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12 Year Olds Getting Bikini Waxes: Why Do Women Do Such Terrible Things to Their Vaginas?

Pouring burning wax onto their genitals has become the norm for many women. Why?
 
 
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When a Cosmo headline promises to help readers get a “sexy vagina,” you know we’ve gone wrong somewhere. Here, all this time, we’d thought that if we had just one inch of sexy on ourselves, it resided in our sex organs. We figured maybe, just maybe, the place where their penises go might turn men on. We thought perhaps the millions of males who paused their VHS tapes of the 1992 movie Basic Instinct at a certain moment when Sharon Stone uncrosses her legs for all the world to see a flash of her goods -- and the millions more who continue to search for this screen-shot online to this day -- might have been predisposed to like pussy. (Then again, that is a hot white mini-dress she wears; maybe they just appreciate the simplicity of the design.) What we’re saying is we didn’t realize it could be such a chore to sex up the part of us that performs the sex.

Oops, take that back: We did realize it. We’ve realized it since the late ’90s, when suddenly it wasn’t just porn stars who found it an every-day necessity to hire a lady to pour hot wax onto their genitals, then rip it allll off, to, you know, keep things tidy down there. Organized. Sexy. In fact, a startling number of us pledged complicity to this trend -- known by the seductive term Brazilian bikini wax -- for something so painful, given that, unlike porn stars and swimsuit models, we couldn’t even claim it as a tax write-off. Among women in American urban centers, this has even become the norm, as routine as a manicure-pedicure or highlights, more routine than a dentist appointment. It is no mere biannual affair, after all. Keeping your honeypot sexy takes dedication, darling.

The question: Why do we do this? And does every rip of the wax take a little bit of our feminism with it?

To figure that out, it’s worth looking back at bikini waxing’s history. There’s some evidence that women in Indian cultures as far back as 3000 B.C. removed the hair in their nether regions. Same goes for ancient Egyptians, who used a honey-based wax. The practice crept into modern America in the 1950s as bathing-suit seams advanced upwards, though in its first half-century or so of existence it involved taking just the hair that extended beyond the panty line -- the procedure now known as the “traditional” or “basic” bikini wax. Models and anyone else whose living depended on their appearance in teeny scraps of clothing accepted it as an occupational hazard by the ’70s -- even bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger later joked that his decision in 2003 to run for governor of California was the hardest choice he’d made since getting a bikini wax in 1978.

It was in 1994 that Brazilians hit U.S. shores. They washed up, as so many things do, in Manhattan. (Give it to New York gals; they’ll try anything!) The J. Sisters, an ingenious group of seven immigrant sisters, introduced trend-starved fashionistas to what they said was all the rage in their native country. “In Brazil, waxing is part of our culture because bikinis are so small,” Jonice Padilha explains on their website. “We thought it was an important service to add because personal care is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity.”

Such words -- personal care, luxury, necessity, small -- sound like a dare to appearance-obsessed celebrities weighed down by too much money. By 1999, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kirstie Alley, and Jennifer Grey were singing the J. Sisters’ praises. “You’ve changed my life!” Paltrow signed a photo to the J. Sisters that hangs on their salon wall.

 
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