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.
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 (though the fashion is now coming into the mainstream with series such as ITV2’s astonishing The Only Way Is Essex) 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. There is even a heart-shaped Union Jack variety, which is lovely. 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.