This originally appeared on Alternet.org. Republished here with permission.
Shaving down under is more work than it’s worth.
Things that make me want to laugh and cry, sometimes simultaneously, number in the hundreds, including remarks like this: “Did prehistoric women shave their pubic hair? We’ll never know, but you can be sure some prehistoric males were urging them to do so.” This is from BeaverShaver, which sells exactly what you think it would—devices for removing pubic hair.
Hmm…I’m not sure about prehistoric males idealizing shaven pubic areas, but we are apparently drowning in the newest wave of an old aesthetic concern.
I’m sure I know what all the pube-groomers among you are screaming. “Pubic hair is nasty!”
Yes, yes. I’ve been to the water park too, and have been a little disgusted by the overly furry human form, stray pubes extending like the legs of a spider (or dozens of them) out from under the elastic of a bathing suit. But that’s a visual concern, not a health concern. And let’s be clear about this: Removing your pubic hair does not make you healthier. There is no real reason (at least that I’ve read) that your pubic hair should be there, making a perfectly groomed nether region more of a visual preference than anything else. But not too long ago, pubes were plentiful.
In old issues of Playboy, you’ll find forests of pubic hair, bushes you could braid. But as restrictions on nudity relaxed and full frontal nudity began to be regularly featured among the magazine’s glossy pages, removing pubic hair really started catching on. Years later, fictional characters like Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City and famous vixens like Victoria Beckham and Kim Kardashian started singing the praises of going bald. And not just bald. These girls are removing pubic hair with wax—a full “Brazilian wax,” which rips hair out by its follicles from the most sensitive area of their bodies. Why? Oh, lord, why?
“There was a bit of a story that it was a nice and decent thing to do for your partner, for both men and women,” Virginia Braun, a researcher at New Zealand’s University of Auckland told Metro magazine. “This idea that getting a mouthful of pubes is unpleasant.”
No one is going to argue that it’s an unsettling sensation, a mouth of pubes. But, come on, is it really the hair that’s so gross…really?
Think about it. When you grunt in disgust over your dog or cat licking their bums, it’s not, “Oh my god, I can’t believe they’re licking the hair around those holes.” It’s, “Oh my god, I can’t believe they’re licking those holes.” You know what comes out of them. To make your dog or cat cleaner, you’d clean the hole—not shave them.
And this is part of what can make sex gross—full stop. It’s not the hair. It’s the holes. What goes in and out of the holes the rest of the day. All those fluids. All that sweat. Don’t forget how truly un-sexy we look while engaged in sex. The ridiculous faces, the noises, the fact that when you orgasm you look like you may be having a seizure, aneurism or stroke, one eye twisted up, a drop of drool teetering on your hanging lip. And while we’ll go ahead and take the organ and its fluid into our mouths—pubic hair is the thing that makes it gross? Those holes are gross. We’re OK with licking the holes, but damn that hair?
This evident misplacement of disgust on the poor pubic hair is just the first thread that unravels in this hairless trend. An article that appeared in the Atlantic in 2011 reported, “Full pubic hair removal…is most common among sexually active women, and specifically women who report having frequent oral sex and women who are not in monogamous relationships.”
Virginia Braun’s survey of more than 500 people found that 25 percent of women and 10 percent of men are removing all the hair from down there. Maybe that’s true for New Zealand. Numbers are higher for the U.S. Researchers at UC San Diego reported that 70 to 88 percent of young women in the U.S. are clear-cutting the forest and 58 to 78 percent of men.
So it seems a lot of “normal” folk are seeking to emulate cinematic beauty, pursuing porn star standards in the hopes of obtaining an unrealistic sexual fantasy of self.
What Does Bald Really Get You?
There must be a more compelling reason than cleanliness to put ourselves through all that pain and go to all that trouble.
What does removing hair really say about you? Is it a visual signal that tells your prospective partner you know what you’re doing in the sack…just like a porn star, or (more realistically) an announcement of the expectation of oral sex—“You’re going down, friend”?
But I highly doubt after all that flirting and after the pants have taken their leave, your prospective mate will cringe and say, “I wanted to have sex…until I saw the bush.” And if he or she did, it would fly in the face of dozens of our favorite cultural mantras—“Beauty is within,” being one.
Yes, pubic hair is something we likely want praise for not having, yet no judgment if we do have it. Beauty matters…until we’re judged on it, and then it shouldn’t.
Removing pubic hair is an aesthetic choice meant to appeal to a potential partner. But, let’s face it, if you’re not very attractive, removing pubic hair will not make you more attractive. That pristine bald patch doesn’t shine like a beacon of light from within your drawers, calling, “Come hither.” It factors in at a point where mutual attraction has already been established.
This begs the question: Is the intention to keep a partner around, to win a call back? “Yes, they will gaze upon my hairless jewel and say, ‘I can’t let this one go…It’s so wonderfully hairless.’”
No. The truth is, if two people are attracted to each other enough to drop their pants, they’re not likely to reject based on bush. Now, the call back is a different story. That would be a decision based on performance in the sack, personality, or a combination of both—not bush.
The Pursuit of New Sex
Here’s the puzzle though. If the majority of young men and women are removing all hair from their nethers, that would mean that most of them are seeking sex—specifically new sex. Because, really, we only seek to impress when someone is new to our boudoir. It’s that magic disrobing moment we intend to create—the hey-I’m-a-budding-porn-star-in-the-sack vibe.
There are no magic tricks. No one is going to be more smitten by you because of your hairless nethers. Hairlessness is not a recipe for good sex and does not have the power to entrance. No. Sex—even with a perfectly manicured lawn—is not the pathway to devoted relationships; it’s merely a panting, sweaty, stupefying perk. Because what your mother always told you is still essentially true: There are two types of people in the world when it comes to dating: those who are seeking a good time and those who are shopping for life partners.
This ridiculous idea we have that someone will accidentally fall in love with the person after first becoming addicted to the sex is a farce, not to mention an enormous waste of time. It’s seriously delusional to believe that someone who prioritizes good sex over good relationship and accidentally falls in love will be a decent life partner. It’s just a guess, but this national obsession with sex and sexiness over quality of person may be contributing to our astounding divorce rate.
If You’re Still Deluded…Keep the Hair For Your Health
But let’s really delve into the cleanliness claim. Most would agree that if you wash your hair with shampoo, it’s clean. Though this may be good enough for the hair on one’s head, it seems it’s not good enough for hair down below. To those who say that removing their pubic hair makes them feel cleaner, I’d like to say—staph infection. As Emily Gibson reported in the Guardian:
“Pubic hair removal naturally irritates and inflames the hair follicles left behind, leaving microscopic open wounds. Rather than suffering a comparison to a bristle brush, frequent hair removal is necessary to stay smooth, causing regular irritation of the shaved or waxed area. When that irritation is combined with the warm moist environment of the genitals, it becomes a happy culture medium for some of the nastiest of bacterial pathogens, namely Group A Streptococcus, Staphylococcus aureus and its recently mutated cousin methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). There is an increase in staph boils and abscesses, necessitating incisions to drain the infection, resulting in scarring that can be significant. It is not at all unusual to find pustules and other hair-follicle inflammation papules on shaved genitals.”
That sounds grosser to me than a mouthful of pubic hair. Where I would definitely agree that showering before asking for oral is a good, kind rule to adhere to, all of this discomfort in pursuit of sexual fantasy is, at best, a waste of time, and at worst, an infection.
Cher Nobelle is a contributor to Alternet.org.