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Undergrad’s Research on Female Pubic Hair Removal Wins Prestigious Award

May 29, 2012 Features 32 Comments
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Tim Fucci
AS Beat Reporter

While pubic hair may be a taboo topic to some, for many college-aged women including fourth-year feminist studies major Jessica Moore, talking about pubic hair removal makes the cut.

Moore is the most recent recipient of the prestigious Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research for her thesis entitled “Talking about Pub(L)ic Hair: Pubic Hair Removal Practices of College Women,” which found that pubic hair removal practices entail very real social and symbolic implications for women.

“What I’m trying to do is suggest that women have a lot more agency in regards to pubic hair removal practices,” Moore said. “I really situate pubic hair removal as a body modification practice.”

Moore, a first-generation college student, will be officially recognized during this year’s College of Letters and Science Commencement Ceremony for her work. In addition to the award from the Chancellor’s office, Moore will also present her thesis to the National Women’s Studies Association Conference this November in Oakland.

As part of her honors thesis within the Feminist Studies department and under the guidance of Feminist Studies Professor Leila Rupp, Moore tackles a topic that has received little attention and research, and argues that pubic hair removal transcends a private matter of the composition of the body into public meanings and identity.

In regards to shifting norms for women, Moore discovered none have changed more rapidly than those reflected by current pubic hair removal practices. Whether it be shaving or waxing, most young women will often treat the removal of pubic hair as a necessity, a rite of passage, and their conceptions of pubic hair norms are shaped not by men and their sexual partners, but by their female friends and family.

Using data collected from nationwide surveys, Moore discovered that many women begin removing their pubic during the height of adolescence between the ages of 14 and 16, which Moore dubbed “Coming of Shave Narratives.”

“Most women who shave at that age have not even thought about their first sexual experience. It’s actually more women talking to other women about these issues,” said Moore. “A lot of women said they started shaving because their friends started shaving. I actually had one participant say it was a bonding experience because they would get waxes before prom or winter ball.”

Through focus groups and interviews with University of California Santa Barbara students, Moore found the complete removal of pubic hair is the norm among college women in Isla Vista. Moore’s research also found that pubic hair plays a particular role for women in an environment of casual sex and sexual fluidity.

“One of the most interesting things I found is that women police themselves by deciding not to shave or wax their pubic hair in order to prevent them from hooking up with other people- so preventing unwanted hook ups,” said Moore.

In an analysis of Playboy magazines from the last 40 years, Moore saw a dramatic decline in the prevalence of pubic hair in models by the 1990s, rendering her to ask, “What happened to the popular consciousness that all of a sudden pubic hair is bad and shouldn’t be there?”

The dominant theme, Moore said, was that young women viewed pubic hair as repulsive, sordid and less feminine, and the practice of removal reiterates hygienic agency.

“What I argue in my thesis is while the growth of pubic hair is a biological marker of maturity, its removal is a marker of social maturity,” said Moore.

So while some avoid the topic altogether, Moore added the research of it to her daily schedule, and in doing so became the first Feminist Studies student to receive the Chancellor’s Award.

Photo Courtesy of Jessica Moore

Currently there are "32 comments" on this Article:

  1. Nicole says:

    What a high honor…every parent wants their daughter to be synonymous with pubic hair in the research world!

  2. Heather says:

    I hope Ms. Moore hasn’t accumulated a mountain of student loan debt for her education in Feminist Studies. It would be even worse if she wasted a scholarship on her degree. Will we see Ms. Moore in an occupy camp this summer, pleading for forgiveness of student loans? Will she be complaining about how there are no jobs for recent grads? Somehow, Bush will be blamed for it. (“bush”, get it?)

  3. Linda says:

    Nicole–I would imagine most parents would be proud of their daughter winning the Chancellor’s Award regardless of what field it is in…. but I can’t say I would imagine any parent being proud of their daughter being synonymous with leaving sarcastic, simple minded comments in an (unfunny) attempt at belittling someone else’s work

  4. Josh says:

    Regarding Heather’s totally impertinent soapbox rant:

    Not sure where you’re going with all that… I actually believe that these types of humanistic and sociological studies force us to ask why we blindly accept certain practices embedded in our culture without question, thus aiding in our progression as critical thinkers as opposed to just cruising forward through life in an ignorant stupor.

    But regardless of that, your comment made absolutely no mention of anything in the article–it seems like you were just dying for a platform providing you the chance to go on a tirade about your own political views.

    And lastly, you’ve blatantly revealed yourself as someone who is completely ignorant of anything related to feminism. Your implication that getting an education in feminism is a waste of a degree or scholarship is just plain silly. Feminism is exactly the type of interdisciplinary field that helps equip students with a broader prospective and the ability to complicate and critique issues in hopes of actually enacting social change. And before you toss aside feminism as a waste of time, you might want to look up people like bel hooks, Angela Davis and Audre Lorde….yeah, what a bunch of losers

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  6. Dan says:

    Whether one believes it important or not, the topic generated a lot of interest (Facebook shares, tweets). As a person attracted to college women, I found it sexy knowing that the carpet doesn’t match the drapes at UCSB- there is none. As far as Heather- I believe that was a man using a woman’s name. Too much testosterone. I suspect a lot of male pubic hair around a small one.

  7. Addy says:

    Heather, I wasn’t aware being a feminist was synonymous with being apart of the Occupy movement. Clearly we can see who college years were actually a waste,

  8. syzygysb says:

    My first thought on reading about women waxing their pubic hair was that this practice first became the norm due to smaller and smaller crotches on higher cut bathing suit bottoms. That was my own personal experience.

    When I went to Hawaii in late 70s, I was the odd-woman out, with my line of hair showing on each side of my trendy bikini bottom. Playing volleyball was out of the question. That’s when the waxing for all women became the norm—I am certain of it.

    This thesis is more along the lines of tribal customs and anthropological studies. I bet you will find many many more young women waxing their crotches along seashore and lakeshore areas than in the midwest or central states.

  9. Becky says:

    Great research topic! Really. I too believe there is a direct connection between skimpy bathing suits and hair removal. In the 1970s, when I was on the UCSB women’s gymnastic team, the judges would reduce our scores if public hair showed outside our leotards, or if nipples showed through our leotards. The notion of shaved women to hide any evidence of their sexuality is a topic definitely worthy of anthropological study.

    I was stunned to see Brazilian wax jobs on the naked women in Playboy when I picked the magazine up for the first time in decades. Shaving or waxing down there is ouch! and it is bizarre that the hairless, pre-pubescent genital look has become the norm at the same time that larger breasts have also become the norm. What a confused message for a young woman to process…

  10. Green Ostrich says:

    Glittery feather merkin’s are the next step.

  11. Mike Bono says:

    I have been a practicing electrologist in Santa Barbara since 1975 (and a UCSB grad as well). Electrolysis is permanent hair removal (unlike laser or waxing that is mostly temporary).

    My God, I could write another research paper on how women’s “styles” have changed in the public area. (I have completed at least 500 “bikini line” cases.) Indeed, there have been four major “pattern” shifts over the years. Such patterns, I feel, reflected cultural norms at the time. And now? Madonna Mia, you don’t want to know!

  12. Zuma says:

    I remember a scene in Sex in the City in which one of the women dissed another over her unkempt bikini line. This was when I realized it was a stigma to have even a few stray hairs showing. I swim at a local public pool and have seen the evolution of pubic hair modification. How ironic that women are making themselves look pre-pubescent at the same time that we rightly prosecute people involved in child porn. For the record, my husband loves my natural bush.
    I wish Ms. Moore a long and successful career and look forward to reading about her future research.

  13. mk says:

    It looks like some of the sociopathic scum (Nicole, Heather) from EdHat found its way to these comments. That place is such a magnet for cranky old farts.

  14. joe rution says:

    Interesting topic, but why do such publications have to be written in that godawful academic argot and opaque cant? Who advises them that they can’t just employ straightforward prose? “…reiterates hygienic agency.” Please!

  15. Rick Reeves says:

    Well, yuh know, UCSB Letters and Science has always been known for producing research that is ‘on the cutting edge’, and this example is no exception.

    Rick Reeves
    UCSB Geography MA 1982

  16. yona says:

    if you’d like you can find information about hair removal in here:
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    http://www.derma-tech.co.il/content.php?id=59

  17. Chris Roberts says:

    I am a 56 year old male and happened (by chance) to come across this pin today, my first day browsing this site. This is my very fist posting as well. I can say that pubic hair on women has always been a BIG TURN-ON. A woman who shaves it bare like a baby’s butt – subconsciously reminds me of someone who is prepubescent, and that (for me at least) is a very BIG TURN-OFF !! I can say with absolute certainty, that I am very grateful to have come into my sexual maturity at a time when having a full bush was the norm.

  18. j. marsden says:

    I think that any woman who is spending any time shaving all or part of her pubic hair is some kind of sexual freak and loser, and she should be embarrassed when any person (a man, her doctor, etc.) sees what she spends her time doing. And what if men started doing this? People would view him as some sort of weirdo, who is spending too much time worrying about his pubic area. But these young women seem not to have the same concern about how others view them. The practice, along with the widespread VD on college campuses, child porn, etc. is just another indication that America is headed in the wrong direction. I think the study undertaken by the student will be a good one, and hopefully it will make these young hyper-sexual women reconsider their behavior.

  19. Without prejudice
    Nature designed the pubic hair for a valid reason : to trap pheromone which
    attracts the opposite sex for romance, love or whatever suits the fancy of
    lovers. By removing the pubic hair, you also remove a weapon in the
    search for mates. When the pussy is partly covered with pubic hair, it
    evokes yearnings, stimulates the dream of tomorrow and creates a sense
    of mystery.

  20. Kraczer says:

    What is with all the, “this is so disturbing, prepubescent” crap? Do any of the women who feel this way happen to shave their legs or arm pits?? How dare they?? Everyone knows that only young girls have bald legs and pits. Think about. Keep the property trim just like you do with the rest of your appearance.

  21. Jennifer says:

    I thought about this article and my own experience…I was brought up by my Dad and had only brothers, no women in the family to discuss it with…my first experience with adjusting the pub(L)ic area, I ‘nair’ed my bikini line in the 80’s as a teenager after buying a particularly high cut bathing suit and instead had an embarrassing rash to show for it… now, it’s hard to say whether I would have been persuaded to adjust earlier given a female influence in my formative years but further proof that fashion instead dictated the necessity.

  22. Terecita says:

    As a feminist and a psychologist who has done research in a variety of areas, I find this topic really compelling. I have wondered about this phenomenon. One thing she does not mention is the absence of pubic hair in pornography tailored to men. This porn preceded the trend of shaving, waxing, whatever. I believe the issue is a bit more complicated than a bonding process between 14 year olds. Girls get the idea of what boys/men like from a very early age. I remember at 14 I would not be seen without makeup when boys were around. I find women in this wave of feminism as being far more compliant to norms dictated by men (and not individual men–I am talking about a societal norm) than previous generations (and I am not a fat woman who doesn’t shave her legs and is pissed off bc I am so ugly I can’t get a man). We all like to feel sexual and to be regarded as sexual beings, but to call a woman’s removing her pubic hair so that she looks like a young girl, a marker of social maturity makes me want to throw up my hands in despair.

    I feel sorry for those who have had their pubic hair permanently removed. This baldness of puss will undoubtedly be surplanted by a more natural look in another decade if not sooner. How embarrassing to look like a little girl for life.

    I do, however, believe it is a woman’s right to choose but I hope it is a personal choice, not just social pressure to confom.

    UCSB does have a reputation for a shallower sort of woman student. I am glad research is being done in this area.

  23. another heather says:

    I agree with both Becky and Josh’s statements. I applaud Ms. Moore for her research. Bravo.

  24. Austin says:

    It is simple biopsychology. Male Homo sapiens are seen to be the smellier, stronger, more agressive and harrier animal than the females. Thus, for a female to have hair in the same places as a male is seen from both sexes as a masculine trait. At a time when our species were nomadic and relied on our hunting and gathering skills, having hair everywhere was beneficial to us especially in cold weather conditions as well as amplifying our body odor to attract the opposite sex.

    Majority of us world wide, for the most part, live stationary lives and get our meats and vegetables from chain grocery stores. We accept body odor as something we need to wash away and mask with perfumes. Pubic body hair and even armpit hair for that matter is no longer a survival necessity. Also, if an individual’s age, mental maturity, physical development and cultured experiences suddenly vanishes and turns them into a child simply because one chooses to remove pubic hair; with that mentality, males should stop shaving their faces and necks and females should stop shaving their armpits and legs.

    One should have the right to live the lifestyle they choose. If pubic hair is unwanted and removed, so be it!

  25. Dick Shaver says:

    I adore a shaved pussy. I shave my dick. I don’t know what a prepubescent girl’s vagina looks like. I like to look at a mature woman with a shaved pussy and admire how beautiful that body part is. I like to shave my cock because it looks good and feels great and yes, makes my dick look bigger. Nearly 90 percent of women shave their pussies now and the number of men shaving their cocks is almost 50 percent.

  26. Jim says:

    Women should accept their hair, like they did in the 1980’s when I was in college. There’s too much shaving today. I love natural women, and have never found shaven women attractive.

  27. Stephen Williams says:

    This whole article clearly illustrates the shallowness of contemporary American society. We are narcissistic, self absorbed and WAY too into our bodies and appearance. The removal of pubic hair is a classic example of this. It is foolish, unnatural and unnecessary. I would never date a woman who removed her pubic hair, as I would consider her sexually incompatible. Pubic hair has been a fixture on American women since before the founding of the Republic and continued well into the 1990’s. It represents a classic, iconic look and some of the sexiest women in history have sported pubic hair. Marilyn Monroe, Bettie Page, Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Elizabeth Taylor come to mind. Young women today are way too shallow and bamboozled by corporate interests in doing this. I am old school and must insist that my wife or girlfriend have a full bush. That’s the bottom line for me.

  28. Dr. John says:

    “Removal (of pubic hair) is a marker of social maturity.” I find this statement very disturbing. Ms. Moore is associating uniformity (conformity) with “social maturity”. To quote Erich Fromm: “uniformity and freedom are incompatible. Uniformity and mental health are incompatible too. . . . Man is not made to be an automaton, and if he becomes one, the basis for mental health is destroyed.” Is uniformity based on other females’ tastes any better than uniformity based on what men ostensibly like? Is feminism simply a non-traditional form of compliance?

    I remember in my late teens asking my girlfriend to shave it all off. This was mostly out of curiosity. She refused, I guess because of fears with respect to how her Ob/Gyn would judge her (shaving was not in vogue at the time). I also remember later in life a girlfriend with especially soft pubic hair. She did trim the sides and bottom. During post-coitus snuggling, I often would run my fingers through her pubes. It was very pleasant, like petting a cat (no pun intended). It was also rather intimate. I am glad she trimmed farther down as she had the prettiest vulva I have seen. And more recently, while on a 2200 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail, a romance formed between me and another thru-hiker. When the time finally came, she was shy for me to see that she was not well groomed down there. This was after she had hiked for over a month. I couldn’t believe it. She was hiking 2200 miles, who would expect her to groom her pubes! Yet after about 1500 miles I came across a young couple and the man commented to his girlfriend that her thighs were getting a little rough. But the most disturbing thing about that is knowing that she would have been bothered more by that comment if it had come from another woman.

    I heard on the news that something like 22 percent of children are living in poverty in the US. Get Real. Shave if you wish or don’t. If someone cares, find someone else.

  29. Dr. John says:

    Addendum: A decade or so ago I bought a rather large book on Renaissance art. This sat on my nightstand for many months and was read/looked at as a matter of course before falling asleep. After many months it occurred to me that pubic hair was missing in most, if not all, of the paintings. The next day I called a friend who was a history professor, and inquired. He responded that during the Renaissance women of the upper-class shaved all of their body hair as a matter of hygiene. Is this, if true, contained in Ms. Moore’s thesis? Given Ms. Moore’s assertions with respect to “social maturity”, I wonder at the expectations of UCSB for excellence in undergraduate research.

  30. Sastry.M says:

    What I argue in my thesis is while the growth of pubic hair is a biological marker of maturity, its removal is a marker of social maturity,” said Moore. – Jessica Moore many not be entirely correct in her final assessment regarding feminine adult natural matrix hairy formatting of different textures on various areas of skin. Consider the following points:
    1) Skin is the largest organ of human body. It protects inner viscera and provides immunity against external toxic agents in environment.
    2)Just as the earth provides various types of vegetation such as tall trees,wiry creepers, thick bushes and green patches of grass, providing both nutritive as well as medicinal plants for maintenance of health, so are women created as reps of earth for procreating and maintaining human species.
    3) Because we consume food and energized by biological process of burning ,the toxic waste matter accumulated in body,apart from other means of excretion,is also thrown out of body through skin collected at hair follicles under epidermis as a cleansing process.
    All fat soluble toxic matter such as mineral and metallic poisons is thus forced out along hairy shafts. So is forensic examining assisted.
    3)When women reach reproductive age, the sacred task of procreation is heaved on to their wombs and the burden of rising the offspring is loaded on their shoulders. Thus the various vegetative forms of the earth are ‘transformed’ on to the basic procreative feminine human body on skin terrain as various structural hairy growths.
    4)Vegetation grows where water is tabled under earthly terrain and around oases in arid zones. With 70% water in human body distributed under the skin and circulated mainly as blood for supplying all cellular nutrients up keeping all bodily organs, the peripheral hairy shafts also help various functions which human biological science has discovered so far.
    5)Pubic area is covered by inner urinary bladder and also feminine womb and procreative apparatus. Therefore women are provided with thick pubic hairy formatting, more than male gender, to protect double vaulted vaginal receptacles and also keep system protection under pregnancy when the womb collects water for embryonic development.
    6)Women,by virtue of their natural procreative capabiltiy, are the greatest human cell manufacturing plants of both gender. Nature has created them with all protective programs to this end.Indeed all embryonic human organ developments including skin and hairy growths up it according to gender requirements are basically feminine in character and masculine by extension for male body protection.
    To make it short to fire fertile minds, let the above points be given rational consideration and save natural womenhood from choosy appreciation of some and induced hatred of other bodily organs such as hairy matrixed gowths, for the purpose of razor revolution and promoting false aesthetics.

  31. John says:

    I dated 4 women before getting married to my wife, 3 had minimal hair and sometimes completely removed. My wife was all shaven when i met her at 30 years old. I asked why and she stated that at 17 she started shaving and has continued She said it is just easier to take care of. I did not change any feelings one way or the other as i married her for her, not her pubic hair

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