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I'm a Smart, Liberated Woman -- So Why Do I Pay a Stranger to Pour Wax on My Genitals and Rip Out the Hair?

Behind the hedonistic and masochistic ritual of the bikini wax.

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“If you’re going to make a statement about porn being responsible for what men want,” says  Stoya, an award-winning adult performer and writer, “you should have watched a bunch of porn!”

Based in Los Angeles, Stoya, 27, shares a Brooklyn apartment with a photographer friend, as they both professionally need a New York City base. When we spoke on the phone, her cheerful tone held a tinge of rasp, anchored by ample laughter.

“It is just as unfair to men to assume they all want prepubescent vaginas,” says Stoya. “If you can’t look at a grown woman and a 12-year-old girl and not notice the difference without pubic’re an idiot.”

Stoya was raised a feminist, like her mother, and home-schooled. She grew up believing that gender should have no bearing on what one does professionally as a career, but recognizes that, of course, being a sexual performer can be inherently gendered.

“They’re all different. They’re all beautiful flowers,” says Stoya, and notes that pubic hair varies in the industry – some scenes have pubic hair, some are without. Although “there are always people/assholes telling us how we should be,” says Stoya.

There are online discussions and commentary from porn consumers, all varied and mixed: do more scenes with hair; keep the pussy bald. Though having no hair certainly helps with not blocking the hardcore shots. Bushes can block the visuals of penetration.

Stoya’s inner labia, which she described as looking “sarcastic,” as if “blowing a raspberry,” have been Photoshopped out of published pictures in countries where protruding labia are considered obscene.

Watching sex is limited to an audio and visual experience, notes thirty-year-old Lux Alptraum, a writer, sex educator, and the CEO of Fleshbot, the web’s foremost blog about sexuality and adult entertainment.

“I do think it’s interesting that making the labia more visible is compensating for the fact that you can’t taste or smell or feel the genitals,” says Alptraum.

Most female porn performers don’t wax their vulvas; rather, they shave. Because waxing grows out so slowly, the pubic area is left with stubble. Shaving – or laser hair removal – allows for a quick, smooth fix, especially since porn is shot a certain way.

“There’s an idea that porn enforces a very specific beauty ideal and I don’t think that is true either,” says Alptraum, who simultaneously thinks hairlessness becomes a macro-level problem when “numerous people who don’t get exposed to naked bodies outside of porn – especially in adolescents – grow up with this idea that it’s the norm and the only way of being sexy.”

Stoya herself had always gone bare until 2008, when a colleague’s ex-girlfriend dared her to grow it all out.

Stoya is part Serbian; her body hair is thick and dark. She started growing pubic hair when she was still a kid. First she tweezed the lone growing hairs. Then she shaved and shaved and continued to shave. Sometimes she shaves her pits. Sometimes she leaves the stubble. Sometimes she leaves things bushy. But Stoya always shaved her vulva entirely, until the dare. Robby’s ex said it would be hot – a visual change. So Stoya grew it out. Having pubes cut down on her razor burn, which had been a problem for her, something she struggled with more than the average woman. And it didn’t look good on camera; at one point, she said it looked potentially unhealthy. “I don’t like looking like I have possibly diseased skin around my vulva,” she says.

Now, having had laser hair removal, Stoya is left with a “slightly misshapen tuft on front”; the rest is sparse. And it’s become a thing, publicly, amongst viewers and fans. “People said I was a victim of patriarchy,” says Stoya. “There’s always going to be someone who’s projecting way too much weight on what’s essentially a personal aesthetic choice.”

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