To wax or not to wax? For most American women, the question requires barely a thought.
Scientists at the University of California San Francisco reported Wednesday that pubic hair grooming among U.S. women has become the norm, with the majority of women opting to go full Brazilian or, in other words, completely bare. The results of the study, published in the journal JAMA Dermatology, won’t come as a surprise to any casual consumer of pop culture, magazines, or porn, but they do emphasize society’s influence on the state of the female crotch.
Of the 3,316 American women surveyed, an overwhelming majority — some 84 percent — of women reported they groom their pubes. The remaining 16 percent, perhaps inspired by bush-embracing celebrities like Lady Gaga and Gwyneth Paltrow — reported that they don’t at all.
The researchers also found that the majority of women who groom — about 62 percent — remove their pubic hair completely.
Many factors go into the grooming choices of women, the authors report. A big one is age: Younger women aged 18 to 24 were far more likely than women aged 45 to 55 to groom. Importantly, women tended to take their partner’s preferences (rather than their own) into account when going clean: If her partner explicitly preferred a fuller bush, there was a higher probability she would, too, and vice-versa.
Yet another factor in the decision to go hair-free or not is race: White women, more than any other group, were more likely to touch up their pubes. The authors point to porn depicting “bare genitalia,” magazines, and TV as the primary drivers of the pube-scrubbing trend, suggesting that differences in grooming habits among groups of women are most likely to “be related to cultural norms and ideals of beauty among different racial groups.”
Perhaps surprisingly, neither income level, relationship status, nor geographic location factored into the likelihood of grooming, and neither did the gender of the women’s partners or the type of sexual activity they were engaged in. “Thus, although the prevailing wisdom has been that grooming is related to specific types of sexual activities or relationships in women,” the authors wrote, “our analysis disputes these conclusions.”
If you’re wondering why the landscaping of the female American crotch got funded for research, it’s because it is somewhat of a public health concern, the authors argue: It’s the responsibility of health care professionals to monitor the cultural reasons why women groom the way they do. And it helps that hairlessness makes it easier to curb the spread of pubic lice.
Having a full bush wasn’t always just a trendy way to subvert social norms. Historically, in fact, it was considered an indication of good health. That’s probably because older hair removal techniques resulted in redness, irritation, and razor burn, which, at least visually, didn’t exactly scream “healthy.” But porn, pop culture, and the growth and professionalization of the multibillion-dollar hair removal industry have since led us to think otherwise. Ah, how susceptible our genitalia are to the world outside our collective pants.