Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Depilation Blues

By Lisabet Sarai


Like most of you, I read quite a lot of erotica. I've noticed an increasing focus on the supposed sexual appeal of a depilated pussy. And I have to say, I deplore this trend.

Half a dozen years ago, one would only occasionally encounter a shaved or waxed pubis in an erotic story. A bare beaver was unusual and thus transgressive. An author could use this to signal that the character was into age play, or a submissive forced to shave by her Dom, or a wild sensualist seeking the increased sensitivity that supposedly results from the removal of pubic hair. The average woman had pubic hair – thus the woman sporting a naked mons was by definition unusual.

These days, every woman and her sister seems to wax. The practice (in erotic fiction at least) has become as accepted – almost as expected – as shaving one's underarms. Waxing has found its way into romance and chick lit, another female ritual akin to shopping or getting a manicure. As a result, a bared mound has completely lost its value as an indication of erotic preferences. At the same time, more and more authors seem to imply that hairlessness is a desirable, sexy state – that in fact a woman who doesn't shave or at least trim her pubes is in some sense ill-groomed.

Sorry, but I don't buy this. Pubic hair (as well as underarm hair) has an erotic function. It survived the onslaught of evolution because it enhances arousal. The hair surrounding the genital area captures and holds a rich melange of scents that help attract a mate. Olfactory stimuli play a huge role in triggering sexual response, and eliminating the hair reduces the potency of those stimuli.

Of course, a hairless pubic area introduces new textures and sensations for both partners. I suppose that it might amplify sexual intensity as some women report. I must say that the only time I've had ever had a shaved pubis – in preparation for a gynecological procedure – I found the experience uncomfortable and unpleasant. There's nothing arousing or enjoyable about itchy, unsightly stubble!

I believe that the increasing emphasis on hairlessness derives at least partially from an attempt to distance ourselves from our animal natures. Sex is messy, smelly, sometimes rough, sometimes awkward, and I think society would like to forget or deny that. The feminine ideal is porcelain smooth, flawless, poised and cool. How often do you see fashion models – or porn queens for that matter – sweaty and disheveled, the way people really are when they're fucking?

I'm sure this is partly the result of my age and experience, but to me, a woman without pubic hair looks unnatural and unappealing. In my stories, I frequently mention the luxurious tangles that shield my heroine's sex from her partners' view. Those partners love to burrow into that damp, fragrant thicket, breathing in the intoxicating scent of an aroused woman. You'll find my characters enjoying the ripe musk lingering in the bush of their male companions, too. I've written a handful of tales in which a character has a bare pubis, but there's always a narrative justification for this choice. In both fiction and the real world, I prefer lovers who are comfortable with their bodies, men and women who aren't ashamed to recognize that we're slightly less horny cousins of the sexually voracious bonobos.

“It's just a fad,” I'm sure some readers will counter. “Eventually the pendulum will swing the other way.” Perhaps they're right. Recently, though, I read that men have hopped on the depilation bandwagon as well. The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/12/fashion/men-turn-to-bikini-waxing.html) reports that salons offering Brazilians for guys are doing a booming business, at least in urban areas. I found this article made me feel vaguely queasy, especially when one stylist commented, “It's about maintaining yourself and keeping things clean.”

“Maintaining yourself”! Like a car or some other mechanism. Please! But this view seems to be popular. Alas, you'll rarely find a hairy romance hero. Check out the covers from your favorite erotic romance publisher, and you'll find a high proportion feature well-muscled men with chests as smooth as a baby's butt.

Perhaps these images attract women because they've known hairy men who did not, in fact, give much attention to hygiene. I'll admit that hair intensifies unpleasant as well as pleasant smells, but a shower will handle this problem at least as well as waxing.

It's come to the point that women who retain their pubic hair have become exotic fetish objects. Check out any vendor of adult films and you'll find titles like “Horny Hairy Girls”, “Pubic Hair for Sale”, and “That Teen's Got a Bushy Pussy”.

I suppose I'm just a product of my times, my aesthetic and sexual preferences determined by my history. I grew up in the sixties and seventies, when abundant hair was a symbol of freedom. Younger readers won't necessarily have these associations.

I still find it depressing, though, that women will spend their hard-earned cash and endure considerable pain to conform to this twisted notion of attractiveness.

My depilation blues even inspired a story. “Shorn”, in Lustfully Ever After: Fairytale Erotic Romance, (edited by Kristina Wright), is a re-telling of Rapunzel. In my version of the tale, the princess is imprisoned in an inaccessible tower not to protect her from ravishers but to punish her for being unwilling to cut her hair – or shave her pubis. If you're curious, you can read a brief excerpt here.

So what do you think? Am I being silly? Or does the current obsession with eliminating the hirsute go beyond the question of fashion to have negative implications for our sexuality?

17 comments:

  1. Yes, yes, yes, one hundred times yes. I couldn't agree more with your post. Maybe because I am a similar generation to yourself - surely I'm not the only person who finds John Lennon's and Yoko Ono's "jungly groins" on their album cover appealing?

    Personally I don't see the appeal of waxed genitalia, only the inconvenience and the discomfort (the grate of stubble on tender areas is not arousing in the slightest).

    I also find it disturbing that in this time of hyper-awareness of underage sex that bare genitals are desired. With very few exceptions, bare genitals are only naturally found on pre-pubescent children. This association squicks me somewhat.

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  2. Dear dog, yes. I can't bear to see shaved pubic areas. I always think men who desire this are closet paedophiles.

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  3. I'll be a contrary to that. I liked both men and women to be shaved. There are a few reasons for that. I probably watch way too much anime for starters. When someone is freshly shaved, there is that neat slickness. It feels different for the first few days and sometimes it gets really sensitive. I also like the texture of stubble, it feels good against my fingertips and tongue. I don't like picking hair out of my mouth. For guys, I really, really don't like the little scraggly hairs on the balls. At the base is okay, but not the scrotum.

    Another reason is that my lovely wifetype does not shave, has never shaved, and will never shave. And it doesn't bother me in the slightest bit. But, a bare sex is a contrast to what I get at home, so it adds to the exotic nature. I'm sure if she shaved daily, I'd like a lot more hair but since she won't, I won't ever find out.

    For me, I just don't like it on myself. The tangles of pubic and underarm hair are an annoyance. I don't enjoy the texture of them on my own body so I simply shave them off every month just because it feels better to me. It also doesn't increase or decrease my chance of sex, so it purely a personal preference. On the other hand, I enjoy masturbating more when it is bare. I also buzz cut my head for the same reason, I simply don't like the feel of hair.

    As the Penn and Teller's Bullshit show on hair concluded, everyone is different. I don't think it is surefire way of saying someone being a pedophile, it could be simply a personal preference or an exotic thrill.

    I think there was a time when video porn had everyone bare, but things are swinging back. You see the "landing strip" a lot more or hair above the sex but the sex itself is bare. I think it will eventually go to the neatly trimmed (buzzed) and bounce around there, but I suspect that the thick bushes will not come back for a few decades at least, except on the fetish side.

    In my writing, I have a variety based on the type of character. Most people aren't shaved simply because most people in this world don't do it (outside of the porn industry, that is). Some are, but usually it is a personal preference. When I create a character, it is just one more thing I pick out. Brown hair, light brown eyes, has a little heart, prefers yellow nail polish.... And in fantasy, the elves are sparse and the orcs are big hairy beasts.

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  4. The shaving trend comes from visual porn. Hair makes it harder to see the cock sliding in and out of the pussy. It makes it harder to see the labia wrapped around the shaft. That's why the style went from hairy to landing strips first before the trend went to its obvious conclusion.

    As a result, it became associated with a sexually active woman who's trying to be desirable. There's no reason to shave besides "look at my pussy." Well, maybe "please touch my pussy since it's so smooth" but that's often secondary.

    When I mention a woman's trimmed or shaved pubic hair in a story (which isn't always), it's to emphasize that she's got some exhibitionistic elements in her personality or recognizes that it's the fashion trend. E.g., strippers are always trimmed.

    Is this a negative effect on our sexuality? I can't say. I'm not a fan of fully shaved because it makes me think of little girls, but I've used it in stories (the character was hiding her real hair color). But knowing where it comes from, I personally don't find it to be a big deal.

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  6. Like any trend in body modification, individual rationale varies. I tried shaving several years ago to experience the different sensations. And it certainly was different, but as far as sex goes, I can't say it was "better" than the hairy variety. I kept shaving, however, because I liked the way it felt under my clothing. My undies (when I choose to wear them) are more comfy without the pinch of hair under elastic. During workouts, I don't get as hot (in the sweaty sense). Initially, I was hyper aware of the bareness & there was an arousing effect, but that has long passed.

    I've never tried waxing, though. I doubt I'd "maintain" myself in that fashion. Not into pain beyond the occasional ass smacking.

    In my partners, I do find that a bare groin allows me to focus on oral sex without the distraction of a pubic hair finding its way to the back of my throat. More of an issue with the fellas than the ladies, though, and the guys are far less likely to shave/wax in the 1st place. That's the only drawback, as far as I'm concerned, of "hair down there."

    But bare characters in fiction? Honestly, I've not even noticed.

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  7. Wow, now I'm feeling sort of perverse and unfeminist. I've been waxing for the last 20 years - all of it. I could not shave. Yikes - stubble.

    However, in my defense I would like to say that I am... er... excessively Mediterranean. And if I didn't wax... well, let's just say I would be a lot warmer.

    I think you make many good points, Lisabet. There are dark semiotics lurking behind the bare pussy.

    However, I have noticed the resurgence of the hairy pussy in porn. I think it is making a comeback.

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  8. There is some middle ground between "going bare" and avoiding all methods of hair removal.

    I don't shave often (usually no more than once a month) and have only waxed once in my life. I didn't dislike it or find it particularly painful... I just couldn't justify the expense. I never have issues with uncomfortable stubble, and when I choose to shave, it's because it really does feel good. I am more easily aroused and I enjoy the sensation of slick skin on skin. I don't really enjoy shaving all the much, but I enjoy the feel of wiry hair on my skin even less.

    That said, I never go completely bare. I save my labia but not my mons. I like the bit of hair on top for aesthetic and because it adds some sensation - something that can be teased and twisted.

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  9. I have no judgement either way, but I agree, I hate for it to become a trend. How we style our hair (on our heads or otherwise), seems like it should be a personal choice, not a societal one...

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  10. Thanks, everyone, for your varied commentary. I'm glad no one things this was too trivial a topic for an ERWA blog post!

    RG, you're definitely perverse - but nobody could ever strip the feminist label from you (along with your pubic hair...!)

    Ed - you're right, a bare pussy says "look at me!" But if everyone's bare (as it seems they are these days in some fiction) then that meaning is lost.

    Alessia - Interesting that you call shaving or waxing "body modification". I hadn't thought of it that way, but I suppose one could lump it in with tattoos, piercings, and the like. A statement. I guess what I'm decrying is the expectation that this is "normal".

    I would never condemn an individual who preferred bareness, for herself/himself or her/his lovers. What bugs me is the societal pressure.

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  11. The topic is not at all trivial, Lisabet! As the comments show, this is a matter of personal preference, and that's what's bothered me about the "fashion" where it seems to be required to make a woman sexy. In my research on swinging, I've learned that it's more or less expected the women will be hairless (not the men, of course) and that this is considered polite to the relative strangers they will be having sex with. Well, I, too, am of the "Hair" generation, and I'm all for anything goes either way, which also means the fact hairlessness is expected in women rubs me the wrong way. Personally, I've experimented with shaving (stubble is no fun) and waxing (painful, but I lived) and it's been fun, but I just don't feel like myself (same with being on the pill). Your post has made me realize that if any individual enjoys this occasionally or always as a personal preference, it's great. But no to social pressure!

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  12. Hi, Donna,

    Actually, I was at a swing club about five or six years ago and got a wondering but (I think) appreciative comment from a guy on my pubic hair. It was as though he couldn't believe I'd dare allow myself go natural. I was surprised at the time that anyone cared!

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  13. Great post Lisabet, and near to my heart.

    In the early days of Playboy, the first glimpse of pubic hair were startling. This was long before labia made their appearance, and that left an impression on me.

    A thin pair of silk panties, slightly poofed out by pubes remains a turn on to me.

    Many years ago, I worked with a beautiful young woman who wore dark stockings over her dark legs, and if you looked close, you could tell she didn't shave. I found this sexy as well.

    Full disclosure: I can find a shaven person sexy too; I suppose it all comes back to variety, but I do find the current trend toward depilation disturbing. Given the choice, I prefer the appearance of pubic hair.

    In an online "conversation" on the topic of body hair, one young fellow I know wrote "if I didn't shave, I'd never get anyone to go down on me."

    That was a sad statement indeed. I do hope that this is a trend, and that shaven bodies return to be an exception.

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  14. Since horrifically geriatric menopausal signs started appearing at the stroke of forty, I went for my first Brazilian and I have to say I think I like it.
    There's just something about a bald spot in my pubic hair that I am psychologically not prepared for at this age.
    If not for that, I might have continued on with the idea that it's reminiscent of pedophilia.
    I've never thought hair gone wild is sexy though. If a woman doesn't want to wax, she should at least trim.

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  15. Hi, Craig,

    Thanks for your comments. I think you just find women sexy, period! ;^)

    That being said, I strongly agree with your comments about variety. A shaven or depilated pussy becomes appealing or shocking (for me, at least) only when it stands out (so to speak!) from the crowd.

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  16. Aloha LIsabet,

    What a terrific blog! There were many interesting points you brought up. I personally love pubic hair. I find it creepy and a turn off when there's none. I don't want to look at someone and see a wee boy. I want a man.

    I do think we are slowly 'de-sexing' people to some degree with the no hair thing. And it makes me sad that we have to be so scrubbed and buffed, preemed and gleamed, otherwise we don't think we'll get any sex. That just doesn't work for me.

    Ladies, always carry dental floss or men... :-) I am being slightly facetious but I don't like this desexing of people. I don't like how the girls think it's normal and they HAVE to do it. Personal choice, okay. But because it's expected. No.

    I've talked to a few young guys who feel they SHOULD. I had one young black guy who had had people ask him to shave. I was a bit taken aback when he said that. I found that offensive. If someone asked me to shave, I'd say, 'There's the door, don't let it hit you on the arse on the way out."

    Great blog. Loved it, thank you!!

    Aloha Meg :-)

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