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The pubic hair debate

Following on from last week’s blog about the history of the reclining nude, I wanted to expand on a debate that yoyo-ed between the sacred and the profane that took place last Friday evening whilst having dinner with some friends. The central theme was around that age-old pheromone-trapping device, the pubic hair. Or more specifically, the lack of it in modern female society.

As if Emer O’Toole from the Guardian had been listening to our debate, this week she recently wrote about her decision to go au naturel.

Had our own debate been set in a school exam, it might have been appropriately titled, something like:

Contemporary ladies feel like they must shave or wax their pubic regions and men are to blame. Discuss. [20 marks]

(You may use illustrations in your answer)

Now, my school exam days may be in the past, but the first thing I would do with a question of this magnitude is to provide the examiner with a bit of history, starting with a diagram, of course, of an 80s muff. Nothing like getting your point across succinctly with an illustration. And because my own knowledge is somewhat limited, for my inspiration I would use the words of comedian, Micky Flanagan, who describes the type of vagina he discovered in the 1980s: “It was a big hairy, militant, Marxist vagina in the 80s; it had a terrible attitude; I mean the knickers weren’t small and it was still bursting out the sides. You’d start rolling these knickers down and it would come out. GRRR!”

I think that would be a good start.

Then I’d compare it to the more contemporary, well-groomed model of today. Perhaps showing an exotic influence from a large rapid-developing country in South America. Again, I think a diagram could work well.

At this point, I think it would be time to ask the question, how did this metaphorical deforestation occur? And, are men to blame?

I have this image of every man up and down the country, presumably at some point in the mid-Nineties, with fiery red eyes, pointing to his lady friend’s nether regions and saying, “SHAVE!”

“What? All of it?”

“Actually, leave a little strip down the middle so I can find my way in when it’s dark”.

If this conversation had ever taken place, the mid-Nineties would have witnessed a notable depletion in the male population, or at the very least, the nation’s A&E units would have been overflowing with men complaining of severe deformation in their testicles, if they were lucky enough to still have them attached.

Or, was it one brave gentleman who, whilst serving his Queen and country, first poked his head above the parapet and said, “Darling, the dental floss is much appreciated, but I have now accrued the good part of a Persian rug in my mouth. I think we’d both get more enjoyment from this situation with the help of some basic gardening.”

We might call him a pioneer.

Then, an increasing number of men bravely made THE big request, some falling in battle, some living to fight another day and tell their tales of joy to their fellow soldiers-in-arms. How wonderful it was for both the man doing his duty, and the lady to have a more compliant partner.

However, the lady, as we all know, is a creative type of animal. Where the man would see practical sense in the idea, the lady would see an area fit for artistic expression. Not content with some basic trimming, grand designs would be considered and influences drawn from other artists around the world, and suddenly she could be heard saying to her respective gentleman, “do you like my new haircut?”

For the exacerbation of this gardening movement, some point to the pornographic industry. Adult film directors felt that large volumes of hair downstairs distracted from their creative work and it was simply no good on camera. As the ladies of porn films went minimalist, apparently changing our taste with it, we men have been blamed for demanding our women’s foo foos to be as hairless as Mr Bigglesworth, or a 12-year-old, as was suggested at Friday’s dinner.

But I’m not sure that porn is completely to blame, or indeed, men’s taste in porn, (I mean not only are we sexually curious by nature but I think we all stumbled across some vintage stuff hidden under floorboards or in secret areas of the playground at school, didn’t we? And boy, were those jungles impressive). Clearly there was an appetite for that sort of thing back then. So, whilst porn may have increased people’s awareness of pubic fashion and therefore taste accordingly, it wasn’t exactly a bunch of male sheep farmers getting on set with their shears.

It’s a compromise between fashion and practicality and comes down to an age-old dichotomy of order and chaos. Within our human nature we see chaos and want to make order from it. We see a messy room and we know we should tidy it – organisation rather than disorganisation. But in our genetic make-up there’s differing taste too; some people like to be reminded of nature; instead of mathematical linearity, they want non-conformity.

Let us allow landscape gardens to provide us with a relevant analogy here. The object of English country gardens like Stourhead, in Wiltshire, with its large volumes of trees and bushes interspersed with roaming vistas and classical buildings, was to give the impression of humanity being at one with nature. Whereas the gardens of Versailles, on the other hand, where geometric, linear, neat and tidy, symbolising man’s control over nature, in keeping with French taste. Ironic really.

Gardens of Versailles: Neat and Tidy

Men are to blame for ladies feeling the need to shave or wax, sure, but only in that some ladies wish to be in keeping with modern ideas of attractiveness. Not many sane men are demanding it. In the great and inexplicable world that is techniques to lure the opposite sex, some change and some remain constant. At present we are in an age where the fashion for feminine beauty is defined as being like the landscape gardens ofVersailles, or like classical sculpture. But of course there’s always a niche market for Stourhead.

In more recent times, one of the great changes is the phenomenon of manscaping. After throwing themselves under kings’ horses and storming Miss World competitions (thank you Caitlin Moran), the female world can breathe a bit easier as gentlemen of the world feel increasing pressure to trim. And just as the brave, intrepid man at the beginning of this blog asked his lady THE big question, the lady responded with the same question. Only the lady is a more cunning creature than the man and she placed a ban on certain activities until he carried out his necessary actions.

The Only Way is Essex, in particular, has highlighted the male penchant for a bit of grooming. Men nowadays are not just content with trimming, oh no. Society has pressured them into extreme measures as highlighted by some Amazon reviews of Veet Hair Removal Cream for Men.

“DO NOT PUT ON KNOB AND BOLLOCKS”, one such review reads, continuing very reasonably, “I am giving this product 5 [stars] because despite the fact that I think my bollocks might fall off, they are now completely hairless”.

So there you have it – we’re all to blame. End of exam.

By Edward Lines

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