ifeminists.com: A central gathering place and information center for individualist feminists.   -- explore the new feminism --
introduction | interaction | information

ifeminists.com > introduction > editorials

Waxing Polemic: On the Brazilianization of our nether regions.
May 27, 2003
by Tracy Quan

Summer comes and goes but it looks like Brazilian waxing is here to stay.

This begs the question: Is pubic hair the new garter belt? In the 1960s, an entire generation of men -- holdovers from the ’50s -- mourned the disappearance of the garter belt and swore they would "kill the man who invented pantyhose." Today’s analogous protesters are vehemently opposed to the current passion for extreme bikini waxing. These thwarted voyeurs, who yearn for a glimpse of lush nature, are the 21st-century cousins of those who once bemoaned the demise of garter belt and stockings.

My friend, Sally, had a romantic run-in with one such man after their second bedroom encounter. "Tim is hinting that I should grow it back!" she told me. Men like Tim think there is something inherently noble and glorious about pubic hair growing wild on a woman's body. They see themselves as part of a wilderness preservation movement and they don't see why this natural resource needs to be tampered with by profiteering beauticians. If you buy into their Rousseauist assumptions, it's easy to think of them as valiant eco-defenders, protesting the defoliation of the female rain forest. But maybe they're trying to impose old-fashioned ideas about womanhood on a culture that is outgrowing its Northern chauvinism, embracing the styles and sounds and sexual attitudes of the Southern Hemisphere.

Globalization is not always about U.S. values imposed on other cultures. Is it madness to suggest that our most personal body parts have been "colonized" by beauticians from below the equator? As one who feels a bit of loyalty to both Americas -- the uptight North and the spicier South -- I find this new trend encouraging.

There are fashions in pubic hair -- for those who doubt me, a quick perusal of porn through the decades will confirm this. But you don't have to be a porn consumer to know what's up down there. At one time, waxing was ladylike. Adventurous women kept their nether locks untrimmed as a gesture of womanly defiance against all that was prim and proper. But in those days, emphasis was placed on how the waxee would look in her bathing suit, and many salons would provide a proxy bikini (made of paper) to wear during the session.

All this has changed. Waxing is no longer for prudes and the paper panties are pointless if you want the full treatment. Extreme pubic waxing is now associated with exotic dancers, porn stars and hookers. It has little to do with swimwear and more to do with how you look in the buff, perhaps during certain sex acts. My friends in the sex industry are all self-appointed experts on the layout and design of the female pubic region. To opt for a light bikini waxing (removal of a few stray hairs) -- in lieu of a Brazilian job (removing all but a few stray hairs) -- is to be "natural" and therefore conservative.

Lisa is a Brazilian waxing addict, a busy call girl who began by grooming her lower lips, leaving "a small growth on the mound" because, she explains, "removing hair from the lips is less painful -- my nerve endings are more sensitive up top." She had been waxing for seven years, removing more each time, until finally she "went for it" and requested a "total Brazilian." Lisa takes ibuprofen before she gets waxed -- to reduce redness and swelling. Others take naproxen, the generic version of Aleve. Curiously, the hair on her head is long and wavy, creating a memorable contrast when she undresses. To be completely natural below the waist -- unwaxed -- "is a sure sign that you're monogamous or celibate," says Lisa. From her point of view, there isn't much difference.

Sally, who is still sparring with Tim over the length of her pubic hair, didn't start waxing until she was 24. Now in her 30s, she says, "It bothers me when I hear about 15-year-old girls removing all their pubic hair."

"These girls are ," Sally gropes for the right words. "They're growing up too fast! I'm old enough to take my pubic hair for granted. They're not!" But 30-something notions about innocence and experience are often meaningless to people in their teens. Another friend reports that her 17-year-old niece "is dating boys her own age who remove their own body hair. Her new boyfriend is a cyclist who says excess hair will just slow him down. For her, extreme bikini waxing isn't extreme, it's normal."

If body-waxing is about the normalization of the exotic, surely it is just a matter of time before pubic hair -- once taken for granted -- becomes a hot new fashion statement.

Tracy Quan is the author of the novel Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl. This article first appeared in Philadelphia CityPaper.

ifeminists.com > home | introduction | interaction | information | about

ifeminists.com is edited by Wendy McElroy; it is made possible by support from The Independent Institute and members like you.