have passed similar antidiscrimination ordinances. And criminal acts are, well, still criminal, wherever they take place.

But the bills also fail to address the harassment that does take place in public restrooms – 70% of trans* people have been harassed, assaulted or denied entrance to a restroom when they’ve tried to use one. A new, needless law like this one doesn’t solve any existing problems, but it will absolutely create a whole slew of new ones.

If you’re interested in taking action, there are a number of groups across the state that are doing some good work on this issue. Locally, ALSO Youth has been organizing a number of responses, as has Equality Florida. You can also contact your state senator and representative directly – you can find their information here. (If you’re up for it, calls tend to have a much bigger impact than emails.)

All About Testicles

A repost for those inquiring minds out there…

Many people think males store semen in their testicles, but this belief is incorrect. The testicles are the male version of the female’s ovaries. They produce sperm and make testosterone. Unlike females who are born with all the eggs they’ll ever have, males are not born with sperm. They start producing sperm (and a lot of it) during puberty around the age of 10-16 years old, and never stop! Males are sperm factories. They make around 3,000 sperm per second with an average of several hundred million every day. Sperm are produced in the testes, mature in the epidydimis, and when ejaculation occurs, they combine with fluid from the Cowper’s Gland and seminal vesicle and leave through the spermatic cord/vas deferens/urethra.

Testicles_2012Because the testicles are covered in nerves and on the outside of the body rather than the inside (very little protection), it can be very painful when they are hit, kicked, pinched, or twisted. The reason they are outside the body is because they have to be kept 3 degrees cooler than the rest of the body. His “testicle thermostat” (scrotum) brings them closer to the body when it is cold and farther away from the body when it is hot. Essentially, the skin that makes up the scrotum either shrinks, drawing the testicles closer to the heat of the man’s body, or it relaxes allowing the testicles to move away from the heat of the body. The ability to make sperm would shut down if the testicles reached the body’s normal core temperature of 98.6 for an extended period of time. This is why doctors recommend wearing boxers instead of briefs and not frequenting hot tubs when males are trying to conceive.

Now that we cleared that up, what is up with guys having different sized testicles? When it comes to penis size, bigger is not always better, but for testicles, size definitely matters. If someone has bigger testicles, he produces more sperm and probably more testosterone. A normal sized testicle should be about the size of a walnut. If they are smaller (the size of an olive or a cherry), have unusual hardness or lumpiness they should be checked by a medical provider. Males should also seek medical attention if they notice any sores or bumps on their scrotum. For more information visit Planned Parenthood.