By Liana Jacob
WOMAN so ASHAMED of her body hair that she wouldn’t remove her BRA DURING SEX finally embraces it – despite men offering to lend her their RAZOR.
Artist, journalist and performer, Bethany Burgoyne (29) from London, UK, was just 11 years old when she started shaving her legs and under-arms.
By the time she reached the age of 14, she stopped shaving and used an epilator or wax strips to remove her body hair as shaving would leave her body covered in rashes. For years she felt conditioned by society to remove her hair or she’d be ‘unattractive’.
She would feel too ashamed to wear a bikini, skirts, crop tops and shorts without removing her body hair and her nipple hair would make her feel so insecure that she couldn’t take her bra off during sex.
She spent years seeing people spend their money on surgery to change their appearance and meet society’s standards of beauty. The older she got, the more frustrated she felt at keeping up and maintaining her look. The cost was becoming too much and in November 2018, she decided to stop.
She stopped waxing or epilating her leg hair, armpits and bum. In March 2019, she took it a step further and stopped removing her stomach hair and pubes. The process of accepting her natural body hair took some time and initially she would only visit places with less judgemental people such as female spas and nudist beaches.
In August 2019, she was on the Channel 4 show Naked Attraction, which made her feel ‘liberated’ and since then she was inundated with comments from people who admired her choice to embrace her body hair. She decided to set up an Instagram account dedicated to sharing her journey. Despite receiving negative comments from men online who mock her and offer to lend her their razor or pay for her to wax, she says it has been the best move she’s made.
“I’m an artist, a feminist, a writer, and a provocateur. I am friendly, bubbly, stubborn and creative. I value my freedom and respect my rights to choose how to live my life,” Bethany said.
“These characteristics feed into my reasons for wanting to embrace my body in its natural way. Growing up and seeing so many other people getting surgery, manipulating their bodies and spending their hard-earned cash on changing their appearance was something I understood to be the norm, something which I should be doing too.
“I had been removing my body hair from the age of eleven until I was almost twenty-eight. I stopped shaving at fourteen because my hair would grow back so fast and the rashes I got were painful.
“Instead, I used to epilate or wax every few weeks, often by myself because it was cheaper, but boy it was hard work and would take me hours.
“I had excessive ingrown hairs around the tops of my thighs and bikini line, every time my hairs grew back, ever since I was a young teenager.
“I would thread or tweeze my facial hair and beard once or twice a fortnight. I would get spots and ingrown hairs around my jawline as my hairs persisted to grow.
“Tea tree oil and Sudocrem became my best friends during this time. I would struggle as the summer came, not wanting to wear skirts, shorts or crop tops for fear people would see my shoddy attempts of removing my hair.
“I was often embarrassed wearing a bikini because of the ingrown hairs. Nipple hairs would stop me from taking a bra off during sex.
“I used to bleach my lower arm hair once every few weeks because I was ashamed of how dark and thick it was.
“I was generally very ashamed of my appearance and would never let anyone see me naked (apart from my sisters and closest friends) if I had hair on my body.
“November 2018 was the last time I removed all of my leg hair and waxed my armpits and bum. I stopped removing my stomach hair and pubes in March 2019 and it’s only been since November 2019 that I have stopped removing my chin and neckbeard.”
Bethany admits that since she has embraced her body hair, she has felt more empowered as a woman and that it makes her feel like she is defying the ‘patriarchal society’ which ‘objectifies women’.
“The process was slow and I took myself off to places where I knew there would be less judgment – for example I went to female hammams (spas) where women wash and scrub their bodies together without any sense of judgment or shame for what each other looks like,” she said.
“I went to nudist beaches in Berlin where there was a friendly and unjudgmental atmosphere and I went on Naked Attraction which was the most liberating thing I have done to date.
“A few times I have had strangers come up to me and tell me how much they like my body hair, at a party or out and about. This has made such a lasting, positive impression on me.
“The best comment I got from someone was after they saw me on Naked Attraction and messaged saying ‘You appearing on the show with hairy legs and pubes was a breath of fresh air – about bloody time’.
“Women often want to talk about me keeping my beard the most because it is the thing we talk about the least. They often say they think it’s brave and they don’t know if they could do it too.
“On the flip side, I have had comments from males who will tease me about my body hair, offering to lend me their razor or pay for a wax.
“This makes my blood boil; it is a reflection of the male assumption that they can tell a woman how to look and police their identity. Putting women down to make themselves feel more superior.
“My close network of friends and family have been so very encouraging. They have allowed me to talk through my decision, to relieve moments of insecurity and sadness that I have felt when thinking I am ugly when hairy.
“Past and present romantic relationships have been a big part of me feeling good in my skin, having people close to me who I am intimate with not define me by my body hair but instead, recognise my qualities as a person.
“It makes me feel like I am sticking two fingers up at the patriarchal society which objectifies women and made me feel insecure and less wonderful as a human just because I had hair on my body.
“It has made me realise how much time I was wasting on obsessing over my hair and body image rather than enjoying myself, doing things I love and feeling good all the time, whatever my appearance.
“It has helped with my mental wellbeing, I am happier, and I honestly can say, I feel beautiful. Whereas before, when I was trying to control my hair growth and make it disappear, I often felt very ugly and had low self-worth.
“The motivation came from wanting to share my image and offer solace to other women who had body hair. It also was a stepping stone in building my confidence.
“Each picture I shared and story I told about my hair and wanting to move past my insecurity aided me to do just that.
“I also gained a lot of traction for the images I have shared of my legs in the bathtub. When a body is in the water, the hairs show up more.
“This confused me slightly because what I see are legs. Whereas I think it goes to show how few female legs we see with hair (even adverts selling hair removal products don’t show any hair on a leg for fear it would be ‘unattractive’) and so the images became more fascinating to people.
“If boys were given razors to shave their leg and armpit hair instead of girls, what would the world look like?
“If adverts didn’t tell us that smooth skin was beautiful, if spots weren’t deemed to be embarrassing, if wrinkles were seen as wisdom, if men were shown wearing thongs shaking their booties then how would the world be different for us as women?
“Notice every single advert, sign, image and picture that is portraying a woman, then question it. What is it encouraging you to look like, behave like, act like?
“Then reverse the message – you can be a hairy, imperfect, a wonderfully unique body shaped individual and you can shine so bright in your own skin.”