What's the real deal on female body hair?

I read this article and found it informative and interesting, but it left me with more questions.

The article says that it wasn’t until 1915 or so that women were expected to shave their underarms, because that is when fashion exposed them. But what about Victorian-era party dresses like this or the older dresses like this? Did these women actually walk about exposing their underarm hair, even in the ‘prudish’ Victorian era? Is it just the luck of pictures to never expose this area?

And what about paintings? Classical-styled paintings of naked women don’t show anything except the occasional vague shadow that might be pubic hair.

Was it, then, still an invention of the 20th century that women have no body hair? Where does the concept originate from?

Is this really such a mystery? Sure, women aren’t completely devoid of body hair, but they sure have much less of it then men do. Many men (myself included) find the general smoothness of female skin to be enjoyable to look at and touch, and it’s hardly a stretch that the attraction of smoothness of skin can be extended, albeit artificially, to areas in which women do have body hair.

I’d always heard that the advent of the motion picture is what spurred women to shave as it looks unattractive on-screen.

However this site says:

I don’t think a Victorian “lady” would raise her arms above her head for her underarm hair to be seen.

But really, even if she had, it wouldn’t have occurred to her to be embarrassed by her underarm hair, because it wasn’t fashionable to remove it. That’s all it is - fashion. You might just as well ask why Victorian women didn’t wear shorts and tube tops. It’s not like they didn’t have the technology, it just wasn’t fashionable yet.

Both of the examples in the OP are French, and the French traditionally have not had as much distaste for underarm hair on women.

Furthermore, an occasional outfit in “high fashion” would not have much impact on day-to-day grooming for women.

If people saw underarm hair, therefore, they probably thought absolutely nothing of it. Underarm hair wasn’t an issue so Victorian “prudism” doesn’t come into play.

Seriously, I mean, I show the little fine hairs on my arms all the time. Nobody thinks anything of it, because it’s not fashionable to remove it. One imagines they looked at underarm hair the same way.

Possibly classical painters were influenced by much older classical Greek sculptural aesthetics which don’t show body hair.

Re the 20th century I think it’s just some fashion fetish by women, and makes many of them feel daring and sophisticated, and enables wearing various narrow thongs and bathing suits that would not work with a full bush or treasure trail. I will admit that contemplating a woman’s rear end in thong can be a near spiritual experience.

Despite what some women might think I don’t think men really care all that much about the hair/no hair choice down below unless a woman is completely unshaven or “hippy hairy”. Some light haired women can carry this off, but for dark haired women it can look pretty rough. However, there are some men who really dig the hirsute “gorilla my dreams” look.

One thing I never realized until I saw some amateur erotic home videos posted to the net of near east - middle east men and women getting busy, is that many of the women are completely shaven under their chadors.

Don’t Islamic hygiene laws require both men and women to shave most/all of their body hair?

Only when starring in amateur porn. It’s in the Koran somewhere.

It’s an Islamic requirement, although my understanding is that sugaring, sanding (with sand) or plucking is more common that actual shaving.

Agree. I thought it was big deal for men, but found out that men in my LTRs aren’t as hung up on shaved legs/armpits/wherever as I feared. I tend to get lazy in the winter and let it go for stretches at a time. Hasn’t been a problem.

I have this idea floating around [did I read it somewhere?] that shaving body hair also makes women appear ‘younger’, more like a post-pubescent girl that men instinctively desire for their fertility.

But dammit, women are supposed to grow hair in those places - it keeps growing back. I guess I wish the culture would shift again, all that time wasted shaving year after year after year. This is turning into a rant. I’ll stop.

“Threading” is a still popular traditional Middle Eastern technique but apparently used more for facial hair.

(bottom one on chart)

If it’s any help, when asked about the practice in the old West Germany the local national office help said that only three kinds of women shaved their legs and arm pits: movie stars, Americans and prostitutes.

Not shaving apparently demonstrated that they weren’t any of those. The opinion seemed to be universal and was held by both the middle aged WWII widows and the smart young things just out of vocational school. That was in the early 1970s in a western backwater(Kaiserslautern). Things may have been different in the more fashionable cities and may well be different now.

OK, living in the Middle East and was married to an Asian for 22+ years so maybe I have some insight on this. :stuck_out_tongue: The Arab gals tend shave for their menstrual period. I don’t know if this is a religious requirement or it just makes things easier. They tend to just keep it shaved since that’s easier than going through the itchy stage of having it grow back. Also, a lot of women here tend to have very dark hair and consider it unsightly. “Tarantula legs” is the term I’ve heard used.
The Asian girls also tend to shave simply because they think it looks good and, since their hair tends to be very fine, it isn’t a hassle for them and they only need shave infrequently.


Yep, it’s made its way to Chicago. Lots of places around where I live (which is not far from a large Indian/Pakistani community) offer eyebrow threading.

A friend with Turkish roots explained that the ladies of the family would have regular get-togethers for plucking. Sort of like hen parties.

At one of these, she told her grandmother that she was marrying an American. The old lady said–“But he won’t be circumsized!”

The young lady almost said–“Don’t worry, he is.” The rembered that she wasn’t supposed to know that detail. And shut up.

How did the grandmother know (or get to think she knew) about the state of American penises? (And how did she get to that point without learning that most American men are circumcised?)

Your friend could have saved herself by saying, “Don’t worry; he’s Jewish!” :smiley:

I think this is more a cultural issue than a religious one. Can you cite the Islamic requirement? My wife is an Egyptian Muslim and I it is very prevalent in Egypt for women to remove body hair but I have never heard that it is a religious requirement. (In Egypt they do tend to use sugaring, basically using a slab of caramel instead of wax.)

A Sheena Easton song just started playing in the back of my head. Thank you.

We can start with the easy one, the wikipedia article on "Glabrousness ":

Then, because wikipedia is never our sole source for good information :wink: , we can turn to islamonline.net for this opinion from “eminent scholars and Muftis” (about 3/4 down the page):

Also on that site is a

(http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?cid=1119503543336&pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar%2FFatwaE%2FFatwaEAskTheScholar) from Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, former president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA):

“Sunnah”, however, can refer to things Muhammed specifically said or did, or things which the people did which Muhammed did not forbid or gave tacit approval to. So that really doesn’t answer the question, I’m afraid. At the least, it’s not forbidden. At the most, it may be what Muhammed wanted his people to do.