How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Send your questions for Stoya and Rich to firstname.lastname@example.org. Nothing’s too small (or big).
Every Thursday night, the crew responds to a bonus question in chat form.
Dear How to Do It,
Please settle this score: My girlfriend no longer wants to shave her armpits (hetero couple). I admitted this wasn’t my preference but recognized it was likely for bullshit reasons and she went ahead. We still screw with abandon. However, I also took this as an opportunity to stop trimming myself downstairs, because honestly it gets itchy and I was only doing it for her. She was fine at first, but now seems reluctant to give blow jobs because of the unintended floss. I want to leave it! Do you think this goes both ways, or is it totally different? (For the record, we love each other, and this has been a good-natured disagreement.)
Stoya: I feel I should disclose I’m a frequent armpit hair-haver. So there’s my bias.
Rich: I thought that was the case. Same here—though, uh, maybe that’s less relevant.
Stoya: I get a rash if I shave too often. I don’t remember the last time a person had a problem aside from recommending a trim (and it was out of control at that point). So it’s a bit strange to me to even encounter this question.
Rich: I wish I had more armpit hair. And more hair in general. When I first realized I was actually into guys who were actual human beings and not just, like, images on a TV screen, it was because I was staring at them in the locker room in middle school, and the ones that drew my attention were the guys who were spouting armpit hair. So it’s basically always been synonymous with attraction to me.
Stoya: A secondary sexual characteristic.
Rich: Sadly, this is a tangent, since the issue (and question at hand) is so gendered. But I love armpit hair. I love the way pits smell. I’m an enthusiast. It’s a shame to me that a lot of hetero men don’t get to experience this.
Stoya: And yet my bed is the site of high-femme pit-hair interaction.
Rich: Do you find guys are into your armpit hair or indifferent mostly?
Stoya: They mostly seem indifferent.
Rich: I’m glad they aren’t negative about it, but I’m bummed they don’t appreciate it more.
Stoya: They appreciate the scent.
Rich: Pit hair is like a diffuser for pheromones.
Stoya: Exactly. So, all that aside: This pair needs a ruling. Pubic hair is different from armpit hair.
Rich: I totally agree. And tit-for-tat “fairness” is not a good relationship philosophy. The real world isn’t a sandbox.
Stoya: That as well.
Rich: If he really liked licking her pits and now gets hairballs after she ditched the razor, OK, similar issue, but that doesn’t seem to be what’s going on.
Stoya: And in his case, it really is about the mouthfeel during oral stimulation. Like you said, if the girlfriend wanted her pits eaten, it’d be one thing, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Rich: It also could never be the same thing, because shaving pits has been imposed on women via shifting patriarchal ideals and some influential ad campaigns for about 100 years now.
Stoya: Very true. The whole thing comes down to marketing.
Rich: There’s no man (the man) telling this guy he needs to be smooth as a Ken doll with a dick down there. I have to wonder why he started shaving in the first place—whether she asked for it, or it was an unsolicited gift to her that he ended up wanting to return.
Stoya: Or if he’s always done it. He could have been buzzing since puberty like a lot of guys and taken this as an excuse to stop, after a lifetime of grooming. Though I do like to leave room for changes and shifts in presentation and aesthetics.
Rich: Of course. I mean, the functional argument is always going to win over the aesthetic one in terms of partner responsibility. His beef seems to be with and is tied up in patriarchal beliefs of how a woman should present (as he seems to acknowledge). Hers, from his description, is functional—she doesn’t want pubes in her teeth. Incidentally, pubes-in-teeth is never an issue for me, and I’ve been through many a ’70s throwback hair forest on a horse with no name, but again: neither here nor there.
Stoya: Can I make a unilateral ruling?
Stoya: Love to make a unilateral ruling. Shave your balls and trim your pubes if you want oral. Get over this one-two equality thing and deal with more complicated factors like function if you want to noodle on something. Your girlfriend is right.
Rich: “I was only doing it for her” is also a fallacy; you were doing it for her maybe, but you were also doing it for your dick, which you want sucked.
Stoya: I wonder if we should deal with this itching thing. Buzzing is a great way to avoid that itch. And if you want to shave clean with a razor for some reason, zinc oxide can help with the accompanying rash.
Rich: Yes, get a buzzer with attachments.
Stoya: You don’t have to be completely bald to avoid your partner choking on stragglers.
Rich: Cleaning yourself up for your partner who appreciates it is not a tough call. Be generous! She is! She’s sucking your dick!
Stoya: And again, if she wants her armpits eaten, then by all means request a shave. But otherwise it’s a bit apples to rutabagas. One is tied up with capitalist pressure and sometimes—though probably not the case here—mildly creepy desires to see women devoid of their secondary sexual characteristics, which some feminists frame as erasure of maturity. The other is based on a desire to avoid that floating, tickly hair in the vicinity of one’s uvula.
Rich: Girlfriend 1; Letter Writer: 0.