Pubic hair

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Pubic hair is hair in the frontal genital area, the crotch, and sometimes at the top of the inside of the legs; these areas form the pubic region. Although fine vellus hair is present in the area in childhood, the term pubic hair is generally restricted to the heavier, longer hair that develops with puberty as an effect of rising levels of androgens on the skin of the genital area

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Development of pubic hair

Before puberty, the genital area of both boys and girls has very fine vellus hair, referred to as Tanner stage 1 hair. In response to rising levels of androgens as puberty begins, the skin of the genital area begins to produce thicker, often curlier, hair with a faster growth rate. The onset of pubic hair development is termed pubarche. The change for each hair follicle is relatively abrupt, but the extent of skin which grows androgenic hair gradually increases over several years.

In most girls, pubic hair first appears along the edges of the labia majora (stage 2), and spreads forward to the mons (stage 3) over the next 2 years. By 3 years into puberty (roughly the time of menarche for most girls), the pubic triangle is densely filled. Within another 2 years pubic hair also grows from the near thighs in most young women, and sometimes a small amount up the line of the abdomen toward the umbilicus.

In boys, the first pubic hair appears as a few sparse hairs on the scrotum or at the upper base of the penis (stage 2). Within a year, hairs around the base of the penis are too numerous to count (stage 3), and within 3 to 4 years, hair fills the pubic area (stage 4), and by 5 years extends to the near thighs and upwards on the abdomen toward the umbilicus (stage 5).

Other areas of the skin are similarly, though slightly less, sensitive to androgens and androgenic hair typically appears somewhat later. In rough sequence of sensitivity to androgens and appearance of androgenic hair, are the armpits (axillae), perianal area, upper lip, preauricular areas (sideburns), periareolar areas (nipples), middle of the chest, neck under the chin, remainder of chest and beard area, limbs and shoulders, back, and buttocks.

Although generally considered part of the process of puberty, pubarche is distinct and independent of the process of maturation of the gonads that leads to sexual maturation and fertility. Pubic hair can develop from adrenal androgens alone, and can develop even when the ovaries or testes are defective and nonfunctional. See puberty for details.

There is little if any difference in the capacity of male and female bodies to grow hair in response to androgens. The obvious sexual dimorphism|sex-dimorphic difference (an effect of prenatal exposure to various exogenous sex hormones) in hair distribution in men and women is primarily a result of differences in the levels of androgen reached as maturity occurs.

Variations

Patterns of pubic hair vary among people. On some people, pubic hair is thick and/or coarse, while on others it may be sparse and/or fine.

Pubic hair and armpit hair can vary in color considerably from the hair of the scalp. In most people it is darker, although it can also be lighter. On many men, pubic hair color is closest to the color of their beards (before their beards start turning white with age), which again can vary from the color of the hair on top of the head. On most women, the pubic patch is triangular and lies over the mons veneris, or mound of Venus. On many men, the pubic patch tapers upwards to a line of hair pointing towards the navel. As with axillary (armpit) hair, pubic hair is associated with a concentration of sebaceous glands in the area.

Like other hair, pubic hair may be infested by lice, with a specific category of pubic lice.

Purpose of pubic hair

It is believed that the functions of pubic hair include the dissemination of pheromones (chemicals that trigger a natural behavioral response in another member of the same species), protection from the friction of sexual intercourse, and to symbolize sexual maturity. Pubic hair and the growth between the tops of the legs and the buttocks, like under arm hair, helps to lubricate the areas, making movement smoother and more comfortable.

Cultural

Attitudes

Attitudes toward pubic hair are similar to those regarding axillary (armpit) hair in that cultural and personal norms can be reflected in reactions ranging from pleasure to revulsion, both for the presence and absence of such hair. As with any sexually charged matter there are persons of both sexes who have strong points of view toward the culturally related issues associated with presence or lack of body hair.

In Japanese drawings pubic hair is often omitted for legal reasons, as for a long time the display of pubic hair was not legal. The interpretation of the law has since changed.

In Islamic societies, removing the pubic hair is a religiously endorsed hygiene practice, ranked along with circumcision, clipping the fingernails, brushing the teeth, etc. In Western societies since the 1960s it has become increasingly common to trim or completely remove pubic hair.

In some Asian societies, such as Korea, a lack of natural pubic hair is sometimes common. In contrast against current Western trends, in these cultures excess pubic hair is often seen as highly desirable. Some have gone as far as having hair surgically transplanted from their head to the genital area to attain the desired amount. [1]

Before the twentieth century, fine-art paintings and sculpture in the Western tradition usually depicted women without either pubic hair or a visible vulva. John Ruskin, the famous author, artist, and art critic, was apparently accustomed to these depictions and unaware of the actual appearance of nude women. On his wedding night, he was allegedly so shocked by his discovery of his wife Effie Gray's pubic hair that he rejected her, and the marriage was legally annulled. Francisco Goya's The Nude Maja was probably the first European painting to show woman's pubic hair, though others had hinted at it.

Some common slang includes bush, muff, curlies, pubes.

Modification of pubic hair

Trimming or completely removing pubic hair has become a custom in many cultures. A preference for hairless genitals is known as acomoclitism. The methodology of removing hair is called depilation (when removing only the hair above the skin) or epilation (when removing the entire hair). The trimming or removal of body hair by men is sometimes referred to as manscaping (male grooming).

Reasoning

Some arguments for modification of pubic hair have included:

  • hygiene, especially during menstruation
  • aesthetic
  • tradition
  • religious
  • sexual practice, such as BDSM cultures or for oral sex

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*Some information provided in whole or in part by http://en.wikipedia.org/

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