Clean Porn:

The Visual Aesthetics of Hot Sex and Hair Removal

(a scholarly look)

At the time it was published, in 2007, this essay/article was the definitive work on a lady's "most private" hairstyle. I've noticed some changes since then--I think hair is making a comeback--but here's the piece, for history's sake ...

Click here to read the full article: "Clean Porn: The Visual Aesthetics of Hot Sex and Hair Removal." Or start with the sample in pink below.

Citation:  “Clean Porn: The Visual Aesthetics of Hygiene, Hot Sex, and Hair Removal.” In Mardia Bishop and Ann Hall, eds. Pop(Porn): The Proliferation of Pornography in Popular Culture. Westport, CT: Praeger/Greenwood Publishers, 2007. 137–154.

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Clean Porn: The Visual Aesthetics of Hygiene, Hot Sex, and Hair Removal

What was once commonly called a woman’s pudendum, a term rooted in the Latin word for “shame,” has shed its embarrassment and come out of hiding: In what is sometimes called today’s “raunch culture,” the ideal of female sexual attractiveness is a firm body with large breasts, flat stomach, and — surprise — a hairless vulva.

While big breasts and small waists have been valued for most of Western aesthetic history, the entirely or partially hairless mound is a relatively new asset: Only over the past ten years or so has it become fashionable to spend hours and dollars removing hair from the pubic bone to the anus. Perhaps the most popular of these styles, the Brazilian, leaves a narrow stripe leading to the vulva’s slit; other options include the “landing strip,” a somewhat wider swatch; a stencil that will shape the patch into a tulip, arrow, heart, or other coy design; or complete baldness, a choice that Cosmopolitan magazine recently reported is growing in popularity.[i]

We live in a culture of exposed vulvas, naked to the world, hairless as the day they were born, and paraded endlessly in front of our faces. Or so it might seem to viewers of pornography and readers of popular advice-giving magazines.

For several years now, the pubic coiffure has been a hot topic for discussion in venues such as Cosmopolitan, the Village Voice, and the online magazine Salon.com. In fact, there is a wealth of Internet discussion; typing in “shaving pubic hair” to Google on September 2, 2006, resulted in 4,694 hits. These discussions usually lead to talk of porn. In August of 2006, a woman wrote in to Cary Tennis’s advice column on Salon.com: “I know that nowadays, the style for women is to shave their pubic hair, maybe leaving a tiny strip, à la Brazilian wax. […] So now I am curious. Do most women do this today? Are there guys who don’t mind pubic hair au naturel?”[ii]

Tennis admitted he was nonplussed, saying only that the “shaved look” could mean “the infantilizing of the female genitalia, etc.” and that pornography “has transformed the pussy into a legitimate object of style, like legs or lips; it’s so widely represented that it has become public — though it is still viewed largely in private. He asked readers for their insights and, in less than a month, received 342 letters in response, 27 of which appeared online as the “editors’ choice.”

Tennis makes the two obvious connections: shaving pubic hair returns the vulva to a more adolescent appearance (though the swelling of the labia in puberty guarantees that a grown woman will never look like a little girl Down There again), and the fashion is the direct result of pornography’s influence on popular culture.

Most people, in fact, will offer the same observations. In Cosmopolitan, journalist Sara Bodnar speculates that “The proliferation of porn could be one reason for the bushwhacking bonanza”; she quotes a Ph.D. psychologist who says, “Women sometimes assume men want them to look like porn stars, who are often completely bare.”[iii] We might disagree only with the psychologist’s tempered phrasing, and it is perhaps unnecessary to belabor the connection.

 

As a visual medium and a culturally produced text, pornography can be considered a form of art, though the relationship between high art and porn is a tricky one. As long as there have been people working with visual media, they have represented female genitalia, but very few have offered a full bush to public view. As John Berger wrote in 1972, this hair has traditionally been “associated with sexual power, with passion,” and “woman’s sexual passion needs to be minimized so that the spectator may feel that he has the monopoly of such passion.”[iv]

The elision of sexuality created a popular aesthetic. Even some of the most sophisticated male spectators have been horrified at the sight of what’s normally there. Meanwhile, counter to the current of high art, some pornographers and their clients were comfortable with the sight of that hair, particularly as the camera, not the paintbrush, began capturing images.

 

But, as current DVD’s and Cosmopolitan magazine shows, we’ve swung back around to the bare aesthetic for pornography as for popular culture. This time the key is a notion of cleanliness: Our culture particularizes and aggressively markets hygiene, and these days, one of the ways for a woman, traditionally considered the “impure” sex, to show she’s clean is to remove her private hair.

Thus, in the the current culture, pornography, female shaving, and the American ideal of cleanliness being next to godliness all converge between a woman’s legs. The shaved pubis fuses current conservative prudery and American squeamishness about the body with a pornographic culture that considers this particular type of hygiene to be sexy. What we might call “clean porn” is our current ideology, and the shaved or waxed vulva is sexy, hip, and modern. In this one regard, then, the two culturally opposing views of women, the completely clean Victorian angel in the house and the porn star who is considered practically a prostitute, now become one.

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Click here to read the full article: "Clean Porn: The Visual Aesthetics of Hot Sex and Hair Removal."

Susann

Cokal

SINCE 1372
MIRABILIS  USA
BREATH AND BONES
MIRABILIS ABROAD
THE KINGDOM OF LITTLE WOUNDS
MERMAID MOON,
March 2020
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