Putting the “muffs are unhygienic” argument to rest at last

The Great Pubes Debate, two reasons are usually put forward in favour of shaving, waxing or nuking bush from orbit:

  1. It looks nicer
  2. It’s more hygienic

The first argument is purely subjective, with varying preferences to presentation of genitals. Of course, it’s not entirely a free choice: these preferences are to some extent dictated by cultural beauty standards, and in the west, the dominant image we are bombarded with involves very little, if any, hair at all. Sometimes the hair might even be replaced by little glittery things glued on. Beauty standards are weird. Ultimately, though, bodily autonomy is awesome, and if someone wants to do that, they can.

The second argument, though, has been entirely smashed to smithereens by medical professionals. Far from being more hygienic, shaving and waxing one’s cunt increases the risk of all sorts of nasty infections:

In her practice it is not unusual to find patients with boils and abscesses on their genitals from shaving as well as cellulitis, an infection of the scrotum, labia or penis from shaving or from having sex with someone infected.

Herpes is also an increased risk “due to the microscopic wounds being exposed to virus carried by mouth or genitals.”

So why does shaving and waxing lead to such thoroughly revolting side effects? Most of it comes down to the fact that removing hair from a rather sensitive region leads to little abrasions in the skin, and little abrasions in the skin can get infected. It doesn’t help that cunts are warm, moist areas which are rarely aired. It’s like Disneyland for disease down there, and the skin usually does a good job of keeping it out, unless it has been broken by shaving cuts or yanking hair out by the root. Furthermore, bush itself serves an additional protective function:

“Pubic hair does have a purpose, providing a cushion against friction that can cause skin abrasion and injury, and protection from bacteria.”

That’s a damn sight more pleasant a function than the hypothesis that it evolved for babies to hold on to (“ouch”, “ew”, and “but I’ve never even seen a baby try that”, in that order).

So why is something which opens up the risk of all sorts of horrible infections considered to be more hygienic? It’s probable that it’s in part due to the association with shaving an area before surgery, although there is also medical evidence against that:

Surgeons used to insist on shaving the area of the body where an operation was to be performed in the misguided belief that it reduced surgical site infections. Now official advice is to leave hair alone, unless it interferes with the operation, and where removal is necessary to use electric clippers.

It also might be down to sheer laziness in washing. There’s a lot of sweat glands down below, and if one doesn’t wash properly, things can get a little whiffy. The answer to this is, of course, wash more. It will take less time than hair removal, and you’re less likely to erupt in boils in a very sensitive area.

It’s refreshing to finally see an article about body hair in the mainstream media that isn’t negative, and busting a myth in the dominant narrative surrounding body hair. It’s a baby step towards that free choice for what we do with our bodies. And that can only be a good thing.

___

I might as well take this opportunity to plug the brilliant Armpits4August–think Movember, but for women. They’re challenging beauty standards and raising money for polycystic ovary syndrome. So far they’ve raised over £1000 of their £2000 target. I’m participating–why not donate?


14 responses to “Putting the “muffs are unhygienic” argument to rest at last

  • Rex

    I can resolve this with one simple rule.

    Don’t get rid of the hair. It holds in the flavour.

  • James

    Not sure if the hygiene argument has been entirely ‘smashed to smithereens’ rather a doctor gas expressed an opinion based on anecdotal evidence. The argument most certainly makes intuitive sense, but let’s do some research first….

  • Mark

    You missed point 3 – it *feels* nicer without hair. The skin down there is so soft, and the hair, pretty much, isn’t.

    Oh and point 4 – the hair really does get in the way when you’re doing things there. It can be quite a nuisance!

    (obv neither of these points make it *right* to depile, but still)

    • stavvers

      Bro, if the hair gets in the way, you are Doing It Wrong.

    • Sarah

      See, both of those reasons are about trimming for other people, rather than for you. I know a lot of women who shave their body hair for themselves, but not one who shaves for a partner. I have never found pubic hair to get in the way or feel less nice when I’m wanking, for example.

      Amusingly, my proto-husband is the one who shaves religiously, not me. He doesn’t mind me not shaving anywhere, but prefers to do so himself. He’s very brave, though. Something like Veet on such sensitive skin? You only have to give yourself chemical burns once before you vow never to do it again.

      If it gets in the way of shagging, though- this is what trimming is for. You’ll notice they’re talking about complete removal in the study- trimming occasionally, as far as I can tell from their research and my personal habits, is absolutely fine. I’d put money on it being nicer to touch, too- because I trim it as short as the hair on my head and people always want to stroke that when it’s newly trimmed.

    • Cat (@stillicides)

      That’s another completely subjective statement. I think it feels nicer /with/ hair, and it’s never gotten in my way.

      Personally I trim mine, not shave bald, to a #1/#2 (in equivalent haircut terms lol) and the hair is super soft. A little conditioner goes a long way, too…

  • Matthew Smith

    Of course, it’s not entirely a free choice: these preferences are to some extent dictated by cultural beauty standards, and in the west, the dominant image we are bombarded with involves very little, if any, hair at all.

    The “dominant image” is a very recent one and is nowhere near as dominant as, say, images of skinny women because they’re displayed nowhere near as prominently. Anyone my age (35) will have known that women had pubic hair (and usually kept it) from having seen female relatives in the nude as a child. I know I did and I’m pretty sure my sister would have seen more of it than I did. Also, standard textbooks on the “facts of life” (like the Usborne book “Growing Up” which I read as a child) will have shown adult women with pubic hair. Many more people, especially girls, will have seen this, and at a much earlier age, than seen pornography.

  • Love Bug 54

    My standard response to “Why don’t you shave it off, baby?” is “I’ll shave mine if you shave all of yours.” Funny, I haven’t had a taker yet.

  • Korhomme (@Korhomme)

    The ancient Greeks did it; the ottoman Turks did it; some (modern) Moslems do it. Pubic depiloration that is. Nothing new. Why does anyone think it’s a new habit?

    • shonkystagbeetle

      doing it because people have been doing it for ages is no better a reason than doing it because it is thought to be a new idea

      trimming a little bit is a good thing to do if you are expecting someone to go down on you, but total depilation is a bit OTT (and as we see may have negative health impacts)

      but if you want to do it, it’s clearly nobody else’s business

  • Iram Ramzan

    does it matter whether women shave their bits or not?? as long as its a personal choice
    also, I dont see the same pressure being applied for women, no one comments on whether they should/shouldnt remove their public hair, whys that??

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