It is a truth universally acknowledged that in these self-obsessed times, there is no story so persistent as the one which confirms that our personal grooming preferences are not only right, they’re also healthy.
In spite of being a doctor no one’s ever heard of, and the opinion first being aired on a medical advice website with the approximate audience of a text message, the story – that women going ‘bare down there’ causes STIs – has gone worldwide, tweeted and blogged and generally bigged-up by haters of shaving everywhere.
It’s no surprise this opinion is popular. After all it confirms a lot of popular prejudices. One, that removing public hair is somehow “wrong” or “unnatural”. Second, that the beauty/porn/misogyny industry (delete as fashionable) is controlling women and making them do things they don’t want to do. While either point is worthy of discussion, abusing medical science in the quest to further your aesthetic or ideological preference is
a poor way to make an argument.
Read the quotes closely. “It follows that there may be vulnerability to … sexually transmitted disease,” claims the good doctor. “Herpes” and “boils” are apparently promoted by frequent hair removal. But what is missing from this piece of You-Go-Girlanti-shaving anti-rebellion is any proof – any data at all – showing this method of disease transmission to be an actual problem.
Pubic hair probably has a mildly useful function. So too does facial hair. Funnily enough no one seems concerned about, say, the health risks men might be chancing by engaging in oral sex after a shave. Probably because it hasn’t been a problem. Also there are a lot fewer people invested in making men’s aesthetic choices for them in a misguided attempt to “help” (where “help” invariably equals “control”).
There’s nothing wrong with not shaving. By the same token, shaving pubes has been with us since, oh, Ancient Greece or so. The acreage of personal fur may wax or wane through history, but it’s a bit late to whip up a paternalistic panic now. Come 2068 we’ll probably all be buying pubic extensions anyway.
Just because something sounds plausible doesn’t mean it exists. In medical science, demonstrating a mechanism of action is not the same as showing a bad health outcome. Without cases, without numbers, this opinion carries no weight. Apart from the fact it confirms a lot of people’s prejudices, of course.
The result? Certain media types have leapt on this story like a tramp on a kipper. It has something for everyone: the far left who hate mainstream beauty trends, the far right who hate the idea of sex, the solid middle who think porn’s golden age ended circa 1977.
For those with a critical eye for how sex is misreported in media, the spread of this non-fact is as inevitable as it is depressing.Expect to see it trotted out for decades to come… because if there are any data that can never be disproven, it’s the data that never existed in the first place.
Brooke Magnanti is author of The Sex Myth which explores many fascinating myths about sex