As for the history of this accoutrement, I quote from The Guardian (June 26/2003):
The Oxford Companion To The Body traces the merkin back to 1450, a time when the bidet was a distant prospect and personal hygiene fell well short of the mark. Pubic lice were common - so some women, fed up with the constant itching, just shaved the lot off and then covered their modesty with a merkin.
Prostitutes, too, were frequent wearers. In the days before penicillin, it didn't take long to become infected with sexually transmitted diseases. They knew it was no work, no pay, and didn't want to scare the customers off with their syphilitic pustules and gonorrhoeal warts. So the merkin was used as a prosthesis to cover up a litany of horrors.
The Uncyclopedia adds: Etymologically, the word is believed to be derived from malkin, meaning "mop." Not only did this hairpiece do duty as a pubic wig, but the merkin, apparently, was used to mop floors (or, possibly, just to "mop up" after sex).
While lice and syphilis may be something of the past, the merkin still crops in modern settings. The Guardian goes on to point out that these wigs remain largely the preserve of sexual fetishists and adds that the Oxford Companion says this piece of "female finery" is also an "essential piece of the serious drag queen's wardrobe".
I discovered that the movie industry makes good use of merkins. Contracts may include clauses about no nudity or no frontal nudity so a strategically placed merkin means the contract is respected while the viewing public gets their thrill. Also in these days of less is more, I mean in these days of Brazilian waxes and small "landing strips", the movie industry has made actresses wear a merkin so the, ah, shrubbery is native to the era in question.
How is a merkin worn? They can be woven into a mesh which is stuck to the skin with spirit gum or attached to a transparent g-string. They can be made from fibres or real human hair. Coming back to drag queens who may be putting on a show, it seems some may even come equipped with lights or glow-in-the-dark paint.
10 Famous Merkins in the Movies (NSFW)
"The Frisky", an online magazine about entertainment news ran this article with photos of the merkin in action. Kate Winslet in The Reader, Sasha Grey in Entourage, Heidi Klum in Blow Dry, Kim Cattrall in Sex and the City, various extras in “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay”, etc., all show this bit of costume doing its part to lend an air of realism to the cinematic proceedings. These are all professionals; this isn't the bush league, you know. - I already hate myself for saying that.
By the way, the acronym NSFW stands for Not Safe For Work. If you see this in an email, the author is telling you NOT to open this if there is a risk of somebody walking by and viewing your computer screen.
Six Possible Uses of a Pubic Wig aka Merkin
A web site called "Wigs Expert" shows the tagline, "For you, we do the research and advise about wig and hairpieces...". So, here's their expert opinion.
1. Sexual stimulation.
Some women use a pubic artificial hair to stimulate their partner prior to sexual intercourse. These days, ladies wigs are already made inventively to rouse sexual appetite. When in the past merkins were made out of a simple hair, nowadays, available pubic wigs are available in different designs and colors. Some have even psychedelic lights to make sexual encounters even more exciting.
2. Fetish satisfaction.
Some people just get sexually aroused and even achieve sexual gratification by mere touching the subject of his fetish. Since merkins are made of fine fibers or human hair, touching it or getting close contact with it can enhance sensory experience.
3. Artistic purposes.
For movies that has scenes that require nudity or private part exposure, a pubic wig is often used to meet the regulatory standards of censorship. The use of wigs in private body areas would inhibit actors and actresses from performing full frontal nudity and would also protect them from any form of sexual harassments or unwanted genital contact with other actors or actresses they are making scenes with.
4. Fashion statement.
Female wigs have also penetrated the fashion industry. When the use of pubic artificial hair in the past was associated with strip teasers and nightclub dancers, all these negative notions were changed when top models ramped down the fashion runway with nothing but their pubic artificial hair on. The use of wig on the pubis has become even more acceptable especially when the pubic hair were designed by famous designers such as Gianni Versace.
5. Perfect props for drag queens.
A pubic artificial hair, since it has been publicly used and has become widely accepted, has become a drag queen’s best friend Using a wig on the pubis would cover the wearer or the drag queen's manhood. To make wigs for the pubis more attractive and decent looking instead of portraying lewdness, various designs were created by drag queens. As an alternative to the usual plain black mound of hair on the pubis, drag queens made designs such as sunflower, heart, velvety hair like that of a troll, leaves, and other wholesome figures.
6. Body decoration or costume.
Another usual purpose of a pubic wig is to decorate the body or accentuate the genitals on special occasions or parties without appearing cheap or vulgar.
Oh, I don't know. What's the matter with cheap and vulgar?
The article ends with this highlighted note: Did you know! If used properly and artistically, a wig for the pubis can enhance your figure and your sex appeal.
I'm proud to be an Merkin
The alt.usage.english newsgroup adds to the discussion of this word the alternative meaning of "American". Dating back to the 1960s, this half-swallowed pronunciation of American or rather 'mercian particularly associated with President Lyndon Johnson, came into vogue, and the fact that it had a "naughty" meaning didn't hurt. They go on to point out: One of Peter Sellers' roles in Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film Dr. Strangelove was U.S. President Merkin Muffley. This gets two risqué locutions past the censor at once, since "muff" is another slang term for female genitals or pubic hair.
Another word for wig is postiche. Can I make an alliteration by saying pubic postiche?
I was trying to think of words that rhyme with merkin and thought of gherkin which reminded me of a limerick.
There was a young fellow named perkin
Who was always jerkin his gherkin
His father said perkin
Stop jerkin your gherkin
Your gherkins fer ferkin not jerkin
Of course, I always enjoyed this variation of the above.
There once was a young fellow named Perkin
Who always was jerkin his gherkin
Says the wife to young Perkin
"Quit jerkin' yer gherkin,
Yer shirkin' yer ferkin' ya bastard!"
And finally, I found this variation which recalls the original purpose of this postiche.
A hairless young harlot named Perkin
When asked why she favoured a merkin,
Replied in a trice
“It’s nice for the lice,
Who else would have nowhere to lurk in”
Buying a merkin
I have found several references to an online company called Merkin World but they now seem to have disappeared. Too bad. Some of what I found about them: Merkin World offers several sassy fashions for merkin wearers, including wigs shaped like a Valentine's heart, a happy face, a bull's eye, a rainbow (for lesbians), a bunny, and an 8 ball. The company also creates merkins to the specifications of customer's own designs.
Other than that, there doesn't seem to be much if anything on the web. Wilshire Wigs & Accessories in North Hollywood, California, has but one offering.
I shared the laugh of discovering vajazzling (see my blog Be dazzling With Vajazzling) and this person told me about the word "merkin". Considering that "there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9), I should probably always start with the idea that no matter what comes across my desk that is new to me, it is probably something which has been around for a while. I live such a sheltered life.
A pictorial of Merkins - Jan 2010
The Uncyclopedia: Merkin
Etymologically, the word is believed to be derived from malkin, meaning "mop." Not only did this hairpiece do duty as a pubic wig, but the merkin, apparently, was used to mop floors (or, possibly, just to "mop up" after sex).
Where can I buy a Merkin? by DrThrottling - Nov 27/2009
My wife has had an unfortunate accident at the waxing parlour.
N.B. - I found these groups but judging by the dates on the last entries on the wall, nobody is visiting them.
Facebook: Merkin Appreciation Society
Facebook: The Purple Merkin Society
Facebook: National Affiliation of Merkin Enthusiasts (NAME)
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