‘I be­lieve fem­i­nism on so­cial me­dia has had ev­ery­thing to do with this pow­er­ful swing back to pubes’

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - MUST READ -

are ex­per­i­ment­ing with platelet-rich plasma ther­apy – a pro­ce­dure gen­er­ally as­so­ci­ated with skin re­ju­ve­na­tion, re­ced­ing male hair­lines and over-plucked eye­brows.

In the US, stores like Amer­i­can Ap­parel have fea­tured win­dow man­nequins sport­ing dense nether-tufts un­der lin­gerie, and The Real Housewives of New York City star indy ar­shop is og­ging tem­po­rary faux fur merkins (an out­cry from Peta put an end to the real fox fur ones). But Korean women leave all this in the shade. They’re lin­ing up for hair trans­plan­ta­tion – a painful (and pricey, cost­ing more than R30 000) four-hour pro­ce­dure in which hair from the head is grafted into the bikini line. Given this wide­spread back­lash against the bare bush, you can’t help won­der­ing why on earth women em­braced it so quickly and in such num­bers, at all. Ac­cord­ing to Dorothy Black, colum­nist and au­thor of The Dot Spot – Ad­ven­tures in Love and Sex, in some cul­tures, this was de nitely a response to porn fash­ions. It was only in the 90s that porn­stars started favour­ing the ‘bald ea­gle’, but thanks to the in­ter­net, by then porn had in ltrated pop­u­lar cul­ture. rdi­nary women be­gan to em­u­late what they saw on screen, and if it wasn’t porn, it was Car­rie Brad­shaw in Sex and the City.

‘Porn has de nitely in uenced the shav­ing of both men and women,’ says South African Sex­ual Health As­so­ci­a­tion Board mem­ber and Cape Town psy­chol­o­gist Jillian But­ter­worth. ‘For men, it is gen­er­ally to make the pe­nis look big­ger and for women, it is to make the vagina look smaller. Men are vis­ual crea­tures and are gen­er­ally more vis­ual than women, so it is un­der­stood to some de­gree that they want to see what there is.’ With as­so­ci­a­tions of pre­pubescent girls, how­ever, the hair­less pu­denda wasn’t an im­me­di­ately easy aes­thetic, but, says Dorothy, it was never re­ally about men want­ing us to look like lit­tle girls, or us want­ing to play at be­ing lit­tle girls (if you’re in any doubt, just look back to the hu­mungously in ated breasts of those 90s porn­stars with their plucked puna­nis – far from child­like).

‘I think there are many peo­ple, men and women, who pre­fer a shaven pu­denda or trimmed hair sim­ply be­cause it is eas­ier and more lovely to see its shape (re­mem­ber we’re be­com­ing less afraid of look­ing at our own pussies), and be­cause it makes oral sex more pleas­ant both to re­ceive and give,’ says Dorothy. ‘I think we need to move away from this idea that it makes a grown woman’s gen­i­tals look any­thing like a child’s.’

So what’s changed? Last year The Tele­graph UK re­ported on a new poll of 1 870 women by on­line phar­macy UK Medix, ac­cord­ing to which 45% told re­searchers that they can ‘no longer be both­ered to keep up the groom­ing’ (the same study found that 51% of women do not ‘style or groom their pu­bic hairs’ at all). But could that re­ally be it? Have we just be­come too lazy to tend the top­i­ary? For Carla*, re­turn­ing her pubes to their au na­turel state was part of ‘a larger shift’. ‘I see it as part of a zeit­geist,’ says the 32-year-old Wits me­dia stud­ies stu­dent. ‘There’s a new ap­pre­ci­a­tion of authen­tic­ity and the plas­tic, “per­fect” stan­dards of 10 years ago have given way to some­thing a lot more real, a lot less con­trived, and a lot more in­di­vid­ual. No won­der the Hol­ly­wood has gone the way of the fake tan, the thong and breast im­plants: in 2016 it seems child­ishly Bar­bie-es­que. Porn’s nov­elty has long worn o and the smooth vag has be­come like vis­ual wall­pa­per. What you re­ally notice when you see it is the in­grown hairs, the nicks, the stub­ble... and that’s far from at­trac­tive.’

In line with this is a gen­eral back­lash against air­brush­ing; another fac­tor could well be the resur­gence of vin­tage and bur­lesque-styled un­der­wear and bathing suits with higher waists and fuller legs. As Dorothy says, ‘There are al­ways go­ing to be swings and round­abouts with body trends and fash­ions, and so it was in­evitable that bush would be back.’ But she be­lieves there’s more to it than this. ‘I be­lieve fem­i­nism on so­cial me­dia has had ev­ery­thing to do with this pow­er­ful swing back to pubes, as it does with women stand­ing up col­lec­tively against the harm­ful mes­sag­ing from ad­ver­tis­ing about our bod­ies,’ she says.

n top of all this, let’s not for­get the most prac­ti­cal con­sid­er­a­tions: main­tain­ing a Hol­ly­wood is time-con­sum­ing; it’s painful, and it’s ex­pen­sive. ‘I did the sums,’ says Carla. ‘I worked out that over seven years I’d spent more than R35 000, and if I fac­tor in travel time and wait­ing and book­ing, about 300 hours!’ With this in mind, it’s not hard to see why many women are happy to kiss the bare bush good­bye. But what do men make of the reap­pear­ance of pubes? Wouldn’t they come as a shock to some­one who’d grown up on plucked and pol­ished porn? And would older guys wel­come them back? In the UK Medix study, 62% of the women re­ported that their part­ners ac­tu­ally ‘pre­fer the nat­u­ral look’. And there’s no rea­son to be­lieve that South African men would signi cantly di er from them. At the ex­treme end is the 2013 case of a Zim­bab­wean man who al­legedly as­saulted his wife when she re­moved her pu­bic hair. Thank­fully he’s a very small mi­nor­ity. It seems the ma­jor­ity of men are quite happy to meet an old-fash­ioned snatch... with one cod­i­cil: that it’s ‘neat’. And there lies the rub. The bush may well be back, but that doesn’t mean re­turn­ing it to its to­tally wild state. It may be au na­turel, but only a speci c kind of au na­turel is what’s wanted.

‘It’s true I don’t do the Hol­ly­wood any more, but I still wax or shave my bikini line at home. I trim, too, and I shape,’ says Carla. ‘I like a per­fect tri­an­gle. I think it bal­ances my body and is the most at­ter­ing style on me.’ And if you imag­ined that the re­turn of the bush sig­nalled the aban­don­ment of crotch con­scious­ness, you were very wrong in­deed. This is the crux of women like Bulelwa’s new anx­i­ety. ‘I worry now that I look patchy,’ she says. ‘I want the per­fect shape, with full cover.’

The good news is that it’s a case of each to her own. ‘There is a very small per­cent­age of women who are 100% against shav­ing at all, while the rest prac­tise some form of pu­bic trim­ming,’ says Dorothy. ‘I think we need to move away from look­ing at ev­ery­thing about a woman’s body choice as a “trend” and fo­cus on what is ac­tu­ally im­por­tant here: that women are feel­ing more com­fort­able to choose what works for them.’

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