[Sex & Women’s/Health}
It’s finally come and gone: the death rattle of winter. And with it comes the majestic, glowing promise of longer, warmer, sunshinier days (omg!), less layers of clothing (yay!), and more catcalls from dingbats (boo!). Many women see this as a time to break out the semi-retired razor and start the daily ritual of shearing down all the hibernating and follically blessed parts of the body, specifically legs, armpits, and the pubic region. But what is it that makes female hairlessness the norm, when our biology orders the hair to grow there in the first place? Why do so many of us battle with razorburn or waxing at all?
The cold, hard truth of the matter is that for the last century, advertising has dictated that body hair on women is “unattractive.”
This has generated a market for endless products aimed at ridding our bodies of the supposedly unsightly fuzz. Over several generations, this aesthetic became so normalized that going against the grain is now often seen as a political act of subversion. I mean, just letting our bodies exist without modification is somehow deemed radical! What in the fuck, right?
When it comes down to it, our bodies grow pubic hair for a reason. A mark of adolescence, it’s likely that it evolved as an indication of sexual maturity to potential mates. But in today’s society, we no longer rely on such physical cues for proliferating our genetic signature.
So, is there a need for pubes now? A widely circulated 2016 study reported that individuals with pubic hair were more likely to contract pubic lice, while those without were more likely to contract other STIs, like HPV. However, the study was laden with limitations: it doesn’t account for any sexual behaviours or circumstances relevant to the grooming or contracting of STIs, nor does it imply there is a cause-and-effect relationship there, a fact that was woefully underreported in the media. Bottom line: grooming behaviour doesn’t cause STIs.
Today, between 50 to 60% of women report that they typically remove all of their pubic hair, with close to 90% of women aged 18 to 24 living the hair-free life. When asked, most women cite feelings of cleanliness, comfort, sex appeal, social norms in their peer group, and affordability as reasons for their chosen pubic hair style. More than a few celebrities have spoken on the record about their experiences lasering it off, with some even suggesting that perhaps they were somewhat hasty in following pubic hair trends with such a permanent treatment.
Anecdotally, when I’ve asked my female friends about their preferred south-of-the-equator coiffure, it comes as no surprise that their responses are as varied as the women themselves.
Our relationship with body hair is highly personal, but it has been largely shaped by societal perceptions of femininity and masculinity. What feels subversive or empowering is not only individual, but may even be founded on different needs or experiences across the gender spectrum, and among trans or cis persons. It may be influenced by sexual orientation, culture, sexual experience, politics, ability, style, or quite simply whatever feels good on your own damn body.
Personally, I love the idea of women having fun with our body hair. I’m all for doing something that makes you feel sexy, or fun, or makes you smile. Maybe that’s taking it down to the wood (so to speak), but maybe it’s shaping it into a sexy landing strip or some other style. Maybe you wanna dye that landing strip lavender. Or maybe you wanna go full bush, just the way nature intended. If it feels good, do it. There is no wrong choice. The best part is, anyone who has a problem with how you maintain your garden has no business being in there anyway!