Brazil Nuts and the Sexual Politics of Hair Removal

Posted on March 4, 2009

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I made a curious discovery recently. I’m not sure when but apparently the new male “beauty” standard in porn is to be completely hairless — and I’m not talking about the chest either. I’m talking, penis, sack, and everything else nearby:  smooth as a baby’s bum. Now, I am not a huge consumer of porn so I’m not sure exactly when this revolution occurred but having once noted the change it now seems to me to be the standard.

Now, flash back a couple of years to a time when Brazilian waxing was all the rage and everyone from teenage girls to middle aged soccer moms were getting stripped to the skin in the name of beauty and tiny tiny bikinis. It was THE thing to do for awhile. I’m not sure how popular the Brazilian still is for women but either the fad has worn off or it has gone so mainstream that no one really talks about it anymore.

Here is a little video of women’s reactions to the procedure (NB: there is one guy in there as well). Other than demonstrating that the procedure is not wholly pain-free, the video is also useful because it shows a fairly diverse range of women getting the procedure done — of course, I can’t be sure it is a representative sample.

 

The standard critical view, at the time, is that the point of the painful and potentially infectious exercise was to make a woman seem, whatever her age, prepubescent. Because the procedure was essentially an homage to pedophilia, the argument went, it was perverse.  So, not only was it a painful and sometimes dangerous procedure for women, it was also psycho – sexually unhealthy.

Of course, I am sure there are many women who would say otherwise (I haven’t been able to find any kind of formal defense of the practice on-line). Moreover, if nothing else, whatever explanations women provide for leg shaving and waxing, I am sure can easily be transfered to their genitals in a pinch (tee hee, sorry couldn’t resist).

At the time, I was fairly sympathetic to this critical assessment and, at the very least, it seemed this was one more instance of female beauty standards being physically oppressive.  

Then, I made my recent discovery about porn and its brazil nuts (Do you get it now? Huhn, huhn!) and I am questioning that initial assessment of the Brazilian. Maybe, there is something more going on with Brazilians and female hair removal in general than an attempt to infantilize female sexuality. After all,  I am pretty sure these guys aren’t getting waxed to seem prepubescent.  Moreover, it also occurred to me that men’s facial hair historically has also been politicized. The choice to wear or not wear a beard at one time was pretty significant. Even today, guys who wear beards are often trying to communicate some kind of message of personal identity. My impression is that it is something like “I’m well-meaning, sincere, and like to RPG.”   

At any rate, my question is this: why are guys in porn — and probably now outside of porn as well — going hairless and at the very least trimming. Is it because the removal of hair makes them look larger? Or is this like shoes? Perhaps, the female obsession with hairlessness has simply transfered to male sexual identity just like the attention to good shoes.  For example, getting one’s chest wax ain’t going to make your wee-wee look any bigger. 

And, more generally, what is the deal with body hair and its removal? Is the seemingly cross-gender desire to remove hair an homage to prepubescence or is something else going on? It is a class thing? Maybe body hair is associated with living and surviving out-of-doors. Or, maybe this is all just a way to monetize male bodies as well as female bodies.

I also thought I’d include this little video I found because it nicely highlights the female fear of genital hair and neatly shows how consumerism is caught up in the manufacture of our beauty standards.

 

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