Thursday, November 4, 2010
Once upon a time, it was risque rather than nostalgic to feature pubic hair in a softcore magazine. Bob Guccione, the founder of Penthouse, changed all that, revealing to millions of readers the physical details Playboy preferred to hide.
Guccione’s death on Oct. 20, 2010 was an occasion for remembering the so-called Pubic Wars, which began in 1967. After that first glimpse of body hair, nothing was quite the same. Before long, it was de rigeur rather than revolutionary: in order to keep up, Playboy – famous for airbrushing their models’ private zones – began introducing hair.
Penthouse continued pushing the visual envelope, finding new ways to reveal the female body, until pubic hair, paradoxically, began to disappear from its pages. But the rationale was different. Pubic hair wasn’t indecent or shocking; it got in the way.
Today there’s very little body hair on the Penthouse website, and total depilation is the default setting for the sex industry. Whether in porn or prostitution, nobody is surprised to encounter a woman whose lower body has been entirely defuzzed.
It wasn’t always like this. At one time, complete removal was an extreme fashion statement, even for the sex industry. Now, it’s as routine as getting your nails done.
Quite a few men have been in mourning. These thwarted fellows yearning for a glimpse of lush nature are the present-day cousins of those who once bemoaned the demise of garter belt and stockings.
Those who object to pubic waxing often say it makes adult women look artificially immature. To the contrary, a sophisticated approach to lower body grooming implies experience, planning, a businesslike mind at work.
NOBODY IS SURPRISED TO ENCOUNTER A WOMAN WHOSE LOWER BODY HAS BEEN ENTIRELY DEFUZZED.
Unclipped pubic hair can be seen as the emblem of the amateur – even if the woman wearing it is a pro. Some sex workers have consciously adopted the style.
A live cam performer based in Seattle, Furry Girl sees her website as an alternative to slick, hairless “cookie-cutter” porn. In some photos, she exudes a neo-hippy attitude – for example, when posing naked in the snow during a visit to Antarctica.
Furry Girl doesn’t think untamed body hair is coming back, though. Whenever she spots full pubic hair in mainstream porn, “it looks waxed on the sides and trimmed.” She sees herself as a niche sex worker rather than a trendsetter and doesn’t regard the occasional “novelty bush” in corporate porn as a serious threat.
Where total hair removal “was once new and interesting and fetishized,” she told me, “nowadays, working in porn and being unshaved is the odd thing.” To what extent, I asked her, is porn responsible for the popularity of hair removal outside the adult industry? Feminist author Naomi Wolf has objected to the styled pubic hair she sees on 20-something women at the gym, while Ariel Levy (author of Female Chauvinist Pigs) is concerned that young women are imitating porn stars.
Furry Girl isn’t convinced: “Beauty standards throughout the ages are about the general population trying to emulate the upper classes. I’d imagine the waxing trend arose with the proliferation of day spas.”
People who accept the idea of architecture cycles and clothing trends may still balk at the idea of pubic fashion because we think of sexuality as part of nature and therefore beyond our control.
The sex industry knows otherwise. The way we dress changes for many reasons, economics and technology playing their part. The same is true when we disrobe, and a journey through your dad’s Penthouse collection – from its first issue in 1965 to the most recent – will bear that out.