I just did this little interview… Thought I might as well share it here:

1. Do you believe there is an existing line between what is mutilation and what is positive body modification? How do you define mutilation and modification?

To me, mutilation is a non-consensual act. By non-consensual I mean that the person wasn't able to exercise personal control over the decision, be it because it was forced on them by someone else, or be it by their own mental defect.

Body modification, at least as it is presented on BME, is a positive act that people consciously and consensually choose for themselves, in an attempt to improve their lives on a personal level.

2. How can extreme body modification (ie implants, silicone injection, nullification) be beneficial or detrimental to a person?

The “extremeness” of a modification is not relevant to discussing whether that modification is beneficial or not.

3. What is your viewpoint on the issue of childhood genital mutilation (female/male circumcision etc.), or the issue of parents making the decision to have these procedures performed on their children?

I don't believe that anyone — parent or not — has the right to perform non-consensual elective (as in not medically required) surgery on someone else, let alone a child! Mutilating a child like this, be it female genital mutilation, male circumcision, or even ear piercing, is in my opinion rape, and I believe parents should be criminally charged when they do it.

4. What is the reasoning behind getting extreme modifications?

Again, your implication that somehow the reasoning behind “extreme” modifications is somehow different or less reasonable than for “mainstream” modifications is in my opinion baseless. The reasons why for extreme modifications are not really any different than other modifications (type “why” into the BME Body Glossary for a few of them).

5. Doesn't society have the obligation to protect or stop people from doing these types of modifications?

Society has no right to tell people what they can and can't to do themselves. Telling someone they can't pierce their own genitals is just as bad as forcing them to pierce them. In my opinion, government has jurisdiction over public spaces, and over our interactions with fellow citizens. Government has no right to attempt to impose laws that take away our control over our own bodies.

6. Is society's attitude changing towards extreme modification as it becomes more accepting of less extreme mods (navel, ear, & eyebrow piercing etc.)?

Modern media has certainly made people more open-minded to alien concepts in general, but this is by no means limited to body modification. We are more open minded to foreign culture and media, to alternative sexuality, to music and art of all kinds, and so on.

As we evolve as sentient beings, we can not ignore the truth that every color in the rainbow carries beauty, and that it is in our collective best interest to encourage cultural diversity, including body modification.

7. What do you think about laws governing the practice of these modifications? Should they be changed?

Society needs to balance two factors:

a. We need to protect the right of the individual to exercise complete control over their bodies, as they see fit.
b. We need to protect individuals from harm, both from others, and, to a lesser extent, from themselves.

In my opinion, this means that we need to regulate practitioners. Overall I think society has done a surprisingly good job instituting laws on the subject. Most areas now have laws mandating proper sterility, as well as making sure that more dangerous procedures stay in the hands of doctors, not amateurs.

However, I believe that we do have one massive missing piece of legislation. Most Western countries have laws protecting freedom of speech and freedom of religion. I believe we need to add freedom of expression as a fundamental human right. I am extremely disturbed when I see mainstream society attempting to attack legitimate and healthy forms of expression such as tattooing and piercing via dress code and hiring policies. It's very wrong, and in my opinion, very dangerous.

8. Is there a way to tell between a person who wants an extreme modification for safe reasons and a person who does not? If not, should there be?

Identifying a mentally unstable person, especially one that's unstable enough to mutilate themselves, is not particularly difficult. However, I worry that many health professionals simply do not have the experience required to properly assess the motivation and meaning behind most body modification. (And some may be blinded by their own prejudices as well.)

Piercing and tattoo studios are in general owned by friendly and open people who care deeply for the community around them. Health professionals have a responsibility to sit down with these artists and learn from them so that we can all move forward positively together.

Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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