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The pure erotics of Brazilian Waxing

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One of the questions I often get asked when I talk about my research is how much longer I think the trend for full pubic hair removal will last. I’m hesitant to give an exact expiry date if I’m honest. But I think this question opens up into broader discussions about what impact social, political and economic change has upon our bodily surfaces, and how embodied ideals of womanhood and femininity can both shift and remain constant over time. More revealing than any answer I might be able to give about the potential longevity of the Brazilian wax, is the asking of the question itself.  It demonstrates an understanding of pubic hairlessness as ‘current’, constructed, transitory, and it encourages conversation about where the norm has originated from, and why women in particular feel pressured to conform to it. 

My Google Alerts notified me recently of an online survey examining men and women’s pubic hair grooming preferences, undertaken by Cosmopolitan.com, and suggesting that pubic hair…

Consent, “cosmetic” procedures and crime: The case of Ian Paterson

By Melanie Latham and Jean McHale
On 28th April 2017   breast surgeon Ian Paterson was  charged and convicted of 17 counts of wounding with intent under Offences Against the Person Act 1861  in relation to 9 women and one man (Breast surgeon Ian Paterson found guilty of 17 counts of wounding with intent after 'unnecessary operations'). He was in addition convicted in relation to three further wounding charges. Evidence given during his trial was to the effect that he had either exaggerated or invented cancer risks which led to patients deciding to consent to breast surgery. 
From 2003 Paterson’s colleagues had raised concerns regarding his practice. He undertook a practice of cleavage saving mastectomies which had involved leaving some breast tissue with consequent risks of reoccurrence of secondary cancer.  During the trial evidence was given by patients that they had been misled into believing that they were seriously ill and as a consequence were able to agree to surgery (ht…

Attractive celebrities and peers online: What is their effect on our body image?

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When you scroll through Instagram or Facebook nowadays you are bound to come across an abundance of images of thin and attractive women. Although we are accustomed to seeing beautiful women in magazines and on television, social media creates a new opportunity for users to be exposed to idealised images of their peers and their favourite celebrities.

In traditional media, celebrities are presented as beautiful and ideal figures for women to aspire to. But how does exposure to attractive celebrities on social media sites such as Instagram affect women’s body image?  

Instagram in particular is a unique social networking site because its prime focus is on images. Instagram users can edit and filter their images to achieve an ‘ideal’ look, much like magazines photoshopping their images. However, Instagram is more personal than magazines. It presents celebrities and peers together on the same platform, and potentially makes celebrities seem more like friends. Given the rise of Instagram an…

Musings of an unlovable hairy gorilla-woman

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The norm for women to remove visible body hair is perhaps one of the strongest norms of appearance in Western society. Although more and more men are starting to wax and shave, there is still a sense in many social contexts, I think, that this is optional. For women, however, it is viewed as essential in almost all social contexts. From a feminist perspective, this norm can be critiqued in two ways. Firstly, it can be assessed in terms of its effects: women spend time and money removing body hair, time and money they could be spending on other things instead. Moreover, I’m not sure it’s something many women particularly enjoy; from talking to friends about removing body hair, I get the impression that most of them experience it as a chore rather than a treat. Many describe the prospect of not removing body hair as unthinkable. Secondly, it can be assessed in terms of its social meaning. As Sandra Bartky (1990) points out, the hairless female body, which typically occurs naturally only…
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Debra Gimlin: Academic Obituary

The body might be a location of domination, but it is also a tool for resistance and agency in the construction and reconstruction of contemporary selfhood (2002: 149). The benefits of aesthetic procedures are largely outweighed by their cultural meanings and, particularly, by their suggestion of vanity, selfishness and self-indulgence (2012: 2).

Shocks reverberated through sociological and feminist networks as people heard that our much admired and loved colleague Professor Debra Gimlin had unexpectedly died. I expect myself, still, to pick up the phone and hear her deep, slightly lispy Southern Belle accent (after many years in the UK her Texas drawl was still very much a part of her embodiment), to rush off for martinis with her after a long day of conferencing, or to receive one of her quirky and meaningful packages in the post (mine were a bottle of Moët, a pendant necklace in the shape of a vulva, and a pack of razors—I’m sure that other friends have…