Zen and the Art of Personal Grooming; The rise and fall of pubic hair.

The issue of maintaining the hair on one’s nether regions has apparently been around for as long as people have been able to write, paint and hold the necessary tools!

While we tend to think of waxing, shaving and now “manscaping” as a recent movement, both art and literature indicate otherwise.

Apparently the removal of pubic hair can be traced back (and thus evidenced) thousands of years, to the Middle East and India and was apparently actively encouraged within Islamic teachings. It was deemed as hygienic and cosmetic in addition to being consistent with ablutionary acts of worship!

Many of the statues of male gods and athletes sculpted during the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods (loosely 5th century BC 5th Century AD) were presented with “designer” or carefully coiffured pubic areas, although female nudity in art and sculpture was much less common with statues frequently being displayed as “draped” with their modesty discreetly covered.

This personal grooming trend continued into European Renaissance art, and inspired some women to remove their hair using homemade depilatory potions. “A 1532 book of beauty “secrets” included a recipe that prescribed arsenic and quicklime, to be used in a warm area and washed off quickly when the skin starts to feel hot etc (Burke 2012); although as Ms Burke points out, there was possibly a great disparity between the art of the day and the actual reality of how many women really had the time and energy to undertake such treatments!

Apparently not one of the figures painted by Michael Angelo (1508 and 1512) in the Sistine Chapel displayed pubic hair, indicating an ambiguous attitude and astheticity to this whole area of “modesty” and the nether regions!

When Francisco de Goya painted La maja desnuda, in 1797 he is reported as being summoned before the Spanish Inquisition to explain himself; this is believed to have been in response to his painting being amongst the earliest depiction of a nude women displaying pubic hair outside of images of prostitutes (shocking). Despite Goya’s upsetting of ecclesiastical authorities, his work piqued the interest of the general public and stimulated the artistic community alike.

18th Century fetishists apparently collected pubic hair as a kind of “momento”. St Andrew’s University Museum in Scotland has a collection of tufts of pubic hair collected in a snuff box, with the attached note explaining that  that the afore mentioned hair was shorn from the Royal Courtesan of King George IV.”  (How very saucy).

The most interesting phenomenon, the merkin, or pubic wig, dates back to the 1450s (think 1970s nudist camps or just bad toupees). However, this cleverly devised item was used by ladies of the night, who wore merkins to conceal the fact that they were “shaved” or had visible STDs, such as warts or syphilis; my own query would be how said item remained attached during quite-possible vigorous acts of rumpy-pumpy (realistically a no-frills experience) and the above mentioned “issues” becoming exposed (am I being naïve here?)

The modern day equivalent of the merkin, is contemporary actors using these “genital area toupee’s” during intimate filming to support the less restrictive MPAA rating (Motion Picture Association of America rating system); fascinating…

When Penthouse launched its first addition in the US in 1969, it became the first American magazine to show pubic hair. Playboy followed this trend about six months later, starting what was described as the “Pubic Wars.” (Please take a minute’s silence to contemplate this reader).

In 1987,  a group of sisters, collectively known as the J Sisters, opened their New York salon, specialising in the “Brazilian Bikini Wax”, which the siblings brought with them from their native country Brazil, due to the bikinis being “so small there” (I’m raising a satirical eyebrow here).

Fast forwarding on (even I’m getting bored) the reduction and removal of pubic hair has accelerated to the point where even men are doing it! This interesting trend is known, within the practice of “manscaping”! Just the thought of men having hair wrenched from their genitals fills me with gleeJ; finally they are experiencing some of the pain that women have been suffering since time began!

Back tracking a little though, Huffington Post blogger, Roger Friedland, in his post titled “Looking Through The Bushes: The Disappearance of Pubic Hair”, describes the school boys of yesteryear (1960s) with their utter fascination and secret yearnings behind catching a glimpse of the pubic hair of some innocent school girl, wearing the obligatory uniform skirt, on the stairwells of some fine educational institutions! It becomes difficult to perceive that an item that was the focus of such natural eroticism is now deemed to be “unsavoury”?

As a woman of a certain age, with many decades behind her, I have literally seen the “comings and goings” of pubic hair and recognise both the personal preferences and general “it’s in fashion” issue that people will tend to adhere to. While someone of my age group (50+) could blame the Porn industry and the general perception of hair being just a little bit obstructive to the possibility of “ever ready sex”, the reality is that pubic hair is apparently back (I have my sources).

Apparently various famous persons are advocating the full bush, which is somewhat of a relief, in the context of that other than  special occasions, like honeymoons, holidays or spas, the regular waxing in one’s nether regions, causes all kinds of skin and health concerns, due to the fact that it is there for a reason people!

My own issue with large amounts of hair, is that it becomes most unruly on both men and women over a certain age. My own personal preference, for both myself and others, is just a jolly good trim done regularly, with all the strays round the age being shaved or removed! I suggest this is as important to men as to women, who forget that it can all become a little bit “unkempt” (think un-weeded overgrown garden). In addition to the age thing, we all start going grey everywhere which can be a massive shock to both self and others, particularly when we often spend a considerable amount of effort (as women in particular) trying to conceal this with hair dye etc. Think of the expression “does the rug match the drapes”? Well there is no easy answer to this and I don’t advise trying to dye one’s bush the same colour as one’s head hair (unless of course you are sporting the silver fox look – at least it matches).

I believe personal preference is the key here and should always be encouraged to be one’s self in every area of our lives and not allow the fashion industry to dictate to anything that causes harm, or makes us look like pre-pubescent children! Tidiness and good self-care is the key J.

 

 

Beauty Blitz, The History of The Hair Down There. http://www.beautyblitz.com/history-hair-down-there Accessed 23/03/2017

Burke, J. (December 2012). A 1532 book of beauty “secrets”.  https://renresearch.wordpress.com/2012/12/09/did-renaissance-women-remove-their-body-hair/.  Accessed 23/03/2017

Friedland, R. (June 2011)Looking Through The Bushes: The Disappearance of Pubic Hair”,

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/roger-friedland/women-pubic-hair_b_875465.html

Accessed 23/03/2017

 

 

 

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