Friday 6th May

| BY 10 Magazine

A Man Looks At Pussy By Glenn O’Brien

It takes a fellow a while to get the lay of the land when he’s in unfamiliar territory. Most of us were probably mystified as to exactly what sort of equipment the other team was playing with for many years, unless we were the bold and enterprising sort who played doctor (or I’ll show you mine if you show me yours), or encountered some sort of atypical senior tutelage that is possibly frowned upon by society, if not downright illegal.

I will freely admit that I, a sisterless child of uptight parents, didn’t know much at all about what I was getting myself into until I actually got there. It came as what you might call a pleasant surprise.

Today, I suppose, education covers a considerably broader range of important information. Young people probably have some idea of what awaits them in that moment of moments, that embrace of embraces. I hope so. It would surely lessen the fumbling and embarrassment for the novices.

Of course, as a youth I caught the occasional glimpse of something. A peek in the girls’ dressing room at camp left little time for taking in the details. Accidentally encountering my friend’s mom naked, or even my own mother, just taught me that whatever they had it was veiled by a bush of hair, an insubstantial but persistent barrier, like clouds over the moon.

Pussy 1

In my adolescence I learned more, thanks to Playboy magazine, observed stealthily at the drugstore, or discovered under stacks of shirts on afternoons in the deserted bedrooms of fathers. But Playboy then was not like it is today. Women wore their pubic hair in all its natural fullness. I suppose they might have given it an occasional snip if it could not be contained in the rather large panties of the day, but generally the muff, bush, or whatever one called it, was uncropped. It was nature, not art.

I did get some clues from art. It proved to be a way to look at hot subject matter while maintaining a high-minded stance. I didn’t discover Courbet’s brave and witty L’Origine du monde until later, but I was always looking for painting or sculpture that depicted what was not conventionally available. Oddly, statuary seemed rarely to depict pubic hair. There are two schools of thought on this. One is that it was simply too difficult to render pubic hair in marble. The other is that the ancients had discovered the Brazilian.

Pubic-hair fashion owes its vagaries to several influences. One was the bikini. As bathing-suit bottoms shrank it only made sense to trim the hair so it didn’t show. The expression “bikini line” came into our vocabulary. The other influence was men’s magazines.

In the early days of Playboy, Hugh Hefner’s magazine did not show pubic hair, which was generally recognised to be the boundary between erotica and pornography. Hef adopted the same strategy painters had used for years to keep the muff out of view. Then came Bob Guccione and Larry Flynt. Guccione was an aspiring artist living in London and, to support himself, he sold back issues of girlie mags by mail. Noting the success of the rather mild Playboy he thought the British market might support a similar project. Penthouse was born. It was an immediate success and, in 1969, Guccione took it to America, where it also sold very well and broke the pubic-hair taboo, introducing “full frontal nudity”. Playboy followed rather timidly nine months later, a wisp here, a tuft there, but didn’t go full frontal until 1972. Guccione always seemed willing to go further than Hefner. But the boundaries were shifting and, soon afterwards, Flynt, a strip-club operator, introduced Hustler magazine; in 1974, Hustler “went pink”, showing for the first time in a mass-circulation magazine what lay beyond the bush. Perhaps he was inspired by the dancers in his clubs, who tended to pay as much attention to the hair below the waist as on the hair above the neck. This gambit was so successful that Penthouse soon followed suit. The vulva, taboo for centuries, was now in the spotlight and as much as outraged moralists tried to put it back in the dark, it was a Pandora’s box. (Joke intended.)

Pussy 2

It seems that women’s habits followed men’s appetites, and began styling their montes pubis with relish. Today we see a variety of styles, but generally speaking the female sexual organs, for centuries shrouded in hair and mystery, have come front and centre. The European leaves a small neatly trimmed patch. The French wax treatment usually results in what’s referred to as the “landing strip”, in which the labia are defoliated but a narrow strip above seems to point down toward the clitoris. The heart is obviously a little hairy valentine. I discovered the heart and other forms of pubic topiary when I was on a journalistic assignment in Jamaica and was forced to stay at a couples resort that had a nude beach. The “moustache” is not some waxed fantasy reminiscent of one, but more a little patch resembling the thing on the Führer’s upper lip. Then, of course, there is the full Brazilian wax, a procedure during which women are made as hairless as prepubescent girls. Which is, perhaps, why I find it disturbing. I know many men like it, but for others there would at least be a token of womanliness left here.

I hate shaving, myself, and I like that the man’s beard has returned to cultural acceptability. Are we not men, as they chanted in the Island of Lost Souls? Shouldn’t we celebrate what differentiates the genders? And I know that women who undergo considerable grooming in this very sensitive area must experience razor burn, ingrown hairs and all the other things that I hated about a clean shave. I don’t like to say things like “God put it there for a reason”, so let’s just say that pubic hair is functional. It is protective. It’s a handy barrier against friction and friction is where the fun comes in. And while some advocate pussy shaving on the grounds of hygiene, in fact it has the opposite effect and irritated skin is more vulnerable to infection. No guy likes to have to pick hairs out of his teeth, but I’d rather do that than deal with a netherlands five o’clock shadow. I would no more want a bush-less main squeeze than I would want a crazy baldhead.

I must say that, every once in a while, I catch a glimpse of a big full bush and I find it kind of thrilling. It’s like an acid flashback, a trip in time back to the good old early days of the sexual revolution. I also find there’s a certain forbidden bohemian allure to a little underarm hair, or legs that are lightly covered with a little blonde fuzz. I remember a teen crush, a beautiful redhead, the light ginger fuzz on her legs glowing in the afternoon sun. I guess it’s the hippie in me. I remember that back in the days of acid and protest I thought that there would be no more bimbos in my lifetime and that women shaving their underarms was stupid. And I remember the stir it caused when Faye Dunaway showed off full underarm hair in Harper’s Bazaar in the early 1970s. She looked cool. Truth be told, it’s kind of a turn-on, and I loved it when Julia Roberts revealed a full underarm in a sequined evening gown. Some of us cats dig those organic, free-range chicks.

Text by Glenn O’Brien
Photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe

Taken from Issue 47 of 10 Magazine