From a little DIY trim around the bikini line at home to a Brazilian groom, via a French landing strip or a Desert Island, and even a Hollywood front-back-and-sides, ‘intimate waxing’ is a geographical minefield of salon lingo and mysterious sounding options. I’m not just talking for the ladies here either.
This is on my mind because, one evening last week after a nice dinner, I settled down to watch some TV and happened upon Channel Four’s salacious ‘Naked Attraction’. This is the much talked about show where both male and female contestants judge prospective dates by inspecting their naked body parts, section by section: “I don’t like number two’s tits as much as number four’s,” and “I’m a bum person so I’m drawn to number one’s tight buns, but he’s got weird toes.” Sounds awful right? In my opinion, it is.
But I am not here to get into the whys of how such a TV show, in my view, taps into the horrible culture of body shaming. Nor am I going to start proselytising that ‘Naked Attraction’ is a means of physical subjugation under the guise of taking dating back to basics. The channel claims it is novel because they are disrobing contestants of artifice. I say it’s judge-y and shallow, plain and simple.
But for now I just want to zero in on one thing about Naked Attraction.
As in – where were they?
What left me dazed, on encountering all these naked bodies on my television, what set me truly seething, was the severe lack of any contestant ‘au naturel’ or sporting a fuller bush in the lady garden. Those that were not completely bald were barely there – opting for the most minuscule of landing strips. So much for diversity hey. And during the episode I watched, this vajay hair vanishing was reinforced by a little ‘science style factoid’ from the presenter, followed by an infographic stating that 96% of women go the Full-Monty when it comes to intimate grooming. I am sorry but this researcher with a doctorate wanted to cry out at the TV, “Nonsense Channel Four! Based on what study exactly!?” I’d like to know what the methodology was, because this didn’t sound at all right to me.
Over following few days, I then set about my own rigorous investigation based on desk research and a depth interview method: basically phoning/texting friends that I needed to speak with them urgently about their pubes. “Hi, yeah it’s me, sorry I haven’t rung for a while. How you doing? Do you shave your bush and if so what’s your signature look?”
Let me now be clear about something important; What you do with your lady garden is an individual thing: your business and nobody else’s. And however you want to look, what ever your preferred appearance, as long as it is your choice and not somebody else’s – then all power to you. If you think totally bare is on fleek or a heart-shape is snatched (loving my own pun!), then I’m on your side. But I’d like us to think a little more pro-pube if possible and consider carefully some of the medical and socio-cultural implications of continuous hair removal.
I worry young women feel pressure to shave, laser or wax all their hair off, because of the influence of porn and the unrealistic expectations and misconceptions this brings. That is to say, body grooming and the beautification of ‘down below’ may be linked to a manufactured and warped ideal of gender and body norms. My big issue is children and pre-pubescents have smooth and hairless skin, whereas adult women do not. I am not saying all porn is bad, but not a lot of hair is featured in contemporary porn. Thing is – we know: adults have pubic hair, so we need to make sure young women today don’t come to believe pubic hair is wrong or shameful or that they feel under pressure to be bare-haired and perpetuate the fetishisation of youth.
According to Danielle Miller in an article for The Huffington Post beauty professionals claim “ Girls as young as 14 are asking for Brazilian waxes”.
For at the really seedy, dark end of this debate – what’s going on is an adult aesthetic that basically imitates a child’s body, and that is disturbing and wrong. Shame on Channel Four for normalizing this.
Just as disturbing is the relationship between continuous full hair removal and the idea of a ‘designer vagina’. There are definite parallels between the trend for full hair removal, thereby exposing more of the genitals and ‘cosmetic genitoplasty’ and ‘vaginal rejuvenation’, such as altering and reducing the shape of the labia. As far back as 2007, in the British Journal of General Practice this issue was already being highlighted. Mike Fitzpatrick stated, “According to a recent BMJ review, the number of such operations carried out on the NHS has doubled in the past 5 years and, having encountered two requests for such referrals in my surgery, I can confirm that demand appears to be growing.” And a 2013 British report found the number of labial reductions on girls and women done by the National Health Service had increased fivefold over 10 years. Ouch!
Pubic hair is good for you. When I was researching this post, I also read several newspaper articles and medical studies about the increase of cases of young people with unpleasant conditions in their pubic region: folliculitis, streptococcus, infected shaving abrasions, allergic reactions to creams or new intimate oil products, and painful ingrowing hairs – linked to grooming. However, even more troubling is medical studies show certain STIs, such as Chlamydia, are on the increase too. Chlamydia is sexually transmitted and bacterial infection so wearing a condom can help prevent it being transmitted from sexual partner, but pubic hair provides a cushion against unwanted pathogens which are the micro-organisms that carry disease. Pubic hair protects the area where there is delicate skin and the fragile membrane where viruses and bacteria enter the body. The hair is there for a reason folks, let us conclude with that thought!