Different types of body modification and why people do them. It is so obvious that we as humans crave to stand out in any instance we can, no way are we going to let anyone out shine us. So we modify things about ourselves daily, drastic or not to show others that we are different and worth being noticed. Body modification has become a norm of today’s world; reasons for body modification vary from a rite of passage, to religious beliefs and even cultural practices.
We often see body modification as drastic changes to the body, though body modification is defined as “the deliberate altering of the human body for any non-medical reason”. In other words there is no life threatening disease forcing us to put a giant tattoo of a lion on our back. We often seek a rite of passage in adolescence resulting in our lifelong obsession of body modification, as simple as shaving our arm pits to piercing our ears. We see these little changes as rites of passage.
We are now old enough to do these things, bringing us one step closer to adulthood. After all, if they can handle the suffering of the modification, they can handle the challenges of being an adult in their community. In most cases body modification varies with gender. During adolescence males turn to fitness, some seeking to body build. Turning their puny chests into the desired “six pack”, though in most cases bodybuilding is not seen as body modification. However it is and males use this as a means to attack the opposite sex.
Females on the other hand are also interested in attracting the opposite sex but are consumed with the need to compete with others females. They change hair color, add hair extensions, have breast augmentation and adorn their bodies with interknit tattoos with secret meanings. All to win the never ending “competition of the females”. More drastic body modifications, believe it or not, are influenced by religious beliefs. For example, San Yak tattoos have adorned the holy and superstitious for hundreds of years in Thailand and Cambodia.
Traditionally the tattoos are a mix of Buddhist prayers, images, and shamanistic spells. These men and women fully believe that these tattoos ward off evil spirits and give their owner ridiculous amounts of luck. Those who modify their body for religious reasons do it because this is a way of expressing religion and associating with a higher spiritual realm. People see religious body modifications as cult like action but we have so many religions that do modify their bodies to show their loyalty to their god(s).
Similarly, we have body modifications influenced cultural traditions. For the most part, the cultures in the world that still engage in intense body modifications are those that have been left relatively untouched by the outside world. Such as the Karen tribe of Thailand better known as the “long neck”, this tradition of wrapping metal coils around their neck was first seen as a sign of beauty and was practiced by many of the Karen tribe women but now the practice is only done as a tourist attraction bringing wealth to impoverished tribes and attention to cultural practices.
Likewise we have the Mursi tribe in Ethiopia that practices lip stretching, there is no known rationale behind lip stretching seeing that inherent disfigurement and pain, many Mursi women have trouble speaking normally and often drool since they essentially have no lip or teeth on the bottom of their mouth. We can only assume that lip stretching in this culture is to allow women to prove their strength, and therefore worth, as wives and mothers.
In conclusion, no matter the body modification there is always a reason behind it, whether it’s using your rite of passage, to attract the opposite sex, to practice your religious belief or to fulfill your cultural duty. We all modify our body, no matter how out bizarre it may seem, somewhere it is the norm.