So, my family is into body mod. Fatherbot sports several tats, Will is planning on getting some work done once he’s older and more sure about what he wants, and I have a small collection of mods commemorating personal achievements. Liz just went and got her first piercing (although it was definitely against my advice. She’s a tad young at 13, and not real great at things that require long-term responsibility), and was shocked at some of what she’s heard from people since she got it. I basically told her “Welcome to land of body mod”.
Here are some attitudes that I’ve encountered with mine:
Positive: Have to say, this one is my favourite. Being told that my mods are pretty or cute, that they suit me, or people generally thinking mods and the people who do them are cool is pretty much guaranteed to make my day. Growing up in our family, this attitude is the only one my sister has ever encountered — although, granted, she’s mostly been around adults with mods, or peers that either a) think body mod is cool, and might have some of their own, or b) are unmodded, and thus it hasn’t really come up in conversation — until now, with Liz having a barbell so fresh it’s still bruised.
When it comes to the negative ‘tudes, there’s a whole gamut of ugly. Here are a few of the more common ones I’ve run across:
“That’s kinda slutty” or “She’s clearly looking for attention.” For some reason, certain mods (belly piercings, lower back tats/ “tramp stamps”) are considered sexual, or sexually provocative –which feeds into the assumption that the person who has one of these “sexy” mods is hyper-sexual, extremely sexually active/ doesn’t discriminate in her choice of bed partners, or is trying to attract attention of a sexual nature. None of these are necessarily accurate. The reason why Person A mods is going to be unique to them — and the person who gets a tattoo that’s only visible when they’re in a bathing suit (or their birthday suit) probably didn’t have the same feelings about their mod as the person who got a tat that’s super visible. Also? Trust me when I say that sexualizing yourself isn’t a good reason to get inked or pierced — which is why most people don’t do it for that reason. There’s a lot of time, effort, and inconvenience (oh, and pain, that too) that goes into getting tattooed or pierced, and in taking care of it until it’s healed. Investing in body mod is something most people I know who’ve done it decided to do for themselves, not anyone else.
“I don’t understand why tattoos are becoming so popular” and “You’re going to regret that when you’re older”. There seems to be this misconception that tattoos are a trend, and simultaneously a youthful indiscretion. Underlying this attitude is the belief that inking your skin is always a mistake, that it is something each person who does will — sooner or later — come to regret. I have a lot of thoughts on this one, including:
a) modifying your body is not something brand-new. Indigenous cultures around the globe have been engaging in culturally- or even spiritually-significant forms of it for as long as humans have had culture;
b) deciding to permanently alter your appearance is not something most people decide to do lightly. Because there’s that “permanent” bit in there when it comes to tattoos, since laser removal is expensive, and imperfect;
c) there is an age-of-consent for body mod for a reason, specifically to prevent people too young to make these kinds of decisions from making them on their own;
d) there is also the assumption that, just because someone is young, they are stupid, or incapable of knowing what they want for themselves and their lives, or aren’t capable of making long-term decisions about their own body, which is a crock of shit; and
e) most of the people I know that have lived with their mods for a number of years have not, in fact, ended up regretting the majority of them. You get the odd few — a sleeve that wasn’t well-thought out, placement that was a mistake — but overall? Most people are proud to show off their jewellery and ink, because there is meaning behind it for them, and it acts as their own personal highlight reel of important moments in their life.
“It’s unprofessional.” Um. Sure. If you’re wearing a sleeveless top and happen to have a gyrating stripper tattooed on your bicep. The notion that inked skin is somehow unprofessional makes me grind my teeth a little. Necklaces, bracelets, earrings, makeup, watches, high heels, hair dye, and nail polish are fine, but ink isn’t? Studs or rings that are punched through anything but earlobes are unacceptable? That seems kind of arbitrary. I can understand an employer not wanting their employees to display curse words, sexually explicit images, or drug references on their skin or clothing, but telling someone with a flower or inspirational quote inked on their wrist that they’ve screwed themselves over professionally seems harsh. I mean, okay, sure. Some fields might take exception to that. But it seems kind of ridiculous that employers and workplaces should evaluate potential hires by their appearance, by something that that someone has chosen to do with their own body that in no way affects whether or not they are competent at or qualified for the job in question.
This last one kind of directly related to all of the above — the argument that ink, piercings, and other forms of body mod are “unnatural”. First of all, lemme say this: there is no such thing as “unnatural”. Nature is free; if it is possible, nature has done it already. The “natural/unnatural” argument only ever comes in to play when someone is scrabbling desperately for an excuse as to why someone else shouldn’t do something. The bigger counterargument for this, though, is “So what?” Every single day, we all do a veritable shit ton of things to our bodies that are “unnatural”. The only difference is that those body-altering things are socially sanctioned. Things that I listed above like makeup, hair dye, shaving practises, and nail polish are all great examples. “But those are temporary!” people will argue. Which, okay, fine. How about some permanent examples, then?
High heels can cause permanent shortening of the calf muscles, and structural damage to the skeleton. Cosmetic surgery like breast enlargement or reduction, and reconstructive surgery post-accident are permanent, too. Having teeth pulled because they are broken or infected isn’t a short-term thing either. You also don’t find animals swapping out defective organs from the living with relative healthy organs from the dead.
We do lots of things that would make animals or aliens drop their jaws. Throughout the course of our lives, we take medications, have routine dental care, undergo surgery for medical and/or cosmetic reasons, squeeze our bodies into different shapes with corsets, athletic supports and Spanx, and make conscious decisions about whether or not to reproduce. So, really, at the end of the day, your argument of “that’s unnatural” really boils down to “I think that’s disgusting” which is nothing but an opinion that you really ought to keep to yourself, or express to other like-minded individuals rather than crapping all over someone’s else body, day, and choices.
I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.