Pubis And Politics
Why some people are tremendously keen to be sexual arbiters, and why their declamations are invariably wrong
We humans are a relatively simple species. We’re in perpetual competition with each other, although we’re usually blithely unaware of the fact. We make most of our decisions based on feelings and instincts and then dress our decisions retrospectively with a superficial gloss of reasoning. As a social species, we live within group norms which constrain our behavior.
Shaping these norms can sometimes give us significant power and thus advantage over our less manipulative peers.
We need only see how readily huge numbers of people are manipulated by the mass media to see that it’s quite easy to shape group norms provided one can generate enough noise. When it comes to the realm of human sexuality, our natural inquisitiveness about who’s doing what with whom means that we’re forever searching for information about the current norms of our particular group. What are Midwesterners fantasizing about this week? What do working class British people get up to in those after-hours car parks? What kinds of sexual activity are presently deemed acceptable and which kinds are supposedly deviant?
When we’re small, we live in a world of “no.” Can we have ice-cream for breakfast? No. Can we dress up in our nicest clothes and go play in the mud? No. Can we touch ourselves where it feels nice when we’re playing with our friends? No.
Much of our childhood seems to us to be a constant litany of no, constraining us and annoying us and confusing us, because after all why shouldn’t we be allowed to do those things? Just as children who were bullied when they were small very often turn into bullies themselves, so children who were excessively told no when they were small very often turn into no-sayers as adults. In this way they can pay back the world for all the frustrations and shames they experienced and, better yet, gain a certain amount of status within the group by doing so.
For as far back as written history permits us to peer, there have always been a few people seeking to control the sexuality of everyone else. From a basic evolutionary perspective, this makes complete sense. Imagine you’re a priest and you have a congregation of a few thousand credulous peasants. You tell them that sexual intercourse is bad, very bad, and only permissible under an extremely narrow range of circumstances. People being people, most will listen and obey your edicts. And now, all you need to do is surreptitiously ignore your own rules and impregnate as many gullible young female members of your flock as possible and you’ve just massively boosted your own reproductive success. And reproductive success is the fundamental driver of evolution.
Of course, things are rarely so simple. In real life we see drives of different strengths and we see local conditions acting to magnify or diminish the success of certain tactics. Life is, after all, a perpetual competition in which many of the surface rules are very malleable and hence subject to change even as the fundamental rules remain constant. But in general we can observe that a desire to control the sexuality of others, and hence their behaviors, has been powerful throughout human history and continues to be powerful today.
Being able to tell others what is acceptable and what is unacceptable not only feels wonderful (feelings being the evolutionary mechanism that makes us do things that on average increase our reproductive potential) but, as noted before, increases our social status among our fellow group members. It’s not surprising therefore that now the Internet carries the latest trivia around the globe in seconds, we should see some people ardently proclaiming their views on “correct” attitudes to sexuality. And as we’re presently living through the risible nonsense of Political Correctness, it is equally no surprise that these views are strident and cloaked in the garb of “fairness” and “anti-patriarchy.”
There are a great many absurd Politically Correct posturings circulating on the Internet these days, but this article will limit itself to the question of pubic hair.
As those who observe the often disturbing trends that ripple through the pornography industry will be well aware, for at least the last twenty years the hairless pubis has become standard fare. Naturally this offers an irresistible target for our would-be arbiters of sexual correctness and so for a few years now we’ve heard strident voices raised against this “patriarchal” defilement of women’s natural bushiness. We are told that a preference for a hairless pubis reveals a desire to have sexual intercourse with pre-pubescent girls and is therefore not a matter of aesthetics but of morality.
Ah, nothing can be finer than the shrill voice of someone declaiming on a matter of morality. That nails-scraping-down-a-chalkboard sound of self-righteous indignation stirs the blood and, more importantly, generates eyeball-grabbing headlines. And so sections of the mass media gain a vested interest in further promulgating whatever delightful nonsense is being emitted by some overly-agitated self-appointed guardian of society’s morals, thus spreading the views more widely. Now that Mary Whitehouse is dead (she being the prurient uneducated low-IQ arbiter of what everyone else in Britain was permitted to see for over two decades), younger but equally pompous folk have stepped up to the plate in an attempt to impose their lefty-trendy ideas on the world.
Let us consider the question of the shaved pubis.
Some men shave theirs, but the strident voices of anti-patriarchism ignore this because it does not fit their simplistic thesis. The most enthusiastic supporters of the naked pubis I’ve ever known personally have all been lesbians and bisexual women. As one said to me, “I get off on using my mouth and hands to get her off, but its gross to spend the next five minutes picking pubes out from between my teeth.” But again, our highly vocal advocates for female equality ignore these voices as well because they don’t fit the desired narrative.
Let us not quibble about such matters. Let us pretend, for a moment, that only heterosexual women are being pressured to depilate their pubic areas and that such pressure is coming from an unreconstructed patriarchal society, whatever that could possibly mean.
The first argument is that depilating the pubis is unnatural. To which the response can only be, yes indeed. Our bodies produce pubic hair after the onset of puberty and it is indeed unnatural for us to employ artificial means to remove it. We do not see gibbons or orang-outan looking for sharp-edged stones by means of which to shave their pubic regions. So, quod erat demonstrandum. Case closed.
Except we humans spend our entire existences doing unnatural things. We cultivate crops. We build huge conurbations in which hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of us live. We cook our food. We watch depictions of ourselves on flickering screens. We use artificial instruments to record our thoughts so that others may have some access into the invisible internal workings inside our heads. We bathe frequently and we use deodorants. When we fall ill we request the services of people whose job it is to attempt to heal us.
In short, it is extremely difficult to identify any area of life in which we humans are not doing unnatural things. It seems rather peculiar to single out one relatively insignificant aspect of our behavior and then scream loudly about it being uniquely unnatural. We may be forgiven for hearing the phrase “intellectually incoherent” drifting toward us on the wind…
So much for the argument about depilation being “unnatural” and therefore de facto wrong. Let’s now consider the equally inept argument concerning pedophilia.
According to the shrill voices of Political Correctness, any desire exhibited by any male for a hairless female pubis must be taken as an indication of a desire to have sexual relations with a pre-pubescent girl. The supposed “logic” of this argument is as follows: pre-pubescent girls have no pubic hair; ergo a preference for women with no pubic hair reveals a preference for pre-pubescent girls.
Stop laughing at the back. We have to pretend to take this argument seriously in order to show its inherent fallacy. Giggling at its silliness, while entirely understandable, is insufficient. So if we can just pause a moment to stop shaking our heads at the overt absurdity of the claim we can proceed with our exegesis of precisely why it is such a very poor argument to make.
Those who have some grasp of history may recall that a great many societies over the millennia have favored the practice of men removing part or all of their facial hair by means of shaving. Today, around the world, few societies favor a full-on straggly beard. The vast majority of women would rather kiss a shaved face than have to suffer the scratchiness and often the peculiar aroma of a bushy beard.
According to the argument presented against depilation of the female pubis, however, this simply means that most women want to have sexual intercourse with pre-pubescent boys. Because, as we all know, pre-pubescent boys don’t have any facial hair. Ergo, a preference for such clearly reveals a very unsavory desire lurking within the breasts of hundreds of millions of women who prefer their men to shave regularly.
Oh dear! Who knew that the vast majority of women around the world were closet pedophiles?
Except of course that they are not, any more than the majority of men who prefer a depilated female pubis are secretly pedophiles. The argument is absurd, and only a very ignorant or emotionally damaged person would seek to propagate it in order to gain some limited amount of personal benefit thereby.
We have not entirely concluded the argument against the proposition that depilating the female vulva indicates a desire for carnal knowledge of pre-pubescent girls. We must delve deeper for our final refutation.
When we look at other social primate species we see something very striking: despite there being no police force or courts of law or scandal-sheets to enforce social norms, adult males rarely if ever attempt to mate with pre-pubescent females.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Why should this be the case? From an evolutionary perspective the answer is obvious: there is no reproductive benefit from mating with a pre-pubescent female, just as there is no benefit from mating with a female who is not in estrus. Primate males devote their sexual energies toward competing for opportunities to mate with mature females who are showing clear signs of being in heat, most often via the red flushing of the region around their buttocks. It would be astonishing if we humans, being just another group primate species, were uniquely excluded from this hardwired behavioral preference.
Yes, there are cases of damaged men raping small girls. But citing rare edge cases does not make for a convincing argument. The fact is that the vast majority of men everywhere and at every time prefer to expend their energies seeking mating opportunities with sexually mature females. Evolutionary pressures could not result in any other outcome.
Consequently, the notion that men prefer a hairless pubis because they harbor a desire for intercourse with a pre-pubescent girl runs against the constraints of evolution. What possible evolutionary benefit could such a general desire confer? How could it not be maladaptive? Therefore, how could such a desire come to be part of most men’s fundamental evolutionary hardwiring? We don’t see hardwired desires to eat our own limbs or gouge out our own eyes, or to eat our children, or to kill our partners immediately after having sexual intercourse with them. The fact that there are a small number of edge cases in which such deviant behavior is manifest in no way indicates that it is a general pathology. Just because a few unhappy souls commit suicide, we don’t assume we’re all hardwired by nature to want to kill ourselves. Our shock and horror at learning of edge cases indicates precisely the opposite. Were this not the case, we’d be inured to the horror and treat it as perfectly normal.
What all of this serves to show is that the idea a hairless pubis is “really” a morally objectionable sign of sexual predation is utterly without foundation.
Politics has no place in the realm of human sexuality. Provided whatever is done is done between consenting adults, there is no benefit from having outsiders shriek and pound their fists in displays of pseudo-morality. Such people should be quiet and attend to their own personal preferences, and perhaps where necessary seek appropriate therapy.
The rest of us, meanwhile, should ignore them and get on with the business of working out what makes us, uniquely, happy.