The species Pthirus Pubis or crab louse, also known as the pubic louse, is an insect that is an obligate ectoparasite of humans. It mainly feeds on blood and is typically found in pubic hair, but may also live on other areas with coarse hair, including the eyelashes. – “When a man and a woman love each other very much.” Interestingly, and perhaps disturbingly, a closely related species, Pthirus Gorillae, infects gorilla populations. The species passed to humans 3.3 million years ago.
Lately, the Pthirus Pubis is going through a bad time; its natural habitat seems to be diminishing. Having said that, waxing the pubic area is actually not a new trend.
“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.” – Coco Chanel
In certain Middle Eastern societies, the removal of body hair was considered proper hygiene. There’s even evidence that total body hair removal dates back as far as 4,000 to 3,000 BCE in some cultures.
In the United States, body hair removal did not really kick into gear until the 1940s, when bathing suits started getting teeny-weeny. It was then that the hair removal along the bikini line became a concern, because, as we all know, lack of hair tends to be equated with femininity. Despite the bikini line receding, full bushes tended to remain intact underneath.
By the time 1972’s iconic porn film Deep Throat came out, women still tended to be as hairy as men between their legs. But just two years later, there was a new look on the scene – at least in the world of pornography. The first so-called pink shot of an entirely pubic hair-free woman appeared in Hustler in 1974. Between 1985 and 2010, the amount of Playboy Playmates with pubic hair has steadily declined to zero.
What soon followed was a virtual industry of hairless vulvas. Perhaps trying to appeal to many men’s fantasy worlds, women outside of the porn industry started waxing their nether regions in droves. By 1987, thanks to seven sisters from Brazil who opened a lady’s salon in New York City, a full-fledged trend was born.
“Pthirus Gorillae, infects gorilla populations. The species passed to humans 3.3 million years ago.”
I had read that, and when I did, decided I didn’t even want to speculate as to how the exchange came about. I suppose it’s possible that some hapless proto-human chanced to spend the night in an abandoned gorilla nest, but he isn’t talking, and I’m willing to leave it at that.
Interestingly, body lice seem to have an uncanny sense of their proper station in life. In the same article, which regrettably I didn’t save, believing I would never have a need for it due to the infrequency with which the topic arises in normal conversation, I learned that there are three distinct species of human body lice – one that inhabits the pubic region, one that prefers the head with its deep crown of foliage, and the third, the arm pits and men’s chest hair, as in the case of Sean Connery. In what I found a fascinating laboratory experiment, researchers first lay a totally nude man on his back on an examination table, so as to eliminate the influence of gravity, then dumped the contents of a jar that included a mixed bag of all three species onto his bare midriff. The pubic lice headed for the pubic area, the head lice for the head, and the mid-range lice for their own territory. How did they know where to go?
The ancient Egyptians, from what I’ve read, abhorred body hair, viewing it as a sign of barbarism. Often, what may originally have been survival techniques, in time, find their way into social customs.
On a similar topic – why are we not as hairy as our cousins, the other apes – one anthropologist has a theory. There was a time, evidence indicates, when the species Homo sapiens became all but extinct, having been reduced to a population of only about 2000 members, divided between one colony on the coast of South Africa, and the other, the coast of East Africa. It may have been Desmond Morris, but don’t hold me to it – whomever it was, speculated that spending so much time in the water, procuring seafood for sustenance, might have cost sapiens our body hair. Although this has been doubted by other experts, I’ve yet to see another viable explanation for our dearth of physical foliage, but I must say that it’s absence certainly makes my clothes fit better. But then, if we’d kept it, possibly we wouldn’t have found a need for clothing at all.