Pubic hair has gone from being personal to political in the last decade. The prevalence of shaved pubes in porn films has trickled down to the general public, and now hair removal creams and even pubic hair dyes are marketed at, not just women, but teenagers. By the time we’re at University, most of us have endured the horror of a bad wax, experimented dubiously with Nair and eventually found our pubic hair Happily Ever After. But the history of pubic hair extends far beyond the simple remove or keep debate. Here are five things you might not know about pubic hair.
1. Pubes used to be a Sexual Collectible
Back in the days before you could endear yourself to your partner with a small library of sexy selfies, people were forced to share alternative keepsakes. While letters or jewels might seem like the obvious choice, in Victorian Britain, upper class folks began exchanging locks of hair (and you’ve guessed it, not from their heads). Keeping boxes of pubic hair lying about the place is weird enough, but things didn’t stop there. Victorian men took to wearing these pubic prizes in their hats, as talismans to boost their virility. Unsurprisingly, there is no mention of women doing the same.
2. A Merkin is a Pubic Hair WIG
Second only to a dodgy toupee, the merkin is doubtless the strangest wig on the market. Despite the fact that it sounds somewhat like it’s been shamelessly ripped from a comedy special of Dragon’s Den, the demand for the merkin was genuine back in the 1600s. Due to the prevalence of pubic lice, many prostitutes were forced to shave their pubic hair. Back in those days, pubic hair was firmly in the sexy camp, and therefore women began looking for a replacement. The merkin was the disturbing answer to their disturbing problem. The female merkins were usually made of fur, cloth or beaver pelts, while the male versions were often crafted out of metal, which sounds a touch like a sort of manly Viking precursor to the vajazzle. Nowadays, the merkin primarily exists to stop accidental flange-flashes in films, a disappointingly dull end for a quirky product. We secretly hope that the merkin will undergo a resurgence as a fashion statement in 2015.
3. We May have Pubic Hair to Trap Smells
There are many theories as to why we have pubic hair, including to prevent uncomfortable friction, to signify maturity and, strangely, to trap smells. This might seem somewhat counterproductive, but actually makes sense. Pubic hair can catch pheromones, ensuring that your penis or vagina smells as sexually appealing as possible. Whether someone has ever changed their mind about having sex with someone when less than a foot from their genitals because of a lack of pheromone-y goodness is questionable, but the theory remains strong.
4. Pubic Hair is measured on the Tanner Scale
While my pubic hair is normally measured by the level of disapproval my beautician gives me when I shamefacedly skulk in for a three-week overdue wax, there’s actually an official scale to measure the development of pubic hair. The Tanner Scale measures the growth of pubic hair as adolescence sets in, and makes for interesting reading for anyone who, like me, began hair removal mid-way through the five stages of the Scale. Sadly, the Tanner Scale, like so many things, did not feature in sex education of the late 1990s.
There are very few upsides to aging, but we have one for you today. As you get older, your pubic hair is likely to thin and could be lost entirely. We can but dream. This happens because of various hormone changes that occur as you age, but is by no means a freak event. A degree of pubic hair loss with age has been observed in about 1/3 of women, which are odds that we’re quite happy with. Unfortunately, a further symptom of old age is the advent of unwanted facial hair, therefore the news on the hair front is mixed at best. That being said, a few chin hairs seem a relatively fair trade for never having to shave again.