Razors. Hot wax. Tweezers. Lasers. These are but a few instruments of torture women regularly deploy to rid their pubic areas of any traces of hair.
A far cry from the 1970s' full bush look, today's generation largely opts for hairless perfection. Even as Cameron Diaz encourages women to "keep it fully dressed!" Women's Health Magazine reports that research from Indiana University found "almost half of women ages 25 to 29 sometimes or often removed all of their pubic hair."
Why? The idea that hairlessness directly correlates to cleanliness is a driving force behind women's desire to mimic the bald Barbie-doll-crotch we remember from childhood. In reality, going bare "down there" isn't cleaner at all. In fact, contrary to cultural stereotypes, the practice can actually turn crotches into breeding grounds for STIs and bacteria.
"Clinically speaking," Emily Gibson, author of the popular 2011 article "The War on Pubic Hair Must End" told Mic, "ritual and regular hair removal from any part of the body damages the hair follicles, causes microabrasions of the skin and potentially creates portals for invasive bacteria such as Staph aureus, including methicillin resistant staph aureus (MRSA) and Group A strep, as well as sexually transmitted viruses like herpes type 1 or type 2."
Aside from increased risks of infections, hair removal also ups your chances of injury. According to University of California, San Diego, research, nearly 12,000 people landed in emergency rooms across the country between 2002-2010 with injuries to their genitals sustained during hair removal.
Of course, many women continue to swear by the bare look. "I've had hundreds of people respond to my original article saying that the only good sex is bare sex," Gibson said. "Some have never been sexually active with hair because they thought that it was a requirement in order to appear desirable. Some have been shaving since their first pubic hairs started growing in early adolescence, or they were given 'Brazilians' as birthday presents by their mothers."
While everyone should feel empowered by their personal choices, it's important to make sure these beauty standards aren't being perpetuated for the wrong reasons. The cultural stigma against female body hair in general, for example, is sustained at least in part by companies marketing hair removal products, like the Veet ad comparing women with stubble to "dudes."
At the same time, there's a good chance our current obsession with hairlessness may soon subside. It is, after all, a trend — and by their very nature, trends change over time. We're already noticing something of a backlash against hairlessness. Next year marks the 100th anniversary of Gillette's first razor for women, but 2014 may be remembered more for its moment of razor rebellion, with celebrities like Madonna and Diaz standing up in support of body hair, and American Apparel featuring a trio of hirsute mannequins in January:
Ultimately, Gibson said women have the power to continue to effect change.
"It is as simple as women saying, 'No more of this craziness and expense of regular genital hair removal for me and my partner,' and it will be over," she said. "Sexual relationships won't ever stop because there is hair covering what used to be kept artificially bare.
"The good news is that there is more hair out there than a few years ago. That is progress."