A recent article on Everyday Feminism talked about the history of pubic hair and its removal. The largely discussed the illusions that media and society have about the female body. The author had one particularly interesting comment about how she had assumed that because her Barbie had no hair down there, neither would she. When her body sprouted hair it was cause for feelings of surprise and even betrayal.
I personally have no issue about grooming, in whatever form you may choose. While society does often dictate how we are made to feel about our body hair, I’m not going to tell you to ignore your socialisation if it makes you uncomfortable to go au natural. Your body, your choice has always been my stance. That being said, I do take one issue with the article. With the exception of one comment on how the style of all clear has a prepubescent connotation, there was little talk about how this relates to sexualization of young girls and infantilization of women.
I’ll launch from a point made by the article, that pornography serves as a sort of sexual education for most of America. If we look closely at the general make-up of porn, we can see a tendency towards younger women, or even ‘girls’ being hyper sexualized. Drawing some statistics from an article in Daily Mail UK, the average porn star is 22 years old on their first shoot. Most would agree that this isn’t terribly young. When you look at the roles they are portraying, that’s when things become problematic. In a sample of almost 6000 videos, 65% of them involved ‘girls’ with titles that suggested youth and vulnerability (teen, cheerleader, daughter, co-ed, girlfriend, sister, babysitter, sorority, schoolgirl, and runaway.) That only leaves about 35% of pornography to portray older women (wife, nurse, cougar). Another alarming trend is that women who are being shown as MILF’s (Mom’s I’d like to fuck) are around 30. Even more alarming is the fact that less than 7% of women in porn are over the age of 40.
This is problematic for two reasons. First of all, we are sexualizing young women early. In most cases this means they are partaking in sexual activities with people who are older than them. Normally this suggests some kind of power imbalance. I certainly don’t want to suggest here that young women do not have sexual desires, however, I do want them to be exploring those desires with people closer to their age, experience and ability level for the sake of good consent. The second thing this does is tell women over a certain age that they are not desirable. I think its pretty clear cut as to why all of this is problematic.
I think its important that we recognize where this obsession with young women comes from. ‘The Purity Myth’ by Jessica Valenti does a really great job of unpacking this idea. Our obsession with virginity and purity perpetrates the idea that female sexuality is supposed to be passive, clean, nurturing etc. By focusing on this we deny women agency in choosing their own sexual narrative. This idea of virginity and purity perpetrates masculine ownership over female bodies. She is passed from the ownership of her father to the ownership of her husband.
This idea is further validated by comments from women poled on why they choose to groom. Reasons like ‘men prefer it’ ‘my partner likes it’ and (slightly more empowered, but still problematic) ‘it makes me feel more attractive’ or ‘I feel more feminine, comfortable and cleaner.’ While this is a choice that women make, I can’t help but feel like many of them feel their hand is forced in the situation. I’m all about doing what makes you comfortable in your own skin, but I also think its important to understand where these ideas come from. Our desires and the way we portray ourselves as sexual beings is so heavily influenced by media and society, it is important that we are knowledgeable about it. The more we know, the more true we can be to our desires.