Pubic hair removal (PHR) has become more “widespread,” researchers say. As a result, injuries related to PHR are becoming more common, so understanding patients’ practices and attitudes is essential for healthcare providers.
Past research on PHR has mainly taken place in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, focusing mostly on women. The current study, published online in May in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, involved European men and women and looked at how PHR behaviors differed between them.
The researchers recruited 2,687 men and 1,735 men to take part in an online survey. The participants lived in Flanders, the northern part of Belgium, and ranged in age from 15 to mid-sixties.
Respondents answered questions about their past and present PHR behaviors, attitudes, and expectations. Methods for removing pubic hair were not addressed in this study, but shaving, using depilatories, waxing, laser hair removal, and electrolysis are popular approaches.
PHR was much more common in women, with 80% reporting partial or complete pubic hair removal. The rate was 39% for the men.
Middle-aged and older men were more likely to remove pubic hair, as were bisexual men. The practice was also more frequent among married men and men who had several sexual partners.
Women of all sexual orientations, relationship statuses, and sexual activity statuses were more likely to engage in PHR than men.
Behaviors seemed to reflect social norms, indicating that “both men and women adhere to social norms that link hairiness to masculinity and femininity.” About a third of the men said they didn’t remove pubic hair because they felt the practice was “more appropriate for women.” About two-thirds of the women said they felt more feminine when they removed pubic hair.
Social norms appeared to play a role in partner expectations as well. More men expected female partners to remove pubic hair, while more women expected male partners not to do so. Thirty-six percent of the men and 62% of the women said their partner preferred that they remove their pubic hair.
For men, a partner’s PHR habits and their adherence to men’s expectations played a role in sexual and relationship satisfaction. However, sexual and relationship satisfaction for women was associated with adherence to both partner’s PHR expectations.
Sexuality was an important reason for removing PHR. About 39% of the men and 75% of the women said they felt more comfortable receiving oral sex after PHR.
Those who did not remove their pubic hair expressed concerns about side effects, such as skin rashes and itching.
The authors noted several limitations to their research. For example, the respondents were readers of a progressive, left-wing magazine. “Progressive societal beliefs place this magazine’s readers within a social context that is not completely representative of the general population,” the authors wrote.
Still, the study findings can help healthcare providers counsel patients at risk for PHR-related injuries, they added.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Enzlin, Paul, PhD, et al.
“‘To Shave or Not to Shave’: Pubic Hair Removal and Its Association with Relational and Sexual Satisfaction in Women and Men”
(Full-text. Published online: May 15, 2019)
“Pubic Hair Removal”
(December 15, 2014)