Pubic Hair: from Egyptians to Vajazzles

In which the Wartime Housewife discusses the changing fashions of body hair, pubic shaving, ornamentation, vajazzles and general minge maintenance.  If you don’t wish to learn about front bottoms, look away now.

Leaves not pubes

I was having a conversation with my friend Dr Bones (who is very worldly) and, yet again, she brought up the subject of intimate shaving and merkins.   As a doctor she comes into contact with a great many intriguing things and we recently had a conversation about the increasing requests from young women wanting cosmetic surgery on their genitals.  She is convinced that this new fixation is a combination of them being exposed to sexually explicit material and the fact that many young women remove all or most of their pubic hair and are suddenly startled by the appearance of their nether regions.

This time, however, she introduced us all to the new fashion of Vajazzling.  But you’re going to have to read to the end of the article to find out what it is.  No gain without pain, my dears.

Pubic hair is a funny old business and its presence is as subject to fashion as anything else.  Although fine vellus hair is present in childhood, the term pubic hair is generally restricted to the heavier, longer and coarser hair that develops with puberty as an effect of rising levels of androgens. Pubic hair is therefore part of the androgenic hair, ergo, a symbol of sexual maturity.

The practice of pubic hair removal can be dated back to at least 4,000 BC in India and Egypt.  Shaving unwanted hair on the body – under arms, legs, face, genital & anal areas – was viewed as a personal hygiene necessity for both men and women which was adopted by other countries over the centuries.   Muslims have historically been firm protagonists of body grooming and hair removal.  Hair removed from the pubis area and from under the arm is part of a routine of cleanliness called the fitrah.  This consists of five things: circumcision, trimming the moustache, cutting the nails, plucking the armpit hairs and shaving the pubic hairs.

Roman razor

Hair was removed by many different methods, razor, cream, tweezers, heat, honey etc.  Around 3000 BC, the copper razor appeared in both Egypt & India, but the most elaborate model of a razor was created around 1500-1200 BC in Scandinavia.  In ancient Egypt it was a sign of class and beauty to have a smooth  and hairless body. They developed a depilatory cream that was made of honey & oil and was very similar to our modern day “sugaring”.  Around 400 BC women effectively burnt the hair off their legs using heat. The Romans used depilatory cream made from resin, pitch, white vine, ivy extract, donkey fat, she-goats’ gall, bats’ blood and powdered viper.  Nice.

By 1270 The Crusaders had brought the practice back with them from the Middle East.  By the Renaissance, every scrap of body hair was being removed, including eyebrows which were then replaced with mouse skin.  However, this trend appears to have reversed in the Elizabethan and Georgian period, as there is written evidence that women plaited their pubic hair with ribbons and little ornaments and, thankfully, applied a lot of perfume as well.

The pubic wig (merkin) has been around since the 1400s when it was originally worn by women who had shaved off their pubic hair to prevent lice. In the Victorian times it was frequently worn by prostitutes who wanted to conceal the fact that they had diseases like syphilis.

Pleasantly plump woman with no pubic hair

Among the upper class in 19th century Victorian Britain, pubic hair from one’s lover was frequently collected as a souvenir. The curls were, for instance, worn like cockades in men’s hats as potency talismans, or exchanged among lovers as tokens of affection.  The museum of St. Andrews University in Scotland has in its collection a snuff box full of pubic hair from one of King George IV’s mistresses.  The notoriously licentious monarch donated it to the Fife sex club, The Beggar’s Benison.

At last, a welcome mat

There is an apocryphal story that the art critic, social philosopher, poet and artist, John Ruskin, recoiled from his wife on their wedding night when he found, to his horror, that she had pubic hair.  Pubic hair itself was unpleasant enough but the concept it implied was even worse: women, in general, had pubic hair.  Pubic hair was notably absent from all images of women he had ever seen, and the absence of it somehow epitomized to Ruskin the un-sexed nature of the “fairer sex.”  What could possibly be more mortifying to a man who so deeply perceived women as nonsexual, child-like in their simplicity, purity, and power of reasoning, than to discover—on his wedding night—that women, his simple play-things, were in fact whole and sexual beings?

This difficulty of the sexual perception of women persists to this day.  I bet if you were to ask a large group of men whether they preferred their girlfriends with a ‘welcome mat’ or a ‘landing strip’ you would get a lot of different answers.  I harbour the uncomfortable feeling that the removal of pubic hair makes women look more like children and is yet another example of the frighteningly confusing sexual messages at large in modern society.

The advent of the thong – underwear that covers the pubis but leaves your bottom bare – encouraged the removal of most of one’s pubic hair.  The alternative is to look as though you have a Yorkshire Terrier in your knickers.   And now, in a wonderful revival of the Elizabethan habit of ornamentation we have (drumroll)……..

The Vajazzle

Butterfly Vajazzle

 This is the application of little coloured crystals, Vajazzles, to the pubic or genital area.  They can be applied anywhere on the skin but they have been designed for the Lady’s Area or you can get special patterns for breasts.  The vajazzling pattern should last a few days but the wearing of tight fitting clothes will rub the stones off.  Loose fitting pants are recommended.

So now you know. There are also pubic hair dyes available in natural and day-glo colours.  If you wish, you could have a shocking pink fanny decorated all round with little green crystals.  Oh – and then there’s piercing…

Elizabethans eat your heart out.  There is nothing new under the sun.

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29 Responses to Pubic Hair: from Egyptians to Vajazzles

  1. Sue January 19, 2011 at 07:09 #

    Well that was educational WH. Personally I make do with big knickers.

  2. columnist January 19, 2011 at 07:19 #

    I am bedazzled by the vajazzle! Men shaving pubic hair around the genital area is rather strange to me, but there’s no accounting for taste, and I’m told it increases the (visual) size of the penis. Now, I think I’ve said enough on the subject.

  3. Sue G January 19, 2011 at 08:13 #

    Goodness me, how fascinating! I’m wondering….does the Pedazzle exist yet?

  4. Sue G January 19, 2011 at 08:19 #

    and has Dr Bones had to remove them at times from various orifaces? Gosh, I feel most unworldly, this is all news to me!

  5. Penny Beaumont January 19, 2011 at 08:25 #

    Like Sue I think big nickers are the best idea!!!

  6. Morag January 19, 2011 at 09:47 #

    My partner (very retro in all other areas of his life) shaves around his man garden and has done for many years (nowt to do with me, copper). For him, it has nothing to do with aesthetics and everything to do with comfort – you can’t be doing with a sweaty crotch when you’re busy dismantling and remantling old cars, apparently.

    He’s quite comfortable with the practice, and I have to say, it is very nice and hygienic. Sadly, I am far too lazy to afford him reciprocal politeness. If he wants it shaved, he’ll have to damn well get down there and do it himself.

    I have to say, I feel a shaved lady garden is far more difficult to maintain because of all the crevasses and like (you have to do all round, not just the easy pubis, otherwise it looks bloody silly – and the undercarriage area is a nightmare). Most of the time I can’t be bothered.

    I do know a woman who shaves all the hair off her body except eyebrows and head hair, even though she is blonde and you can’t see it on her arms or legs. I on the other hand am dark and naturally “pretty downy” (that was Mike’s attempt to make it sound like I’m not a troll!). I once took the hair off my forearms and was shocked by the change to my appearance. My arms suddenly seemed stick thin. It didn’t seem at all natural and I’ve never done it since.

    As for the Vajazzle (what an exciting photo of a specimen!), I knew what one was but have never seen the point. I take it these are largely worn for the benefit of men, since they seem so uncomfortable for a woman. I think I will allocate that idea to the Christian Laboutin shelf in future.

  7. Morag January 19, 2011 at 09:49 #

    My man also tells me that if he didn’t shave down there, I might mistake him for a monkey, so hairy would he be. I find that hard to believe.

  8. Affer January 19, 2011 at 10:03 #

    The first ex-Mrs Affer was a tree-hugging hippy who, at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, decided to do her bit for world peace by having the visage of Nikita Kruschev tattooed on her inner left thigh, and John F. Kennedy on the right. That just left Fidel Castro reposing between them.

  9. Camilla Jessop January 19, 2011 at 13:24 #

    My Mama always said that Lady Gardens should be raked daily, mowed monthly, and fertilised once a year.

  10. Philip Wilkinson January 19, 2011 at 17:18 #

    Blimey, WH, that fascinating post will do wonders for your batting average. I think I’ll have to go and lie down, but before I do, there is much scholarly debate, amongst the scholars who debate this kind of thing, about exactly what it was that Ruskin was reacting to when he had his adverse reaction to his poor wife’s body. Some think the pubes, others other things, e.g. menstrual blood. The jury is out, where it should probably stay.

  11. wartimehousewife January 19, 2011 at 18:19 #

    Well done Wilko – I was hoping someone would point that out – I left it out asI feared I would ramble off in a different direction.
    And you’re right about the batting averages…

  12. The Vintage Knitter January 19, 2011 at 18:20 #

    There’s also the apocryphal story about the punk girl with green pubes who went to have an op; when she came around afterwards, she found that the surgeon had written in surgery biro ‘sorry we had to mow the lawn’ above the now strimmed pudenda!

    By the way – I’m loving Affer’s comment

  13. wartimehousewife January 19, 2011 at 18:23 #

    Do you know, I came home just now, feeling knackered, slightly sick and rather down in the mouth. I have just read all the comments so far and laughed till the tears ran down my face. Thank you for cheering me up! xx

  14. g-rider January 19, 2011 at 19:36 #

    “minge maintenance” – LOL!! Excellent article, WH. I’ve been shaving my body hair for years, it’s a cycling thing. You don’t stink of sweat as much if you shave under your armpits – cleaning gravel rash from cuts on arms and legs is easier without hair in the way, and sun cream is easier to apply – and if you shave your nether region you don’t get Betty Swollocks. Don’t use aftershave though, not unless you want to Samba round the bathroom, talc is a more pleasant experience.

    Those Vajazzles look alright, though, and even well kept welcome mats are fine. But a Yorkshire Terrier!? – LOL.

    Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

  15. Peter Ashley January 19, 2011 at 22:13 #

    Remarkably, I just don’t know what to say.

  16. backwatersman January 19, 2011 at 22:38 #

    Most instructive, WH. I know our Vicar is always on the lookout for new speakers to the Mothers’ Union. Perhaps a brief talk (with slides) might be arranged along the lines of your post? Nothing they won’t have seen before, presumably, but a novel angle on a familiar subject is always appreciated.

  17. Sue January 19, 2011 at 23:09 #

    I thought my husband was the only person to use the term Betty Swollocks.

  18. wartimehousewife January 19, 2011 at 23:39 #

    Wot? for your feet? Actually if you did put Vajazzles on a willy it might look like an aeroplane.

  19. wartimehousewife January 19, 2011 at 23:41 #

    Affer and Vintage Knitter: I do so hope those stories are true…

  20. wartimehousewife January 19, 2011 at 23:43 #

    Oh gosh – do you think I could start up the Great Bowden Lady Gardening Club?

  21. Jonathan Calder January 20, 2011 at 12:03 #

    This is the stuff to give the troops.

    In my earlier life as a local councillor we had to rehouse the vicar of Great Bowden when he lost his job and tied house after… But enough of that.

    I have discussed the Ruskin story myself.

  22. wartimehousewife January 20, 2011 at 14:21 #

    Nice to hear from you again Jonathan. I read your article with interest and you’re right, we seem to get a perverse pleasure from make the Victorians out to be preposterously prissy. Wilko made a good point that he was probably repulsed by mentruation which seems more plausible although may still be inaccurate. A proportion of men still are.

  23. Outa_Spaceman Being:52 January 21, 2011 at 02:06 #

    Dear Madam,

    Imagine my disappointment on discovering that my horse, having inadvertently read your posting, has bolted.

    O.S.M. B:53

  24. Sue January 21, 2011 at 17:53 #

    Speaking as a ‘Great Bowden’ (I am large and my maiden name was Bowden) I’m slightly perturbed by this idea…….

  25. wartimehousewife January 21, 2011 at 18:19 #

    Sue – re being a Great Bowden, I would interpret that as ‘marvellous’ rather than ‘large’, and so should you. However, reading the previous comment back, the Great Bowden Lady Gardening Club could feasibly be interpreted a lesbian collective. Which is super, obviously, but probably wouldn’t actually go down well in the actual Great Bowden. and I’m going to stop here as every sentence I utter is leading into more and more trouble……

  26. gawain January 25, 2011 at 09:12 #

    Beautifully explained, WH and all without even the ghost of a hint at your own preferences in this ‘field’ Apropos which, is the adjacency of the article on the Green Belt at all significant?

    Love the blog.

  27. wartimehousewife January 25, 2011 at 13:27 #

    Welcome Gawain and thank you for your hilarious comment which conjures up images that are between me and my counsellor! Hope you keep reading and I look forward to further comments.

  28. Chas January 11, 2012 at 00:05 #

    Very interesting and informative article. Not only is it well written, but it is also well researched.

    Moreover, the article covers a subject I have been writing about for a number of years, although from a totally different perspective — I am writing a political parody (not politically correct, I’ve afraid) in which the merkin is a central feature. Perhaps you could take a look at my effort and give me your feedback. You will be surprised that we have covered similar areas, but from very different angles.

    I’ll start reading the other articles on your blog in the near future.

    All the best,

    Chas

  29. wartimehousewife January 11, 2012 at 00:45 #

    Welcome Chas and thank you for your kind comments about this article. It was great fun researching it.

    I clicked onto your blog just now and it looks most enticing. I’m looking forward to reading it in more depth at a more sensible hour of the day (it’s currently 00.40 and my eyes are smarting). I have always wanted to visit Japan to experience its people and culture – I shall do it vicariously through your blog.

    By all means send me some of your work to the email on the Media Page and I will be happy to offer feedback if you feel it would be helpful. I’m certainly intrigued by the idea of approaching a merkin from a different angle!! I look forward to hearing from you.

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