Body modification can be broadly defined as any procedure that is commonly done to deliberately alter the appearance of the body, such as tattooing, piercing and plastic surgery. Such alterations can be for aesthetic reasons, enhanced sexual pleasure, religious beliefs and self-expression. But how far is too far? Alterations such as circumcision and the Burmese Kayan tribal custom of wearing brass rings to elongate the neck are examples of traditions and religious rites of passage with a long cultural history. But what about more extreme body modification practices like branding and scarification, super extensive piercings all over the body (look at that chick in the picture, just look at her!), implants under the skin, tongue-splitting (might be nice) and further invasive alterations?
But let’s be fair. It could also be argued that most of us engage in simple acts of body modification every day but don’t consider it as such. They’ve become so ingrained in our daily lives that we don’t consider common grooming practices like styling hair, applying make-up, shaving etc, to be forms of modification. (Some would just call this ‘Upkeep’) We live in a society that constantly bombards us with images meant to show what is attractive and sexually desirable, and as a result, most of us tinker with our body’s appearance on a regular basis. The quest for “natural beauty” remains an obsession even as we stray further away from nature to attain it. We customize our appearance through clothes and hair – perhaps body modification is simply taking customization to the next level?