Today we welcome back Sarah M. Anderson, whose Expecting a Bolton Baby comes out in just a few weeks. Sarah is no stranger to getting in-depth and personal at H&H; her past posts have including the topics of alternate names for the male appendage, the female's soft petals, and slut-shaming. This post talks about waxing—and how authors walk the razor's edge when they start discussing how bare the heroine is daring to be. Thanks, Sarah!
The other day, I was reading a book that shall remain nameless when I reached a sex scene. YEAH! Excited, I began to read faster. Until I hit the part where the heroine—who had been in a semi-abusive relationship at the age of 14 with a much older man and hadn’t had another relationship with a man for the next decade—stripped for our hero. This was supposed to be a big moment—not just because Yeah! Sex!—but because she was taking a risk on our hero by really exposing herself. The sex was spontaneous, not the planned-weeks-in-advance kind.
Except that, when she literally exposed herself, our hero noted how pleased he was that she was waxed bare.
And boy, all the fun feelings I was having up to that point came to a screeching halt. Really? I thought. She’s been living a celibate life for a decade and is waxed bare? Who the hell does that? That’s ten years of upkeep, cost, regrowth—and for what?
I’m not the only one who’s been thrown out of a story by the sudden notation of waxing. Hanna Martine, author of Long Shot, said, “One specific book, which I'd rather not name, was memorable because of that particular scene. He comments on her not having waxed, and she goes into great detail why she does. They have a paragraphs-long discussion about her grooming and I found it jarring, not because of the fact she had pubic hair, but because it felt like the author was staking a claim on the ‘issue’ through the heroine, and because it came about awkwardly and caused a hiccup in the middle of an otherwise hot scene.”
Throwing a reader out of a scene is never a good thing.
I’ll admit it, I’m a low-maintenance woman (read: Tomboy). I get haircuts approximately every 3-6 months whether I need it or not. I don’t dye my hair because I can’t be bothered to deal with my roots. I shave my legs on a weekly, not daily, basis, and my bikini line on special occasions. Getting dressed up means putting on earrings. Bonus points if they match. It’s hard for me to fathom why anyone would go through the embarrassment of paying money to spread wide for a person who’s not your lover or your gynecologist, having an extremely sticky substance applied to your pubic region, and then all the hair yanked out.
Ouch. Frankly, dental surgery sounds just about as much fun as that.
But I know I’m in the minority these days. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old, or was never a very girly girl in the first place. It could be because I’m cheap and have a low pain threshold—waxing (which is a catch-all term that can cover shaving, lasering or . . . well, frankly, I don’t want to know what else) cost money and a layer of skin. Maybe it’s because I think waxed women look like ten-year-old girls and I have some problems with a pre-pubescent body being the current sexual expression du jour.
I’m not alone in this. Laura K. Curtis, author of Twisted, said, “I was at a conference two years ago and on a panel someone made the statement that ‘men today expect a certain level of grooming from women.’ I thought to myself, Good grief, really? She was saying that anyone under the age of 35 really couldn't get away with NOT waxing and expect a man to be okay with it. I thought, You know, by the time they peel your clothes off, if they're going to go 'oh, you don't wax? See ya later!' then I don't really think they're hero material.“
Clearly, though, a lot of women are currently waxing, so Laura and I aren’t a representative sample size. But I got to thinking—am I being unreasonable about this? Maybe I’m looking at this all wrong?
To get a better “feel” for the topic, I went to Twitter (as you do). It turns out that a lot of romance authors have a lot of thoughts about this topic. I’m not the only one with opinions. I have to tell you, the answers I got from some of the leading writers of romance opened my eyes a lot.
First I asked if heroines waxed. Jill Sorenson, author of Freefall, had this to say: “It depends on the character. Most of my heroines aren't involved in relationships and haven't been sexually active for a period of time. I write a lot of outdoorsy settings and suspenseful adventures. Waxing just doesn't fit with every character or story. It's expensive and some of my heroines are struggling financially. If I was writing about fashionable businesswomen, I might make different choices. I tend to associate waxing with youth, wealth, urban settings and sexual activity.”
Karina Cooper doesn’t have a one-size-fits all policy when it comes to her heroines. “Some are natural, some sculpt, some wax, each dependent on the heroine. For example, in Lure of the Wicked, the second in my Dark Mission series, Naomi goes through waxing because she is undercover as a rich girl in a wealthy spa—in this case, it is expected that she do what all the other ladies are doing in order to personify that ideal woman. She doesn't particularly like it, and doesn't upkeep it after her mission is done. It's done for expectation.”
Victoria Dahl, author of So Tough to Tame, says it’s all about what the individual character would do. “Some of my heroines wax. Some don’t. Just like real women! This may sound strange to say, but even waxing is about characterization. If you know enough about your heroine to know what she’d be like in bed, and your writing is detailed in that area (ahem), you should also know whether she’d wax.”
Fair enough. But what about more erotic stories? You’d think they’d be all about waxing, right? Not necessarily. Tiffany Reisz, author of The Mistress, revealed that only one of her characters, male or female, has ever waxed: “I had one heroine in a novella who was waxed bare because she was a nude entertainer at a nightclub. You don't want pubic hairs accidentally ending up in the cocktails.”
But, Reisz adds, “Otherwise I never mention pubic hair. Considering how passionately some readers feel about pubic hair (or chest hair/body hair), I decided to leave all mention of body hair out. That way the reader can paint the picture he or she wants.”
That’s something we all agree on—waxing (or not) is a highly personal choice. Dahl adds, “It’s all about female pleasure. That skin is very sensitive, even more so when bare. People always discuss the visual aspect of it, as if women only wax for men, as if it’s only about appearance or grooming. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but every woman I know who waxes does it for herself, for the sake of her own pleasure, even when she’s by herself. As she should. It’s a choice that can be damn exciting for both parties, so let the good times roll in any way she wants them to.”
Martine seconds that, saying, “What I find most interesting is when readers claim heroines (or real-life women, if we're going there) most definitely *should* or should *not* groom themselves a certain way. We're all liberated, intelligent, sexually-aware women and we want our fictional heroines to reflect that brilliance. Why should it matter what she does or does not do?”
“Something as personal as pubic hair gets heavily politicized,” Reisz notes. “Women who wax are anti-feminist. Women who don't wax are radical man-hating feminists. Men who like women without pubic hair are perverts who have latent pedophilic tendencies. Men who love pubic hair are fetishists. No matter what you write, you can't win so I don't mention it at all. I'm a big believer in doing whatever you want.”
Maisey Yates, author of Unexpected, agrees. “I find it interesting that this is such a hot button topic. I believe pretty strongly that what a woman does with the hair on her body is certainly her own decision. Much like the decision to tattoo, pierce, shave legs or not, dye hair pink… My mentality is: it's your body, do what you want with the hair on it. So I'm open to anything in regards to heroines.”
I have to admit, I hadn’t thought of it like that. I’m sure there are a lot of people who will think me some sort of weirdo because I’m low-maintenance. (Seriously, 3-4 haircuts a year.) But I do, in fact, get haircuts. I’ve been known to pluck my eyebrows. And I do shave my legs. So is waxing your pubic hair a big jump from that? Should it be?
What do you think? Are you all for waxing heroines? Do you prefer pubic hair (or body hair in general) not be mentioned at all? Or does the whole thing seem like too much? I want to know!
Learn more or pre-order a copy of Expecting a Bolton Baby by Sarah M. Anderson, available November 5, 2013:
Award-winning author Sarah M. Anderson may live east of the Mississippi River, but her heart lies out west on the Great Plains. With a lifelong love of horses and two history teachers for parents, it wasn’t long before her characters found themselves out in South Dakota among the Lakota Sioux. She loves to put people from two different worlds into new situations and to see how their backgrounds and cultures take them someplace they never thought they’d go.
When not helping out at school or walking her rescue dogs, Sarah spends her days having conversations with imaginary cowboys and American Indians, all of which is surprisingly well-tolerated by her wonderful husband and son. Find out more at www.sarahmanderson.com. Her next book, Expecting a Bolton Baby is out Nov. 1, 2013.