Pubic Hair – Do We Want It There?

Are we seeing a resurgence of the lady bush? Jessica Martin investigates whether it’s a passing trend, or something more.

When the controversy-courting clothing chain American Apparel adorned mannequins in one of their New York stores with full sets of pubic hair earlier this year, eyebrows raised and jaws dropped. But amid the shock, a serious question was also asked: Is the gold or silver bodysuit more flattering? No, no, wait, that’s not it. The question was: Is the bush back?

In Praise Of Pubes
Cameron Diaz certainly hopes so. In her recently released health and lifestyle book, The Body Book, the 41-year-old star pens a section called “In Praise Of Pubes”, encouraging us lady folk to keep our pubic hair in its natural state. Lady Gaga’s also a fan of hair down there, showing off her trimmed bush on the cover of Candy mag late last year.

And it’s not just celebs who are pro-pubes. A recent study from the UK found just over 50 per cent of women don’t groom their pubic hair at all, and only 28 out of the 101 women photographed for Australian art exhibition and coffee table book, 101 Vagina, were near or completely hairless.   

So, is this it? The death of the vajay-jay wax once and for all? Maybe. Or not – the choice is obviously yours. But while this recent au naturel trend may seem like a pretty trivial topic on the surface, it opens up a bigger conversation about gender stereotypes, society’s ideas on what it means to be feminine and, before you stop reading because it feels a lot like porn. 

Censoring Normal
While those in the porn and sex industries might be encouraged or even obliged to be hair-free, the rest of us only need to please ourselves when it comes to pubes. And although images of fully bare vaginas are deemed acceptable, hairy ones aren’t – as hugely popular 21-year-old photographer Petra Collins found out the hard way.

In October last year, the Canadian’s Instagram account was deleted after she posted a pic of her unshaven bikini line in a pair of swimmers. In an essay she wrote for Oyster magazine afterwards, Collins wrote, “I did nothing that violated [Instagram’s] terms of use. No nudity, violence, pornography, unlawful, hateful, or infringing imagery. What I did have was an image of my body that didn’t meet society’s standard of ‘femininity’.”

Collins continued, “The deletion of my account felt like a physical act, like the public coming at me with a razor, sticking their finger down my throat, forcing me to cover up, forcing me to succumb to society’s image of beauty… These very real pressures we face every day can turn into literal censorship.”

It’s a scary thought considering that we live in the free world, and shouldn’t be shamed by society about the decisions we make for the state of our own bodies. Especially when that state is, you know, 100 per cent natural.

The non-diversity of images in pornography and beyond, as well as anecdotal evidence that guys prefer women with a clean-shaven vagina, makes many of us feel like we don’t actually have a choice when it comes to our personal grooming habits.

It’s become a serious case of “be rid of your down-there hair or be ridiculed”. However, what you do to your body is absolutely your choice and, short-lived fad or not, a so-called bush resurgence will help those women who choose not to remove their pubic hair feel less like a freak for their decision.

While porn hacked away at its foliage like a Tasmanian logger, the business crawled out from under its stone, diving headfirst into the mainstream. Men’s mags like FHM and Maxim became publishing hits by watering down the legs-akimbo, intimate-bits-and-all shoots usually found in hardcore titles. The internet bypassed the seedy sex shop and brought YouTube-style movie clips straight to our laptops.

Bush may not be back. But thanks to a U-turn by the porn industry, mass extinction may have been avoided.