Body Adornment or Modification

body adoarnment, body modification, piercing, tattoos, body ornaments, fetish,

This image shows to types of body decoration, neither permanent: jewelery and mehndi. Creative Commons: Henna Designs

I’ve had some interesting comments on the post about genital bleaching. Some people defend it as just another way of decorating ourselves, such as having tattoos or piercings. This is actually inaccurate. While a tattoo or a piercing is a body modification, it is also body adornment or decoration. True, there are some piercings that veer from being only decoration (and used for enhancement of sensations or fetishism–bondage, humiliation, etc.) but for the majority it is about decorating the body in some way.

This is extreme body adornment and modification. Creative Commons Boing Boing

This is extreme body adornment and modification. Creative Commons Boing Boing

It’s true that humanity has been doing this as long as we’ve been building shelters and making things. Stuff…adornments, decorations, artifacts are what define civilizations. It’s an inherent part of our nature. Otherwise we wouldn’t have a vibrant fashion industry, laws and rules throughout the ages regulating clothing and dyes and styles, nor many types of jewellery. So, yes humans have been decorating themselves forever and continue to do so except for those religions that try to suppress human nature.

But a pure body modification is not necessarily adornment. Sometimes it’s a medical necessity, such as a disfigurement that is painful or limiting of a person’s movement. It might be surgery after an illness, disease or accident that requires a modification. Or it might be for decoration. Obviously, piercings modify the body’s structure to some degree. Any piercing you can see is one of decoration, though it can mean more. Those that you can’t see, such as breasts, genitalia or the subcutaneous implants might be body adornment as well. Like I said, some people do these piercings for ritualistic or fetishistic reasons. It may give them a sexual thrill, indicate they are into some form of fetishistic situation such as domination or submission, be a form of emotional catharsis, or be part of a religious practice.

I suppose anal bleaching could be religious. I certainly don’t know all of the spiritual practices out there. However, it seems that unless you’re a porn star where your butthole is displayed on screen that in fact it’s not decoration, so comparing a pierced ear or a tattooed arm to a bleached anus is not the same thing at all. I’d be happy to hear arguments that indicate this falls under decorating the body as opposed to modifying. Yes, both could be seen as forms of beautification and can definitely fall under fetish, or body modification. In this case when one has a nose job, a scar removed, a circumcision, a breast implant, or the genitalia bleached, it is body modification, whether it is for health reasons or vanity. I will still maintain that a person who worries that their labia isn’t pretty enough or their butthole of the right shade, has got their priorities mixed up.

skin bleaching, vanity, body modification, adornment, skin, blemishes

Skin whitening can be done to remove discolorations caused by sun or birthmarks but do you really need it where the sun don’t shine? Creative Commons: Tribune

This sort of worry is what creates a society where anorexia runs rampant, where we’re stuck on any flaw or imperfection as bad because we watch movies or look at magazines where people are lit, done up in make up and airbrushed to godlike proportions. Relationships become harder to maintain because they’re based on superficial forms of attraction. This isn’t about being confident; it’s about lacking confidence so much that you worry about what anyone will think of every aspect of your body.

We’re losing perspective. Personality and being human is what really matters, and going down the road of worrying about the shade of your genitalia, how your pubic hair curls, whether your toenails grow the right thickness and if your neck is long enough is trying to change how we were born. It’s an unending battle and a slippery slope. Michael Jackson is a fine example of someone who couldn’t stop trying to be someone else, to the point of having extreme cosmetic surgery and bleaching his skin so he looked less black. His talent was in his voice and his musical skills. His downfall was in his quest to be someone else.

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1 Comment

Filed under art, Culture, fashion, health, people, religion

One response to “Body Adornment or Modification

  1. Perspective is a good word for it. I feel sad for people who feel pressure to do a million and one things to their bodies to feel beautiful or even acceptable. Every time I meet yet another stunning young thing that can count off on her fingers all the pieces of surgery she needs before she can feel beautiful, I want to pick her up and give her a hug and tell her please, please don’t do it. I remember a girl got her nose done when we were at uni. No one had noticed but she told us all and was showing off her new nose. If you squinted hard, you could notice a little swelling. So that’s what we figured the difference between before and after was.

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