Fight the power

I just did this brief interview about the body modification bans propsed by “Dr.” David Graham. I'm archiving it here so I have a record of it.

Briefly, could you describe the purpose of BMEzine and your role there?

BME is “body modification ezine”, an online publication that covers body modification in the sense of tattoos, piercings, scarification, and heavier work as well. I have run it now for over ten years and am the publisher and editor.

What is “skin braiding?” Does it exist?

Skin braiding is an urban legend and does not exist. It's a procedure involving cutting three or more strips of skin, braiding them, and letting it heal like that. Problem is, it doesn't work — and any scarification artist would know this, so to the best of my knowledge it hasn't even been tried. I believe that the source of the term is from misidentification of scarification of Celtic knotwork designs using traditional cutting.

How prevalent are complications/infections resulting from some of the practices (tongue piercing, nose piercing, scarification, etc.) that Dr. Graham refers to?

The complications from most body modification procedures are extremely limited, and the “studies” claiming the opposite are effectively fraudulent, making mistakes like confusing normal lymph and dead tissue discharge during initial healing for “infections” and so on, as well as using sample groups so small as to make the studies irrelevant. The statistical fact is that you are more likely to be hit by lighting then you are to get a debilitating complication from a body modification procedure.

Do you feel that aftercare instructions for body modification procedures are adequate at this point?

It's not as if healing a body modification is that complicated. Keep it clean, keep your and other people's hands off it, get plenty of rest, eat well, and it'll be healed before you know it. Very few body modifications stress the body particularly far. The biggest problems often come from too much aftercare, which can lengthen and complicate healing.

What do you feel is the motivation behind this proposal? Are you aware of any public concern regarding these practices?

The motivation behind bans on body modification is a mix of bigotry and ignorance, a knee-jerk reaction devoid in empathy to desires they don't understand. As far as public concerns, I'm sure there are people who want it banned, but it's really none of their business. I'm sure there are plenty of white folk that don't want blacks moving into their neighborhood either, and I'm sure there are plenty of Muslims who would rather that people not pray to Jesus. But people have a right to dictate the path of their own lives, so “public concern” is irrelevant in my opinion.

Do you see this as more of a health issue or a civil liberties issue?

It is entirely a civil liberties issue. The risks from body modification are miniscule in comparison to driving a car, playing football, smoking, and many other things that are perfectly legal.

Are there any forms of body modification that you feel would merit this form of ban?

If a person doesn't have the freedom to control their own body, then they are not free. No ban on body modification of any kind is acceptable.

If this ban were to pass, do you think that it would sufficiently deter practitioners from performing these modifications?

Banning body modification doesn't change whether it's done or not. It simply pushes it underground, which has the side effect of making it more dangerous by increasing the likelihood that the people doing the procedures are disreputable practitioners who don't care about things like minimum standards — so these bans claiming to protect the public actually harm the public instead.

Do you believe that the body modification industry should be regulated by state and/or local governments (certifications, safety standards, etc.)?

Minimum standards ensuring control of cross contamination and so on are essential, but they must be reasonable and they must be written with industry involvement so as not to restrict people's rights.

What is your stance on the usage of piercing guns for piercing?

Some modern piercing guns are in theory safe on earlobes. However, they're incredibly limited as a tool in terms of placement and jewelry options, and in my opinion are almost always the best way to identify an incompetent and inexperienced piercer.

Could we have a phone number/email address that you can be reached at for future reference?

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

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