We started this advice column as a space to hear and attempt to answer questions that our readers may be struggling with. While this column mostly focuses on dating, love, and sex, we will take a crack at answering any Sikhi related questions! These are all tough topics to handle alone and not all of us have friends or family to turn to for advice. We hope this advice column can begin to fill this gap!
I accepted Amrit a few years ago but due to certain reasons, it got broken. But I did not stop wearing the kakaars. I have been planning to accept Amrit again once I find the right guy. I met one some time ago. We are planning to get married now, and our families know. But he has asked me to get my private region and armpits waxed. I love him, and he loves me too. But my conscience stops me from waxing or shaving. According to him, our sex life as a couple is dependent upon me removing my hair. What do I do?
Thank you for your courage in sharing your experience on an issue we know many Kaurs face. To be pressured from a loved one/Singh to remove your hair is an uncomfortable and unfair position, and you should never be asked to compromise your conscience for someone for whom you love and care for. This burden is not for you to carry alone. Our advice will address your questions, concerns of other Kaurs in similar situations, and Singhs who explicitly or implicitly apply pressure on their partners to change their physical bodies.
Education is Power
It is unfair for anyone to mislead their partner to believe that removing their pubic hair is essential for a pleasurable sexual experience. In fact, it is unfair for anyone to make you do anything you do not want to do. Sex can be an uncomfortable and unfamiliar topic for many individuals in our community, especially for Kaurs who may have been conditioned to think that it is not okay to think about, talk about, or have sex. Educating yourself about sex is incredibly important–to understand what it is physically and know what your rights are in a sexual relationship. Sex is much more than a physical act. It implicates consent, intimacy, vulnerability, and pleasure. And as a Kaur, you have the right to ask for what type of sexual intimacy you want.
The fact of the matter is that hair does not interfere with sex. This conception often comes from outside socialization and understandings of what women should look like and what makes sex pleasurable. Some would say hair actually makes sexual experiences more pleasurable; it just depends on the person and their preferences. One Kaur said, “I tried the whole hair-removing thing, and I didn’t like it. The bare-skin on bare-skin friction hurt! And it got itchy. Now, I’m all natural and it’s so much more comfortable!” Often we give our power away and let others dictate the decisions on our body and life. Retake ownership of your body and sex life by educating yourself and being clear with yourself about your wants, needs, and values. You have the right to make your own decisions about your body and what type of sexual behavior and grooming patterns you would like to practice.
Media (i.e. pornography, magazines, movies) tends to sexualize young, thin, hairless bodies. Such images are poor representations of the diversity of human bodies that exist. You have been placed in the unfair position of having to explain to your partner why hair is so important to you. It is important to be honest with yourself about why hair is important to you (i.e. it is your connection to Sikhi, the Guru, Shabad, etc.), so that you may be clear and honest with your partner. Ultimately, it is imperative that your partner respects your religious commitment, personal boundaries, and sexual preferences. Starting a dialogue with your partner may be an opportunity to explore more about each other and from where your ideas of sexual attractiveness originate. Consider reading this article together on the benefits of pubic hair! Keeping your pubic hair is one personal boundary you have come across. Learning together can help you discover more sexual boundaries and interests–both your own and your partner’s. It may even help you find out what you are both excited about!
Love is Respect
Educator Kaur describes, “Kaurs often want to please their romantic partners. While there is nothing wrong with this character trait in and of itself, I have seen myself and fellow Kaurs go ‘above and beyond’ to please their partners in a way that is harmful to ourselves, and/or disrespects our own sense of being and integrity.” You should not have to give up who you are in order to be in this relationship. Love does not ask us to act against our true selves. Love is respect.
Self-Reflect and Discuss
Some Sikh men have been conditioned to think hair is unclean, undesirable, and ugly. Veteran Singh did not always believe hair was beautiful. “Beauty is a social construct. Because of media, I was taught to see hair as ugly, unclean, and unattractive. Like other social constructs, one day they are cool and the next day they are not. I remember thinking baggy jeans, bowling shirts, hemp necklaces, and frosted tips were cool. Now I wonder, ‘How on earth did I think that?!’ As a young boy, I was taught that hair is only beautiful on women if it is shaved, shaped, or dyed. I had to learn that those perceptions of physical beauty are transient and defined by a society that may not necessarily share my Sikh values.”
Do not let the media define you or your relationship. This learning or unlearning may not happen overnight, but you can learn to take ownership of your own thoughts with self-reflection. Consultants sometimes use a tool called, “The Five Whys” to explore motivations and ideas. Try it out. Why do you think removing pubic hair or armpit hair is important for sex? Ask yourself why again. And again. And again and again. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes and try the exercise again. How might asking my partner to wax their body make them feel? This exercise can help you identify the root of your desires and motivations, and force you to think beyond your needs and wants. Engaging in an ethical sexual relationship requires placing your partner’s needs as equal or greater than your own. Sharing what you learned about yourself can help you connect more with your partner by giving them a glimpse into how you think and how they may feel.
Values Come First
Veteran Singh has been married for 10 years. He discusses, “I made the decision that I would marry a Sikh woman who shared my values, who shared my inspiration from Sikhi, and who wanted to pursue the life of a Gursikh together. I had an honest conversation with myself and reframed how I thought about what I want in a partner. For me, Sikh values come first. I thought to myself, ‘I want to marry a person with Sikh values, and she is going to be hairy. Those are my expectations and I have to be okay with that.’” Since then, Veteran Singh has learned to not only be okay with the hair on his partner’s body but also to love it. It has forced him to self-reflect and recognize how inconsistent his own thoughts on hair are. “Are my legs gross? I do not think so. Why would I think that about any Kaur with hairy legs?”
Double Standards are Bullshit
According to Veteran Singh, “To value a Singh for his physical identity and a Kaur for her physical beauty is to live within the framework of a colonized mind.* Colonial views of women are not aligned with the Sikh value system. It would not be okay for a Kaur to tell a Singh, ‘You need to shave your beard and cut your hair because that is what I think is beautiful. If you do not, it will negatively impact our relationship.’ Why is it okay for a Singh to tell a Kaur, ‘You need to shave to meet the standards of beauty I have learned from the media and porn?’”
Although Sikhi values the bodies of Singhs and Kaurs equally, our cultural tradition unfairly burdens Kaurs with meeting the beauty standards set by others. Check out, “Sikh Women and the Politics of Hair,” by Jasveen Kaur Sarna for more on this. Recognize when you are unfairly placing a standard on your partner that you yourself would not follow. Veteran Singh urges Singhs to think about their priorities, “On the one hand, some Singhs claim that their priority is their Guru. On the other hand, they act as if their wives and girlfriends are objects for their pleasure. That is degrading and offensive, and against the principles of Sikhi.”
To those who worry, have anxiety, or are fearful about hair, think about the Sikh ideal of beauty. If you seek beauty in a partner and for the Guru to be at the center of your relationship, seek someone who embodies or inspires in you qualities of the Divine.
ਤਿਸ ਹੀ ਚਜੁ ਸੀਗਾਰੁ ਸਭੁ ਸਾਈ ਰੂਪਿ ਅਪਾਰਿ ਰੀ ॥
tis hee chaj seegaar sabh saaiee roop apaar ree ||
She alone is cultured and embellished, and she alone is of incomparable beauty.
ਸਾਈ ਸੋੁਹਾਗਣਿ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਜੋ ਭਾਣੀ ਕਰਤਾਰਿ ਰੀ ॥੪॥੧੬॥੧੧੮॥
saaiee suohaagann naanakaa jo bhaannee karataar ree ||4||16||118||
She alone is the happy soul-bride, O Nanak, who is pleasing to the Creator. ||4||16||118||
Raag Aasaa – Guru Arjan Sahib – Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji – Ang 400
Veteran Singh believes those who are the most beautiful are those who operate with Divine virtues and who strive to embody Gurbani. He says, “Their radiance, power, and authenticity transcend those who are only physically beautiful. Physical beauty lasts for only a few years. It is transient. Character, however, is timeless.”
ਘਟੰਤ ਰੂਪੰ ਘਟੰਤ ਦੀਪੰ ਘਟੰਤ ਰਵਿ ਸਸੀਅਰ ਨਖ੍ਯ੍ਯਤ੍ਰ ਗਗਨੰ ॥
Ghattanth Roopan Ghattanth Dheepan Ghattanth Rav Saseear Nakhyathr Gaganan ||
Beauty fades away, islands fade away, the sun, moon, stars and sky fade away.
Salok Sehshritee – Guru Arjan Sahib – Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Ang 1354
ਧਨੁ ਜੋਬਨੁ ਅਰੁ ਫੁਲੜਾ ਨਾਠੀਅੜੇ ਦਿਨ ਚਾਰਿ ॥
dhan joban ar fulaRaa naatteeaRay dhin chaar ||
Wealth, the beauty of youth and flowers are guests for only a few days.
Siree Raag – Guru Nanak Sahib – Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji – Ang 23
Sex and Power
By claiming that the success of one’s sex life is solely dependent on your partner’s willingness to shave is unethical on multiple accounts. It is unethical to ask your partner to act in a way that goes against their Sikh faith and personal boundaries. It is unethical to place the burden of a successful sex life solely on them. Placing the burden of a successful sex life on your partner creates a power imbalance within your relationship. With this power imbalance, the question of, “Can you wax your pubic and armpit hair?” is less of a request and more of a threat. Here’s the real truth: The happiness and success of your sex life depend on your communication with each other, affirmative consent, and empathy for each other’s needs. Newlywed Singh says, “I love having sex with my wife because I love her as a person. I do not care about her pubic hair or armpit hair.”
If you are anxious about having a positive sex life, talk to your partner about it openly and honestly. Brainstorm ideas that may make you both feel more comfortable (i.e. safe words, candles, chocolate, music, etc).
Love is Respect
In a relationship, partners often want to please each other and may be willing to cross their personal boundaries to do so. In our experience, Kaurs, in particular, do a lot of back-bending beyond their boundaries in order to meet their partner’s needs. Love does not ask our partners to act against their true selves. Love honors our partner’s bodies, sexual desires, and wishes. Love is respect.
All the best.
Some Sikhs With Some Thoughts
*Within South Asia and the diaspora, Sikhs live in cultures shaped by Western colonialism. Living and learning in these cultures naturally shapes our thoughts and perspectives, unless we resist that which is contrary to our Sikh values. Shaving is a practice derived from patriarchy, colonialism and capitalism (which are tied together). Western beauty standards affect how Brown women view their skin color and body hair. Read more about the capitalist origins of shaving at, “How the beauty industry convinced women to shave their legs.” For more on Sikhi and shaving, check out our other articles.
The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. Use of this column not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, psychological, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. This column, its authors, Kaur Life, Kaur Life’s affiliates, and the publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions.