Where does merkin come from?
The merkin has been dated back to the 1450s when it was worn by men and women to cover genitals that had been shaved to get rid of lice. It was also used to cover evidence of sexual disease, especially by sex workers, who additionally used merkins to decorate their bodies.
One possible origin of the word merkin is the word malkin, a 17th-century slur for lower-class women (which may ultimately originate from a pet-form of the names Maude or Mary).
Merkins may also have been historically used by European male actors, who would don the pieces in order to portray female roles. The use of merkins in entertainment has continued to this day, with actors on film, stage, and screen wearing merkins, variously realistic and fanciful in appearance, to hide their genitals from view to avoid full-frontal nudity. And, the term isn’t forgotten by the entertainment industry either. Merkin Muffley is the suggestive name of the fictional President of the United States in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove. Others, including male drag performers, may wear them for erotic or dramatic effect.
Who uses merkin?
While merkin isn’t itself considered a vulgar word, some may find its purpose, and thus the term, inappropriate or obscene.
Outside of commercial or personal use, merkin’s sexual associations can lend the word to some irreverent humor, including a play on a more rural pronunciation of American.
Sorry to disappoint you all, but I think it's a crew member fixing Sonequa's pants. Or a merkin from the previous scene. #TribbleInParadise
@jasonsfolly, September, 2017
As an erotic accessory, the Merkin knows no bounds; it can be used by men in drag, or it can act as a decorative object, suggestive of sexual innocence, promiscuity, or any other number of sexually charged meanings.
Dan Hoffman, Thought Catalog, March, 2011
Comedy terrorist Aaron Barschak has another claim to fame - he's put the merkin back in the spotlight. Before his royal gatecrash, the prankster amused crowds and cameramen outside Windsor Castle by lifting his pink ball gown to reveal a luxuriant, black pubic wig - making him the latest in a long history of merkin-wearers.
Gareth Francis, Guardian, June, 2003