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Body modification (or body alteration) is the deliberate altering of the human body for non-medical reasons, such as sexual enhancement, a rite of passage, aesthetic reasons, denoting affiliation, trust and loyalty, religious reasons, shock value, and self-expression.[1]. It can range from the socially acceptable decoration (e.g., pierced ears in many societies) to the religiously mandated (e.g., circumcision in a number of cultures), and everywhere in between. Body art is the modification of any part of the human body for spiritual, religious, artistic or aesthetic reasons.


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.



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" (a subjective term) 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 prescribed 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].

Potential future methods of body modification

Various practices of gene alteration in humans are becoming more and more exact, as well as realistic. As certain cells in the body, such as muscle cells, never reproduce during adult life, the potential to physically alter ones self through various forms of gene doping will probably become easier realities. One could theoretically create stronger muscles, or even add extra protein types that could create things such as spikes or plates on their skin, as well as patches of hair that wouldn't exist. This is all, however, simply theoretical.

Individuals known for extensive body modification

See also


  1. ^ What is body modification?
  2. ^ Dermal Anchoring - BME Encyclopedia
  3. ^ Scrotal Implant - BME Encyclopedia
  4. ^ Microdermal - BME Encyclopedia
  5. ^ Silicone Injection - BME Encyclopedia
  6. ^ Horn Implant - BME Encyclopedia
  7. ^ Genital Frenectomy - BME Encyclopedia
  8. ^ Inversion - BME Encyclopedia
  9. ^ Nipple Removal - BME Encyclopedia
  10. ^ Nipple Splitting - BME Encyclopedia
  11. ^ Jamie Gadette. "Underground". Salt Lake City Weekly. 
  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

Simple English

ear. Piercing is a kind of body modification.]]

Body modification (or body alteration) is when a person changes their body in a way that lasts forever or for a long time. There are many different kinds of body modification, like piercing, circumcision, or tattoos. Almost all cultures do some kind of body modification.



People who do not like body modification sometimes call it "disfigurement" or "mutilation." They believe that if someone changes their body, it is wrong and they are doing something dangerous or unethical.

Why people do body modification

Body modification is done for different reasons. Religions might tell people that they should change their bodies to look a certain way. Other people with body modifications might just like the way the body modifications look, or how they feel good during sex.

Kinds of body modification

Common body modification

  • Body piercing is when a hole is made through the skin, and a piece of jewelry is put into the hole. Some piercings can be stretched so they fit larger, thicker kinds of jewelry.
  • Tattooing is when ink is put under the skin to make a picture.
  • Scarification is when part of the skin is removed to create a scar.
  • Branding is when the skin is burned to create a scar.

"Extreme" body modification

  • Tongue splitting is when a person's tongue is split in two like a snake's.
  • Subdermal implant is when a small object is placed right underneath a person's skin.
  • Transdermal implant is when a small object is placed underneath a person's skin, but part of it pokes out of the skin and is visible.
  • Extra ocular implant (eye jewellery) is when a tiny chip of metal is placed in someone's eye.

Other body modification

  • Amputation is when a body part is cut off.
  • Breast augmentation is when a woman's breasts are made larger with surgery.
  • Gender reassignment surgery, or sexual reassignment surgery -- sometimes called a "sex change" -- is a surgery on the genitals that changes a person's sex from male to female or female to male.

tattooing of the lips and eyes

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