Should I part with my pubes or not? It’s a question men are pondering with increased frequency. Many guys feel conflicted about whether they should go full bush, hair-free or somewhere in between. In light of this, let me offer a look at what the research says: how many guys are doing it, how do women feel about it, and what are the potential benefits and risks of going bare down there?

At least among the college crowd, manscaping below the belt appears to be the norm. Consider this: in a study of 439 mostly heterosexual college men published earlier this year in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 87 percent reported some type of pubic hair removal or trimming in the past month.

Older guys are less likely to manscape, and they do it less often. In a more diverse sample of men aged 18-50 published in the journal Body Image, researchers found that just over 30 percent of straight men reported genital manscaping on a monthly (or more frequent) basis.

The results of these studies reveal that not only do manscapers like the look and feel of having a shorn penis and scrotum, but a lot of women seem to appreciate it, too.

Many manscapers say that pubic hair removal enhances genital sensitivity, that it makes sex more comfortable, and that it makes them feel more attractive or sexy. Many guys also like it because it makes their penises look bigger. The shorter the grass, the taller the tree, right?

As part of The Journal of Sexual Medicine study, 671 female college students reported their preferences when it comes to a sexual partner’s pubic hair. Just 3 percent of the women expressed a preference for full bush and another 19 percent said that they did not care one way or another. The rest were evenly divided, with about one-quarter each preferring trimming only, partial shaving/waxing, or completely hair-free. Thus, most young women appear to find some level of pubic hair removal desirable.

I suspect that older women’s preferences would be a little different, such that more would prefer their partners go au naturel. I don’t know of any research addressing this specifically, but it seems logical given other studies finding that older women tend to prefer guys who haven’t manscaped other parts of the body (e.g., the chest), whereas younger women prefer guys who are smooth all over.

So are there any drawbacks to pubic hair removal? Temporary discomfort and shaving injury would appear to be the biggest risks and were reported by many of the college guys in The Journal of Sexual Medicine study mentioned above. For instance, 73 percent reported that they at least sometimes experience genital itching afterward, 48 percent reported occasional genital cuts, and 31 percent reported experiencing genital rashes. However, most reported that the symptoms were minor.

Although rare, pubic hair grooming-related injuries are sometimes serious enough to require medical attention. A recent study published in the journal Urology reports that there were an estimated 11,704 visits to emergency rooms between 2002-2010 linked to pubic hair grooming injuries.

About 43 percent of these incidents involved men, with scrotal injuries being about twice as common as penile injuries. Mostly commonly, these involved lacerations (i.e., cuts) from non-electric razors. However, over 1 in 5 of the injuries resulted from use of scissors. Let me just say that if you’re using scissors to manscape your balls, please stop. Now.

If you’re going to trim or shave, it’s advisable to take some safety precautions.

First, make sure you have the proper tools. For instance, if you’re just looking to trim, consider investing in an electric body groomer with a pubic hair setting (like this one). And if you’re going take it all off, opt for a new and high-quality razor—not that old, dull one sitting by the sink.

Second, use some common sense: don’t manscape after you’ve been drinking, don’t do it in a hurry, and don’t press too hard while you’re doing it.

With all of that said, when it comes to manscaping, the decision is yours and yours alone. Far be it for me to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your pubes. Go bare or go bushy—whatever makes you feel good. But if you decide to take some hair off, just please, for the love of your manhood, step away from the scissors!

Justin Lehmiller, PhD is a sex educator and researcher at Ball State University and author of the blog Sex and Psychology. Follow him on Twitter @JustinLehmiller.

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