There are many words other than bush to describe the Mons Pubis with it plush covering of hair but it is a word we identify with ease. Yet all too often the very thing that defines our sexual maturity has been hacked away, influenced by comments like ‘Brazilian waxes should be compulsory at age 15.’ Ms Beckham is quoted as saying this in 2003. Where her ideology stems from is a conundrum. More recent is the Kardashian opinion that the only hair permissible on the human body belongs on the head. I guess that relegates me to the realms of smelly hippy, except I was still a child in the 60s.
Throughout the centuries pubic hair removal was necessary to control lice. Elizabethan prostitutes regularly wore a Merkin in place of natural hair. In hot climates sweat and resulting odour is another motive to clip or shave; a reason why women run the risk of stigmatisation should they opt to retain a normal element of puberty.
Since the 90s it has become an aesthetical or lifestyle choice. But it is hard not to lament its disappearance when Dr Herbenick suggests that up to 85% of white, 30 year old heterosexual women are genitally hairless.
This isn’t just a phenomenon in the US. A G.P friend of mine revealed that out of the 20+ year olds who attend surgery, for complaints like vulva rash or other sexual health problems, most have succumbed to the idealism of how the new millennia woman should look.
My G.P friend is in her forties. I am in my fifties and both of us are concerned that the depilatory buy-in has been influenced by the deeply voyeuristic element of the porn industry. So common are videos featuring graphic penetration facilitated by male and female genitalia devoid of hair, the Au Natural has become a niche market.
In fact, I so was convinced the pornographer’s intention to tap into our voyeuristic drive was the only related factor for the demise of the hirsute woman and then I read Ashley Fetter’s article The New Full-Frontal: Has Pubic Hair in America Gone Extinct? —I had forgotten another notch to ultimate male gratification was just as important. And here’s why.
Pubic hair serves as a contact barrier and it is not until a woman waxes do men realise just how soft pubic skin is. Although this, with the lack of irritating hairs in the mouth, does suggests heightened sexual pleasure for your partner what is so wrong with the moment of clitoral reveal when your lover carefully combs back the verdure of your femininity. Have we, as modern women, become so trapped in our desire to please partners we forget sex can be a pleasurable, loving experience without the need for self-mutilation. And let’s be honest; shaving can be painful if it results in nicks and infected rashes. Waxing is brutal, time consuming and expensive.
So what does this need to defoliate the pubis really mean if it not to imitate the widely perceived body norms of the porn industry.
As a mature woman I have contemplated ridding myself of the greying mouse between my legs because it is a reminder that I am just that; a mature woman. And then I take a step back. It doesn’t bother my lover. He’s happy I share a bed with him. He also understands I have no wish to infantilise myself; there is something paedophilic about this. Setting this aside, a wrinkled brow and prepubescent vulva equates to further body conflict issues.
I also know women of my age who do this without qualm. For them it is a show of female solidarity. They inhabit their own bodies with ownership and do not give a hoot what the world thinks.
Yet, as Hebernick suggested, within a particular demographic the hairless vulva isn’t synonymous to the ‘clenched fist’ of female solidarity. Often, it’s indicative of forced submission to uphold impossibly high standards of body ideals proliferated through the media and, of course, internet pornography.
The problem here is that while this kind of cultural influence/ force feeding exists, women continue to obsess about vulval hair, fearing they are not sexy enough. And in the lemming style rush to distort their body’s natural beauty they forget misogynistic behaviour will continue to exist if they adhere to the porn industry’s magnified notions of body image.
© Talia Hardy 2014.