Women Shave Their Pubes for Sex and Vacations

A new study shines light on women's nether-region grooming habits.

|
Jun 30 2016, 7:43pm

Photo by Marcel via Stocksy

Like many studies before it, a new study claims that most women mess with their pubic hair in some way. Yet what the study found out about why is fairly surprising.

The study, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, examined data collected from a 2013 survey of 3372 women who were asked to share information about how they groom down there. It's the first study of its kind to glean information from a nationally representative sample, rather than a demographically or geographically homogenous group. The results give a new perspective on how modern women decide to handle their pubes.

Read more: Women Explain How They Groom Their Pubes

Eighty-four percent of the women who responded said they had "a lifetime history" of grooming their pubes, while 62 percent say that they have gone completely hairless at some point in their lives. About 16 percent reported no grooming whatsoever.

What is surprising is that most women with a history of pubic grooming reported that their choices were not primarily motivated by sex, as many would assume. Instead, 59 percent said they chose to alter their pubes for the sake of hygiene.

The research found no link between grooming and income, relationship status, or geographic location, but as in other studies, race was a factor. All groups surveyed reported less grooming compared to white women. Only 31.5 percent reported grooming to make their genitals more attractive, while 21.1 percent said they did it to please their partner. About 93 percent of the women who groom say they go the DIY route and remove their own pubic hair.

Nevertheless, when asked about when they choose to groom specifically, 55.6 percent cited imminent sex. About 46 percent cited an upcoming vacation, and 40 percent said they trim their pubes before visiting a health care professional.

The study's authors write that the increasing prevalence of shaved pubes is closely tied with how vaginas are portrayed in the media, but not just porn. In the study, they write, "The mainstream media's portrayal of women discussing and engaging in pubic hair removal is also a major factor for grooming-related influences."

I am more comfortable with myself when I shave.

Since the study showed that young women are much more likely to groom their pubes than women over the age of 45, I pulled a full Sex and the City and spoke with some of my friends about how they handle their pubic hair. Though the recent study found women trimmed their pubes for hygiene and sex, the responses I got showed many women have nuanced reasons for how they treat theirs.

In keeping with feminist trends, many of my friends don't remove their pubes at all, and one friend enthusiastically says she embraces her happy trail. Another friend, though, says she began shaving when, at the age of 13, a classmate bullied her about not shaving "down there" in the locker room at school. She still shaves today, but now for a different reason. "At some point I stopped doing it because that mean girl in middle school told me I should and started doing it because I actually just prefer it and am more comfortable with myself when I shave."

Another friend says that she doesn't shave, but she does trim. "I 'buzz' it with a ladies version of what is essentially a smaller beard trimmer, usually at least once a week. I like to keep it as short as possible, but I hate razor-shaving my vulva/inner thighs. I have stupid-sensitive skin and I get all the razor bumps and ingrown hairs if I shave, so I try to avoid it at all costs."

Another says she "very occasionally" uses a razor, just to "trim things down when the bikini bottom stops fitting right."

Read more: Why More Women Than Ever Are Getting Their Vaginas Done

My small sample is in line with the study's conclusion that "women have diverse motivations for grooming that are not universal." Yet the authors of the study hope the trends they've identified (and their debunking of the commonly held belief that it's only sex that motivates women's pube-grooming habits) will have a practical purpose. A primary aim of the study was to gain insight that they could give to health care professionals.

Despite women reporting they groom for "hygienic purposes," having a razor near your genitals can be extremely dangerous. A 2014 study showed 60 percent of women had experienced some kind of health complications linked to hair removal, such as cuts and ingrown hairs. The risks are even higher among obese women.

"Familiarity with the motivations and characteristics of women who groom can help inform healthcare professionals in terms of identifying women for counseling regarding grooming risks," the authors of this recent study write. Though, they qualify, more research needs to be conducted to determine if doctors can actually affect women's extremely personal choices on what to do with their pubes.