By Ginger Murray
Having a fetish for underarms is known as "Axillism." But what about armpit hair? On men it's accepted -- there are a number of gay websites dedicated to armpit hair sexiness. This same hair on women, however, provokes a range of reactions. It can inspire desire, cause disgust, and for many, it is the de facto badge of a feminist.
Vibha Raval says, "I don't have any hair below my eyebrows, ever, but I am not any less feminist." For her it's an issue of hygiene, personal preference, and modernity. However, Vivian De Milo, a gender queer fetish model and artist, loves it.
"I think body hair, armpit hair in particular, is smokin' hot on femme and female bodied people. It turns me on and tickles my pickle."
Sexy or not sexy, political or personal? The question rages on, but what about the stink factor?
For years, when I was stressed or excited, my armpits would put out an honest to goodness rankness. Despite those few who were turned on by it, I didn't even like smelling myself. My stench once cleared a dance floor. I tried all manner of deodorants but nothing worked. Then one day, a friend asked me, "have you ever just tried not shaving?"
Like most American girls, I began shaving as soon those first little hairs emerged and so, no, the thought had never crossed my mind. As an experiment, I threw away the razor and let it grow.
Surprise: No more stinking. Wild. I have now become a confirmed hairy armpit gal, and those who got a kick out of my particular odor will just have to come a lot closer. And some will.
Photographer Rosie Jones says, "The most important and fascinating role of hair is to be a part of the olfactory communication. The smell of each and every human being is different and unique -- pheromones produce this distinct smell. Hair holds in itself this unique scent and helps humans to identify and respond to others. Therefore body hair is sex and is sexy. But I can't help but whip it off for aesthetic reasons."
And of course those aesthetics keep a lot of wax and razor companies in business. In fact, it was a marketing campaign that put a smooth, hairless underarm on the map. In 1917, the Wilkinson Sword Co., which made razor blades for men, created advertising to persuade women that underarm hair was unfeminine. The sales of razor blades quickly doubled, and culture was altered.
So whatever your preference, the beauty of our postmodern world is that for the most part, you can do as you damn well please. But Tracey Snyder Stone offers this word of advice, "Hair is sexy if kept neat and clean. Man or woman." Indeed, although there are those who like it dirty, real dirty.
The Sweet Spot is a blog column about alternative sexuality by Ginger Murray, the editor of Whore! magazine.