Pubic health bulletin

Years ago, I had a friend, Tim, who was a Public Health Inspector. He used to routinely black-out the "l" of the first word on his badge with his Sharpie, until his superiors would notice.

But there is such a thing, as I was reminded when I saw (and who did not?) the cover of the latest Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, featuring a model with a bare lower (very lower) torso.

My sole foray into serious nether-waxing happened in the early '80s, and, because I ran and took several ballet classes per week, I learned within two days that pubic hair is there for a reason. 

These days, lasers offer permanent epilation, but a woman should think first before she opts for lifetime bald ladyparts. Tim would object, as would OB/gyn Dr. Jen Gunter, who lists the risks in a forthright post called "What to tell a partner who wants you to remove your pubic hair". 

I did not think total depilation (the "Full Brazilian" or "Hollywood") was sought by women over 50, but a friend recently changed her occupation to become a medical aesthetitian, and told me otherwise, saying she had many mature clients who asked for the works. "I just took everything off a woman past 70", she told me.

Jennifer Weiner wrote a tart op-ed piece in the New York Times about the swimsuit cover, "Great! Another Thing to Hate About Ourselves"

She says, "Show me a body part, I’ll show you someone who’s making money by telling women that theirs looks wrong and they need to fix it. Tone it, work it out, tan it, bleach it, tattoo it, lipo it, remove all the hair, lose every bit of jiggle."

One of my friends said, "maybe she likes it", and I replied that we should think about why she does. Why do women feel they should erase one of the significant signs of sexual maturity, returning the pubis to a pre-adolescent state. If a partner wants that, wouldn't that creep you out?

So, three good reasons to reject a hairless undercarriage: the health risks Dr. Gunter lists, the mysogyny lurking behind the erasure of a woman's evident  sexual maturation, and the exploitation of insecurity.

Betty colour
I am not against grooming what is already there; some special effects are quite cheeky. An acquaintance applied a fuchsia tint (with this specialty product) for a 50th birthday trip that she knew would include a spot of skinnydipping. (She liked the effect so much she kept it for a few years. Her last name at the time was Brinks, earning her the inevitable nickname Pinksie Brinksie.)

But the total stripping, no. The memory of that abrasive experience remains indelible after 30-some years, but even more intense is my belief that we are perfect and exquisite, as we are.











28 comments

Janice Riggs said...

I agree completely! Of all of the things in the world that women should feel that they have to do to themselves, this level of hair removal is the worst. Why can't we embrace the visible signs of our maturity, and be proud and grateful that we've reached puberty (and far beyond) with all of our accumulated wisdom and knowledge?
hugs,
Janice

RoseAG said...

I'd rather spend my money having the stash above my lip removed. One of the oddest things about visiting someone who is moving towards their eternal destination is that little grooming things like removing wayward facial hair falls by the wayside. I feel like I'd be doing my kids and grandkids a favor to take care of that while I'm still able.


As to pubic hair; people have different amounts. If you've got it running down your thighs, I say laser away. There are enough reasons not to put your swimsuit on and have fun without adding dealing with hair.

une femme said...

Welcome back, Duchesse!

I've never understood how this became an expected norm, though a friend says it's because of the ubiquity of p0rn.

A little grooming yes, removal, no. And I agree with Jennifer Weiner. (Have you seen the commercial for the deodorant that's supposed to make underarms prettier? Give me a break!)

LauraH said...

Good to see your post pop up this morning, hope you enjoyed your time away.

I'm with une femme - don't understand how this became the norm, it passed me by, that's for sure. Of course, it could be that we hear so much about these procedures in the media that we assume everyone is doing it. Maybe not as many as we think?

materfamilias said...

Sing it, Sister! And welcome back -- clearly, your time away energized you.

Madame Là-bas said...

I wonder how women were manipulated into never believing themselves "good enough". If we change this or that, our lives will be better. If a man requires
the look of a prepubescent girl to be aroused, there is a different issue going on. We have different bodies and different degrees of "hairiness". We need to accept and love ourselves and be able to laugh at such things as "underarm beauty"

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

I had a bikini waxing done when I wore bikini's and my gawd it hurt! I remember my Mother saying you have to suffer to be beautiful...those were the days when she slept in rollers....yikes we do put ourselves through some pretty nasty stuff don't we...and the bottom line is who do we do it for?
Ultilmately we should do it for ourselves and why would we want to take away so much of our femininity?
Oh and welcome back!

LPC said...

I think the current obsession with depilation is a horror. Not to be blunt or anything;).

Susan said...

I agree with LPC. I have a friend who, when she became single some years ago, became quite obsessed with being bare there--because she thought it was expected of her. When I suggested that no one who really liked her for herself and cared about her would care whether she was bare or not. She told me that I (long married) would not know what was expected. I kept my mouth shut thereafter. Some time later, I went with this friend on a trip to Santa Fe. While there, we booked massages at Ten Thousand Waves and decided to take a dip in the swimsuit optional pool beforehand. Afterwards, she mentioned that she was the ONLY woman in the pool who had no pubic hair and had felt a bit exposed. I said nothing. I have no idea if she is keeping up the depiction obsession. I most heartily agree that we don't need another area of our body which has to conform to some trend.

Susan said...

NOT depiction! Depilation!

Karen said...

All of my younger (40 & under) friends spend considerable amounts of time & money on waxing/lasering "down there." I am told that it is now considered "disgusting" to have pubic hair, tantamount to having furry legs, body odor, or foul breath. Thank you, p*rn industry.

Maggie said...

I have to laugh. I won't even get my legs waxed. Eyebrows and upper lip are as much as I can stand. And pubic hair becomes rather more scarce as we age anyway.

Wendy said...

I've never had anything but my eyebrows waxed, and that only once, though I'm thinking of having my suddenly more hairy cheeks and chin done at some point. This post made me think of my concern over baring my unpolished and (can you even imagine!) un-pedicured toes in a pair of sandals on an upcoming vacation. I guess I want to look like I made some effort to look "presentable", but I hate the idea of nail polish. Perhaps I'll compromise and just buff them to a nice shine...

Jill Ann said...

Thank you for this! It's a pet peeve of mine (I have several, I've realized!) I was especially irritated by the tv commercial for a women's razor which seemed to indicate we should shave our pubic hair into topiary shapes.

I totally agree with the writer who questioned why we needed yet ANOTHER body part to feel inadequate about. I've expressed this strongly to my college age daughters...as far as I know, they don't overdo the grooming. I do have a sister-in-law in her mid-50s who, she told me, is "bare down there". I told her she was nuts!

Anonymous said...

As a full grown woman who enjoys being completely smooth down there, I would caution you not to judge anyone who likes this. I'm not trying to look prepubescent. Many physical signs of sexual maturity distinguish me from girl children. Even the angle of one's smooth, bare genitals changes with puberty.

I prefer to be bare because during my period, the odor of blood is much reduced. Without hair to retain scent, odor can't build up.

The other big bonus for me is better sex. Without hair to sop up moisture, skin is slicker and more sensitive. Very sensitive.

I'm lucky hair doesn't grow on my thighs or belly. When I want to wear extremely revealing lingerie bottoms, knowing I won't have coarse pubic hair poking out around the scraps of fabric makes me feel even sexier. It also encourages me to wear such things more often. :)

lagatta à montréal said...

I clicked on this site by accident, thinking La Duchesse et Le Duc were still in Paris.

It is odd, given that thinning pubic hair is a common sign of ageing, often around menopause. I've read reactions against this mandatory hairlessness, among younger women.

I'm really more concerned with eliminating those sneaky chin hairs.

Duchesse said...

Anon@10:04: For reasons Dr Gunter outlined, as well other reasons I've given, I do not agree with you, but that is different from "judging". Still, ultimately one does judge, regarding what one is willing to do, and why.

lagatta: As my friend the aesthetitian told me, it's not just young women getting the full treatment! for chin hairs I just love those spring hair removers like Bellabe.

Bunny said...

I totally agree with your sentiments. Now can we have a blogpost on why men do the same to their chests? I just don't get it. I know young men who think women think they look more attractive with no hair on their bodies. Who and what gave them that idea?

Anonymous said...

As someone else who has decided to go bare there, my personal choice harms no one and I wouldn't attempt to persuade a person either for or against.

I don't wax though (eye brows are enough for me -- ouchy!)

What I do find interesting is the notion that if a woman makes a choice other women disagree with, then she must be a victim of fashion, peer pressure, men or the media.

This is simply not true. Women are empowered agents who can make their own decisions without the approval of other women.

Duchesse said...

Anonymous @ 6:04::

I have as much right to express my dislike of this practice it as you do to engage in it.

Of course I try to influence others- that has been my life's work. (Or should women write only fiction?)

Empowerment means speaking out, influencing, working for change: agency. This blog and my associated work may represent opinions with which you do not agree, but I see it as more substantial "agent" behaviour than than stripping one's crotch bare.

I resoundingly agree with your stance of making your own decisions without the approval of other woman (or men.)

As for "harming no one but yourself", Dr Gunter, a well-credentialed •woman• gynecologist, states in her reply to comments on her blog that she treats infections caused by the practice daily.

I have not, in this post or others, called women "victims" and actively avoid that label. I do see us as easily led by cultural messages that tap into our insecurity. (And I have lots of examples from my own life upon which to base that.)



Anonymous said...

Fascinating perspective and on that basis hair removal for legs, under arms, brows and upper lips must stop for the same reason -- hair is there for a reason and there it must stay.

Duchesse said...

Anon@5:10: I cannot think of the reason for the hair on my upper lip, especially when it was not there (or hardly visible) till late middle age. Can you?



lagatta à montréal said...

I have no idea. Though like Frida Kahlo, with a head of thick curly black hair, I've always had a touch of a moustache. The problem is how to best strip it off, bleach it or whatever without causing other health problems. In some Mediterranean cultures this was seen as "sexy" without any insinuation of transexualism.
"Donna baffuta, sempre piaciuta".

Never bothered me in the same way as the stray chin hairs do, as I see them as a sign of decrepitude.

Susan Thorburn said...

i am so glad you're back! your posts are always interesting and thought provoking. i always look forward to reading them and then thinking about the issues you raise.

Duchesse said...

lagatta: The Bellabe-type spring tool works on the upper lip and chin, but is not recommended for not brows. I've used them for years without problems.

You •are• pulling hair out so, like plucking, threading or waxing, you will feel it, especially on the sensitive upper lip.

Check them on eBay, they are cheaper there than Bellabe or via Amazon. If you don't like it, you have only spent less than $10.
Example:
http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Face-Free-Makeup-Facial-Hair-Spring-Bend-Remover-Removal-Facial-Hair-Tool-/251933230276?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3aa86404c4

At a certain point bleaching only results in a visible, blonde 'stache.

Anonymous said...

Who are YOU? Paris and this is the post you lead with? As a self proclaimed 'royal', are we supposed to care what you approve of? Frightening.

Duchesse said...

Anon@ 8:20: I have the feeling that this blog is not for you.


Duchesse said...

Bunny: I know some men who have depilated their torsos. I am not sure there is a causal relationship, or it may be a factor of those whom I know, but all of them are gay.

One told me it shows off the cut body he has worked so hard to achieve.

re "who gave them (women) that idea?" look for an industry that presents such effects as desirable, and you may find your answer.