Dear Straight Talk: I’m 16 and unlike most girls I know, I prefer to be natural and don’t shave or wax. My friends accept this as my business. However, my stepsisters, with whom I share a room every other weekend, say I look gross with pubic hair and proudly display their shave and wax jobs. They say their boyfriends and nearly all guys prefer it. I have a boyfriend, but we aren’t to this point. However, someday in life, this point will come. Does it really matter to guys if a girl shaves and waxes? Also, how do I deal with my stepsisters? — Molly, Petaluma
Sarah, 16, Monclova, Ohio: The pressure to shave and wax is another way girls are made to feel insecure about their appearance. In all honesty, it’s a huge hassle and even harmful. Due to porn, it has become the norm for many guys to expect a hairless girl. What I’ve learned: If a guy respects and loves you, he’ll accept the natural you. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t deserve you.
Katelyn, 19, Huntington Beach: That your stepsisters make this an issue, but your friends don’t, shows who really cares. Remind them that you’re free to make your own choices. And dress in the bathroom.
Mae, 21, Santa Cruz: It’s true that today’s young men expect women to be shaved — BUT many guys (usually the good ones) don’t care at all. They’re just thrilled to be with you. I stopped at 19 because my then-boyfriend said, “Why do you shave?” And I was like, “Because I’m supposed to ...?” And he said, “Well, I don’t care.” And that was it! I stopped. It’s incredibly uncomfortable to shave pubic hair and Brazilian waxes (I’ve had one) are alarming painful. It’s great that you don’t shave. I’ll never go back. Your stepsisters are insecure. Don’t undress around them or anyone immature. As you get older, people become accepting. Tip: If things deepen with your boyfriend, explain ahead that you don’t shave in case he’s really reactive in the moment.
Brandon, 22, Mapleton, Maine: Find a way to ask your boyfriend about it. Lots of guys are grossed out by pubic hair. Others think it’s beautiful. Regarding your stepsisters, don’t let them bully you. It ain’t their junk down there.
Carlos, 18, Fairfax, Va.: I just asked my guy friends if it mattered and they all said they don’t care. Molly, be happy with who you are!
Moriah, 17, Rutland, Vt.: I’m on your side. I’ve given this thought and talked with both sexes about it. My conclusion: Girls tend to freak out over body changes and try to reverse them (losing weight when they develop hips, covering up acne, and shaving/waxing pubic hair). Their insecurity makes them act and look like 10-year-old girls! Boys admire a female confident in her womanhood, so stay confident! Let your stepsisters know you are comfortable looking like a woman.
Dear Molly: It’s true what Sarah said: This trend came from the porn industry, and according to the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, contagious viral skin infections (Molluscum contagiosum), genital warts, folliculitis, cysts, and scars are increasing from it. It also has emotional costs for girls. All the focus “down there” (starting in middle school for many), causes over-the-top objectification of girls as sex objects. This consumes tremendous mental energy that would normally be spent on studies and activities that develop confidence and intelligence — which is what’s really attractive. Congratulations on avoiding an unhealthy trend. Like many girls, your stepsisters are caught up in it — and they’re being mean. Projecting confidence is your best defense. You might also pity their insecurity. — Lauren
Straight Talk Advice.org tackles youth’s toughest issues with youth’s wisest advice. Go deeper in today’s conversation or ask a question at www.straighttalkadvice.org or P.O. Box 1974, Sebastopol, CA 95473.