SPSP2019: What a Woman Wants: The Role of Disgust and Preference for Partners with Altered Pubic Hair

Presented as a poster for SPSP 2019 in Portland, Oregon. 

What is the difference between those who alter their pubic hair, and those who do not? What may drive people to alter their pubic hair? How has the practice of altering one’s pubic hair changed over time? 

These are all excellent questions, and I’m not going to answer any of them. But, here is some cool data!

What a Woman Wants:

The Role of Disgust and Preference for Partners with Altered Pubic Hair

Previous research into altered pubic hair by Butler and company (2015) reported women are far more likely to alter their pubic hair, as compared to men. Altering one’s pubic hair can be trimming with a guarded razor, trimming, shaving, waxing, or products designed to remove hair (I would not recommend using using said products!). However, Butler and company do note that while men are less likely to alter their pubic hair, they are much more likely to hold an expectation that women should alter their pubic hair. Sadly, within this gendered dialogue of body modifications, Fahs (2014) found that women who were interviewed used words like, disgusting or dirty to describe their own pubic hair.

Due to the negative evaluations of one’s own body, while at the same time encouraged by men to alter their pubic hair, I wanted to investigate how women feel about the pubic hair attached to the groins of their lovers. Additionally, it was my aim to understand the dimensions of disgust women may feel overall.

To understand the role of disgust, I adopted the Disgust Sensitivity scale (Haidt McCauley, & Rozin, 1994). This scale breaks down the different general topics one can find disgusting for a total of eight categories, whereby participants rate how much disgust they experience for each scenario on a scale of 1 to 7: 

Food: Exotic foods, messy foods, spoiled foods, and clashing food textures (ketchup on vanilla ice cream)

Animals: Rats, cockroaches, maggots, worms

Body Products: Mucus, vomit, bowel movements, urine

Sex: Same-sex sexual behavior, zoophilia (sexual attraction towards animals), incest, intergenerational sexual behavior 

Envelope Violations: Regarding body parts, such as a fishhook in one’s finger, a specimen jar with a human hand, an eyeball no longer attached to one’s face

Death: Dead bodies, graveyards, touching a dead animal

Hygiene: Public toilets, food prepared by a cook with a cold

Magic: Chocolate in the shape of dog poop, inflating an unused condom 

Participants 

143 women (Mage = 22.96, SD = 6.95) 76.2% Heterosexual 

Method

The women were asked to identify if they preferred their partner to alter their pubic hair (n = 100) or if they did not care (n = 43). Then, they filled out the Disgust Sensitivity scale. 

Results

Using a MANOVA, I compared the scores of the women who preferred partners with altered pubic hair to those who did not have a preference on the different dimension of disgust. I found significant differences, F(8, 134) = 2.31, p = .024; Wilk’s Λ = .88, partial η2 = .12. This difference was attributed to four different sub-scales: Animals (< .05), Body Products (< .05), Hygiene (< .05), and Magic (< .05). 

Screen Shot 2019-02-12 at 5.05.42 PM

Discussion

So, what does this mean? 

It seems that women who prefer their partners to have altered pubic hair seem to be more likely to find things such animals, body products, a lack of hygiene, and some illogical or magical things to be more disgusting than women without a preference. 

So, why is pubic hair inflated as something disgusting? It could be cultural, as media, our peers, love interests, parents, or the internet have strong pulls on one’s behavior. It could be coming from a health concern, as people report feeling like pubic hair is unhygienic, as it collects oil, sweat, and bacteria over time. But, I think it is worth noting here, that pubic hair is not unhygienic. However, the most important thing is that people feel comfortable in their bodies, regardless of the level of pubic hair alteration. 

Fun Facts about your Pubes

  • Pubic hair is great for regulating temperature, protection, and reduced friction (Dr. Ross)
  • About 95% of people alter their pubic hair (Butler et al., 2015) 
  • Women report their motivations for altering their pubic hair are cleanliness, comfort, sex appeal, and social norms (Butler et al., 2015)
  • Frequent grooming is related to sexually transmitted infections over the lifetimes (Osterberg et al., 2016)
  • 25.6% of people experience grooming related injuries (Truesdale et al., 2016)

References

Butler, S. M., Smith, N. K., Collazo, E., Caltabiano, L., & Herbenick, D. (2015). Pubic hair preferences, reasons for removal, and associated genital symptoms: Comparisons between men and women. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 12, 48-58.

Fauhs, B. (2014). Genital panics: Constructing the vagina in women’s qualitative narratives about pubic hair, menstrual sex, and vaginal self-image. Body Image, 11, 210-218.

Haidt, J., McCauley, C., & Rozin, P. (1994). Individual differences in sensitivity to disgust: A scale sampling seven domains of disgust elicitors. Personality and Individual Differences, 16, 701-713.

Osterberg, E. C., Gaither, T. W., Awad, M. A., Truesdale, M. D., Allen, I., Sutcliffe, S., & Breyer, B. N. (2016). Correlation between pubic hair grooming and STIs: Results from a nationally representative probability sample. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 93, 1-5. 

Truesdale, M. D., Osterberg, C. E., Gaither, T. W., Awad, M. A., Elmer,-DeWitt, M. A., Sutcliffe, S., Allen, I., & Breyer, B. N. (2017). Prevalence of pubic hair grooming-related injuries and identification of high-risk individuals in the United States. JAMA Dermatology, 153, 1114-1121

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