There’s something about the word pubic (specifically pubes) that makes me think: bleurgh. I picture teenage boys in school laughing during sex education. And I imagine the 70’s and hippies and hard-core feminists. Female pubic hair embodies dirty depictions; unsanitary beliefs.
Embarrassment – no sex. Unfeminine. A natural part of a woman’s body has become shameful in Western culture. Though society is leaning towards hair acceptance (the movement Januhairy embraces female body hair), we’re not close to removing the stigma.
There are obvious reasons to explain why: Hair associates to masculinity; the porn industry promotes hair free women. But is the trend of smooth and soft below really just to do with men and porn?
The sexualisation of pubic hair
The podcast Dirty History published an episode on pubic hair removal. Speaking to Lyndsey Craig, (she published a cross-cultural study on the topic), the researcher notes that many women have a hard time addressing their pubic hair, because in general, women struggle to talk about sex.
While the hair around the rest of our bodies feels okay, anything near our genitals seems to awkward a region. With its intimate position, some women consider genital hair too personal. They keep the matter a secret, thereby adding to its hidden taboo. Only and often, a woman will make a comment if they’ve just had a wax or want to share what happens during laser treatment. I don’t believe I’ve met a woman who hasn’t shied away from admitting to au natural.
On Netflix, I was once watching a French romance. In a love making scene, the female character got out of the bed and walked towards the camera with a full-on bush. I was totally startled. It was as though I’d forgotten what it looks like. And probably so. I’ve not styled one since I first removed as a teenager, and the porn I’ve watched hasn’t shown a hairy woman faking her orgasms.
A 2018 Guardian article acknowledges how porn in the 1990s led to young women routinely removing their pubic hair. Though the piece suggests no one knows for certain why porn began to encourage, it does say that some films are bringing it back, due to competition and wanting to provide something different.
I’ve read before, comments mainly from the older generation (pre 90’s woolly free boom) accusing those who get rid of their genital hair, wanting to look like young girls. While I find this theory absurd and outlandish, it demonstrates female pubic hair sexualisation. Age groups seem divided on opinions about the sex appeal of hair on a woman’s anatomy. I’d say in present culture, a hair free woman better represents a sexual being than a hairy one.
The unhealthy female pubic hair myths
When I think about hair removal, I picture a bath and shower. I imagine shower gel, soap, exfoliator, body lotion: cleanliness and beauty. Though the act in itself can feel like a chore, the after effect leaves me feeling feminine and girly. Probably because the first time I shaved; I was owning a sense of womanhood.
Most girls are allowed to remove their hair once their hormones have kicked in and puberty takes over. I was around 12 – 13 when shaving became a habit. I felt so grown up and mature – despite that young girls are hairless. Gradually, the association between hair and youth switched to hairless and clean.
Smooth skin is in the makeup of feminine ideals: women dainty and soft; men strong and hairy. Reported in a 2017 Independent piece, research reveals 30% of men classify female pubic hair a relationship deal-breaker. Data obtained by the newspaper also shares that nearly half of men prefer a woman fully bare below, with 30% preferring it trimmed and 12% opting for a landing strip.
Interestingly, an old 2008 Slate article pulled evidence to prove oral sex began to lose its stigma in the 70’s, increasingly growing common as the decades continued. Perhaps pubic hair removal has tied to this? It’s nicer and feels more intense (in my opinion) when hair isn’t present. Plus, with many men absolutely clueless on what to do down there, hair would probably confuse them more. It would be like putting them in a maze, and then throwing trees across their bearings.
Is it healthy to remove public hair?
Unfortunately, (well, depending on how you view pubic hair), gynaecologists aren’t in favour of women removing. The New York Times firstly points out that pubic hair is on the vulva (the outside of a vagina) before describing the medical risks linked to removing: potential injury, infections and increased risk of some STI’s.
Magazine Self spoke to Dr. Sherry Ross who says pubic hair may protect vaginas from dirt and could help cushion the friction from sex. The only benefit I could find for removing (beside personal preference), is not having to worry about lice.
The article makes clear that the process of removing hair can lead to annoying problems like bumps and inflammation. Using clean tools and equipment (shaving cream and not body wash) makes a difference. I’d imagine, going to a professional for laser gives the best skin protection.
My first post on hair removal explores the origins of the process, researching how Ancient Egyptians use to remove their hair. This puts doubt into what percent we can blame porn for the current hairless trend.
It is an unhealthy one – scientifically, benefits outweigh reasons to remove. And yet in spite of now knowing the numerous health facts obtained by leaving my hair alone, I know I’m not going to. I feel sexier, smoother, more sensitive and cleaner (yes, it’s not actually cleaner) when I rid myself from hair. The decision on whether to keep or remove isn’t entirely mine to make. It’s an influenced thought; who knows how many of us would change our minds if beauty standards adapted. And that includes you, who read this blog hoping it’s not an unhealthy trend as you have no desire to put down your shaver and wax strips.
Do you feel confident talking about your pubic hair to close friends? If you enjoyed reading, you’ll love: Free The Nipple Movement: Why I’m Torn