The politics of pubes

I’ve always favoured the landing strip. That not-quite-bald, hairy-enough-to-indicate-you’ve-been-through-puberty-but-smooth-and-shiny-enough-to-show-you-prioritise-grooming-and-the-male-gaze (of the essence in heterosexual exchanges)-look was my go-to up until fairly recently.

But then I started paying my own bills and one salon trip too many triggered a flare up of HPV that I didn’t know I had, and I became reluctant to jeopardise my bank balance and my sexual health in the name of vanity. And since then, I’ve embraced the natural look – it’s a happy consequence that it costing me a lot less time and money to maintain.

Personally, I’m finding having a full bush makes me feel really, really sexy. At first, I was self-conscious when I hadn’t shaved, and felt the need to notify impending lays  – neglecting to keep on top of pube maintenance seemed like the ultimate coital faux-pas and apologising in advanced was all I could do to preserve my sex appeal. But now, my pubes are my sex appeal. That I’m no longer governed by the need to please someone else means that my sexuality is for myself and not for anyone else – all symptoms, I believe, of my transition into womanhood and acceptance of myself as I come.

But cringey internal narrative aside, it hasn’t escaped my notice that I’m not the only one enjoying the benefits of getting back to nature. Loads of my female contemporaries are ditching the razors and the expensive salon trips, and more and more we’re seeing searches for ‘vintage’ or ‘full bush’ top the charts on websites like Pornhub and Redtube.

Pubic trends, like lots of other trends, move in cycles, and somehow or another we’ve all felt the pressure to conform. ‘Objectionable hair’ has been marketed against as early as the 1920’s – you’d be forgiven for thinking that all-off only gained popularity once porn started getting really graphic in the 1980’s, but actually the golden years of the bush was only a brief dip in grooming standards, characterised by the free love and feminism of the 1970’s.  You think those Twiggy-era minis would have allowed for stubbly thighs? Think again.

Because when we’re talking about pubes, we can’t forget the other ‘objectionable’ body hair that hasn’t been so fortunate as to enjoy it’s own heyday. Leg and armpit hair, for us women, is by and large completely unacceptable and though some of us might find empowerment in letting what’s in our pants grow freely, it’s a much smaller (and braver) proportion that takes the same approach to the parts of their bodies more readily on show.

And guys certainly haven’t enjoyed immunity from the pressure either, with the ‘meterosexual’ trend of the 80’s and 90’s calling for bare chests and sometimes even legs. In porn, the same clean camera angles that demanded hairless pussies benefitted from a lack of fluff all round, and so popular culture swiftly followed suit. More than a few times I’ve come across a guy who shaves it all off, because he swears that ‘it makes my cock look way bigger. My opinion is that it doesn’t, and that men shouldn’t – but then I realised that me imposing certain ideals on men was just as bad as the one that are placed on me. And that’s just not cool.

The media image of the ‘perfect body’ is one we’re influenced by at some point or another – and what’s between our legs is really no different. But one thing that’s been glaringingly apparent in talking to people about this is that we’re loathe to amend our preferences for the express purpose of pleasing a bed partner. Sure, my insecurities when I was younger were more general (obsessing over unrealistic beauty standards is something of a favourite pastime for young women) but I’d never go out of my way to ‘prepare’ for a session – and I sure as hell never came up against any protest in the heat of the moment when the pants did come off. Because if you can find the time, energy and lung capacity to complain about the service when you’ve already drunk the aperitif, in my opinion, you need to sort your priorities out.

But here’s the cincher: a recent survey by global women’s lifestyle brand Cosmopolitan has just published some pretty eye-opening figures on pubic trends and preferences and, despite my own valiant attempts at shrugging off the stigmas and encouraging my peers to do the same, it seems like a large proportion of us are still striving for the ‘ideal’ (read: the porn industry standard) – which is damaging for not only our body image and self esteem, but also our IRL relationships that we navigate from messy bedrooms and the local boozer. The real world isn’t a porn set, so why is there this need to live up to fantasy standards when it comes to our pubes?

Perhaps slightly predictable (if a little disheartening) is the finding that 40% of men surveyed would ask their partners to ‘change their pubic hair’, and a shocking 30% would RECONSIDER THE RELATIONSHIP if pubes weren’t up to their standards. Even more infuriatingly, though, is the statistic that 69% of guys in 2017 merely ‘trim’ their pubic hair (the other 31% is either ‘natural’ or ‘bare’) but 46% of grown adult men prefer their sexual partners to be entirely bald, like a hairless baby bird.

Although I find the stats demoralising and, at base level, really quite creepy and weird, honestly I have to admit that I’m not entirely surprised. But looking at that findings side by side and seeing the differences in the time and money men and women pour into their aesthetic appeal, I feel more assured than ever that I stopped prioritising that pesky male gaze so long ago and am part of the minority (the 6%, if you’re interested) who can focus my attentions on having uninhibited sex that actually makes me feel good, rather than like I’m failing to live up to some unachievable ideal.

One thing to come out of the study that has been a little encouraging? It confirms my previous self-directed research – only 7% of all those surveyed cited that their partner prefers it as their reason for grooming – most point to hygiene reasons or personal perceptions of attractiveness.

Maybe there’s more DGAF in us that meets the eye.

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