Tracey Cox on pubic hair etiquette

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Along with banana bread, jigsaw puzzles and nature shots, something else dominated our social feeds during lockdown.

‘Anyone else given up on keeping things tidy, erm, down there?’, women asked each other.

‘Am I the only one enjoying not having to be ‘”sex ready’?”, single women rejoiced.

While men sported beards and happily ditched shaving; women did the same with their ‘ladygarden’.

Pubic hair has a purpose.

It helps regulate body temperature and traps discharge, dirt and debris. It also traps moisture, keeping the vulvar skin hydrated.

But to bare or not to bare remains a divisive issue. 

Tracey Cox takes a look back at the history of pubic hair etiquette for answers to her question: Are were reverting back to our unshaved ‘ladygardens’ as a result of lockdown? Picture, Stock

Should it stay or should it go? 

Plenty of women – in the public eye and out of it – have spoken out in favour of keeping fuller pubic hair: women don’t like being told what to do with their own bodies in 2020.

But around half of all young women in the UK remain hair-free and a survey last year found 80 per cent of women aged 18 to 65 remove some or all of their pubic hair.

Some younger women aren’t even aware there is an alternative, like trimming or leaving a ‘landing strip’ at least.

‘Going completely bare is what everyone does. We don’t even think about it,’ one 19-year-old girl told me. ‘It is a hassle though. And it’s expensive. I blame porn.’

After some research Tracey, pictured, discovered the removal of pubic hair has varied throughout history - first starting during the Egyptian times before having some hair down there became fashionable again in the Middle Ages

After some research Tracey, pictured, discovered the removal of pubic hair has varied throughout history – first starting during the Egyptian times before having some hair down there became fashionable again in the Middle Ages

The porn industry has always been held accountable for equating bare genitals with ‘sexy’. True, the traditional porn ‘stars’ are nearly all free of all pubic hair. 

ALL ON, ALL OFF OR SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN? 

Here’s what people said when I posed the question on social media.

HE SAYS

‘It makes my penis look bigger. That’s the real reason men do it. They say it’s so their partner doesn’t get hairs in her mouth but that’s a lie.’

‘I’ve never understood the fetish for looking underage. Natural hair has always been more seductive for me.’

‘Hair holds the scent of a woman. It’s way, way sexier with hair on.’

‘I don’t like performing oral sex on a woman who isn’t bare. I shave myself as well for the same reason.’

‘I’m male, and I get a Brazilian every 4-5 weeks. I like the hair free appearance and feel. As for my partner, I would like it if she removed it all but neatly trimmed is good too.’

‘When I was 19, I had an affair with a much older woman who loved receiving oral sex but had extremely long pubic hair which turned me off. I’ve preferred trimmed or bare ever since.’

SHE SAYS

‘I prefer it all off because it makes me feel sexier. But it’s a personal preference. I would never expect any partner to get rid of their pubic hair just to please me.’

‘I prefer no hair. I’ve tried to be all feminist about it and be like ‘all adults have pubic hair’ but the sensation of being bare is much more preferable to me.’

‘These days, mine is natural but trimmed neatly. I kind of think that the Brazilian is a young woman’s realm. As you mature, it becomes too much work.’

‘I’ve died the hair on my head green. As you might guess, I see my pubic hair as a chance for self-expression! I shave it into heart or fox-head shapes, or sometimes whip it all off and decorate the area with temporary tattoos. Makes me smile when I nip to the loo: a party in my pants!’

‘I leave a little at the top, otherwise I feel like a 10-year-old. Hair is there for a reason, it stops bacteria. And bald is creepy on anyone.’

‘Now I’m pregnant I can’t even see it to shave it off so I guess it’s here for a couple more months. My husband loves it.’

‘I’m lasered to within an inch of my life. Not a single hair from the neckdown since about 2003.’

‘I went through a full 70s bush stage through lockdown. It was glorious and so sexy!’ 

But elsewhere – especially under the ‘amateur’ categories – there’s now plenty of trimmed and not-so-trimmed styles in evidence.

The older the woman, the more likely she is to have at least some hair. We tend to trim or remove hair on the actual bikini line, but leave it fuller elsewhere.

A lot of men actually prefer the natural look – only to meet with opposition from their partners.

‘I’d say the majority of blokes want some hair left,’ one professional waxer told me. ‘It’s the women who want it all off.’

One study of 1,000 men found 63 per cent of men prefer females to sport some pubic hair (‘though not much’).

Pubic beauty styles change

There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to treat your pubic hair – it’s all down to individual choice.

Some women don’t like the feel of pubic hair and feel ‘cleaner’ without any. Some don’t care either way, so do whatever their partner prefers.

The truth is though, infections related to pubic hair removal can be serious.

Here’s something else that might make you cancel that waxing appointment: there’s new data that links pubic hair removal with an increased risk of some STIs (herpes and HPV).

Lockdown was something else that might have changed your mind.

Lockdown locks

Beauty salons closed up shop early in the lockdown.

Forced to let their pubic hair grow back, lots of women decided they quite liked it. Single self-isolating women embraced the joy of not having to be ‘sex ready’; all women enjoyed saving money. Shaving, waxing, lasering – it’s all very expensive.

It’s also time-consuming.

When beauty salons re-opened after lockdown, therapists reported a distinctly unenthusiastic demand for waxing appointments. Who can blame us?

Getting rid of hair ‘down there’ frequently hurts and the aftermath isn’t pleasant either: shaving causes irritation, waxing ingrown hairs.

Being hair-free is a hassle and it’s humiliating: you try going on all fours, naked from the waist down, in front of a stranger.

We seem to be in the middle of a pubic hair revolution right now – and I’m loving it!

All hail the mighty bush!

You’ll find Tracey’s new supersex couple kits on lovehoney.co.uk and traceycox.com.  

Pubic hair through the ages 

Egyptian women were the first to consider pubic hair ‘uncivilised’ and removed it as early as 3000BC using copper razors. 

Upper class Roman women in the sixteenth century BC used tweezers, pumice stones and depilatories to become smooth and hair-free.

The Greeks plucked out individual hairs. Needless to say, it was a laborious process which drove some women to burn it off instead.

By the Middle Ages, the pubic hair pendulum had swung the other way: having pubic hair was fashionable again. If not practical.

Pubic lice was a menace, back then, and lots removed their pubes to avoid catching it – then wore a ‘merkin’ to hide their hairlessness (which might hint at promiscuity).

But despite most sculptures and paintings of female nudes appearing to be curiously hair free, female pubic hair was safe from the chop for the next few centuries.

Until fashion spawned the most daring garment ever created for women – the bikini.

The bikini creates ‘the bikini line’

When bikinis became the norm in 1946, women raced to trim any errant, embarrassing pubes.

But when the sexual liberation hit in the sixties and seventies, sporting a full bush and armpit hair was what every self-respecting feminist did.

Natural looking pubic hair showed women were no longer going to be forced into looking a certain way, just to please men.

The ‘seventies bush’ was the sexy symbol of the movement and is still a term used today.

By the 80s and 90s, we’d moved somewhere in between the two: a discreet trim of the pubes became the norm.

I have a huge Helmut Newton print on my wall – the one with four naked women striding confidently towards the camera taken in the 90s – and all the women have hair (albeit manicured). I just checked.

The Brazilian arrives

It wasn’t until 1987 that the infamous Brazilian arrived and changed everything. By the late 90s, celebrities world-wide were confessing to having had one, making it the trend to follow. The fashion at the time – super low-slung jeans – added incentive.

(Asking for a Brazilian means all hair off in some countries; in the UK, they leave a ‘landing strip’. A full ‘Hollywood’ is the Brit term for completely bare.)

Some thought (and lots still think) a completely bare mons is disturbing. Then Carrie Bradshaw got a Brazilian in Sex and The City and we all followed. Me included!

I had a Brazilian for years – until I met my husband.

He recoiled in horror when he saw it: he finds it odd that ‘fashion’ makes adult women want to look like prepubescent girls.

One reason, of course, why men quickly embraced Brazilians and Hollywoods was that they made oral sex ‘easier’ – and it remains one of the top reasons why both women and men remove their pubic hair today.

‘Seriously, who on earth likes having a pubic hair in their mouth?’, was a common sentiment when I asked for opinions on this.

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