Friday, June 1, 2001

Shiny Sharp Shaving Things: The erotic uses of razors and shaving

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #157, June 1, 2001)

Sex and shaving in the 1960s: In a classic television ad for Noxema Medicated Shaving Cream, pouty Swedish model Gunilla Knutson gave the command: “Men—take it off! Take it all off!” Then viewers were treated to a good-looking man shaving his face while David Rose’s “The Stripper” played in the background. Back then, that commercial was considered risqué.

Sex and shaving in 2001: On a recent Saturday afternoon in St. Paul, nationally-known knife maker Cristo Webb presented a seminar called “Shaving: From Pleasure to Terror” which dealt with the erotic uses of razors and shaving. How times have changed.

For many people shaving is anything but erotic. Men traditionally shave their faces every morning either without thinking about it or cursing the drudgery of it all. Women in our society are faced with the more delicate tasks of shaving their legs and underarms; while they may feel it makes them more attractive, it’s usually not something they look forward to.

But certain elements of society are increasingly playing with non-traditional areas of hair in non-traditional ways. Many more men are shaving their heads. Bodybuilders shave their body hair to better display their physique. Many men prefer the look and feel of a shaved scrotum or shaved pubic hair. Some men, instead of shaving, prefer to trim body and pubic hair neatly (“topiary,” as my friend in New York City calls it). Certain BDSM practices, such as fire play and wax play, are made safer and more comfortable by removing body hair.

Shaved skin can provide many wonderful and ever-changing sensual experiences. Whether you’re touching your own newly-shaved skin or letting someone else touch it (or even if you’re touching newly-shaved skin on someone else), the sensations are incredibly intense. As the hair grows out you are treated to a series of new sensations: first stubble, then bristle, then velour, and finally silk.

The experience of being shaved by someone else can be very sensual. First comes a hot towel on the area to be shaved, maybe an exfoliating scrub with a warm loofah sponge (to prevent ingrown hairs), hot lather to soften the hair and lubricate the skin, and a soothing or bracing lotion applied after shaving. It’s nice to receive this kind of pampering, and it’s also a nice experience to be able to give. According to Cristo, “Shaving and using a straight-edge can be a wonderful service and an important skill for a bottom or submissive to learn.” Whether shaving Mistress’s legs or doing a daily shave on Master’s face or head, “learning to shave in a sensual manner can leave the person being shaved feeling relaxed and refreshed.”

On the other hand, being shaved with a straight razor can be terrifying, or at least intimidating. The thought of such a sharp piece of metal (sharper than almost any knife) so close to the neck, face or pubic areas—and with no safety guard—can take shaving to new heights of excitement and stimulation. As with knife play, a shaving scene with a straight razor is a multi-sensory experience: the sight of light glinting off the blade, the smell of shaving cream, the rhythmic sound of the razor on the sharpening strop, the feel of the cold, sharp blade and the scrape and vibration as the razor is dragged across the tightly-pulled skin.

Straight razors are hard to come by these days, but they’re still available if you know where to look (start by talking to Cristo). A close substitute is a hair shaper with a removable blade; these are used by beauticians for razor hair cuts and are available at beauty-supply outlets. With both a straight razor and a hair shaper, the blade folds into the handle when not in use. (A tip from Cristo: Always allow your razor to dry in the open position to prevent rusting, pitting and weakening the blade.)

A dull razor will pull, not give a clean shave and can nick or cut the skin. It can also cause rashes and aggravate ingrown hairs. A straight razor’s edge is maintained by the use of a strop, preferably a two-sided strop consisting of a strip of canvas on one side and a strip of leather on the other. The canvas puts the edge on the blade and the leather hones the edge. (Hint: You can also hone the edge on your leather jacket or the leg of your chaps.)

We’ve all seen a strop being used on TV or in the movies—usually incorrectly. Here’s the right way: Hold the razor flat against the strop and drag the edge away from you. When it’s time to change direction, turn the razor over by rotating it on its back, not by flipping it over on its edge as you’ve probably seen on TV. Never raise the back of the razor off the strop while it’s moving; doing so will rake off the edge.

Besides straight razors and hair shapers, other types of razors include the traditional double-edge safety razor, newer multi-bladed types (Cristo’s favorite—and mine—is the Gillette Mach 3), disposable razors (use them for only one shave), and electric razors, either plug-in or battery-operated. Electric razors pull hair and won’t give a good clean pubic shave—but according to Cristo, they’re wonderful for genitorture!

All the safety rules about not sharing knives apply equally to razors: Unless you can autoclave a razor without ruining it, don’t share it. Here are some other safety tips relating to razors and shaving:

• Razors are very sharp and dangerous objects. Never become complacent with a razor, especially a straight razor. While shaving, pay attention to the entire length of the blade.

• Treat razors gently. The blades are so finely tooled or machined that the metal is brittle. Don’t drop them. If a razor’s blade becomes nicked or damaged, don’t use it—it will mutilate whatever (or whomever) you’re shaving.

• Always be in control of the razor, the person you’re shaving, and your surroundings. Make your shaving area as sanitary and controlled as possible. In a bar or at a party, rope off an area so the person being shaved doesn’t get jostled by passersby.

• Have a first-aid kit handy with a tube styptic or styptic pencil for minor cuts and nicks.

• Limit your play partner’s movement during shaving—especially during pubic shaving.

• Feedback and communication with your partner is very important to get full enjoyment out of a shaving scene.

• Cristo likes Lubriderm lotion as a shaving cream for sensitive skin. There’s less lather, which makes it easier to see what you’re doing. Cristo also likes a men’s shaving cream by Aveda.

If you’ve never used a straight razor, practice on an inanimate object and perfect your technique before trying to shave someone. The television cliché is to lather up a balloon and practice removing the shaving cream with a razor. Cristo doesn’t like that approach for two reasons: 1) if you make a mistake, the balloon startles you when it pops; and 2) because the balloon just popped, you can’t even see your mistake, let alone correct it. No, Cristo ended the workshop by having us use straight razors to shave the fuzz off—no, not a peach—a kiwifruit. I did better than I thought I would, although I won’t be trading in my Mach III for a straight razor any time soon.

(Cristo’s website is He also invites you to e-mail knife- or shaving-related questions to

1 comment:

  1. A Shaving Razor is a bladed tool primarily used in the removal of unwanted body hair through the act of shaving.
    Kinds of razors include straight razors, disposable razor, and electric razors.