The mysterious disappearance of female pubic hair
By Jennifer Beth Williams
With a flick of her wrist, Jennifer Eiffe yanks out chunks of pubic hair. Over and over, day after day, session after session, Eiffe makes a living as a waxer at Garbo’s, popular beauty salon among Syracuse University students. Somewhere, somehow, someone has banned bushes. Business is booming.
Girls pour into the salon by the dozens and Eiffe tells them to strip. She leaves the room while they remove their pants and underwear and wait for her atop a crinkly, paper-covered bed. When she returns, they spread their legs and she begins. Eiffe scoops a glob of warm wax onto a disposable wooden applicator and applies a thin layer onto their skin. She places a strip of clean fabric on top of the wax and presses it down to make sure that it’s attached to the hairs. Finally, she pulls the skin taut, tells the girl to exhale, and rips. Fast.
Maybe the girl flinches, maybe she keeps a straight face, or maybe her eyes tear up. She then breathes a sigh of relief and prepares herself for the next strip. The girl must contort her body to help Eiffe, moving her legs up and out, one at a time, holding her vulva lips while the waxer’s hands are busy. About six minutes later, the girl is completely pubeless -— smooth and maybe a bit red. The nearby trashcan is full of used strips coated with coarse, curly hair. The girl forks over $50.
The Brazilian wax, made popular by celebrities, pornography, and itty-bitty underwear sans room for muff, is the complete removal of pubic hair. This includes the area between the vaginal lips and the anus. It’s not rare for the waxer to put on finishing touches with a pair of tweezers. Ladies and genitalia, it’s about to get personal.
Chip Rowe, The Playboy Advisor, has the coveted job of talking about boobs, pubes, and sex all day, everyday. With an arsenal of 14 years experience at Playboy, he answers 500 emails a month from readers with questions about anything from relationships to fetishes, and publishes 20 of his answers in each issue. Rowe, who calls himself Playboy’s de facto sex editor, said he often receives questions regarding pubic hair. The most common: Is it normal?
“Removing all pubic hair is definitely popular,” he said. “Especially for younger women. Nearly all of the girls in our recent college issue [didn’t have pubic hair]. We aren’t telling anyone to remove their pubic hair; it’s just how younger women are showing up.”
Rowe doesn’t know the exact function of pubic hair, but www.smartersex.org’s Sexpert postulates that pubic hair might be there for a reason. Body hair traps pheromones —- sexually arousing but unnoticeable scents -— to help attract mates. It may also prevent irritants from entering the vagina. And, back in the days of our animalistic, cave-dwelling sexcapades, it’s possible that pubes were just damn sexy.
But that’s no longer the case. Eiffe estimates she sees anywhere from five to 15 clients each day. Come spring break season, that number will jump to 35. Out of those clients, 85 percent request Brazilian waxes and the rest go for the standard bikini waxes. A bikini wax is the removal of the top and side of the pubic area, or, enough to wear a bikini bottom.
According to Eiffe’s nine years of experience at Garbo’s, girls get Brazilians to please their boyfriends and impress their hookups. As weekends approach, her appointment slots fill with upperclassmen regulars and new batches of freshmen.
“I think [my clients get Brazilians] for sexual reasons,” she said. “The boys obviously like it or see girls in pornos with no hair. I guess it might be easier to have no hair if you’re screwing somebody all weekend long.”
SU freshman Jake Herman* agreed. The no-pubes route is less messy, less dirty, and less sweaty. “I don’t like going down on a girl in general,” he said. “But if I was to consider it and she had pubes, I probably wouldn’t do it.”
Regardless of what sends these girls to the salon, there’s just something about the waxing experience that makes them open up more than their legs once they get there.
So, while Eiffe works, they spill their guts to her. Sex, breakups, drama -— nothing is off-limits.
A few years ago, a girl came in and revealed that a condom had disappeared while she was having sex with her boyfriend.
“Lo and behold, when I’m doing her wax, I see the ribbed part of the condom peeking out of her lips,” said Eiffe. “‘Ohp! There it is!’ I said. ‘We found the problem.’”
Cheryl Miller*, an SU senior, started waxing in high school when she began dating her first serious boyfriend. She is an ex¬perienced salon-goer, but each session is still nerve-wracking. Miller still fears that her skin will rip off. She has a tendency to develop in-grown hairs, irritation, and itchiness during re-growth. With an inventory of bad experiences literally under her belt, Miller has reason to hyperventilate when she sits on the table.
Once, Miller accidentally scheduled a wax right before her period, a time when skin is ultra-sensitive and waxes are not recommended. When the waxer removed the first strip, she knew something was wrong. It hurt a lot more than usual. But the woman continued and by the time it was over, Miller was bruised and bleeding. When she got home, she was so uncomfortable that she iced.
“I felt like a big tool,” she said. “I was laying on my bed with a huge bag of ice on my crotch.”
Miller said she genuinely thinks that maintaining her pubes is essential and more sanitary. She likes the smooth feeling that accompanies a wax. But she doubts that girls who say they “do it for themselves” are actually paying money for the luxury of having a stranger rip out their pubic hair. “I guarantee that if it was attractive [today] to have tons of hair, the girls who do it ‘for me’ wouldn’t do it,” she said. “They know that guys see it in porn, and that’s what guys want.”
Securitization of specific body parts is nothing new; it has occurred as far back as the Victorian era. Back then, corsets were worn so tightly that they contorted internal organs. Sometimes, over the course of many years of lacing up, a woman’s uterus would expel itself from the vagina, said Carla Lloyd, an advertising professor in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications who specializes in appearances of women.
“As different body parts become more ‘popular,’ they become more managed,” she said. “Right now, there is a lot of focus on the butt and breasts, which also puts more focus on erogenous zones in general.”
Underwear and swimsuit trends are more revealing than they were ten years ago. Countless products are available to improve the vagina alone, including waxes, creams, and douches. “It’s normalized,” said Lloyd. “We don’t even question [that bikini waxing doesn’t make sense]. It’s conditioned.”
Eiffe, who has developed personal relationships with her clients throughout their four years in Syracuse, echoed this train of thought. She finds the issue subtle and complicated, but altogether doubts her clients really stop and think about why they get waxed.
“I don’t think girls would do it if they didn’t want to,” she said. “I think it’s become a part of society where they just do it. I have clients who have been waxing or shaving since they were in 9th grade. [Brazilian waxing] is an unspoken thing that they just have done. Girls who come in before the weekend and say they need to wax because they are going to see their boyfriend obviously know that their boyfriend is going to like it. But I don’t think they stop to say, ‘Jeez, I have to spend $50 because society tells me I shouldn’t have any hair because my boyfriend watches pornos and sees girls with no hair.’
“It’s a generational thing, too. Most girls [today] don’t have hair. Society’s changed, sexuality’s changed.”
Not only have people in their 30s, and especially their 20s, seen more porn than previous generations, but today’s porn trends don’t include pubes. Perhaps, Playboy’s Rowe said, actors in films began removing their hair to get a better camera angle of P in V, or, because it was deemed erotic.
“There’s an added sense of touch when you expose an area that’s normally covered in hair,” said Rowe. “I’m sure that’s appealing to some people. It’s a trend that started in kind of a rebellious way and it’s a little bit risqué and scandalous, I think. I don’t agree with that because a lot of guys get that idea from porn. But porn isn’t based in reality, it’s fantasy.
“I get letters from [upset] people because their partner hasn’t done anything and let it go like a wild forest underbrush. Obviously that’s a different issue from someone who keeps it trimmed and clean. If you’re with someone and that’s why you’re turned off, I mean, what have we come to? My standard response to questions [about removing pubic hair] is to trim with snub-nosed scissors.”
Rowe once received a letter from a guy who wanted to know if it was appropriate to ask a first date if she was clean-shaven and had real breasts. “If this is that important to you,” he wrote back: “It’s time to branch out your interests.”
But not every guy expects it. Steve Albertson*, an SU junior, said he doesn’t understand why girls feel the need to remove their pubes, “It’s unnatural,” he said. “I just don’t think it looks right. A lot of other guys disagree with me, but to me, it’s a turnoff.”
Since she was in middle school, Caroline Reidy*, a senior public relations major, did everything she could to stave off her pubic hair growth. She tried shaving and waxing, and eventually, it became part of her daily routine. Her friends did it, too, except for one girl, who they all thought was weird for having pubic hair. Removing their pubic hair was cleaner, they thought, and it was the norm.
“It was just like getting a manicure or my hair cut,” she said. “I didn’t particularly like it, I just did it and never thought about it.”
But when Reidy went abroad to Europe last year and began dating an older man, things changed. He was confused by her shaving habit, she said, and thought that she looked like a 9-year-old.
“I never really thought about it like that,” she said. “I’m a 21-year-old woman, not a child.”
Now, back on campus, Reidy considers herself the “weird” friend with pubes. In the States, guys expect a bald vulva, she said, but if girls didn’t make an effort to remove the hair, the norm would be different. Still, Reidy made it clear that she still shaves and trims some of her pubic hair. “Unkempt is unfriendly,” she said. “I’m all about a manicured area.” But the 20 clients that Eiffe sees on an average day take manicuring all the way down to the follicle. Day after day, session after session, they sit as chunks of their pubic hair are ripped out. Then they fork over $50.