Pubic Hair

IN THE PUBIC INTEREST

It seems Australia has got pubic hair on the brain.

First there was that discussion on Q&A a few weeks ago where Brendan Cowell said he preferred a bush “but not a National Park”. Then local drama Offspring turned the tables on the Brazilian with the Manzilian, when Nina’s dumb brother waxed  the wrong bit of his bod for his  ditzy bride to be.

It’s so ubiquitous, I’m expecting it to turn up as a garnish on Masterchef any minute. I’m sure Heston is working up spun toffee into faux follicles as we speak.

Seriously. When Victorian era art critic John Ruskin saw his wife Effie’s pubic hair on their wedding night, he was so repulsed  he was unable to consummate the marriage. Until then, he had only seen the naked pudenda of classical marble goddesses and it never occurred to him that these were heavily pruned.

Before Michelangelo gave David some strategically placed curls, men were hairless down there too.

Many believe the first female pubic hair painted by an artist was Cranach’s The Nymph of Spring in 1537 but as late as the 1800s Goya’s The Nude Maya still caused a scandal.

Other Victorians did not share Ruskin’s sensibility:  for a time it was actually the fashion to  collect  curls of pubic hair as talismanic love tokens and wear them in public either on the lapel or in one’s hat band. (I can’t imagine Bob Katter sticking some in his Akubra).

 

A Scottish museum has a  snuff box of some belonging to one of King George IV’s mistresses in its collection.  A few years earlier Lady Caroline Lamb sent some of hers through the post to Byron (one hopes he knew who it was from.)

In the swinging sixties, British fashion designer Mary Quant became known as ‘the girl with the heart-shaped reputation’. It seems her husband had fashioned her pubic hair into a heart. How this became public knowledge is anyone’s guess but it seems rather sweet compared with what came next.

Like many other grooming trends, the  current craze for pre-pubescent shaved pudenda comes from the porn industry.

It started in New York in 1987 and soon gained traction from celebrity endorsement by people like Gwyneth Paltrow, who should know better.  There are various styles, known as the Hitler or Chaplin mustache and the Sphinx, named after a hairless cat from Canada.

Last year a new variation came along: vajazzling.

Jennifer Love Hewitt coined the term in 2010 , defining it as the  act of decorating the female genital area with stick-on Swarowski crystals – it’s a derivation of vajayjay, the word TV host Tyra Banks used instead of vagina when she spent an hour on the subject on her show (why that is easier to say than vagina remains a mystery).

Apparently it’s a ritual that girlfriends share or give as  a gift like a pre-wedding facial.  There are lots of designs available, of which the American flag is one of the most popular (presumably among those who were not pro-Bush, boo-boom. Come to think of it I wouldn’t be surprised if Sarah Palin  chose that motif, or she might have a montage of the stars and stripes, a bald eagle and a teapot.).

I don’t know about you, but if I was exploring a loved one’s nether regions and  suddenly saw a bunch of coloured lights twinkling at me down there I’d be worried about my alcohol intake.

You wouldn’t want to swallow some by accident either. And  if I found myself lying on top of someone who had bumpy bits down there, I’d wonder if they had a nasty rash.

What next? Well, another grooming trend from the porn industry that’s been around for a while is rectal bleaching  and it’s gaining momentum beyond the gay scene. (Eventually some salons will no doubt offer teeth-n-tush in a two-for-one deal).

I don’t know what it all means. The judgmental part of me thinks it feels symptomatic of extreme decadence, a society that has nothing better to do than decorate itself while Rome burns.

The feminist in me believes women should be free to do whatever they want to their bodies.

I have no issue with a bit of topiary trimming and tidying, but shouldn’t we feel free to resist pressure to undertake any grooming practices that involve pain? Or is it ok because we choose to do it  for our own pleasure and gratification?  I know some young women send the bill for their brazilians to their boyfriends but I don’t think that’s a sign of liberation or empowerment.

The more troubling question is why a man would find a pre-pubescent hairless crotch sexy. It’s become the norm for the under 30s, many of whom have apparently never seen pubic hair. But if I had a daughter I’d definitely be urging  her to think of her map of Tasmania as a place of natural beauty and discouraging senseless deforestation.

So, The Hoopla wants to know. Has your style evolved or are you stuck in a rug, er, rut?

*Caroline Baum is a journalist, producer and presenter. A passionate reader, she appears at all major writers’ festivals across Australia, as well as in New Zealand, Indonesia and, shortly, the UK. Her film In Search of Bony was screened on SBS and she’s currently developing several TV projects with inspiring women collaborators.

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27 Comments

  • Reply July 11, 2011

    Michelle

    Love it! I laughed out loud! :)

    Reminds me of this fabulous song by the wonderful Amanda Palmer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcoreV10hI8

  • Reply July 11, 2011

    Lilliana Gibbs

    Love it Caroline!

    Fashionable genitalia is one thing, and anxiety about being ‘normal’ is another. British artist Jamie McCartney created a monumental wall sculpture showing women’s most private parts. 400 plaster casts show that vulvas and labia are as different as faces – everyone is different and everyone is normal. http://www.lostateminor.com/2011/03/14/the-great-wall-of-vagina/

  • Reply July 12, 2011

    Cyn

    Terrific article!

    There was also a great show on SBS last week, The Perfect Vagina where the journo was on a mission to understand why women underwent surgery to look “normal” (ala porn)… it was a very emotional story and well worth the watch. The story also included Jamie McCartnery’s wall sculpture and the journo added her own plaster cast to it as well…. Lilliana, I agree, and thought the casts were brilliant; a great education for women feeling unhappy about themselves.

    http://www.sbs.com.au/documentary/program/theperfectvagina

  • Reply July 13, 2011

    shelley

    Yes, yes and yes. Reclaim the bush I say! This fashion has gone on for far too long. How can you call it ‘a map of Tassie’ when thats not what it looks like? And why is it the women who go to these lengths? One woman I know who waxed said it made the sex better, I say they weren’t trying hard enough in the first place. For starters, where is your mind focussed when you are having sex? Think about it now. I know when I have sex the last thing on my mind is ‘gee all that pubic hair is getting in the way’. It is up to the individual, as the article said, but gals remember, being waxed does have pre-pubescent leanings. As for arse bleaching, one has to wonder what next, have your toes sewn together so you can wear pointy shoes!!!? Lastly can I point out that people referring to the whole of the female genitalia as ‘vagina’ is plain ignorant. The vagina is ‘the vault’ from where the baby comes. I mean, sure call it a ‘Sissy’ or a ‘HooHoo’ or whatever but just saying ‘vagina’ as the whole lot is like calling it a ‘front bottom’. There.

  • Reply July 13, 2011

    Fudging The Menu

    One of my favourite jokes involves pubic hair as discovered by a bride on her wedding note. I’d love to tell it here but… yeah… I had a good laugh about finding a “bunch of twinkling lights while exploring a loved one’s nether regions”. I think I’d be more inclined to worry about whether crabs had mutated into phosphorence.

  • Reply July 13, 2011

    Fudging The Menu

    BTW, I once knew someone who in the process of waxing said nether region forgot herself for a moment and crossed her legs. It didn’t end well.

  • Reply July 13, 2011

    Gabbie

    Growing up in the 80s we couldn’t wait till we were old enough to start shaving our legs. I never understood as I must have been talking in line when they’re were handing out hairy bits and completely missed out. Not that I’m a total baldy. I have always had a massive head of curls that my mother used to curse and cut so short, my extended family thought I was a boy till I sprouted lady bumps. As for my modest Tasmania – it’s never needed vajazzling (puh-lease!) and that’s the way it’s staying!! Besides, I’ve never had any complaints! Most guys seem to like it – or maybe it’s the pick up line I used to use on them that got them hooked….”you want to see what you look like with a moustache?” Try it. It works everytime!

  • Reply July 13, 2011

    Gabbie

    Too much?

  • Reply July 13, 2011

    Caroline Roessler

    Ladies, you crack me up. But, now here’s a question, what do you do when you spot a grey? Not that I have… just sayin’

    • Reply July 13, 2011

      donna

      Get a younger partner.

    • Reply July 13, 2011

      BonBon

      Dye, trim and/or wax down to a trickle

      • Reply July 13, 2011

        Caroline Roessler

        So, grey is bad?

        • Reply July 13, 2011

          gogirl

          Only if you let it bother you. I say laugh, move on and have fun.

  • Reply July 14, 2011

    chatchaddy

    Try dying it, it means you are getting old. Bugger!!!

  • Reply July 15, 2011

    Gabbie

    I’d pluck it out but then I’d have (near to) none left! I’ll take what I can get.

  • Reply July 15, 2011

    TrackyDax

    I love it when women say that they have Brazilians because “it’s more hygienic”. Huh? Suddenly, all that nasty, unnatural pubic hair carries all sorts of diseases it seems. But the main disease seems to be having to please partners who have an unrealistic expectation of what women’s nether regions should look like.

    • Reply July 15, 2011

      Eva Burns

      I could never understand the attraction of a woman looking like a pre-pubescent girl? It just ain’t natural. I can understand bikini lines, but removing so much hair that you look like a plucked chicken makes no sense at all to me!

  • Reply July 16, 2011

    Annie

    Yes I have to agree with Shelley. Please PLEASE stop calling the vulva the ‘vagina’. It is misleading to the young. And it is so twee American!
    Leave the private parts alone and there would be not need for all this ‘cutting’ (OUCH) of labia’s to appear ‘even’. *shiver

  • Reply August 9, 2012

    Buttercup

    Map of Tasmania!!! Love that

  • Reply August 9, 2012

    speccygirl

    I don’t bother – anyway I think it was designed to prevent chafing during sex!

  • Reply August 9, 2012

    LaLinda

    Show me a man who says ‘no’ to sex with a woman, just because she has pubic hair, and I’ll show you a pig that flies.

  • Reply August 9, 2012

    Lisa N

    I employ the trim and tidy option as I too have a bit of an issue with the pre-pubescent look, but found at one time when I was getting a bit carried away with my husband’s clippers (wrong attachment – oops!) that I ended up with the dreaded “camel toe”. This is such an ugly look in swimwear and clingy gym clothes that I can’t imagine why Brazilians are so popular – yuck!

  • Reply August 9, 2012

    Trish

    When you have certain chemotherapy drugs you lose all your hair including pubes , I didn’t know that before. Ive rarely been bare down there and now I have no choice but it’s an experience to add to my life book.

  • Reply August 9, 2012

    Jo

    I’m a little concerned with men who prefer completely bald, it always sounds a little pedophilic to me. I go for the neat and tidy look

  • Reply August 9, 2012

    Jo-Anne

    I learnt just before giving birth to my son via the midwife, that the true name for the pubis is “Mound of Venus” and the correct amount of pressure as in a gentle pull can act as an aid during child birth! I haven’t come across any part of our human design that doesn’t seem to have a purpose or a job to do fur us! For F sake. Well we all live & learn…. But you know what ladies, I could easily live in a hairless society! I’m over all the hair in the bathroom & it ain’t all mine – I’m living with a man who molts after each shower! How about I send him off to wax it all off!

  • Reply August 9, 2012

    Astrid

    My GP wants brazillions banned. She sees too many young women with dermatitis etc which is made worse by the practice, but they will not stop even though it causes them pain.

    I too have issues with men wanting women to look like girls. Really irks me. As mother to 2 girls, it is one trend that really worries me.

  • Reply August 9, 2012

    Eme

    I am freaked out by men who only like totally bald porn star look. I also worry that perhaps they have a fascination with little girls ! But most of all I worry about some of us girls who are starting to be repulsed by our own bodies because what is normal (and there for a purpose ) we now view as ugly. Bit of a trim does no harm but for health reasons it’s better to be left there.

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