Oct 24 2013 8:30am

Waxing Pathetic—Should Heroines Dare to be Bare?

Expecting a Bolton Baby by Sarah M. AndersonToday 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:

Buy at AmazonBuy at Barnes & NobleBuy at Indiebound



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 Her next book, Expecting a Bolton Baby is out Nov. 1, 2013.

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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
I'm of the same mind as those who say that the grooming preferences can (should?) depend on the heroine. And of course, sometimes it's not only personality, but also context that has come into play; for instance, I do get pulled out of the story by mentions of shaving or waxing when, say, it's the end of the world and the heroine still finds the time/means to shave or wax. Whaaaa?
Hanna Martine
2. Hanna Martine
Add a word to my first quote: he "comments on her NOT having waxed."

love this topic, great article :)
Megan Frampton
3. MFrampton
@Hanna Martin: Fixed! Thanks for contributing to a superfun article!
Hanna Martine
4. Sarah M. Anderson
Whoops--sorry, Hanna! Thanks for fixing, Megan.

Redline--I think that's the real issue--not when they do or don't, but when highlighting it throws us out of a story. I mean, if you're in a post-apocolyptic world, there's got to be SOME regrowth going on, right?
Hanna Martine
5. Rebe
I agree with redline that it takes me out of the story when a character comments on waxing/shaving. That seems like such a mood killer to me! It definitely should be personal preference.
Hanna Martine
6. Ridley
"That’s ten years of upkeep, cost, regrowth—and for what?"

That's some patriarchal thinking right there. The heroine couldn't have waxed for herself? The only point of grooming is to satisfy the male gaze?

The tone of this article shows a lack of awareness.
Heather Waters
7. HeatherWaters
@Rebe -- I actually don't mind mentions of it (it really does shed light on different personalities, which is cool, and it's such a personal choice--there's no wrong answer here), but it's like with anything else: If it doesn't make sense in context (or if it makes you wonder, "How did she find the time in the middle of a zombie apocalypse?"), it'll pull you out of the story.

@Sarah M. Anderson -- Yep, exactly. It's another characterization detail, so I'm on board with hearing heroines' various preferences, when it makes sense.
Hanna Martine
8. Nancy M
On a purely personal basis, I prefer to shave. It just feels cleaner to me. Also, since we're being very candid here, I like receiving oral sex and I want my man to have an unobstructed field. I didn't think I could still blush, but I am. Lol
Megan Frampton
9. MFrampton
As though I couldn't love Victoria Dahl anymore:
"...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."
Hanna Martine
10. Sarah M. Anderson
I'm not going to name names, Nancy, but let's just say that, in the process of discussing this blog, a variety of people did a lot of sharing. A LOT. Ask a question about pubic hair and Boy! You're going to get answers!
Hanna Martine
11. flchen1
LOL! Veeeerarry interesting, Sarah--thanks for polling all the authors you did as well. I have to agree that the hair issue is very personal, and it can be very jarring to have an extended discussion right in the story, unless for some reason, it's a relevant thing to the characters and the plot....
13. sunnigurl1230
I also believe it is dependent on the character's personality. I don't mind if it's mentioned, as long as it's not an entire chapter dedicated the each curl.

There's a series (I won't name because A. I want to respect the author and B. My memory sucks and I can't even remember the name/author lol), and the females of the family all get together for spa days with the main intent to get waxed. I found that to be odd and a bit uncomfortable to read. "Hey sis, let's go get the hair ripped off your vag." Umm no.

Personally, I shave on a weekly basis. I feel cleaner and when I have grown it out, I would have hairs get caught in the lace of my panties and hated that feeling.
Hanna Martine
14. LadyWesley
I read mostly historical romance, where I'm pretty sure there will always be "soft curls" for the hero to run his fingers through.
Lori K
15. LoriK
I think that women can and should do with their bodies what they choose to do. Among other things that means that any guy who feels the need to comment on the presence or absence of hair when he first sees a woman naked is going to get classified as a jerk and I'm likely to lose interest in continuing to read a story with him as the hero. I have the same reaction to heroines who in any way imply that what they do is the right/best/sexiest thing, whether that's removing hair or keeping it.

One thing that I think is worth noting for reality, but which would be really weird to comment on in most books, is that what feels cleaner isn't necessarily actually cleaner. For a lot of women waxing leads to more problems, not less and I know more than one woman for whom waxing + daily thong-wearing is nothing but an infection waiting to happen.
Laura Bracken
16. Night -owl
@Lady Wesley, your comment made me laugh, out loud. It's so true!
Hanna Martine
17. Andrea Laurence
I love you Sarah. Really, I do. You just lay it out there. Personally, my heroines tend to be well-groomed, but not bare. I think it falls nicely between pre-pubescent and au naturale and I'm not making a 'stance' either way. Personally, I'd prefer not to mention it at all, but sometimes it fits.
Hanna Martine
18. Sarah M. Anderson
Lady Wesley--Yes, I believe we can all agree that most historicals are exempt. Soft curls for everyone!

LoriK--Yet another reason why, in real life, I'm just gonna pass.

Andrea--Yeah, I know. :)
Carmen Pinzon
19. bungluna
I have one thought about shaved hair: ingrown hairs! A good friend of mine suffered terribly with ingrown pubic hair after waxing all the way. Ever since, I just can't think of any reason why it's a good idea to go to all that pain. Depilatory creams all the way!
20. purplebull
This post is weird. First, you can wax yourself at home. Don't have to spread your legs open for anyone. Two, there are laser treamtets for permanent hair removal or heck, go to Wal-Mart and buy Nair. A lotion can remove hair nowadays. There is also shaving. So yeah, waxing could be realllly cheap.

So the fact the if a heroine waxes or not is depenedent on the character's perosnality and whether she has money is weird. WHAT. So tomboys don't wax. Please. Each woman is different. Her personality doesn't matter (there are exceptions). Just depends on what she's comfortable with. Not all girly girls wax. Not all finacnially well off people wax and vice versa.

However, "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." made sense. But again, the decision to go bare doesn't have to be because of something sex related. Some females go bare because they want to. Some don't go bare because they don't want to go bare. It doesn't matter and shouldn't matter and I will agree, if a hero wants it one way or another, that would be a goodbye, sir.

Anyway, in the end, I'm glad I didn't stop reading this post at the "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." statmenet because that was quite a judgmental thing to say and JUST AS BAD as a man commenting on the topic. I wouldn't stand it if the hero did it, I won't stand it if another lady did it.

At least the post highlights the fact that ladies can do whatever they want with *their* pubic hair. Because, when you say "who the hell does that?", well, females that's who. They can do whatever they want. If they have money or not. If they're tomboys or girly girls or 20 something years olds or 30 somethings years olds or 40 something years olds. The fact that some people (males and females. Especially females. God, really?? Don't we get enough shit from men and then some ladies add to it?) don't believe that and make judgments makes me sooooo sad.
Hanna Martine
21. Momtozoo
It gets me when the story goes on and on about the heronine's translucent alabaster skin and *then* mentions she's waxed. It makes me wince. I have that kind of skin, always have... my older sister tried to wax my eyebrows (to "shape" them) 1 time -- my skin came off w/the stickypaper. No way in Hades I'm letting that stuff near my ladygarden... hairless may be all nifty, but skinless... not so hot. And I have to agree, if that's the dude's main criteria for sexy, he can bite my pasty white butt (way less painful). And then get the heck out.
Shana Galen
22. ShanaGalenAuthor
Great post. I'm glad I write historical and don't have to deal with this issue. I generally just skip those details.
Hanna Martine
23. Shark with Lasers
Great post! If you've ever accidentally gotten someone's porn catalog in the mail, then you know that there is somebody out there who likes what you've got, regardless of whether or not what you've got could be considered fashionable or conventionally attractive.
Hanna Martine
24. Shark with Lasers
Wilbur Smith had a femme fatale character in Hungry as the Sea who ran her fingers through her pubic hair and it made a crisp sound, and the hero thought it was hot even as he thought he shouldn't be sleeping with this woman. I thought how stiff those hairs must be to make noise when you run your fingers through them, but to each their own. That male author obviously thought having some flair down there was sexy, even though it was the bad girl displaying it. I must confess I will always love The Seventh Scroll but Hungry as the Sea was not my favorite Smith adventure story. But that particular scene was memorable.
Hanna Martine
25. Dolly Peters
Personally, waxing and threading is a perfect match. There are times when the wax cant strip off everything especially the very thin hairs. It needs to be thread. Thanks!
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