Should I worry if my child is shaving pubic hair?
Dear Straight Talk: I don't know whom to talk to. I walked in on my daughter, 17, while she was undressing and couldn't help but see that she shaves her pubic hair. I didn't say a thing and decided to write you instead.
Are all the girls her age doing this? Or is this a sign that my daughter is promiscuous? Thank you for this column. I read it every week. — "Helen," Monterey
Taylor, 15, Santa Rosa: Most people I know shave or wax. It is normal and starts as early as eighth grade. I wouldn't judge anyone for it.
Katie, 18, Auburn: This is so normal it's not funny. It's a hygiene thing — plus, who wants a hair line near your bikini? My mom knows I shave/wax. I didn't hide it, and she didn't say anything. Grooming yourself doesn't mean you're promiscuous; that's just silly.
Nicole, 22, Santa Rosa: Starting in high school, roughly nine in 10 women shave or wax all of their pubic hair. It's been the norm since I was 14. I'd say about one in four young men do it, too. It does not mean a woman is more sexually active. Most men under 25 prefer a woman without hair. Yet some of my older male friends speak poorly about it, saying it makes grown women look childlike.
Jayne, 21, Sacramento: Shaving or waxing doesn't necessarily mean anything. I've been shaving since I was 14 just to be more hygienic. I'm a virgin and plan to be until I get married.
Brennan, 19, Sonora: Just about every girl I know does it — and if they haven't done it before freshman year of high school, they will. It's hard to wear a bikini otherwise, as they just get smaller and smaller. I wouldn't be worried about it.
Erin, 17, Alpine, N.J.: It is expected for girls to shave or wax these days. The expectation comes from many places, but mostly from guys. They think it's "gross" for girls to have pubic hair. Some have told me, "I'll never go down on a girl with hair." Or, "I started reaching my hand and was disgusted and stopped." It's demeaning, but many girls are affected.
Brandon, 20, Mapleton, Maine: I've known several girls (and guys) who shave to ease with cleaning and "down there" odor. It's pretty common.
Molly, 20, Berkeley: Having a fully or mostly shaved pubic region is very common in youth culture today. Because of the vast popularity of pornography in the younger generations, the "norm" has changed and there is tremendous peer pressure to be shaven. You might talk to her about it, but be open to the idea that fashions change and shaving doesn't mean what it used to.
Dear Helen: Leave it to youth to shock their elders. The baby boomers shocked their elders, too — by not shaving at all. That was sometimes confused with "free love," too. Payback time!
The panel is adamant regarding its innocence. And it is just hair, which will grow back. Nonetheless, Molly is correct that the fashion originated from the pornography industry, where pubic hair has become enemy No. 1. Sadly, most boys today watch pornography — starting long before sexual activity with actual girls — and what they see becomes imprinted as their standard for sexual attractiveness.
To bust a myth, body hair keeps skin more hygienic, not less. Spongy pubic hair additionally protects against skin abrasions, which can become infected easily in the humid genital environment. Waxing and shaving introduces hundreds of microscopic wounds. Not surprisingly, staph, abscesses and herpes infections are on the rise.
You get the "cool" award for not acting shocked. Without judging her (love the soldier, hate the war), extol to your daughter the medical benefits of pubic hair.
Today's sex education classes and home sex talks need to include the subject of shaving/waxing so that young girls (and boys) know where the trend originated and that there are significant health problems associated with it — in essence, that it's a dumb trend.
The home sex talk should start much younger than in pre-Internet times, as almost all kids (age 5-11) have at least some exposure to hard-core pornography — with many having lots of exposure. Best is to protect pre-pubescent kids from unattended Internet use entirely, as pornography is, by far, the biggest presence there.
Costs of pubic hair waxing/shaving:
Monetary: At $40-$70 per Brazilian wax job, this comes to $500-800 per year — nearly the cost of a year's textbooks or auto insurance.
Medical: The microscopic wounds around the labia, scrotum and genital area are vulnerable to staph infections (including antibiotic-resistant staph), genital cellulitis, ingrown hair abscesses that can leave scars, increased herpes infections and suspected increased vulnerability to other STIs.
Emotional: As we heard from Kasey, intense peer pressure to shave leaves girls little choice but to go along with it unless they want to feel sexually shunned and unattractive — even among their girlfriends. — Lauren
Lauren Forcella co-writes Straight Talk TNT with a panel of more than 70 teens and young adults. To ask a question or become a panelist, click StraightTalkTNT.com or write to P.O. Box 963, Fair Oaks, CA 95628.