500 Words on Pubic Hair

Words by Kelly MurphyImage by Zoraida Palencia

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Pubes are a touchy subject. Mostly because they’ve developed this stigma where no one seems to want to touch them. Not since e.e. cummings’ “shocking fuzz of your electric fur” reference in “i like my body” can I recall a publicly embraced glorification of female pubic hair (but please correct me if I’m wrong). Sure, Vogue loves a thick eyebrow for the androgynous edge it lends. Let your leg hair linger all winter long? You go, girl, chant all the women in the locker room. Yet stepping onto the beach with even a smattering of bikini line stubble is still unacceptable. 

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The othering of the hairy groin has gone so far that pubic hair has its own category on most porn sites. It’s a “fetish,” grouped with golden showers and sex in Smurf costumes. With this association comes the perception that au naturale ladies are unclean, perverse, and masculine without the cache. You guys, think about this. We (the universal “we,” not just men or women) are championing the notion that by shaving, plucking, or ripping the hair off of the most sensitive part of the body, a woman is revealing her sex appeal, or at the very least, she’s doing what’s necessary to make her body presentable in public.

That’s crazy.

I’d like to take a moment here to write a quick note on health risks. We all know and ignore the prospect of ingrown hairs and permanent scarring that come with any hair removal technique. Whatever. But according to a March 2013 article in The Huffington Post, doctors blame the standard bikini wax for increased risk of skin infections and STIs, including HPV and HIV. Hiding under that baby smooth surface are microscopic torn follicle roots that allow infection to spread more easily during contact. I’m not trying to be alarmist here, I just want to keep my girls informed.

Isn’t feminism about freedom of choice? We’ve made so many strides in taking back what’s ours. We’re committed to controlling our own bank accounts, wombs, career paths, orgasms. Female pubic hair is not inherently gross, but we’ve let culture determine that’s there’s something lurking in those wiry little wisps that makes girls a little less girlish.

Post-shave, I don’t feel more attractive. I don’t feel more prepared to face the day, the boy, the pool, or the booty shorts. I feel itchy. We in Western society have the power to reverse this widespread and fairly recent disapproval of the full bush. Fifteenth century British custom including wearing pubic hair wigs to seduce suitors. Nineteenth century Victorian society saw a fad in which men would wear a lock of their lover’s hair in their hats as a token of affection.

It will not disrupt your cunnilingus and it won’t devalue your Agent Provocateur G-string.

I’m not sure that this is a rant. This is more of plea. Please, men and women and everyone in between, stop the war on the hair down there. It’s time to just not give a shit.