I thought of this post when I was in bed, splayed out, using tiny tweezers to pull the hairs growing along what is commonly referred to as the "bikini line": in other words those hairs that trailed from my mons pubis down my inner thigh. I had tried shaving them, which ended up being miserable, and now I was slowly epilating them, one by one. These are the things we do for the sake of sex; also for a sense of propriety, cleanliness, social norms. There are plenty of reasons why we groom, and many of them are related to what we find attractive, and what we enjoy sexually.
One of my first sexual experiences was perched on a branch in a tree between a Toys'R'Us and the swamp that sat aside my high school. My first boyfriend and I were on our lunch break, and he was excitedly moving his hand around in my pants–not very effectively, but it was a first for both of us. Afterwards he asked, trying to sound sexy, "you shaved for me?" I actually hadn't shaved at all, and I'm still unsure how he came to that conclusion. It wasn't until I was dating someone slightly older (on the internet, to boot, oh being a teen in the aughts) that I attempted shaving the region and I came out the other end decidedly displeased.
That's my personal experience, though–many enjoy the act of shaving, whether for aesthetic or practical reasons. Not everyone likes a hairy ballsack in their mouth.
Grooming as a social activity has roots in our primate ancestors, who groom one another as a form of bonding. Today, grooming is both very private and very communal: most pay strangers to groom their hair, wax their assholes, and do their nails, and grooming conventions have changed drastically through the centuries and millennia. The Egyptians were some of the first to bring perfumes, sometimes in the form of wax or fat that was scented and would melt from elaborate hair pieces. The Romans brought plumbing and public baths, which were open to people of all classes. Queen Elizabeth I purportedly died with layers of thick, caked makeup that was built up to cover scarring from disease.
Modern grooming practices in the west come from a variety of sources; advertisement beginning during the Victorian period influenced consumers that were now able to buy mass-produced products thanks to the benefits of increasingly automated manufacture. The science of advertisement has deeply impacted beauty standards in ways that are hard to even begin to quantify. The 20's saw razors marketed to women who were increasingly wearing sleeveless dresses, to "clean" their underarms, and stocking shortages during WWII broke through a consumer base that previously thought leg shaving was unnecessary.
Porn from the golden ages of the 70s with all participants sporting a full bush up through to a time where everyone is waxed and lazered bare has deeply influenced pubic grooming habits. It's also not the first time: in the past, merkins, which were a kind of pubic wig, were used for a variety of reasons starting in the 1450s at the earliest. Women would shave their pubic hair and don a merkin in an attempt to prevent pubic lice, and sex workers reportedly wore them to cover up signs of disease, such as syphilis. Merkins are still used to this day: the bedazzled kind donned by burlesque performers, and those actresses wear to appear period-appropriate during anachronistic sex scenes.
Grooming for sex, for a variety of reasons, has been around since well before history can recall. It's one of those great equalizers, accessible to people of all classes and professions, whether they're an escort getting ready for a client or a teen shaping their scraggly beard and spraying on some Axe before a night making out behind the movie theater.
This kind of grooming extends well beyond how we shave and style our pubic hair, into habits like carrying wipes in our overnight kits and keeping chapstick around in case you're planning on giving someone head. Most people seem to incorporate these kinds of considerations into how they prep for a date or a night over their partner's house.
Advertisements, porn, and media at large have all influenced how and why we groom when we want to look or feel attractive on a deep and relentless scale. My own grooming habits have fluctuated wildly, from a period of time where I refused to shave to one where I dedicate hours to hair and makeup, considerations on lipstick formula for makeouts, favored perfumes, and the previously mentioned tweezing and trimming that's fairly standard for pubic grooming these days. I'm sure those habits will continue to change with my needs, desires, and aesthetic preferences, as many others have experienced.
Grooming is still a deeply felt part of our social dynamics, even if it's being done in the privacy of our bathrooms.