A Very Modern Mystery: Indole and Cultural Attitudes Towards Hair Removal


Last week's meeting with the man they call The Nose, Roja Dove, threw up more than freebie fragrances, Neutrogena-product-introductions and a lovely Four Seasons lunch: as we ate we got chatting about all things fragrant and the topic turned to how scent can be used as an attractor. This works on two levels really: one, the knowing brain basically likes the notes in the scent someone is wearing, and two, the limbic system, which is the primitive, sex-fuelled part, picks up on and responds to certain smells because of what they contain; namely pheromones.

Roja revealed that certain flowers like jasmine contain a substance called indole, which, fact fans, is also present at the root of pubic hair. Essentially, indole is a sex attractor and it's one of the things the primitive brain uses as a marker to hone in on when seeking a mate; it's equally what makes some fragrances attractive to the opposite sex.

Scent and attraction is a pretty fascinating topic all on its own, but this got me me thinking (in an urgh, Carrie Bradshaw-style way) about the bizarre state of affairs the modern gal fond of a little garden maintenance finds herself in. We live in a hyper-sexualised society where women can feel pressurised to remove every scrap of body hair, and thanks to the easy availability of porn, it often seems to me we're breeding generations of men who expect women to have bolt-on breasts and completely smooth erogenous zones.


All it takes the average female is a look at her own breasts with natural drop and her oops-I-really-need-to-shave-'em legs to appreciate the fallacy. And the irony of excessive hair removal, is of course, that with the hair gone, so is the sex attractor. The Brazilian-or Hollywood-based contemporary standard of sexiness remains, but hey, you can't fool the limbic system.

Hairy men are seen as virile yet women are pressurised to remove hair - clearly, when you read about the power of  scent and attraction you can see what a double-standard there is, and equally how it's such an artificially- and culturally-constructed one to boot.  Magazines and peer pressure to depilate may tell you one thing about what's considered sexy, but your nose - and your brain - know better.

Interesting, eh?

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