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Risky Business: Is Hair Removal by Women Associated with Body Image and Sexual Health?

Stephanie Grossman , Rachel Annunziato

Abstract

Background: Body hair removal is a behavior that has become normative among women in westernized 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 behavior. The aim of the present study was to examine the relationships among pubic hair removal, body image, and risky sexual behaviors. Methods: Women (n = 264; Mage = 33.82, SD = 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 internalization, appearance investment, and self-objectification) and riskier sexual behavior (less condom use self-efficacy) all predicted greater importance of reasons for pubic hair removal (R2 = .31, F(11,182) = 7.52, p < .001). Additionally, women who removed a greater amount of hair reported more thin-ideal internalization and appearance investment than those who removed less hair. Thus, women who express stronger reasoning for pubic hair removal, and remove a larger amount of it, endorse problematic beliefs and behaviors across high-risk areas. Conclusions: These results suggest that pubic hair removal can not only be harmful, but may also be an indicator of concerning attitudes and behaviors in women. 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 behaviors that can compromise women’s well-being.

SH17154  Accepted 25 November 2017

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