My Top 10 Feminist Songs

I was scrolling through my iTunes library trying to have a bit of a music purge and I really started to notice how much of my music is by men. Of all of the female artists I have, the vast majority of their music is about feeling sad because of men, failed relationships with men and, unfortunately, a lot of songs about not being able to survive without men.

I set myself a task to find my top ten songs with a feminist message performed by women and/or that generally send a powerful, positive message from a female perspective.

How hard would it be to find music that had this message? Well apparently quite hard…but I did find quite a lot!

I’ve whittled it down to my top ten and was trying to go for some slightly less obvious choices (so I’ve got no ‘Independent Women’, ‘Can’t hold us down’ etc.) I realise there are so many more songs than what I’ve chosen so comment your own choices as well please 😉

None of Your Business, Salt ’N Pepper

 

No need for an explanation here really: “If I wanna take a guy home with me tonight, IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!” – something most women have wanted to shout from the rooftops on various occasions.

These Boots Are Made For Walking, Nancy Sinatra

 

Nancy Sinatra really puts whomever she has been seeing in their place in this song. It’s one of my favourite sassy songs and is a refreshing song to hear sung by a woman when mostly all you hear from female artists is: ‘I can’t see myself leaving you’, ‘I’ll die without you’ etc. etc…

Although this song was written by a man, it doesn’t take away from the definite feminist message behind the lyrics.

Dirty Talk, Wynter Gordon

 

This song is essentially a celebration of female sexual pleasure! It’s not, maybe, what would spring to mind straight away in a discussion of songs with a feminist message but the whole song is about this woman’s pleasure and also is a massive protest (as I am interpreting it) against the idea that women are ‘angels’ (“I am no angel!”) and must be ‘innocent’. The whole song is essentially a list of the dirty things she wants to do in bed and emphasises her consent in wanting to take part in this kind of sexual activity. There is also no mention of the sex of the person she wants to sleep with, making this a very refreshing song about female sexual pleasure that isn’t a specifically heterosexual one. It also features the lyrics ‘Can you go down…are you up for it?’ (A nice link to my initial post on Harpy I feel)
You Don’t Own Me, Lesley Gore

This song came out in 1963. It’s incredible that a song with such a strong feminist message came out as early as that and that it is still, sadly, relevant today. Again, (it was the 60s…) this song was written by men, but the message is undeniably feminist and was inspirational for women then as much as it remains so today.

Oh! Bondage Up Yours! , X-Ray Spex

 

‘Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard, but I think: OH BONDAGE UP YOURS!’

X-Ray Spex singer, Poly Styrene, called this song ‘a call for liberation. It was saying: bondage – Forget it!’ Not only is this a great feminist anthem, but also Poly Styrene herself was inspirational as a female in the British Punk scene.

Man Is The Least, Lady Saw

Just listen to the lyrics. Everything about them is incredible but my favourite line has to be ‘Man a da least I drive ‘em like Jeep’

Don’t Call Me Baby, Madison Avenue 

My mum used to screech the chorus of this song in the car when I was younger and that probably rubbed off on me a bit but this is another sassy dance track:

‘Don’t think that I’m not strong, I’m the one to take you. Don’t understand estimate me boy’

‘It’s time you knew I’m not your baby, I belong to me, so don’t call me baby’ AMEN.

Blow, Beyoncé

I know I do seem to be banging on about this a lot…but again this is a song about female sexual pleasure, specifically, cunnilingus. I couldn’t really have a list of feminist songs without including Beyoncé, but this is my favourite.

Strange Fruit, Billie Holiday

One of the most chilling and important protest songs of all time, sang and recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939, ‘strange fruit’ protested American racism and the lynching of black people that had reached a peak during that period in the US. This song is visceral and disturbing (stating the obvious, considering the content). You may think it a strange choice for this list but, for me, it’s important for everyone to remember how racist feminist movements have been in the past (and unfortunately in some circles continue to be today). For me, this is one of the most important songs ever performed by a woman. This part of history should never be forgotten and is particularly relevant to the feminist movement that needs to continue to strive forward to be anti-racist, intersectional and inclusive.

(N.B. there is a great Radio 4 programme called ‘Soul Music’ with an episode on this song which I would encourage you all to listen to. Here is the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03jb1w1).

Manager, Nadia Batson

 

This euphoric song has some great lyrics with a fundamentally feminist principle: be your own woman, do not let a man control you.


It’s a shame that it is so difficult to put together a list of songs like this when a list with songs about women being sad, lonely and betrayed by men would be easy. It also saddens me that it would be so much easier for me to put together a list of music performed by men. It’s important that people make the effort to listen to and enjoy female artists. There’s a strange notion sometimes that female artists attract only other women and gay men but this is clearly ludicrous.

I’ve left off incredible female artists like Patti Smith, Kate Bush, Aretha Franklin…the list is extensive, but my point is that it’s not by any means as extensive as the list of male artists I could reel off.

Let’s all try and support female artists in the music industry and appreciate all the amazing women in the industry that are fighting their way through the shit now, and those who fought in the past.

Harpy also has a Spotify account where this playlist (and others!) will be posted. Embedded link below!

 

 

Why the Black Lesbians United 7th Annual Retreat is not the same as Azeem’s Flute Recital

Stephanie Stapleton

You may or may not have seen the new wannabe ‘Azeem Wardesque’ take-down that happened on Facebook last week. This time, however, it was on the event page for the Black Lesbians United 7th Annual Retreat. In short, mostly boys (but also some girls), decided to hijack the public group set up by the Black Lesbians United (BLU) organisation.

What initially began as an event page, made public to reach out to its niche target audience of black lesbians, quickly then escalated into a space for predominantly white males to write abusive and offensive remarks intended to make the event into a joke. The page was taken down overnight – undoubtedly because it so rapidly evolved into a minefield of outrageously racist, sexist, homophobic, and generally offensive comments. In case you were fortunate enough to miss out, I’ve included screenshots of some of the damage (and by no means the worst…).

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In case you can’t see, it says ‘who’s ready to get black and BLU?’

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I’m not going to lie, a few days ago I was cracking up at the Azeem Ward hijack, like many other British students. This time, however, I was left feeling shocked and appalled. Yes, Azeem Ward’s flute recital’s public event page was also totally random, somewhere in the middle of America, almost fictional… but we weren’t bullying Azeem for playing the flute, or laughing at his expense, sexuality, or skin colour for that matter (and we definitely weren’t making light of the violent abuse of women). The BLU event page was seeking to provide a safe space and reach out to a group of women that already feel marginalised in society. While, Azeem was able to join in with the joke, girls on the BLU event page explicitly commented that the jokes were unwelcome.

The event page was intentionally created to be a safe space away from our heteronormative society that favours white, straight males, and the often derogatory ‘lad banter’ in which fraternities of males so often seem to indulge. Although members of the BLU group made it known that the comments were offensive and unwelcome, this only seemed to give the ‘jokers’ more fuel.

Most frightening of all, was the sheer lack of compassion that an extraordinary amount of the perpetrators showed, even after being asked not to ridicule the event page. Comments that explained the function of the group to provide a safe space for women that already feel marginalised did not appear to be enough. Instead, many boys started complaining that it was just ‘banter’. In the comment below, you can see one lovely lad goes as far as to call a girl a ‘cunt’ for speaking out against the behaviour on the group.

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Why, may I ask, did so many of these people feel their entitlement to ‘banter’ was more important than the need to respect other people?

Among more outwardly offensive posts, some people (again mainly white males) were tagging their friends on the page as a cheap gag. Several girls poignantly asked on the group: what is so funny about an event for black lesbians?

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Apparently the label of a ‘black lesbian’ alone is floor-beatingly hilarious to some people. Unfortunately, this only highlights the prevalence of racist and homophobic attitudes in our supposedly ‘progressive’ societies. The girls on the group pointed out that many of these boys were students at prestigious British universities, some of whom are mutual friends with me and my friends. This in itself is extremely depressing, that such privileged and educated people can be so cruel and ignorant. Surely people in such fortunate positions should be using their intelligence and fortune in more positive ways.

This brings me on to another more frightening point. We live in a society in which often the dominant group of straight, white males don’t realise how privileged they are. Furthermore, they sometimes abuse their dominant position to undermine and subordinate minorities in society, passing it off as ‘banter’. Scott Domis’ tasteless comment that told his friend ‘get your dick out here’ (see below) was not particularly witty or funny. But even more revoltingly: is a joke about forcing a dick onto a group of women normal ‘banter’? Although Scott’s comment was intended as a ‘joke’, it was extremely telling of the often violent and sexual content of ‘lad banter’. In a world where mobs of men still often get away with gang raping women, as has been highlighted in recent years in India, for example, jokes that normalise aggressive sexual behaviour within groups of men or ‘lads’ are treading a fine line.

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While the ‘jokers’ behind these kinds of comments will have their laughs and probably quickly forget about it, the organisers and members of BLU or any black lesbian women that see the comments are left feeling even more isolated and ridiculed. Sadly, within the very space they intended to build outside of a predominantly white, heteronormative patriarchy. These kinds of jokes are stigmatising and punish minority groups in society; by making them feel like they are not only separate, but also a source of jokes. Furthermore, are some people really so uncreative that they can’t conceive of any other kind of jokes or ways to amuse themselves that don’t have to target minorities? If that is the case, perhaps the entertainment industry is not for them.

Sooner or later isolation can affect all of us, be it our families or ourselves. It might be a disability, a mental health problem, a serious illness, racism, sexism, addiction, homophobia. And while I sincerely hope this is not the case, I can guarantee that making jokes at the expense of minorities or the vulnerable, and perpetuating such a bullying kind of comedy culture, is not going to do you any favours if and when you or your loved ones feel vulnerable, marginalised, or isolated in the future.

Strangely, some boys even tried to claim that the group itself was sexist and racist because it was aimed exclusively at black lesbians. Statistics from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) suggest that 1.6% of the US population are lesbian OR gay, and while these are most likely not to be completely accurate, it’s safe to say that the LGBT demographic is pretty low. The African-American community is currently measured as less than 15% of the US population. As part of the black lesbian community you’re part of a puddle-sized pool of people. Is it so unfair then that black lesbians need to create an exclusive group that attempts to reach out to other black lesbians that might be feeling alone and isolated within society? In most places within the US or UK, straight white males only need to walk down a busy street if they want to meet other straight white males.

Without this group and its support, the BLU members on that page would have been alone, trying to negotiate with a predominantly male group of bullies who for no apparent reason decided to direct unwarranted abuse towards them. And while there were a handful of supportive comments from males on the group (exemplified below, unsurprisingly with yet another homophobic comment underneath) the overall picture was bleak. To make matters worse, the page reflected instances where sometimes other women were also trying to jump on the bandwagon. Don’t they realise that by partaking in misogyny they are only helping oppress themselves and other women in the long term?

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The Facebook page was a microcosm of our world in which women are oppressed and often abused within patriarchal structures, particularly when not white and straight. This event therefore serves as an important example of why a solidarity, or movement of strong, vocal voices that are willing to defend their rights and those of other minorities are so important. Especially if we are going to move forward towards a more equal society in which we protect and respect each other regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or disability.


I got in contact with the Co-Founder of BLU, Jeanette, and she emailed me this statement earlier. Even though Facebook have removed the event page from the Internet, it’s important that we don’t silence voices that need to be heard or brush what happened under the rug:

Once we realised what was happening it was quite traumatic. Within that vortex of hate, and utter immaturity, it was difficult not to feel violated organisationally and personally. We felt protective of our members, friends and supporters who were standing up to the cyber bullying, but soon became aware that of all the support we were receiving. We began receiving dozens of Facebook messages from people apologising for the behaviour of their classmates and citizens (mostly UK). These individuals expressed that they hoped that we would continue our work, and that we wouldn’t judge an entire class of people (white people, men, university students, UK citizens, etc.) based on what we experienced in those few rough hours.

Within a few hours we had over 6,000 RSVPs for our event (normally we have about 300 RSVPs total) and there were over 12,000 outstanding invitations so we knew that this problem would not subside on its own and we chose to put an end to it. Our mission statement is “To make the world safe for Black Lesbians” and by middle Sunday, this event page no longer felt safe. That does not mean that the actual retreat will not happen…on the contrary, we expect it to be stronger and better than ever for the experience. We will not be silenced.

It is a shame that these individuals succumbed to the pack mentality and went after our organisation with such disregard, mocking our purpose, calling us names, and being as disrespectful and childish as possible, however, we have learned that many attempted to remove their posts after submitting them, possibly due to peer pressure, or fear of punishment from their parents, or their educational institution. We have received several requests from institutions including Oxford and Leeds for screenshots in order to track down some of the perpetrators. Hopefully Facebook can help with these requests.

We give a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has sent messages of support, and for those who stood up for us in the midst of the firestorm.

* The screenshots were also sent through to me by BLU

Stephanie Stapleton 

Genitals: not so bad after all

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What did you call your genitals?

(Click picture to enlarge it!)

Flora Macleod

After finding out from last week’s post that the main reason some straight men do not like performing cunnilingus is that “vaginas are disgusting*”,  I wanted to make something a little more light hearted and positive.**

I ran a survey to find out what some of the words that we, as young children, called our genitals. This is in no way an endorsement of giving un-anatomically correct names to genitals, but just an observation that, as children, we mostly named our genitals nice/funny names.

Some of my favourites that didn’t make the list (mainly because I wasn’t sure how to draw them) were; Florzinha (Portuguese for little flower), Mine, Zizzy and Foo.

Genitals are not so bad after all!


*See Amy Hills-Fletcher’s piece from last week https://harpyblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/10/lets-talk-about-cunnilingus/

**See if you can figure out which five are names for penises!

Let’s talk about cunnilingus!

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(Thanks to ©JessieKrish for excellent drawings)

Amy HF

A few disclaimers

  • A very helpful (or perhaps pedantic?) man left a comment on my survey that I should stop using the word ‘vagina’ as a synonym for ‘vulva’. Thank you kind survey taker! You may be surprised to know that I am aware of this! I am choosing to use the term vagina because, as a woman, that is what my friends and I commonly use when discussing them (however scientifically incorrect this may be!) Therefore, throughout this article I will use the term vagina when I actually mean vulva.
  • I posted both surveys on Facebook and so for this reason, the people that answered are probably mainly people I know from London and some people from University. Some friends of friends have taken part and obviously I have no idea who actually answered, due to the survey being anonymous, but thought it would be good to clarify this is just information collected from 100 straight boys and 100 straight women most probably that I know in some way from London or university.
  • An issue I can already see with my research is that I didn’t put an explanation box next to the ‘it depends on the girl/boy ’ box. This leaves this option open to interpretation and makes it not especially useful.
  • There was a lot more information in the answers that didn’t apply to this article (which was entirely a fault of my questions) but which was really interesting so I’m hoping to use the survey to write something else at a later date.
  • I’ve also broken it down into sections, so if you aren’t interested in reading all of it, you can scroll to different sections.

Anxiety about what men think about women’s vaginas and pubic hair is common amongst young women. I only have to think about my own personal experiences and the conversations I’ve had with friends to confirm this (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg).

I was talking to a female friend about her recent sexual experiences and she was puzzled as to why men had not been going down on her recently. We wondered whether this was linked to the fact that, recently, she had not been getting rid of her pubic hair entirely. From my experience, this is nearly always the conclusion that a girl will jump to. Even if they don’t have any pubic hair, they will often become anxious about whether there is something ‘wrong’ with their genitals. This made me wonder why girls automatically assume that their vagina/pubes are the issue if a man has not gone down on them.

We speculated for a while and some other reasons for men not performing oral sex came up: what if they just didn’t like going down on women? Or, what if they didn’t know what to do? We then wondered if men were maybe scared of vaginas, and the list goes on…The only way to go about answering any of these questions was to create a survey and ask young men (18-25) to tell us what they think. I then created a mirror survey for women to answer to see if the two correlated. One of the main reasons for doing this was to try and bust some myths and hopefully make everyone feel more comfortable talking about the subject in the future.

I wanted to find out if there was a link between men wanting/not wanting to perform cunnilingus and pubic hair, but also, to try to find out if sexual experience has anything to do with the way that men think about vaginas, oral sex and pubes and whether people think porn has had an effect on any of this.

Number of partners – does it affect likelihood of cunnilingus?

Interestingly, the initial question of ‘how many people have you slept with?’ suggested that men had slept with more partners than women had, however, there is a common consensus among gatherers of such data that men are prone to exaggerate and women to say fewer than in reality. Out of these women, lower numbers reported men performing oral sex on them than the men reported they had.

Here are the results of the women surveyed:

MEN PERFORMING ORAL SEX OVER HALF THE TIME

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From the women’s perspective, they received the most cunnilingus in the 1-5 partner category – this is probably to do with the fact that most of these partners were boyfriends. It’s pretty near half and half for 10+ partners. However, 6-10 partners shows a striking difference in reported cunnilingus by women. Does this correlate with the male response?

MEN PERFORMING ORAL SEX OVER HALF THE TIME

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In terms of the fact that, again, the men who had had 1-5 partners performed cunnilingus more: yes.

This could then explain why the men surveyed answered they were more likely to give oral sex to their girlfriend. 76% of men responded that they would be more likely to go down on their girlfriend. The opinion of the women asked essentially agreed with this: 69% said a boyfriend was more likely to. Interestingly, this shows that a lot of women have a tiny bit less confidence in thinking men will go down on them than the men surveyed stated.

However, it is in the 6-10 partners category there is the biggest contrast. How could men and women’s experiences be so different? Perhaps these women are only counting oral sex if they had an orgasm, for example, or maybe these men are exaggerating. It could also be a freak group where the numbers do not match.

In every category over half of these men say they have gone down on over 50% of the girls they’ve slept with. There is not an obvious correlation between more partners and more cunnilingus occurring but perhaps the higher levels of cunnilingus in the 1-5 partners category suggests that this is where men feel most comfortable – with their girlfriends.

So to draw a rough conclusion from this – most people are reporting that more than 50% of partners are performing cunnilingus, but is this enough? I think a lot of women would probably say no… Both sexes agreed being in a relationship would increase the likelihood of cunnilingus – but should a relationship be the only safe bet for women to receive oral sex?

Perhaps a way to tackle this would be to respond to the fact that ‘they think they’re not good at it’ was the second most selected answer to the question ‘why do some men shy away from performing oral sex?’ Is this one of the reasons men are more comfortable performing oral sex on their girlfriends?

‘Men think they’re not good at it’

Not knowing what to do or being worried about how ‘good you are’ is actually almost completely understandable. Sex education about female sexual pleasure is almost next to none in schools and porn (as will be discussed later) does not give men much of an idea of how to pleasure a woman.

One massive factor that I think applies to this is women being afraid to tell a man what to do, or at least give some kind of encouragement. Communication is key and this problem will persist without it. However, due to aforementioned lack of sex education, lots of women equally don’t feel equipped to ‘help’ men or to know what they want.

A key statistic to mention here is that most women find it easier to orgasm through oral sex/direct clitoral stimulation. A vast amount of women cannot reach orgasm through penetrative sex alone. Elizabeth Lloyd’s book ‘The case of the female orgasm’ cites that only 25% of women consistently orgasm through vaginal intercourse. Her research was done through a comprehensive analysis of 33 studies on the subject, over the last 80 years. This research fits in with the experience of most women I speak to, so a lot of women are often quite perplexed when a man does not go down on them. How are they supposed to reach orgasm? Are women expected to do it themselves (through clitoral stimulation) during intercourse? Is it fine for women just to not reach orgasm full stop, even if their male partner does? It is often much easier for a man to reach orgasm through penetrative sex. This means that female sexual pleasure often seems to be secondary to a man’s.

Lloyd goes on to further explain that about half of women sometimes orgasm during intercourse. About 20% seldom or ever have orgasms during intercourse. And about 5% never have orgasms, ever. Put plainly, penetrative sex is not key to female orgasm and pleasure.

Essentially, the way this is all linked is clear – there is a lack of communication and, yes, perhaps men are a little bit worried about it. Men don’t know what to do, women often don’t know how to tell them what to do and both could feel awkward or embarrassed. It’s really important for men to consider the fact that only a quarter of the women they have slept with (statistically) have continually reached orgasm through penetration. A lot of the women surveyed said that they essentially thought men were a bit scared of anything other than penetrative sex and that they weren’t confident men knew how to make them reach orgasm (30% of women surveyed said ‘no’ to the question ‘do you feel confident men know how to make women orgasm?’) With more communication and understanding this could change.

Pubic hair + vaginas are disgusting

 The key thing I wanted to find out was whether there is a correlation between women having pubic hair and men not wanting to go down on them.

So, the most likely reasons for some men to shy away from performing oral sex were:

  1. They think it’s disgusting (sorry ladies…)
  2. They think they’re not good at it
  3. The girl has too much pubic hair

So, from this survey, it does look like a lot of men may have issues when considering going down on a woman or not because they think our fannies are disgusting! (Yay…) However, men’s own insecurities (as discussed above) actually came before a girl having too much pubic hair, so that’s something a lot of women may not have considered (and many men may not want to publicly admit).

So, let’s try and unpack this. Firstly, why do many men seem to think that vaginas are disgusting? Perhaps some other answers I received would be a good place to start.

Quite a few of the men and women in the survey linked vaginas with personal hygiene.

This guy has linked a girl’s general personal hygiene to her vagina, which doesn’t seem so unreasonable.

Even if I’m not down with it, I think I can appreciate if they’ve made the effort of whatever. However, if the state of your puss seems related to general personal hygiene attitudes: I ain’t down.

However, quite a few responses linked personal hygiene with pubic hair. Here is one example:

 Personally I prefer if it’s kept reasonably neat and hygienic just like my own pubic hair (and my own hair for that matter). But that’s just a preference not exactly a deal breaker for me.

Including many women:

Personally I prefer a landing strip anyway (nothing to do with male preference/porn) as I believe it is cleaner and easier to manage

I used to be someone who removed my pubic hair and told myself and everyone else it was because I felt sexier/cleaner/happier that way. It was only once I took time to realise how and why I had come to feel like that (i.e. boys at young age saying girls with pubes were wrong/dirty etc that I realised I wasn’t doing it for me at all.

To this, I say: the purpose of pubic hair IS for hygiene (particularly where women are concerned). Preferring pubes to be kept neat and hygienic is pretty much an oxymoron as having pubic hair, if anything, makes your vagina more hygienic. There seems to be a trend in both men and women thinking that removing pubic hair is more hygienic. This is a myth. Pubes are there to stop you getting infections etc

So boys and girls, first point to make when discussing pubes and vaginas being disgusting is that pubes are not unhygienic!

On the subject of pubic hair, another reason some boys reported not wanting to go down on women was linked to how much pubic hair they had. This may or may not be one of the reasons that ‘vaginas are disgusting’ was the top reason for some men shying away from oral sex, but it is most probably linked.

23% said they would reconsider going down on a girl who had pubes – this speaks for itself (almost a quarter).

However, surprisingly, 38% of men said flat out no. One even went so far as to say:

I will consider all cunts.

Thanks anonymous straight man! All cunts should be considered!

This result is more encouraging than I thought it would be and at least should say to women that, even if not most men, really quite a lot of them actually want to go down on you, regardless of anything.

34% said it depends on the girl – this could mean many things: might not fancy her that much, the girl may not want oral sex etc but equally it could also be linked to pubic hair i.e.depends on how much the girl has. I’m also inclined to believe it may again be linked to girlfriend/being more intimate. It seems less likely cunnilingus will be performed on a one-night stand from this research.

Let’s be honest, this is fair. I can completely understand that it may be more pleasant to go down on a girl with less pubes so you can see what you’re doing, easy access etc. It’s just a preference. Or maybe not…?

Some female survey respondents pointed out:

I’ve been made so self conscious in the past by men telling me their ‘pube preference’ because regardless of what I think, at that point I instantly feel unattractive and spiral into feeling deeply insecure. It is so hard to NOT get rid of all your hair because almost every boy I’ve spoken to ‘prefers’ less hair.

Women feel they need to have no pubic hair as this makes them feel more sexy, as men see this as more sexy

As far as this survey is concerned, it’s clear that there are some men and women who think pubes are unattractive, some who think they’re rank, one man (I was actually shocked there weren’t a few more!) who chose ‘I like a bush’ and many other preferences/don’t cares in between. So maybe ‘men thinking vaginas are disgusting’ is just a myth or at the very least an exaggeration? Maybe men sort of assume that’s what other men think? Maybe men think that pubes are kind of gross? FRANKLY, who cares! It’s your vagina ladies and it shouldn’t matter what any man says about it. You do what you want and (to paraphrase various female survey takers) if he cares that much about your pubes he’s a waste of time.

However, there is another side to this. There were a lot of women who reported feeling insecure about having pubic hair, especially outside of a relationship. Some women explained:

I always struggle to know what I really think, because thinking all women shouldn’t remove their hair is kind of self righteous…but that said, I used to be someone who removed my pubic hair and told myself and everyone else it was because I felt sexier/cleaner/happier that way. It was only once I took time to realise how and why I had come to feel like that (i.e. boys at a young age saying girls with pubes were wrong/dirty etc that I realised I wasn’t doing it for me at all. And now I can’t imagine having a little bald fanny…

I don’t care at all within a relationship; it’s different when single…

 I used to be quite self-conscious about hair in general. I used to tell myself it was because I preferred having Brazilian/Hollywood but now my boyfriend doesn’t care and I’ve been more surrounded by Feminism and I’ve realised I don’t mind as much as I used to.

It is easy enough to say to women that they shouldn’t care what men think or that their insecurities are the issue, not men, but when society seems to dictate to you that you should not have pubic hair (and when a lot of male respondents cited ‘preferences’ for less/no hair,) how easy is it to just ignore what’s ‘expected’ of you?

Some men were keen to highlight that they didn’t like the way I phrased the question about pubic hair as: what SHOULD women’s pubic hair be like? – that was the whole point. 35% of men selected an option containing the word SHOULD and only a few wrote in the ‘other’ box with things like: ‘I disagree with the phrasing of the question’. This was exactly my point. 35% of men expressed that they felt a woman’s pubes SHOULD be a certain way. Luckily a few men picked up on my phrasing of the question and said they have no right to dictate how women’s pubes are, even if they have a preference.

Only one male respondent on the survey claimed that they like a full bush. This clearly shows that lots of men go along with the current pubic hair fashion for women. Everyone knows that pubes have changed throughout the ages. It was much more common for women to sport the bush in the 70s, for example, and gradually, through each recent decade, the hair was removed more and more. It is therefore near impossible to distinguish between whether you really have a preference, or whether the ‘norm’ has been so culturally engrained that you cannot possibly say. A number of women (around 30%) said that they liked to remove their pubes but, as a woman, if you were not going to have sex for a year would you still remove your pubic hair?

I don’t mean for this to sound so deterministic, but I think it is worth commenting on after the vast numbers of correspondents who said things like: ‘it’s her choice BUT… I prefer this…’ – how are women supposed to feel comfortable with THEIR choice after you, who is sleeping with them, have stated yours? Which may be the opposite of what they want.

Porn

The final link I was trying to find was with porn.

Overwhelmingly, both men and women agreed that porn has had a mostly negative effect on the way men view vaginas (mainly mentioning pubes).

Both sexes said things like this:

Yes, most men expect clean-shaven

 Pubic hair is non-existent in porn 

Almost all vaginas in porn completely shaved 

I think the homogenised vulva we see in porn changes the perceptions on what is ‘normal’ e.g. pubic hair, labial lengths/shapes, clit appearance

 

This is not big news to anyone really and, to be honest, it is hard to draw any comprehensive conclusions about how porn really has affected the way men view vaginas because every mans response is essentially different, the only hands down majority response from both men and women was that men expected there to be little or no pubic hair.

Despite this, one man offered what I think is a more realistic idea of what men think of women’s vaginas despite porn:

Ultimately, I don’t think men are too particular about the ‘type’ of vagina they come across. I haven’t come across a man who hasn’t had sex or returned for sex due to a girl’s vagina being deemed unacceptable.

However, women pointed out some more serious consequences of (they thought) porn:

I’ve slept with someone and just been thinking, is there something wrong with me? Should this be feeling nice? Then realised they’ve probably learnt it from something they’ve seen. I’ve also had experiences of being made to feel ashamed about the fact that they haven’t made me feel good, again something I believe is caused by them expecting a certain reaction and being angry at not getting it.

They don’t realise that things done in porn aren’t actually nice for a vagina.

 I think porn gives an unrealistic view on how the vagina should be handled. Thus, giving some men the opinion that a vagina isn’t as fragile as it actually is.

This is actually really terrifying and should not be taken lightly. The conversation about pubes is an important one, but NO woman should be feeling like this after sexual experiences with men…The word ‘fragile’ here is key, and should be remembered.

Conclusion

In conclusion, after all of this (it has been unbelievably long, I’m sorry…), even though most people are in agreement that there is an expectation for women to have little pubic hair, this does not affect whether a man is willing to perform oral sex in the majority of cases when all the factors are put together. What is important to consider, however, is how much the general consensus on women’s pubes actually affects women’s decision to remove or leave pubic hair.

It seems to be true that a lot of men are worried about performing oral sex and that everyone needs to talk more openly about the subject to stop all the women (me and my friends included) worrying about what men think about their vaginas and also to make sure that men feel as confident as possible in the bedroom.

I must also point out that not every woman will want oral sex. Although the women surveyed did not say this, it is important to make the point that any sex is all about consent. This survey has pointed to the fact that a lot of people did it, wanted to do it or received it but that does not speak for all. Women may withdraw their consent at any time or not want oral sex in the first place. In line with this, consent should always be given for rougher sex and anything else in between and there should not be an expectation that women like to be ‘pounded’ or anger from the man if he is not able to make a woman reach orgasm (as it was cited by a female survey taker, I felt like I had to state the obvious).

One final point to consider: my friends and I have often discussed whether it is wrong for us to expect oral sex. If the roles were reversed and men were outraged at not receiving oral sex, women would be furious. Any girl I know would despise oral sex being an expectation. However, in light of the comprehensive research that has been carried out about female pleasure, is it different for women? It’s proven that women have spent the majority of their sex lives not being pleasured through intercourse, unlike the majority of men. To quote sex educator Betty Dodson “Intercourse is okay, but I much prefer a talented tongue on my clitoris.” This is definitely something to take away from the research – it’s probable that women’s sex lives would be a whole lot better if cunnilingus became more normalised and more education and discussion about female sexual pleasure took place.

Amy HF

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