Sex & Relationships

5 Unintended Consequences of America's War on Pubic Hair

As more and more women (and men) are expected to get rid of their pubic hair, it's time to look at some of the negative effects.

America's merciless war on pubic hair continues, with hair removal -- a trim or totally bald -- growing in popularity across gender and age groups, especially among the young: a recent study by the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University found that the younger the woman the more likely she was to wax or shave all of her pubic hair. Meanwhile, alarmed health providers and researchers have launched a counter-offensive, publicizing the wide variety of nasty health effects. Here are 5 unintended consequences of our battle against pubes. 

1)The Spread of STI’s:The universe has decided humans need more ways to exchange diseases during sex.Earlier this year,a French médecin observed a surge of pube-less patients bespotted with the Molluscum contagiousm virus (MVC). The dermatologist concluded the MCV was spread amongst people who had shorn their pubic hair with razors carrying the virus (from a different part of their body), and/or bumped hairless uglies with MCV carriers. “Long ago, surgeons figured out that shaving a body part prior to surgery actually increased rather than decreased surgical site infections”, wrote Emily Gibson M.D.

Skin, especially the soft epidermis of your nether regions, is made vulnerable when hair is yanked out, or burned, slashed, or pruned off. “When that irritation is combined with the warm moist environment of the genitals, it becomes a happy culture media for some of the nastiest of bacterial pathogens, namely group A streptococcus, staphylococcus aureus and its recently mutated cousin methicillin resistant staph aureus (MRSA)”, as well as herpes.

2) Injuries:Recently, thejournal Urology reportedthat pubic hair removal injuries increased fivefold between 2002 and 2010! A bit of unsolicited advice- when wielding blades around your genitals avoid going all Edward Scissorhands on yourself; 83% of those wounds were suffered from shaving (and only 56.7% of those reported injuries came from ladies). The study cites lacerations as the most common injury, with rashes coming in second. The report also describes “... the use of the shaving cream lid to control bleeding from a vaginal cut, self-circumcision with scissors, slip and fall on a razor with external genital injury, use of a razor to incise genital lesions, razor handle assault by another person, ritualistic genital cutting, and shaving skin over a spider bite” as some of the anomalous injuries sustained from hacking at the hedges. The study advises self-groomers “don’t shave while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.” Where’s the fun in that? Booooo. Also, do not shave and drive. Like this Floridian (of course) woman.

Severe infections have been hospitalizing the hairless as well: after two separate incidents of women being rushed to the ER due to infections from their Brazilian waxes, the state of New Jersey considered banning the service in 2009. A diabetic woman in Australia  nearly died from the life threatening bacterial infection incurred by her Brazilian wax.

3) The expense: In its comprehensive piece about the fiscal cost of being a lady with lady problems and lady expenses, Jezebel wrote that waxes are a conservative $35 (plus tip). I found they were typically between $45-$65, or more. For those that prefer to mow their labia lawn the old fashioned way, $15.95 a month is the estimated cost of shaving supplies, in addition to “soothing gels” and ingrown hair/razor burns solutions. Don’t worry dudes! When enjoying your Dr. Pepper Ten or sipping on Pepsi Max, you too can spend your money on genital vanity. Brands once solely associated with women’s grooming have created products for men. “Who wears short shorts?” You do, bro. Salons are eager to manicure your manhood, offering services like Bliss Spa’s “the Ultimate He-Wax” (!) for a mere $125 (for the record, I think it’s masochistic to seek a brazilian wax from a place called “Bliss”).

4) The Message: 30% of the women wounded in the aforementioned Urology report were under the age of 18. Apparently, for teen girls to appear more grownup, they must look more...preadolescent. What messages are we subliminally sending girls as this body modification becomes normative?  Will they develop body-hairexia to round out the rich catalog of pervasive body image and gender issues that dictate “femininity” in pop culture (like talented, well-respected, renaissance woman Kim Kardashian who has demurely purred that she is completely hairless)? Anyone who hasn’t completely blocked out the emotional scars from that hormonal hellscape known as adolescence remembers that being perceived as “abnormal” is the social kiss of death. Will peer pressure teach girls that their vaginas are naturally ugly if follicle-y dense? Girls as youngas EIGHT YEARS OLD are getting waxed, and last July one salon ran a deal offering 50% off the first wax for any girl 15 years old or under! “Celebrate freedom and independence all July”, the advertisement demanded. From what, the nascent stages of puberty? HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA! Your middle schoolers can now get their pubes ripped out, suck it Red Coats! Lastly, let’s not forget that the appeal of the bare vagine (in America at least) was its aesthetic emulation of pornography.

5) Depriving yourself of pubes deprives you of their Darwinian advantage: Hey, guess what?! Your bush is not vestigial! It has several functions, should you let it be. Pubes are “pheronmone diffusers”- they “trap” pheromones and help you get laid. High five! And once you and your partner begin your motion in the ocean, the hair acts as a soft buffer to keep you from rubbing each others skin off. As mentioned previously, your private hair also protects your genitals from viruses and dirt and all the other the scary business of the outside world.




April De Costa is a freelance writer living in Austin.