Stuff Mom Never Told You

Seeing as pubic hair is my current area of interest, my friends and colleagues hit me up with pubes-related stuff any chance they get.

Most recently, a couple of friends directed my attention to a recent podcast that was produced as part of the Stuff Mom Never Told You series.

For your amusement, this image has been lifted from http://laughoutloud.us/photo/mow-the-pubic-hair-tattoo/

Over the course of a chatty, 20-minute-long podcast called “Why Do Women Remove Their Hair Down There?”, two young-sounding women, Kristin and Molly, talk up the idea of pubic hair removal. They cover all the basics in a very superficial way (though what else are you gonna do in a 20-minute summary?) — from the history of hair removal among women, to citing studies about contemporary hair removal practices. All in all, the piece isn’t particularly critical — mostly, the refer to articles and chat in generalities about pubic hair removal.

If you’re interested in having a listen, go here:

http://podcasts.howstuffworks.com/hsw/podcasts/smnty/2011-07-11-smnty-remove-hair-down-there.mp3?_kip_ipx=598193178-1311179908

One friend who suggested I tune in to the podcast wrote me with some of her concerns about their generalizing. She raised an important question around one of the studies that Molly and Kristin cite near the end of the study. Here’s what my friend wrote:

“They cited one study saying that 18-24 year olds are responsible for most of the hair removal, but talked about them growing out of it or trying different practices when they got older. I thought that it would only be possible to know that if they did a longitudinal study. Instead, I thought that 18-24 year olds could be part of a new standard of pubic hair removal, one that could very well continue as they got older, resulting in completely waxing 50-year-olds in 25-30 years from now. What do you think?”

I think she nails it with her question. I find it hard to believe that a young woman disgusted by her own pubic hair at, say, 18, is suddenly going to come to terms with it at 45.

As part of my research, I interviewed a woman who runs a very popular salon which very much caters to the undergraduate student body here in Kingston. While she did say that the majority of her clients were young women, she said she did have women coming to see her for Brazilian waxes who where in their sixties and seventies. She told me that she didn’t think 60 year old women were coming in to do it because they were seeing it modeled in porn or any such thing. She truly believed they were coming in for waxing because of a desire to want to be “clean.”

The same woman suggested that older women tended to come in for waxing if they were starting new relationships (suggesting a natural tie-in to sexuality), or if they’d be urged to try it at the behest of their daughters.

Obviously, we’ll have to wait to see what the outcome is, but as I’ve written before — there was a time when women didn’t remove armpit and leg hair… and that’s pretty much unheard of in dominant North American culture now. Though anecdotally I’ve heard that pubic hair is “making a comeback” in mainstream pornography, I do find it hard to believe that women will modify their own body practices to reaccept something that many have already dismissed as ‘unclean’.

Anyone got thoughts on this?

 

 

 

 

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  • Amanda

    I think that there might be a chance that women would indeed begin to ‘come to terms’ with their pubic hair (and other aspects of their bodies) later in life. I am a 26 year old, and I am an esthetician by trade. I have had my fair share of young ladies come to the spa/salon for various waxing procedures, and over the years I’ve had many conversations with them about the reasons why they choose to remove their body hair. Many of them, whether they are straight up honest or not, cite reasons that are closely connected to their sexuality or cleanliness. It’s rare that a girl around the age of 15 is going to come through the doors for a bikini wax, unless she has a boy she’s interested in tell her that she should.
    However, I have many more mature clients (40 plus) that come through the doors wanting treatments that are much more related to self care, such as facials, massages and pedicures. When I ask them the reasons, one of the most resounding ones is that they realize more and more as time goes by that they have inherant value as women and that self care is essential to their health and happiness. Essentially, they are comfortable in their own skins, and more likely to come to the spa to ‘just relax’ and to enhance what they already like about their bodies, than to come into the spa to change something that they don’t like (or that society tells them they shouldn’t like).
    Watching my own mother go through the early stages of menopause has enlightened me to the amazing emotional connection between women and their bodies. So often when we are younger, societal messages matter so much more than our own instincts and we are more concerned with conformity than with being content with who we are naturally. I would like to believe that as we age and come to know ourselves better, we start to realize that our own respect for ourselves becomes more important than the pressure of outside influence, whether that be through media, culture, or romantic relationships, etc.

    • Amanda, thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. I love the fact that you talk to your clients about why they are removing their hair! I’m curious about how a generation of women who have (in many cases) grown up seeing pubic hair removal as ‘normal’ are going to adapt as they get older. I wonder if the practice, once normalized, will stick, even as they become more comfortable with their bodies (ie. “this is just what I’ve always done”)? Or whether in becoming more comfortable with their bodies they will, as you suggest, find motivation for their body practices in their own desires and not from outside sources — and in doing so, might give up the intimate grooming practices? That said – I interviewed an esthetician who says she sees an increasing number of older women coming in for brazilians, sometimes encouraged by their daughters. It’s all so fascinating!
      Do you ever see young women coming in for treatments they don’t want, but think they need?

      • Amanda

        Hi Meredith,

        It took me a while to remember to check back on this comment, and I’m happy to see that you replied.
        In response to your comment about this generation seeing pubic hair removal as normal…hmm. That’s a toughy. Even though I have clients of all ages and persuasions coming into the spa for bikini/brazillian waxes, I do see more young women doing it than older. Many more mature women don’t seem to care as much about removing all of their pubic hair, but they would never be caught dead allowing their leg hair to grow. Or possibly underarm hair, arm hair, facial hair, etc. It seems to me that depending on what generation you’re from, you might have different ideas about what areas require what kind/level of grooming.
        Who knows? It seems that whatever was the trend for hair removal and grooming when women were going through adolescence and young adulthood usually sticks when they get older. If you grew up thinking that you should remove hair from your underarms but leg hair was ok, it might stay that way into maturity.
        As for your second question about young people coming in to get treatments they don’t want but think they need: the short answer is no, but I think the long answer is maybe (if that makes sense). Most young women will find a reason to explain their choices in the spa, but many of those reasons are related to other people’s outside views or societal pressures. I might chat with a client about the reason for getting a brazillian and she might say that it makes her feel cleaner, or that it looks better, or that she likes to wear low cut bikini panties etc etc etc, but when examined, those answers are really saying that they are lying on my table because they believe something about themselves that has been fed to them. You don’t just believe removing pubic hair is “cleaner” unless someone told you that. (Too bad too, because the opposite is true!) You don’t believe that you look better without pubic hair unless someone told you that you do. You get my drift.

        You’re right. This whole subject is so complex, and can be viewed from a myriad of angles. I stick to my guns though in hoping that eventually, the women out there that are tearing out their pubic hair because they think they should and not because the actually like to, will realize that we are the way we are for a reason, and it’s not wrong to be natural if you want to be. (It’s also not wrong to remove hair if that’s your desire.)