Pubic Hair 101
I still remember the first time I was allowed to shave my legs. It felt like a coming-of-age moment. After I was done, I remember touching the silky-smooth skin and thinking, “Wow. Now I’m an adult.”
This was before hair really started showing up in other places, and when it did, I was thankful I already knew exactly what to do. Leg hair was soft and innocent, but pubic hair felt shameful and disgusting. I remember shaving on a near-daily basis to keep it at bay, just in case someone’s eyes wandered in the changing room after gym class and spotted a stray follicle.
I would hazard a guess that many people have felt a similar pressure to keep certain parts of themselves hairless. These cultural norms are so ingrained that the sight of a woman with thick armpit hair can feel inflammatory and provocative.
What Does Biology Say?
Have you ever stopped and considered that biology intended for humans to look this way?
Pubic hair is one of the ways your body protects its more vulnerable parts from external threats. Think of the hair as a kind of protection: Thick, coarse hair fibers are able to block out harmful bacteria or viruses which could cause infections. In fact, studies suggest that pubic hair might help prevent the spread of herpes and HPV (though you should always use protection, no matter your grooming schedule).
Pubic hair also tends to grow in areas that are prone to lots of dynamic motion and contact with other skin or clothing — between your legs, for example, or in your armpits. Hair acts as a buffer to prevent this contact, which can reduce friction-related chafing. Removing pubic hair eliminates this important protective barrier, which is why you might experience discomfort or itchiness when you wear tight clothes after shaving.
Finally, one of the lesser-known functions of pubic hair is to support the spread of your pheromones, which can play a key role in the attraction of romantic partners. Pheromones and scent are not the same thing, so please don’t neglect your hygiene in the hopes of finding “the one!”
So if pubic hair is natural, and it serves all these important functions...
how did it become so stigmatized?
One study published in 2015 found that 95 percent of respondents reported having removed some sort of pubic hair in the previous four weeks. You can blame the way pop culture presents sex and body norms: Any time movies, TV shows, or art depict nudity, those bodies tend to be intentionally hairless. Pornography in particular has idealized hairlessness — and whether you consume porn or not, the desire for a hairless partner can still generate pressure for someone to be hairless as well.
These expectations affect some populations more than others. In that same 2015 study, around half of female respondents reported being intentionally hairless on certain body parts, compared to only 19 percent of male respondents.
Yet when it came to what people preferred, researchers noted an inverse phenomenon that also speaks to expectations: Sixty percent of men said they preferred a sexual partner without pubic hair, compared to 24% of women. As a result, certain women were more likely to self-groom, and they associated a complete removal of pubic hair with looking younger, and equated it with their sexual orientation, sexual relationship status, and whether or not they had received oral sex recently.
It’s important to be confident and comfortable in your own skin.
If shaving helps you do that, then taking part might still be a net positive. However, if you are having recurring health issues — including but not limited to infections, itchiness “down there,” folliculitis, or chafing — or if you’ve always viewed shaving as a necessary sacrifice, then it might be time to weigh the pros and cons. It’s always worth appreciating your body in its natural, unapologetic state because its ultimate function is to serve and protect you. That means you do not require the approval of society or a partner to be considered magnificent. You already are.