The fashion for shaven vulvas is not a sudden phenomenon. Classical art presented the female mons veneris as a demurely plump vee between modestly enclosing thighs. There seems always to have been a reticence about portraying beaver so that when essayed by artists it usually carried pornographic inferences. This led to the famous Ruskin crisis. Though why the female fur – in textural essence like one’s cat or pet lamb – should be so scary is baffling. It would surely be the revelation of the liquescent folds and tunnel beneath that might more affright the innocent and feeble minded. In fact I suspect this is much more what scared the old poseur but he was too mealy mouthed to call a pudendum a cunt.
Like any other healthy young male I was pretty keen to learn more about the female body when my own began to send its signals of sexual development. Luckily, one of my schoolfellows whose military father was based abroad, would bring magazines back from the hols that featured deeply thrilling naked women whose hair clad pubes made us all quite faint with lust. Thanks in the seventies to publications like Playboy, Mayfair, Penthouse the formerly secret and in the pin-up magazines stocked by English newsagents invariably airbrushed mound was revealed in all its furry glory to a wider audience of fans. ERBooks itself celebrated luxuriant groins in a knee trembling photo collection called Beyond the Top Shelf.
The aphrodisiac quality of pubes did not extend in a hairy sense to other areas of the female body. It was acknowledged that girls from ‘abroad’ – especially the French, Italians and Spanish – had hairy armpits. This was thought to be quite exciting in a grubby way because foreign girls were all tarts. Legs however, had to be smooth. Only spinster teachers in tweeds or fat mamas in bombazine had blackly fronded legs.
Girls had probably known the rules of feminine bodily presentation forever and certainly since legs and armpits were allowed out in 1921. The female skin is supposed to be smooth and silky. After all, nothing kills desire more than the sight of matted hairs on the calf beneath a sheer nylon stocking. On the other hand the view of a flattened triangle emerging from the gusset of a pair of knickers as they descend the thighs of their wearer is very provocative indeed. All sorts of sensual adventures are promised as hand or tongue, explore the undergrowth in search of the exotic and fruity inner flesh. Erotomanes have for centuries scribbled away trying to capture the inimitable and possibly inexpressible thrills of what used to be called ‘muff-diving’. A famous lewd ballad had as its chorus the chant of ‘the hairs on her dicky-dido hung down to her knees’.
But long before the porn business banished pubic hair from the crotches of its stars, fashion and show business was doing the same. Models became thinner, clothing skimpier. Dance groups such as Pan’s People performed on TV shows in what were practically g-strings. There was no doubt. Skin was in. The public was of course ready for this. You can’t have a high kick dance routine the follicular exposure of which is a too vulgar a reminder of why it is at least half the audience like watching barely clad women leap about. It had also long been considered a touch gross to have hair peeking from ones bikini and by association, knicker legband, let alone growing down the inside of the thigh.
The candour of a bedroom disrobement was one thing. Having the stuff wandering randomly over the body’s nooks and crannies like disorderly ivy was another. Even worse, it clogged up the shower drain.
Quite obviously, the question of hair or not hair is entirely about aesthetics and fashion. Except of course for those Islamists who think that pubic hair should be removed along with the clitoris, as they are an incitement to impure thoughts. Yes, well, so they are and why not? Doubtless there are certain branches of Christianity and other religions that get upset by pubic hair as well. One wonders if they find depilated pornography more or less offensive when they view it – which they do of course as a duty to discover sin and the devil’s work.
But let’s return to the hair and aesthetics thing. The Bible reminds us that women have always had different preferences. ‘Esau was an hairy man’ as I recall, but Joseph was ‘a smooth man’. The good book doesn’t say where the hairiness was but it’s a fair bet that assuming the writer had a beard and chest and even shoulder hair in mind, the description also implied there was a lot of undergrowth to clear before any oral sex might be enjoyably accomplished. ‘That Joseph, smooth and with a many coloured coat. He probably drove a hairdresser’s Porsche chariot as well. But wow, the girls loved to go down on him’, it says here in the script.
So, in the Californian branch of the erotic movie business – and probably elsewhere if I knew more about it – men and women have shaved. No mouthfuls or thickets of hair obstruct the deep throat or the camera’s delight in vulvic and anal complexity and penetrative action. To be fair, in my opinion the men look better for it – the shaved bit that is. The tanned and fit bodies seem less gross and more sensually androgynous albeit in a homoerotic way. But to declare a bias on the hairy thing, I once caught a dreadful dose of athletes foot from a single visit to a posh health club dominated by swarthy chaps who wouldn’t have made it to the sort of place most English gentlemen might frequent.
The constructs and images of contemporary porn mirror our Western society’s obsessions. They still reflect the notion that hair is worn like hats except when it is the adornment of the bits where the fun is. Everything is to be deodorised and clean and real hairiness is a bit of a fetish. I don’t mean the old flashing smile, head swinging, long blonde tresses swooshing ‘I’m worth it’ hair preparation ad stuff.
I mean how do we feel about body hair, and especially genital body hair. Most of what we feel about hairy bits is of course individual and personal. The prettiness of a girl’s pubes floating on the island between her thighs as she lies in the bath is surely more than compensation for removing her hairs from ones teeth later. Equally, the naked oyster, beautiful in its revelation obviates rummaging in the undergrowth and invites instant consumption. Then again, the rummaging is fun unless you are very hung-up. In which case it is unlikely you will be slurping around down there. Hair is sexy as all hell. Nakedness is sexy as all hell. Make of it what you will.
It seems to me that women themselves share this ambivalence, but in a more pragmatic way. At one level, it goes with the territory that bodily presentation and self-esteem co-exists with sexual identity. The pubes occupy a curious public/private place in which they are noones business but their owners, yet they are part of their owner’s awareness of their physical self. The concept is of exposure. It could be on the beach, or it could be in the bedroom. For whatever reason women generally take the sexual differentiation of erogenous zone hairlessness seriously. For example, the ‘Brazilian’ expresses the fashion to depilate women’s sexual parts and better enable the display of the groin. But this hairlessness also has a covert message about accessibility. Keeping your crotch shaved is not that comfortable and I’d rather not shave my balls. There was a time when certain sorts of men had a treatment called ‘back, sack and crack’. It’s a ghastly mnemonic and sounds dire. But if you are a girl you know that the razor technology gets better and like shaving legs and getting a ‘bikini wax’ it’s what you do when summer comes.
But yo, hairy or shaved, a woman’s cunt is the best thing you can get your mouth around. It’s always a sensual adventure. And if it isn’t, why are you there?