Vagina dialogue 5

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Making money on women’s bodies is not reserved for pimps. The beauty industry has been doing so for years.  The method is simple: make us insecure, then we buy products. Beauty is a multimillion-dollar enterprise. It makes money by ostensibly improving women’s bodies. Of course to improve, we have to believe we need improvement. Corsets  “improved” our waistlines but cramped our breathing, douches reduced veginal smells, and killed good bacteria and some of the alluring pheromones. Will grooming salons continue to proliferate like nail salons, where women pay a fortune to have glamorous nails polished by attractive young women, often immigrants, working in poor conditions, underpaid and exploited by the owner? The latest trend is ridding ourselves of pubic hair. Will salons appear in the Caribbean that specialise in cornrows for the pubis? Beads and all? A spokesman for the British Association of Dermatologists commented on the potential risks of cornrows on the head: “Some of these hairstyles might be fashionable, but they can lead to permanent hair loss, which is difficult to cover up and can have a huge impact on a person’s confidence.”  

Would women want these supposed beautification methods to cause loss of their pubic hair, such a central feature of our sexuality and ability to arouse our partners?

According to, Sutter Health Palo Alto Medical Foundation (Nancy Brown, October 2013),  “pubic shaving actually originated in ancient Egypt and Greece when prostitutes had to shave for both hygienic reasons and as a clear sign of their profession. Although female body shaving was established as the norm between 1915 and 1945, pubic hair removal did not gain a strong foothold until the 1980’s.  In part, this was due to a trend in the porn industry where it was common for women to shave the pubic area. As pornography has become more accepted in the general public, more women have mimicked what they have seen. In this way, pubic hair shaving has become mainstream. Also, bikini bathing suits began to reveal more of the pubic area in the 1970’s and 1980’s. With this trend came increased pressure to avoid revealing pubic hair by removing it. Shaving the pubic area has become much more common, even desirable, among teenagers and young adults. Although shaving may be becoming the social norm, that does not mean you should do it.”  

According to Psychology Today, “in ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Indian art, some female nudes sport trimmed or shaved pubic hair.  In Renaissance Italian art, female nudes were often depicted bald between the legs, but the art of the same era in Northern Europe shows full bushes.  We don’t know whether the Italian artists reproduced what they saw or indulged in artistic license.”  

A generation ago  thought pubic hair was sexy, arousing, a fuzzy, welcoming, and luscious gateway to our warm, wet inside. What man ever envisioned braided, bleached, or beaded pubic hair on his beloved?  I suppose shaving is better than bleaching or curling pubic hair, though we are not sure. The real question is  why improve upon nature in this area? Why become hard and scratchy instead of soft and bushy? What would an aroused lover want in that most sacred and alluring part of our bodies? According to  The Journal of American Medicine ,  62% of a cross-cultural sample of American women prefer to go bare down there and 84% did some “grooming“ of their privates. Fifty-nine percent do it to feel better about themselves, and  21 percent to please their sexual partner.

According to Metro UK, surveyed 5,000 men about what they find attractive when it comes to women’s pubic hair (quelle surprise!), and found that 41 percent of respondents like it totally bare down there and 38 percent like to see a well-groomed bush. However, a whopping 85 percent would date a woman who doesn’t shave or groom her pubis.  

What about the safety of shaving? Gynecologists say: “Pubic hair functions as a protective cushion for sensitive skin, and has its own hygienic purpose, trapping bacteria and preventing them from entering the vaginal opening. Prepubertal girls have a higher incidence of irritation because they don’t have that protection,” Dr. Gunter

Is this just another one of the tortures of the damned reserved for women? Many of us older folks had experience with clean shaves when we were shorn during labor.  Did we really need that intrusion while we were laboring away?  Evidently not, because US obstetricians eventually noticed that billions of babies are born straight through the bush.  It helps that women’s health activists complained and asked for data showing the benefits. The downside, pardon the pun, was major annoyance when one needed comfort; weeks of postpartum itching when one wore a sanitary pad big enough to serve as a mattress for a family of mice.

According to Psychology Today, consistent with the pubic hair fashions in ancient societies described above, 21 percent of young women between 18 and 24 are bald, no pubic hair at all. Psychology Today Even women, or should we call them girls, who have just entered puberty. Somehow they are convinced their vagina needs cleaning.  Now the doctors have debunked regular douching as unhealthy as it changes the natural flora in the vagina, we  guess the beauty industry needed to create a new income stream.

Besides all the razor blades and shaving cream sold, this activity costs time and money.  Beauty salons make mega bucks on the hair that is  waxed or threaded. Threading is an ancient hair removal method still practiced in countries in the Middle East and Asia. Some say it is a painless,   quick, and cost-effective ways of removing hair. Some girls and women have turned to threading for removal of pubic hair. The technique is quite simple and if done well is pain free.But, of course it isn’t always done perfectly!  While similar to plucking and tweezing, it may be preferable because of the ease in removing hair in clean straight lines.

OMG the pain having your hair pulled out!  We all want to look our best but not at the risk of ruining our health. The cult of thinness led to anorexia. We had to look like little girls. Personally I’m proud of my womanhood, Men who like to sleep with girls are called pedoohiles. If you are one of those 22% who are shaving for your lover, forget it, maybe if you refuse to cater to this whim he or she will be responsive to your sexual desires.  As for hygiene,forget it. Dr. Rowen, an Assistant Professor at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, is concerned about the prevalence of grooming both because of a spate of health problems linked to it, and because of what it may suggest about women’s self-image.She and other doctors have seen grooming-related cases of folliculitis, abscesses, lacerations, allergic reactions to waxing burns, as well as vulvar and vaginal infections. One study has noted that 3 percent of emergency room visits for genitourinary trauma are a result of grooming.

We all want to look attractive, but let’s not do it at the expense of being our real selves. According to an article in the The  British Journal of Medicine (June 2006) by Armstrong and Wilson, anecdotal experience in their clinic suggests a reduction in cases of pubic lice coinciding with extensive use of pubic hair removal procedures such as “the Brazilian,”  despite increased prevalence of chlamydia and gonorrhea during the same period.

So there are aesthetic, sexual, and health implications of “going bare” that are all part of the equation as you think about this option, albeit one that originated with prostitutes and porn stars. These women may know a lot about sexuality, but they may or may not be the ones you want to emulate as you go for truly deep, enduring passion. As for fashion, don’t prostitute yourself. Decide what feels right for you and enhances your self-image. That way, your “hairstyle”’ will be in fashion and create passion.  

Share your thoughts below.

Dr. Ruth Nemzoff and Ellen Offner

Dr. Ruth Nemzoff is a resident scholar at Brandeis University's Women's Studies Research Center. She lectures on parenting adult children, relationships and family dynamics. She is the mother of four adult children, four in-law children, and grandmother of ten. She lives in Brookline, MA with her husband whom she's been married to for over 50 years. She is author of two books, Don't Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children and of Don't Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws Into Family.  Ellen Offner is a health care consultant living in Newton, MA, outside of Boston. She has two adult children, two children-in-law, and four delightful grandchildren. Her avocation, with her husband Arnie, is travel and photography. They have explored many parts of the world and offer valuable tips to other travelers. Ruth and Ellen, both 75 years of age, met in college over 50 years ago.

  1. I think that bare pubic areas in adults are a further sign of a sick society. Who naturally has no pubic hair? Children. Either the person with bare pubes doesn’t want to grow up or if the partner has the predeliction for a partner with bare pubes, then maybe they are closet paedophiles!

  2. Im a man (Obviously) and I also shave. I have for many years and will for many more.
    I find it much more enjoyable and are active in both sexes.

    1 REPLY
  3. We humans have hair naturally growing on so many parts of our body for good reason.
    If you remove it, you will pay for it in more ways than one.
    Humans will never improve on nature.
    Leave your hair alone.

  4. Each to his / her own on the pubic debate. I am opposed to some of the nail salons. I have been to a few, only to have them talk to others in another language in front of me (very rude !!) while using nail files and other equipment that has not only been used on other peoples nails, but, not been sterilized either. The other thing they insist on is CASH !! Why ?? We all know, to avoid tax !!

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