Our Cultural Norms Are Killing the Pubic Lice

Uhm, what? If you are confused by that title, don’t worry. I am too.

Recently, an article surfaced on  Tree Hugger talking about how pubic lice, aka crabs, are becoming extinct due to “lack of habitation.” The article notes briefly that a study showed 80 percent of US college students are trimming or fully removing all of their pubes, and as a result, crabs are dying out.

While not many of us are boohooing about the lack of crabs crawling around our fellow bar-goers panties or boxer-briefs, it’s still important to note how a small change in human behavior can impact organisms around us. (Cough. Veganism. Sorry, I had to!)

But that’s not what fascinated me about this pubey article. It was the study mentioned. I looked into this study, and was immediately enthralled. But first, let’s just talk about pube trends for a moment, shall we?

While this study focused on college-aged students, I can assure you they aren’t the only ones who are landscaping their love bits. How do I know? Because I am both a gym rat and a people watcher, and this means I spend a lot of time staring at butts and bushes in the locker room. I’m such a creep! But in the locker room, I get to really analyze the trends of what the women around me are doing with their lady whiskers, and if it has taught me anything, it is don’t stereotype!

You might assume things about the people you see, and what they’re doing with their pubes, but let me tell you, you’re probably wrong. That super hot 20-year-old yoga bunny with the penciled in eyebrows is going full bush, but that 40-year-old spin instructor’s cooch looks like my 4 year old cousin’s.

While I would agree that the younger generation probably spends more time with a razor (or waxs), the trend is NOT limited to the college and young professional age group.

Unfortunately, I can’t get into the men’s locker room (I haven’t really tried, I swear) to analyze their pube habits, but something tells me things are a bit furrier over on that side of the gym. I mean you don’t see many men lining up for Brazilians.

We don’t have to play a guessing game as to if men and women are removing their pubes. They are. But I do want to spend a moment speculating as to WHY.

The study, titled “Gender, Self-Objectification and Pubic Hair Removal” supports my locker room hypothesis: While both genders do groom their bits, women do it more often, and are more likely to remove ALL of their hair. But more importantly, the women cited in the study (which looks at two different samples, one from US college students, and one from Australian) find it more NORMAL to remove their hair.

In fact, “normative” was one of the largest reasons the women in the study shave/wax/Nair (JK on the Nair. Don’t do that ever) with another large reason cited as “sexiness.” These reasons were correlated with self-surveillance, or self-objectification. Basically, we are looking at ourselves and deciding what is sexy, or normal.

The men surveyed were interested in appearing masculine, which is why they keep more of their hair. Baldness isn’t normally associated with manliness – if it was, Rogaine would not be a thing.

Oh, right right, I must briefly address the “clean” theory. Some say they shave because it makes them feel cleaner, but I think we should replace the word “clean” with “streamlined.” Everything may look more put together if we’re bald, or neatly trimmed, but in fact, removing our hair makes us more susceptible to infection and disease. That’s what the hair is there for! To protect us! Like eye lashes. Pubic lashes.

The idea that body hair removal reflects a cultural norm is perhaps what is most important here—we are trying to meet definitions of what we think society finds attractive. Men remove hair on their face, and women remove their underarm and leg hair for these reasons. But unlike face and pit hair, banishing your pubic hair is NOT done for public appearance. It is done for our own self-surveillance, and possibly the surveillance of our lovers.

However, as the study notes, these norms in women are (freakishly?) child-like. We are taking our adult women and making them appear like thin, long-legged hairless children…with huge boobs.

From the study:

“In cultures that endorse this image of adult women, body hair removal may reflect yet another way (in addition, e.g. to dieting and plastic surgery) of disciplining the female body and keeping women focused on achieving a particular ideal.”

Removing our hair is something that requires constant maintenance, as the hair is always growing back. The study linked this to the act of dieting to achieve unnatural thinness. It is something we strive for even though it consumes a lot of energy.

The study basically concluded that we are ashamed of our pubic hair, because our most pressing motive for removing it is to be normal, and maybe to be sexually alluring.

Speaking of sexually alluring, the study found that while men did claim to prefer little to no pubic hair on women, women did not share this preference in terms of men. Full circle to the whole idea of “manliness.” While our society may find it sexy for the women to look like big-boobed children, we don’t want our men looking like kiddies.

I wrote about manscaping on SexyTofu two years ago, concluding that the main reason I think dudes shave everything is because they think it makes them “look bigger.” I’m onto you. Or maybe it’s for comfort. I don’t know!

Okay, what do you think? Why do we shave off all our pubic hair? Why do we sexualize child-like women but not men? Do you feel bad we’re removing the natural habitat of crabs? Can you believe I just wrote 998 words about the sociology of PUBES? Oops, make that 1009!

About the author  ⁄ Zoe

Zoe writes about food and sex on SexyTofu.com.

2 Comments

  • Reply
    January 18, 2013

    It’s so rare that I get a chance to comment on crabs or other sad pube situations. I definitely had a little twinge of guilt, like, “awww, poor little pubey lice, you’re important to some sort of eco system..” but I can’t for the life of me think of what that system is all about. Somewhere, there is a scientist who is missing his peak chance of popularity today.

    I can’t handle being sans bush. I used to wax when I had a gentleman who really liked it but to be honest, I didn’t feel as sexy. When I am bald down there I don’t feel sexy, I feel like I’m not a woman–like I haven’t earned my stripe! I’m all for maintenance and a little neatening up, but I’m a woman and I want to look like one. Anyone who is turned off by that is definitely not invited to my no-pants party

    • Reply
      February 4, 2013

      good to hear a woman who loves her bush. I prefer natural in all ways. It is shameful that there are such unnecessary pressures to “normalize” and the negative consequences of these pressures being brought to bear. Also, a bit of speculation into shaved pubes and whether this correlates to sexual interest in “minors” (prepubescent appearance being glorified leads to prepubescent-aged children being targets)??

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