Young gays are convinced they invented everything, and this includes so-called “manscaping”. The truth of the matter is a much longer and more interesting story. BRO-zilians and other names aside, the history of male body hair grooming is almost as old as civilization itself. But, before you run off to get something plucked, shaved, waxed or lasered, we thought you should know the purpose behind the hair you are ready to remove.

As we always say, the male body is a marvel of architectural invention and should be celebrated and adored. Nature makes no mistakes when it comes to evolution. If our bodies had something, but no longer does, there is a valid reason. The exact opposite is also true. We have specific bodily components because throughout the course of our collective history, it has proven to be useful. This includes intimate hair.

We are going to take a walk through history to discuss when and where in the past it is believed male intimate hair grooming was a staple of society. Then move on to the purpose of these patches of hair, how & why gay males are known to trim and shave below the neck and ending with the dangers associated with this activity.

Let’s begin…

A Brief history lesson

Researchers have found evidence that men have been shaving their pubic hair region for at least 30,000 years. That’s when the earliest flint razors have been dated to. Allegedly, our cave-dwelling ancestors also made use of everything from clamshells to sharks’ teeth to perform this task.

It should be no surprise to anyone that has visited a museum, that both the ancient Greeks and Romans, who were huge fetishist of youthful male beauty, took highly to this practice. Not only did it serve the initial purpose, it also supported their belief in their superiority over other cultures that were known to be much hairier, and thus “barbaric and savage”.

Throughout history, pubic hair grooming has gone in and out of fashion. From the priests and noble men of Ancient Egypt, to the teachings of Islam, and the Native Americans, societies have practiced some level of this act.

This leads us to ask why, in ancient times, the lack of pubic hair was seen as desired and even celebrated? As stated earlier, the Greeks and Romans are well known for their fascination with young male beauty. This is evident throughout the works of art that have survived to our era. The visage of pre pubescent boys, and their natural, clean shaven look was desired as a connection to lost youthfulness that could still be obtained, in visual effects, with the shaving of adult pubic hair.

For some cultures, it was this level of perceived innocence that drove the cutting and even total removal of pubic hair. This is why priests and male members of some religions made this mandatory. It symbolized a level of holiness and an ability to be closer to god.

And then along came Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. In stark contrast to the religious teachings of mankind’s origin from a God or gods, Darwin was the first to link us to our primate brothers. The fact that we, through evolution, have discarded the majority of our follicles, was viewed as a sign of our intelligence and sophistication. In some ways, mirroring what the Greeks and Romans believed, but without the racial overtones.

Darwin’s theory did not immediately develop or support a mass movement toward pubic hair shaving. But over time, the popularity of electrolysis (1875), safety razors (1901), the “soaring hemlines of the post-World War I flapper generation, and the era of pubic hair grooming on grounds of taste (specifically, men’s taste) had begun”.

Research on Gay Males

Within the last twenty to twenty-five years, there has been a major uptick in research conducted on our specific community. Of course, we had been included, if not directly credited, in studies about males. But with changes in laws and society’s views on male homosexuality, we have warranted our own findings on a host of issues. This includes our grooming habits.

Within any community, there will be those who, no matter the style of the times, will decide to go their own way. Some will fall into the grooming category, and others outside of its purview. For those that follow trends, their actions will change based on the mood of their community and culture. This is how so-called metrosexuals found their footing in the early 2000s.

Society’s view of body hair has not altered much over the last few thousand years. Unkempt and/or natural pubic hair is seen as everything from barbaric to masculine and even having a sense of individuality and freedom. Whereas grooming and shaving is conflated with youth, innocence and softness. Gay males, being much more like everyone else in society than those outside of, and even within, our community enjoy admitting, follow many of these basic view points. This is most clearly seen within the Leather Community, and also more mainstreamed groups like “Twinks”. To the surprise of absolutely no one, those who choose to be receptive partners during anal intercourse are much more likely to ascribe towards not only greater grooming techniques but also full shaving of their intimate body hair. Specifically their anus.

The Influence of Sexual Orientation and Sexual Role on Male Grooming-Related Injuries and Infections was a study published in 2015. It is the largest and most comprehensive one on this topic, especially in its relationship to gay males.

“Several studies have looked at psychological factors contributing to pubic hair removal in men and have found the drive for muscularity, gender role conflicts, and physical appearance social comparisons have been correlated with increasing degrees of body hair removal. It has been shown that men who have sex with men (MSM) remove their pubic hair more frequently.”

The following are some of the most relevant and interesting findings from this study as it relates to our population. It should be noted that the researches collected the following demographic data: age, race, relationship status, education, and geographic region. Men who reported having sex with men only or men and women were added to the MSM group. Men who reported engaging in both penetrative and receptive intercourse were considered receptive partners.

  • Out of the original 7,580 subjects, 4,062 (53.6%) men completed the survey. Of these men, there were 3,176 (78.1%) who self-identified as MSW, 688 (16.9%) as not being sexually active, 166 (4.1%) as MSM, and 32 (0.8%) as men who have sex with women and men (MSWM). Of MSM and MSWM, there were 117 (59.1%) receptive partners, 42 (21.1%) insertive partners, and 39 (19.7%) MSM or MSWM who did not report their sexual role.

  •  In the MSM group, there were 50.8% white, 9.0% black, and 27.1% Hispanic men. No statistical racial differences were found between receptive and insertive partners 

  • We found increased grooming frequency in annual grooming, daily grooming, and removing all of one’s pubic hair in MSM as compared with MSW.

  • MSM report grooming more for sex and vacation. This association is likely due to a particular physical appearance concerns germane to these activities. 

  • Among MSM, we found no statistical difference in preferences of partner grooming between receptive and insertive sexual role. It therefore seems that partner grooming preference may be more dependent on sexual orientation than sexual role in anal intercourse.

  • The majority of injuries for both MSM and MSW were to the scrotum, pubis, or penis but MSM also had more injuries to the anus as well as more infections and abscesses due to their personal grooming. 

  • Increased frequency of grooming, in particular removing all pubic hair among MSM, is associated with increased prevalence of infections and abscesses. Removing pubic hair may lead to microscopic lacerations and abrasions, which could predispose an individual to infection. Although the number of grooming injuries between MSM and MSW did not differ, MSM did seek more medical attention for their injuries. Increased reported infections and abscesses due to pubic hair grooming in MSM might be a reason for seeking medical advice.

  • Male receptive partners groomed more frequently, groomed more for sex, and groomed the hair from penis to navel, scrotum, and between the scrotum and anus more than insertive partners. 

  •  The receptive partners in our study were also younger, and age may influence depilatory practices. Newcomb et al. also found MSM bottoms (receptive partners) to be of a younger age.

  •  Interestingly, more than four times as many MSM were grooming at the time of STI and using nonelectric blades to groom. This could result from the baseline increase in grooming in MSM that grooming might predicate riskier sexual behavior or that grooming actually increases the likelihood of an STI. Still, the use of nonelectric blades to groom in MSM may not be advisable. 

  • Going further, three times as many receptive partners reported grooming at the time of STI. As such, sexual role and grooming together may harbor an environment for an STI infection; however, given the small sample size, the results are inconclusive.

  • The role of grooming and the risk of acquiring an STI are still uncertain and require further study with more robust controls with assessment of safe sex behavior. However, electric razors may be safer for anogenital grooming.

Intimate hair removal

Even as some gay guys rush to remove everything from the slightest to greatest amount of body hair possible, many have no clear understanding of what they are getting rid of. The human form has developed many natural defenses to disease and infection as well as adapted to our differing ways of life and lifestyle, by making changes to our body. This includes the amount of hair on them.

On average, pubic hair ranges between 0.5 to 1.5 inches and is usually a thicker/curly texture than the hair over the rest of our body. Biologists have discovered a myriad of reasons for why we still have pubic hair, when the majority of hair over the rest of our bodies has decreased with evolution.

Pubic hair, consisting of your underarm, genital area, scrotal section and anus, first manifests during puberty. It is a physical manifestation of your new adult status and sexual maturity. For these reasons, there are cultures that celebrate pubic hair as a sign of virality and masculinity. Victorians were among this lot. This new crop of hair provides certain benefits to your sexual health and enjoyment, including providing a natural cushion during intercourse and preventing against friction burns during sex. Pubic hair is curly because curly hair does a better job of capturing the pheromones from one’s sweat glands, ensuring that each person has a unique genital odour.

So, if intimate hair is so important, why has it had such an uneasy relationship with human culture for tens of thousands of years? The answer for those in the past was simple: PUBIC LICE. Now known more commonly as CRABS.

“Pubic lice aren’t related to poor personal hygiene. They’re usually spread through close bodily contact with an infected person. The lice crawl from hair to hair, but can’t fly or jump. They need human blood to survive, so will only leave the body to move from one person to another. The most common way pubic lice are spread is through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex.”

In the Victorian era pubic lice was a very large social ill but these nasty buggers have been humanity’s constant travelling partner for a very long time.  In 2002, researchers found Phthirus pubis (pubic lice) eggs attached to the pubic hairs of a 2000-year-old Chilean mummy, and adult pubic lice have been found in clothing from a 1000-year-old Peruvian mummy.

For this reason, and the obvious smooth aesthetics, shaving of pubic hair developed a reputation of being “cleaner”. Especially desired when the treatment for pubic lice had been severe and long endured by the infected.

In more modern times, the clean look is still cited as a rationale for having groomed naughty bits. But also for sexual reasons, personal preferences and a belief in increased physical sensations. Some believe that removing hair from around the anus provides for a reduction in the chances of anal yeast infections and urinary tract infections (UTI) but there is no scientific backing for this. Also, shaving the hair from around the anus is erroneously believed to reduce bacteria, but bacteria lives on the skin surface, as well as hair follicles. With this being said, shaving has been proven to be an effective treatment for anal itch.

As expected, a cottage industry has risen to assist you in getting rid of your unwanted private hair. From razors and waxes to creams and lasers, there seems to be no end in sight for the list of products seeking a place in your bathroom medicine cabinet.

By now, you should be asking yourself if there are any risks or dangers to removing your pubic hair. But first….

Some stats on who’s grooming and from where

2016 saw the American Journal of Men’s health, publish Prevalence and Motivation: Pubic Hair Grooming Among Men in the United States. This was based on research where four thousand one hundred and ninety-eight men completed the survey. Of these men, 2,120 (50.5%) reported regular pubic hair grooming. 

(Pubic hair growth in men peaks in the mid-20s and later declines (Ayob & Messenger, 2015Hamilton, 1958). Increased hair growth at these earlier ages may in part explain a greater prevalence of grooming in younger ages.)

  • Men who groom were younger than men who do not groom
  • More groomers had a bachelor’s degree or higher than nongroomers
  • Groomers report more lifetime sexual partners, compared with nongroomers
  •  A larger proportion of groomers report daily sex compared with nongroomers
  • There was no association of grooming with race
  •  The majority of men report grooming in preparation for sexual activity with a peak prevalence of 73% among men aged 25 to 34 years
  • The majority (91%) of groomers remove the hair above the penis.
  • Scrotal grooming was more prevalent among men aged 34 to 44 years, with a peak prevalence of 72%
  • Removing inner thigh hair seems to decrease with age, with a prevalence of 45% in 18- to 24-year-olds and a prevalence of 26% in 55- to 65-year-olds
  • Although less common, more than 10% of groomers in all age categories report grooming the hair around the anus
  • Twenty-four percent of groomers aged 25 to 34 years groom the area around the anus, and 11% of groomers aged 55 to 65 years groom the area around the anus.
  • Grooming may play a role in male body image, as many college males report grooming for a drive of muscularity and physical appearance
  •  About one in five men report grooming because it makes their penis look longer, which may be another reason that so many men groom for sex
  • Whether grooming actually decreases perspiration and odor has not been studied.

Risks from pubic hair removal

Considering our current place in human history, removing the hair from your genital area is relatively safe. Of course, one must consider the manner and method used, but overall, it won’t kill you. Also, you should make sure when reading articles about hair removal to separate GROOMING from SHAVING. Grooming usually means a bit of clean-up, trimming around the hedges and making sure the boys look nice and tidy for company.

On the other hand, shaving is exactly what it says on the tin. The total removal of hair from a particular area.

Thomas Gaither, a medical student at the UCSF School of Medicine, has authored or led many of the recent research papers on pubic hair grooming trends in America, including forthcoming studies on habits among males. “If there is anybody who knows things about men’s grooming, it’s me,” he says.

“Most men are trimming, so not removing all of their hair. But there is a select group of men who remove all their hair. If you look at men who have sex with men, they groom much more often than straight men, and they are much more likely to remove all their pubic hair.”

This greater amount of grooming has led to an increase in visits to emergency as well as STI’s. When men remove all their pubic hair, it’s usually with non-electric razors. And the next most common method would be electric razors. The most common injury is little lacerations, and scrotal injuries are very common. For men who have sex with men, they are more likely to groom their anus and report injuries to the anus as well.

If you groom before sex, you might disrupt your epithelial barrier, tissues, including the skin, that protect the body from damage, and you might be more susceptible to things transmitted via the epithelial barrier. So that’s all the sexually transmitted infections that are cutaneous — HPV, genital warts, syphilis.

“The hypothesis is that if [shaving causes] small cuts, and you’re grooming before you have sex, and then you do have sex — you rub up on somebody else — that’s how diseases like HPV are transmitted. They are not transmitted through ejaculations and other secretions the way HIV or gonorrhea are. So we don’t think grooming puts you at higher risk for those diseases. But with HPV, genital warts, syphilis — we think there might be more of an increased risk associated with grooming.”

What does this all mean?

Humans have been grooming their intimate private hair for thousands of years. Societies will see this act go in and out of fashion, and change based on public perceptions, new technologies and inventions. Because pubic hair does not develop until the onset of puberty, it has been, and will always be, viewed with a connection to adulthood, maleness and masculinity. Gay males have travelled differing roads along this highway, teetering from no grooming to full shaving, depending on the era and man in question. And finally, our collective views about pubic hair are, on some level, dictated by the media, advertising, and of course, pornography.

The largest concerns for gay males who choose to groom their nether regions should be on which products they use, their skill in using them and the risks of physical danger they may create. All of this, and any possible positives one may believe occur due to this act, must also be tempered with the knowledge that shaving, especially of and around the anus, carries a great risk of increasing the chances of infection with certain STIs if you use a razor blade and do not wait at least two days before sexual activity.

Finally, this is your body. You and only you should make the decision about what to do with your pubic hair. Gay males are stuck in the middle between deciding what we prefer our own male bodies to look like and what we prefer the bodies of our male sexual partners to look like. These will not always be the same. And that’s ok.

Tags: , , , , , ,