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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

What’s your attitude about body hair removal?

New study lays bare cultural reasons around the globe for bikini waxing and man-scaping.

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As beachgoers scramble to trim their nether regions ahead of swim season, new UNLV research shows they aren’t alone in their ambitions for a bare bikini line.

A study led by UNLV anthropology graduate student Lyndsey Craig and co-authored by professor Peter Gray combed through written records from the 1890s to early 2000s from nearly 200 societies around the world to figure out how pubic hair removal practices differ from Western societies and the motives behind it.

The study, Pubic Hair Removal Practices in Cross-Cultural Perspective, was published in the April 2019 issue of SAGE Publications’ Cross-Cultural Research, a journal of comparative social science.

Existing research had already found that in the cultural West, it’s typically women who sport shorn slopes – about 84% in the US alone compared to 66% of men. In those studies, both genders cited the influence of pornography and of product marketing for waxing salons and depilatory creams as the main motivating factors in choosing to remove their pubic hair. Other factors include partner expectations, oral sex practices, peer pressure to conform to cultural norms, the desire to feel sexy and self-confident, perceived hygiene concerns, and the association of pubic hair with feelings of disgust and uncleanliness.

Meanwhile, research on non-Western cultures has been scarce. For a majority of the 72 societies that UNLV researchers found to specifically mention pubic hair removal or retention, it turned out that women were similarly more likely than men to lop off their lower locks. Their most common motive, however, was actual hygiene concerns (prevention of lice, ticks, and irritation) rather than perceived thoughts about cleanliness. Other reasons included cultural beliefs that pubic hair is ugly and social signaling to mark ocassions such as marriage or a couple’s return to a vibrant sex life following mourning over a deceased child. A few mythological texts referenced using the stray strands to craft archery strings, mix into medicines, or perform rituals or spells.

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While Westerners tend to shave or wax, the most common method used by non-Westerners of both sexes was plucking with the fingers or make-shift tweezers fashioned from bamboo or shells. Other methods included plucking by a spouse or a same-sex person of lower status.

None of the non-Western societies were influenced by porn or product marketing, though researchers point out that the majority of the literature examined was from the 1930s through the 1960s, so the societies likely didn’t have access to porn, pubic hair removal ads, or even modern razors.

But researchers say the study shows how globalization might influence attitudes about the hair… down under.

For example, the Amhara society’s religious doctrine initially required that men prune their pastures with razors and women by plucking; the reverse was unforgivable. But once the European razor blade was introduced to the Eastern African region, women started shaving and men stopped removing their pubic hair at all.

“Given inferences that ancestral sexual selection pressures shaped the development and display of human pubic hair for visual and olfactory ends, why have humans often sought to partially or completely remove it?” the researchers wrote. “We suggest that … pubic hair removal practices enable humans to communicate information of sociocultural salience, such as signifying whether one is sexually active. One might draw parallels with how human head hair, armpit hair, tattoos, or male beards enable similar biocultural expression.”

The UNLV researchers additionally hypothesize that women’s pubic hair removal practices serve as important signals of receptivity to a partner’s sexual advances.

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But if you’re quite fond of your forbidden forest, no problem.

Not all the societies surveyed endorsed pubic hair removal. The Igbo people of Western Africa considered pubic hair for both men and women a source of pride, the Shona in Southern Africa viewed hair growth as a symbol of fertility, and the Kwoma people of Oceania called pubic hair – especially the “thickest and most luxuriant” kind – a “traditional mark of female beauty.”

Health & Wellness

Sexual minority women more likely to engage in high-intensity binge drinking

Sexual minority women, whether defined on the basis of sexual attraction, behavior, or identity, were more likely than sexual majority women to engage in high-intensity binge drinking.

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Sexual minority women, whether defined on the basis of sexual attraction, behavior, or identity, were more likely than sexual majority women to engage in high-intensity binge drinking. This is according to a study done by Jessica N. Fish and published in LGBT Health.

The study, “Sexual Orientation-Related Disparities in High-Intensity Binge Drinking: Findings from a Nationally Representative Sample“, eyed to assess sexual orientation differences in high-intensity binge drinking using (American) nationally representative data.

Data used were from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions III (N = 36,309), a nationally representative sample of US adults collected in 2012–2013. Sex-stratified adjusted logistic regression models were used to test sexual orientation differences in the prevalence of standard (4+ for women and 5+ for men) and high-intensity binge drinking (8+ and 12+ for women; 10+ and 15+ for men) across three dimensions of sexual orientation: sexual attraction, sexual behavior, and sexual identity.

As per the researcher (and as stated): “Sexual minority women, whether defined on the basis of sexual attraction, behavior, or identity, were more likely than sexual majority women to engage in high-intensity binge drinking at two (adjusted odds ratios [aORs] ranging from 1.52 to 2.90) and three (aORs ranging from 1.61 to 3.27) times the standard cutoff for women (4+).”

Sexual minority men, depending on sexual orientation dimension, were equally or less likely than sexual majority men to engage in high-intensity binge drinking.

The results suggest that differences in alcohol-related risk among sexual minority individuals vary depending on sex and sexual orientation dimension.

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NEWSMAKERS

‘Promotion of inclusive human rights just as important in the digital age’ – BC

Michael David Tan said that “there is a disconnect between what’s online and what’s happening on the ground. And this stresses one thing: The need to not solely rely on making it big digitally, but also go beyond the so-called ‘keyboard activism’.”

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“True development in the digital age can only happen if it’s truly inclusive.”

So said Michael David C. Tan, executive director of Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. and concurrent editor in chief of Outrage Magazine, during a conference on human rights and the Internet organized by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA).

“While the United Nations (UN) now considers Internet access as a human right, it doesn’t automatically mean it is already accessible to all,” Tan said. “The goal, therefore, particularly of service providers, is to ensure that access to Internet becomes widespread and even becomes normal. Only then will it be truly become inclusive.”

Themed “Between the Web We Have and the We We Want: Recollection, Renewal, Reboot”, the conference was in line with this year’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Philippine Internet. The conference gathered more than 75 participants from the CHR and civil society organizations representing different sectors and advocacies, media organizations and the academe.

According to Commissioner Karen S. Gomez-Dumpit of CHR, “We are faced with a population that is totally dependent on the internet already. (But) although the Internet has been seen as an effective platform to promote human rights, violations against the rights and freedoms of users have grown exponentially. The Internet as a fast evolving platform demands some regulations to ensure that rights to expression and privacy of individuals are protected.”

Gomez-Dumpit added: “Personally, I believe that we cannot have an untrampled access to all these technologies without any form of regulation… We need to have safeguards in order to address several issues concerning human rights like gender-based violence, child pornography, and proliferation of fake news, among others. Thus, we need to revisit how we better protect our rights online.”

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The Philippines had 69.6 million internet users in 2017; with the figure expected to grow to 93.7 million by 2023 (Statista).

This is obviously “good and bad,” said Tan.

In the case of the LGBTQIA community for example (and in particular), “we now know of Pride events, even if many of them are really just big commercial, for-profit parties/gatherings. We also know of LGBTQIA couples, such as Ice Seguerra and Liza Dino.”

But Tan said that “there is a catch. For example, we may have heard that Ricky Reyes was sued by a former employee for HIV-related discrimination. But not many know that Renato Nocos, the PLHIV involved, was kicked out of his house, disowned by family members before finding his footing again.” Similarly, “we may know of Jennifer Laude; but not of the other hate crimes committed against LGBTQIA Filipinos. Many of these were gruesome murders.”

Tan said that “there is a disconnect between what’s online and what’s happening on the ground. And this stresses one thing: The need to not solely rely on making it big digitally, but also go beyond the so-called ‘keyboard activism’.”

There is also a need to “go back to basics,” Tan said. In Outrage Magazine’s dealings with members of the GBTQIA community in non-metropolitan areas, for instance, “we’ve been repeatedly told ‘We don’t even have electricity yet, and you expect us to have Internet connection?’”

For Tan, this means that “technology just isn’t available for everyone… yet.”

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For Lisa Garcia, FMA executive director: “We (also) need to put human rights at the core of technology. It’s what we call human rights by design. Technology is there to make things better for us. It should not be used to work against us, or to harass us. Human beings designed technology, and as such, it is possible to design the kind of technology that is responsible to our needs. And it is possible for us to shape the kind of Internet that we want.”

Garcia also emphasized that there is a need for “all of us to be involved, so that all our voices can be heard. As more and more Filipinos go online, we have to make people aware that our rights remain the same. The Internet is just a medium, it is just a space. But that is the only thing that has changed, and our rights remain.”

The CHR and FMA event was supported by the Governance in Justice for Human Rights or GOJUST Human Rights Project of the European Union (EU) and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation’s (AECID).

In the end, Tan stressed, “always think of inclusivity when looking at the digital world. Otherwise, we end up mimicking online the flaws of everything offline.”

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Travel

Ecuador passes same-sex marriage

With the decision by the Constitutional Court, Ecuador joins a handful of Latin American nations – including Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia and Uruguay – that have legalized same-sex marriage either through judicial rulings, or less frequently, legislative action.

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Ecuador became the latest country to allow same-sex marriage, with five of nine judges in the country’s top court ruling in favor of two gay couples who sued after their request to be married was denied by the country’s civil registry.

With the decision by the Constitutional Court, Ecuador joins a handful of Latin American nations – including Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia and Uruguay – that have legalized same-sex marriage either through judicial rulings, or less frequently, legislative action.

Also with this development, the Latin American nation is now the 27th country to allow same-sex marriage.

In Asia, still only Taiwan became the first territory in Asia to pass same-sex marriage.

There are still 68 nations where homosexual relations are illegal.


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Travel

Brazilian Supreme Court criminalizes homophobia, transphobia

Brazil has actually already legalized same-sex marriages. But violence in the country toward LGBTQIA people remains common, with 387 murders and 58 suicides happening in Brazil in 2017 due to “homotransphobia” or negative feelings towards homosexuals or transsexuals, according to Grupo Gay da Bahia.

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Brazil’s Supreme Court voted to criminalize anti-LGBTQIA discrimination, with eight of Brazil’s 11 Supreme Federal Court (STF) justices ruling to include homophobia and transphobia within the country’s laws prohibiting racism.

The country’s laws banning racism were passed in 1989, allowing for sentences of up to five years. The new clause would legally protect the country’s LGBTQIA community, which actually still has some of the highest rates of violent LGBTQIA deaths in the world.

With the Supreme Federal Court (STF) decision, the Congress – which is held by a conservative majority and is strongly influenced by evangelical churches – may still pass a law specifically addressing such discrimination.

Justice Carmen Lucia Antunes argued in her ruling that the LGBTQIA community is treated differently in Brazil’s “discriminatory society,” and as a result, it faces a higher rate of violence. “All human beings are born free and equal and should be treated with the same spirit of fraternity”.

Brazil has actually already legalized same-sex marriages. But violence in the country toward LGBTQIA people remains common, with 387 murders and 58 suicides happening in Brazil in 2017 due to “homotransphobia” or negative feelings towards homosexuals or transsexuals, according to Grupo Gay da Bahia (GGB). For 2019, at least 141 have already been killed.

The Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, has also been very vocal about his anti-LGBTQIA sentiment, claiming that the Supreme Court was “completely wrong” and had overstepped its powers, moving into legislative territory.

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In a 2011 interview with Playboy Brazil, Bolsonaro said he would rather have a dead son than a gay son. He was also quoted as saying that that they could not let Brazil become a “paradise for gay tourism”.

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Travel

High Court in Botswana rules to decriminalize same-sex relations

In particular, the judges stated that “a democratic society is one that embraces tolerance, diversity and open-mindedness”, as well as highlighting that discrimination serves to hold back not only LGBTIQ people, but society as a whole by stating that “societal inclusion is central to ending poverty and fostering shared prosperity.”

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On 11 June 2019, a full bench of the High Court of Botswana ruled to remove a relic of its colonial past by striking down section 164(a) and (c), and section 167 of the penal code, which criminalize same-sex relations, or “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”, and prescribe a prison sentence of up to seven years for those found guilty.

The court unanimously ruled that the provisions are discriminatory, against public interest and unconstitutional. 

In particular, the judges stated that “a democratic society is one that embraces tolerance, diversity and open-mindedness”, as well as highlighting that discrimination serves to hold back not only LGBTIQ people, but society as a whole by stating that “societal inclusion is central to ending poverty and fostering shared prosperity.”

With this decision, the court continued its record of recognizing the human rights of LGBTIQ people in the country. In 2014 the High Court ruled that the government had to allow the registration of LEGABIBO, an LGBTIQ organization. And in 2017, in two separate cases – one concerning a trans man, and the other a trans woman – the High Court ruled that the refusal of the National Registration to change the gender marker of trans people violates their rights to dignity, privacy, freedom of expression, equal protection under the law.  

With this ruling Botswana joins Angola, Mozambique, India, Trinidad and Tobago and other countries that also recently struck down similar colonial-era laws. However, there are still numerous countries that maintain this discriminatory colonial-era relic, including places such as Singapore, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Kenya, where the High Court ruled last month to maintain the barbaric law.

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In the Scene

Vienna comes to Manila to celebrate pride, diversity and equality

Under the theme “LGBTQIA+ Greatness in Leadership and the Arts” the Austrian Embassy and its partners Frontrow Philippines and Love Is All We Need bring together Austrian and Filipino equality advocates from the disciplines of photography, visual arts, fashion and makeup, performance art, film and music in a celebration of diversity, unity and equality.

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Austria stands together with the Philippines against gender-based discrimination and violence at its first-ever MNLxVIE Equality Fest, a five-day campaign championing the LGBTQIA+ community through creative activism.

“On this 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Austria continues to take a strong stance against isolation, hatred and discrimination, while honoring self-affirmation, dignity and equality: We are more than our borders. We are more than the languages we speak and the color of our skin. We are more than our gender and who we want to love. This was the mission statement and message that EuroPride 2019 hosted in Vienna this Pride Month successfully delivered. Today, we look back on a great deal of progress, but all along in the sober realization that there is still a way to go. And our ambitions are not restricted to just one country: because LGBTQIA+ rights are human rights – and as Austria we will always stand up for them all over the world,” said Austrian Ambassador Bita Rasoulian.  

Under the theme “LGBTQIA+ Greatness in Leadership and the Arts” the Austrian Embassy and its partners Frontrow Philippines and Love Is All We Need bring together Austrian and Filipino equality advocates from the disciplines of photography, visual arts, fashion and makeup, performance art, film and music in a celebration of diversity, unity and equality.

On June 25 the festival opens with a launch party at Tarzeer Pictures, Makati, by Amb. Rasoulian and equal rights advocates RS Francisco and Queenmelo Esguerra. The launch is accompanied by the photo exhibit “RECORD, RECORD” on Austria’s LGBTQIA+ history and excerpts from the book “Anong Pangalan Mo Sa Gabi?” by UP Babaylan, Babaylanes, Inc. and UP Center for Women’s and Gender Studies,  as well as works by renowned and upcoming local LGBTQIA+ photographers. Flying in straight from Austria to join the festival are Austrian intersex rights activist Noah Rieser, filmmaker Gregor Schmidinger and drag queen Tamara Mascara.

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On June 26, the Intramuros Administration unveils a Pride-themed public mural. Situated across Museo de Intramuros, the art work is a collaborative project of the Austrian Embassy, Austrian artist Katharina Kapsamer and Salzburg Global Forum fellow Ralph Eya.

On June 26, drag queen Tamara Mascara, heading cosmetics giant MAC’s Viva Glam online campaign for Pride month in the Philippines, performs at Tomatito, BGC with Filipino queens MC Black, Precious Paula Nicole and Queen Viña! Don’t miss Tamara on June 28 as DJane at XX:XX’s Elephant Night closing party.

On June 27, intersex activist Noah Rieser leads the panel “LGBTQIA+ Greatness in Leadership: An Equality Talk” on Austria’s recent legislation allowing for a third gender option in legal documents. Joining him at the De la Salle-College of Saint Benilde are Myla Escultura of Intersex Philippines, 2018 bar topnotcher Sean Borja and Filipino artist fellows of the Salzburg Global Forum Reymart Cerin, Mark Salvatus, Andrei Venal and filmmaker Cha Roque.

On June 27, Austrian filmmaker Gregor Schmidinger in cooperation with the FDCP premieres his film “NEVRLAND” in Manila at the Cinematheque Centre.

On June 28, Schmidinger and renowned Filipino filmmakers Joel Lamangan, Moira Lang and Samantha Lee discuss LGBTQIA+ films in a Q&A at the UP Film Institute.

On June 29, the MNL-VIE Equality Fest culminates with the Metro Manila Pride March, where Amb. Rasoulian and all festival participants and partners march with The Red Whistle campaign #FuelTheLove and #ExtinguishTheStigma.

MNLxVIE Equality Fest 2019 is supported by the UP Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, UP Babaylan, Babaylanes, Inc., Benilde Hive and The Red Whistle; with the support of EuroPride Vienna 2019, MAC Cosmetics Philippines, Intramuros Administration, Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), Digi Ads and Think Big Events; and venue partners Tarzeer Pictures, Tomatito Manila, UPFI Film Center – Cine Adarna, Cinematheque Centre Manila, SoFA Design Institute and XX XX.

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