To Pube or Not to Pube: A Sex and Hygiene Question

A female student walked into my Human Sexuality class with the following pronouncement:  “I just saw some ‘70’s porn this weekend – OMG, the bushes on those women!”

The truth is, a love of bushes didn’t start in the ‘70’s.  Have you ever heard of a merkin?  I didn’t think so.  The only reason I’ve heard of it is that I spent too many hours reading English literature instead of cultivating my bush and auditioning for porn.

A merkin is a pubic wig.  More commonly, a pussy wig.  According to Wikipedia (quoting the Oxford Companion to the Body), it dates back to 1450’s England when it was used primarily for one of three reasons:

  • after having shaved to rid oneself of pubic lice/crabs (UGH!)
  • or to conceal the hair loss and unsightly sores caused by syphilis (AAACCK!!)
  • or if one were simply unlucky enough to have a case of pubic alopecia (…AWWW…)

None of those would have been a very appealing situation at the time, though I suppose a bald snatch was the lesser of three evils.  Apparently crabs and syphilis were rampant in the late Middle Ages.

But getting back to today.  What’s obvious in popular US culture is the very unpopularity of pubic hair.  And lest I somehow missed that, my students’ essays will not let me forget it:

  • “Pubic hair – blech! Dirty and disgusting!”
  • “I was going to go down on her until I saw – OMG!”
  • “I have to manscape or I don’t feel clean!”

Whereupon I feel a responsibility to remind them that few features of the way we have evolved as a species did so for no good reason.  Hair typically has a protective function.  For one thing, both men and women have a pubic bone just above the sex organs.  When people are grinding bone on bone, it can be quite uncomfortable.  But nature has tried to help us out a little.  Women have a soft cushion called the mons pubis (pubic mound) that makes for a gentler landing.  And both sexes grow pubic hair that is meant to serve as a soft little bed of hay.  Think of it as your own private Bethlehem.

Then, composed of mucous membranes as they are, genitalia are also especially vulnerable to disease, much more so than areas that are covered by healthy skin.  Once again, nature has provided:  Hair actually serves as a barrier that can help keep some diseases at bay.

Now what about those pubic lice, you ask?  When my students learn that the lice feast on bacteria in pubic hair and hence are usually found there, they say, “But I shave, so that means I won’t get them, right?”  And for a moment I just gaze fondly upon their innocent little faces.  Then I have to tell them the ugly truth:  “Yes, BUT…”

The “yes” is because it’s true that they have removed the primary food source for the lice, so the likelihood of getting those has gone down.  The “BUT” is more diabolical.  Because when they shave or wax, they create tiny little wounds at each of the hair follicles.  And what can get into those wounds?  Just about every other STD, most of them worse than a case of lice that can be eliminated with a special shampoo.

To understand this, here is just a brief lesson in epidemiology.  For a disease to transmit (e.g., to you), several phenomena must be present:

  1. You have to be exposed to the Reservoir (where the pathogen, meaning the disease-causing microorganism, lives). In the case of an STD, that means a member of the human population who carries it.
  2. There has to be a Mode of Transmission, meaning the way the pathogen gets passed to you. A cold virus can be inhaled, dysentery is passed through contaminated water, and STDs transmit via acts of sex.
  3. You must have a Portal of Entry, meaning an opening that the pathogen enters. Those include getting into the bloodstream (e.g., through a wound, or directly into a vein via sharing needles), from a pregnant woman to her child (i.e., sharing blood), and those vulnerable mucous membranes (mouth, nose, eyes, urethra, vagina, anus).
  4. Then, and only then, might you become a new Host.

OK, so imagine that you have sex with someone (mmm…) who has an STD that you, and maybe even they, don’t know about (errrr…)

Reservoir – √

Mode of Transmission – √

Even if you do use a condom (and I hope you do), if you have waxed or shaved, you still have hundreds, maybe thousands, of tiny little WHAT?

Portals of Entry – √√√ !!!

That doesn’t mean you definitely will become a Host.  But it certainly means you might.  And believe me, HPV that can cause cancer is a whole lot worse than a case of crabs.  So are chlamydia and gonorrhea that can make you sterile; herpes that you would have for the rest of your life; and syphilis and HIV that can literally take your life.

By the way, those of us who sported our naturals in the ‘70’s didn’t get everything right.  We were so thrilled with the pill that we kind of forgot about using condoms.  I’m embarrassed to say, our lapse has been a contributing factor in some of the STD epidemics of today.  And in fairness to the hair-phobic younger generation, oral sex has become much more popular than it was when we were letting our freak flags fly.

So just two last points:

  1. The good news is, you can still trim. “Manscape” or “vagscape” come from “landscape,” not “moonscape.” We like a little neat foliage decorating our yards, right?
  1. For oral sex, there is also this phenomenon called bathing. It has a lot more to do with cleanliness than a little bit of hair does.

Next up:  Are you bathing your sexy parts the way your mother taught you?  Or the proper way?

70's bush

 “Give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair,

Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen

Give me down to there (hair) shoulder length or longer…”

63 thoughts on “To Pube or Not to Pube: A Sex and Hygiene Question

  1. I feel like society has attained to the need to attend to themselves in that region because of how big the media has portrayed it. If it wasn’t for porn evolving to having shaved or maintained genitals rather than leaving it be, people have felt more insecure of the way they look towards their partner. Although shaving results in a cleaner more healthier feeling inside, as you stated in the article the pubes were placed their for a reason. Oh the things we do to look good.

  2. This was a very refreshing read. Nowadays there is so much pressure to abide by society’s conventions of what looks good and what doesn’t. I wish more young people read this!

  3. This was a very refreshing read. Nowadays there is so much pressure on matters as private as one’s pubes. I wish more young people read this and the word got out. I would love for the 70’s to come back! Well not everything from the 70’s…

  4. great article professor, very informative at least for us women that many times just think about how sexy and cleaner our genitals look once shaves or waxed, but we never think about the “side effects” that are worse that just having the “bad” appearance of pubic hair.
    Thanks

  5. Thank you for this great article! Thank you for concurring with what I always thought, “If it’s naturally there, then just leave it there!” I feel that this issue is more rooted in contemporary Western standards of beauty.I have not heard of this type of talk among adolescents or even young adults in my home country of Burma. I found this article to be extremely educational. Now I can make an argument for keeping your body in your natural state with facts backing me up! People should just learn to accept that even certain parts of their bodies aren’t seen as beautiful, the benefits they carry with them far outweigh the detriments of its unappealing nature.

  6. When I learned about pubic hair being healthier in a sense of creating this little bed of hair, I was taken by total surprise! All my girlfriends including myself either shave or wax because to me it looked better. However, after letting my body do its thing and my pubic hair grow I think it looks nicer. Interesting post.

  7. Great read! It truly shows how much society has changed our perception of what is considered to be “beautiful” or “sexy” and how much things have changed over the years as time has passed. For example, pubic hair was considered to be sexy back in the 70’s, but nowadays pubic hair is generally seen as disgusting. My personal guess is that it is due to various forms of media which have altered our perception on what is truly “sexy” or not, such as models with no pubic hair or actors in pornographic films. All in all, great article, and one that really makes you think.

  8. This article was very informative, thank you for sharing! I find that shaving everything is uncomfortable and itchy. Not to mention super high maintenance! However, I personally like a nice trimmed bush myself, just not entirely gone. Ouch! It was interesting to hear all the STDs one would be more prone to than if they were to have a full bush. It is important for our youth to be educated about these things while being entertained. Love your articles!

  9. Very informative article professor it’s funny how most had such a difference in perspective of pubic hair now compared back then. Media definitely played a big role in pubic hair being “disgusting.” Great post.

  10. I feel that as a society we have made up our opinios on how we are going to view and portray people as a whole. This was interesting to read because it showed me just so how alot of things of how we view men and women that are pure sterotypes. I feel these kind of things are ingrained in us though. Like for example the fact that it is ok for a boy to have sex where as if a girl does she is a hoe. The boys have to have sex with somebody. I don’t wanna get to far into this so thats just my take on this one. thank you

  11. I find it juvenile of people to act as if something as natural as pubic hair is disgusting. I honestly think that some what of a “Bush” is attractive. Women shouldn’t feel the need to wax themselves or shave themselves raw to accommodate the idiocy of my generation who in reality have no sense of self because of how glorified the media and society portrays the famous and “sought after”. Although it may seem like a surface issue, I think this issue can make for a very deep conversation. Long live the flavor saver! Haha!

  12. It is sad to see that the media has portrayed that having body hair is not sexy and causes people to shave everything off just to feel sexy but back in the day body hair was seen as very sexy. I guess people cant make up their minds anymore I personally think that trimming is okay but being natural is way better!

  13. Shave or not to shave. Media sucks ass but hey what can we do? If one shaves down there good for them as long as they are aware of the risk of course and get that checked. I remember that one love scene from “Scary Movie” when she let out her huge bush and her partner was like no worries as he takes out a chain saw/bush cutter and shaves it off. It thought for awhile that it can grow that much without shaving but was proved wrong. Another great topic should be on why its called an R-rated movie.

  14. Very funny and relevant post for my generation! I remember my guy friends first telling me in middle school (the period where most of them were really diving into the world of porn) telling me that they thought pubic hair was disgusting. I wonder what made this trend so popular? Hair is hair to me. I dunno. Also, I didn’t really know that lack of hair would make you more susceptible to STDs! I mean it makes sense now that I think about it, but the idea never crossed my mind. I shall inform everyone I know! *posts facebook status* (haha)

  15. I live by the saying. “Just do you” in which you do things for yourself and not to please others. Without prior knowledge to the health benefits of having pubes; I would say do what makes you happy. Wax, trim, shave, or leave your pubes alone. Now that I’ve learned more about pubic hair i would say its a good thing to have. If a person doesn’t like having lots of it then how about trimming it down to a comfortable length?

  16. I personally do not mind if my partner is shaved or not! I guess bush has its benefits! Besides, a little bush never hurt nobody! #TeamSaveTheBush

  17. Very informative article, it’s funny how time has changed the perspective of pubic hair now compared back then. Society definitely plays a big role in pubic hair being “unappealing” and setting standards as to how one needs to look like. Really enjoyed reading your post!

  18. Haha! I don’t know why, but the whole time I was reading this I was picturing the lice partying on pubic hair and bacteria as little robbers trying to sneak their way through pubic hair. Honestly, I think pubic hair is attractive on men and women. I always feel naked whenever I shave. It just feels natural to have it. I think it’s really funny when people get grossed out with pubic hair. The only time I get grossed out with it is if I see some hairs on the sheets or in the bathroom of a hotel room. (Yes, this has happened to me.) Gag me with a Spoon!

  19. Its crazy how time has changed from the 70’s to now! Most females do not like pubic hair becuase for males in todays society they find it unattractive! I think this post was funny yet informative and i enjoyed it!

  20. Nice to know. In my experience it that even though it hasbecomeless popular to rock a bush, many young women like it as well as I!

  21. I find the only reason that our society finds this gross is because the society has made us feel that way. I only find the need to shave due to what society tells me and the fact that now men find it gross if women do not shave. I also think that the idea of clean shaven has come a lot from expectations of men due to the fact that most men watch porn and most women in modern porn are cleanly shaven. Unfortunately, porn has created a set of standards for women.

    • I think there’s a lot of truth in what you say. But you know who can change this? Women! We do not have to accept views about ourselves that come from others. I’m not saying that’s easy. We all want to be loved and appreciated. But we can choose our own standard and educate others (men) about why.

      • bushin’ it! hey its not men to blame thats not fair to categorize, i think your right on education but throughout our society, but i support where your coming from and thats awesome. stay true to yourself and dont make unnecessary changes to an already beautiful body that god created for us.

  22. hahaha a pussy wig! never had a furgburger in my life, i do like a nice shaven landscape to explore however, i support your trimming reply to someones comment about oral and societies obsession with oral sex has increased the number of people who keep it shaven. often times, i will manscape but i still love the smooth feeling of a fresh cut. but to your comment of sti’s and the pores of entries and even possibly a cut from shaving( balls arent the easiest thing to put a razor to) so i picture myself waiting a day or 2 to let the epidermis heal and stay std free. thats the life for me. thanks the experience professor!

    • Everyone has to find what’s comfortable for them. I just want people to understand the risks! We all think we’re not going to get an STD; that mindset is the biggest risk for getting an STD!

  23. The bottom photo is so funny to me. I’d totally get a merkin just for gags. I googled it and apparently you can buy it on Amazon. You could even get it in orange! Maybe I’ll buy an orange wig too so the curtains could match the drapes.

  24. This was a good read. I must say that society will always have the pressures to follow main street America when it comes down to what’s acceptable or not. I can honestly say that I am guilty and have felt the pressures to follow societies pressures as to what’s cool and what’s “ratchet”.

  25. I really enjoy how you add humor to your articles. It makes me feel very comfortable sharing with you. With age I learned to like it well trimmed. I was not always this way. Growing up I was under the assumption it had to be hairless. Ain’t nobody got time for that!!!

  26. I honestly didn’t know about the pubic lice up until now 0_0. This really was informative and shows how much the society has changed .

  27. I thought this was pretty interesting and very informative, I wasn’t aware of the different uses for pubic hair and how much we need it. A lesson well learned, even though I took micro bio the thought never occurred to me that there could be all of those portals of entry simply from shaving. It’s very eye opening.

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