On Tuesday I had my first session of laser hair removal on my lower legs, bikini line and labia – “Brazilian” style, leaving my usual trimmed oval on the mons. The traditional shape to leave is a “landing strip” but I prefer curves to rectangles. I shaved my muff into a neatly trimmed oval, leaving plenty of hair-free space below for long, languid licks that explore every soft fold and curve. In the future, if I want, I can vary my look by trimming it down to a heart, a triangle, a diamond, the classic landing strip or by shaving it off and going completely hairless. The only thing I won’t be able to do is grow back my bikini line and the hair on my outer labia – which I have been shaving on an at-least-weekly basis for over a decade.
The laser treatment hurt less than I was expecting. You’re wearing dark glasses to protect you from the radiation, like in a tanning bed I imagine, not that I’ve ever used one. The machine blows a jet of cold air onto your skin at the same time as the laser, which doesn’t so much feel like burning as pricking like a needle as it encounters each follicle. The machine makes a regular “bip, bip, bip” noise which makes it hard to tell whether the pinpricks of pain are in time with the beeping or not.
Consensual, non-sexy pain like this, or like having a smear test or getting a tattoo (which hurt more than the laser, by the way), is always an interesting experience for a masochist. Without an eroticising context, pain is not enjoyable – but I still find the sensations interesting. The breathing exercises I use to endure a hard caning help me stay calm through the pain, but they aren’t enough to get me high on it.
In this case, I found my mental images made a huge difference to the perceived pain level. If I thought about lasers, zapping, burning, it hurt a lot – whereas if I imagined that someone was dragging a sharp felt tip along my skin, or scratching little dots with the nip of a fountain pen, it hurt much less.
The laser treatment works by the heat being transmitted down the hair to the follicle, which is why you need to shave, but not wax, beforehand – if the hair is too long it will absorb more heat, and burn you; but if there is no hair at all, the laser has nothing to transmit it to the follicle. That’s why the most painful bit by far was around the edges of my muff – every time it caught a longer hair by accident, the pain was excruciating. Even my breathing exercises couldn’t stop me tensing up until it was over.
And I’ve still got five more treatments to look forward to.
I might not have paid for lasering myself. I didn’t have to: it’s a gift from D. He has a strong aesthetic and sexual preference for hairless skin, both on himself and on the people he sleeps with, male and female. He keeps himself shaved too, so as far as I’m concerned that’s fair enough. I like to please him, so I do my best to shave before seeing him. It only gets problematic if I’ve made the effort specially, and we then don’t fuck. It feels like a waste of time. Unless he makes it worth my while by licking all the freshly shaved parts of my body until I shiver with pleasure, I find myself resenting the time I spent in preparation.
It’s not just D, though. I shave for sessions, shoots, fetish nights and, because I seem to have caught his preference for shaved skin, when seeing other lovers.
Sessions in particular have made me aware of the extent to which personal grooming is unpaid labour if we do it for the benefit of others. It’s interesting that since I started doing sessions regularly, I stopped wearing makeup to hang out with friends … but I’m no less likely to shave before sex.
For me hair removal isn’t about fashion as much as sensation. I like the feel of being touched or licked on hairless skin. It makes it more sensitive, more tingly. Personally I don’t have any preference about anyone else’s grooming regime, and will gladly touch and lick my lovers’ bits, hairy or not. On my own body, however, I have grown to love the feel of silky velvety smoothness.
This generous gift from D won’t just save me effort in our sex life. It will save me huge amounts of time and money in general. I will gain more time to spend on interesting things, and more money to spend on books or wine.
I’ve noticed, however, that when I’ve told people I’ve been getting it done, the reactions have been very similar:
“Are you sure?”
“How do you know you won’t change your mind?”
“Mmm, I could never do anything permanent to my body.”
“What if body hair comes back in fashion?”
I’m familiar with all these arguments (except the last one) from when I had my tattoo done in 2005. I’m planning my second tattoo as a 30th birthday present to myself this summer. I still love my first one and don’t regret it in the slightest – even when it has meant a bit of extra work covering it up to shoot Victorian period films.
In general, I think, I’m not afraid of permanence. Every body modification I make – and I’m sure I’ll add to the collection during my lifetime – dates from a period of my life which really happened, and which I still carry with me, which is still part of my whole self. This is true in general, not just about changes to our bodies. Every choice I make, everything that has happened to me, has informed my journey – and implies a multitude of paths not taken. We can never know whether any of those other, alternate choices might have been better or worse.
I learn, I evolve, I move forward – and, yes, and sometimes I make a mistake and hurt someone, and wish I had made a better choice. But it’s all useful data that can inform my future choices. It’s all part of the journey. It’s all part of my whole self, shadow and all.
Unless, through carelessness, I have caused actual harm and should have known better, I don’t regret choices I make along the way. Since they don’t affect anyone else, I make a policy of not regretting choices I make about my own body.
It’s not just tattoos and hair removal. Images of myself on the internet will be there forever. When I chose to follow the path of public porn performance, I chose to accept the future consequences of my decision. Probably one day I will want to stop performing in porn (or maybe I’ll carry on until I’m old and wrinkly and fabulous – you never know) and that’s fine. If I ever want to, I’ll stop. But I doubt I’ll want to undo the past, and regret having done it at all.
All choice is risk. My choices bring me pleasure and new experiences, challenges, opportunities for growth, new friendships, new skills, a sense of achievement, joy. My tastes and priorities will change over time, but I can’t imagine wanting all this intensity of experience to have never happened.
I make choices that will affect my future all the time, and each time I make the choice that seems best to me right now. These choices, and my reasons for making them, represent a valid truth about who I am in this moment. As I age and change, I will continue to carry these past selves with me. They will be part of who I am forever.
Everything leaves its mark. It’s funny – two or three times this week, while all this has been going through my head, people have asked me about the marks on my arms. I never forget they’re there, but I rarely get asked about them these days. They are the faded scars of a decade of self-harm, something I haven’t done for nearly ten years old. I don’t feel bad about it. You can get scars lasered too, but I don’t mind mine. They are part of my journey, an important part of how I got here.
The thing is that my choice to self-harm as a teenager – sometimes through masochistic curiosity, a desire to test my boundaries; other times as a coping mechanism during periods of acute depression and anxiety – was a valid choice at the time. Every time. I really do believe that; I’m not ashamed of myself for doing it. I think it’s a valid coping mechanism in times of need for panic attacks and disassociative episodes, although of course it’s not the only one. Similarly, my desire, aged 11, to explore my physical limits through pain is the same side of my character that now takes pleasure in fitness training and consensual corporal punishment. That urge to push boundaries and find my physical edge is an important part of who I am.
Each mark on my body is part of my story. The thing that put it there might no longer be part of my experience, but that time in my life will still have happened, those memories will still be part of my truth. Our past informs our future. We all carry our histories with us invisibly; why are people so afraid of carrying them visibly as well?
If, in a few years or decades, D and I part ways, or body hair suddenly becomes fashionably sexy, or I get a part in a retro porno, or for some other reason I find myself wishing I could grow a full bush, I will accept that I made this choice, and I’ll shrug it off.
Buy the ticket, take the ride. We make choices everyday. Permanence is unavoidable.
One thing that occurred to me as I was writing this was the double standard we have between pregnancy and other forms of permanent body modification. Of all the ways to change your body forever, that has to be one of the more dramatic; and yet if I was going to have a baby, people who would baulk at a tattoo would congratulate me without hesitation. It seems that some forms of permanence, some risks, some choices, are considered more acceptable than others.