Women and Waxing: Paying For Our Cultural Upkeep

Is it just me, or is the bikini wax is getting kind of old?

On the list of perennial battles that human beings will never win—finding that lost sock in the dryer, having a business card when you really need one, remembering to bring your grocery list to the store—unwanted body hair is possibly the most vexing.

We wax it. We shave it. We laser it. But no matter what, it comes back.

Hair removal is expensive, it’s time consuming, and it isn’t even remotely enjoyable. Our fastidious compulsion to get rid of it fuels a $2.1 billion per year industry in the U.S., with the average American woman spending over $10,000 in her lifetime on various hair removal products.

And before you retort that having hair down there is, like, totally unsanitary, consider this. According to Emily Gibson, M.D., physician and director of the Western University Health Center in Washington State, repetitive hair removal in the pubic region has the potential to cause some serious health problems. Among those: increased susceptibility to genital herpes, staph boils, abscesses, and cellulitis. So. Not. Sexy.

Many a feminist has bemoaned the culturally sanctioned removal of body hair, lambasting the idea that women need to be smooth and hairless—as well as body fluid-less, angelic, and perfectly toned—in order to please our discerning male counterparts.  But you don’t have to be a hippie or feminist to concede that ripping all the hair off of one’s pubic bone with dripping hot wax is about as natural as formaldehyde. Those who have endured a bikini wax know the routine: the awkward feeling of exposure under fluorescent lighting, the intervals of bracing and wincing and sharp inhalations, accompanied all the way through by the overwhelming urge to flee the table.

There are a number of theories on why today’s beauty ideal includes vaginas that resemble those of a pre-pubescent girl. There’s the porn industry’s penchant for infantilizing women, the ever-diminishing amount of fabric used to make thongs and bikinis, Barbie’s plasticky sheen, and the preternatural creatures known as Victoria Secret and Sports Illustrated models.

It’s worth noting that, before ripping out our body hair was de rigeur, there was a very long period of human history where men found women wholly irresistible despite the presence of body hair. Compelling evidence of this can be found as recently as in a 1970s Playboy centerfold.

Unlike big breasts or a shapely backside—which, on a purely biological level, are both signs of fertility and thus fitness to survive—there is nothing about being hairless that should be inherently desirable to a man. Being hairless in no way enhances our ability to survive or thrive as humans. In fact, it does the contrary; pubic hair is meant to provide a buffer zone and serve as protection from unwanted pathogens. So, the male fixation on hairless women is a learned behavior that women themselves are perpetuating.

Of course, the fundamental tenets of Darwinism are no longer determinants of our behavior. It’s unlikely that modern women, myself included, are going to forgo the grooming ritual altogether. Understandably, many women feel that hair removal makes them feel more feminine and makes sexual experiences more enjoyable.

The moderate amount of grooming necessary to wear modern garments is one thing, but the hair-removal equivalent of “going for broke” is quite another. The pervasiveness of this latter practice has equated what’s natural with what’s unsexy, and therein lies the issue. Something tells me that if women put a stop to this no-holds-barred hair removal, the male species would quickly find a way to adjust. They’re pretty simple like that.

Women always have and always will have hair on their vaginas. Lest you have forgotten, you are, in fact, a woman. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

Image: maralyn_cvitanic


Rosie Spinks

Rosie Spinks is a freelance journalist from California with a degree in Environmental Studies. Her work has been published in publications including Sierra magazine, GOOD magazine, the Ecologist, and the Guardian Environment Network. A passion for travel, running barefoot outdoors, and reconnecting people to what is good dominates most of her thoughts. You can follow her writing on Twitter and Tumblr.