From Farrah Fawcett’s feathered shag to Jennifer Aniston’s famous square-layered “Rachel” cut, hairstyles come and go with the times. While every generation has its hits and misses, hairstyles extend beyond the hair we have on our heads. Of course, I am referring to the often tortured and trying relationship that women have with the hair on the rest of their bodies, in particular, ahem, pubic hair.
It might seem like it is a trivial concern but, in fact, this seemingly innocuous patch of hair can have a major impact on a woman’s sexual pleasure.
According to a recent study from the Indiana University Center for Sexual Health Promotion, a woman’s genital self-image can greatly impact her sexual enjoyment. (A previous study performed at Berman Center found the same results.)
Women with a positive genital self-image were more likely to reach orgasm via oral sex and self-stimulation, and they were also more likely to have visited a gynecologist in the past 12 months. (Every woman should visit her gynecologist once a year for crucial tests such as PAP smears, which can spot early signs of trouble.)
For those of you who are a little confused as to what genital self-image is, it is simply the way that a person thinks and feels about his or her genitals, or in this case, her vulva. (Yes, vulva — not vagina — is the correct term for a woman’s genitals. The fact that so many women don’t know this is a big indicator that many women are still living in shame when it comes to their own bodies.)
And her genital self-image is often linked to how she feels about her pubic hair.
Shame and subsequent lack of anatomical knowledge is not surprising considering that many women received shaming messages about their genitals when they were growing up. Their parents might have used goofy nicknames to refer to their private parts, or they might have been told that their genitals were dirty or unclean. Decades later, these messages can still wreak havoc on a woman’s sexual enjoyment, and when you add in modern pressures to “go bare” in the style of popular porn stars, a woman’s genital self-image can simply plummet.
It’s time to reclaim your body, genitals and all, and start promoting a healthy, happy self-image. Here’s how:
Forget porn. I don’t mean to literally forget it! Erotica can be a wonderful part of your sex life. However, certain films can create very unrealistic notions of what a woman’s body (and a man’s body, for that matter) should look like. Everyone is hairless, tan, bleached, and taut. Yet real bodies come with cellulite, hair, curves, and even a few extra pounds. But guess what? It’s that “real” quality that makes intimacy so special and unique. Fretting about your looks won’t only sap your physical enjoyment, it will also take away from the emotional experience of sharing yourself with your loved one.
Seek comfort and sensuality. Just as top-of-your-head hairstyles come and go, so do genital hairstyles. In Victorian times, pubic hair was a sign of health and cleanliness. In fact, prostitutes were the only ones who shaved their hair, and they did so to keep pubic lice and other things at bay. In fact, to hide their lack of hair, they wore “merkins” — pubic-hair wigs that helped them to appear sexy and desirable to their clients.
It’s important to remember that pubic-hair styles can change: If you keep removing hair, it might not grow back — so ask yourself, do I want to be completely bare in 10, 20, 30 years? The same is true when considering laser hair removal. If you aren’t sure you want to be bare forever, you might want to postpone this procedure.
Instead of trying to follow the last fads, find a pubic hairstyle that works for you and you alone. Whether you like to keep it trim or let it run wild, you should feel comfortable and sexy in your own body. Hairstyles might come and go, but confidence and inner beauty are always in style.