Published on February 11, 2014 | by Dorothy Spencer

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Why don’t we stop beating around the bush?

Girl stands in leotard, showing the 70s style of female grooming.

A recent poll by UK Medix found that half of UK women did not groom their pubic area. [Benjamin Bishop]

After the uproar over American Apparel and their ’70s-style window displays featuring mannequins sporting sheer underwear and no sign of a Brazilian wax, Dorothy Spencer trails through the history of the female pubic region.

Caitlin Moran calls it her ‘big hairy fanny’; Gwyneth Paltrow was a little more subtle in the revelation that she “rocks a 70s vibe down there”; Cameron Diaz has compared removing your pubes as akin to deciding you don’t need your nose – a turnaround considering she said last year on The Graham Norton Show that she was so horrified by her friend’s bush, which ‘swayed in the bath like seaweed’ that she pinned her down and took to the unkempt lady-land with scissors.

Whatever your personal opinion, it seems the issue of female sprucing has jumped back out of our knickers; it’s on trend so to speak, at least in certain circles.

The recent unveiling at American Apparel of mannequins sporting a generous display of pubic hair, clearly visible under sheer underwear, seemed to herald the return of the muff, to which Caitlin Moran gladly tweeted “the revolution is coming”.

A recent poll by UK Medix found that half of UK women did not groom down there at all; which is surprising considering the tide of baldy bunkers we’ve been submitted to since the Internet opened the doors to a world of free, accessible porn.

Concern about the affect of porn on our young male population has been growing for a while, with the average age that boys access explicit sexual content online being 11-12 years old, meaning this is effectively their virtual sex education.

An education that would have them believe that the majority of women are smooth as marble, very fond of anal sex and having junk fired into their faces.

A misconception that impacts every young girl beginning her sexual life, and no doubt contributes to pressure for a ‘designer vagina’, not only fuzz free but acts as an identifying factor.

Surgery

More and more women – including adolescents – are undergoing unnecessary cosmetic surgery in an effort to acquire ‘normal’ genitalia; with the number of labial reductions carried out by the NHS increasing five-fold in the past decade.

There seem to be two parallel trends here; while the age at which girls start paying to have their pubic hair ripped out is getting markedly lower with girls as young as 12 removing their pre-pubescent wisps before they have had a chance to take root – the older female generation are surrendering their razors and letting the forest reclaim its territory.

With 45 per cent of respondents replying they could “no longer be bothered to keep up the grooming,” perhaps we’ve just grown tired of the commitment, the in-grown hairs, and the itch.

Around 62 per cent said their partner “prefers the natural look,” while at the other end of the spectrum some women expressed that they would refrain from waxing so they wouldn’t be tempted to have sex.

Whatever your personal opinion, it seems the issue of female sprucing has jumped back out of our knickers.

I have on more than one occasion been worriedly taken aside by a friend who thinks they may be in line for some action only to hear the death knell of “I haven’t shaved!” These girls are considering foregoing sex for the simple reason that they are worried about the impact their grooming habits may have on the man in question.

I would always argue most men will be happy just to have scored, and if they are that perturbed by a triangle of hair then they probably have an antiseptic vision of sex that is just no fun anyway.

Misguided

Of all the reasons women have given for getting rid of the muff – whether partner’s preference or peer pressure – the desire to feel ‘hygienic’ is the most misguided.

Hygienically speaking, there is evidence to suggest the opposite is true, and hair actually prevents a number of infections, although our desire for fuzz free fannies has been a crisis for the crab population.

This was the reasoning behind the habit of Victorian prostitutes, who shaved their vaginas for the simple reason of keeping pubic lice at bay; however, they would then don a ‘merkin’ – or pubic wig – as it was expected for Victorian ladies to be hairy.

In the history of the art nude, classical portraits of women are noticeably absent of hair apart from the shimmering locks falling from their fair heads.

Bosch, Titian and Michelangelo all painted hairless vaginas, as pubic hair marked a woman’s sexual desire, so to show it would be beyond all bounds of modesty.

This made some men rather ignorant to the true texture of the female body, with rumour being the reason John Ruskin never felt inclined to consummate his marriage to Effie Gray was due to an awful revelation that she possessed a thicket in her knickers; a crying shame indeed.

In modern times the most common depictions of nude women are those in porn magazines and videos.

The reasoning behind this is quite contrary to the classical desire for unearthly beauty, but rather directed towards the more practical reason of getting the most explicit footage possible.

Porn

Hirsuite woman

It has become normal, automatic and expected for women to tidy their nether regions. [Benjamin Bishop]

The porn industry doesn’t have much to gain from birthing a generation of women loyal to their shavers; while it has perhaps changed our estimation of what is ‘normal’, the blame lays more heavily on the beauty industry, who have capitalised on women’s shame about their bodies and made huge profits from this.

Up until the period after the First World War- when presumably women were too busy with their bustles – Veet and Gilette left them well alone.

But changing fashions in the early 1900s saw the launch of lady razors, accompanied by aggressive marketing campaigns that succeeded quite spectacularly in making us feel it was necessary to acquire a fanny of the sort we hadn’t had since we were children.

Razor sales doubled in less than two years. The later invention of the bikini didn’t help much, and while the ’70s may have been the golden age of the bush, it was not long pruned.

In a post-feminist society we are right to respect a woman’s choice to decide for herself what she wants to do with her body, whether it is make-up, plastic surgery or hair extensions.

Long gone are the days when you were required to go braless and razor-free in order to be welcomed into the sisterhood.

It is important, however, that we have genuine choice in the matter and are not coerced by society’s or other people’s ideas about how a woman should be.

Normal

I would guess that a lot of young women do not consider why exactly they are paying someone to administer hot wax all over their nether regions.

It has become normal, automatic and expected of us to do so, just as we take the hair off our legs and armpits for no particular reason.

There are clear evolutionary reasons for pubic hair, namely the signalling that a girl has become a woman, and is becoming fertile and therefore sexual.

To reverse this process, to become ‘infantile’ again, is a bizarre social trend, and part of a wider fetishisation of young bodies.

Aside from anything else, it is an expensive, time-consuming and painful habit to keep up and another way of getting women to part with their cash.

While we are not expecting to see a rise in demand for merkins anytime soon, it is good to know that we don’t all think bald is best.

 

 

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