As the founder of Godemiche, Adam, joked and mimed motions of ‘disgust’ at the thought of female pubic hair, his partner could be heard offering a reasoned defence for the natural growth that most people experience and which some elect to keep.
Adam’s sentiment was not well-received.
Since then Godemiche have offered a very heartfelt apology and have reached out to leaders in the adult blogging community to engage in an educational process involving various articles on the topic of pubic hair.
I am very honoured to be part of this initiative.
The Problem With Pubic Hair
Sadly, the initial attitude that Adam held towards pubic hair is not an uncommon one, and neither is it seen in a negative light by many. In a recent survey by Cosmopolitan it was reported that 46% of their male respondents preferred their women to be completely bare in the pubic region. Comparatively only 6% preferred the natural look.
This is especially interesting when contrasted against the female perspective—with only 12% of women liking their men bare, 70% preferring it trimmed, and a similarly slim 10% liking the natural look.
Perhaps equally worrying is that the main reason stated for grooming one’s pubic hair was the sense that it would make them more sexually attractive.
Let’s set the record straight right away—pubic hair is not a bad thing. It protects our body from bacteria and other unwanted nasties, it provides a buffer from friction, it regulates temperature, and (as an interested tidbit) it is thought to trap pheromones and similar scents that increase our sexual attractiveness to our partner.
These traits are highly beneficial and yet the current consensus is that pubic hair is unhygienic and somehow hinders sexual attraction.
What is going on!?
If there’s nothing wrong with pubic hair physically then there’s only one answer: The problem with pubic hair isn’t the hair itself, it’s our attitude.
Shame or Shave
Unsurprisingly, the history of shaving one’s pubic hair in modern society (especially if you’re a woman) is rooted in the fashion industry.
As early as 1915 companies were encouraging women to keep parts of their body trimmed to compensate for the increasingly revealing design of clothing. By 1922 it was considered an extreme embarrassment for women to allow unshaven parts of her body to be shown.
As fashion continued to get closer and closer to the pubic hairline so, too, did the mounting pressure to make sure that not a single stray hair was exposed.
The ultimate transition to being completely bare has often been associated with pornography, where it was a trend in the 1980s.
From a filmography perspective, the origins of this weren’t intended to shame women but were still catering to a male gaze. With porn being prevalently aimed towards men, shaving a woman’s pubic hair allowed them to see more of the vulva, as penetration occurred.
The perhaps unintended outcome of this was that a gradual expectation grew that women should be shaved and that a shaved vulva was more sexually appealing.
Tie this in with the fashion industry’s desire to profit off women’s insecurity, and the link between showing more skin and less hair and, gradually, a self-regulating attitude of shame and sexual aversion grew around women’s pubic hair.
Of course, these issues affect men and trans or genderfluid individuals, but the mentality has stemmed from an attitude that prevalently criticises women’s bodies. It’s hugely unlikely that a man will be asked to shave his pubic hair in case his partner ‘chokes on a hair’, or something similar, it is much more likely that a woman will be asked this.
It is one of many ways in which the criticism of women’s bodies (followed by an expectation that she will change to cater to the person’s needs) is condoned in our society, and the fact that the presence of a woman’s natural hair is now the subject of jokes and ridicule is indicative of just how used to this internal oppression we have become.
But What Can Be Done?
As with Godemiche, the first move in countering such attitudes is to realize that they’re a problem to start with.
This isn’t always as easy as it sounds. As a species, humans have a predisposed bias towards following the group consensus, even when presented with facts that may say otherwise. This means that to strike out against a common attitude is, itself, inherently difficult.
Once you’ve recognised the possible issues when it comes to problematic or misogynistic attitudes (in any instance) the next step is research.
In the case of pubic hair we have already explored the origins of a preference to keeping trim, but what are the benefits of removing one’s pubic hair?
In this instance, the consensus is none.
The removal of pubic hair can cause abrasions, soreness, or even infections—with up to 60% guaranteed to experience such abrasions. Ingrown hairs increase with shaving and STIs become more of a risk. The process of shaving or waxing is also rather painful, and can even be traumatic for some individuals.
All-in-all expecting a person to shave their vulva is essentially like expecting them to routinely hurt themselves for your aesthetic preferences.
Is this acceptable?
I think most of us would agree that it’s not.
But what if the individual in question shaves for themselves? What if a person feels more confident with a shaven bush and has self-esteem issues that are directly associated with the visibility of their pubic hair?
In such instances, it’s important to make sure that your partner is shaving out of a sense of confidence and empowerment rather than just a fear of rejection or being deemed unattractive. Perhaps they do not know the damage that shaving can cause—at least 59% of women shave because they believe it is for their own health—but do make sure that you approach the issue in a respectful way, rather than trying to explain the factors to them as if they may not know them.
Communication is crucial in any challenging of pubic conventions and taking a self-reflective and reasoned approach to such discussions (whether with a partner, an uninformed individual, or anyone else) is vital.
If the shaven individual you speak to knows all of this and is still perfectly happy with their grooming choices them awesome. It’s their body and their choices and as long as they’re informed and acting from their own agency then anything beyond that is none of your beeswax.
Equally, if someone chooses not to shave and it goes against your preference then this is something you must learn to respect. You may discuss your preference with them but, ultimately, you should recognise it as such—a preference, and not necessarily one that has the best of cultural origins. If this is a deal-breaker then so be it, but it’s important to recognise that such a situation would not be the fault of your partner, who is not obligated to change to suit your needs.
Lastly, if you really wish to cater the negative attitude that exists against people’s pubic choices (natural, shaved, or otherwise) the most important thing is to be fiercely vocal and make sure that you challenge derogatory attitudes towards people’s grooming choices when you see them.
Godemiche have seen the benefits of such activism and now they are trying to be part of it with this educational series. It is my hope (and theirs) that you read this piece and use it to (continue to) be an ambassador for pubic hair and personal grooming choices everywhere.
Here’s to the vulva in all its many states! Let no blame or shame meet its acquaintance.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia