The practice of trimming and shaving the pubic hair appears to be gaining in popularity. I do not know how wide spread it is, but it is popular amongst women in some segments of American society. This practice is nothing new, women of many societies and cultures have in the past, and in present day, removed or trimmed their pubic hair. Some cultures considered pubic hair totally unacceptable on women, or both men and women. There is not a place on this planet where at least some portion of the native female population has not trimmed or removed their pubic hair.
The likely reason why so many societies adopted the practice is personal hygiene. Those of us who live in modern cities often forget most of the world's population does not have running water in their homes, or access to clean water to bathe in. While a woman with pubic hair is not unhealthy or unclean, removal of her pubic hair often makes personal hygiene easier. This is because the natural body fluids that a woman's body produces can collect in the hair, especially menstrual blood. It takes less water and is easier to care for the vulva when these fluids cannot dry and adhere to the surrounding pubic hair. American and European women who remove their pubic hair today, even though they have access to running water in their homes, often report they find it easier to care for their vulva, and they often feel drier during their daily activities. This is particularly true during their menstrual period. It is unlikely so many cultures would adopt this practice, for men and women, if there were not some benefit.
What purpose does pubic hair serve? While it can protect the delicate vulvar tissues its primary purpose today is seen as decorative. If pubic hair had a major biological purpose, all women would have it, which is not the case. Women of some racial groups naturally have little or no pubic hair. They do not seem to suffer as a result. Some feel pubic hair serves to collect a woman's scent, so potential partners can check to see if she is ready for sex, to reproduce. Since it is not appropriate to smell the genitals of our mates to see if they are in the mood, and since we can no longer detect their scent at any distance, this function has been lost to evolution. Pubic hair often serves more of a social function than a biological one.
Pubic hair is often seen as a symbol of womanhood. A woman has pubic hair, a girl does not. A woman may feel more womanly knowing she has pubic hair. A girl may want pubic hair so she can call herself a woman. Some women who trim and shave their pubic hair always leave at least a small patch of hair so everyone will know she is a woman and not a girl. Many women following abdominal surgery mention how they disliked the appearance of their shaven vulva, because it reminded them of a little girl's, not a woman's. Women often base their adult identity on the presence of developed breasts and pubic hair. These are social definitions of womanhood, not biological ones. As mentioned above, some women naturally do not have pubic hair, does this mean they are less womanly? In addition, body hair is often associated with masculinity. If a woman has a lot of pubic hair is she more womanly or masculine? Social ideals can be pretty confusing and unrealistic.
Body hair on women has come to serve a political purpose in Western society. Since women usually remove their body hair because of social pressures and expectations, and men are seen to control society, some feminists felt women could gain more control over their lives and send a message by not removing their body hair. Some feminists preached that a modern emancipated woman would never remove her body hair. To be free she had to let her body hair grow freely. Any woman who did shave was a slave to society and particularly men. While this concept is perhaps based on fact, it overlooked one major factor that feminist were seeking to gain, freedom for the individual woman. So instead of a woman doing as society as a whole expected of her, she had to do what her social group or her own sex required of her. She had no freedom to choose what was right for her based on her own situation. Whether a woman has body hair or pubic hair should be the result of her own personal decision. Even so, social pressure will always play a part in her decision.
Even in cultures where it is considered normal and acceptable for women to have body hair, some women still prefer to remove it all. This seems to be true in many European countries. Some women who remove their pubic hair grew up in a society where body hair was the norm, unlike much of American society. This seems to show the desire to remove one's body hair is not completely the cause of social conditioning, and can simply be the result of personal preference.
Since pubic hair is seen as a symbol of womanhood, women who remove their pubic hair are sometimes seen as less womanly, as having a girlish attribute. She is more girl than woman. As such, a "normal" man or woman should not find her sexually attractive. The only persons that did would have to be sexually attracted to preadolescent girls, a pedophile. While shaving your pubic hair can make you appear more youthful, it does not make you younger or look like a child. An adult woman without pubic hair is not going to be mistaken for a five-year-old girl. A pedophile is not likely to prefer a shaven woman to a child as they often cannot relate to adult women and as a result cannot develop a sexual relationship with them. Some pedophiles are simply opportunist and will use any female they can, regardless of the their age or physical appearance. A man or woman who prefers a partner to remove their pubic hair is not automatically a pedophile. They may just prefer it for the reasons given below. It really is no different from preferring short brown hair instead of long blonde hair.
A woman may not like having pubic hair since she did not as a child. A young girl who never sees adult women naked may believe they too do not have pubic hair. If the only examples of adult female bodies she sees are those of her "adult" dolls that have neither pubic hair nor genitals, this too can lead her to the same conclusion. Some girls who know that adult women have pubic hair prefer their hairless vulva and are not the least bit excited about the idea of growing pubic hair themselves. Girls often see getting pubic hair as a sign of growing up and becoming a woman, some girls are a bit fearful of these changes and are happy being a girl and do not want to be a woman. It is for these reasons that some teenage girls starting shaving their pubic hair as soon as it starts growing and why some adult women dislike or even hate having pubic hair.
As a result of childhood experiences men and women may develop a preference for sexual partners who do not have pubic hair. As a result of childhood exploration and sex play boys and girls may come to expect that no one has pubic hair. It is not unusual for a child to see pubic hair as unattractive. Even if a child knows their parents have pubic hair, they may not be able to envision themselves or their playmates with pubic hair later in life. They may not be able to comprehend how their body can change to be like that of their parents. For these reasons I would not consider it abnormal for an adult to prefer that they and/or their partner not to have pubic hair. If a person's first sexual partner(s), during childhood, did not have pubic hair, why cannot they all be that way?
There can be many sexual benefits to trimming one's pubic hair, even if one does not remove it in its entirety. Pubic hair when long and thick can completely obscure a woman's genitals and create a barrier between her and her genitals. A woman who trims or shaves her pubic hair becomes more aware of her genitals and sexuality. A woman, or teenager, will likely develop a pretty intimate relationship with her genitals as a result of trimming or shaving her pubic hair. For starters, it requires them to look at their vulva, often on a regular basis. Something they perhaps could not do as a child and do not do as an adult. As a result of their increased awareness they come to know their anatomy better and learn to like and appreciate their genitals more. They may come to realize that there is more to their genitals than a patch of hair and a hole, a vagina. Many women are amazed by the softness and complexity of their genitals. These sexual benefits have no bearing on a woman's partner or their partner's personal preference. A teen who has never had a sexual partner is just as likely to benefit as is a thirty five year old woman who has had twenty partners. It is for these reasons that others and I encourage all women to trim their pubic hair short at least once in adulthood, but this should not be seen as a requirement. On the other hand, if a woman does not like having short pubic hair, it grows back.
Having short or no pubic hair can have its advantages during partner sex. First your partner may prefer it and find it sexually stimulating. As a result they find you more desirable. A woman's partner may prefer to be able to see what they are about to lick with their tongue and insert their fingers or penis into. A thick growth of pubic hair may obscure one's view of a woman's genitals and cause you to be curious or even fearful of what lies behind. Women who like oral sex often find it more enjoyable when their sensitive skin is directly exposed to their partner's tongue and not protected by a layer of hair. Their partner also does not have to worry about getting hair in their mouth. Some women like to shave because of sexual roles they act out, the naughty schoolgirl, the submissive slave, or the seductive flasher. The trimming and shaving of the pubic hair is just one way of enhancing sex, solo and with a partner.
While I encourage women to consider trimming or shaving their pubic hair, there are valid reasons for them not to. If a woman does not perceive she will benefit or feels that she cannot, she probably will not. A woman has to be curious and open minded if she is notice any benefits from this practice. While some women trim or shave at the request of their partner and find they too love it, this is not always the case.
It seems it is not uncommon a woman's partner to ask repeatedly that she shave or trim her pubic hair. Some literally beg. I think many women see this as a deviant request. Many women may believe their partner wants them to look like a little girl. Others do not understand why their partner does not accept them the way they are. While it is not appropriate for a woman's partner to pressure her into changing her pubic hair, it is important to remember that it is just hair, it grows back if you do not like the new look and sensations. This is certainly a situation where partners can compromise. A woman can trim versus shave. She can request that her partner does the same as she does. If she trims so do they, if she shaves, they shave. While I respect a woman's choice, I do not think women should associate any more importance to this activity than it warrants, and the same goes for her partner. A woman still has the right to say no, and her partner needs to accept her decision whatever it is.
While all women can trim their pubic hair, shaving may be impractical for some. If you have a lot of pubic hair that extends along your thighs and up to your navel, shaving just your pubic area may look peculiar. If you remove it all, that is a lot of work and probably is not worth the effort. Some women with coarse pubic hair may find it uncomfortable or painful to shave and that their skin is always irritated. Even if a woman chooses to shave she may find it does not work for her, even if she likes the look and feel. Only trial and error will tell.
For women who just want to trim their pubic hair there are no special techniques or skills required. A comb and a pair of scissors are all the tools needed. An electric or battery operated beard trimmer can come in handy as then you can quickly trim the hair to a uniform length. There is probably less of a chance of an accidental nick or cut if you do use one. Touch ups take only seconds. A woman can slowly trim her hair shorter and shorter until she finds a look she likes. She can use a beard trimmer to remove all her hair if she chooses without actually shaving. This is perhaps a wise choice for the beginner since it does not cut the hair below the skin line. While you won't look or feel baby smooth, you will for all practical purposes be shaven. Beard trimmers can be acquired in department stores in the USA for less than $20, for a battery operated one. A wise investment for any woman serious about trimming or shaving her pubic hair.
Shaving can be a bumpy road for the beginner. Women often complain about the resulting irritation and itching that occurs. Women hearing other women's accounts of what happened to them often are reluctant to shave themselves, understandably. The likely cause for these adverse side affects is doing too much too soon. The first time shaver often goes from a full bush to baby soft in a single session. This is pretty hard on the delicate tissues of the vulva. The skin just is not use to the irritations associated with shaving. Any woman who decides to shave needs to acknowledge that it won't be a risk free adventure. Many of the women who shave say it took time for their bodies to get use to shaving and for them to figure out a shaving technique that worked best for them. While some women may find they are able to shave without difficulty, I believe most women are not so lucky. It is for this reason a woman should only shave if she is sure she wants to and is willing to experiment and tolerate some mild discomfort in the beginning. This is not something a woman should do if she sees it only as a one-time event. If they do, it had better be a very special event to justify the discomfort they will likely experience afterwards.
Below are some tips for women interested in shaving their pubic area:
Go in steps. Unless it is very important for you to surprise your partner, do not go from full bush to totally bare all at once. Start by just trimming the hair a little shorter each week. Perhaps using a beard trimmer. Once the hair is short all over, start shaving the outer labia. The outer labia seem to tolerate shaving better than does the pubic mound. The following week or so start making the patch of short hair on your pubic mound smaller and smaller by trimming and shaving. If you start noticing irritation developing, do not remove any additional hair until the irritation goes away. This is done by experimenting with different razor strokes, different shave creams and jells, different razors, different clothing, etc. It may take time for the skin to get use to shaving, since the razor likely scraps away the outer layer of tissue and can cut the hair below the skin line resulting in redness and ingrown hairs. Some women may find they cannot shave their pubic mound, and as a result only trim the hair there very short.
It takes time. In the beginning expect to spend thirty to sixty minutes each time you groom your pubic region. If you are going for the bare look right off the bat, plan on a couple hours. Once you and your body are use to shaving, it only takes a couple minutes to shave the pubic area, if done every day, or every other day.
Use only new razor blades EVERY time. The coarse pubic hair will dull the blades very quickly. Unless you are into self-torture never use a blade to shave your legs then use it on your pubic area. That equates to ouch in capital letters! If you use an electric razor, make sure its blades are not old.
Use a good razor, perhaps one with special blades and a pivoting head. Some women's razors now have wide handles so you have more to hold onto. You may need to try several to find one that works best. You might just want to buy one of each type of disposable you find at your local store and give them all a try.
Start out using thick shaving foams or jells. Apply a new layer of foam or jell after each pass with the razor. You want some lubrication between your delicate skin and that razor sharp blade. Use those intended for sensitive skin. Menthol or eucalyptus may make the skin tingle, but may help soothe the vulva in the long run. (If they start to burn, rinse right away.)
Shave in the evening. This is because the amount of time it takes, and because you will want to remain nude or just wearing a nightshirt or gown afterwards. Once you get use to shaving you can do it in the shower in the morning in a couple minutes.
Tight cloths are out in the beginning, if not always. Your sensitive skin is not going to be able to tolerate anything rubbing against it after the top layer of skin has been scrapped away. You should not wear any clothing that allows cloth to rub against your vulva. Wear dresses and skirts. Do not wear panties, wear tap pants or men's boxers instead. If possible go without underwear. The elastic legs of you regular panties may irritate your bikini line. Tight jeans are likely a very bad idea. Going bottomless will likely feel pretty strange when you start shaving and it may be hard not to think about. This is actually good as it makes you more aware of your sexuality. You will eventually get use to the bare and exposed feeling.
Soak in a warm bath or take a warm shower prior to shaving. This softens the hair and makes it easier to cut. This will account for most of the time it takes to groom your pubic region.
After shaving sleep nude or only with a nightshirt on, socks are okay. No pants or panties. You do not want anything rubbing against your sensitive vulva as you sleep. If you use sanitary napkins, just sleep on top of a couple old towels if you are having your period.
Do not shave closely at first. Do not press into the skin. Make one light pass with the blade then move to the next area. You won't remove all the hair, but it will decrease the amount of irritation you experience. With each subsequent shaving more hair will be removed. Go slow and be gentle.
Stretch the skin with one hand while you shave with the other. This is particularly true near your labia. The groove next to your clitoris may be hard to shave and it will likely take practice to become proficient at it.
Shave in the direction of the hair growth, this usually means down on your pubic mound and diagonally near your outer labia. Just observe your hair growth pattern after you trim the hair short. Some experienced women shave against the hair growth, after first going with the grain, using a very light stroke and a fresh layer of shaving gel or foam. This results in a very close shave. This may not be a good idea for the beginner.
Shave every other day in the beginning. Women often report they do not notice things starting to itch until their hair starts growing out. Shave every other day and use light strokes. In the beginning do not go for the baby smooth look and feel. Once you get practiced and your skin gets use to shaving, continue to shave every other day or daily. If you want to shave your vulva and like it that way, you cannot just shave occasionally. The irritation will drive you crazy.
After shaving apply a lotion to your vulva to soothe the skin. Be careful of scents or other additives that may irritate your delicate skin. Baby oil may lubricate the skin and decrease the amount of friction. The same with baby power, but powder is bad for the vulva and vagina, so use it sparingly. There is a cream called "Bikini Zone" that is designed to help relieve the irritation caused by shaving, but is kind of expensive, but may be worth it for the beginner.
Use a self-standing mirror and a good light so you can see what you are doing. Unless you are unusually flexible you won't be able to see your entire vulva without them. You will be more likely to cut yourself if you don't.
Some women recommend using a loofah sponge on the days you do not shave, when you bath or shower. Gently rub with and against the hair growth. This removes dead skin and helps keep the hair follicles open, reducing the chances of ingrown hair.
Many women want to know if there are other ways to removed pubic hair besides shaving. There are, but shaving is the most common method used. The only permanent way to remove pubic hair is still through electrolysis, which is very expensive. Current lasers remove the hair only temporally, but with repeated use does thin and eliminate some or all of the hair. The laser costs at least $300 US just for the bikini line. Some women use waxing which removes the hair for longer periods of time and leaves behind smoother skin. Waxing is often an uncomfortable if not painful process. Some women use caustic creams to remove the hair, many of these developed in years past in Europe and Asia. Some women actually pluck each hair out one by one. This is reportedly less painful than you would think, and gets easier with time. I guess it is kind of entrancing and relaxing habit. Some women use chemicals like Bikini Bare but these can burn the delicate tissues of the vulva, so extreme caution must be taken when they are used. If someone does invent a cheap and quick way to remove pubic hair, I'm sure many women will be lining up to have some if not all of it removed.
First Published October 10, 1999