Dear Sex Counselor,
I have a body-image problem that I'm having a hard time getting over. I'm wondering if you know how common it is for women to be "really" hairy. Often times I feel like a "freak" because of all the body hair I have, especially in my pubic area (between my butt cheeks, around my anus, and even around my nipples ... Aghhh!). I feel very self-conscious about this and feel very inhibited when it comes to any kind of sexual contact for fear of the reactions I might get. I can't even change in front of my roommate (who, by the way, looks hairless compared to me). It seems the cultural norm is very much against female body hair. I'm not much for cultural norms, but they do have a way of getting to your self-esteem. I've tried all sorts of hair removal treatments, but they usually don't work very well or they are too time-consuming and expensive. My body hair is very visible because I'm a brunette. I'm wondering if you have any advice on how I can cope with this issue, as well as how I can get rid of this embarrassing problem! It would also be helpful if you could mention any sources (books, etc.) that deal with topic.
It is not uncommon for some women to have as much hair as you describe. It's possible that you have somewhat higher levels of the androgen hormones, which can cause more hair growth (they are also what is responsible for libido in women). Women have a variety of responses to having more hair than average. Some women revel in it; I know men and women who find the amount of hair you have incredibly sexy and attractive, and seek out women who look like you do. So you could work to enjoy this lush growth, and find those lovers who truly appreciate who you are, and how you look.
Other women choose to have the hair removed. The only way to permanently remove hair is electrolysis. It takes time and can cost quite a bit of money, but will remove a large amount of the hair forever. Shaving and other depilatory techniques are not always so successful, and they often result in discomfort and itching, so they aren't the best way to go. Some women choose to bleach their hair, especially the hair on their arms and other very visible places. This works to make it less obvious, but needs to be repeated frequently.
I think you are right to be thinking about how to be more comfortable with yourself. As I mention, there are many people who either find body hair attractive or don't have feelings about it one way or another, and you may want to start concentrating on what you like about yourself and putting those things you like out there for others to notice. You are certainly not alone in having distressing hang-ups about your body! I don't know of specific resources for women with a lot of hair, but there are many good books that focus on body image and body acceptance. These might provide some specific exercises and support in re-shaping your relationship with your body.
Here is one note I got regarding this post - others are certainly welcome!
"After reading this posting in Ask The Sex Counselor I felt that I should respond in the hopes of making this woman feel at least a little better. She doesn't say exactly how hairy she is, but I have a similar problem. The medical term for excessive hair is hirsutism, and is, as you said, caused by an excess of androgen. There is a very good book called The Truth About Women's Hormones, which does a very good job of explaining everything and pointing out that this problem is more widespread than you would think. This woman should be urged to consult a physician, as this disorder can sometimes lead to medical problems if not treated. Another option, though I haven't tried it yet, is birth control pills ... they can sometimes lessen the effect of the androgen. I so far have not found any sort of a support group, but you can find some information by looking up hirsutism on the Internet."
The Sex Counselor