We humans are a group species. As such, a great many of our behaviors and thought processes are geared towards conformity. What the group thinks, we think, because for most of our evolutionary history to be outside the group meant death.
Although today we are members of several groups and our survival rarely depends on any single one, our habits of mind remain unchanged. We conform to group norms unconsciously, adopting whatever beliefs the groups we identify with happen to hold. Rarely do we question these group beliefs. In fact it’s comforting to know that we believe what those around us believe. We don’t really want to question group norms.
And thus we are very frequently led into error. We don’t need to be students of history to know that most of what people believe is usually poorly supported by real-world evidence or by solid reasoning. Yet too often we dogmatically proclaim some arbitrary group belief and proceed to cause harm in the world.
Instead of illustrating this point by reference to racial prejudice or notions of manifest destiny or the garbled pseudo-economics of Marxism I want to focus on something relatively trivial that nevertheless has potential to induce all manner of mischief. I’m choosing this example because it’s typical of how mistaken ideas are adopted by a group for political reasons and then propagated into the world beyond.
We’re going to talk about the general male preference for women who remove hair from their pubic area.
It’s trivial to find articles and blog posts by women decrying this preference. The reason it exists? Clearly the men in question must desire pre-pubescent females because only pre-pubescent girls lack pubic hair. Ergo these men are emotionally immature and most probably wannabe pedophiles.
If you shout this loudly enough for long enough, enough people will come to believe it without ever once considering how flimsy the core argument is. And so we can get even more hysteria about sexual preferences, even more women-versus-men conflict, and even more agitation about how so many men are emotionally immature.
The problem is, of course, that the argument is spurious.
If you’re a woman, ask yourself this: have you ever dated a man who shaved? Do you have a preference for men who shave over men who have beards? If so then you must be emotionally immature and probably a wannabe pedophile because only pre-pubescent boys have smooth facial skin. Men grow beards from their mid-teens onward. Your preference for shaved men clearly shows how emotionally damaged you are.
In reality, there are many reasons to prefer smooth skin over hairy skin. As any aesthetic preference can be decried as evidence for “the patriarchy” (some mysterious force or secret group that controls world events, much as conspiracy theorists used to blame Jews and Freemasons) we will skip over the notion of personal taste and go straight to practicalities.
Item One: for most of our history we’ve been plagued by lice and other creatures than live in hair. Depilation and shaving were first and foremost responses to this challenge. That’s why we have records of the ancient Greeks and Romans practicing hair removal, and we know that hair removal came back into Europe as a result of Crusaders encountering Turks and others among whom the practice was widespread. So it goes back a long, long way.
Item Two: it’s more sensual. Bare skin conveys more sensation than skin shielded by hair. If you enjoy sex and like touch, bare skin offers more pleasure than hairy skin.
Item Three: oral sex. I’ve known a lot of women who enjoy performing oral sex on other women and every single one has told me that they dislike going down on a woman with pubic hair. One of my friends called it “unwanted flossing.” Men are no different, and so there’s a practical reason why most prefer women who are smooth “down there.” As for women, I know from extensive personal experience that none like bushy pubic hair getting in the way of a blowjob. Every woman I’ve known for the last twenty years has expressed a strong preference for either entirely shaved male pubic area or very closely trimmed and it’s obvious why this is the case.
There are a few other points, but I leave it to the thoughtful reader to arrive at these for themselves.
So far from the desire for a smooth-skinned pubic area being a clear sign of emotional immaturity and potential pedophilia, it’s actually something entirely different.
Of course, a more sensible and measured attitude towards pelvic grooming can’t so readily be sensationalized and weaponized so it’s less attractive for the mass media. Normal sane commentary rarely grabs eyeballs to thereby boost ad revenues. Far better, from a revenue perspective, to keep spreading inflammatory nonsense.
Unfortunately we live in an age where this perverse incentive guarantees the spread of ever-more faulty analysis and misinformation. This in turn makes people ever-more anxious and suspicious of one another. Although I’ve used the trivial issue of pubic grooming for this particular illustration the point is far more general: we need to be a little less willing to embrace whatever we’re told and a little more ready to attempt to think things through for ourselves. If we don’t, it’s unlikely that the future will be one that most of us would want to live in.