June 9, 2011

Mowing her lawn, or not, 1985 to 2010

Sometime in the recent past it became against the law to have natural pubic hair. I don't mean some piece of legislation passed by Congress that no one would obey, but the tacit social law that people live by. Many have been curious to find out roughly when this happened. After all, the change was not trivial, like abandoning yellow shirts for blue ones. I don't mess around with my hair down there, but from what I've heard, read, and can easily imagine, it must be at least a great inconvenience -- yet another grooming chore -- and perhaps downright painful.

Since the change has been most pronounced among females, and because someone else can study changing fashions in men's habits, I restricted my study to women. Because individual women may be slow to respond to changing demand among men for more or less hair, I figured it was better to look at something that reflects mainstream tastes and behavior, and that would provide easy data. So I found an online archive of every Playboy Playmate of the Month from 1985 through 2010, subjectively graded how much hair she had on a 0 to 3 scale, and averaged the ratings for each year. For a little more detail about the method, see the footnote. *

Here is what the change looks like over time:


The years 1985 to 1991 more or less overlap each other, and they are all somewhere between 2 and 3 (or slightly shapened and natural). It's not until 1992 that there is a clearly visible downward trend. Rounding to the nearest whole number, it's not until 2001 that the average is more or less 0, i.e. completely gone or with only a minimal token amount. It has stayed at that low level ever since -- in fact, in 2009 and 2010 every single woman had a value of 0.

Focusing on individual women instead of the overall average, the first 0 appears in 1993, and the last 3 showed up in 1995. The shift is not one where everyone used to have natural hair, and then more and more women began to remove it all, although that was part of it (and now of course that is the norm). But the women who left hair at all began clipping it shorter and shorter, if not all the way down, and bringing in the edges more and more, if not all the way.

This picture shows several things. First, we can put the rest the silly idea that getting rid of more and more hair began in the porno movie industry and somehow went mainstream. Even without looking at data like this, we should wonder why people would imitate every trivial detail they saw in a dirty movie. Did the broader availability of these movies cause an epidemic of guys who pulled out before they finished? And have these theorizers ever seen a dirty movie from the 1980s? -- they tend to be natural or close enough. Once again pop sociology proves even stupider than academic sociology.

According to the internet, the first Brazilian waxing service came to America in 1994, basically the same time that the first Playmate has a value of 0. There was thus a common trend that affected everyday women, pin-up girls, and porno actresses. This is also clear if you look at the hair on their head -- all those groups of women sport similar hairstyles within a given time period. Aside from weird fetish movies, the women are chosen to look like real-life chicks, not serious deviants (in appearance anyway).

Second, we should probably view the removal of pubic hair as part of a larger trend of reducing the volume of hair on the body -- including head hair and eyebrow hair. The average girl has adopted much shorter hair, and has kept it nearly plastered to the scalp with straighteners, over the same time that she started messing with her other hair. She's also started to pluck, tweeze, and re-paint her eyebrows to an extent that would have been unbelievable before. As recently as the late '80s and very early '90s, women kept their pubic hair more or less natural, they wore their head hair longer, and they really made it stand away from the head. It's as though there's a general impulse to cover up, reduce, or eliminate signs of hair growth.

Third, the timing should make us think of how the prominence of body hair responds to whether the violence level in society is rising or falling. In this case, women began minimizing their hair as the world got safer. In contrast, during the rising-crime times of the '60s through the '80s, hair only got more prominent. As far as I can tell, it's not the state of pubic hair specifically that responds to the violence level, since there don't appear to be cycles up and down in shaving it or leaving it alone. In earlier waves of violence, the evidence isn't crystal clear but is suggestive. Since that would take us too far afield, I might return to a longer but shallower historical look later on.

Finally, what's the link? We've seen before that people become more sexual when violence levels rise, and more prudish when they fall. Then it shouldn't be surprising if people chose to sexualize their appearance more during rising-crime times, and to asexualize it in falling-crime times. Hair is one of the most strongly sexual parts of the body -- that's why married women cover it up around the world, and why in other parts even unmarried girls must cover it up to maintain their honor and reputation for chastity. So it is only fitting that they would try to minimize their hair in safer times. A flowing mane of hair and a full bush might give men the idea that she's more of a wild animal than her otherwise hairless skin had let on. That's the last thought you want to give men in safer-prudish times, although you might well choose to play it up in dangerous-wilder times.

The topic for future research (not by me) is what's been going on with guys, and when. The fact that guys now trim, shave, or "manscape" their junk is one of the clearest signals that the culture has turned completely homosexual. "But it makes my you-know-what look bigger in comparison!" Sorry, but if you're resorting to shaving your hair down there, you're going to need more help than that. The same trend of shorter hair worn closer to the scalp applies to men too, of course. We're back to the 1950s when crew-cuts were the only length allowed, and I can't remember the last time I saw a black guy with an afro in real life.

* "How much" hair, I take to mean how much volume or space it takes up. Since this volume is a base area times a height, it is affected by how much she has completely shaved or waxed (which shrinks the base area) and how tightly she has cropped the existing hair (which shortens the height). Taking all of that into account, I used a scale of 0 for bald or minimal (e.g., bald except for a token patch that was tiny in area and trimmed very close to the skin), 1 for low (e.g., a "landing strip" that was wider, longer, and that went farther up toward the belly button), 2 for medium (e.g., pulled in here and there at the sides and nearer the waist, and no trimming), and 3 for more or less natural (perhaps with the sides pulled in at the bikini line).

There are usually more than one shooting sessions per woman, so if there was any doubt, I went with what she looked like in the majority of shoots. When it was close to call, I would find another woman from that year who was also a close call, and rounded one down and one up.

15 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:09 PM

    Could there be any correlation to an increase in and emphasis on oral sex? Only going by what I've seen in the media, it seems that practicing and acceptance of oral sex has increased. I've read some statistics where a percentage of teenagers and young adults don't even consider it sex and some don't even consider it cheating. Point being that, could a greater mental and visual focus on genitalia help drive the reduction of hair? As a practical matter, less hair makes oral access easier and potentially the feeling more pleasurable.

    Relating personal experiences, to foster debate: my wife and I are now shaved. About 5 years ago we found ourselves near a fairly well-to-do neighborhood and school and my wife started getting invites to mani/pedis, sex toy sale parties, shopping dates...all the stuff we really only associated with television wives. My wife was 33 at the time and most of these women were older, yet they were pushing a lot of "young" ideas. Shaving was one of those. I think it became a mark of youth, much as a tramp stamp, to get shaved and surprise the hubby (besides, Cosmo said it was a good idea).

    So, my first observation is that the rise of cougars has given rise to older women adopting younger trends to maintain youth.

    I got the surprise one night and was not displeased. There is certainly a counter-movement of men who like/want hair, but the reality is that the majority swing from loving no hair to not caring. My nudy mag viewing days were during the trimmed lawn era, so I'm programmed to appreciate that, but I accept shaved just as well. My wife enjoyed the sexiness of the feel and the extra attention and, since I didn't mind, adopted the shave. As a late adopter, she's not as religious about it as younger women are and I don't care when it needs a trim.

    Second observation: A significant portion of our sex is oral, and was prior to the shave. As someone who has transitioned from one to the other, I definitely like the shave for oral sex. It's fundamentally easier when you don't have to deal with hair and my wife claims that the direct skin contact is better.

    At 12 years of marriage, adding spice the mix is always good. After a while, I thought maybe she would appreciate if I reciprocated with the hair removal. I contemplated just a tight trim, but decided I'd go whole hog for the first run. I did it, she liked it, nuff said. She wasn't asking for it and wasn't adamant that I maintain it, but I did ask her if she preferred it and she said she wouldn't have thought so, but yes she did. Visually she doesn't really care (although she has said that excessive hair - which I didn't have - is a turnoff), but practically, it's nice not having to deal with hair in the mouth, tickling nose, etc. Also, the balls get more play now, so I'm all about doing anything that makes my odds better down there. I'm a once a week shaver, and sometimes get too busy for that, so I really don't put a lot of effort in. The return on my effort is worth it. This change did lead me to be curious as to how many guys were doing the same or manscaping and whether women actually liked it. I don't have much from the guy standpoint - guys don't really talk about such things.

    Third observation: A casual poll over the years of women comfortable about answering the question either to me or to my wife (I got her to help me in this) has revealed an overwhelming majority prefer at least trimmed. Some like shaved, most don't care whether a guy goes that far. Only one responder ever said something negative, "Eww, that's like a little boy.", and let the record show that she was from a very conservative background.

    I guess what I'm ultimately getting at is that I don't feel like what we've done, or what a lot of people have done, has any relation to crime rates. Maybe falling crime is the genesis of the change, but other factors spur the increase?

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  2. "Only one responder ever said something negative, "Eww, that's like a little boy.", and let the record show that she was from a very conservative background."

    Score another point for conservative chicks.

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  3. Anonymous3:54 PM

    Nice try, but I live in a very conservative area where most of the women polled are conservative. Instead of reading "very conservative" as Sarah Palin, read it as Amish, i.e. she's seen 1 penis and been told that married men shouldn't trim anything.

    Nice of you to drop in and not even consider that your crime theory doesn't really answer the hair reduction. I don't believe porn has driven it either, but your version is very flimsy. More likely many variables have converged to create either an anomaly or a lasting change. Powdered wigs came and went and there was a time before men wore ties, although they may now never go away.

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  4. Yeah, nice of you to drop in and admit that you shave your pee-pee in your late 30s or 40s.

    You didn't read the post. I already said what the connection is between hair prominence overall (not just down there) and the violence level.

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  5. That's hard research there...I feel for you!

    Got anything before the current trend? It's probably tough to make any connections if you don't have the crime data, but just checking. Didn't Egyptians denude themselves (maybe just Pharaohs?)? Other times/cultures known to have short/flat hair? I'm thinking outside of cult stuff you won't find genital shaving any time before now.

    I'm not "with" anon, but big hair seems to be a bit of a stretch without more data and the shaving thing doesn't have historical precedence (I know I'm getting ahead of the further research you said you would do). Although, trashy girls tend to be associated with more volume - read trashy as easy/loose - which would support hair volume as a sexually aggressive indicator. I wonder if trailer trash girls shave less? Heh, is there a blue-collar, low income version of Playboy to research?

    Oh, and I've seen fros trickling back in over the last couple of years. I don't know what that means...I just assumed it was part of the fashion cycle since we've already been through a lot of regurgitated 70's crap.

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  6. Anonymous6:57 PM

    why don't you look at how panties and bikini bottoms have been cut over those years

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  7. Looks like from now on I'll be gobbling antidepressants by the handful.

    I keep meaning to do some research on grooming habits on Voyeurweb. Keep in mind that not only are the women on Voyeurweb amateurs, but the photos seem to be about evenly split between those in which the women show their faces and those in which they don't. My hypothesis is that women who hide their faces may be more likely to go unshaved, as they are more likely to be normal women rather than skanks.

    Peter

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  8. Anonymous11:03 AM

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pubic_hair_removal

    Doesn't really jive with your theory.

    You may want to split the genital shaving from the big hair. It seems like you're really stretching.

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  9. I find bald-shaved pussies repulsive.

    We want bush! We want bush!

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  10. Something that puzzles me is why Asian women often remain in their natural states. It's not anything to do with clueless immigrants, as even US-born, totally Americanized Asian women sometimes are full-flavor.

    As a practical matter, less hair makes oral access easier and potentially the feeling more pleasurable.

    Nonsense. A thick, rich, luxuriant bush enhances and concentrates a woman's natural aromas and flavors.

    Peter

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  11. Steve Johnson2:55 PM

    The premise under which you gathered your "objective" data is completely flawed.

    Looking at photos of the vulvae of women in Playboy don't tell you anything at all about what those women choose to look like. Nor are they a random selection of (attractive) women. They're picked by editors and styled by professionals. When you're posing nude styling includes pubic hair trimming (or not).

    Now you've turned the opinions of a very non-representative group (Playboy editors) into a measure of "mainstream taste and behavior".

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  12. You're confused. You think I'm trying to equate Playmates with the general public in any given time period. But that is not the point, which is to look at a trend over time, not how prevalent full bush was in any specific year.

    Slightly more formally, Playmates are the tail of a distribution that tells us indirectly about the average.

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  13. Did you note any correlation between shaving and hair color? Seems to me that there might be a desire to minimize the difference between carpet and curtains. This in turn might correlate to more women in the 90s dying their hair recreationally rather than just to cover up grey. (I don't know that that happened, but it does seem that advertising in the 90s became more about changing hair color than hiding the grey.)

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  14. gymquiz3:55 PM

    Couldn't you look at Brazilian Playboys from the same period. If the trend originated there, it might show up sooner.
    But I don't know how that fits your high crime theory, I'm sure that Brazil had a high crime rate throught the entire period.

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  15. Anonymous8:43 PM

    Nice try, but I live in a very conservative area where most of the women polled are conservative. Instead of reading "very conservative" as Sarah Palin, read it as Amish, i.e. she's seen 1 penis and been told that married men shouldn't trim anything.

    Arrrghhh! I'm sick and tired of Beck/Palin. Very traditional conservative to far-right is Laura Wood or Alte, NOT capitalists, libertarians or neoconservatives. Leftists and the leftists media is SERIOUSLY deluded. WHY do they paint liberal or libertarian chicks as conservative? STUPID LIBERALS!

    The media is so far-left it believes liberal conservatives to be far-right!

    ReplyDelete

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