Risky business: Is pubic hair removal by women associated with body image and sexual health?

Stephanie L. Grossman, Rachel A. Annunziato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Body hair removal is a behaviour that has become normative among women in Westernised cultures, and is presented by the media as the feminine ideal, despite being painful and a potential cause of infection. Of concern, removal may be part of a more global pattern of appearance dissatisfaction and risky sexual behaviour. The aim of the present study was to examine the relationships among pubic hair removal, body image and sexual health indicators. Methods: Women (n = 264; Mage = 33.82, s.d. = 11.13, range = 18-66) completed self-report questionnaires assessing these constructs, including an assessment of body hair removal practices. Results: Greater appearance concerns (as measured by thin-ideal internalisation, appearance investment and self-objectification) and sexual health indicators (i.e. less condom use self-efficacy when a partner disapproves of condom use) all predicted greater importance of reasons for pubic hair removal (R2 = 0.315, F(8184) = 9.97, P < 0.001), controlling for age groups. Additionally, women who removed a greater amount of hair reported more thin-ideal internalisation and appearance investment than those who removed less hair. Conclusions: Women who express stronger reasoning for pubic hair removal, and remove a larger amount of it, may endorse problematic beliefs and behaviours particularly related to appearance concerns. It is important for practitioners to consider this practice as distinct from grooming and to be aware of its association with a broader array of risky beliefs and behaviours that can compromise women's well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-275
Number of pages7
JournalSexual Health
Volume15
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • pubic hair
  • self-objectification
  • sexual attitudes
  • sexual risk taking

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