Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

Why did women start shaving arms, legs, sometimes pubic hair, and, as we get older, facial hair?

Asked by Dutchess_III (39930points) January 1st, 2015

As asked. Why? What is the reason?

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29 Answers

Kardamom's avatar

The idea of shaving pubic hair is horrifying to me. I don’t want to look like a pre-pubescent girl. In the 70’s it was considered mandatory to shave one’s legs. Hairy legs on females doesn’t look pretty in our “particular” modern world. I’m a product of our society, but not in the younger generation’s society where shaving one’s private parts is more common.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I know, right @Kardamom? Why the fuck would I even consider shaving my pubic area? I mean, when I wore bathing suits I’d trim….but what is wrong with the hair we have? Why isn’t there social pressure for men to shave?

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t know exactly when it started. I know my mom shaved her bikini line and trimmed the hair. I don’t know if my grandma did. I’m pretty sure my grandma’s bathing suit had a small skirt? I’m not 100% sure that was always the case, my memory isn’t clear when I was very very young.

I think some of it has to do with fashion. When I was a young teen French cut bathing suits became very popular. A lot of times it is men designing the fashion.

It wouldn’t surprise me if porn led the way for removing almost all, or all, pubic hair on women. Then men ask women to do it. Then women start to accept it as a norm. Then they themselves actually prefer it.

I do think men favor features that make women appear more youthful. Rounder face, fuller hair, longer hair, and thin body, but with curves.

My MIL just told me a story about how angry her husband was that she shaved her legs when they first married. I’m not clear if he was ok with it when they dated.

jca's avatar

This has been a topic that’s been brought up on Fluther in the past and I had googled it once. What I found was that it started for a few reasons. One was that bathing suits and underwear became more revealing, starting in the 1970’s, with the high legged fashions. Think of aerobic outfits and bathing suits that were high wasted but had very high cuts over the legs. Now with thongs, it doesn’t take much.

Another reason was that in porn, the woman on all fours photographed from behind (called the “American Shot”) could not have genitalia obscured by hair in order to reveal the purpose for the photo. So it all had to be shaved off.

Dutchess_III's avatar

So….it is all for sexual reasons? It’s what men prefer? Why do men prefer it?

Dutchess_III's avatar

@jca you are the most prudish person who would have these details about porn that I know! LOL!

jca's avatar

I would imagine that men today have been exposed to more porn than men in the past, so that’s one reason. Also, having no or less public hair is cleaner.

@Dutchess_III: I may be proper but I am far from a prude!

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I think some people just prefer the sensation of being completely shaved (not me). I’ve heard people say this in the past. They, both men and women, enjoy the sensation having no pubic hair affords.

I also don’t think shaving or waxing is limited to women. Some men wax or shave too.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I don’t find hairy legs or hair on a woman’s face attractive at all. It’s actually repulsive. Pits and pubic areas I could care less. Men really don’t care if you shave your private areas or not.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Why did guys start shaving their facial hair or (generally speaking) cutting their hair short?

(As an aside: I find the “look like a pre-pubescent girl” thought about women shaving their public hair silly. There’s more that distinguishes between pre and post pubescent than just the amount of hair.)

JLeslie's avatar

@Darth_Algar I’m pretty sure it was a way to for people in power to separate from the slaves and men from cultures who didn’t shave (probably Jews, since they fall into both catagories at times and other groups also). Men not shaven; not barbered; barbarians.

Being shaven was part of cleanliness rituals since hair was not washed back in the day like we do now.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@JLeslie

Umm, no. There’s no connection between the words “barber” and “barbarian”. They have completely different etymologies.

JLeslie's avatar

If you know that for sure I have no argument with it, because I don’t know for sure.

However, as far as shaving to separate groups, that wouldn’t surprise me at all if it is true. I think of the Egyptians in history for instance as being clean shaven while the Jewish people have facial hair. The Christians seem to like to be clean shaven too. I’m not sure if the Christians have religious reasons.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Darth_Algar But me have the option of not shaving and won’t get looks of disgust from the public like women will. People won’t be whispering about how gross a guy is if he doesn’t shave.
See @ARE_you_kidding_me‘s response: ”I don’t find hairy legs or hair on a woman’s face attractive at all. It’s actually repulsive.”

JLeslie's avatar

We didn’t have dessert after dinner growing up, and I wish I had never learned to do it. My husband is a big sweets person and he got me more into that habit, although I still don’t regularly prepare something sweet after a meal.

Being forced to clean a plate for something sweet sounds like the opposite of what I would do. I would eat less main meal if I knew I was going to eat dessert for sure. My husband and I do that. If we know we are going to have a dessert at a restaurant (not too often) we split an entree usually to leave room for dessert. I certainly don’t want to be able to stuff extra calories in my mouth, like dessert, when I am already full enough. As I kid I never would have done it, as an adult I unfortunately can fit it in my stomach. Dessert wasn’t presented like a treat in my family. It wasnt a big deal. We always couldgtab a cookie during the day if we wanted it if we had them. Not that my mom was all about healthy food or anything. Probably part of the reason I didn’t crave sweets was I was allowed to drink Coca Cola.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: Maybe you meant to write that post above on the food question, not the pubic hair question?

Dutchess_III's avatar

LOL! I was just about to get all into that when I read your comment @jca!

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Dutchess_III “But me have the option of not shaving and won’t get looks of disgust from the public like women will. People won’t be whispering about how gross a guy is if he doesn’t shave.”

Really? Men are often thought to be dirty, unkempt etc, or somehow lowly or untrustworthy if he has a beard (especially if it’s more than a namby, half-assed beard like you’d see some model sporting on the cover of GQ).

And forget ancient history. Think about this – it’s wasn’t that long ago that it was not uncommon to see men, even men of high social status, with thick mustaches, beards or sideburns. For some reason this changed around or shortly after the turn of the last century. For instance, who was the last president who had any kind of facial hair? Was it Teddy Roosevelt? I doubt Abraham Lincoln could even be elected today with his beard? Why is that?

JLeslie's avatar

Oops. Lol.

Dutchess_III's avatar

There is a difference between a nice, clean cut and trimmed beard, and a dirty unkempt beard. There is a difference between a well groomed woman and a dirty slob woman, too. The dirty slob woman will be looked at the same way a dirty slob man will be looked at.

However, in the case of a woman, she can be clean, well groomed and well dressed but if she has hairy legs or arm pit or facial hair showing she will be labeled as gross no matter what. Not the same for a well groomed man with facial hair.

My son grows beards at different times. I think he looks handsome. My husband has always had a beard and he takes very good care of it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

And the question is….who came up with the crazy idea of getting rid of perfectly naturally occurring hair on women? What was the reason for it? It isn’t an instinct, obviously. So why?

jca's avatar

@Dutchess_III: I think I answered it fairly well in my first two posts toward the top.

Dutchess_III's avatar

And I said, “So it’s all for sexual reasons.” Why is it a sexual put off? I could understand having pubic hair bushing out of a bikini would be rather tacky, but why legs and arms too?

When I wore a bikini I just shaved my bikini line. This thing about shaving the whole pubic area consistently is pretty new I think.

Also, women were shaving well before the 60’s.

Dutchess_III's avatar

(To me it would be totally weird to see a full grown woman with no pubic hair.)

jca's avatar

Women may have been trimming public hair before 60’s but not toally like it is now.

As far as legs, that is for stockings, so there’s no hair sticking out of the nylons. Armpits, I’m not sure. Probably just for appearance sake.

Darth_Algar's avatar

“And the question is….who came up with the crazy idea of getting rid of perfectly naturally occurring hair on women? What was the reason for it? It isn’t an instinct, obviously. So why?”

You could ask this about anything people do to modify their appearance really. Make-up, jewelry, hairstyles, clothing (aside from warmth/protection). There’s not one single answer or starting point for any of these things. It’s all stuff that’s developed alongside everything else in human culture.

JLeslie's avatar

I would assume facial hair protects the face from the sun. Possibly it served as camouflage in some environments, or for warmth.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

[…shaving arms, (I would suspect it had something to hairy arms being masculine, which would not have been glamorous) legs, sometimes pubic hair, (if smoothness was the vogue for feminine, then hairy legs would have been the same as hairy arms; too masculine. As for shaving the mons there are many reasons given, actual truth to them notwithstanding, but to be cooler, cleaner, not be irritated by certain clothing, neater appearance, gets one cunnilingus more, etc.), and, as we get older, facial hair? (The masculine thing comes up again, to have a woman with a thin mustache is more like a man than a woman, because women are not supposed to have mustaches and beards.)

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s all silly social hang ups, @Hypocrisy_Central. Not all cultures find it “masculine” or unattractive. It it were unattractive in an evolutionary way, women would be completely hairless.

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