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What do we need pubic hair for?

Pubic hairs, they spring out of swimsuits when you least expect them, get stuck in the soap and demand more attention from personal hygiene than most other areas of the body. They’re not even attractive. But are they relevant anymore? Has pubic hair become as redundant as the tailbone and the wisdom tooth?

Do we need pubic hair anymore ?

In the 1920s  a scientist called Bloch explained that smell, as a sense, was diminishing in humans, whereas sight was becoming more refined. Our natural body odours were influencing our sex life less.

“civilization has to a large extent replaced the natural sexual odours by artificial scents, so-called perfumes, […] to an endeavour to conceal these natural odours, especially when the latter are of a disagreeable character”

By ‘disagreeable character’ Bloch was referring to the prostitutes who were using perfumes in order to excite men.  One of the most common retributions befalling men who used prostitutes was pubic lice – served them right too.  Nowadays the louse is almost extinct as the incidence of pubic hair in the sexually active falls below 20%.  And that again is one of the reasons so much of the Great Art in our galleries shows men and women devoid of pubic hair – it was all about hygiene!!  And it still is.

Skip forward to the next century and the global fragrance market is set to reach $46 billion within the next four years. With so much fragrance around, not to mention hair products and deodorants, our “strong gene attracting body odour” doesn’t stand a chance. Which does tend to raise the question:

What do we need pubic hair for?  The answer is nothing.

Why do we have pubes?

We evolved from apes (depending on which school of thought you come from) and still have about as many hair follicles as a chimpanzee, which does raise the question as to why through evolution our hairy bits are more dense on the head/face, under the arms and in the genital region. In fact, we are the only apes with pubic hair.

Darwin believed that we have hair on our head and face as a way of sexual attraction – you just need to take a look at his beard to see how much he believed in this. As for armpits and genitals we can take the attraction one step further from sight to smell.


We are animals and as animals our existence is attributed to maintaining a strong gene pool. The human body has a number of defence systems. The immune system protects us from infectious attack.  This immune response is regulated by the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). Our body odour, our sexy pheromones, are influenced by the MHC. Studies have suggested that people are attracted to a partner with a very different MHC to their own as this creates more genetically diverse children with a greater ability to fight off disease.

In the past our choice of partner was substantially determined by their smell. And if this smell promised stronger, fitter, more resilient babies then the next biological response was to continue with courtship through to mating.


No one knew about pheromones until research into the behaviour of the Bombykol moth was researched in the 1950s. It was found the female silk moth would secrete a substance that would attract male moths from kilometres away.

“The males are enormously sensitive to it,” says Tristram Wyatt, a zoologist at the University of Oxford. “Just a very few molecules are enough to get the male to fly to the female.”(Source:http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/pheromones-sex-lives/)

Admittedly our pheromones aren’t that potent but essentially a pheromone is a smell produced by the body which advertises our immune system.  If someone who isn’t wearing perfume or aftershave smells good to you then you’re in with a chance.

Our pheromone ‘smells’ get trapped within the pubic area where they fester and become more pungent and in turn more powerful.

In today’s society we adhere to more subtle body smells. If you catch a whiff of someone from 6 foot away and it isn’t their perfume that you’re smelling, then this tends to ring certain alarm bells. Our reaction to pheromones hasn’t changed – we still react to the smell of a loved ones clothes when they’re not in them or a close up sniff of the neck during a nuzzle, we just don’t need a messy patch of antenna to get those ectohormones out there.

Author: Dr Malcolm Willis 




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