A Part-Timer's Dilemma: Manscaping?
Sailing is best when the water is smooth. Smoothness is an asset for some other things, too, such as being an attractive crossdresser …
Sometime a while back, I did a Google search for hygiene and grooming products. While I was checking out vendors, I stumbled upon the following advertisement, which I believe is pertinent to some of the hygiene and grooming needs of at least some crossdressers:
The Braun Cruzer6 Body Shaver. For guys around the world, manscaping has become a natural part of their grooming routine. The Braun Cruzer6 Body Shaver is the right tool if you’d also like to try a cleaner, fresher look with a shaved chest or groomed armpits. Thanks to its cutting-edge wet & dry technology, you can even safely use the Braun Cruzer6 Body Shaver under the shower and make messy hair on the ground a thing of the past.
A few of the most heavily advertised features include the following:
If you think that this advertisement from Braun was just a crazy fluke, or perhaps that it was written as a gag during a drunken corporate Christmas party, then I would call your attention to a comparable advertisement from Gillette, one of Braun’s major corporate competitors, which is described below:
According to a Wikipedia article, “Katherine ‘Kate’ Upton (born June 10, 1992) is an American model and actress ….” In an advertisement for the Gillette Fusion men’s razor that allegedly is good for shaving “down there,” Ms. Upton said that this is “ very important”!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now let’s just note that the two advertisements referred to above both were suggesting that men can trim or even totally remove body hair and, by doing so, look better. The important implication for this article is that if hair management is increasingly acceptable for non-crossdressing men, then part-time crossdressers can adopt some of the long-accepted grooming practices of women without causing as much shock or surprise as this might have caused a generation ago. Removing body hair has long been the province of women; but evidently some men now have started engaging in “manscaping” as part of their grooming repertoires. As that becomes more accepted it becomes easier for part-time crossdressers to engage in the grooming practices of women without raising too many eyebrows when they are in male-mode. But are a Braun Cruzer6 electric razor or a Gillette Fusion electric razor the best tools for body hair management, or are there also other ways worth considering?
Good Hygiene and Grooming
Good hygiene and grooming are fundamental for being at one’s most attractive. That is true of crossdressers and everyone else. The basics are (1) bathing, (2) trimming fingernails and toenails, (3) brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash, and (4) removing or at least neatly trimming arm, leg, and body hair. Regarding the latter, some recent poll results gathered by an Internet beauty site showed that approximately 70% of US women ≤ 40 years old prefer that their male intimate partner(s) remove or at least trim chest, back, underarm, and genital hair; and indeed fully 17% said that they would prefer a completely hair-free man except for his head. Of course, men have long preferred that their female romantic partners have removed body hair; but the most surprising thing is that the trend in female preferences seems to be moving towards a smoother, less hairy appearance in men. The significance of that trend for transgender persons is not absolutely clear; but I think that a trend in the direction of preferring a smoother appearance has been occurring at least since the 1980s, and that this makes it more feasible for crossdressers to adopt at least some approximation of feminine grooming practices. That possibility is at least worthy of discussion for transgender persons among others.
There is, of course, a subcategory of gay men — often called “bears” — whose members take pride in being very hairy. If you are a “bear” and derive pleasure from that self-identification, then more power to you. Go for it! Their feeling of wanting to express an identity that brings them pleasure is much like ours. But a person has to decide what their identity is and then to express it in a way that is recognizable to themselves and others. Proper expression of a social identity depends in part on the prevailing cultural standards in one’s community, as Ginger Rogers, the famous movie star of an earlier generation, helps to illustrate.
By any reasonable judgment, Ginger Rogers (above right) does look very feminine and pretty. But the important point for this discussion is that removing body hair was hardly an issue for most women prior to the 1980s. For the same reasons, it was not an issue for earlier generations of men who wanted to dress as women. If a crossdresser today were to decide that body hair management of a modern feminine sort was the way for them to go, then the remaining questions would be whether to do it completely or to do it only partially, and whether to use an electric razor or to find some other method.
A male-to-female transsexual who lives full-time en femme probably should follow the lead of beauty-conscious young genetic women; but others face what I think of as “a part-timer’s dilemma.” Those who wish to or must present themselves most of the time as men, perhaps even showering in a men’s locker room at a local YMCA, need to compromise, partially guided by what is acceptable for non-crossdressing men. Male athletes in some sports remove body hair, but how much is acceptable in men more generally? Of course, if 70% of young adult women in the US want at least some trimming, then surely some young adult men must be doing it; but can we push the boundaries a bit further without raising too many eyebrows? A popular Internet site written for American (US) men summed up the dilemma as follows:
“Although AskMen does encourage manscaping for proper grooming maintenance, we still believe a man should look like, well, a man — (some) body hair and all. Thus, you might want to consider an electric razor — Wahl makes solid ones — to trim your hair down to ¼ inch to ½ inch in length. [That] solution is also painless.”
Trimming one’s body hair as short as ¼" (6 mm) would not leave their skin as smooth as a baby’s bottom, but it would not be as wild and untamed as a grizzly bear’s, either.
One of the social groups in which I participate is a small theater group, perhaps 10 or 20 people, depending on how strictly one draws the line, who are season ticket holders at a theater/playhouse in a city within easy driving distance of my home. The “regulars” in this group often socialize together after theater performances and are fairly good friends, having been doing this for at least several years. Sometimes I attend a play in femme mode; sometimes I attend in homme mode. The other members of the group accept me in either a femme or a homme presentation. They aren’t freaked out by unconventional attire of that or practically any other kind. Theater groups tend to be relatively open-minded about clothing choices and appearance.
Renáta says that she is a nudist. She
sometimes travels to “clothing optional” beaches in
Florida; and of course, she sometimes has sex. For both those
reasons, she wants her body to be hairless and smooth. Every one
or two months, Renáta goes to Brazilian Wax by Andreia
for hair removal.1
On a recent Saturday afternoon, about a ½ dozen of us attended a scheduled play, which was a rare afternoon performance, beginning at about 1:30 p.m. and finishing at about 3:00 p.m. After it had finished, because the day was still young, we went to the theater lounge, found a table with enough chairs for the six of us, and ordered beverages of our choice (wine, Coke, or whatever). When most of us were near finishing our beverages, one of the group’s members, Renáta Dvořák, who sometimes is an actress in plays at this theater, volunteered to have us come over to her home for Margaritas and to continue our conversations. She has a beautiful home — I’d been there twice before — and her offer was an appealing one. All five of the others took her up on it. We followed her in our respective cars to her home, which was four or five miles away.
Sitting in her living room sipping our Margaritas, the conversation turned to Brazilian waxing and a recent trend towards men as well as women getting full-body hair removal treatments, especially in the spring when they expect to be wearing bathing suits and other revealing clothing during the coming months. There had been a segment on one of the evening CNN television programs earlier in the week on the popularity of waxing to remove body hair among women who wear bikinis. One of the men said that he thought it would be painful, and that a person probably would be sore for at least a week afterwards.
Rená interrupted, saying that in fact she’d just gotten a treatment on Friday morning, i.e., 1½ days ago. She said that there had been only mild discomfort afterwards; and that the discomfort lasted only for a few hours. Most of it, she said, went away when she used a moisturizer on her skin afterwards. The time required, she said, is only about 20 minutes — it’s not as if you are being water-boarded for several hours! She added that depending on how sensitive your skin is, you might want to dress in loose-fitting cotton clothing for a day or two afterwards, just to guard against the possibility that tight or rough clothing might irritate slightly sensitive skin; but treatments, she said, really don’t cause very much inconvenience. (Some beauty websites give a slightly different account from Renáta’s and are worth reading for the additional information they provide.)
At that point, I noticed that Rená was wearing what appeared to be loose-fitting cotton clothing: a pink and gray dress with coordinated flip-flops. Jokingly, someone asked, “Why don’t you show us so that we can see if your abdominal skin looks irritated?” In 20 seconds or less the dress was off, revealing a remarkably smooth, hair-free body! I was a little surprised at the unexpected absence of clothing, although Rená had once told me that she is a nudist who sometimes travels to Florida’s clothing-optional beaches to enjoy the feelings of the wind and water on her clothing-free body. I knew from past experience that Rená is quite uninhibited. More to the point, though, her Brazilian waxing was very impressive — she certainly had a smooth, hair-free body. Part of Brazilian waxing’s purpose is improve how things look “down there.” As I said earlier, that theater group is quite open-minded, and Renáta convincingly supported the point she wanted to make.
Smooth Women. In the past, many women — at least in the United States — did not do more than a very superficial amount of hair removal. Clothing completely covered the upper thighs and pubic area, making hair removal unnecessary. Similarly, clothing covered the armpits. Even in the summertime, when a woman might want to wear a short-sleeved t-shirt and shorts, the only place requiring hair removal would be her legs below her knees.
Being hairless (except for head hair, eyebrows,
and eyelashes) is one aspect of looking feminine. Notice that the
woman pictured above has dark brownish hair on her head,
eyebrows, and eyelashes, but she has no visible hair anywhere
else. That combination is what makes her look pretty and
feminine. That is considered to be proper feminine hygiene in
cultures all over the world. Ideally, it should describe
male-to-female transgender persons, too. For part-time
crossdressers, however, it presents a dilemma.
By the same reasoning used by an older generation of genetic women, an older generation of CDs in the US dealt with the “body hair problem” by dressing very conservatively — skirts falling below the knees, opaque hosiery, etc. This was primarily to camouflage arm, leg, and body hair. Many of today’s CDs want to look more fashionable, which means wearing shorter skirts, largely transparent hosiery, and generally more revealing attire. There is more need today for body hair management than there was a generation ago.
Some History. Hairless female bodies, made hairless by the now-fashionable Brazilian waxing (or one of its variations), first appeared on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was in Rio that young adult women first began wearing thong bathing suits that required nearly complete hair removal, front and back, to make them feasible to wear, considering that visible female body hair is widely disapproved. The credit for bringing Brazilian waxing to the US goes to seven Brazilian-born sisters, the Padilha sisters, who opened a small waxing salon, called “Salão de Sete Irmãs” (or Seven Sisters Salon), in New York City in 1986. Today in the US there are literally millions of women and perhaps ½ million or more men who have adopted that grooming practice.
Full Brazilian waxing, however, has some alternatives. The simplest is shaving cream and a Gillette Venus razor. But there also are alternative varieties of waxing. In its purest form, Brazilian waxing entails the removal (via waxing) of all hair except that of a person’s head, which includes the removal of all genital and anal hair. Modifications of full Brazilian waxing are now available for those who want them. They differ primarily in what they do about genital hair. So-called “French waxing” leaves a strip of hair, perhaps an inch wide and two inches high, in the lower abdomen. This thin strip of hair is called a “landing strip” because of its supposed resemblance to an airport landing runway. So-called “American waxing” leaves a larger patch, perhaps five inches wide and 2½ inches high, again in the lower abdomen. Both French and American waxing entail trimming the hair that remains, typically to about ½" (13mm) in length; and, like full Brazilian waxing, both remove all hair that would be visible if the person were to wear even a very low-cut bikini bottom. For more discussion and some pictures, see the Wikipedia article on bikini waxing.
Whether we want to admit it or not, many of us copy pretty women such as Renáta (mentioned earlier). In a fashion sense, such women are role models for many transgender persons. I personally ask Renáta questions about feminine presentation that I would not be comfortable asking most other women. A crossdressing friend of mine now has precisely trimmed eyebrows and, when dressed en femme, attractive facial makeup, influenced in part by Renáta’s advice. In addition, she recently had her body hair removed and her skin is now quite smooth. That smooth, hairless appearance certainly makes her look more feminine.
Let me quote from the Wikipedia article noted in the last paragraph:
Bikini waxing is the epilation of pubic hair in and around the pubic region, commonly by women, by the use of wax. With certain styles of women’s swimwear, pubic hair may become visible around the crotch area of a swimsuit. Visible pubic hair is widely culturally disapproved of and considered to be embarrassing, and so is at times removed. However, some people also remove pubic hair that is not exposed, for aesthetic, personal hygiene, cultural, fashion, or other reasons. The bikini line delineates the part of a woman’s pubic area below which would normally be covered by the bottom part of a swimsuit. In the context of waxing, it is generally understood to describe any pubic hair visible beyond the boundaries of a swimsuit. Epilation is usually also performed on the upper leg. Pubic hair can be removed in a number of ways, including waxing, shaving, sugaring, or using chemical depilatory creams. Hair that is not removed may be trimmed. While the practice is mainly associated with women, men at times also remove pubic hair.
In India, the removal of pubic hair, especially for women, has been customary in some groups for 5,000 to 6,000 years. In the ancient Middle East, it was done for hygienic reasons, as well as for aesthetic reasons. In the 21st century in the United States, it is done almost universally among young adult women, and sometimes among adult men as well, for reasons that may include hygiene and aesthetics, but that also contain a certain sexual symbolism. In young adult women, it signals an interest in sexual activity, especially when hair that is not exposed by a bathing suit also is removed. Among sexually active crossdressers, I think that the near-universal symbolism of a hairless smooth body, including the genital area, is an interest in sexual intimacy. Human beings are sexual beings.
Hair removal without unpleasant side effects, however, is an acquired skill. My crossdressing friend Sophia is basically smooth all over (except for her head). To achieve that appearance, a person can use an electric hair clipper with a ¼" (6 mm) guide comb in all the areas that he or she wants to be hairless, including legs, underarms, chest, and so on. Then they can use a razor or a hair remover lotion to get rid of the ¼" hair that remains. A lotion such as NAIR™ will keep her body looking smooth longer than close shaving would, because it removes the hair slightly closer to the roots than shaving can; but to look as good as Renáta one probably would have to reapply the lotion about every ten days. The hair that grows back tends to be fine and light in color, not especially noticeable, but it does become visible in a week or two if someone looks very carefully from close up.
While NAIR™ and similar products work well for many people, an alternative to a hair removal lotion for those who are willing to spend the money — in recent years, that has included Sophia — is to go to a hair salon and get a “Brazilian” full-body waxing, as Renáta Dvořák does (see above). That leaves a person’s body completely smooth for a few weeks and, after that, with short, fine, barely noticeable fuzz for several more weeks. It removes the hair literally down to the roots. In the US today, there are lots of hair salons that will give “Brazilian” full-body waxing hair removal to men as well as to women. (See Olivia Barker, “The Male Resistance to Waxing is Melting Away”, USA Today, August 23, 2005.) Millions of American women — and some men — choose to have the hair “down there” removed, and are willing to pay upwards of $50 or $60. Of course, you have to lie on a table while a (typically) female waxing therapist applies warm wax to your penis, testes, anal area, etc., which may be a bit disconcerting if you’ve never done it before! But they are professionals and the transaction is strictly professional. There’s nothing to be concerned about, assuming that you have gone to an experienced waxing therapist (who will be a licensed technician). The main down-side is that it tends to be expensive, more so for men than for women. (Male genitals require more work, and a gentler technique on the testes and penis, than do female genitals and other areas of regular skin on either females or males.)
Realistically, that is about what it would cost,
as you would need a get a waxing about every 3 to 6 months. To
put that in perspective, however, if you consume two $10 bottles
of wine per week on the average, then you spend $1,040 per year
for your wine consumption. Increasing numbers of young adult
women are accepting the cost of waxing because they want to be
completely smooth. Some transgender persons are willing to do the
Relevance for Transgender
What’s true of swimsuits is true of clothing
more generally. For instance, dresses and skirts are shorter and
more revealing than they were a generation ago. Regarding
individual crossdressers, if you want to look feminine, then you
need to remove hair from any part of you below the eyelashes that
is not covered up by clothing. Some clothing is risqué and
some is very cautious or conservative. Translating as many people
ordinarily would, [risqué →
sexy] and [cautious →
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Until the middle 1950s, US culture deemed the bikini much too risqué to be worn on a public beach. But some Hollywood stars who wanted publicity did wear them at celebrity pool parties and similar events. The popular press began referring to those Hollywood stars as “sex symbols,” which emboldened young adult women who wanted to be seen as “sexy” to start wearing them, too. The issue of removing body hair “down there” simply was not very relevant before bathing suits and other leisure attire became much skimpier than they had been in the past. The so-called “sexual revolution” of the late 1960s and 1970s also was a factor that helped change the general US culture toward greater acceptance of clothing that made the presence or absence of visible body hair a crucial issue for women — and even, to a lesser extent, for many men — than it had been in earlier times.
Regarding the crossdressers and transvestites of earlier eras, they needed only to shave their faces and wear long dresses with long sleeves to look like women. They had it easy! The male-to-female transgender persons of today, however, have to remove body hair or look very obviously like men in dresses. As women’s clothing continues to be quite revealing, the dilemma faced by crossdressers becomes more and more relevant.
An article in the magazine, The Atlantic, written by Ashley Fetters, was entitled “Has Pubic Hair in America Gone Extinct?” It gave an interesting discussion of the changes in grooming norms for young adult women over the last generation or two. A majority of those between 18 and 30 years of age now strive to uphold norms that require a relatively hairless appearance, including in private areas. Today such women are expected, even “down there,” to be “smooth, baby-soft, and lacking hair” (Fetters). She provided a fairly balanced discussion of this phenomenon, not an enthusiastic endorsement to be sure; but she admitted that women today view body hair, even “down there,” as falling short of a widely held feminine ideal.
There is a very dramatic generational change here. The idea of wearing clothing that could reveal genital hair was unheard of a generation or two ago. People just didn’t do that! Today, young adults take for granted that respectable women in their 20s will wear such clothing. The issue today is about how best to remove pubic and other body hair, not about whether it should be removed. People of earlier generations often do not understand that new reality, and some are mystified by conversations about the best ways to meet today’s grooming expectations.
|Achieving her flexibility would be very
difficult for most of us, but we can achieve a better
approximation of her smooth hairless body simply through tasteful
§ § §
Let’s address the crucial issue for transgender persons more directly. What is the relevance of the foregoing for male-to-female crossdressers and others of the trans communities? That depends partly on whether they go out in public crossdressed, and whether they wear revealing attire if (or when) they go out in public. For those who do not go out in public and/or always wear opaque hosiery and long-sleeved dresses or blouses, it is not particularly relevant. After all, others can’t see through opaque clothing. Some crossdressers deal with the dilemma by dressing very conservatively. For those who often go out in public and sometimes wear revealing attire, however, it is practically essential that they shave or otherwise get rid of highly visible hair, which, for some, might be only facial hair, hand and arm hair, and feet and legs hair. Those could make the difference between being accepted and being looked upon as creepy.
Sexuality is another factor. Transgender persons who are bisexual or homosexual, and are going to have sexual relations, face pretty much the same issues as sexually active genetic women face. Effeminate gay men generally want to be as smooth as possible, which means removing all body hair. For part-time crossdressers, straight or gay, much depends on what percentage of their time they spend as a woman. Those who spend 50% or more of their time as a woman should probably remove all body hair, or at least all body hair that may become visible. Presumably, someone who dresses like a woman at least 50% of the time is “out” to their colleagues, neighbors, friends, and most of the others in their daily lives. Their goal should be to be accepted. They do not need to “pass,” but they should adopt the grooming routines of women so as to be acceptable.
She has a pretty face. Her clothing is not
risqué, but it does show a lot of skin. She clearly has
removed arm, leg, and most (if not all) body hair. If she wants
to wear clothing comparable to this, she needs to remove a lot of
What about part-time crossdressers — straight, bisexual, or gay — who spend well under 50% of their time presenting as women? Many of my crossdressing friends, for instance, present as women about two times a month, presenting as men in their daily lives. Their breakdown is about 7% en femme, about 93% en homme. My best advice would be to trim body hair to make it less noticeable. Based on the survey results mentioned earlier, heterosexual women under about 40 years of age generally prefer men who trim body hair, which gives part-time CDs some leeway to do the same without raising questions about their masculinity.
Whatever our motivations for crossdressing — typically to express a part of our own inner nature — we probably need to integrate our crossdressing with other interests and activities. Some crossdressers have wives, children, and demanding careers. Others play on local softball teams or have other passions. It can be a challenge to integrate our crossdressing with our other interests, activities, and responsibilities. To be at our best as crossdressers, however, we would need to remove all arm, leg, facial, and body hair. Still, doing so may not mesh very well with some of those other priorities. Part-time crossdressers need to find a compromise. The “part-timer's dilemma” referred to in the title of this page is deciding where to find a place on the continuum that more or less satisfies our potentially competing needs to “look like a man” in some situations and to “look like a woman” in others. The dilemma is that being too hairy raises doubts about your femme presentation, while being too hair-free raises doubts about your homme presentation.
Speaking of a person’s choice of clothing,
it is possible to wear fashionable feminine clothing,
removing only any noticeable hair on arms, hands, legs, and
As noted in an earlier section of this article, most young adult women today prefer that their male intimate partner(s) remove, or at least neatly trim, their chest, back, underarm, and genital hair; and fully 17% said that they would prefer a completely hair-free man except for his head, eyebroes, and eyelashes. That gives us some latitude for trimming body hair so that it is at least much less noticeable.
Using an electric hair clipper with a ½" (13 mm) guide comb might be sufficient. Electric razors designed for that purpose, such as the Braun Cruzer6 Body Shaver mentioned above, provide enough “manscaping” for many of us. Certainly no serious crossdresser would want to have long, bushy, unkempt hair covering their entire abdomen and butt! There probably would be some advantage to being completely hair-free below the waist as well as above the waist; however, if you sometimes shower in a public shower area, say at your local YMCA, or at any place where men change clothes and shower in full sight of each other, then you might want to settle for a tasteful trim! That would be a compromise, which would require you to wear somewhat less revealing clothing; but most clubs are dimly lit and tasteful trimming may be the best compromise.
She has a pretty face and and a nice figure. Her
clothing certainly is not risqué. Moreover, it shows
little skin. She probably needs to remove a limited amount of
hand, leg, and foot hair. But if this is her standard way of
dressing, then she could get away with only a small amount of
Crossdressers who interact socially with “CD admirers” or other genetic males probably need to go further than heterosexual married crossdressers do, because CD admirers want their partners to look feminine; and that means, at least in part, looking as smooth and well-groomed as stylish women do. On the other hand, the wives of married crossdressers may not want their husbands to look like well-groomed, stylish women! Therefore, these wives are not likely to exert much social pressure to get rid of the hair!
Nevertheless, many people believe that our grooming and hygiene, including body hair management, have practical significance for our overall sense of well-being. A well-kempt look signals a certain pride in ourselves. We take good care of ourselves because we like ourselves, and the converse also is true — the effects are reciprocal. We take good care of ourselves because we like ourselves; and we like ourselves, at least in part, because we are willing to go to all the trouble of taking good care of ourselves. That’s something to think about during your next Brazilian waxing!
In sum: I recommend that crossdressers wear attractive feminine clothing, together with attractive feminine makeup. And, importantly, I suggest that we remove hand, arm, leg, feet, and body hair to the extent that it is not covered up by our clothing. Have a wonderful day!
§ § §
I wish you blessings.
Have a great day!
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