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Re: Help! Prostitutes, VD and pubic hair in Britain

Hi Hera - lovely to hear from you too. And Lesley: The merkin/VD story sounded very implausible to me. I have diligently read all of Walter (I kept thinking at the time, I should be indexing this), and I have no memory of merkins. The story of the merkin as produced by censorship regulation is far more plausible*, given the other distortions of anatomical reality produced by such regulation in our own time.


Re: Help! Prostitutes, VD and pubic hair in Britain

I've heard this put about, that merkins were meant to hide VD symptoms, but have never come across any very definitive evidence (if anyone wants to trawl through e.g. Walter's My Secret Life for any mentions they are welcome, but I think I'll pass). I've come across an entirely different origin story, possibly also in the category of urban legend, that in the USA strippers (or possibly burlesque artists) wore merkins so that they could not be arrested for exposing the genitals, because they were wearing this pubic wig.

Re: Help! Prostitutes, VD and pubic hair in Britain

Dear Laura,
Lovely to hear from you. I would think this is a myth. Practically speaking what symptoms of syphilis would a wig disguise? How would it be attached? In terms of evidence, I wonder if any of the historians of Continental Europe have come across use of pubic wigs? Is there evidence of use of pubic wigs by anyone for anything? Are there examples of them in the Wellcome Collection? If so, where did they come from? Cheers, Hera

Valerie Traub
Mackenzie Cooley

Cooley on Traub, 'Thinking Sex with the Early Moderns'

Valerie Traub. Thinking Sex with the Early Moderns. Haney Foundation Series. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015. 480 pp. $59.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8122-4729-9.

Reviewed by Mackenzie Cooley (Stanford University)
Published on H-Histsex (February, 2016)
Commissioned by Katherine Harvey