Pubic Hair: A Brief History (part 2)

Today’s post will bring us up to the end of the 1990s and start of  2000s when we start to see less and less and less hair on women’s privates.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s pubic hair no doubt became caught up with other body hair as a site of protest. In feminist terms, women were encouraged to grow their body hair as a form of rebellion.  I will devote a lot more time to this in later blogs. However, for now, I’ll just mention that throughout the 1970s women’s liberation took a real battering.  Negative stereotypes of so  called  ‘hairy legged lesbians’, you know all those ‘bra burning feminists’, began to enter the pubic domain.  Body hair became a politicised tool for liberals and irrationals alike.   Could this discourse have left behind a negative residue that influenced an increase in hair removal (and pubes) in the following decades ?

The bikini was first introduced in 1946 although bikini line hair removal was not common practice for years to come. However total or partial removal of pubic hair in the last fifteen years has seen a distinct shift from rare occurrence to widespread cultural practice. In 2002 a study examining pubic hair grooming practices of British women found that the majority (85.7%) of female participants said they removed all or part of their pubic hair.  That is a lot of women !   Can we trace this trend back to 1975 ? This is when Hustler Magazine first published photographs of young models without pubic hair entitled ‘Adolescent Fantasy’. Yes really.  This spread provoked both interest (from it’s readership), and discourse from feminist commentators who associated the images with a ‘preoccupation with the infantilisation of little girls’.  That seems a fair argument.

I’ve been reading this book called ‘Plucked’ by Rebecca Herzig ,  in which she confirms that content analysis of pornography taken in the 1990s sees a distinct decline in pubic hair on female centre-fold models (and increased visibility of the labia).  Also, in an article entitled ‘The Brazilian Wax: the new norm for Women?‘  it confirms that pornographic material and Playboy have not featured women with pubic hair since the end of the 1980s.  Porn mags aren’t my thing but I’d take a guess that if and when a ‘full bush’ is shown that it is somehow considered as some sort of fetish.   So is it that simple, is it the trickle down effect of pornography that has influenced what seems like a generation of young women (and increasingly men) to reach for the razor ?

What about everything else we watch ?  In the 1990s the Brazilian wax fad was reportedly started by seven Brazilian sisters who are credited for bringing the procedure to New York. The Brazilian as we now lovingly know, removes every bit of pubic and anal hair using hot wax and material strips.  Ooch. It caught on quickly and before we all knew it we were seeing Carrie Bradshaw (in HBO’s Sex In The City in the early 2000s)  being ‘mugged’ of her pubic hair and waxing increasingly portrayed as essential.  In this period, newspaper and magazine features on the Brazilian wax, along with countless celebratory endorsements promoting a smooth hairless vagina as fashionable, became part of the cultural language.

As I chart its contemporary progress, I am beginning to think that pubic hair and its removal is becoming entangled more and more in media representations of idealised femininity (thin, white, hairless), consumerism and celebrity culture.

I know I haven’t uploaded any media or images yet – this blogging stuff is new to me !  That said, tomorrow is v day – brace yourself its a shocker….

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Pubic Hair: A Brief History (part 2)

  1. Interesting. I am a remover. Started from being a dancer (dance costumes can be revealing and also not entirely opaque under stage lighting). I live in a warmer climate so underarm hair removal makes sense when wanting to reduce body odour (my male partner removes his in the summer months too). I am also the submissive partner in a d/s relationship where it is customary to remove body hair both from an obedience and aesthetic viewpoint but also out of necessity for clamps, sensation play, etc.

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  2. I thought Brazilian = landing strip and Hollywood = complete removal?

    I don’t care what people do with their body hair or why (as long as it’s without coercion, obvs) – wax or wax not, do as one will.

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  3. I agree TSO, but there is ‘coercion’ and ‘overbearing social mores’… I do object to women, particularly teenagers, being made to feel that making yourself look pre-pubescent is necessary to be ‘desirable’, or that having public hair is somehow unsanitary. Removal is potentially painful, expensive and can lead to in-grown hairs and other infections. I’m sure I would feel I had to go down that route if I was in some way on show (as a dancer, or a swimmer), but I’m pleased that this popularity for extreme hair removal only started after I was already confident enough in my body to reject it as some kind of social requirement: it’s enough effort to shave my legs once a week!

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  4. My teenager (13 yr old girl) is very aware of hair removal and the different methods. I’ve been flip flopping between telling her that it’s really a socially constructed expectation imposed on women by the patriarchy and simultaneously buying her the razors or waxing that she ‘needs’. It’s a difficult line to tread. I’ll pass on this v interesting historical info and hope she can keep it in perspective.

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