Pubic Hair: The History of Taboo

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BY Joy Ong

Whether it’s from a series of accidental flashes at sleepovers, or confident women strutting around in public changing rooms, you have probably seen your fair share of vaginas. With a diverse array of vaginas comes a diverse array of pubic hair styles and grooming choices…

There is a commonly held stigma surrounding female pubic hair. We don’t talk about it and we usually don’t acknowledge it. This stigma creates a social taboo and shame culture where there shouldn’t be. In order to break the stigma around vulva beauty and diversity, it is important to understand the history of female pubic hair and how we got to the standards deemed sexy and acceptable today.

Ancient Egyptians considered pubic hair to be uncivilised and repulsive. They removed it with flint or bronze razors. The Ancient Greeks kept their pubic hair smooth and shiny like their statues. It was a symbol of class and status. The Romans would immediately pluck the earliest signs of pubic hair on young girls with a tweezer-like contraption called ‘vosella’. They even had their own version of Nair, called ‘dropax’— a mixture of a female goat’s gall, powdered venom, resin and bat’s blood. Women were often scolded if they didn’t remove their pubic hair, as it was deemed a sign of uncleanliness.

In contrary, there has been no scientific evidence to prove that grooming pubic hair is more hygienic, or has any other health benefits.

During the Middle ages women would maintain pubic hair with regular trimming. The first pubic hair wig was created in 1450. It was called the ‘merkin’, and was originally worn by sex workers who had shaven to prevent pubic lice or cover symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases. In the 19th Century, upper-class lovers in the U.K. would collect each other’s pubic hair as keepsakes.

In 1915, Gilette released their first razor designed for women. Later in 1946, the first bikini was released. This new exposure of flesh pressured and encouraged women to remove their pubic hair. The 60’s and 70’s became a time of sexual liberation. Empowered women soon made the ‘full-on’ bush a mainstream style and a feminist way of life.

The late 90’s saw Brazilian waxes become a risqué trend. On September 17th, 2000, the infamous Sex & the City episode “Brazilian” aired. Carrie Bradshaw’s wax sent the world into frenzy, turning into an international obsession and phenomenon. Everyone and their mothers were booking appointments with their local waxing salons for the majority of the 2000’s. The rising influence and accessibility of the porn industry due to the internet saw the bald-barbie-look as the ideal for women. Even the slightest sight of regrowth deemed a woman “unattractive” and “dirty”. However, celebrities such as Cameron Diaz and Gwyneth Paltrow were quick to express their love and defence for the vintage bush.

The 2010’s have introduced newer and more advanced methods of pubic hair removal, such as laser technologies with prices starting at $900. In South Korea, pubic hair transplant surgery is being performed, starting at $2000, as a sign of fertility and sexual health.

During recent years, popular Instagram trends such as pubic braiding and glitter bombing have been created to embrace the previously oppressed hair growth between every woman’s legs. With so many different trends, the discussion and variety of pubic hair is rapidly increasing from where we were five years ago.

Today, women are empowered to embrace their pubic hair. With celebrities such as Madonna and Miley Cyrus advocating and promoting this newfound freedom, acceptance and discussions surrounding female pubic hair are becoming more open and encouraged. Pubic hair is a natural occurrence in the life of every single woman (and man). The rising discussion of female pubic hair today, inspires an acceptance and confidence which women have never been able to experience before. Whether you take the au naturel approach of “whatever grows goes” or you rock a more trimmed do, embrace it, because the truth is, you can do whatever the hell you want with your pubic hair.

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