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I’ve pondered this question before, of course: what is it that men think when it comes to women’s pubic hair? Because from what I’ve heard after talking to a lot of younger women, many remove their pubic hair because they understand it’s what the men they sleep with like. Of course, generalizing is never hugely productive, but many of my conversations have gone like this:

Female Interview Subject (aged 19): “I think… guys prefer no hair… or at least the majority of my friends who are guys.”

Me: “how do you know that?”

FIS: “You ask them. Or, like, I’d say, ‘I’m going to get my va-jay-jay waxed today, what are you doing?”

Friend of FIS: She’s so open! It’s so easy for her to get information like that!

Me: And what do they say to that?

FIS: They’re like…’oh, cool.’ It’s chill. But if I ask them, they say it’s better without hair.

FoFIS: You have a lot of (girl) friends – do they all get waxed, too?

FIS: yeah, I think they do.

Guys: please write and let me know what your preferences are when it comes to pubic hair. How did you develop these preferences?

I was interested to come upon this article online this morning, when I was vaguely trolling around in search of interesting pubic-fodder for consideration.

Posted a couple of years ago on the website Your Tango: Smart Talk About Love, the article is called Male Perspective: Women, Grow Out Your Pubic Hair. Though the author, John DeVore, doesn’t divulge his age, he does (with humour and eloquence) tell us about his preferences when it comes to women’s intimate bits.

His is a plea for women to re-embrace their natural selves in a world that he fears would sooner have us become a “hairless race of squeaky smooth dolphin people.”

I think his point here is interesting:

“it’s not just the weird underage girl thing; aesthetically, a hairless hoo-ha is kind of antiseptic. It doesn’t look … human. The vagina almost becomes like an object, and that’s just not any fun. Sex is not an à la carte buffet of different body parts, and I know dudes who are obsessed with the physical appearance of the nanny. It’s a strange fetish, since how it feels is more important to me than how it looks.”

It’s a point worth considering, since many would argue that pornography has acclimatized us, culturally, to appreciate the body in turn-on-able pieces chunks (something women have been guilting of doing — reducing our bodies to a collection of parts, mostly flawed — for ages).

Naturally, the comments in response to this article are great — from men defensively defending their right to prefer things hairless (almost as if they hadn’t got the point of DeVore’s article at all), to this right-on comment from a female reader:

I love this guy!!!! 

One thing I can’t understand is a generation of women that is supposed to be so sexually liberated and free would let themselves be pushed into getting rid of pubic hair. It’s part of your sexuality. It’s there to attract attention to your genitals. It protects you. It hurts to get rid of it. There are health risks to your genitals from waxing.

I know there are some women who want to be hairless, but I suspect most are just doing it to look nice for your boyfriends. We’re humans and we’re animals. We have hair.





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I just wanted to draw your attention to a piece of commentary in Monday’s edition of British newspaper, The Independent. Written by Mary Ann Sieghart, the article is entitled “Time to overturn the tyranny of porn”. In it, she raises all kinds of important points, like why Christine Lagarde, the new head of the IMF, is being judged for her ‘sexiness’ in the media.

As Sieghard rightly points out:

“it’s no longer enough to be successful in your chosen field: to be a good lawyer or economist or minister. You are expected to look gorgeous too. Yet who would ever expect the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to be sexy (let alone the sexiest man in the world)? Or the head of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick?”

She later goes on to consider the influence that porn in having on all of us — and gets specific in the demands it has placed on women’s fashion and body practices:

High heels stop you running for a bus. They stop you running from danger. You can’t stride out in them; indeed, you can’t even keep up with the man you’re walking alongside. In a word, they make you submissive – just as having a Brazilian makes you look like a submissive pre-teen or willing porn actress.

See the pattern? These trends are sold to us, in a hideously Orwellian fashion, as “empowering”. No, it’s not empowering to be hobbled by excruciating heels. Nor is it empowering to be encouraged to dance suggestively with a pole. It’s tacky, it’s tarty, it’s undignified and it’s wholly inappropriate unless you’ve embarked on a career as a prostitute.

This seeping of sex, and a particular type of porn-inspired plastic sex, into ordinary life is really debilitating for women. I never thought I’d sound like Mary Whitehouse – God knows I loathed her prudishness when I was growing up – but sex should be a beautiful, loving, private, natural, exciting thing between two grown-up people, not an arid, artificial, commodified, public and frankly pervy pressure on the way women are supposed to look even to men for whom they have no desire.

The whole article is definitely worth a read, if you’ve got a few minutes.

Get it here:

While you’re at it, I’d also recommend scrolling down to read some of the comments. These comments, posted by rt356 particularly caught my attention:

I’m 20 and every single man (excepting one) I’ve either had sex with or discussed this with (mostly in a situation similar to this, debating feminism etc) has flat out said they wouldn’t have sex with a woman who didn’t wax/shave down there. So it’s definitely a generational thing, given that the men I generally come into contact with are under 30, and have mostly grown up watching porn, anything else seems ‘weird’ or (as is often incorrectly assumed) ‘unhygienic’. Some have even admitted if they see pubic hair on a woman then they find it impossible to get in the mood.

Her comments kind of blow my mind, but then I’ve heard similar things anecdotally. These are strange times, indeed…






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So I’ve been thinking about porn again… and yeah, not in that way. I’ve been thinking again about the influence that porn is having on our sexuality in a post-internet (PI?) age. I’m not the first person who has suggested that there’s a close connection between normalized pubic hair removal among young women (and, increasingly, young men) and the fact that the the generation of people coming of age now are doing so with easy access to online pornography (where the bodies on display are, generally, sans-hair).

The stuff I’m hearing anecdotally seems to back up connection between pubic hair removal and the social glorification of the porn star. I recently spoke with a beautiful young 19-year old who talked at-length about her own grooming practices which she seemed to perform against a backdrop of profound body-hatred. Sexually active, she made unabashed comments about the fact that keeping her nether regions waxed made her feel “like a porn star.”

She later told me that her first boyfriend (and sexual partner) watched a lot of porn. “He just said he likes it better with no hair,” she said about his own expectations for her body, never conclusively drawing a connection between his love of on-line porn and what he expected his own sexual partners to look like. Though he never explicitly told the girl she had to be hairless, she understood what was expected of her.

“And then whenever I didn’t (wax), I thought… or I would feel like… oh, so he doesn’t like me, you know what I mean?” she told me, frankly. “And that was the first (sexual experience). So that’s maybe why I like it (now).”

Though she’d never been asked to think about her own body practices critically, she then made the wise observation that perhaps she’d internalized his expectations for her body and now believed she preferred her own body when completely hairless. She couldn’t otherwise explain it.

Porn is powerful – and pervasive. And it’s affecting us all more than we probably notice. So it’s worth talking/thinking about, I think.

Naomi Wolf recently published an article on the Aljazerra website called “Is Pornography Driving Men Crazy?”, where she muses about whether the widespread ability and consumption of porn in recent might actually be rewiring the male brain when it comes to sex.

(Interestingly, many of the young women I’ve spoken with don’t like pornography — or at least the mainstream stuff — but are afraid to acknowledge it for fear they might be seen as prudish or uptight. Liking porn, it seems, is cool, even when many young women say it makes them feel uncomfortable, insecure and alinenated).

And if you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend watching this brief video of a talk by advertising consultant Cindy Gallop. Fearlessly frank (and, it’s important to note, pro-porn), Gallop talks engagingly about the “creeping ubiquity of hardcore pornography” into pop culture and how it’s impacting our sexuality (especially young people):

In a bid to counter some of the pervasive porn-ideas that are impacting human sexuality today, Gallop has started a website she calls Make Love Not Porn. Here’s an example from it:

This page (in case you can’t read it) says:

“Porn World: Women Have No Hair Down There/ Real World: Some women shave, some women don’t. Some men actively prefer women to keep their hair. If you do shave, it requires constant maintenance, which can be a pain in the…Entirely up to personal choice.”



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If you haven’t already seen it, urge you to seek out an article that ran on the Huffington Post website yesterday.

Called “Looking Through the Bushes: The Disappearance of Pubic Hair”, the article is written by Roger Friedland, a Professor of Religion and Cultural Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

It’s probably one of the smartest pieces of journalism I’ve read on the topic of pubic hair removal in some time (and trust me folks – I read a lot of it).

Friedland introduces us to the issue of pubic hair’s “gone missing” status on women by recounting a conversation with a friend. The friend’s “good-looking, sexually-active son” has never seen pubic hair.

“Snatch,” the friend replies. “It’s like a princess phone. He sleeps with girls all the time. He’s never seen a woman’s pubic hair.”

In his introduction, Friedland muses that the disappearance of pubic hair “tells us something about womanhood, the state of love, the human and the relation of body and soul.” He then continues, brilliantly articulating the crux of the issue:

“Pubic practices are rites by which we construct who we know ourselves to be. What are they telling us?”

Over the course of the article, Friedland then explores some really important issues around the removal of pubic hair. Because he has spent a lot of time researching and writing around what I can only describe as “the hook up scene” among a generation of young, sexually active people, he has some insights into the issue of pubic hair removal that are new to me.

Most significantly, Friedland writes, hairless genitals on women are a symbolic indication of sexual readiness (an issue of prime importance in a sexually charged, one-night-stand driven culture).

I know I’ve written about the link between our ready access to online pornography and the absence of pubic hair on a generation of young women before – but Friedland adds to the conversation so eloquently:

American women are, in fact, striking a pornographic pose, one that first appeared in the hard-core porn films that have increasingly shaped the sexual imagination of legions of young men. The eye of the hard-core porn camera hovers over female body parts; it’s a visual excess of physical acts with a minimum of sentiment. It is not a love story. Porn displays pubeless bodies to emphasize the organs — the female genital slit (and the erect male shaft) — and thereby defines the standard of erotic desirability. As nether hair disappeared on screen guys increasingly wanted sex with girls who looked like the porn stars they’d fantasized about. They asked and women struck the pose.

He touches on the chronology of pubic hair removal in porn (starting in Penthouse magazine in 1970) and creeping more regularly into mainstream images by the 1980s.

Friedland also describes the connection between the eroticization of young female bodies and the rise of the feminist movement in the 1970s:

Two things happened just before the pubic hair disappeared. The timing is not arbitrary. I will reverse the sequence. In the 1970’s the female teen body became an erotic fetish. In 1974 Larry Flynt began publishing Barely Legal, with frontal shots of eighteen year-old girls. In 1976, an underage Jodie Foster played a 12-year-old prostitute in Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver; in 1978, Brooke Shields did the same in Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby. Both were underage when they played these parts.

As feminism encouraged women to avoid being the object of gaze while triumphantly embracing their body hair, “the female teen fetish went mainstream.” As Friedland writes, “this eroticization of young girls recaptured the pure feminine, the subordinate, hairless virginal female against whom a man was clearly a man.”

We often hear that we are now living in a “post-feminist” era, where young women are (theoretically) reaping the benefits of (ahem) living in a free and equal society (cough). One of the ways it sometimes plays out is through a recently modified script, where young women seek casual sex rather than eternally looking for love and babies. Friedland suggests that it is the Brazilian wax that becomes part of this “new erotic repertoire, a perpetual reminder that you are always ready for action.”

(Interested in reading more about hook-up culture? Try “Hook-up Culture’s Bad Rap,” a smart article by Kate Harding that was on last year)

Clearly I should stop writing and you should all turn to Friedland’s article ASAP. Before I do, however, let me leave you with one of the most spot-on sentences (describing the hygiene issue around women and oral sex) I have read in a long time:

“Hairlessness, like the vaginal mint, advertises that a vagina has been purified for male taste.”

Thanks, Roger Friedland, for getting it so right. (Now we just have to figure out how to fix things…)


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I’ve been getting some great feedback from readers lately. A lot of it is positive, and I’m grateful for that. A small amount, however, has been critical. In fact, I recently found some comments posted on an online forum that were downright mean.

The comments were in response to a talk I gave at Sarah Lawrence College back in March.  What was most frustrating was that the comments didn’t seem directed at my work — they seemed intent on attacking the fact that I had introduced my talk (a light way to get into the topic and engage listeners) by saying that I really hadn’t realized, before beginning my research, that pubic hair removal had become so widespread among young women. The (male) writer said he found it troubling that a “cultural historian” could be so “out of touch with culture”.

Though he didn’t address my main arguments, his posting implied that I was laughably out of it. Everyone, he suggested, knows that pubic hair removal has gone mainstream. I’ll admit that I felt, momentarily, pretty dumb.

But here’s what I have since come to realize.

Not everyone knows about the mainstreaming of pubic hair removal. I have met scores of smart, educated women horrified to learn (as I was) that this is the case. If you aren’t a regular consumer of pornography, have been married for more than a decade, or you have better things to do with your time than watch Sex In The City (circa 2004), then it is entirely possible that you didn’t get the pubic hair memo.

But what I think it highlights (more than the mere issue of what women do when it comes to intimate grooming) is the real disconnect that is happening among generations of women.

Obviously, it is the second wave feminists I speak with who are most horrified by what they see as intensified body control for women. They see the trend as being in opposition of everything they fought for.

Increased amounts of body control do not a liberated woman make.

Naturally, the women coming of age today have different ideas about what equality means. More than a few times I’ve heard young women argue that the women’s movement earned them the right to do as they choose with their bodies — so that’s what they’re doing (and old ladies should quit whining about it – they’re obviously out of touch).

(Just as an aside: I recently heard about a class of third year female sociology students who, straight-faced, told their instructor that we didn’t need feminism anymore since women already have the vote).

The conversation reminds me of an article by Susan Faludi than ran in the October 2010 edition of Harper’s magazine. The article, called “American Electra: Feminism’s ritual matricide” explores feminism’s struggle to make gains between generations.

As Faludi writes:

“while American feminism has long, and productively, concentrated on getting men to give women some of the power they used to give only to their sons, it hasn’t figured out how to pass power down from woman to woman, to bequeath authority to its progeny. Its inability to conceive of a succession has crippled women’s progress not just within the women’s movement but in every venue of American public life. The women’s movement cycled through a long first “wave,” and, in increasingly shorter oscillations, a second and third wave, and some say we are now witnessing a fourth. With each go-round, women make gains, but the movement never seems able to establish an enduring birthright, a secure line of descent—to reproduce itself as a strong and sturdy force. At the core of America’s most fruitful political movement resides a perpetual barrenness.”

Here’s a link to part of the article (you’ll have to pay or visit your local library if you want to read the whole thing):

I recently had an email from a reader who seemed to sum up this predicament perfectly. The mother of two grown daughters, she wrote: “my daughters are waxers, and I can’t figure out where I went wrong.”

Pubic hair, it seems to me, is standing in here for a much larger divide between generations.  A yawning chasm between generations of women summed up in a tidy pile of short and curlies.

More soon.




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So today I’d like to draw your attention to a little website called ‘Guess Her Muff’. The object of the site is this: post a picture of a woman fully clothed, and then get people to try and guess what her pubic hair is like. The answer comes as a nude photo of the woman who just moments ago was depicted with all her clothes on.

Want to check it out for yourself? (Get your shot glasses lined up!)

Here’s the link:

(WARNING: This site is definitely adult-only content. Don’t have a look if you’re at work!)

Most of what there is to say about this is pretty damn obvious. Firstly, there’s the whole girl-next-door-as-drinking-game thing. Then there are all kinds of questions: have these women deliberately posed for these photographs? If they have, why? What’s in it for them?

This blog also keeps tabs on what’s being offered up in its ‘Muffs Documented’ count. Here’s the current breakdown (shaved comes out on top with 831 images):

It’s probably no coincidence, then, that “shaved bald” comes in as the top answer in the “What’s Your Favourite Style” question (which I presume is being asked of male viewers)  Interestingly, however,  ‘Natural’ comes in second. Here’s the breakdown there:

23632 (24%)
14034 (14%)
4594 (4%)
Landing Strip
12090 (12%)
10295 (10%)
Shaved Bald
32946 (33%)


Um… that’s probably all I need to say today.







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So yesterday a porn star by the name of Stoya posted this on Twitter:

“If you think pubic hair on a woman is unnatural or weird, you aren’t mature enough to be touching vaginas”. #FootIsDown #YeahIJustWentThere

With 46,415 followers, Stoya’s comments were heard loud and clear. While that message was re-tweeted a whack of times, Stoya soon found herself having to follow-up her initial comment.

For example, @Scoobydobydooo replied with the following:

“@stoya didn’t you said you personally prefer it bald. but let it grow if there is a shoot 🙂 ”

To which Stoya replied:

“@scoobydobydooo Yes, but that lack of hair is an unnatural choice I make.”

Responses to others went like this:

“@Rugger_Daddy As long as you realize that the removal of the hair is an unnatural thing, it’s preference, not asshole-ry.”

You get the idea.

She then sent this Tweet, directing people to her blog:

“Because the internet is my own personal soapbox and the pubic hair discussion required more than 140 characters”

Here’s a link to her blog post:

You can have a read for yourself, but the long and short of it is this: While Stoya writes about going in to a salon to have certain bits of her pubic hair permanently removed, she is very clear about the fact that she wants to keep the bulk of it. As she writes, “personally, I like to have options with my bush.”

I particularly liked this bit:

“Maybe I’m just a bit snappier or more short-tempered this week than usual, but I reacted very negatively to what I perceived as a lack of appreciation for pussies in their natural state.”

and then:“I just want everyone in the world to know that twats are incredibly varied and all wonderful, and I have intensely negative emotional reactions when I see anything that seems like vulva judgment.”

I think this conversation is really interesting, considering it comes from a woman who makes her living (and has garnered vast amounts of fame) appearing in adult films. Porn is, after all, one of the influences I see as having an impact on this normalizing of hairlessness.

So to have a well-regarded porn star celebrating pubic hair is… well…kinda exciting.

I can’t help but ad that as enlightening as Stoya’s comments are, the Twittersphere (is that what it’s called?) is full of people with opinions about pubic hair. Most of them go like this:

-from @_LadyTaylor: “Women should not have pubic hair. It’s gross.”

-from @erin023: “I actually have a vagina and pubic hair still grosses me out. It’s all personal preference.”

-from @AimanJacheem: “OMFG! That chick said she didn’t shave her pubic hair for 10 weeks! HAHAHA!”

Oh, and one last word from Stoya, who, evidently, has a history of bad luck with salons:



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hi readers-

I’m so grateful so many of you are reading and commenting. I’m also thrilled by how many are re-posting my writing on Facebook using the ‘like’ button (though somehow I just messed everything up and now the evidence of those many ‘likes’ seems to have vanished from the end of each post. I’m still tweaking the technical bugs – thanks for your patience).

So here’s where I want to go with things today: I’m going to keep to the generalizations as I get ramped up. My hope is to get into individual interviews and more pop-cultural and critical looks at things as I go — but we’re just warming up.

A few thoughts for today:

It probably isn’t news to any of us that gender is performed — and that femininity is usually created in opposition to masculinity (I’m writing this in a university library where I am seeing it play out all around me). When it comes to mainstream definitions of men and women, we often play things out in opposition to one another.

So, where the masculine body  is naturally hairy, the feminine body should always appear smooth and hairless. Where rugged men wear five o’clock shadow, well kept women are plucked and bleached. Male hair is short and utilitarian, his skin is rough, and his face natural and unadorned. Being ‘feminine’ means wearing make-up and having high maintenance hair. The female body left untamed is, as a matter of course in our society today, unacceptable — or at the very least, sort of weird and pitiable.

(That’s not, of course, to say that men aren’t being targeted in new and creative ways by the fashion and beauty industry — but the notion of the man who is overly concerned with grooming is still more often than not seen as a little suspect. With women, it’s the opposite — she who is fails to pay sufficient attention to her beauty regiment is the problem. Men also tend not to monitor one another in the same way that women do).

But here’s where we go back into the pubic hair question:

Whereas other parts of the female body have always been up for public scrutiny, until recently what you did with your hair-down-there was between you and whoever got to see you naked. By setting standards for how it should be tended we’re declaring (to young, heterosexual women in particular — at least because that’s where my attention is focused right now) that there are right ways and wrong ways to groom oneself.

Get it right (with time, money, effort and pain) and you’ll be able to walk around feeling sexy, confident and in-control. Get it wrong…and you may as well dress yourself in paper bags and give up washing your hair — because you probably won’t be having sex anytime soon.

I think the reasons for the normalization of pubic hair removal are complicated. While it’s easy to make generalizations about how pubic hair removal keeps grown women looking child-like in a culture that fetishizes youth (and more than a few people have addressed this issue in their comments and to me, off-line), I think the reasons are inherently more complicated than that.

It could have, as I have suggested, something to do with our love of good hygiene. Pubic hair’s role, of course, is to help keep the genitals protected while giving those mysterious phermones a place to hang out — and some have argued that modern day living (and regular showering) makes it redundant now anyway.

But one of the most cited influences for the new hairlessness is pornography — which is having a profound impact on all of us, whether we watch it or not. The internet makes even the most hard-core material available to any of us, whenever we want it, in the comfort (and privacy) of our own homes.

In her 2005 book, Pornified, Pamela Paul writes that the average age for first encountering pornography on-line is now eleven years old. (And she was referencing 1995 statistics, so it’s quite likely that kids are even younger than that, these days).

For many children, what they encounter online — where the mainstream stuff (again, I’m going to generalize) is often horrifically degrading to women — becomes the basis for their sexual education, setting the bar for what’s ‘normal’: particularly for what sex looks like, and how women are supposed to look and behave.

And it is pornography, it seems, that first normalized the removal of pubic hair. In her essay “Clean Porn: the Visual Aesthetics of Hygiene, Hot Sex and Hair Removal,” writer and academic Susann Cokal describes how the smaller screens associated with at-home consumption have impacted body practices in pornography: getting rid of pubic hair improved visibility and helped foster intimacy with viewers.

So it’s not surprising that a generation of young men and women raised with hard-core porn think pubic hair is gross. It’s now so unusual in mainstream porn that it has spawned its own fetish: “hairy women.”

But in a culture where we’re all supposedly trying to increase our “erotic capital” (a term coined by the academic Catherine Hakim), emulating what is seen on-screen becomes completely understandable. Women — particularly young women — today are not only expected to be beautiful, but to be ‘hot’ (as in sexually desireable). And there’s nothing ‘hotter’ than looking like a porn-star, right?

Of course, the women coming of age now have been raised in the era of ‘girl power’ — a clever “post-feminist” capitalist ploy where being scantily clad and objectified is now your choice. It’s empowering! Ariel Levy’s 2005 book Female Chauvinist Pigs sums it up well by describing young women embracing ‘raunch culture’ and things that were once the exclusive domain of men — like porn — in the name of equality. The problem for women, of course, is that it ends up looking like the same old objectification.  When it comes to sexuality, young women are still having to be more concerned with how they look and act, than with how they feel.

I met a young woman recently who took issue with my research, defiantly defending her right to wax away her pubic hair (which, to be clear, I was not attacking – merely questioning). “What about oral sex?” she asked me defensively, suggesting that an unwaxed woman might be a less worthy recipient. In a social climate where blow-jobs are now first-base material, I’m worried about what we’re telling young women about sex: men are entitled to oral sex (now handed out at parties like a party trick) — but for women to be recipients, their intimate grooming must be up to code.

So again, I want to reiterate that I am not opposed to women doing things that make them feel good.  What I’m worried about women feeling obliged to do things that they may not want to do, but where they may not feel that they have a whole lot of choice. And that’s what I’m looking at with my research.

Instead of embracing our bodies as they are, women are being sold products and expensive services in a bid to make their ‘lady bits’ more appealing — but to whom? and why? And when a woman, for example, chooses to have herself ‘vajazzled’ (yep- that’s when you have your pubic hair waxed off, only have to have it replaced by glued on crystals, a practice made famous by actress Jennifer Love Hewitt) who is she doing it FOR?

I don’t necessarily have the answers, but I’m certainly doing my best to find out over the course of this research.

Obviously, fashion goes in waves — but I am still waiting for the day when leg and armpit hair come back in to style (I mean really: is NOT shaving really a viable choice for women?)

When it comes to pubic hair, I fear the wheels of capitalism are already well in motion. The multi-billion dollar beauty industry is always looking for new turf — and tapping into women’s body insecurities through their vulvas is, I’ll admit it, kind of brilliant. Is it any coincidence that labiaplasty (cosmetic surgery which snips away at the labia to make it more aesthetically pleasing and “tighter”) is now one of the fasting growing surgeries in the United States today?

More soon. Thanks for reading.


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