People have been ripping the hair out of their genitals for centuries, but by the 20th century, suggesting a down-there-cut to a woman would probably earn you a hearty slap. That started changing in the 1940s with the advent of the bikini, but even that required only the streamlining of the "bikini line." It wasn't until the 1990s that the complete removal of pubic hair became normal after the "Brazilian wax" was introduced to New York City by a septet of South American sisters who opened a waxing salon in 1987, so named because women in dental floss bikinis on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro had taken to taking it all off. But why would women in the frigid northeast do the same?
I mean OJ hadn't even (legally allegedly) murdered anyone for people to know the Kardashians yet.
Well, something else had taken off in the '90s: Internet porn. Once it became all but impossible to avoid the stuff, people couldn't help but notice that the women in such videos tended to be plucked like chickens, and women started emulating the look to appeal to their porn-obsessed partners. But why did porn stars adopt the style in the first place? Just a decade earlier, they'd gone in the opposite direction, so what gives?
Something that historians of such subjects often overlook is that starting in the '90s, porn was an increasingly specialized field. The porn stars of the '80s were "regular Joe's and Joanne's," but by the Internet porn boom of the '90s, it wasn't uncommon for an adult entertainer to make that her whole career, and porn often overlaps with stripping. It's so common for a stripper at the top of her game to moonlight in porn and vice versa that there's a whole term for it: a "feature dancer" is a visiting celebrity, usually of the adult variety, but surely there's some best-selling novelists and Nobel Prize-winners mixed in there.
And in many states, it's against the law to show pubic hair in a strip club. That usually means the municipality is "topless only," but dancers still try to appeal to their customers by wearing the skimpiest bottoms possible, and unless they want to get arrested for obscenity, they'd better not have any stray hairs, so they just remove it all. Then some of those dancers started doing porn, and before you knew it, people just assumed that that was the sexy new thing. They had no idea that it was actually the opposite, but the belief made it real, like the Tooth Fairy and the Snyder Cut. It's like if cleavage was outlawed, so everyone started getting horny about turtlenecks. You have to hand it to the human boner: It's perennially adaptable.
Top image: Joseph Kellner/Unsplash