The Pornification of Pubic Hair.

Via Mark Kreloff
on Feb 2, 2011
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 Updates: 84% of American women groom pubic hair with 62% opting for complete removal ( “Pubic hair functions as a protective cushion for sensitive skin, and has its own hygienic purpose, trapping bacteria and preventing it from entering the vaginal opening. “Prepubertal girls have a higher incidence of irritation because they don’t have that protection,” Dr. Gunter said. “From Sports Illustrated, the Latest Body Part for Women to Fix.”  OPINION > Great! Another Thing to Hate About Ourselves

Pubic Hairless.

What is it about female body hair that is considered undesirable by Americans?

What makes women feel the need to get rid of it, often through painful means such as shaving and waxing? Are the red bumps and ingrown hairs a fair price to pay for the prepubescent look that men supposedly prefer? I mean, body hair is natural, isn’t it?

No one knows for certain the purpose of pubic hair. Some say that we have pubic hair for physical attraction.  Science says it’s there to help catch and spread the scents a person’s body gives off—called pheromones and glandular secretions—which are powerful aphrodisiacs. These scents are fundamental to the ritual of attraction.

The medical field has suggested that pubic hair may catch and prevent everyday bacteria from entering the body.

For purely aesthetic reasons, this writer thinks that pubic hair (especially if it is trimmed) is attractive.

That said, based on my direct experience with women in their 20’s to their 40’s (much to my disappointment), the baldness trend continues to persist.

I did a little research on pubic hair as part of my efforts to understand when and why the media and the porn industry (and subsequently American women) decided that baldness is sexy:

  • Pubic hair shaving actually originated in ancient Egypt and Greece when prostitutes had to shave for both hygienic reasons and as a clear sign of their profession. Although female body shaving was established as the norm between 1915 and 1945, pubic hair removal did not gain a strong foothold until the 1980s. The big hair look of the 1980’s was reserved for a woman’s head.
  • Islamic faith requires pubic hair shaving. Shaving pubic hair is one of the Sunnahs of the fitrah, and Islam has stipulated that it should not be left without shaving for more than forty days (that seems quite long to go between shavings according most of the shaving women I spoke with). The basic principle is that every person should shave his/her pubic hair, unless they are unable to so because they are too old or too sick.
  • Male Bicycle racers have been shaving their legs for years. Despite the argument that I regularly hear, that cleaning road rash wounds is “easier with no leg hair,” the true reason lies in tradition and vanity. According to the professionals I have spoken with, shaving your legs is “all about looking clean and tradition.”  To shave your legs indicates that you are serious about bike riding, regardless of how fast you actually go. Half of being a cyclist, some might say, is showing off your package and shaving your legs. By this rationale, guys who ride bikes for recreation and insist on shaving their legs most likely are having some kind of sexual identity issues.

  • Most women I have spoken with about this subject, regardless of adult age, maintain some kind of hair removal ritual. Most suggested that they were completely bare; those who weren’t trimmed their pubic area into a “landing strip.”
  • America’s relatives in Europe are even starting to see women shave their legs and underarms, a trend that is relatively new by American standards.  There is a common perception that European women, with the possible exception of those in the English-speaking British Isles, do not make it a practice to shave at all.  Having recently traveled to a clothing optional beach on the French island of St. Barts, I can attest to the fact that this is not entirely true.  Many young European women are beginning to shave their underarms and their legs as well, although you still certainly see women of all ages with hair left in its natural state on legs and arms alike.  That said, most British women seem to share the North American cultural preference for clean-shaven legs and arms.
  • Most of the Asian American women I have known and the few that I have dated (ages 25-35) didn’t shave their legs or armpits largely because of the fact that they barely had any hair at all. That said, they didn’t shave their pubic area either because (I think) they had a natural “landing strip”. One Asian friend of mine plucked the sparse amount of underarm hair she had with tweezers.
  • Waxing and Brazilians (shaving and waxing are quite popular in the urban parts of South America) have become so popular that some States have enacted hair removal laws. Missouri recently passed a law requiring parental consent for minors seeking to be waxed “on or near” genitalia.

The good news for men like me is that women with pubic hair are beginning to be fashionable once again. Witness this drawing from an American Apparel ad:

You may think that this is some desperate ploy by a company that has been teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. To me, this is quite beautiful.

And the signal that maybe, just maybe, 1980’s fashion, the desire to look like a porn star and the sick notion that prepubescence is somehow sexy is coming to an end.

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About Mark Kreloff

Mark Kreloff is an entrepreneur in Boulder, Colorado. He started his yoga practice 10 years ago with a “donation only” class in Santa Monica taught by Bryan Kest. To this day, it was the best class he has ever taken in his life.


75 Responses to “The Pornification of Pubic Hair.”

  1. SriDTMc says:

    "stroke me the most"

    the horny ghost of Freud must be having a field day with these comments. ; )

  2. mark k says:

    ummmm i wrote 20's to 40's not 20 to 40.


  3. Candace says:

    Evolving trends and preferences are interesting. I shaved to near bare before college but then lost the desire to maintain an unnatural image and stopped using cosmetics as well (this coincided with my college experience of expanded social-, environmental-, and self-awareness). For me shaving and daily make-up did not enhance my experience of life enough to make it worth the time, money, and discomfort or the broader consequences of my choices as a consumer. It became my comfort and preference just to be as God made me and accept that if this is unattractive to some it's all right we're just incompatible.

  4. ttt says:

    they are important to me! i appreciate your elephant journal just thought the article could have been edited and would have worked out. it cheeses your magazine to have an article that is talking about pubic hair from a man talking about women he's experienced with. it also makes those women look really bad and i feel sad for them if they are one of those women. as we know i am sure a few of them read your magazine. i just think in a controversial article that could have been profound …. perhaps editing it would have made it so. still think your doing a great job just think at times when there are few professional writers on staff that the content could be edited….. thanks,

  5. Lindsay says:

    Jen, you must be insane to have read that out of this post. Projecting something maybe?

  6. Cynthia Essa says:

    Yeah right ..he's so deep and interesting and unconventional. Go for it Laura!

  7. Sara Young says:

    Yeah, I never understood the thing about shaving or waxing pubic hair. I consider it a red flag if a guy wants me to go hairless, bordering on deal breaker. That is just inhumane and unnatural.

  8. elizabeth says:

    i love my body hair, ya chumps. pit hair 4eva

  9. lee says:

    just for the record porn followed a trend started by women in the late 1980s. that trend was shaving the pubic area clean. porn caught up about 10 years later

  10. elephantjournal says:

    It's a cover story in The Atlantic this month:

  11. […] Stop shaving armpits. (I’m sure Eve Ensler will probably excommunicate me from the feminists for saying it, […]

  12. […] because when my hippie 9-month pregnant friend walked naked into the living room the other day and I saw her huge bush before I saw her belly I thought, “How on earth could her partner navigate through all that?” I gotta’ […]

  13. Meaghan says:

    Just an fyi, I have a brazilian because I (UNDERLINED I!) wanted it and I feel it is more attractive. It has ZERO to do with whether men like it, it has to do with my own being and sexuality.

  14. Tony says:

    When in Rome…

  15. Rita says:

    You’re probably the only man I’ve seen openly admit he likes the bush! Grooming is so annoying and time consuming. It would be nice to not have to worry about it. It’s a little more difficult to ignore when you’re super hairy.

  16. Rachel says:

    Dave Foley has a great bit about how he misses the bush. I, personally, think a woman should do what she wants. Full bush, trimmed, Brazilian, whatever. Yes, that includes going bare to please a partner, but only if she can go back to full bush if she wants, when she wants. I hate the upkeep of waxing/shaving, but also don’t love the feel of an ungroomed bush. I do what I want with my body hair, and while I wish so many woman didn’t feel pressure to groom, I don’t see any of it changing anytime soon.

  17. booklady63 says:

    To the writer: Why does it have to be neatly, uniformly trimmed? Do you trim yours? Standards should be equal between genders, don't you think?

  18. Corinne shaw says:

    Ummmm male leg shaving and sexuality are unrelated. How on earth do you claim men who shave legs are in a sexual identity crisis. Seriously???

  19. Kayleigh says:

    THANK YOU! I started shaving when a guy complained and if I could talk to my younger self, I would’ve said to kick him to the curb and save myself time, pain, and money. I kept up shaving long after we parted ways (even though I felt like I looked like a child) and, having finally let it grow back, will never ever do it again. Ever. Also, for everyone who removes hair because you “like it”, have you asked yourself why you like it? In addition to that, are you aware that it is, in fact, not cleaner and can lead to several types of infections? I’m not suggesting that everyone make peace with their pubes like I have. I’m just saying, it’s healthy to always question where your own motives come from and whether or not they’re based on facts or opinions.

  20. JC says:

    Sadly, I found this article rude. I support everyone having their own opinions and voicing them, however, it needs to be recognized the purpose of this article is no different than the flip side of the coin. Instead of saying, “Shave your genitals or you’re undesirable,” it’s, “Don’t shave your genitals or you’re undesirable.” Both are very shaming. I have tried every combination of body hair, or lack thereof, throughout my life and currently I simply choose to not shave my legs but I do shave my genitals. I find shaving helps me feel cleaner, I feel my partner’s skin against my skin during sex, and overall it’s just more comfortable. How about instead of talking about what people should or shouldn’t do, we focus our energies on allowing people to make their own personal choices and supporting them in whatever that may be without judging them based on our own opinions.

  21. jojo says:

    I don't shave at all or do anything to pubic hair and like I never even think of it. The only difference instead of wearing bikini bottoms I get those shorts made out of bikini material. But seriously I used to shave and not doing is just so good. I stopped shaving when i was 21 and I am 23 now and dont miss it at all. I changed my diet quite a lot and I think this actually makes a difference but the hair looks super healthy. And when something looks healthy you find it pretty good.

  22. jojo says:

    I feel the same as you, the only difference being that I dont shave. I find the hair so comfortable and natural. I started shaving since i was 13, i stopped when i was 21 and its been so so good. I think every woman should do what she wants, but i wonder how many would really remove hair, if removing hair wasnt an actual thing.

  23. Ann says:

    Mark, for one- It's not true that most European women don't shave their legs and underarms. I'm from Serbia, and have met many women from, say, Hungary, Romania, Czech, Germany, Spain, etc. – all shave their legs and underarms, and this is not something new (it goes back to the 70s even).

  24. Maria says:

    I find it amusing that the author feels that it is only 'recently' that Europe is following the trend. How was that conclusion drawn? I am 50 and have been shaving under my arms and my legs since school days as have all my girlfriends in France and England. To see hairy armpits and legs is unusual.

  25. Tymo says:

    Interesting article. Would have been good to include comments from the model who said of the shot, that basically they’re trying to make the viewer think she’s about to “show you my p*$$y”, a slightly different matter. But my actual comment is about cyclists…as there are two generations of career, international pro cyclists in my family (me and my son), it is definitely done for functional reasons. Road rash, yeah, but also daily massages are easier and more effective and comfortable. It used to be said that it was for aerodynamics which was mostly BS… but lo and behold, recent wind tunnel studies show it offers a minimal benefit. When 10-15 watts energy expenditure over the course of a race can mean the win, well… And many of the “it shows your a serious cyclist” stuff is true, and yeah…we like the way it looks. But that’s not why we do it, nor are we projecting some sexual identity issues, as you assert. That’s YOU projecting. For what it’s worth, every woman I’ve ever slept with thinks it’s extra hot.