Nearly a decade on from Ben Affleck’s less than chivalrous complaint to Kate Beckinsale that English women are “hairy” (she blabbed about it in an interview, then boasted that she was now “like a billiard ball down there”. Go sister!) it seems British ladies – and gents – have risen to the challenge, spending an estimated £327m on depilation last year.
Given the array of products and services devoted to helping the hirsute to become less so – the Intimate Area Shaver, for example, or the “back, sack and crack” waxes offered for chaps who fancy a “boyzillian” – it’s no wonder we’ve become so unused to seeing body hair that a woman could appear on breakfast television recently simply because she had furry armpits.
We’ve come a long way from the au naturel 1970s, when chest hair was exactly what you expected to find under a chap’s vest and women had glorious thickets in their knickers (if they bothered to pop a pair on at all).
Unfortunately, the main way to chart such follicular free-spiritedness is by seeking out pornography of the era, and it’s pornos that got us into this mess. Hairlessness down there has gone from kinky to useful (there’s nothing in the way of the, ahem, action) to the norm in porn, and it’s spread to civilian life.
Teenage boys are said to have become so used to the bald bodies of internet porn that they wouldn’t know what to do with a natural thatch (much like John Ruskin more than 150 years ago, who was said to have been so shocked at the sight of his new bride’s lady garden that the marriage was unconsummated and ended swiftly after). Preteen girls now book in for bikini waxes, surely the most depressing and pointless way to spend pocket money. Expensive, uncomfortable and with deeply dodgy sexual politics, hair removal is booming.