Who do you suppose reintroduced pubic-hair grooming to popular non-porn culture anyway? I wasn’t really paying attention at the time but I somehow associate it with some kind of early niche rivalry between the Britney Spears and Christine Aguilera back maybe in the early 1990’s? I know that a bit later started writing about how about A-line actresses like Gweneth Paltrow were raving about their Brazilian waxers. Much controversy ensued over this new, entirely-too-initmate-for-some for fashion trends. (Ever entertaining and insightful Susanne Reisman even started a blog about it called Campaign for Un-Shaved Snatch (CUSS) to, well, campaign against it.)
Now, perhaps because like most men I’ve felt obliged to shave around my own sensitive lips[warning NSFW —fl] at partner’s, and fashion’s, behest for most of my adult life the (abstract, at least) notion of pubic-hair removal doesn’t seem as controversial to me. But it does seem kind of interesting the way it just sort of showed up one day, and now it’s so routine that even in rural Maine [scroll down to comments —fl] about half the patients at a women’s clinic practice some form of hair removal.
But here’s the thing. Body-hair removal has been around for thousands of years. And this morning I ran across this post by Pinky of The Official Vibrator Blog reminding us this hasn’t even been the first time the fashion industry’s gotten hold of it
...it was brought to my attention that in the 1800’s people had worn pubic wigs or Merkins [link mine —fl]. Just get the crazy glue and presto magic you have a self made Chia pet. Prrrrr…but why did they do this you ask? The unhygienic conditions of the time meant that hair attracted lice so there’s your answer. Yum!
I think the reason the whole pubic-grooming thing surprised us (or at least me) is that nobody really started talking publically about sex, let alone pubic hair, until the late 1960s (Masters & Johnson) or early 1970’s (David Reubin, Alex Comfort). Those of us old enough to remember will also remember the heavy trend fashion trend towards more hair everywhere.
Before that? Who knows.
Except we do know a few things. We know that the Prophet Mohammed specified that observant Moslem men and women should remove their pubic and armpit hair at least once every 40 days for hygienic reasons. Historians say women (why only women?) made a depilatory called rhusma turcorum three or four thousand years ago. And we also know that American wagon-train pioneers and settlers shaved their body hair to control bedbugs and lice. (I think I’ve mentioned this before but y’know how John Wayne always used to walk in those cowboy movies? I’m guessing the original walk he was imitating came either from razor burn or prickly regrowth. And I’ve also probably mentioned it’s weird to think of the pious and industrious Ma and Pa Wilder of Little House on the Prairie fame razoring their nifty bits in their sod house on Plum Creek. But chances are extremely high they did. And finally, we also know that prosecutors in Victorian England tried to extradite a pornographer for selling “nude art” photographs wherein the models did not shave their genitals. Which might sound odd but evidently under English law representations of hairless models were perfectly legal, but models with pubic hair were considered obscene. (I’m sorry I no longer have the reference but according to one historian French authorities were… beyond baffled by the extradition documents for the pornographer.)
So! What’s the big deal then?
Well, one question might be why (until quite recently, anyway) only women have been called upon to depilate when historically men and women have done so in roughly equal numbers?
And I think one reason is probably the same old two-sphere gender model wherein if one gender is supposed to be strong the other must be seen as weak, or if one is to be nurturing the other must be remote, etc. In that model if men are supposed to be hairy (with occasional exceptions for facial hair) then I suppose women are supposed to be smooth? I dunno. I never have liked that world view.
My theory? If it tickles your partner’s nose, it’s worth trimming back. If you like the skin-on-skin sensation, or the extra sensation of your partner’s tongue on bare skin, then it might be worth removing altogether. Otherwise? Eh? Fashions change. If you don’t like this one you probably won’t have to wait long for another to overtake it.