Pubic hair — what was once a ‘70s female porn star staple has become increasingly taboo and more unpopular to sport than UGG boots and ponchos. Researchers investigated grooming habits among American women to understand the change in standards.
A new study published in the journal JAMA Dermatology surveyed a diverse group of 3,316 women ages 18-65 on how frequently they shaved their pubic hair. A whopping 83.8 percent reported having groomed at least once, and 16.2 percent said they never trim the hedges.
Researchers found that women ages 18-24 were more likely to groom than women ages 45-55, and those 55 years and older were significantly less likely to groom at all. Results showed that white, college educated young adults were the most likely to shave their pubic hair, underlining the notion that beauty ideals vary among different racial groups.
When asked about their motivating factors for grooming, 59 percent of subjects said it was for hygienic purposes.
“Many women think they are dirty and unclean if they haven’t groomed,” Dr. Tami S. Rowen, an obstetrician-gynecologist and the lead author of the study, told the New York Times.
Ironically, pubic hair actually serves to protect the genital area from diseases. By shaving the protective cushion the vaginal opening becomes more susceptible to bacterial contamination. The act of shaving is also hazardous, as one study showed that 3 percent of emergency room visits for genitourinary trauma are because of grooming.
The other 45.5 percent of women said they groomed for aesthetic purposes, and 55.6 percent reported shaving for sexual purposes. But this “Barbie doll look,” as Dr. Iglesia, a professor of obstetrics-gynecology and urology at Georgetown University School of Medicine, told the Times she calls the hairless fad, hasn’t always been popular. So, when did women decide that grooming was cleaner and sexier than keeping a full bush?
In the era of technology it is no question that the media plays a big role in changing social norms. A 2013 study investigating the impact of media exposure on self-esteem and body satisfaction in men and women showed that females are more susceptible than men to feeling pressure from the media to look a certain way.
Researchers found in a study that the fad presumably erupted from an increased prevalence of pornography depicting bare genitalia, along with popular magazines and television promoting the complete pubic hair removal trend.
Women in the 2016 study who reported grooming had twice the amount of lifetime partners and were more likely to engage in regular sexual activity than those who do not groom. They also had higher scores on sexual function scale, which implies a better sex life satisfaction.
These findings should not be interpreted as direct causation between grooming and higher sexual activity. Basically, do not expect to suddenly have a lot of sex because you got a Brazilian wax. The results indicate that women who shave keep their pubic hair short because they engage in oral sex and intercourse frequently.
Visiting a heath care professional was also found as a motivating factor for women to shave. This suggests that women are self-conscious about their genital appearance under any type of exposure, even in the presence of an unbiased health care professional, the study noted.
Pubic hair removal has sexual benefits, but hygienically, it’s safer to let the carpet match the drapes. Dr. Gunter, OB/GYN, told the New York Times that regarding grooming, she believes being comfortable in your skin is more important than risk factors.
"If it is something you do for you and makes you feel better, awesome, but don't tell yourself it's healthy or better from a medical standpoint,” she said.