The New Full-Frontal: Has Pubic Hair in America Gone Extinct?
Carrie Bradshaw, Hugh Hefner, and Barbie have all helped construct a new generation’s ideal woman, who is athletic, alluring, … and waxed.
Meet Sophia Pinto: the 21st century’s standard-issue, all-American perfect 10.
The 5-foot-5 Minnesota native — a sly, funny, 22-year-old natural blonde who spends every summer bikini-clad on the shores of Lake Minnetonka — works out five days a week. Her slim waist and megawatt smile hearken back to the polyvinyl glamour of the original Barbie doll.
In fact, if Mattel were to redesign Barbie based on the new millennium’s ideal woman, she would likely resemble Pinto. Healthy, athletic, alluring, and smart (Pinto will graduate early this month from Northwestern University), she’s both a role model and a sex symbol.
And if you were to undress Pinto, you’d find she embodies yet another trademark characteristic of the plastic glamour girl-turned-careerwoman: Like Barbie, Pinto has no pubic hair.
Every four to five weeks, the East Asian Studies major undergoes a cosmetic procedure known as a Brazilian wax. An esthetician pours wax heated to 140° F (roughly the temperature of a steak fresh off the grill) onto her labia and spreads it like butter on bread. Half a minute later, she swiftly peels away the hardened wax — and with it, a full crop of pubic hair, freshly ripped from the follicles.
If you’re squeamishly wondering how much the college senior gets paid for submitting to these weird acts of perverse, pornographic violence, brace yourself for the truly agonizing part: It’s actually Pinto who shells out the cash, paying her regular waxer, Anna, more than $65 every time. But it beats the ingrown hairs and razor bumps that come from shaving, she says.
Sound excruciating? Sure is, says Pinto, who pops two Advil before each appointment. But grooming habits like hers hardly raise an eyebrow among the under-30 set. Today, it’s all but commonplace for women to go to extreme measures to get bald, pre-pubescent nether regions: Indiana University researchers Debby Herbenick and Vanessa Schick found in a recent study that nearly 60 percent of American women between 18 and 24 are sometimes or always completely bare down there, while almost half of women in the U.S. between 25 and 29 reported similar habits. Herbenick’s numbers show a clear-cut trend: More women lack pubic hair than ever before.
What’s happening to America’s vaginas? Is pubic hair going extinct?
In a word, no. But it’s on the fast track to the endangered species list, and its chief predators include the porn industry, smaller bathing suits and lingerie bottoms, and the Kardashian sisters (case in point: Kim once famously proclaimed that women “shouldn’t have hair anywhere but their heads”).
Pubic hair is, however, evolving. Once upon a time, all vulvas were coated in a protective layer of coarse, woolly tresses. Hard to believe, right? It’s kind of like the revelation that horses once had toes, or that the Ford Mustang once had tailfins. But like any evolving species, the vulva has morphed into something sleeker, starker, and altogether more modern. Today, it is smooth, baby-soft, and hairless.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HAIR DOWN THERE
The most staggering aspect of the bald-vulva phenomenon is just how quickly women (and men) have embraced it.
Less than two decades ago, the idea of “taking it all off” seemed painful, unnecessary, and even vaguely fetishistic; As recently as 1996, one harrowing, particularly memorable vignette from Eve Ensler’s groundbreaking play The Vagina Monologues effectively turned the idea of removing pubic hair at the request of a sexual partner into something cringe-worthy and perverted. Trimming away a few strays during swimsuit season was one thing, but removing all the hair from one’s genitals, effectively turning back the clock on puberty? Traumatizing. Selfish. Inhumane, even.
Or not. Enter the seven Padilha sisters, immigrants from Brazil. In 1987, Jocely, Jonice, Janea, Joyce, Jussara, Juracy, and Judseia Padilha opened the appropriately named J. Sisters salon in Midtown Manhattan, where they began offering what they had dubbed the “Brazilian wax.” Years before, a woman in a thong swimsuit with an ungroomed bikini line had strolled by Janea Padilha as she lay on the beach. Why not just wax the full bikini line, she wondered. The peculiar practice would go on to change the world of female genitalia as we know it — but not for another decade or so. Instead, it would remain weird, taboo, and rarely administered for another 13 years.
Then, in 2000, one groundbreaking episode of Sex And The City made the Manolo Blahnik demographic sit up and take notice: Heroine Carrie Bradshaw found a new swagger in her step after waxing it off. And once Carrie was bare down there … well, remember when the Sex And The Citygirls ate cupcakes? Let’s put it this way: There’s now a cupcake bakery on every other corner in upper Manhattan. Finally, the phenomenon introduced by the seven sisters Padilha blossomed, as spas all over the United States began to offer Brazilian wax services.
By 2003, Victoria Beckham had announced that she thought Brazilian waxes should be compulsory at age 15. Eva Longoria followed suit in 2006, telling Cosmopolitan that “Every woman should try a Brazilian wax once. The sex they have afterward will make them keep coming back.” Soon, states like New Jersey and North Dakota were revisiting their regulations on legal cosmetology services after outcries from women who were surprised and dismayed to find that genital waxing had never been officially legalized. Gone were the warm, velvety vaginas of yesteryear — the smooth, Brazilian-waxed vagina was the wave of the future.