Did the Victorians have pubic hair?

The short answer is, of course they did, but if you were to go on the evidence of paintings alone you might be forgiven for thinking that Victorian women did not have pubic hair.

This clearly was not the case.

Not only do we have the story of Ruskin fleeing into the night when he discovered that his wife, Effie Gray, had pubes, there’s more than enough evidence in the form of nineteenth century pornography to show that women did indeed have pubic hair.

Hardly surprising

What’s more interesting is the question of when and why did women start removing their body hair.

People have always done things to change their appearance to enhance their attractiveness according to the cultural norms of the time, such as plucking their eyebrows, wearing eyeliner and lipstick etc, etc.

In the nineteenth century women didn’t wear makeup or, if they did, it was very discreet. It’s interesting that Louise Bryant, in her early days as a schoolteacher in the pacific north west of America was thought to be of dubious character because she wore powder and perfume.

And, of course, until the nineteen-twenties most female clothing covered the armpits and legs which meant there was no reason to remove body hair.

With the adoption of shorter dresses and styles that revealed the armpits safety razor manufacturers sought to expand the market selling the idea of hairlessness as somehow more feminine, and of course the safety razor made it a relatively safe thing to do, and something that could easily be done in the privacy of one’s boudoir

Although not everyone got the memo

Even though women had started shaving their armpit and leg hair by the late 1920’s, pubic hair remained untouched. Art studio photographs from the 1930’s (and there’s a whole industry out there providing high quality nude images scanned from the portfolios of 1930’s photographers – you too can have some tasteful 1930’s nudes on your apartment wall) show that basically people still had pubic hair and it was relatively ungardened.

As indeed can be seen in the art from the time

In fact pubic hair seems to have remained as nature intended until the nineteen eighties when high cut swim wears and underwear started to require a bit of trimming ….

About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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