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07/04/2013

Sex and the City thanked for extinction of pubic lice

Carrie
Dubiously, the imminent extinction of the pubic louse has been pinned on the Brazilian waxing habits of Carrie Bradshaw, the main character of Sex and the City.

 

I never thought I'd write anything that combined Sex and the City, pubic lice, and the British Assocation of Dermatologists (B.A.D.). Here goes nothing.

Before we get started though, B.A.D. really wants me to mention their annual conference. And I quote:

"If using this presentation, please ensure you mention that it was given at the British Association of Dermatologists’ Annual Conference. The conference will be held at ACC Liverpool from July 9th to 11th 2013, and is attended by approximately 1,300 UK and worldwide dermatologists and dermatology nurses."

Done and done.

Dermatologists at the aforementioned conference plan to "hypothesise" next week that the pubic louse (Pthirus pubis) is going extinct because women everywhere are going hairless because Brazilian bikini waxing became popular because Carrie Bradshaw did it in one episode of Sex and the City.

Unfortunately, the brief press release on B.A.D.'s website doesn't offer any data showing how the dermatologists know more women are more hairless, or how they can conclusively pin this on a single episode of a single television show. They are just "hypothesise"-ing, after all. 

The new "hypothesis" does, however, provide a convenient launching pad for pithy press-release writing. I quote again:

"Much like the panda, pubic lice are being threatened with extinction due to the disappearance of their natural habitat. However this is due to deforestation of another kind - the increased popularity of ‘Brazilian waxing’."

Happily, the press release does include data on pubic lice infestations. Incidence rose to 3.2 per cent in 1964 from 0.8 per cent a decade earlier, a rise blamed on "sexual freedom." But from 1997 to 2003 prevalence dropped to 0.17 per cent from 0.41 per cent. (What happened in those intervening decades? I don't know. I'm not a dermatologist, or a pubic-lice-ologist, or a writer of pithy press releases.)

Oh here's another fact: archaeologists have discovered evidence of pubic lice as early a 1 A.D. Cool!

That's about it for fact-type-stuff though. Here's a quote instead:

”Pubic hair removal has been practised by humans for thousands of years, by cultures from all over the world, including the Ancient Egyptians. However, until recently, with the rise of truly global mass media, pubic lice have been able to weather changing cultural attitudes to body hair.

“What we have seen at work is the law of unintended consequences, in popularising hair removal Carrie Bradshaw and co. have contributed to ridding humanity of pest that had plagued humans for millions of years. Sadly there isn’t an Emmy for that”.

That's from Dr. Kun Sen Chen, one of the hypothesisers/authors of the presentation.

Hat tip to Marina Hyde for the pointer. As Hyde points out in her column over at the Guardian, you know it's summer when the PR "news releases" in your inbox start looking like this.

Kate Allen is the Toronto Star's science and technology reporter. Find her on Twitter at @katecallen.

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