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Tags: Hair-Story

No Need to Wax Nostalgic for Pubes

More and more women are letting their gardens grow.
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Despite the annual cry that pubes have come back into vogue, Lena Dunham—queen of the body politic—has proclaimed that it still lurks behind closed doors. Literally. But on Sunday night’s episode of Girls, she kicked that door wide open when she had actress Gaby Hoffmann give us a full frontal—and as we learned in a New York Times Magazine profile written by DAME contributor Taffy Brodesser-Akner, the actress does not, shall we say, mow the lawn. Hoffman portrays Caroline, Adam’s “unemployed and homeless” sister, who is so bizarre she makes her brother look sane. She’s the kind of girl who kisses your dad on the mouth, dances like an extra from The Wicker Man, and, then, with a bite of the shoulder, disappears. That is, until you open the bathroom door to find her standing wild-eyed in wait, wearing nothing but a T-shirt and an impressive pubic puff.

Earlier this month, the Guardian designated 2014 “The Year of the Bush” only days after The Wire announced “The Pubic Hair Renaissance Is Here.” Pubes have been sprouting up all over the place lately. Last week in New York, American Apparel’s Lower East Side store dressed its mannequins in merkins—a symbol of “lust,” according to the New York Observer. Before that, trendsetter Lady Gaga appeared on the cover of Candy magazine’s winter issue, flashing an artful pop of pubic hair.

Those waxing lyrical about the return of unwaxed montes pubis have invariably reported on a “study” conducted by the online pharmacy UKMedix. Polling 1,870 women, it found 51 percent of respondents did not groom their pubic hair (45 percent said they could “no longer be bothered,” while 62 percent claimed their partners preferred “the natural look”). But here’s the rub: A major pubic investigation published by the Atlantic in 2011 quoted a study out of Indiana University which revealed that “women under 30 are two to three times as likely to have no pubic hair as women over 30.” The New Republic confirmed this age disparity days ago when they reported the results of an investigation into groin grooming accidents. The Urology Journal revealed that pubic hair grooming injuries were five times greater in 2010 than in 2002 and that “the most at-risk group” was women between the ages of 19 and 28.

In short, the so-called pubic hair renaissance is entirely age related. A bush on Hannah Horvath, the Girls character who is most often found in various states of undress, would be disingenuous. She just turned 25 after all. Caroline, on the other hand, is older (Hoffmann is 32 and Vulture reported Dunham wrote the character with the actress “in mind”). And, Gaga aside, the women who have publicly been embracing hair down there are all over 40.

Gwyneth Paltrow embodies how our pubic perspective can change as we age. According to T Magazine, New York’s J. Sisters—the home of the Brazilian wax—displays on its wall a 1990s headshot of the actress with the message, “You Changed My Life!!” on it. But last April, Paltrow, now 41, told Ellen DeGeneres, “I work a ’70s vibe.” And her best pal Cameron Diaz followed suit. The 41-year-old actress said in November 2012 on The Graham Norton Show that she had held down and forcibly trimmed one of her friends who rocked a “’70s bush.” Two years later, she’s the one liable to be styled under duress if her new lifestyle bible, The Body Book, is to be believed.

In a section entitled, “In Praise of Pubes,” Diaz speaks out against perma-pube removal. “Pubic hair serves as a pretty draping that makes it a little mysterious to the one who might be courting your sexiness. Pubes keep the goods private, which can entice a lover to come and take a closer look at what you have to offer,” she writes. “Also, let’s be honest: Just like every other part of your body, your labia majora is not immune to gravity. Do you really want a hairless vagina for the rest of your life?”

Naomi Wolf never wanted one at any point in her life. More than 10 years ago, the feminist author wrote in New York about the age difference between women with pubic hair and those without it. She noted that at her gym, “the 40-year-old women have adult pubic hair” while the women in their 20s “have all been trimmed and styled.” Wolf, who was 40 at the time, argued hers was “the last female generation to experience that sense of sexual confidence and security in what we had to offer.”

Blame porn. Though T Magazine argued that the advent of bikinis in the ’60s “changed everything”—the bikini line beauty industry started shilling razors, creams, waxes, etc.—pornography is more commonly blamed for the pudenda’s depilation. While 95 percent of Playboy’s centerfolds had natural pubic hair into the ’80s, according to the Atlantic, by the aughts less than 10 percent of them displayed hair that hadn’t been removed in some way. Joseph Slade, professor of media and culture at Ohio University, told the magazine that porn had “legitimized voyeurism.” He said the obsession with bare labia “could be attributed to visual pornographers’ desire to infantilize women, or simply to make genitalia more visible to the camera.”

According to the aforementioned Indiana study, sexually active women who are not in monogamous relationships are the demographic that most commonly removes its pubic hair entirely. With age usually comes monogamy and a new level of comfort (laziness?) with one’s body. And though many older women wouldn’t stand bush out in the bathroom waiting for an unsuspecting visitor, that’s probably not the first thing anyone would notice about Caroline.

Soraya Roberts is a journalist who specializes in long form articles in the realm of culture and entertainment. Her work has appeared in Slate, the Daily Beast, and the Toronto Star. She is currently at work on her first book.
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