Social Question

judochop's avatar

At what point in history did women start shaving? Why is this held in high regard still to this day?

Asked by judochop (16099points) April 10th, 2012

Personally I love the hairless, smooth, silky skin of a woman but I don’t care so much if she decides to not shave her legs, privates and or underarms or even wax a lip or two. Makes no diff to me. I know I could look this up but I want to open this up for debate and conversation among us here in jelly land. Why do you think it is such a big deal to keep hair free?

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27 Answers

fundevogel's avatar

I don’t know about the fashion of it, but back in the day prostitutes would sometimes shave their nethers and don a merkin. It had something to do with hiding venereal disease, but I never really figured out the logistics of that.

gailcalled's avatar

Being clean-shaven also helped to spot crabs, lice and fleas.

cookieman's avatar

getting less sexy with each answer

zenvelo's avatar

I thought it had to do with the popularity of nylon stockings.

Coloma's avatar

It must have started waay back when, maybe Roman times, that first orgy, everyone slathered in olive oil and people realizing that to be completely shaved made the slip and slide slipperier. lol

JLeslie's avatar

I think it has to do with wanting women to look young. Prepubescent even. Especially shaving the girly parts.

I wonder if shaving legs started once women started to show their legs?

Coloma's avatar

@JLeslie That makes sense. Hmmm…huge pun intended, but I just realized it’s almost time to shave my kitty….as in, my giant fluffy cat. lol

KateTheGreat's avatar

I don’t know, but part of me wants the whole no shaving thing to be back in style. I’m sick of wasting money on hair removal!

judochop's avatar

I think @gailcalled has hit the nail on the head so to speak. It makes sense. One would shave to ward off fleas and to have the ability to see crabs and or infection before it becomes a major issue.

beachbum76's avatar

^How romantic. “I see you’ve shaved to check for lice and crabs honey. You do love me.” ha.

Aethelflaed's avatar

The furthest back I’m aware of is Ancient Egypt. Classical Rome (and possibly Greece), definitely. It goes in and out of style.

The ability for most people to afford razors certainly helps it be a thing today. Before, it was almost always the elites, if anyone, who was shaving.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Various recorded indigenous people have used different forms of hair removal for centuries, and probably have for most of our history as hominids. Hair removal is a pretty easy thing to make tools for. Lots of people used to use clam shells as tweezers around here. Ancient Norsemen (and I assume women, to some degree) used to keep a three to five piece grooming kit with them much of the time, including razors and tweezers.

ETpro's avatar

It isn’t held in high regard by me. I prefer nature’s approach. It’s OK with me if a lady wants to shave her legs to comply with society’s expectations, but underarm and pubic hair helps concentrate her natural scent, which is a strange attractor to me.

Aethelflaed's avatar

I think many women who continually shave their armpits and/or nether regions do it because they feel that it’s cleaner and more attractive. Legs don’t seem to have the same cleanliness aspect, though attractiveness is still a frequently listed reason. I’ve never once heard a woman say that she shaves (anything) so as to look prepubescent, though I have heard scads of them express frustration that people keep trying to make that connection.

lillycoyote's avatar

I would never shave my legs or armpits again, if it were entirely up to me, and as soon as that came out my mouth, or off the tips of my fingers onto the keyboard, I knew, of course, “well, it really is entirely up to me, isn’t it?” However, and maybe this is just me, but the sensation of getting into a bed with freshly laundered, 100% cotton sheets, with brand spanking newly shaved legs is just delicious to me; the sensation is a pleasure, I would miss that.

If I never had to wear shoes another minute of my life I would be the happiest girl on earth too, but you do what you have to do. :-)

coelacanth's avatar

@lillycoyote The feeling of riding a bike with unshaven legs is just as glorious.

downtide's avatar

Am I the odd one out here? Whilst I never was bothered about shaved legs (on myself or anyone else), I find underarm hair to be the most revolting thing ever, and I still shave my underarms at least twice a week. My mother tells me that when I was about two I noticed my dad’s underarm hair for the first time and was so disgusted by it that I actually threw up on him.

No matter how masculine and hairy I get, I’ll never stop shaving my underarms.

ucme's avatar

I believe this originated within the cavepeople community.
When the women folk’s kids began using their huge bush as a swing/hammock, something had to be done.

Aethelflaed's avatar

You know what’s interesting? I tried searching for scholarly articles on this phenomenon in regards to pubic shaving and came up with… not a whole lot. There’s been extremely little evidence-based research on this whole shaving thing (like, an entire 2 studies on women and pubic shaving…) – though, there has been a huge amount of people opining in various magazines and newspaper op-ed sections, and calling it the “new norm”, but then failing to back that up with data.

Things I was able to find out:
– Over 99% of women remove at least some hair (including leg, armpit, pubic, and eyebrow).
– “Findings suggest that pubic hair styles are diverse and that it is more common than not for women to have at least some pubic hair on their genitals. In addition, total pubic hair removal was associated with younger age, being partnered (rather than single or married), having looked closely at one’s own genitals in the previous month, cunnilingus in the past month, and more positive genital self-image and sexual function.” (here)
– Men remove their pubic hair at the pretty much the same rates as women.
– When it’s male pubic hair removal, no one accuses the men of looking prepubescent or those who prefer their men bare of harboring pedophile tendencies. It’s almost like the “feminist” position is to buy into the idea that women’s grasp on adulthood really is hair-thin, while never questioning that a man could take a razor to his scrotum and still be 100% adult.

ETpro's avatar

@Aethelflaed Ooh! You can get grants to research shaved versus hirsute pubises? I’ll be away for awhile. I have a grant proposal to write.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@ETpro I know, right? (No, really, I know, right? Because I think this is what I want to do with my life). Unfortunately, most of the studies I found on the why people remove hair (and by people, I mean women, because no one cares if men remove their hair) have some flawed methodology, in that they pretty much assumed from the get-go that these younger, shaved women were attempting to objectify and infantilize themselves, and then contort whatever actual answers women gave to conform to that. Because it’s always the mark of an ethical researcher to say, “well, sure, you gave reason x, but I know better what’s in your head than you do, and that x really means y.”

ETpro's avatar

@Aethelflaed Maybe if I am the sort of researcher that approaches his subject with an open mouth err, mind; then I can get a grant. Please, please…

Aethelflaed's avatar

@ETpro Go through the Kinsey Institute or the Ford Foundation.

lillycoyote's avatar

@Aethelflaed I found this article Shaving and fashion: A storied history

Which references this book The Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History

and I thought it might be interesting to check it out and that the bibliography/references might point to some scholarly research, but Amazon wants $63.96 just for the Kindle version and, of course, that just plain isn’t going to happen, for me at least.

If the OP can find it in a library it might point to further research

Aethelflaed's avatar

@lillycoyote I’m actually having an okay time finding the history (but then you went and posted that article by Cecil, who seems to have nailed it, so I’d just be redundant). But, it does seem my school has a copy of this expensive Cultural History; I can check it out for some light reading. Omg, I’m that loser who considers expensive books on cultural history to be “light reading”. I need to go reexamine my life now…

lillycoyote's avatar

@Aethelflaed The book may have the answers the OP is looking for.

And don’t worry, I’m the kind of person who would read a 500 page cultural history of hair just for pleasure too.

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