Our sexist rules for body hair

If you ask whether or not people should display their body hair or even shave it off, you will be told that it is up to the individual. But in reality our beliefs about pubic hair are sexist.

That is the finding being presented today at the British Psychological Society Psychology of Women Section annual conference at Cumberland Lodge, Windsor, by Dr Virginia Braun from the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

Dr Braun and her colleagues asked New Zealanders to report on their views on pubic hair and pubic hair removal. Sixty-seven participants completed an anonymous qualitative survey, which has also been used by the research team to collect data from over 200 British participants.

The results showed that while respondents said that everybody should keep their pubic hair out of sight, the consequences of displaying publicly were thought of as more dire for women than for men.

Additionally, when attractiveness was cited as a main reason for removal, participants spoke overwhelmingly about increased attractiveness for women but rarely mentioned an increased in attractiveness for men who removed pubic hair. In fact, they often expressed the view that removing pubic hair would make men less attractive.

Dr Braun says: “I think we have unpicked some of the perceptions about pubic hair and reasoning behind its removal that may explain why this is a phenomena that seems to be affecting and involving both men and women, but not to the same degree. These findings are just part of a complex and shared narrative that might explain the various practices and perceptions we have around bodies, gender, attractiveness and body hair removal.”