What is body modification?

Before we can really start discussing something, we first have to know what it is. So what, exactly, is body modification?

Body modification is defined, quite literally, as the act of modifying or altering your physical body. In this context, it usually means changing the body for aesthetic, personal, sexual, social or other non-medical reasons. Examples of medical body modification would be pacemakers, false knees and hips, permanent dental replacements, etc. Circumcision could even be considered a medical body modification, not a personal one, but that’s a pretty controversial subject that we’re not going to get into here. Maybe some other time.

Body modification, in the context most people know and which will be discussed here, is tattoos, piercings, scarification, branding, implantation, among others. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that anything, ANYTHING that alters your body and it’s appearance is body modification. Cutting your hair is a body modification, wearing makeup is a body modification, cutting your nails is, hair dye is as well, breast implants, dental braces, body building or even just working out and toning up is a body modification, tanning (natural or artificial), Botox, face lifts, tummy tucks, ALL of this is body modification. You do it every day, even if you don’t realize it.

Why do people get modified? There are many reasons people feel the desire, sometimes even need, to alter their bodies. Some do it for personal reasons, they’ll feel closer to their “ideal self” with the modification. Some do it for purely aesthetic reasons, some just think the modification is pretty or cool or otherwise pleasing to their eye. Some do it to enhance their sexual experience or performance. Others do it to fit in, to identify with a certain subculture or group and feel like they belong. Whatever your reasons are, they’re 100% personal, and I am certainly not here to judge people’s choices in that respect. I personally don’t have to like what they’ve chosen, the artwork, the subject matter, or anything like that, but I am not judging the person wearing it one bit.

WHO gets modified? Everybody, in one form or another. It’s not just for sailors, convicts and bikers anymore. If you have your earlobes pierced, you are modified. If you cut your hair or fingernails, you are modified. Some modifications are just more temporary than others, but you are still modifying your body, so that makes it a body modification. Some mods are just further down the spectrum of intensity and permanency than others.  You’d be surprised how many people are actually modified. Your doctor could have a full back tattoo. Your lawyer could have a Prince Albert. Your favorite grocery clerk could have stretched ears, or her septum pierced. Not all modifications are obvious and brightly colored.

When does modification become mutilation? Honestly, my response to this is when it ends up being detrimental to your everyday life and your enjoyment of it. Mutilation, to me, means it’s harmful, or negative. I believe cutting is mutilation, if you do it out of depression or as a coping mechanism, because it’s a negative response or done with negative feelings. Tattoos, I believe, are to improve the person wearing them, same with piercings, implants, professional scarification, etc. They’re done to beautify the person wearing them, to make them feel more “complete” as a person.

How much is too much? That’s 100% relative. Who am I to tell someone they’re done decorating their skin? Some will stop with basic earlobe piercings, maybe a helix or two. Some will stop only when they’re dead, or run out of skin, whichever comes first. It’s up to you to decide when you’re done, when you’re “complete”. Don’t let anyone else tell you when you should stop, or that you shouldn’t even start. It’s not for THEM to decide, so long as you’re an adult.

So modification is much more common than most people would think. It’s not always subdermal horns, gigantic devil tattoos, and obnoxious facial piercings. Everyone performs some sort of body modification every day, they just don’t really realize it.

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