Body modification

Body modification

Body modification (or body alteration) is the deliberate altering of the human body for any non-medical reason, such as aesthetics, sexual enhancement, a rite of passage, religious reasons, to display group membership or affiliation, to create body art, shock value, or self expression.[1] In its most broad definition it includes plastic surgery, socially acceptable decoration (e.g., common ear piercing in many societies), and religious rights of passage (e.g., circumcision in a number of cultures), as well as the modern primitive movement.


Types of body modification

Explicit ornaments

Surgical augmentation

In contrast to the explicit ornaments, the following procedures are primarily not meant to be exposed per se, but rather function to augment another part of the body, like the skin in a subdermal implant.

  • Breast implants - Insertion of silicone bags filled with silicone gel or saline solution into the breasts to increase their size, or to restore a more normal appearance after surgery
  • Silicone injection[5]
  • Subdermal implant - implantation of an object that resides entirely below the dermis, including horn implants[6]

Removal or split

Applying long-term force

Body modifications occurring as the end result of long term activities or practices

  • Corsetry or tightlacing - binding of the waist and shaping of the torso
  • Cranial binding - modification of the shape of infants' heads, now extremely rare
  • Breast ironing - Pressing (sometimes with a heated object) the breasts of a pubescent female to prevent their growth.
  • Foot binding - compression of the feet of girls to modify them for aesthetic reasons
  • Anal stretching[16]
  • Non-surgical elongation of organs by prolonged stretching using weights or spacing devices. Some cultural traditions prescribe for or encourage members of one sex (or both) to have one organ stretched till permanent re-dimensioning has occurred, such as:
    • The 'giraffe-like' stretched necks (sometimes also other organs) of women among the Burmese Kayan tribe, the result of wearing brass coils around them. This compresses the collarbone and upper ribs but is not medically dangerous. It is a myth that removing the rings will cause the neck to 'flop'; Padaung women remove them regularly for cleaning etc.
    • Stretched lip piercings - achieved by inserting ever larger plates, such as those made of clay used by some Amazonian tribes.
    • Labia elongation



The head of a man with conspicuous tattoos and other body modifications

Some sources of controversy stem from the notion of attempting to artificially beautify the natural form of the body, often leading to charges of disfigurement and mutilation. Extreme forms of body modification are occasionally viewed as symptomatic of body dysmorphic disorder, other mental illnesses, or as an expression of unchecked vanity.[21] Unlicensed surgery (i.e. the plastic surgery field) performed outside of a medical environment can often be life-threatening, and is illegal in most countries and states.

"Disfigurement" and "mutilation" (regardless of any appreciation this always applies objectively whenever a bodily function is gravely diminished or lost, as with castration) are terms used by opponents of body modification to describe certain types of modifications, especially non-consensual ones. Those terms are used fairly uncontroversially to describe the victims of torture, who have endured damage to ears, eyes, feet, genitalia, hands, noses, teeth, and/or tongues, including amputation, burning, flagellation, piercing, skinning, and wheeling[citation needed]. "Genital mutilation" is also used somewhat more controversially to describe certain kinds of socially proscribed modifications to the genitals, such as circumcision, female circumcision, castration, and surgeries performed to conform the genitals of individuals with intersex conditions to those of typical males or females[citation needed].

Individuals known for extensive body modification

  • Rick Genest, has had his entire head and torso tattooed so as to appear like a decaying cadaver.
  • Pete Burns, had extensive polyacrylamide injections into his lips, along with cheek implants, several nose re-shapings and many tattoos
  • Elaine Davidson, the "Most Pierced Woman" according to the Guinness World Records.[22]
  • The Enigma
  • Lolo Ferrari
  • Julia Gnuse ("The Illustrated Lady")
  • Cindy Jackson, had more cosmetic surgery procedures than anyone else in the world
  • Cathy Jung, has the smallest waist in the world as a result of corsetry
  • Katzen ("Cat woman")
  • Tom Leppard, formerly considered by the Guinness Book of World Records to be the world's most tattooed man.[23]
  • Erik Sprague ("The Lizardman"), with sharpened teeth, full-body tattoo of green scales, bifurcated tongue, and recently, green-inked lips
  • The Scary Guy, his nose, eyebrows and ears are pierced and tattoos cover 85 percent of his body.[24]
  • Lucky Diamond Rich, holds the Guinness world record as "the world's most tattooed person" as of 2006[25]
  • Hao Lulu, extensive cosmetic surgery in 2003 to alter her appearance, tagged "The Artificial Beauty"
  • Horace Ridler ("The Great Omi"), tattooed in a pattern of curved black stripes, often described as zebra-like
  • Pauly Unstoppable, the first person to get the white of his eye tattooed[26]
  • Stalking Cat ("Cat man")
  • Stelarc, got a cell-cultivated ear implanted into his left arm[27]
  • Jocelyn Wildenstein ("Lion Queen/Cat Woman")
  • Fakir Musafar, having exposed himself to body piercing, tightlacing, scarification, tattooing and suspension
  • Heidi Montag, had ten plastic surgeries in one day
  • Orlan, French performance artist

See also


  1. ^ What is body modification?
  2. ^ Scrotal Implant - BME Encyclopedia
  3. ^ Microdermal - BME Encyclopedia
  4. ^ Dermal Anchoring - BME Encyclopedia
  5. ^ Silicone Injection - BME Encyclopedia
  6. ^ Horn Implant - BME Encyclopedia
  7. ^ Jamie Gadette. "Underground". Salt Lake City Weekly. 
  8. ^ Genital Frenectomy - BME Encyclopedia
  9. ^ Inversion - BME Encyclopedia
  10. ^ Nipple Removal - BME Encyclopedia
  11. ^ Nipple Splitting - BME Encyclopedia
  12. ^ Tongue Frenectomy - BME Encyclopedia
  13. ^ Shannon Larratt. "nullification, the voluntary removal of body parts". BMEzine. Retrieved 2007-08-29. 
  14. ^ Shannon Larratt (March 18, 2002). ModCon: The Secret World Of Extreme Body Modification. BMEbooks. ISBN 0973008008. 
  15. ^ Adam Callen. "What is TOO Extreme for Body Modification?". Ezine Articles. Retrieved 2007-08-29. 
  16. ^ Anal Stretching - BME Encyclopedia
  17. ^ Ear Shaping - BME Encyclopedia
  18. ^ Ear Cropping - BME Encyclopedia
  19. ^ Ear Pointing - BME Encyclopedia
  20. ^ Tooth Filing - BME Encyclopedia
  21. ^ Freak: Encyclopedia II - Freak - Made freaks
  22. ^ "Guinness World Records - Human Body - Extreme Bodies - Most Pierced Woman". Guinness World Records. 2001-08-09. Retrieved 2007-08-26. 
  23. ^ Lucky Diamond Rich is now acknowledged as the world's most tattooed person. Guinness World Records. "Most Tattooed Person". Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  24. ^ Windrow, John. (September 1, 1998) Star Tribune. The Scary Guy brings a message of the spirit. Section: Variety; Page 1E.
  25. ^ Guinness World Records. "Most Tattooed Person". Retrieved 2007-05-07 
  26. ^ Masters, Paul (27 February 2008). "See world's first eyeball tattoo". The Sun. Retrieved 2009-04-15. 
  27. ^ Performer gets third ear for art BBC News. Last Updated: Thursday, 11 October 2007, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK

External links

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