Niamh Horan: Display your lady garden as proudly as man does his beard
Ignore the boys and their demands. It takes a real man to handle a woman in all her natural beauty, says Niamh Horan
Published 03/07/2016 | 02:30
There's a famous story about the wedding night of John Ruskin. The great artist and poet had spent many months courting a young lady called Effie Gray - the muse for his work.
On their first night together, as she undressed, Ruskin realised he had made a terrible mistake - calling a halt to the marital proceedings.
The reason for his sudden objection? His bride had pubic hair.
Afterwards, in a letter to her parents, a heartbroken Effie claimed her husband found her "person" repugnant: "He had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was," she wrote, "and the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted."
As author Gene Weingarten subsequently explained: "[On beholding his bride's] thatch of hair, rough and wild, similar to a man's. He thought her a monster."
The artist's unrealistic fantasies were reportedly down to his exposure to Elysian statues. In fact the expectation that women should be hairless downstairs, spans thousands of years.
Ancient Egyptians were the first to succumb to pubic hair removal and - during the Roman Empire - the lack of body hair was considered a sign of class.
Wealthy women had bare floors, while their servant girls were full bush. (No wonder the masters of the house ran after the home help.)
So to blame the explosion of online pornography for unrealistic expectations of your private parts is facile. The only difference today is that we have experienced the rise of feminism and so have no excuses to pander to superficial pressure. If women can't even be themselves in the most intimate part of their bodies, then what hope do we have when it comes to any other sphere?
And still they strip it off in their droves.
This week, Dr Shirley McQuade, medical director of Dublin's Well Woman Centre, said there has been an "enormous" increase in the number of Irish women waxing and shaving.
Her comments follow research carried out by Dr Benjamin Breyer, an associate professor at the department of urology at UC San Francisco, who found that two in three women between the ages of 18 and 24 are now removing - not some, but all of their pubic hair.
Despite high-profile celebrities such as Cameron Diaz and Laura Whitmore encouraging women to "embrace their hairy lady gardens", many young girls seem to think the presence of it is embarrassing.
And it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The more women go bare, the more it becomes the norm. Which leads to today's reality that some men haven't seen the natural look in years. When the subject cropped up over a recent lunch with a group of male friends, I asked what would they do if a night with a woman ended with the surprise discovery. One said: "I'd call the guards."
He went on: "Most men I know wouldn't want to go near a woman with pubic hair," and was met with nods of agreement around the table.
Waxing is uncomfortable, painful and embarrassing. How often have you found yourself on the table, while discussing the weather or where you're off to on your summer holidays, with legs spreadeagled mid-air?
Indeed next time you're in the position just be grateful that you're not a celebrity. Rihanna once told a story of how, with her short and curlies eye level with a waxing therapist, the young girl exclaimed: "Oh my gosh, I recognise you!" before tearing the strip away.
For the majority of girls though, it simply leads to even more angst about their bodies.
Jenni Mahon, owner of The Waxing Rooms in Ranelagh, says 90pc of women who attend her salon now insist they want it "all off".
And because they are seeing their lady parts without closed curtains - they are wracked with self-conciousness: "They always ask the same thing: 'What is mine like compared to other girls?' 'Am I more hairy than other women?' and 'Why doesn't it look like the girls I see in movies and online?'"
She says that women have to understand, as with their figures, "some are long and skinny, others are short and fat and they come in all different shades".
It's enough to make you long for the days of pre-Victorian Britain where pubephilia (fetishisation of pubic hair) was once the height of fashion.
Back then, a lock of pubic hair from your lover was seen as a token of affection. Curls were worn like cockades in men's hats (which is certainly a novel way to mark your territory).
But for poor Effie Gray she should have known that one man's opinion counts for zilch.
Take another writer such as Hugues Rebell, the man who penned the erotic classic, the Memoirs of Dolly Morton, and he would have rejoiced at her big reveal. As he wrote: "But Gosh! I've never seen such a fleece between a woman's legs in my life. Darn me if she wouldn't have to be sheared before man could get into her."
The moral of the story is: if a man ever baulks at your natural beauty, change your partner, not your style. The right guy will be happy to dive right in.