Column: A Bushy Revelation

Lena Lyle

The first time I hooked up with this guy, whom I will call Landon, he made it clear to me what he preferred below the belt. “You should grow a landing strip,” he said unapologetically. This surprised me for two reasons. First, I did not think college males had any preferences other than clean-shaven and extra clean-shaven. Secondly, I didn’t know that personal grooming was now up for open discussion. 

As far as I was aware, the conversation about hair removal ended when high school did. College culture, with the expectations of one-night flings and drunken encounters, has nearly removed almost any conversation about below the belt grooming. So of course, after this first run-in with Landon, the topic resurfaced, and I was left wondering, how does this play a new role in the complicated hookup culture of collegiate life? Have we escaped the tyranny of the full Brazilian?

From my experience, pubes have been lost to the memories of post-puberty paranoia — over what is normal and what should be shaven. High school relationships and hookups seemed to be dominated by angst over our bodies and what the opposite sex wanted. Grooming, for both genders, was solely influenced by what we anticipated the opposite sex wanting.  With that being said, high school was a time of constant experimentation with shaving, waxing and creams in an attempt to get the hairless crotch. Entering a serious and intimate relationship for the first time, whether in high school or college, brings much anxiety over this topic.  

This was quite a struggle for me because of my unruly hormones, quickly growing hair and the determination of my razor. I was left with only pricks, itches and a lost dignity. Since entering college, I strive to be simply groomed rather than chasing the unrealistic goal of completely smooth, which has gotten me along without many complaints. College seems to be a slightly more accepting environment in terms of what is expected down south.

Porn plays an undeniable role in the expectation of a modern, hairless hookup. The mid-2000s marked the height of the Barbie crotch popularity, with spikes in Lasik hair procedures and Brazilian waxing. In Cindy Gallop’s 2009 TED Talk, she discourages the monolith culture porn creates by only representing “one world view.” Hard core porn, she argues, convinces audiences that women must be entirely bald at all times. Bringing back a natural look is not necessarily anti-porn; rather, it promotes sexuality and diversity.

The fantasies of teenage boys — built on the hairlessness of porn stars, strippers and celebrities — might have been lowered to realistic standards since entering the college sphere. Hairlessness is not necessarily a universal preference either. As I discovered with Landon — like Samantha Jones learned with Smith in “Sex and the City” — some enjoy a little bit of the natural landscape. From landing strips to triangles or hearts to a full bush, people are open and prefer alternative looks.

In a study conducted by a UK pharmacy, 62% of women surveyed said their partner prefers a more natural look. Celebrities such as Cameron Diaz and Gwyneth Paltrow now openly advocate for natural styling for aesthetic and health reasons. Playboy recently featured Kate Moss, in an exposed full frontal, rocking a more natural, retro ‘70s look. About 10 years ago, a natural bush was definitely headed to the endangered species list. But with help from a few A-list activists and changing attitudes amongst 20-somethings, pubic hair may be a rising trend. The necessity for bareness may be just another short-lived fad, such as false nails, drawn-on eyebrows and hair extensions.        

A conversation about pubic hair can’t be limited to women, though. While women’s lack of grooming may be coming into style, “manscaping” also seems to be on the rise. Defying the Brazilian is a statement of independence or sexual confidence. Guys that are sensitive to women’s preferences below the belt, as women stray from close shaves and full waxes, might suggest new developments in gender equality and sexual openness.

To some, being completely bare means cleanliness, a healthy sex drive and youth. To others, this baldness might scream other messages — borderline pedophilia, porn stars and strippers. As I’ve come to realize, sexuality has many definitions and there is no universal preference on pubes.