Saturday, December 25, 2010

of microdermals and men

Iii got a new pierrrcing! Went in intending to get the double nostrils I've been lusting after for years and somehow emerged with an over-the-eyebrow microdermal! It's a truly stunning piece of jewelry - a tiny shimmering opal stone set in elegant white gold. It swelled for only a few hours post-procedure, and despite being only 3 days old it already feels healed. Man I love microdermals! This is my second one and I find them insanely easy to care for and adapt to having. Unfortunately, my man doesn't feel the same.
When I first got my sternum pierced with a beautiful moonstone microdermal I was on a high all day long. I waited anxiously for my man to get home so I could show off my sparkly new ta-ta accessory. Much to my dismay, he wasn't all that psyched about it. He worried about ripping it out during playtime or inadvertently whacking it while we slept. I felt bad for a moment when he expressed these concerns - I hadn't really thought about how my piercing would affect him when I decided to get it. Had my decision been selfish? Well, over time we both adapted to my new bling, and 7 months later it is well healed and neither of us barely even notice it anymore. I carefully avoid it when using a loofah in the shower and he is sure to concentrate his titty-love on the goods themselves. It is never a problem, and he's totally over the initial worry.
Unfortunately, just as we both got used to my sternum dermal, here I go getting a facial dermal. D'oh. Once again I failed to consider my mate when getting a new mod. The nostrils he would have been okay with, considering how much smaller and out-of-the-way they are. However the brow dermal makes snuggling up to his chest less of a spontaneous and more of a calculated act, and it complicates his frequent efforts to lovingly brush hair out of my eyes. Here we go again.
After 3 days with the piercing, things luckily seem ok. Once again the bling did take a bit of getting used to, but neither of us have yet bumped or pulled on it with any great force. Now that my babe's concern has been yet again quelled through a bit of a test-run, I've begun to wonder just how much weight I should put on his opinions as to what new mods I'll acquire in the future. He has a few tattoos and no piercings, so I believe that his reservations about me getting new metal can be attributed in part to his lack of understanding as to why I even want mods in the first place. Aesthetic value is of course one of the more easily understood justifications, but he sees me as "fine the way I am," and doesn't feel that I need to add to my appearance to improve it. I have explained some of the other reasons for my desire to become ever-more modded, and although he respects this desire he still fails to fully understand it. What are we, as modded folk, to do when our significant others just don't get it? And even worse, what are we to do when we are made to feel guilty for getting new mods due to the fact that they affect not just us but also our loved ones?
This is how I see it:
Yes, I am willingly acquiring newly sensitive areas of the body that he will have to avoid, but - well - I want them anyway! I love piercings, and although at first we both need to learn to avoid them it's never really that difficult a task. It's as if our brains re-wire or something, creating a new map of the body that includes the piercing as a no-touch zone. He wouldn't stick a finger in my eyeball, and I tryyyy not to knee him in the balls - is this the same thing? Or what about sensitive emotional issues - there are certain things that I know not to talk about around him out of respect for his sensitivity to those things. Just as in the case of my new piercing, he acquired that sensitivity somehow, and with some effort could probably remove it. Granted, emotional issues aren't exactly voluntarily acquired, but they are particular to each person and are to be avoided out of respect for that person.
We can't tell anyone else how to live or dress or speak - we are all our own people and must recognize that every day we deal with people who are very different than us. We may have to stand up to certain people, or be extra gentle when interacting with others. Life is one big compromise, where you bend to other people's needs hoping they will also bend to yours when the time comes. My man is absolutely wonderful and I'm lucky to have him, but he's not perfect. There are certain traits of his that I deal with on a daily basis, and do so happily because I love all that he is. Sometimes I want to freak out on him for leaving his dirty socks all over our bedroom, but instead I pick them up and poke fun at him for doing it. In return he turns off the heat when I've forgotten to, and fixes my motorcycle when I'm too pouty about my recent accident to do it myself. Love is understanding and compromise, and my new mods are just one little thing that he has to learn to love about me. And I'm ok with that.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

saving face

I cringe to think that I haven't posted since July of this year. Things have been a bit wild in my life, hence the blogging sabbatical. Lucky for you I'm back with some old-school mod-a-delic blogaliciousness! In scouring the web for tattoo-related news stories this week, I came across one that particularly piqued my interest.
In a nutshell: John Ditullio was jailed on suspicion of involvement in a double stabbing that occurred in 2006. Since his arrest he's acquired 3 new and shocking tats, including a long line of barbed wire down the right side of his face, a swastika on one side of his neck, and the words "fuck you" on the other side of his neck. Now that he's going to trial for the stabbings, his state appointed defense attorney has arranged for a cosmetologist to cover up the tats at a rate of $125 per day to be paid by the state. The move was approved by the judge in the case, but an internet debate (check the comments section) is currently raging with opinions flying as to whether covering up the tats makes for a fair trial, and if so, whether the state should be footing the bill.
Some are of the opinion that the makeup job will allow the jurors to focus only on the evidence of the case rather than the appearance of the defendant, evening the playing field for the man. They say covering up the tats is akin to dressing a defendant in a nice suit for trial . The other camp believes that if Ditullio got the tattoos of his own free will he shouldn't be given special treatment to disguise his appearance. They say that everything in the case should be considered, the tattoos included, as they are a part of the defendant's life and lifestyle. In their opinions, any attempt to hide the truth of this man's actions in life is unacceptable.
There's a lot to consider here. Even as a mod enthusiast and advocate, I'm torn as to how to react. On the one hand, I am definitely sympathetic to heavily tattooed individuals who have to go to court and defend themselves. Although tattoos are becoming ever more mainstream, society at large still can't shake off past perceptions of tats as indicators of delinquency and even mental illness. Remnants of this perception still linger, perhaps even subconsciously, and can affect one's "gut feeling" about a person with tattoos. With this in mind, I can see why it is appropriate for Dutillio to have his highly visible tats covered.
On the other hand, the subject matter of Dutillio's ink is offensive and hate filled. If our self-chosen outer marks indicate the content of our inner selves, shouldn't the court be allowed to have a peek into this man's dark and troubled soul? But what if the freaky tats were not acquired in an effort to eternally proclaim Ditullio's hate, but rather to quell his fear? Prison is a scary place (I can assume...), and sometimes one's only chance at survival is through affiliation with a group that will help to protect you. Permanently inking his flesh with a symbol that identifies him as a hardcore neo-Nazi could have been the only thing keeping Dutillio alive in prison, so who are we to say he's crazy for doing it? People go to extreme measures to protect their well being.
Perhaps my biggest qualm with covering up the tats is that they weren't completely covered up - a CROSS remains under Ditullio's right eye! How can the judge agree to take Ditullio from "Kill thy neighbor" to "Love thy neighbor" without batting an eye?! The man is a neo-Nazi and probably hates God and Christianity, so there's no denying that the switch from a swastika to a cross is nothing short of deceptive.

So, what's the answer? Should Ditullio be allowed to have his tats covered up? Is there another solution that might be less expensive, or perhaps one that wouldn't involve fraudultently portraying Ditullio as a Christian?
One commentor wondered if a jury made up entirely of tattooed individuals would change anything. This begs the question, are modded folk more sympathetic to their inked brethren, even if the content of the tats is hateful? The makeup job is intended to make Ditullio appear to the jurors like "one of us," but what does this mean? Is looking like "one of us" equivalent to being "one of us," or is it what the tattoos signify about Ditullio's mindstate that makes him different? In this light, a jury of neo-Nazis rather than inked folk would be more appropriate, and I don't see that happening anytime soon.
Another alternative was proposed by prosecuting attorney, Mike Halkitis:

"Instead, Mr. Halkitis said, the judge could just as easily instruct the jury to ignore the tattoos in their consideration of the case. 'We believe the jurors listen to judges’ instructions,' he said."

Okay, following instructions is one thing, but pushing aside a deeply ingrained bias that many people hold against modded folk (especially those with offensive or shocking mods) isn't an easy thing to do. I mean, am I right? Or could the jurors actually manage to ignore the unsettling ink and give the guy a fair trial?
Well, even if we could all agree that covering up Ditullio's tats is the fair thing to do, two problems remain. The first is that the state (and thus taxpayers) should definitely NOT be footing this guy's cosmetology bill. Buying an impoverished defendant a cheap suit is one thing, but picking up the tab for covering up the tats that he willingly acquired, knowing he would have to wear them to court, is quite another. Court ordered or not, it just doesn't seem right.
The second problem is that covering up Ditullio's tats for fear that jurors may be prejudiced against tattooed individuals could set a problematic precedent. Will African-American defendants soon request to have the state pay for them to be sprayed with makeup that lightens their skin color during trial? After all, there are an inordinately larger number of black individuals on death row as compared to any other race. Are these people being unfairly judged by juries that are biased against blacks? And what if a defense attorney believes his/her client will be unfairly discriminated against in court due to a set of jagged, broken teeth? Will the state have to pay for the problem to be remedied with a set of veneers? How far will it go? Jurors can be influenced both positively and negatively by any number of physical attributes - should defendants be allowed to totally transform themselves in order to garner as much positive regard from the jury as possible?
In the end, despite my many qualms with the judge's decision, I'm leaning toward agreement with the cover-up. I spoke with a defense attorney friend of mine about the case, and he told me that he does everything in his power to ensure that all his clients are seen as innocent until proven guilty. This includes cleaning up their appearance in any way possible, thus removing the potential for preconceived notions about the defendant before the trial even begins. According to our justice system, everyone deserves a fair chance to defend themselves. If jurors are distracted by Ditullio's tats, they may not focus on the facts of the case and the evidence at hand, and instead make a decision based on appearances. Thus, I do think the decision to allow covering up the tats was valid, it's just a shame that the taxpayers are being forced to pay $125 a day for it when a simple turtleneck could have done the job just as well.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

mental owwies vs. body boo boos

For those involved in the body modification community, pain is not something to be feared. Anticipated, maybe, but not something to be anxiously awaited in terror. For seasoned mod vets, pain is a part of the game, often leading to a gloriously euphoric ending. The pain is trivial compared to the beautiful outcome. For outsiders looking in, however, modders seem positively insane for undergoing their various painful procedures, crazy for voluntarily allowing another individual to stab, slice, poke, and thread one's flesh - all in the name of fashion and fun. Perhaps this perception encourages us even more, wanting to prove that a little pain is nothing to fear, that nothing scares us, that we are - if only for a moment - invincible.
Of course, even modders are scared of some intense types of pain - breaking one's femur, enduring a skull fracture, losing an eye the hard way. We're certainly not fearless, just desensitized to the more bearable breed of pain. Mental suffering, however, is a very different game. No matter what kind of physical pain you've been through, nothing can prepare you for the tortuous plague that is mental disorder. Even a lifetime of training in the fields of psychology/psychiatry is worth not a damn thing when a professional is faced with tackling his or her own mental demons.
No matter how seemingly stable, no one is exempt from the human fair-share of sickness in the head. Modders often use body modification as an escape of sorts from mental afflictions, with varying results. Whether the attempt at therapy be in the form of a memorial tattoo, a ceremonial suspension, or a ritual cutting, bodily pain can be a temporary or even permanent solution to mental anguish. Countless individuals have reported overcoming distress by proving to themselves through suspension that their mind is stronger than even their body. Others have, as a less permanent cure, distracted themselves from the seemingly never-ending voices of doom in their heads by enduring a long, climactic slice of the flesh via a fresh razor. And it's not uncommon for modders who are having particularly bad day to attempt to take control of something, anything, and acquire a sparkly new piercing to keep them company and give them something to nurture and direct attention to. No matter the official psychological stance on utilizing physical pain to overcome mental pain, many will attest to the technique's wonders.
This got me wondering, has mental pain ever acted as a cure for physical pain? Not that I can think of - actually, just the opposite! As many New Age believers will tell you, the power of positive thinking and a solid mental state are limitless. We can cure our own diseases, or those of others. We can talk ourselves through a painful medical procedure and direct attention away from the anguish. We can even laugh our way to a cure for cancer.
So, which is worse? Mental or physical pain? From personal experince, I'd have to go with mental, but I guess it depends on who you ask: someone who's gone through extreme physical pain or someone who's seen the worst of what the mind can do. The grass is always greener on the other side - but that's why no matter the type of pain, we all emerge from it more appreciative of a painless life than we ever could have been before seeing how bad things can get.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

through the eyes of Yann

Before Yann Black Tattoo came along and introduced the masses to art brut tattooing, clean lines and easily identifiable subject matter were deemed essential elements of a “good tattoo.” Now, with the advent of this new way of thinking about inking, tattoo images can be as raw and spontaneous as art usually found on gallery walls. For Yann and a select few others like him, the flesh has become a canvas on which artists are free to express their creative impulses with minimal limitation and delightfully absurd results. More commissioned pieces of custom artwork than purchased copies of cookie-cutter flash designs, their tats explore the bodily space and go where no ink has gone before.

Yann’s seemingly simple designs grace the flesh of adventurous and discerning tat enthusiasts who flock from all corners of the globe to snag a permanent piece of his ultra-modern body art. Clients come to him with a concept rather than an image, which he then renders in his own signature style and applies to whatever plot of flesh they choose. Control freaks, beware, those who step into Yann’s shop are from that point forth at the mercy of his creative genius. A full arm piece might consist of only a few lines and two colors, but the whole work inevitably ends up much greater than the sum of its parts.

Love him or hate him, Yann and the style of tattooing he’s helped pioneer are part of a new era in tattooing: fine art ink. Forget about anchors and butterflies, Yann is the new Black.

I broke out my rusty college French skills to do a quick e-mail interview with Yann and snag a glimpse of the tattoo world through his eyes. Here’s what he had to say.

Your style of tattooing is so different from mainstream styles like Old School and realism – do you have a name for it?

(Votre style de tatouage est si différent des styles principaux comme "Old School" et l
e réalisme – avez-vous un nom pour cela ?)

There’s no particular name for my tattooing style. Some people have named it “art brut."

(Pas de nom particulier pour mon style de tatouage, certains l'ont appellé "art brut.")

How did you successfully shift from doing these more mainstream styles when you first started tattooing to tattooing exclusively in your signature style? Was it a slow process or did you simply decide one day that you were done with regular flash-based tattoos?

(Comment t’es tu écartée avec succès de ces courants dominant de style en commençant à te tatouer exclusivement dans son style de signature ? Cela a-t-il été une transition lente ou as-tu simplement décidé un jour que tu stoppais les « flash-based tattoos >>?)

I’ve always tried to make by tattooing what I’ve done by drawing, tattooing is just a continuation of the work I started a long time ago in illustration, graphic design and painting.
I worked alone for a long period, and without recognition, then after a couple of months in a big (tattoo) shop in Paris that was really mediatized at this time I decided to do my own drawings only, and to stop with conventional tattoos. It was a big risk, but Tatouage Magazine, the big French magazine about tattooing, published an article on my work about this alternative to tribal and Old School and Japanese tattooing, and from one day to the next I started tattooing my own creations only.

(J'ai toujours essayé de faire en tatouage ce que je faisais en dessin, le tatouage est juste un prolongement du travail commencé il y a longtemps en illustration, graphisme et peinture.
J'ai travaillé longtemps seul et sans reconnaissance, puis après quelques mois passé dans une grosse boutique parisienne qui était très médiatisée à l'époque, J'ai pris la décision de ne plus faire que mes dessins et d'arrêter de faire les tatouages "conventionnels" c'était risqué mais Tatouage Magazine, le gros magazine traitant le tatouage en france a publier un article sur mon travail et étant le premier a proposer une alternative au tribal, old school et autre tatouage Japonais, je me suis retrouvé du jour au lendemain a ne plus tatouer que mes propres créations.)

Why do you think some people are still put off by your tattooing style?

(Pourquoi penses tu que des gens repoussent encore ton style de tatouage?

I think that when it’s about touching the appearance, particularly the body, it's hard for people to conceive that you can wear something very spontaneous. I think that a lot of people believe a drawing needs to be really considered to deserve to be tattooed on a body.
It’s tough for a lot of people to accept that we could let the skin breathe. [To some] a tattoo should be filled, having great detail, with an easy subject to identify.
I think that history is just repeating. We’re observing now the same fight that first the impressionists painters, or after the abstractionists had against the established art.

(Je pense que quand il s'agît de toucher à l'apparence, au corps en particulier les gens on du mal à concevoir qu'on puisse porter à vie quelque chose de très spontané, je pense que beaucoup de personnes estiment que pour mériter d'être porté à vie un dessin, doit être réfléchi.
Beaucoup de personnes ont du mal à accepter qu'on puisse laisser la peau "respirer ", un tatouage doit être rempli, détaillé, on doit pouvoir identifier le sujet.
Je pense que l'histoire se répète, on assiste au même combat que celui mené en son temps par les premiers peintres impressionnistes ou plus tard par les premiers peintres abstraits contre l'art établit.)

How do your consultations work? Do people just bring in ideas that you then translate through your style?

(Comment marchent tes consultations ? Est-ce que les gens amènent leurs idées et que tu les traduit dans un style?)

I make an appointment and we start the session in the morning. People come with their ideas, and from this I start to draw.
 As soon as we agree I start the tattoo. If the client needs some time to think about it, I send him some photos, and he contacts me when he’s decided.

(Je prends un rendez vous par jour, on commence la session le matin, les gens viennent avec leurs idées, à partir de là je commence à dessiner.
À partir du moment ou moi et mon client tombons d'accord je commence le tatouage, si après le dessin, le client a besoin d'un peu de temps pour réfléchir je lui envois les photos et il me recontacte quant il est décidé.)

Do you still paint on canvas or are you exclusively doing tattoos now? Which do you prefer?

(Peint tu encore sur des toiles, ou reste tu exclusivement sur les tatouages désormais? Que préfère tu?)

Unfortunately no, I haven’t the time for painting. I only paint one or two a year, and they are made to order.

(Malheureusement non, je n'ai plus le temps pour la peinture, je fais 1 ou 2 tableaux par an et sur commande en général.)

What is the significance of scissors in your designs? They’re not really a common tattoo image!

(Que signifient les ciseaux dans tes ta
touages ? ils ne sont pas vraiment communs comme image a tatouer!)

Nothing in particular. Most of the scissors I've tattooed are for dressmakers, it’s just their job tool.

(Rien de particulier, la plupart des ciseaux que j'ai tatoué sont fait sur des couturières, c'est juste leur instrument de travail.)

Your website is named “Your Meat is Mine” – what does this refer to? I was thinking it might have something to do with how you mark the body “meat” of your clients?

(Ton site net est appelé « your meat is mine » - a quoi te réfères tu ? Je pensais qu’il y avait un lien avec la marque « viande » que tes clients.)

 It was just a joke...

(C'est juste un gag...)

How are you liking your new location in Montreal?

(Aimes tu ton nouveau cadre de vie à Montréal?)

Much more calm than France, more space, less people. Tattooing here is less of a social fence between people. They feel more free to get big pieces, a real pleasure for a tattoo artist.

(Beaucoup plus détendu que la france, beaucoup d'espace moins ge gens, le tatouage ici est moins une barrière sociale les gens se laisse plus aller à faire des grandes pièces, le bonheur pour un tatoueur.)

What future do you see for tattooing?

(Quel futur aimerai tu pour le tatouage?)

I hope tattooing will get free from conventions, and become a complete and real artistic way of expression.

(Que le tatouage s'affranchisse des conventions et qu'il devienne un moyen d'expression artistique à part entière.)

A special thanks to my buddy Mano who helped with the translation of Yann’s answers. Merci Mano!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

it's my body and i'll mod if i want to...

Here in the U.S., we’d like to believe we’re “free.” Free to speak and act in accordance with our opinions and desires as long as our words and actions don’t harm other freedom-seekers. Yet there are myriad ways in which we’re prevented from achieving this simple breed of freedom every day. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how much control we have over what we do with our own bodies. Specifically, I’ve been wondering how it can be illegal in many areas of our country for adults to perform consensual mods on one another. In the infamous Spanner case, a group of gay men were prosecuted for performing various acts of consensual S&M play on each other. In a more recent incident, a DVD depicting the voluntary, non-medical genital modification of a Canadian woman was dropped off to Canadian authorities by an anonymous (and mal intentioned) informant. This was apparently done in order to provoke an investigation into the procedure and the employees of the tattoo shop at which it was performed. The most recent reports regarding this case suggest that no charges have been filed against the woman nor her fellow employees (who carried out the mods), but the whole scenario has nonetheless reignited my outrage at laws limiting our freedom to do what we please with our bodies.
This issue has been in the back of my mind since my first encounters with extreme body modification. Sure, many extreme mods were at first offensive to my eyes and to my logic, but once I got used to the idea that people enjoy cutting and pasting and inking and bedazzling their bodies, it wasn’t so hard to accept. So why can’t lawmakers do so?

Where does the law cease to be about protecting people and start intruding on our personal freedoms?

First, let’s explore the various types of body modification prohibited in the U.S. Specific laws vary from region to region, state to state, and even county to county, but in general prohibitions exist against the following procedures when not performed by a licensed medical professional:
Voluntary amputation, female genital modification (in some places even on consenting adults), subdermal implants, tongue splitting, certain forms of male genital modification, scarification, branding, transdermal implants, uvula piercing, neck piercing, hand/foot/tongue web piercing, eyelid piercing, eyeball tattooing, anal piercing, deep penis/testicle/vagina piercing, skin braiding, “cartilage modification” (presumably that of the ears, a process yielding “elf ears”), saline inflation….anddd probably any other type of mod that some find pleasurable and others find deplorable.

Now to consider why these procedures are seen by our legal systems as so detrimental to individuals and society that performing them must actually be labeled as a criminal offense.
Think first about society’s view of tattoos and piercings up until very recently. In short, they were thought of as barbaric and a sure indication of an unsound mind. This is because, at one time in the history of the Western world, body modifications were found only on criminals and other degenerates of society. When ink and metal leaked out of these lower social spheres and started being seen on the flesh of the general population, negative regard for mods stuck around. Plainskins made no differentiation between modders whose alma mater was the state pen and those who were educated professionals. Their conditioned association between body art and the scum at the bottom of the social food chain couldn’t be undone by a few librarians with tattooed allusions to Chaucer.
The same series of events is unfolding currently as tattooing and piercing are becoming more art forms than trades. Piercing methods have become safer, more sanitary, and more tailored to the human anatomy than ever before. And tattooing has evolved into a fine art where human flesh is the canvas and a tattoo gun the brush. There is a lot of care and pride put into body modification these days, yet inking and adorning the body are still generally looked down upon. This is because the image of a tattooist as a prison scratcher and a piercer as a shady character poking holes in underage kids on the cheap can’t seem to be shaken from the public memory. Although a dying breed, these sorry excuses for mod artists continue to perpetuate a negative social perception of body modification practices and sully the image of the community as a whole.

Society's unwillingness to change their perception of tattooing and piercing despite changes in the circumstances of both parallels societal resistance to accepting extreme body modification. Checkit:

It used to be that S&M amongst gays was the most prevalent arena for extreme body modification. As the gays were viewed as social deviants to begin with, practicing or sporting extreme mods became enough to qualify one for this label as well.

Unsavory history: check.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is a traditional form of body modification performed on young girls, mainly in Africa, as a rite of passage into womanhood. It is expected by many parents that their female children undergo the procedure, as their marriagability and bride price will suffer greatly as a result of going un-circumcised. When compared to male circumcision in the Western world this may seem all fine and well, until the medical risks of FGM/C are considered. The procedure is done by unqualified practitioners (typically a gypsy) in an unsanitary environment with improper and unsanitary equipment. Infection is common, as is excessive bleeding and problems related to urination and menstruation. The process must be undone just before giving birth (and usually re-done after birthing), and birth-related complications are almost expected for women who have undergone FGM/C. Not to mention the psychological trauma that results…

Existence of poor quality body modification work: check.

Considering the sea of pressing issues lawmakers have to worry about these days, deciding what to do about extreme mods probably doesn’t keep them up at night. Based on what comes to mind when they think of extreme modding, it’s not hard to decide that such procedures should be condemned. All they need is a legitimate reason (aside from social, moral, and religious leanings) to ban the practices, and thus extreme modding becomes categorized as practicing medicine without a license.
OK, fine. You guys have got us there. Despite the amount of research and training that goes into being a proper heavy mod artist, we are doing some admittedly dangerous shit and no, we’re not doctors. But wait…traditional Jewish male circumcision is done by an unlicensed practitioner: a mohel. Non-doctor: check. And it’s religiously and/or socially prescribed rather than a doctor-recommended procedure. Medically unnecessary mod: check. So what’s the difference? If anything, circumcising baby boys is more wrong because it’s done against their will. Consenting adults undergo extreme mods, and under most circumstances they know exactly what they’re getting themselves into, risks and all. And when it comes to voluntary amputation, modding is actually a cure for a medically recognized disorder (BIID). All circumcision does for boys is slightly reduce the risk of urinary tract infections – very slightly. Many argue that it “looks better,” but what about people who think they would look better with a silicone star implanted under their skin? I’m just confused: how is it legal to mutilate a young boy’s genitals for religious/social reasons against his will, but it’s illegal for a sane adult male to opt to have beads implanted under the skin of his penis?
At the end of the day, making extreme mods illegal is not the answer. Not in our country, and not abroad. Even when it comes to FGM/C, education should come before legislation. Some countries in which FGM/C is known to be widely practiced have achieved wonderful results with programs that educate families on the dangers of subjecting their children to this unsafe practice. Simply ceasing the practice of FGM/C is often not an option due to its place in many societies as a traditional rite, but teaching and encouraging more sanitary practices can curb the incidence of complications. Other programs have been successful in working with small communities to actually eradicate the practice altogether by coming up with alternative rites that don’t put young girls at risk. We are headed in the right direction, but many countries have preemptively banned the practice of FGM/C before a means of educating their citizens has been enacted. This results in, at best, a law that people don’t understand and can’t really be enforced, and at worst it triggers the procedure to go even deeper underground and become even more dangerous.
The same applies to extreme mods in the Western world. Education of lawmakers on procedures like voluntary amputation, scarification, and genital beading should be a first step to such procedures gaining legal status. Amputation is the *only* recognized cure for BIID, and scarification and beading (when done by experienced practitioners) are quite safe procedures. In addition, perhaps the world of extreme modding could use a bit of regulation, at least in terms of health inspections in venues where such mods are performed. I support being able to choose what one does to one’s body, but there should be specific sites where these procedures can be carried out as safely as possible and only on individuals of a certain age.
Now, I understand that laws against extreme mods may be in place partially to protect taxpayers from having to support the medical care of individuals who encounter complications with their mods. However, the medical community also handles complications with male circumcision, problems resulting from tattoos and (legal) piercings gone wrong, and conditions associated with the many toxic yet legal substances we ingest every day (i.e. alcohol, cigarettes, trans fats). Plus, making extreme mods illegal only increases the likelihood that modders will end up in the hospital.
Think of it this way - abstinence proved to be an unrealistic answer to curbing unwanted pregnancies and transmission of STDs, so sex education became the avenue of choice. In the same vein, people are not going to stop modifying their bodies. For some people it is a passion, for others a career, and for others, it’s the cure to a tortuous neurological disorder or a means of increasing their self-esteem. Thus, making extreme mods illegal will do nothing but drive it further underground and make it more dangerous than ever. The answer is education and regulation.

Our country can’t be run on conservative values. Just because something is new and shocking doesn’t necessarily mean it should be made illegal, and just because we’ve been doing something for hundreds of years doesn’t make it right. Racism, discrimination against gays, degraded social status of women…we change the stuff that sucks. And ya know what? It sucks that I can’t legally get my tongue split or ear cartilage modified in many areas of the country. Not because I’m worried about the legal repercussions of going for it anyway, but because I want to have access to such procedures in a safe, regulated environment that becomes near impossible to achieve when extreme mods are illegal.
Luckily for the Canadian woman and her team of mod artists, the authorities decided to be lenient and ignore the laws condemning extreme mods – this time. But why? Maybe it was seeing the smiles and laughter and words of comfort exchanged during the procedure that did it. Or maybe they were just too lazy to carry out the dirty work of someone else’s personal vendetta. Or just maybe, they were secretly into heavy mod play themselves. No matter the reason, there’s a woman somewhere in Canada whose satisfaction with her genital mods has grown exponentially as a result of escaping prosecution for acting out a basic desire: to do to her body what feels good.