The Point

Pubic Hair and the Shaving Dilemma August 2, 2008

Filed under: Modern Culture — thisisthepoint @ 5:53 pm

It is remarkable to me the amount of candor people were willing to exhibit on this subject.  In fact, everyone seemed delighted to talk about their pubic preferences, a normally concealed area, both literally and figuratively.  In magazines there are now references to waxing styles and grooming techniques, but as a whole, the choices each man and woman makes about their most hidden hair, and the subsequent implications, are quickly brushed over.  

Personal grooming is one of the most interesting facets of human life, in my opinion, as it is a very private affair in which many people are left up to their own devices to create their own rituals of shaving, washing, or plucking, and in many cases can reveal secret obsessions or cultural brainwashing.  Think about douching for a moment.  Does anyone under the age of fifty think this is normal?  And yet large parts of the boomer and silent generations (everyone over 50) not only partook of this, but thought of it as a regular part of personal hygiene.  And I know a couple of people who secretly spend hours plucking stray hairs deemed too dark or wiry or mispositioned, which on any other person would go unnoticed.  And Teeth!  I didn’t realize my teeth were kind-of yellow until the entire american population decided to get whitestrips and now have magazine smiles, which are striking but in my head represent the victory of marketing more than anything else.  Which is not to say I won’t buy myself some home bleaching strips when I get stateside.

The poll: How do you prefer your pubic hair, and how do you prefer your partners’?

The overwhelming response has been shaved or waxed.  Most of the ladies responded that they shave their side bits (that would show outside of a bikini, or panties) and the underneath bits, and leave only a small strip in the front.  Most men also responded that they trim.  There were, of course, exceptions, and many women noted that they do not maintain their shaving habits when not pursuing sex.

As far as I can figure, the purpose of pubic hair is protection, literally, scent holding, and lubrication of a sort during sex.  Hair in the armpits and pubic region grow at sexual maturity, and most women shave or wax their armpits, and I would say this is from a cultural aesthetic context.  Women who do not shave these parts of their bodies immediately identify themselves as belonging to a subculture or counter culture, either a hippy, or from another country where they don’t shave their legs…  Hair grooming has always been a means of identifying oneself.  So what is the message in a shaved pubic area?  What is the message you are telling your partner?

 

Which came first, the porn or the shave?  As far as I can tell, women started to shave their pubes around the same time that porn went hairless.  How that disseminated into popular culture, I’m not sure, but I think the internet has something to do with it.  Because both porn, and the way it is viewed have changed drastically over the last few decades.  Women in seventies porn.  They looked good.  I think most people agree on that point, both men and women could appreciate it, but today the magazine and movie porn industry has pubic hair phobia.  And if women shaving their pubic hair originated from pornography, does that say something about women’s desire to objectify themselves?  Because I’m pretty sure women don’t look at a bald yoni and think its beautiful.  It looks like sex, whereas I can appreciate playboy photos from the seventies with full bushes.  Is pubic hair a distinction between beautiful sex and dirty sex?

The main reason given by all women for why they removed most of their hair was to better receive oral sex.  That it is for the ease of the man, and thus, the pleasure of the women, to have a cleaner, neater vagina.  And many women said that they do not maintain their grooming when not having sex.  So I think I can conclude that it is about sex and availability.  I might also go so far to say it represents the constant sexualization of the female body.   

It is the natural female form vs the male-serving female form rendered by the pornography industry .  An always accessible, always viewable sex organ, the clearing away of the veil of feminine sexual mystique.  I also think it has to do with feminism and women’s fears about a powerful woman being unattractive.  That somehow, equity was too threatening and so the shaved pubic hair says, I can still be a porn star for you,  I can still be a sexual object, don’t worry.

 

Part of feminism is respecting a woman’s right to make choices about her own life and I am into each woman being able to do whatever she wants to her body, but it is the overwhelming cultural choice for women’s pubic hair to be pruned which I find troubling.  

Mostly because I never got the memo.  I woke up one day and all my friends had landing strips and waxing appointments.  How did everyone make this decision on their own?  It never even occurred to me until midway through my twenties to shave anything but what would show outside a bathing suit, and no boyfriend has ever complained or desired it otherwise ( I started to ask).  

I suspect that when asked, most women would say that it was a boyfriend that first asked them to shave, and I invite you, the reader, to answer the question: when did you first shave your pubic hair, and why?

 

Now to the men.   Men say that they shave/trim their pubic hair for hygienic purposes but also to make their penises look larger.  It is not that men haven’t always been obsessed with large penises, it is the fact that this visual effect is in concurrence with women’s desire for visual effect in a similar manner that is interesting.  Again I come back to porn, which has laid a heavier value on visual cues to sexual arousal than ever before in a broad cultural context. 

Removing the hair will remove the binder of natural pheromones that biologically lead to sexual interest and arousal.  Is it all to transcend biology?  

By most men and women, pubic hair is sometimes considered dirty.  Because  sex is dirty, perhaps.  Or base.  Sex is the last thing humans have in common with every other animal on the planet.  Modern life and technology have made it so that most people do not, if they wish it, have to be aware that they are animals at all, they eat from boxes and cans, sleep in beds of white linens in houses of metal and stone, drink coffee to stay awake, take pills to go to sleep.  Sex is the last juicy, smelly, raw, indulgent, physical, pleasurable animal act.  Perhaps shaving the hair is a way to deny that connection to the physical world, to our bodies, a way to pretend we are not all born of blood and strain and danger, that the vagina and the penis are controllable.

I was surprised to see that many men preferred a trimmed pubic area on themselves and on others.  Granted, that I live in a hot humid area and hygiene is actually a factor here, but there was great debate to whether or not lack of hair (and a supposedly larger looking penis) was somehow less masculine because of the implications of testosterone in hirsuteness.  

In ending, I have to add that I would like anyone to add their comments and insights into this topic, as all data is fairly unscientific and open to much discussion.  Also if anyone knows more about this topic on an anthropological level I’d be very interested.  I hope I haven’t offended anyone.  Shave or don’t shave.  It’s not gonna stop climate change or anything.  Peace.

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20 Responses to “Pubic Hair and the Shaving Dilemma”

  1. haller Says:

    hair is a vestigial organ anyhow, so who cares if we shave or clip it? whatever original purpose or natural function was served by hair on the head or “body hair” (i am not even sure there needs to be a distinction really) is in the extremely distant past. body hair removal was popular with the ancients, and has recently enjoyed a resurgence in modern western culture starting with the armpits and working its way up the legs…

    i wouldn’t read too much into shaving the pubic hair as far as gender issues go. or at least, i would devote no more time to it than i do thinking about why guys shave their faces. or why i shave my head. kinda a preference deal, and doesn’t make a statement one way or the other about who i am as a person or how i perceive my role as a sexual being. although, while we are thinking about that, i take a shower usually before i hop in bed with a partner, and to me that is not really any different than grooming hair “down there”.

    there is a huge consumer product element to the resurgence of shaving. norelco was the first to break through the tacit taboo against marketing shavers to men for hair other than on the face or head with its “shave everywhere” online video campaign.

    i, for one, welcome our newly shaven overlords. or ladies.

  2. thisisthepoint Says:

    Do you really think you are somehow able to operate independently of the dominate culture? That every choice you make is not somehow affected by the values of american society? Unless we assess the choices we make ‘just because we feel like it’ we are living an unexamined life and cannot truly individuate ourselves from the mass that is consumer culture. I feel that the greatest myth ever sold to the intellectual class was that there is no culture in america. When truly, culture is in every action we take. That each time someone chooses a brazillian wax on a salon menu, they are acting out the script of culture they have chosen, and in effect, not choosing every other option. We let culture make the little decisions for us because we cannot be thinking 24 hours a day about what we truly feel, because we cannot be asked to care about all these little things. Which is why this is a question that needs to be read into, precisely because shaving is something people do unconsciously, and without great desire or emotion.

  3. rachael Says:

    Who cares. If we cannot live as ourselves, our unique individual selves then I personally think it is very very sad. Why be a sheep and follow what other people do or what we think will be accepted by society. Be yourself,not what anyone else wants you to be. If you follow what you believe to be right and don’t make your own concious decision then its almost like choosing to be in a controlling relationship. Do what you want!

  4. jamie Says:

    Shaving all the hair off below your eyebrows ( at least for women ) and feeling guilty,or even being ridiculed if they don’t,shows how weird our culture has become. I think it makes them look like girls,instead of women.Porn reinforces this image that women are sexier with no hair.I think it makes them look like sexless robotrons…the pedaphiliacs most love it.
    I hope when they get older, the desire to be hairless won’t matter as much…..nothing wrong with growing up and being a woman.

  5. jamie Says:

    Shaving all the hair off below your eyebrows ( at least for women ) and feeling guilty,or even being ridiculed if they don’t,shows how weird our culture has become. I think it makes them look like girls,instead of women.Porn reinforces this image that women are sexier with no hair.I think it makes them look like sexless robotrons…the pedaphiliacs must love it.
    I hope when they get older, the desire to be hairless won’t matter as much…..nothing wrong with growing up and being a woman.

  6. Peggy Says:

    I am frankly baffled by this issue. I am an older American woman who has been involved with a younger European man for over twelve years. He is a very hairy man…. chest, back, shoulders, back of neck, and, yes, legs and pubic area. Last year he began to shave his pubic hair, which is the reason I am so baffled. For me, the hair on his shoulders, back and the back of his neck is so much more unattractive than the pubic hair and yet he never even thinks about shaving or waxing it. Of course when he gets a haircut, the back of his neck is shaved, but the neck hair grows out so fast and looks so scruffy and unkempt. He is a very good-looking man and takes great pride in his appearance, so why the pubic hair and not the rest???!!! Is it vanity because he thinks it makes his penis look larger? If I mentioned this to him then he would be the one who is baffled because how much more manly can it be than to have shoulder and back hair?

    As for me, I trim and definitely shave or wax the area outside the panty/bikini line, but a woman completely shaved is not attractive to me at all. Maybe this is an age thing. I also douche regularly but I have read that virtually no women under 50 do that any more.

  7. C. Says:

    This is an excellent, insightful article. I agree strongly with what you say, particularly about this sort of backlash against feminism, this need to put women in more of a sexually objectified position than ever before. I also definitely agree there is this weird sense of control about the wildness, naturalness and ‘dirtiness’ of sex. I always thought that was the appeal of catching a glimpse of pubes on someone – the hint of the wild, the dirty.

    The first commenter demonstrates the mentality that has become ingrained. Like you said, de-pubing as the norm seemed to happen overnight. Things like the first commenter said about it ‘just being a preference’ – suddenly everyone was saying that just a few years ago. Whereas, say, just a year before that, you would NEVER hear this. I would say only about 10 years ago I never heard anything like this, never heard people fret or obsess about their pubes and worry if it was sexually unattractive to HAVE pubes. I’m in my early 30s and feel like some of the strange faddish stuff that’s emerged this decade is my first experience as a fully-grown, conscious, adult observing mass conditioning by pop culture. I actually think people who are quite young, or not particularly conscious about observing such phenomena (especially if very easily conditioned by it themselves), are not in a good position to evaluate these changes. The point is not whether or not it is a preference, but how so many suddenly came to have such a preference. It is most certainly a conditioned thing.

    You know, prior to the last few years, if I heard of people removing their pubes, male or female, I didn’t care one way or the other. I knew it was a preference, usually sexual and often the domain of the sexually experimental. But something about the tone of this changed in the last few years, particularly with it becoming such a mainstream thing. So many saying it’s a ‘preference’ also speak in very fear-driven language, finding pubic hair repulsive, old-fashioned, etc, etc – all the things which I think your theories account for exactly. Honestly if people haven’t noticed that, I think they are too young and a little too alarmingly inculcated into the very arbitrary trends of today, or they are not very observant and/or have short memories where things of recent history are too easily displaced by the pressing nature of fear-based current trends.

    It concerns me that so many women will claim it’s just what they prefer, or it increases sexual pleasure directly. There is an deep sense of shame about doing something simply to please a man, to be ‘that sort of woman’. And yet the way this is dealt with is not to gain a sense of feminist consciousness, or true independence, but to shortcut with a certain self-deception.

  8. d Says:

    I am a woman and shave everything- for me, not for sex. In fact, my partner finds hair on a woman attractive, and has wanted me to grow it out but it was torture the one time I tried (It is so much more comfortable to not have hair down there, it feels itchy and irritating and I just feel cleaner without it.)

  9. Greg Says:

    Call me Mr Natural, but I genuinely prefer a woman with pubic hair left on. To me, it looks better, feels better and… a few other things…
    I consider it a desirable attractive asset for a woman to possess a luxurious healthy bush; generally speaking, that was the way it was (in western/non-moslem society) at least up until the late seventies, after which something changed.
    Certainly there was a change in the way women were depicted in nude photos (Girlie magazines, etc), but this in itself must have been influenced by some other cultural change.
    Perhaps women became more adventurous in trying things beyond the cultural norm, with mixed results, I don’t know.

    I can see the need for women to trim their bikini line. And a mohawk/ landing strip is kind-of sexy. But I’ve pondered why it is sexy and it seems to me that it makes a woman look younger, more girlish and perhaps more virginal.
    That’s sort of okay as far as it goes, but what would that mean where a complete clean-shave is concerned? In some ways it makes a woman look like an immature girl. I really don’t feel comfortable with that. It seems like a trend heading in a potentially dangerous direction. Sexually immature girls should not become objects of sexual attention or desire, nor should sexually mature women emulate them to cater for the improper desires of guys who have fed themselves on such images.
    From a purely practical viewpoint, shaving the pubic hair makes the area feel better and easier to look after. So does shaving the head hair. But If many women shaved their head hair totally off, to make it (totally) easier to manage, would that make a woman look more youthful, healthy or attractive? No. So practicality is only one factor and clearly not the most compelling one.
    I have never seen a man with shaved pubic hair (and don’t particularly want to), but I’d be hard pressed to stifle a laugh if I did. Sorry, but I don’t think it would look manly at all.

    At the end of the day, though, Guys, Girls, it’s your hair and your decision what to do with it, but if you want to be attractive, smell rich and aromatic, protect your pubic area from abrasion, impact, cuts, dirt and germs (hair acts as an effective barrier), maybe you would consider letting it grow naturally long(ish).
    Just because pubic hair is not on public display, doesn’t mean your partner can’t appreciate a well-groomed bushy muff or whatever people call them these days (beavers?) 🙂
    Personal preference is involved, but there are deeper issues, as I hope I’ve indicated. Cheers from Greggy-boy.

  10. JPL Says:

    I am an African-American female approaching 30, and I shave my armpits, occasionally my legs, but never my pubes. I am a grown woman and choose to look like one. I did ask my partner if he had a preference of pubes vs. no pubes, just because it seemed like everyone was shaving theirs, and he said he prefers the naturalness of pubic hair. I also think it may be a cultural thing. If the topic comes up at work (I work in a NICU with all female coworkers), its usually the white women who shave/wax their genitals, not the black ones. So I don’t know. And it may be the younger black girls/women who shave their pubes. I will neaten up the bikini line but thats as far as it goes.

  11. S Says:

    I’m 24 (white), and sometimes I feel like the last person my age to not completely shave. I trim the hedges, sure. I don’t need anything poking out of swimsuits and such, but I refuse to go completely bare ever again. Occassionally I’ll bust out the landing strip, but that’s all. I’m a woman, and like many said before me here, I choose and prefer to look like one. I remember when my friends and I were girls and growing pubic hair was like the most exciting thing in the world, cause it meant we were turning into women. Then, suddenly, that excitement turned to disgust overnight, and left me wondering why everyone wanted to look the way we did in 3rd grade?

    And people who claim it makes their sex so much more amazing… what am I missing? I went completely bare 2 or 3 times just to see what the hype was all about… and all I got was bad chaffing. Sorry, no sex is worth THAT much discomfort for days after. Unless you’re into that, I suppose…

  12. John & Nina Says:

    Interesting debate, well, we are swingers and not ashamed to admit it and after twenty years in the lifestyle we have seen the trend shift from the 70’s porn bush to the clean cut lines of today, our conclusion is this.

    Yes, a ladies bits are visually more attractive when you can actually see it in all its glory.
    Yes, the male member looks bigger.
    Yes, we practice oral sex much more since we both started shaving.
    Yes, penetrative sex is more sensual with baby smooth skin rubbing against baby smooth skin and as a result we both find the orgasms more intense. ( we have been married for 35 years )

    In our experienced the VAST majority of swingers, both male and female, shave down below and prefer it that way. One thing for certain, every single one of those shaved people have all been hairy at some point in the past !! so, don’t knock it until you have tried it.

  13. Gordon Harrington Says:

    As a man, I see shaving or at least trimming – although not necessarily shaving totally – to present a so-called “landing strip” is attractive perhaps because it shows the lady cares enough about herself and her sexuality to focus on it, to attempt to look good, clean etc. It shows perhaps she’s thinking of sex, preparing for it, expecting it… and that is sexy. I am definitely more ambiguous about a woman who doesn’t make an effort to present herslef as a sexual being – sure she’d be a great friend maybe and we’d talk all night !! etc, etc, and maybe that is shallow but it’s a fact that looking sexy is important. Same as with clothes – a plain person can do much with themselves with the right combo of clothing & flair. Yeah, it’s about flair. I trim myself also, especially in the hot summertime

  14. Mr. Joshua Says:

    Okay. I’m a seventeen year old and I like my girlfriend to have hair down under. It makes me feel like I’m with a woman and not a prepubescent girl. I’ve never been able to figure out why shaving is attractive. I just think it looks strange when it’s naked. Besides, people are sexually attracted to one another for their evolutional advantages. How is a bald (and not even naturally bald) pubic area an advantage? I like to see what my woman has to offer my children, and thick hair is a plus in my book…

  15. lee Says:

    women shaving off thier pubic hair actually started in the mid 80s. porn had to follow simply because so many of the women were turning up to work!!!!!! with no pubic hair.

  16. Jeff Says:

    As a 50 year old guy I decided to start shaving my pubes over 10 years ago. I first read about the issue on the internet, it seem that more women were doing it than men. I thought at fifty it would be a great change as my wife and I were pretty “vanilla”. I brought the issue up to my wife who flat out refused to anything like this. As I contunued to read a lot of women were agreeing to shave their pubes if their husband/lovers would shave. I took the lead in our family and started shaving down there. It was a little bit at a time but soon there was just a little left and EVERYTHING was gone. I thought it looked funny being bald there and hairy everywhere else so I bought a trimmer and trimmed all my body hair. I also shaved my stomach to my chest. Everything now looked much better and appeared “uniform”. As for the prepube issue, there is no way one can feel as though I’m that way. I workout and my body is not that of a young child. I love my body this way and would never change it.

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  19. Chris Says:

    Both me & my wife shave / wax it’s far better than having to deal with the bushes. We both enjoy being smooth for one other it makes giving & receiving oral sex so much more pleasurable, which we both enjoy giving to one another very much! Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! A couple of smoothies.

  20. Mike T Mortensem Says:

    I have a tiny penis ,a little over 3in ,after testosterone treatments from about age 50 to 57 ,before it was always around 2in. For me hair is a problem as my penis doesn’t hang it sticks straight out but does extend and retract periodically all day and night catching hair and causing extreme discomfort witch is embarrassing to keep adjusting in public and I have been told as well that little penises look funny with hair. In my case I think hair is not a good thing but feel like I might be miss judged like when you have to undress at the doctors unless you explain, and other times you are seen undressed as well. I didn’t have any body hair below the neck until about age 30 and never had a hair problem ,but I get enough pubic hair to be uncomfortable but like it bald but like wonder what like nurses ,doctors and others who might see me in the alltogether might think.


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