Pubic Hair in America

By Ashley Fetters
The Atlantic, December 2011

Edited by Andy Ross

Once upon a time, adult vulvas were coated in a protective layer of coarse, woolly tresses. Today, fashionable vulvas are smooth, soft, and hairless. Indiana University researchers Debby Herbenick and Vanessa Schick found in a recent study that about half of American women between 18 and 29 are sometimes or always completely bare down below.

In 1987, the seven sisters Padilha opened the J. Sisters salon offering the "Brazilian wax" in Midtown Manhattan. The peculiar practice remained weird, taboo, and rarely administered until, in 2000, in a groundbreaking episode of Sex And The City, heroine Carrie Bradshaw found a new swagger in her step after waxing the hair off her vulva. By 2003, Victoria Beckham had announced that she thought Brazilian waxes should be compulsory at age 15.

Studies on American women's pubic hair removal habits are few and far between. But surveys tend to show that Brazilian waxing is largely practiced among the young, white, heterosexual Sex And The City and Gossip Girl demographics. Full pubic hair removal is most common among sexually active women and those who report having frequent oral sex and who are not in monogamous relationships.

Women sport a stark-naked mons veneris for many reasons, ranging from the practical to the provocative. There is a sexual motive for taking it all off: Drawing back the curtain of pubic hair exposes the clitoris, the labia, and the vagina for plain viewing. There's a tactile element, too. Many men are more likely to perform oral sex on a female partner if she has no pubic hair.

Pornography is also a driving force. Playboy's representations of women's genitalia throughout the years show that from 1953 up through the 1980s, more than 95 percent of the centerfolds and naked models sported full, apparently natural pubic hair. But by the 1990s, more than a third of the models appeared to have removed some of their pubic hair. And in the new millennium, less than 10 percent of nude models now sport the full pubic bush, while a third remove their hair partially and one-quarter remove it completely.

Today, men and women alike often consider pubic hair dirty or unfeminine. The same goes for the rest of women's body hair. Women remove their leg hair and underarm hair all over the Western world and say they would feel ashamed or embarrassed if they didn't. Bare genitalia can also be a symbol of empowerment.

Pubic Hair

By Emily Gibson
The Guardian, August 7, 2012

Edited by Andy Ross

Why shave pubic hair? Maybe it has to do with bikinis, shaved celebrities, childhood innocence, or even ideas about hygiene.

Shaving a body part prior to surgery actually increased surgical site infections. Hair removal inflames the hair follicles and leaves microscopic open wounds. When that irritation is combined with the warm moist environment of the genitals, it becomes a happy culture medium for some of the nastiest of bacterial pathogens. Freshly shaved pubic areas and genitals are also more vulnerable to herpes infections due to the microscopic wounds being exposed to viruses carried by mouth or genitals.

Pubic hair provides a cushion against friction and protection from pathogens. It is nothing to be embarrassed about.