Pube Politics - Why Are Women Feeling Pressured To Remove Their Pubic Hair?

08/02/2016 09:49 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2016

Muff. The word alone is enough to make me smirk. And at the age of 33 you could say it’s behaviour I should’ve grown out of. But however you refer to your ‘other’ crowning glory, there’s no doubt that the humble lady foof is an ongoing topic of heated (wax) debate - particularly following today’s news that those who keep it bare down below are four times more likely to catch an STI.

The likely reason for this is that people who regularly tend to their pubes are having more sex. They may also notice lumps and bumps more easily sans bush or suffer micro abrasions to the skin that make it easier for STIs to be transmitted. But either way it raises the eternal questions of a) why do we even have pubic hair and b) what the hell should I do with it?

Like other milestones in life, such as getting your period or getting a boy/girlfriend, getting pubic hair is something we wait so eagerly for but then once it arrives can turn out to be a real pain in the arse. But whereas the rationale of periods and plus-ones (mostly) are pretty obvious, the logic of hair-down-there is less clear.

Be it a full bush or teflon smooth, our obsession with genital hair goes way back, with the Egyptians big on sugaring and the Merkin (read pubic wig) thought to date right back to the 1400s - often used by prostitutes who’d shaved their actual pubes off to prevent crab infestations. And ever cooed over that bit in ‘Little Women’ where Meg’s fella steals her glove as a souvenir? I wonder how that scene would’ve gone down à la 19th century England, when it was customary to pinch some pubic hair from your squeeze and keep it as a memento?

These days, sporting a full bush is certainly not preferred, with a 2016 British YouGov survey showing the fave style in under 30 women to be a ‘hollywood’ (ie everything off) and the over 30s opting for a ‘standard bikini’ (ie neatening up those knicker line strays). A mere 4% of the under 30s and a larger 14% of the overs went for an au-natural approach, leaving the clippers at home.

Consequently a plethora of methods exist for the ol’ ‘holiday haircut’ - often with a healthy dose of pain and a dent to your wallet tossed in. One report estimated the average US woman spends $10,000 on unwanted hair removal in her lifetime. $10,000! Think how many overpriced lattes/ASOS splurges that could get you.

Despite our longing to be rid of it, pubic hair in all its wiriness is actually there for a reason. Pheromones (sexy hormones) are thought to get trapped in our pubes, making us more desirable to others. Being thick it acts as a ‘cushion’ for the sensitive skin of the vaginal lips (labia) and the vaginal entrance. Contrary to the belief that defuzzing is ‘hygienic’, pubes actually provide a barrier to bacteria and viruses and also help with moisture control - decreasing the risk of evil yeast infections like Thrush.

In removing our pubic hair, we lose this natural protection. Shaving, as standard, comes with the risk of cuts (argh) and shaving rash. It can cause the aforementioned microabrasions that can make it easier to catch the genital warts virus (HPV). And if you already suffer with warts, shaving should be avoided as it can help them spread down below (trimming and waxing are fine).

Now i’m not here to tell you that you shouldn’t mess with your pubes - even in a medical capacity - but what I am saying is that you should do what you want. A revealing stat in another survey showed that despite 72% of young American women aged 18-29 actively removing their pubic hair, only 56% thought this was what women should ideally do - ie pube pressure exists.

In my line of work where seeing ten-plus vaginas in a day is quite the norm, it’s par for the course for patients to apologise for not being fuzz-free (really, you don’t need to). I’ve seen some eye-watering cases of topiary related cuts, skin infections and scars and in really young girls too. And when people are asked to give their bush a break, the response is often ‘well i’m not having sex right now anyway’ as if having pubes is basically a sex-repellent of some sort.

Opinions are mixed as to why women feel pressured to go bare. Clothes are more revealing. Younger girls do what their friends do. The rise of internet porn is a recurring theme, with pube-free actors felt to be creating false sexual ‘ideals’ - although the use of the words ‘porn’ and ‘sexual ideal’ in the same sentence is for me rather contradictory. And the removal of hair to effectively make us look pre-pubescent also shouts of the eternal desire to emulate flawless youth.

But whatever you decide to do with your bits, the moral of the story is that it’s ok - as long as it’s what you prefer. When it comes to your foof, it’s your body, pain threshold and money that are being tested. Your partner’s preference ought to be whatever makes you feel comfortable and fabulous and if lucky enough to be invited, they should be delighted to attend the pube party - whether you actually have pubes or not.

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
CONVERSATIONS