"You can't really tell how soft it is until a woman waxes. Oh my God, you can't believe how soft it is when you wax," 28-year-old Mark gushed. "It's extremely, extremely soft, so it feels great when you have sex."
Pinto's past boyfriends, she says, would wholeheartedly agree. "Once, I started dating someone when I hadn't waxed in a while," she says, "And then when I did, he went, Oh! This is awesome! Why didn't you do this before?!"
"That was my senior year of high school," she adds. "So every month I would text him, 'Guess who's getting a wax!' And he'd be like, 'Smiley face, so excited!'"
Many men, like Bob Fitzpatrick, a finance student at the University of Michigan, are more likely to perform oral sex on a female partner if she has no pubic hair.
"If she's seeking for you to pleasure her and you have pubic hairs in your mouth, you're not going to be pleased with that," the 21-year-old says. Fitzpatrick, a bright, chatty Lake Forest, Illinois, native who's paired off with a casual-but-exclusive significant other, says he prefers a clean-shaven or fully waxed mons pubis, and giggles as he recalls one particularly dismaying encounter. "I was like, Oh no, five o'clock shadow?! This is gonna be itchy on my face!"
* * *
Although sex, hygiene, and clothing are all contributing factors, Fitzpatrick, Herbenick, and Pinto all agree that there's one main driving force behind America's villainization of pubic hair: pornography.
When a team of researchers from George Washington University took a closer look at Playboy's representations of women's genitalia throughout the years, they found that in issues dating from the magazine's inception in 1953 up through the 1970s and '80s, more than 95 percent of the centerfolds and naked models sported full, apparently natural pubic hair.
In the late 20th century, though, that changed. As Joseph Slade, professor of media and culture at Ohio University, puts it, the media legitimized voyeurism and turned it into a way of life; suddenly, porn viewers wanted to see everything more deeply and without the veil of hair. Thus, Playboy's love affair with the au naturel look faded: By the 1990s, more than a third of the models appeared to have removed some of their pubic hair. And in the new millennium, less than 10 percent of nude models now sport the full pubic bush, while a third remove their hair partially and one-quarter remove it completely. Playboy has trimmed down the standard from the un-modified, detail-obscuring "fur bikini" it helped popularize in the 1960s to the vanishing act it promotes today.
Hugh Hefner's magazine, however, isn't the only supporter of the tress-less treasure chest. Rather, says Slade, genital alopecia seems to have hit the entire adult entertainment industry. "Depilation took hold in visual porn in the 1990s, though some actresses trimmed for movies before then," Slade says. "It was easier to keep crotches cleaner on the set. But certainly the practice is widespread in video porn today. Enough so that backlash has created a niche fetish for 'full bushes.'"