EDIT: I scheduled this piece to publish today last week, when I was going through my drafts folder and discovered I’d never published it here (it originally appeared on Good Vibes Magazine). It seems a bit trite, after this weekend. More information about Cheryl is coming in the next few days, as we start planning what’s next.
In all of the talk of piercing in the last few months since we both decided these piercings might be something we wanted to pursue, I started thinking about my tongue piercing again and that I would like to have it again. I had it pierced first in 2001 (ten years ago … is that right?! I think so) and then took it out in early 2006, only to have a piercer re-open the hole (which was only a tiny bit closed, so much easier the second time) in late 2007, and then took it out again in early 2009, which was before Kristen and I got together. So she never got the chance to kiss me with it. She said she’d kissed other people who have had one, but nothing more than that. And I had developed a few tricks with it, believe you me.
Of all the piercings I’ve had—and I’ve had 11 different ones, three below the neck, some of which I have had pierced more than once—my tongue is the one I like the most. But I have, as I tend to say, “a teeth thing,” which has in the past been a pretty serious dental phobia and now it just a former phobia (I think) and a general fear of breaking teeth or damaging teeth. So that doesn’t go very well with a metal bar through my tongue.
I took it out last time on a whim and then regretted it, wishing that I’d instead bought a spacer bar to keep it open instead of removing it entirely, or a bar with flat ends instead of the silver balls so it stays closer to my tongue and doesn’t click on my teeth when I talk or eat.
With all this talk of piercings, I started wishing I still had the bar in my tongue, and I decided about a week ago to see if I could get it through—and I could! It was quite easy, and while it was tender for a day or two it wasn’t more than adjusting, no actual damage. I found that I had actually bought a bar with flat ends (why didn’t I use that before? Not sure) and now that it feels back to normal, not swelling or sore, I slipped that in with the ball on top and the flat disc on the bottom just this morning.
It feels good. I like it.
I’ve noticed, in the week since I’ve had it in my mouth, that I am much more inclined to kiss Kristen with tongue, to touch it to her tongue, to get it into her mouth in some way than I was before. I wouldn’t say I dislike tongue kissing (at all!) but I do think generally people use their tongues too much when they kiss and that the lips are the good, best parts. But Kristen really likes tongue kisses generally … so this is a little bit different.
I’m also noticing that since Kristen got both nipples pierced that I want to touch them more. I can’t, really, yet, as they heal, for at least a week or so, but I find myself wanting to ask her to take her shirt off so I can see them, and wanting to touch or kiss or play with them already. She loves attention toward her tits, and probably generally I could do more of that, so this is a happy side effect of the piercing for her.
This morning, over breakfast, as we were discussing what we had to get done (on Kristen’s first real day off since her job started in early February), she mentioned she was going to get her pussy waxed. Which I love. Not because it’s something I expect her to do or require her to do or think is more feminine or part of any sort of beauty standard—I believe everyone has the right to sculpt or play with or explore their own body hair in whichever ways they want to, and that they can change that at any time—but because I love touching, kissing, playing with her pussy after she gets it done.
A friend of ours had hers waxed for the first time recently, and when I asked how it went she said, “My girlfriend could not keep her face out of my pussy for four days.”
Yeah. It’s like that. I see it all bare and I want to suck her lips into my mouth. Same with her nipples—I see them all pink and pert and I want to pinch them, lick them.
To Kristen this morning I said, “Between the waxing and the piercing, I’m going to have a hard time keeping my hands off you.”
Which, I expect, is at least part of the point! And which feels like a really good place to be in, given some of our recent complications.
It’s not that I expect any of these things—pierced tongue, pierced nipples, waxed pussy—to be something that anyone does, and if Kristen had showed no interest in nipple piercing or pussy waxing I never would push her to do either. But she was enthusiastic, interested in exploring what it would be like to modify her body in those ways, and personally, I think those are some significant ways to play with this amazing sexy tool of a body that we all have.
I don’t believe it should be a double standard, either—I too am responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of my own body hair, and in doing things that make her want to touch me or pleasure me. I’ve started to think of my gym routine as directly related to our sex life, because while it not only helps me build strength and stamina physically, it makes me feel stronger and more alive, with more confidence, something that can only help in the bedroom.
And I’m interested in enhancing my own body for sexual pleasure. I’m not sure if I’ll get another piercing. If I do, it’d be a clit piercing of some sort, probably a triangle, though I’m not sure about that. I’m especially not sure what it would be like to strap on and have a clit piercing, though I would hope it would make things better, which would be part of the point.
I often think of piercing as a way to enhance both sensation and attention toward a particular body part. Similarly to getting a tattoo—You may not notice someone’s forearms, but if they have a ring around it or a visual symbol of some sort, it draws much more attention to it. Plus piercings certainly give exhibitionists an excuse to take their shirts off (or lower their pants), since people are generally interested in how these things look and eager to say yes to an offer of, “Would you like to see?”
She’s definitely more willing to let out her exhibitionist these days. And given that she quite enjoyed the needle going through her nipples, I think she’s coming along quite nicely as a masochist, too. I referred to her as such at the dinner table last night, after the experience, and she protested. “Okay, a masochist-in-training, then,” I responded. That might be more accurate.
Rachel Kramer Bussel has a great recent piece about her experiences with waxing. I like looking at things like waxing that our culture files under “obligatory beauty regimens” as things that we actively choose, knowing full well what we are choosing (like the amount of time it takes to maintain hair removal is quite a lot), and that we choose because we like the way it looks or feels or the way it enhances our sex life. That is a perfectly valid reason to choose something.
Thanks, all, for your thoughtful responses and life stories about butch hair in the last post.
Here’s a few of my thoughts about femmes and femininity and hair, and then I’ll ask some questions and open it up to whatever you’d like to say about the subject.
I want to distinguish here between options and personal preference – I talk a lot on this site – especially in terms of femmes and femme identity – about what I like, and I want to make it clear that those are usually my personal preferences, and I’m not trying to say that I think that’s what all femmes should be or that femmes who are not like that are not valid or are not “real” femmes or any of that crap. I hope that’s not how it comes across.
So, let me first say this, about my basic philosophies on hair: hair is a personal choice. It is also a major marker on the physical body used to distinguish gender differentiation in contemporary culture. Short hair on men, long hair on women; shaved legs and underarms on women, hairy men. This of course was not always the case; it used to be seen as very masculine for men to grow their hair long. Hair presentation, length, and social conformity are based largely on culture.
In my (unofficial, limited) cultural observation in the recent years, these differences are just getting more pronounced, although with the inclusion of gay male culture in mainstream men’s fashion, the rise of beauty products for men, the addition of “manscaping” and the metrosexualizing of fashion and beauty, beauty standards for men and masculinity are on the rise. It is not unusual for hetero/cis-women to expect their hetero/cis-men to keep their chest hair under control, to get eyebrow waxes, to keep their hair groomed.
But just because the beauty standards for men are raising doesn’t mean it’s okay for us to keep unobtainable beauty standards for women – or for anyone, for that matter. Honestly I believe we’ve got to turn the beauty culture inside out on our own personal journeys into our own gender identities, whatever flavor they may be, whatever area of the gender galaxy, to really examine what the culture dictates and unlearn the compulsory standards that can be exhausting, unobtainable, and even harmful to our bodies.
What the body does is natural, normal, acceptible, sexy – where hair grows, the stretchmarks, the veins that show through the skin, the moles and freckles, the thickness of the muscles or the tendons or the thigh or the waist or the hair. All these things are beautiful, and real.
And, in my humble opinion, are also turn-ons: the celebration of the beauty of the human body.
If you’ve never explored the potential damage and compulsory standards of beauty culture, take a look at:
- The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf – a bit dated now, and well critiqued, but still holds many core concepts that I believe can be very transformational
- Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty by Nancy Etcoff – Undoes some of the cultural critiques of the beauty myth and argues for a scientific basis of valuing beauty; interesting counter in the nature-vs-nurture debate
- Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy
- The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg
- Killing Me Softly, Jean Kilbourne – This video tends to be shown (over & over) in women studies courses in colleges, and there’s a reason why: it can be really eye-opening to see what the culture of beauty dictates for women through advertising. Kilbourne has other videos that are also wonderfully critical of alcohol, tobacco, and thinness. They’re hard to find since they’re educational films, but your library might have them.
- Any other recommendations?
So: once we start undoing society’s standards, and treating every possible option as valid and valuable for different reasons in order to make a true choice, we can start exploring what it is that we personally prefer. What turns us on, how our bodies feel the most sexy, what the soft animal of our body loves.
My initial thoughts about femme hair always go to the hair on your head, and the ways it’s worn. Being that I am very attracted to femininity, I do like long hair generally, though I know plenty of femmes who totally rock the chin-length cuts or the boycuts, I’ve even known a few with shaved heads.
I wrote once upon a time about how much I love it when femmes wear their hair up, and specifically the idea that “a woman’s hair is for her husband.” I wrote, “I know there are deep problems with this idea of a husband owning a wife’s hair, but I love the idea of it being so sexual, such a turn on, when a femme lets her hair down, that it’s private, saved for me and me alone.” And that’s just it exactly.
About body hair on femmes … honestly, my personal preference is basically bare. Very little hair, everywhere. I find shaving sexy, I find the rituals of beauty sexy (when they are done with intention and sexual connotations especially). I like to shave my lover’s legs, actually. That’s a scene I haven’t played out in a long time, but I find that intensely erotic.
I do have some guilt about liking the reproduction of traditional femininity. I know I could write pages about how it’s not compulsory, it’s resistance, celebratory, and intentional, but still sometimes I wonder if what my block is that I wouldn’t find hair particularly attractive. But I suppose I can attempt to justify this by saying that I absolutely think it should be culturally acceptible – I hate that it’s dictated as necessary by the beauty rules – but that my personal preference is skin, skin, skin. Is that because of the dominant cultural beauty rules? Yeah, probably. I can’t escape it, I was raised in it, I live in it every day. But I recognize that it exists, what it means, how it operates, and I fully support people who reject that rule and who prefer to have their hair wild and free, or trimmed and neat, or completely bare. All options should be valid.
So, now you:
I know you’ve already got a ton of things to say about femme body hair, but here’s some questions to get started:
If you’re in the transfeminine area of the gender galaxy:
- Do you shave, wax, pluck, shape? Underarms, legs, thighs, stomach, chin? Why or why not?
- What was your process in coming to do the hair sculpting and
- How do you make choices about your hair? Based on sexual preferences? Cultural standards?What your lovers like?
- How do you keep your pubes? Trimmed, waxed, shaved, au naturale?
- What comes to mind when you see women who don’t shave?
- Do you sexualize shaving or body hair removal?
If you are someone who tends to date transfeminine folks:
- Do you have personal preferences when it comes to hair on the femmes you date?
- Do you sexualize shaving or body hair removal?
- Do you prefer hair on her head worn a certain way? Do you tend to be attracted to very specific hair cuts, styles, colors?
I’m also very curious about folks who live outside of the US – clearly my perspectives are very US-centric, and I’m not really sure what gets culturally dictated or compulsorily reproduced in other places. I have impressions, but being an outsider to culture in other places, I won’t presume to speak on it.
Please do elaborate however you’d like. And thank you, for reading and for your comments, I really like that we’re conversing here more and more, getting input from all kinds of people who live in all kinds of ways.
I am a butch who shaves.
Not my legs, inner thighs, stomach, underarms (though I’ll get to those in a moment), but my face. Chin, mustache, sideburns. Every day.
It has taken me years to admit this, to celebrate this. I started shaving my chin about ten years ago, at eighteen, when my-ex-the-boy and I got into a fight and he used it as leverage against me. It was toward the end of our five-year high school relationship and he was increasingly paranoid that I would leave him to come out (which I did), so we used to fight about my perceived dykeness all the time. We were in his car in our driveway, just home from somewhere, yelling at each other. I have no idea what the context was, but I still remember the way he looked over at me and said: “I mean, you have more hair on your chin than me!”
I’m sure I’d noticed the hairs on my chin and upper lip, I’m sure they’d been there for years. I was at that time in denial about most of what my body did, how it looked. I spent as little time as I could with obligatory lipstick and mascara – the only makeup I could master without feeling like a clown, I never could figure out foundation or blush or eye shadow, despite the hundreds of beauty magazines that I studied, attempting to discover and reproduce the secrets of femininity.
It wasn’t until he said that, though, that I thought I should pluck, wax, shave, something, anything, so as not to give away my gender deviancy and gender defiance that seemed to be so certain that it would even come through in my biology. I’m a hippie after all – deep down I believe whatever the human body does is ‘natural’ and that all the hair policing was perpetuating unobtainable standards of beauty for women.
But this wasn’t about beauty, suddenly. It was about gender. It was about being revealed, when I didn’t even realize I was.
I promptly went upstairs, shut myself in the bathroom, took my razor from the shower, and shaved my chin smooth.
That was 1999.
It was only very recently that I let the hair on my face grow, even for a day or two. I’ve often seen dykes in the lesbian communities who sport peach fuzz mustaches, goatees, sideburns, but it never really occurred to me that it would happen if I didn’t run the razor along my face daily.
It was Callie who mentioned it first. It came up with Datedyke, too. I didn’t quite get the appeal at first. It felt gross, even shameful. No, they said. An indication of masculinity.
Oh yeah. Right.
I buy men’s razors now. Made for the contours of a face, not the smooth line of a shin bone or inner thigh. I enjoy buying products so masculine. I do it, head high, boldly; I challenge what the clerk thinks. I am not shy about it. It is a small act of gender celebration, gender defiance, gender activism.
Sometimes I even like my five o’clock shadow. I’ve developed the habit of scratching my chin like the boys do. Feeling when I need a shave. Letting it grow on weekends, on weeks when I don’t have work. When I was in Mexico I didn’t touch it once. Ten days without shaving, I am sure a personal record. I didn’t even know my hair would grow that long, that dark, that thick.
Sometimes, I even like it.
Okay, so, body hair.
Well, here’s the deal. I believe hair is a potential enhancer of sex. A sex toy. That it can be used to increase sensation, both tactile and visual. That the key decision about the hair on my head is for a sexual purpose. That running fingertips from ankle to cunt feels different on an unshaved leg – for both the person to whom the hand belongs and the person to whom the leg belongs. That it is different to fuck with a full bush as opposed to a brazillian.
Whether or not one is better than the other is a purely personal preference. Clearly there are some cultural preferences that correspond with gender role and expectation, but when all options have been examined and stripped of their social meaning and compulsory prescription, we can actually have an opinion about what we prefer, and make a choice.
I’ll get to femme body hair another time. I want to talk about butch hair, here, a bit more.
I know transmasculine folks who shave and who don’t. Who grow their hair long and who buzz it off nearly completely. I know a butch whose hair grows in so light she doesn’t have to shave – though she hates body hair, and would if her own wasn’t so light. I know a butch who had a contest with her friends to see who could grow their hair the longest.
Sure, I personally have preferences – I keep the hair on my head short, #2 on the sides, two fingers on top. I do this for sex, and for gender: I love the feel of buzzed hair under some girl’s fingers. Love how it makes me feel boyish. Love how there’s still enough for her to grab and pull on the top, in the back. Love the physical sensation of her desire as she pulls on it suddenly, when I do something and she responds, a physical communication between us.
I don’t shave my legs or underarms. I like the cultural masculinity of it. I like the surprise and occasional understanding of strangers. I do “manscape,” as the kids are calling it these days. Trim where it grows long, sculpt a little. I figure I sculpt and trim the hair on my head, I can do that for other places too. It is for sexual purposes really. And goodness knows there’s a lot I’d invest for sexual benefits.
So: I covered options, now let’s talk preferences. What kind of hair do you prefer on your butch? Butches & other transmasculine guys, how do you keep your hair? Au naturale? Waxed? Plucked? Is it leftover compulsory hair depletion from your gender-conformist days, or have you examined all your options and made the choice you prefer? Femmes, do you love it / hate it when a butch shaves? When she buzzes her hair or grows it out? When she keeps a mustache?[ I know there’s a ton to say about femme identity and body hair too – let’s keep this to butches, for now. Start thinking, though, the femme equivalent discussion is forthcoming. ]