Shaving pubic hair is all the rage

I need help understanding a recently observed trend. As a physician, I see lots of naked bodies. For several years I've noticed that, generally speaking, many straight patients (men and women) in t

Nov 5, 2003 at 2:06 pm

I need help understanding a recently observed trend. As a physician, I see lots of naked bodies. For several years I've noticed that, generally speaking, many straight patients (men and women) in their 20s have trimmed and/or coifed pubic hair. A lot of the men tell me that their girlfriends prefer it that way; some have said, "It makes me feel cooler and cleaner." Occasionally I have to treat folliculitis (an infection/inflammation at the base of the hair follicles) caused by overaggressive shaving. Recently I have noticed many of my 14- to 16-year-old male patients have completely trimmed off their pubic hair. What gives? When I was that age, I anxiously awaited a full set.

— Pursuing Understanding by Inquiring Columnist

Women have long felt it necessary to shave their legs, pits, forearms, wrists, backs, shins, and ankles, PUBIC. Then about 10 years ago stylish women began having their pubic hairs ripped out at the roots. Surely you've heard of the Brazilian bikini wax, Doc? The pubeless look was popularized, in my opinion, by several cultural trends: the mainstreaming of pornography; teeny-tiny bathing suits; and awful, unflattering low-rise jeans. Naturally bushy women went from trimming to li'l Hitler mustaches to complete deforestation in under a decade.

At the same time deforestation was becoming the beauty ideal for women, male homosexuals were taking over American cultural life. That our culture is now thoroughly dominated by gay men isn't some paranoid Christian conservative's fantasy but a fact of life. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy confrmed something everyone already knows: Outside of Rap and Hip Hop culture, stylish gay men — not all gay men, mind you, just the stylish ones — are the only tastemakers. And gay men weren't content to just setting tastes in jackets and hair products and cowhide accent chairs. Hardly. We were, however subtly, setting sexual tastes as well. Out went the virile man (so long, Burt Reynolds!) and in came the vulnerable boy (hello, Ashton Kutcher!). Soon the kind of guys most gay men want to fuck became the kind of guys most straight women want to fuck, the male beauty ideal every bit as hairless as its female counterpart.

The funny thing about declaring smooth, hairless skin sexy is that once you start stigmatizing some body hair — back hair, chest hair, ass hair — it's only a matter of time before all body hair is deemed unattractive. Women started having their pubes yanked out because body hair on women had long been seen as unattractive and unfeminine. Once they were required to wear outfts that basically exposed everything but their vulvas, off came the pubic hair. Men began shaving off their chest hair in response to a gay-dictated male beauty ideal and gradually bought into the idea that body hair — including pubic hair — was just as unattractive on males as it was on females. And you're seeing the results of this cultural shift every time one of your 16-year-old male patients drops his drawers.

For the record, I'm not endorsing any of this. While I'm a longtime supporter of the reigning beauty ideal — I like 'em lean and hairless, always have, so I've got no complaints about the current beauty ideals, thank you very much — I know there are people out there who feel differently. Indeed, a pro-hair backlash is already under way.

I am a 15-year-old male with a question: What is proper etiquette regarding pubic hairs? I will soon be having my frst sexual experience and was just wondering whether the majority of women prefer the area hairless or not.

— Condoms and Manners

The proper etiquette regarding pubes, CAM, can be summed up in three words: Keep it clean. However much pubic hair you've got — and these days you can have as much or as little as you like — no one wants to press his or her nose into a stinky, matted mass of pubic hair. If your fngers stink after you scratch your balls or you've got Butterfnger crumbs in your pubes or, God forbid, if butt rasta is drifting up from your ass crack, well, then it's time to take a shower.

Now some women will, without a doubt, prefer you to trim or arrive hairless. Some, however, will prefer that you arrive with all the hair God saw ft to grow down there. If you're indifferent on the pubic hair issue, if your partner's wishes are more important than your own, I would urge you to make the young woman in your life an offer: Tell her that how much or how little pubic hair you have is entirely up to her. If she likes it trimmed, she can trim it. If she would prefer you hairless, she can shave your pubes off herself.

I had a mishap this morning. While trimming my pubes I accidentally trimmed off a chunk of clit. My concern is regarding the healing process. Is it going to heal normally? What are my risks of infection? Do you think that the scar tissue will affect the feeling? I'm concerned about this affecting my sex life. Any suggestions and recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

— Chunk Lost in Trim

You trimmed off a chunk of your clit? A chunk? Jesus Christ, what are you using to trim your pubes? A riding lawnmower?

And, like, excuse me, but your frst impulse after carving off a chunk of your clit was to send me a letter? If my clit was lighter by a chunk and bleeding like crazy, my frst impulse wouldn't be to dash to the computer to send an e-mail to some fag who writes a sex advice column. I WOULD GO SEE MY FUCKING GYNECOLOGIST! You might be at risk of infection; you might lose some sensation if scar tissue builds up; it might affect your sex life — but only a doctor can examine what's left of your clit, look for any signs of deadly clit-eating bacteria and offer you the medical and/or surgical interventions you might require.

In response to your comment addressed to GRABASS, the fellow concerned with gender-specifc groping issues: "And women can hear the word 'No' without stalking or terrorizing the men who've dumped them." You're right. Women never stalk ex-boyfriends or invent a phantom pregnancy hours after a breakup or emotionally blackmail their former lovers with threats of violence, suicide or endless weeping phone calls. Yeah, Dan, women are entirely exempt from irrational, even violent, behavior following a breakup. Must be these pesky penises.

— Women Go Psycho Too, Moron

Well, uh, yes: Women sometimes act like assholes when they get dumped, and some engage in bad, bad, bad behavior. So perhaps my generalization was a bit of a generalization, WGPTM. But unlike men, women — however pesky they are — rarely kill their partners. Almost half of all women who are murdered are killed by their husbands or boyfriends; women are 10 times likelier to be abused by a man than a man is to be abused by a woman (insert your own David Gest joke here); and more women land in emergency rooms due to domestic violence than from any other cause.

So, yeah, women can be real bitches. But like I told GRABASS, male-on-female groping exists in a context of male-on-female violence, a context that makes male-on-female groping seem like less fun than female-on-male groping. I stand by that statement with the important caveat that, yeah, some women sure are crazy-ass bitches.