Monday, 17 February 2014

The Mighty Bush

If you are a habitual reader of The Independent, you would not have failed to notice the raging debate that spread like bushfire last month. It was triggered by a book published by that intellectual giant, Cameron Diaz (not just a pretty face, I’d request you to keep in mind), which, sadly, I have not yet got round to read.

In the book Diaz devoted a whole chapter, imaginatively titled “Praise of the Pubes”, waxing lyrical about pubic hair. Diaz likes them. She grows (presumably) lots of them, these days. Pubic hairs are natural, Diaz would like to inform the world. Not wanting pubic hair is like—Diaz told a girlie magazine—not needing your nose. “Don’t wazzle your vajayjay,” urges Ms Diaz (may be not in these exact words). 

There are many who might not like their noses; and have the option of going under the knife to have it the way they want, for a price that would put many in the mind of a second mortgage. You can change the size and shape of your breasts, ass, thighs, lips, tummy, and penis. I can’t think of a body part that you can’t get upgraded these days, if you have the desire and the financial resources. Getting rid of unwanted pubes is, by comparison, cheaper. Also, is it really fair to compare your pubic hair to your nose (to the nose or to pubes)? Most of us would agree that we do need our noses; a nose serves a function most will have no trouble appreciating. No one in his right mind, I will put it to you, will say that they don’t need their nose.

But pubic hairs? What purpose do they serve other than making your nether regions look like my back garden which has not been tended for months? Apparently they serve important medical functions. (I am full of admiration for the doctors. There is nothing out there that does not have some medicinal value. I read a report in the BBC sometime back that some research has shown that if you drank four cups of coffee every day you were less likely to kill yourself than those who were coffee-free. But four, apparently, is the magic number: you drink the fifth cup and all the benefits are lost.) Some doctors are claiming that shaving your vaginas will put you at a higher risk of developing infections from bacteria the names of which I can’t spell but which sound scary. Shaving your pudenda also makes the skin sore and itchy, the doctors say. Having a bald pussy makes you more prone to herpes, some doctors are warning. (Can’t these problems be avoided by using less blunted razor, and good personal hygiene?) A hairy bush is like armour which will protect you against these disgusting, if not deadly, diseases, though not, it goes without saying, against STD. (It may however serve as a very effective contraceptive.) (I am going to be blunt here: the subject of pubic hair seems to exercise women more than men; or, to be precise, Western women; or, to be even more precise, a large section of Western women; or—I can’t be more precise than this—those women who think the subject is important enough to write newspaper articles on it. Always nice to know that while the world might be facing many problems some women have more pressing and important matters, such as whether or not their girly bits be draped or not by the fur curtain, to write about; and there I was worrying whether I’d be able to pay the mortgage if the Bank of England increases the interest rates.)

Are there any disadvantages of a hairy fanny other than running the risk of catching your curlies in the zipper of your jeans? Sloppy personal hygiene will leave your pudenda with an immigration problem worse than that in the worst nightmare of the most rabidly xenophobic Tory working himself into a frenzy over Eastern Europeans; and the lice will face the more overcrowding than on London’s underground.

Do pubic hairs serve sexual function? That, as my philosophy tutor was fond of saying whenever I asked him any question, depends. 

Does a bush make you sexually attractive? That (again) depends. It depends on what your partner finds sexually appealing. If you have what the feminist Naomi Wolf describes in her book Vagina: A Biography, a heterosexual vagina and the sight of an overgrown patch of briars and brambles gets your partner’s juices flowing, then I’d say go for it. Let those curlies and twirls creep out of your knickers.  If, on the other hand, he does not have a taste for a hairy pie, you’d better do all that is necessary to wake him in the morning with a vertical smile.

Are there any non-sexual pleasures to be had from a bouffant down there? Apparently there are, as Caitlin Moran, a popular British newspaper columnist (and, of course, a feminist), reveals in her book How to be A Woman. Say you are lying down in a hammock on a sunny day, staring at the trees and the birds, thinking of what dress to wear for this evening party. Totally chilled out. What can enhance your pleasure? Why, a hairy fanny of course. What can you do with a hairy fanny? You can fingercomb it (Ms Moran informs). Fingercombing your fanny is one of the many pleasures of adulthood; ask Ms Moran if you don’t want to take my word for it. It goes without saying that Ms Moran disapproves heartily of the practice of robbing your crotch of its natural treasure.

The unspoken subject, the unasked question, the elephant (or the rhinoceros, according to the original German saying), in the esteemed opinion of Felicity Morse who was moved to write an article on the subject in the Independent, is of oral sex. I was saddened (but not surprised) to learn that men are wholly to be blamed. Apparently there are many men out there who don’t want their girlfriends or partners to wear a generous bush. A Brazilian landing strip is as far as they are willing to go. Sea weed is fine when it is crispy and on a plate and when you are in restaurant Hong Kong, but you don’t want it stuck in your teeth when you are licking the sweat off the old meat-curtains. This is clearly unacceptable, Ms Morse says. Your partner must find you sexually attractive as you naturally are; and if he doesn’t and is putting unacceptable conditions before he would consent to taste your bacon sandwich, you’d better evaluate your relationship, is Ms Morse’s (rather drastic) advice. Now, at the risk of sounding like a chartered accountant who sees the world as consisting in its entirety of detailed negotiations—pro versus cons, loss versus profit . . . those sorts of things—, I’d say that if you are prepared to end a relationship over this issue, probably something more is going on in the relationship than your partner’s refusal to get excited in the trouser department unless you remove your beetle’s bonnet. Also, supposing you do consider this matter important enough on its own to end a relationship, how would you ensure that you don’t make the same mistake of meeting another man of similar (perverted) persuasions? How do you find out that he is not going to start retching at the sight of your muff? How would you ask him to clarify his position—so to speak—on this subject before you lower your knickers? A bit awkward, I’d have thought.  

I have to say that quite a few women whom I had the good fortune to know closely over the years, and who never struck me as enslaved by men, refused to sport a generous bush on aesthetic grounds. Some years ago I ran into my immediate line manager in the company I was working for at the time. This was a woman—let’s call her Cathy (they are always Cathys or Hazels or Joans)—was abnormally thin—the type, if I remember correctly, described in Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of Vanities as a bottomless pit—with  a flat face and a disproportionately larger bust. Cathy was not known in the company for her sparkling wit or easy manner, although, to be fair to her, neither was she malicious. She was, in fact, a bit peculiar. She had odd social manners. She never looked you in the eyes while speaking to you, focusing instead on a point behind you at a lateral angle. She also had the habit of jigging to and fro on the balls of her feet like a Morris dancer with haemorrhoids. She was not given to expressing emotions: you could have set her eyebrows on fire and she wouldn’t have blinked an eyelid. To the best of our knowledge Cathy was single and prurient male colleagues would fill the lunch hour with ribald speculations about her sex life, which, the consensus was, amounted to her right hand. It would be fair to say that Cathy was not made for sex. (In my opinion Cathy was not secure about her body and—moved by the spirit of improving her self-esteem—I had thought of complimenting her on her watermelon breasts; but such things are more to be felt than said.) Anyway, when I crossed Cathy in the street, my then girlfriend, who was with me, screeched, as soon as we were out of earshot, “Oh my god! How do you know that woman?” “She is my line manager. How do you know her?” It then turned out that Cathy went to the same gym my ex-girlfriend went to. In the women’s changing room, the ex-girlfriend told me, Cathy would take all her clothes off and roam around stark naked, showing no urgency whatsoever to put on the gym clothes. The other women had taken to calling Cathy as “scary naked lady” or “mad naked lady”. “Why scary?” I asked. “Oh my god!” the ex-girlfriend screeched (she was inclined to invoke the lord’s name in vain), “you should see her bush!” I informed the ex-girlfriend that the chances of my eyes alighting on Cathy’s privates were less than slim. “Oh my god! The woman has probably never shaved in her life. Wild animals are roaming in the jungle down there.” The hair began, the ex-girlfriend—determined to spare no details—said, just below Cathy’s naval and progressed, in ever increasing concentric circle, to the point where the burgeoning line merged, like a river, into the Sargasso Sea on her mound. From there the hair invaded her inner thighs. “It is like a terrier has landed between her thighs,” the ex-girlfriend took recourse to metaphor to further illustrate her point. Words failed—she told me (despite the obvious evidence to the contrary)—to describe the horror of Cathy’s hairy fanny. “Why?” the ex-girlfriend asked plaintively, “Why would anyone do this to themselves?” I had to remind her that Cathy’s only crime was to let her pubes grow unrestrained. “Ugh! It’s disgusting. And why does she have to parade it? One look at it will make you bring up your dinner.” Needless to say that the ex-girlfriend was the type who waxed her fanny to within an inch of its life, wore half a kilogram of make-up, worried all the time that her ass looked fat in her jeans (it did), and (I suspect now) probably faked orgasms.

But surely, I hear you thinking, whether to have your nether region bald as Andre Agassi’shead or hairy as Brian Blessed’s face is a personal choice. I agree. It is no one’s business but yours, or, if you are inclined to include another person in the debate, your boyfriend’s. But, apparently, I am wrong. It is a feminist issue. Why is it a feminist issue? According to Caitlin Moran, as she helpfully elucidates in How to be A Woman, it is a feminist issue because modern women are brainwashed into believing that a shaved crotch would make them look more attractive and more feminine. In other words, if I have fully comprehended Ms Moran’s logic (which I might not have), the decision of the modern woman to shave her fanny is highly suggestive of her cultural oppression. Whose fault is it? Ms Moran knows: the American porn industry. America’s cultural hegemony apparently is not limited to forcing down your throat tasteless food high in saturated fat that will make you the size of a double Decker bus and eventually bring on a coronary; America—via its porn industry—is determined to brainwash modern women into shaving their clits, according to Ms Moran. Modern women obviously spend a considerable portion of their waking hours watching porn—perhaps their boyfriends make them watch it—and think to themselves, “I know what I want. I want my tits to be the size of a cantaloupe melon, like that porn star, and, since I don’t have the dosh to do that I will shave my vagina. That will make me more attractive to men.” Can it really be as simplistic as this? I doubt it, but I am not a feminist, so probably am mistaken.  Or maybe boyfriends or partners of modern women are addicted to American porn and insist that their girlfriend offer a hair-free zone on which they can set their tongues to work. (I can say with complete confidence that those of my ex-girlfriends who chose to go “bald” did so entirely of their own accord. Not a single one of them felt obliged to ask my views.) But maybe porn is to be blamed for the problem of vaginal hair (or lack thereof) in the anatomy of most modern women. On a related (or shall I say nearby?) subject, Naomi Wolf, in Vagina: A Biography, lays the blame squarely at the door of the porn industry for the penchant of the modern men for forcing their girlfriends to have anal sex. Even the Mormons are doing it, would you believe it?

I hope I would not be quartered if I said that the issue remains contentious, with chances of a consensus being reached more remote than the lasting peace in Afghanistan. There are those feminists,  (old, lesbian, Communist types, according to a female friend of mine, though obviously not including Ms Moran and Wolf) who would have you believe that shaving your clit is the single-most act of betraying the sisterhood. And there are those who believe that shaving their vaginas to within an inch of their lives empowers women. Indeed there are those, like Ms Boyle (Sian, not Susan, I should add; in the latter’s case it’d probably be forest not a bush), another writer of article in the independent, who have chosen to permanently remove their pubes by the laser technique. Not because their partners are insisting that they should cavort like porn stars in the bedroom but because they have made the informed decision of getting rid of unwanted minge-mat just in the same way many would want to get rid of the unwanted fur-coat on their upper lips.

If I were an epidemiological researcher of women’s pubic hair, I would consider dividing women into following categories based on their preferences and attitudes towards pubic hair. (a) Women who don’t like their pubic hair and shave them off. There are occasional reported cases of extreme phobia (a case in point Ms Sian Boyle) where the subjects may take the extreme step of permanently removing pubic hair. (b) Women who don’t mind pubic hair but indulge in regular fannicure. They want to pamper their bush and give it a trim from time to time. (c) Women who probably belong to category (b), but just can’t be bothered to have a quim-trim and let the hair grow. (d) Women who deliberately, intentionally and in full knowledge of what they are doing do not shave. A proportion of such women might consider themselves to be feminists. These women might view the women classified here under category (a) and very probably (b)—if they were to become cognizant of the true intentions of category (b) women—as man-pleasing barbies who have taken leave of their free will and senses. (The category (a) women greatly resent such labelling (see Ms Boyle’s article in the Independent) and would be at pains to explain that they want every possible body part as smooth as possible in their quest to appear young.) A further proportion  of category (c) women might be labouring under the belief that having a generous muff makes them more feminine and sexually irresistible.

Finally, there is a compelling case to be made that whatever the women choose to do with their private hair, it is somehow fault of men. I have still not figured out (despite reading How to be A Woman and Vagina: A Biography) how it is men’s fault, but am very sure about my conclusion. Such men, however, are deserving of compassion and sympathy, because they are in all probabilities addicted to porn or chronic masturbation or both.