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 (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.

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. 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.

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28 Comments

Filed under Hair, make up and stuff like that, History

28 responses to “Pubic Hair: from Egyptians to Vajazzles

  1. Sue

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

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

  4. Penny Beaumont

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

  5. Morag

    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.

    • Morag

      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.

  6. Affer

    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.

  7. Camilla Jessop

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

  8. 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.

    • wartimehousewife

      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…

  9. 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

  10. wartimehousewife

    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

  11. g-rider

    “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.

    • Sue

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

    • Morag

      My partner uses talc as well (again, it’s an anti-chafing thing), so now I associate the unique smell of Imperial Leather talc with him. Just a puff in the air gets a girl going. 😉

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

  13. backwatersman

    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.

    • wartimehousewife

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

      • 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.

      • wartimehousewife

        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.

      • Sue

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

  14. Dear Madam,

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

    O.S.M. B:53

  15. wartimehousewife

    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……

  16. gawain

    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.

    • wartimehousewife

      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.

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