When he walks down the street, there are stares. When he walks into his church, there are scoffs. When he walks into his job, there are questions. The man has several body modifications; a bridge piercing, ¾ inch ears, and a small star tattoo under his left cheek. Does this deem a man dangerous and loathsome? Or is he the embodiment of personal expression? Body modifications stand as an art form because of its expressive and aesthetic properties and its social statement against mainstream society. IA.
Body modification has been most notably apparent in ancient times, however western civilization has modernized this tradition in a fashion trend over the past 40 years or so. Body mods, a slang term for body modification, dates back as far as 5200 years ago since finding and carbon dating an iceman from the Italian-Austrian border (Anderson 1 of 3). Different cultures all around the world have practiced body modification for centuries. From warding off evil, to publicly marking a felon, body mods have respectively served multiple purposes in each culture, both functionally and expressively.
For example, Native Americans have used piercing, tattooing, and even scarification to express their spirituality, and identify different members of certain tribes. In Japan, the Yakuza, also known as gokudo are members of traditional organized crime syndicates in Japan, used the old Irezumi, a Japanese word that refers to the insertion of ink under the skin to leave a permanent, usually decorative mark to decorate their bodies. Irezumi is used to relate characteristics which the person wishes to personify or possess. Piercing has also been a big cultural symbol. People in India pierced their nose to ward off evil. (Muller 2 of 7). During the Victorian times the “dressing ring” or the Prince Albert, named after Queen Victoria’s husband, was allegedly used to chain the male genitalia to the wearer’s leg to overcome embarrassment with tight trousers (Body Piercing 1 of 2). Even the Samoan youth received tattoos from their waist down in puberty ceremonies. These tattoos served as protection (Whitehead 1 of 2). Even though body mods might be new and exotic to the American mainstream, these traditional and sacred practices have influenced spirituality and art though out the centuries.
Today, these rituals and practices hold a different significance among the individuals that chose to participate. Tattoos have become the most popular body mods among people between the ages of 18 and 30 (“Body Art” 2 of 5). Piercing has grown steadily popular with teenage and young adult age groups in the past 10 years (“Body Art” 3 of 5). Why? Because the inspiration and desire to personally express oneself physically has extended to all age groups.
So why would someone modify his or her body? Why change the way he or she looks? It is the exact same reason why people buy jewelry or wear makeup. It is done to enhance a person’s appearance. “The main thing is it makes me happy, first and fore most it makes me feel beautiful and happy in my own skin.” (Unstoppable 1 of 2). A noted face in the modified community is the charming Pauly Unstoppable. Unstoppable holds the world record of DIY body mods. On his website, he explains that he modifies because “its basically how I feel I should look…It makes me feel whole and complete” (1 of 2). Another renowned figure in the modified world, creator of BMEzine, an online magazine devoted to body modification, noted for its coverage of the extreme and fringes of body modification and erotic body play, Shannon Larratt has much to say on why a person may modify themselves. According to Larratt’s interview with Ian Muller in 2008, Larratt sees body modification as “seizing control of how we interface with the world…we communicate who we are, change the way others interact with us, and even change the way the world feels to us” (Muller 3 of 7).
Another reason for modifying is a lot less personal and a...
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