Veet for Men Hair Removal Gel Creme (200ml) has 539 reviews on Amazon, with one review by Andrew, entitled DO NOT PUT ON KNOB AND BOLLOCKS, amassing 1,083 comments (with 23,386 people finding it helpful). An article last month in the Guardian entitled Pubic Hair Has a Job To Do – Stop Shaving and Leave it Alone, informing readers of the health implications of removing hair down there, received over 1,000 comments. Another Guardian article from last year, called Pubic Hair Removal: The Naked Truth, looked at women who shave down below. Elle and Vogue also had articles about the phenomenon.
Body hair – or rather, lack of it, is a hot topic. If the 1970s were the decade of hair excess – where sexiness in a woman included having a bushy bush and in a man, a hairy chest, bouffant hair and a beard, then this last decade or so has seen hair gradually disappearing from our bodies and from our nether regions in particular.
It's now not unusual for, say, male cyclists and athletes to shave their legs, for gay couples to give each other a sack, crack and back wax, and for heterosexual metrosexuals to give their pubes a trim (though, worryingly, many metrosexuals and hipsters seem keen to grow beards, the results usually being somewhat scraggy). And a shaved head on a man has (thankfully) become more acceptable than the dreaded comb over.
The sex Bible of the 1970s, The Joy of Sex, with its hand-drawn illustrations depicting the man with beard and pubic hair and the woman with bush too, is a quaint anachronism. A hairy chest is no longer the sign of manliness. The phrase 'to put hair on your chest', meaning a food or drink will make you strong and healthy (or drunk), is rarely used nowadays. It seems real men have all but vanished, being replaced by hairless Peter Pan-like boys.
Obviously, men and women have been removing hair from parts of their bodies for centuries (and in different cultures, say Islam, removing pubic hair has long been seen as a sign of cleanliness; in prudish Victorian society pubic hair was never seen on naked women in paintings until Courbet's still-provocative Origin of the World); women – their legs and underarms, mainly, and around their bikini line; men – their faces. Now the whole body is game for that pre-pubescent look: backs, heads, genitals, legs. But who's to blame? Is it just the fickle fancy of fashion, or pornography (or Barbie, or Carrie Bradshaw)?
The widespread availability of internet porn has meant many of us have seen porn stars without pubic hair, admired it (apparently) and emulated it. Men apparently think their penises look bigger uncluttered by hair. As pornography, by its nature, is degrading towards women, whether women want their pubic hair removed or whether men have implemented the notion is a controversial point (in the same way as it was a man who invented the high heel). Women have gone from American waxing to French waxing to Brazillian waxing to 'The Sphinx' (full removal, named after a hairless breed of cat) in a relatively short period of time.
In pornography, women's lack of pubic hair allows for their vaginas to be explored in almost gynecological detail, whilst giving them a prepubescent, childlike appearance; a paedophile's delight. So completely has pubic hair been removed from mainstream pornography that female models with pubic hair are tarnished with the term 'hairy', a niche porn subject heading, along with 'mature', 'retro', 'anal' etc. Degrading terms for women's genitals such as 'gash' or 'car accident' sort of make sense on the hairless, open-legged woman; it's like a raw wound.
A history of female pubic hair fashions can best be seen in Playboy magazine, where pubic hair wasn't actually shown in the magazines until the early 1970s and a full bush (or at least a French) was on display from the mid-70s until the 1990s, when the Brazilian took over. By 2007, women were mainly sans hair down there.
I'm old fashioned about it all and prefer a hairy bush. Like a burka, it's the mystery of hidden delights contained inside.