SPC: ScarWars One (2005)

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I recently shared the story of how the ModCon events came to be with the promise to chronicle the other events in time. That’s still on my to-do list, but today we’re going to talk a little about the ScarWars events; how they started and their connection to ModCon.

ScarWars One happened in May of 2005 in Philadelphia, PA with seven of the world’s leading scarification artists working and attending, but it’s roots go back to 2004 at the ModCon4 event in Toronto, Ontario where a guest named Chris and his then wife Danielle asked about doing a collaborative cutting/branding piece with all of the attending artists using different techniques to make a wholly unique scar. Brands, cutting and flesh removal all on the same client. At the time it was unheard of, and as I watched Blair, Ryan, Danielle and I believe Brian work on it, I realized that we had reached uncharted territory.

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Dallas Suscon 2011 – Day 1/2

I’m spending the weekend in Dallas for this year’s annual SusCon.  For those that don’t know, SusCon is an annual event hosted by Suspension.org‘s Allen Falkner.  The point of the weekend is for suspension crews from all over to come together to learn from each other, and of course have a good time.  This weekend is very much a learning weekend as crews bring not only their most experienced members, but also new members who are learning the ropes.

This ended up being a bit wordy, so I’ll save some space on the main page by bumping it behind a click though. So just click the read more button to see the rest.

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Not Forgotten Memories

I like many others find the Resurrection Suspension to be a very beautiful suspension to observe and if photo’s are taken, are really good at portraying the thoughts/emotions/feelings.

This is an absolutely beautiful photo taken by Dave of IWasCured member Michelle doing a 6pt Resurrection Suspension with the help of other IWasCured members: Mike (in the photo with Michelle), Phil, Jon ; as well as Jason from IHung.

Memories

This post also allows me to reminisce back not long ago as many of us have been suspended, or lost our suspension virginities, etc in the location of this photo. So many great suspension and non-suspension related gatherings occurred with amazing people in that location, for a few years.

It makes me realize how much has been accomplished/achieved over the years, no matter how different things may change with each passing day. I can’t really explain why, but that’s what this photo invokes in me, when I look at it.

Body of Steel!

DivX download link for BME members: Extreme2 or Full members

Michelle suspending in Toronto with the iWasCured brigade, footage edited by Kimington.

Come on rest of the world, send us your videos, and they don’t have to be suspensions!

Click here to watch the other suspensions that took place that day.

Super Humans

First up is Chris (The old Memento Mori is dead. From now on, I am.. Chris) lapsing into a superman suspension..

DivX download link for BME members: Extreme2 or Full members

Then there’s this slideshow (courtesy of yours truly, and not half as fancy as the one above) showing some of the other suspensions that day..

DivX download link for BME members: Extreme2 or Full members

The protagonists are – Ken (clinging onto Capt. Stupid Head for dear life), Jessica, Michelle (not on IAM, yet), and of course Meme Chris!

All suspensions aided and abetted by the iWasCured crew – Shell, Jon, Phil and Mikey.

And of course, as always, the suspension space was donated by Badur, a.k.a. Hot Stuff.

Excuse all the links, it couldn’t be helped.

Beautiful Suspensions

Also earlier this month I mentioned how in the early days of iWasCured (our Toronto hooker crew) we suspended someone in a prom dress… Amusingly, it actually happened earlier in the day of the irresponsible suspension I just posted! In the picture below you can see her suspending (in the rain) with her parents smiling in the background. It was really a wonderful experience that made us all feel very happy about what we were involved with.


August 2001, Toronto

When I look at these pictures I sure miss living in that little dive of an apartment and the suspesion tower we built in the back yard. Eventually some property developers came and forced us to tear it down… Gentrification has replaced our monument to the past living in the future with cheap townhomes for yuppies with over-extended credit.

No Boys Allowed! Introducing the All-Grrls Suscon [Guest Column - Stepping Back]



“Love and respect woman. Look to her not only for comfort, but for strength and inspiration and the doubling of your intellectual and moral powers. Blot out from your mind any idea of superiority; you have none.”

Giuseppe Mazzini


There is something special about a group of women. There’s a particular vibe, an energy. Together, women are gentle, honest, open and sensitive. We easily comfort each other, we’re attentive and supportive. Topics of conversation, body language, our voices are different, and the presence of even one man can change everything. There is a connection that goes beyond our anatomy, beyond any common interests or friendships. Women don’t even have to like one another in order to feel the bond. We are different than men. No better, no worse, just different.

With this knowledge and their love of suspension, Jill (IAM:feisty) and Rachel (IAM:tigertante) created and hosted the first All-Grrls Suscon last year, and it was a success. It was so successful, in fact, that they’re at it again!

This year’s event will be held in August in Toronto. Suspensions cost $100 and pulls cost $50, and any woman, experienced or not, is welcome to come. The exact location is still to-be-announced, so keep your eye on the All-Grrls Suscon event page. To reiterate: there are NO BOYS ALLOWED!

As smoothly as last year’s event went, the idea of a women-only Suscon did stir up some controversy. There were a few members of the suspension community who felt it was unfair to exclude men. Jill and Rachel want to emphasize that this is not anti-men, but rather pro-women. They had been frustrated by the way they’d been treated by men at other events when they first entered into the community, and wanted to show themselves and others that women are just as capable as organizing, setting up, and suspending as their counterparts. They surpassed their goal, proving to everyone that an All-Grrl’s Suscon wasn’t just a great idea, it was great in practice too.

 
Jill and Rachel working at last year’s All-Grrls Suscon.

BME:  Hi girls! Can you tell me a little about yourselves?

JILL:  I grew up in Belleville which is a small Ontario town, with my mom and brother. I left when I was eighteen to move to the greater Toronto area for college. I’m twenty-seven years old, and am currently working at one of the largest bike stores in Canada. I am part of a trio of wimmin who publish SMUT Magazine, which is a quarterly, pansexual and erotic magazine. It’s featured many BME members like Rachel, Phil (IAM:PhilipBarbosa), Joel (IAM::Hooch). I also am the owner of a promotions and event production company, Feisty Productions. Rachel has been a key component to all of my shows, and the shows wouldn’t have had the same caliber if it wasn’t for her many talents like fire spinning and suspension..

RACHEL:  I am a dual Canadian/American citizen— I was born outside of Seattle and grew up all around the States. I finished high school in Berlin, Germany and have been living in Canada since starting university in 1996. I did a Bachelors degree at the University of Guelph in Biological Science and have just completed a Masters of Science specializing in developmental genetics at the University of Ottawa. I’ll probably do a PhD next year, though I’ve also been working my way towards medical school for the past five years. My newest hobby is running marathons— including Berlin last year and Boston this year— and riding motorcycles. I’m also a classically trained cellist with eighteen years experience and have performed in Canada, the United States, Germany and England with various bands, dancers, and theatre groups. I’m also twenty-seven.

BME:  How did you two meet?

JILL:  I was living in Toronto in the spring of 2002, after returning from living in Australia and was working in an outdoor store when she walked in looking for climbing equipment. After asking what the supplies were for, she and her friend, Philip Barbosa, told me that it was for a suspension performance that evening and I should check it out.

RACHEL:  Yup, and we totally hit it off as friends from the very beginning. Both Phil and Jill are incredibly chatty types, so that day Jill got the whole scoop on what we did and she mentioned that she was interested in getting involved with our rigging projects. Our friendship has really developed into something very strong, loving and deeply respectful over the past few years.

 
Jill and Rachel. Friends through the ages.

BME:  Jill, did you have any experience with suspensions before meeting Rachel?

JILL:  None at all. After meeting her, I hosted an event where I had iwascured (IWC) perform, and then I headed down to the 2003 Rites of Passage (ROP) Suscon where I was the Canadian rigger for the weekend. I was there to replace Jon (IAM:wild zero), which are some pretty huge shoes to fill. I felt honoured and everyone welcomed me with open arms because both Rachel and Phil believed in my skill level and the other staff took an instant shining to me. I think I proved myself that weekend by rigging a human zip line that Rachel went down on hooks. We’ve been told that it was the highlight of some people’s weekend.

BME:  Rachel, what is your experience with suspensions and pullings?

RACHEL:  I first became involved in suspension through iwascured in March 2001 when I saw Martini’s (IAM::martini) torture with huge bent bar-b-q skewers as hooks. After that experience I was hooked (ha! ha!) and immersed myself in helping out with shows at BME events, like the one in Shannon’s (IAM:glider) backyard in Toronto as a piercer, rigger and performer. I’ve performed a number of times in Toronto with IWC at various clubs and at BMEfest in Tweed. I attended the first Dallas Suscon, some ROP Suscons in Massachusetts, and the Rhode Island ROP Suscons consistently for the past three years and worked closely with the ROP, Traumatic Stress Discipline (TSD), and IHUNG crews.

BME:  How long have you been in the body modification scene?

JILL:  I have had piercings and tattoos since the mid 90’s, but wouldn’t say that I have been involved in the modification industry until I met Rachel. She opened my eyes to a world of incredible people.

RACHEL:  I’ve never really considered myself part of a scene, but before joining IAM in January of 2001, I got my first tattoo and piercing when I was eighteen (other than my lobes, which were done at age five). I have really downsized my modifications in the past year but I’ve got several piercings, scarification, and four tattoos. My most recent body ritual is fasting. It’s a mental and physical challenge, much like training for my marathons. I don’t get to suspend very often because I can’t afford the time it would take for my body to heal from one and because I’m scared my body might go into overload. Preparing for a marathon takes a lot of discipline, training and recovering.

 
Rachel doing a couple of her own suspensions at previous events.

BME:  Off the topic a little, but I noticed you spell “women” and “girl” differently, why is that?

RACHEL:  Basically it creates words not based on “man” or “men.” Similar to not using “he” as a general term supposedly encompassing all, but instead he/she or one. Grrl is just a fun way to spell “girl.” It looks more tough and in your face.

BME:  Okay, fair enough. Onward.
Last year, you two hosted the first All-Grrl’s Suscon, and it was a success! Whose idea was it?

JILL:  The day that I met Rachel in my store she mentioned wanting to do an all wimmins suspension event. I told her that I would be glad to help her out if she needed it, which she did. A year later, we were executing the first ever All-Grrls Suscon. I was glad to help her bring one of her dreams to reality.

RACHEL:  I had thought about doing an All-Grrl suspension event/team when I was just getting involved in the suspension community. Around November 2001, Carrie (IAM:alisinwonderland) and I attended the first Dallas Suscon as part of the IWC team. It was there that we realized we were practically the only females within the suspension groups attending who actually participated in getting people off the ground. Our attempts to jump in and help were met with at lot of resistance like, “You can hold stuff when our hands get full.”

BME:  How did you deal with that at the time?

RACHEL:  I almost didn’t go back the second day because I was so unimpressed and I felt totally powerless. I got the impression that the boys were having trouble realizing we weren’t just someone’s girlfriend watching from the sidelines. My first response was to get fuming mad and storm off but I knew that wouldn’t help anything. Instead, Carrie and I took that energy and transformed it into something good: she and I decided to create a space that would be more womyn-positive, and the idea for the All-Grrls Suscon was born.

That event ended up being an incredibly amazing experience as the IWC crew was really supportive of us as crew members. Some members of the TSD briefed us on some rigging techniques, and so began our beautiful friendship with those wonderful Texans! I believe that since then a lot has changed in terms of women’s involvement in the suspension community. There are definitely lots more women participating in suspension events and crews on all levels.

BME:  What do you think changed that made women more “accepted” in the events?

RACHEL:  I believe that because of the increase in women suspending at events has helped. When grrls come to the events and see other women suspending, piercing, rigging, and performing it boosts their self-confidence in that, “hey if she can do it, I can too” way. It was very inspiring for me to see women suspending at a BME bar-b-q. I also think that a lot of the core members of crews like TSD, ROP, IHUNG, and of course IWC have been accepting of wimmin working within their group, and some of the negativity we experience may come from the periphery.

JILL:  I agree. The more wimmin suspend, the more we’re able to let the men know that we can do things just as well as them.
BME:  Do you feel the need to “prove” yourself at mixed-gender events?

JILL:  I think women have had to prove themselves in every aspect of society, and it’s no different with suspensions. Personally, I had to walk in to an already-established community and introduce myself as part of IWC and just start rigging. I think I earned their respect right away when they all realized I knew what I was doing, and like I said, Rachel helped me ease into the scene because she was already established within that group.

RACHEL:  I’ve only really felt that I need to prove myself once, at the first Dallas Suscon. It’s possible that our entire group was kind of under the microscope considering it was a TSD-run event and they had never worked with us. Since then, I think our reputation has somewhat preceded us and I haven’t felt any need to prove myself, though I still run myself ragged at Suscons. I’m not good with just standing around because there’s always something that needs to be done!

BME:  What were the steps from taking the All-Grrls idea to an actual Suscon?

JILL:  Finding a location was the hard part. We only wanted wimmin there— there were to be no boys involved at all, so it was very hard to find somewhere that’s suspension-friendly and men-free. We decided to hold it at my business partner’s yard, which turned out to be an incredible location because it was outside and the weather was amazing. We had to get our own supplies which are quite costly, and devise a free-standing unit that we could use to suspend from. Because there were no trees that we could use in the yard, I had to make a huge rig designed for two suspensions beside each other at one time.

The other important factor to make the event a success was finding staff. The wimmin we knew that were qualified were from all over North America. Getting them all into my yard was the trick. We decided to hold the event on the weekend of BMEfest of last year because we figured that a lot of wimmin would be coming for that already, so it was a perfect opportunity.

As for running the actual event, Rachel and I had no problems. Many people helped with the prep work and the set up of the event. Rachel’s experience with suspension and my experience running events, it just sort of happened. Flawlessly I might add.

BME:  How many girls attended?

RACHEL:  I believe there were about twenty-five people who attended (including staff) from all over the world including England, Australia, US and Western Canada…

JILL:  …and we did about nine suspensions and two pulls. We put out juice and water and food for the staff and the day went by smoothly. Rachel and I started the prep at around 8:00am, and the staff started showing up at 9am. Our first suspension started by 11:00am or so, and we continued until just after 6:00pm. All of the suspensions were suicide, and we even had a couple go up at the same time. It was really amazing. They had a really profound experience.

BME:  Why was it profound for them?

JILL:  The grrls had wanted to suspend together since they met me a year earlier. One of the most influential wimmin to them was Liz Spencer, who I’d suspended a year earlier. Once they saw that suspension and how it changed Liz’s life, they wanted to suspend together. Liz was supposed to be there for their experience, but sadly, she passed away that spring and didn’t get to see them. I was happy to have helped in give her that experience and then share it with two of her friends.

BME:  Did you notice any difference in the atmosphere? Certainly girls act differently when they’re with just girls, so was it the same sort of thing at the event?

JILL:  Of course it was. A group of wimmin is just different. It’s an emotional thing, an estrogen thing. It was just a really nice calm atmosphere.

RACHEL:  It was totally different. I found it was a more peaceful and calm environment. Everything ran really smoothly— like clockwork. There was no running around or stressing about who was going up next. Maybe it was because it was a smaller event than most Suscons, but I didn’t sense any hesitation from the suspendees when it was their turn. There was no competition or feeling that you had to put a show on for anyone. There is an inexplicable comfort that comes with working in an all-wimmin’s space.

BME:  What types of girls did you attract at the event? Was it people who’d never suspended or pulled before? Do you a lot of women came specifically because there were no men present?

JILL:  I don’t think that any of the participants were against men being there but they were definitely excited that it was only going to be only wimmin there. None of the staff are anti-male. But we all wanted to have a positive female environment. Wimmin and men are different. No matter what you say, they are different creatures. So, when you get only females at an event, it just feels different. There’s less ego and more mental energy, plus, there’s no testosterone.

We had wimmin who had never suspended or pulled before and we also had ones that had, and the general consensus was that the vibe was great! I know many who couldn’t make it last year are making it a priority this year. I think lots of grrls were just happy to have a venue to be able to let go of any inhibitions.

RACHEL: 
I don’t really think there was a specific type of person who came to our event. I assume that the wimmin wanted to try suspending in an all-grrl environment, whether it was because they wanted to be in the company of females or because they specifically didn’t want men to be there, I have no idea. It was never about excluding men, but rather about including wimmin.

 
Jill with IAM:stumbleine

BME:  What are some common inhibitions that women feel at a cross-gender event?

JILL:  I think that most people don’t like to suspend for the first time in a large group because it’s something that’s so potentially emotional. It’s a proven fact that wimmin and men act differently. When wimmin are around men, sometimes they feel like they have to prove themselves and when you take men out of the equation they can just be themselves because there’s nobody to impress. Plus, it’s easier to suspend without a shirt on and many wimmin aren’t comfortable enough to take their shirt off at a mixed event. The All-Grrls Suscon is not for everyone, but the ones who appreciate it are the ones we hold it for.

RACHEL:  Jill’s right: I often feel compelled to put on a show or prove how tough I am at cross-gender events and it makes me feel self-conscious. If the suspension requires me to be scantily clad, I’m more aware of my nudity and how attractive I look to others. I think other wimmin are also afraid to “fail” in front of such a crowd— whether it’s not being able to suspend as long as everyone else, or being unable to fulfill some other goal they feel they need to achieve to have a “successful” suspension. I think some grrls are preoccupied with being sexy or attractive, and these things may take a bit of focus away from themselves and the experience their body is going through.

BME:  For people thinking about going this year— whether it’ll be their first time attending or their second time— why should people attend your event?

JILL:  "Why shouldn’t they?" is a better question. An All-Grrls Suscon is a really nice experience, especially for those who’ve never suspended before. It’s not going to be for every female out there, but I know a lot of grrls find it comfortable and welcoming. Wimmin can connect with each other on a level that men can’t. That doesn’t make us any better than men, but it certainly gives us the opportunity to empathize with each other and what we are feeling.

RACHEL:  Plus, for the same reasons why people would attend any other suscon-type event— to hang!

BME:  What has your feedback been from men about this event?

JILL:  The feedback was great. I think there were a bunch of men that couldn’t believe that we actually did this. We sure showed them! The men in both Rachel’s and my life are very supportive and they respect us for what we do. They know we are highly skilled in suspension and rigging collectively and put on a great, successful event. We definitely had a bunch of grief from men out there that don’t think there are enough trained wimmin out there to work the suscon.


***


I had to talk to the men who disagreed with the idea, and I found two who were willing to speak out. Cere (IAM:Cere), a member of the ROP (but whose opinions don’t represent anyone’s but his own) admits that his point of view is very unpopular, but he does not like the idea of the All-Grrl’s Suscon. Rachel, Jill and Cere are all very good friends, but his opinion differs dramatically from theirs.

IAM:Cere

Cere: Simply put, I am completely against the idea of it. I understand the idea that a woman might be more comfortable around other woman suspending and the idea that at a large event that might have a woman suspending topless or nude may bring gawkers from the male gender. I call bullshit on it. You are just as likely to have a bisexual or lesbian woman admire a naked girl as you would a guy. Also at every single event that we have thrown there has been nudity or toplessness and we have never had a problem with someone being rude or leering. If you are uncomfortable with your body, set up something private.

The main reason is though is the hypocrisy behind it. If I were to throw an All-White suscon or a No-Minority suscon, everyone would be up in arms screaming about it. But it’s okay that an entire gender is being discriminated against in a community that is supposed to celebrate the oneness of humanity? Fuck that.

That said though, I love Rachel and Jill, and they are awesome friends of mine. I hope their next event goes off without a hitch and I hope that everyone who hangs there has an amazing experience and gets the most out of their suspension.


IAM:Code Zero

Code Zero: I personally didn’t feel like any one-gender event is fair or just. I understand that these women feel more comfortable without any guys there, but I’m a larger guy and I don’t necessarily feel comfortable with a ton of strangers around, but if I had a "Fat guy only" event, it would get protested by women and men alike. The whole BME/IAM scene is about acceptance and togetherness, and this event felt like a slap in the face. Having an invite-only event is one thing because it prevents having people come just to gawk, like the highly secretive MODCON, but to exclude someone based on nothing other than gender, it’s not right. It’s sexist.

Do you think it would be okay for someone to organize a "Blacks Only" Suscon if they felt that black people would be more comfortable doing suspensions without anyone else around? It may not sound like the same thing, but at its core, it’s exactly the same thing.


BME:  What would you like to say to people who view this as an “anti-men” event, instead of how you intended it: a “pro-women” event?

JILL:  I know some people don’t understand why men can’t be there, but this is all about being pro-wimmin. There is an emotional and physical difference between men and wimmin, and if you can’t get that, you have bigger problems than just not being allowed in to our event. I have spoken to many men who will outright laugh at other men who don’t understand the difference between men and wimmin. Many men know that this is an important and necessary event. I had men tell me last year that the only difference between men and wimmin was our genitals. Pardon me as I stop laughing. A few guys retaliated with comments like, “Well, what if there was an all male suscon?” I think, up until a few years ago, the events were an all-male Suscon. Wimmin are just starting to become more prominent in the suspension community. The All-Grrl Suscon is an event where wimmin can feel free to be themselves and not worry about what the men think.

RACHEL:  To them it’s all about us hating men, which is strange considering that these comments come from men we know and love and who know and love us. As much as some of us hate to admit it, our society is still deeply infected with patriarchy, sexism and misogyny. What Cere fails to notice is that every day is white, heterosexual male day. My god, wimmin weren’t even able to vote until 1920, whereas Blacks had the right fifty years prior. I think that speaks miles about North America’s views on wimmin in society. Not to mention wimmin still face a substantial economic inequality. I think that although gender equality is definitely ideal, we’re still working on it, and there is still a need for wimmin to create empowering spaces for themselves. I think it’s difficult for a lot of men to understand that.

Cere suggested that we create a private event, and that’s exactly what we’ve done! I too, have never seen blatant gawking at a suspension convention, however I think one would be hard pressed to find a man who does not consider nudity in wimmin to be a highly sexually charged thing. I think it is difficult for men to look at wimmin’s bodies and not regard them in a sexual context. A breast is never just regarded as any other non-sexed part of the body such as an arm or a leg. I disagree that wimmin who are sexually attracted to other wimmin lack the same discretion. I feel that a wimmin’s only space allows grrls to reveal their bodies in a non-sexual manner.

The majority of the feedback we’ve heard from men has been positive and supportive, which is really great. Of course a few people have their knickers in a knot over the concept of a wimmin-only event and there has been a little backlash, but from what I’ve heard the feedback is primarily positive.


***

As Jill said, there are men who completely agree with the ideals behind the All-Grrls Suscon.

Graham Wilson (IAM:[tan])

[tan]: Without a doubt, I believe it’s important to have an All-Grrls Suscon. Men dominate the suspension and the modification community in general. Any chance for a minority in a community to get together and share ideas, knowledge and experience can only enhance equality. It may be difficult for some women to be half undressed in front of men (who may or may not care), which can add another mental hurdle that would encourage them to turn away from suspension. Suspension is difficult enough as it is and for first time suspenders feeling self-conscious it is not going to help at all.

Frankly, there are currently very few women staffers. Men throw the hooks, men hang from hooks, and men hold the knowledge. Suspension has become a male dominated experience and if you dispute this, have a look at the suspension galleries and experiences on BME. There is a lack of a female voice and knowledge.

Let’s ask women what they want. If women want to suspend with other women, brilliant, let them go ahead and do it without feeling like they are harming the suspension/modification community. The more people that feel free, comfortable and safe to suspend, the better!


George (IAM:Useless) is a member
of the NY ROP chapter.

Useless: In a way, I think it is good to have an All-Grrls Suscon. There definitely aren’t enough women in the suspension community, so this is a good opportunity for people who want to learn. I’m a bit concerned about the staff, because there are only a few female suspension artists that I trust. I understand how this event is a pro-women but to some extent I do understand how the men (boys?) can see this as an anti-men event. It’s a bit of a tricky situation, but if this can help some females learn more about suspensions, then I’m all for it.

Of all the BBQs, shows and Suscons I’ve been to, I don’t think the female suspension artists have been treated any differently. I have worked side by side with females and felt just as comfortable with working with them as I do a male. I know that people aren’t randomly chosen like a lottery to join these suspension teams; it’s a lot about trust. To the few females that will be working this event, I know they will use their skills and best judgment to make this event a memorable one. Just like the entire suspension community does for every event.


PhilipBarbosa: It’s about time this happened! The suspension community needs to have more well trained practitioners and a much stronger female presence. It’s an asset to what we do! I agree, for too long much of the community has been male dominated, but as time has gone on there has been a growing population of really amazing wimmin with drive, dedication and tough fucking skin! It’s really nice to see, and I’m proud and really just very happy that there is such a positive response to this project.

Occasionally, I tire of being involved in this community, mostly when I encounter apathy, but its events like this one that really make me think about how powerful an experience like this really is and what amazing things we can all do.

That said, I also believe that tigertante is one of the most skilled and best trained suspension practitioners I have ever had the pleasure of working with and I trust her with my life. Following through with her commitment to make an event will certainly do amazing things, not only for the suspension community but for your selves as well. We need new blood to pump into what we are all trying to establish. A stronger female presence is exactly what the community needs right now!


BME:  What if someone has a boyfriend that they really want to go with them, can he come?

RACHEL:  Nope, no exceptions.

JILL:  I think that there are tons of people out there who want their partner to be present when they suspend. Unfortunately, the All-Grrl Suscon is exactly that. All wimmin. There are many other Suscons where everyone can go, and all we’re trying to do with this one is offer something a bit different. If it doesn’t fit into what your ideal experience is, then maybe it isn’t’ the event for you. We know it’s not for everyone. But those who came last year enjoyed it.

BME:  Rachel, last year you said “I’m sick and tired of sausage-fest Suscons and would love to help create a safe, friendly space for wimmin out there who want to suspend but are possibly uncomfortable at boy-dominated events to step out and experience a pull or suspension themselves!” Do you still feel as though Suscons are “sausage-fests”?
Jill: Do you share her opinion on this?

RACHEL:  I think that comment stems from the my experience at the Dallas Suscon, but in the past several years, since working with both ROP and IHUNG crews, the environment has changed into one that’s much friendlier toward wimmin. Thanks to them, I no longer consider Suscons “sausage-fests.”

JILL:  Suscons are, or at least have been, sausage fests. It is a very male dominated community. First off, there aren’t as many wimmin out there that are interested, and wimmin tend to be a bit more timid than men when getting involved in something like suspension. The men that we know are extremely talented at what they do, but not everyone tends to be totally accepting of wimmin in “their” space. Now that there’s an All-Grrls Suscon and more wimmin attending mixed-gender events, I do see a positive change in the community.

BME:  What are you doing differently at this year’s All-Grrl Suscon in comparison to last year’s?

JILL:  We’re going to make small improvements so that more wimmin can go up and stay up longer if they want to, so we’re hopefully going to have more than two stations and more staff. We haven’t decided on a particular spot to host it, but we know it’s going to be bigger. I’m really excited about the great atmosphere it will be. Last year people only wanted to do suicide suspensions, so we’d really like to see different styles at this year’s because I think it’s good to see people try a variety of different things.

BME:  Why was that the only kind done last year?

RACHEL:  I think the fact that it was a lot of these grrls’ first time had a lot to do with the domination of the suicide suspension. The suicide position is definitely the most common style attempted. I believe most people think it’s the “easiest” method because there are a minimal number of hooks and the suspendee can’t see them, which make a lot of people feel more at ease, even though fewer hooks means more weight on each hook. It’s also a relatively comfortable vertical position so people can feel free to spin and swing around.

BME:  What were you most surprised about with last year’s event?

JILL:  How smoothly it went.

RACHEL:  I was probably most surprised with the incredible atmosphere that we created during the event. It was so amazing to be working with an all-grrl team. It ended up being a really heartwarming, positive experience.

BME:  Did you hear back from any of the girls after they left the event? What was the general feeling about the event?

JILL:  I know people can’t wait till this year’s event.

RACHEL:  I heard back from a number of grrls saying how much they enjoyed the experience and thanking us for putting it on. I think I heard from way more grrls saying how much they hated to miss it and to tell them when the next one is coming around! But in general, everyone was incredibly positive about how the event ran.


***

They’re right, the feedback from the women who attended was extremely positive. I spoke to a few of them about their experiences.

 
IAM:LilFunky1 (right) and Sandy
hard at work.

LilFunky1: I was a staff member at last year’s All-Grrls Suscon in the bleed-out area and was responsible for removing the air out of the girls that had finished their suspension or pulls, as well as photo-documenting. I was really excited to work at the Suscon because it was the first of its kind, so I jumped at the chance to become a part of history.

I found the atmosphere really calm, friendly and very relaxed. There was no rudeness, attitudes or egos and no one was showing off. The experienced people were really open with their feelings and knowledge about suspending and pulling which was important because the majority of the participants were new to it, and I was new to working at a Suscon. I was comfortable talking about my experiences suspending to anyone who was interested, which surprised me considering I had just met a lot of the people there, but was willing to share a lot that I thought I would never be able to tell anyone.

There was no specific schedule to adhere to because many of the participants had never suspended or pulled before and the staff did not want to push people to go up, but rather to let them go at their own pace. The comfort level was definitely raised because there was no one who might make an ill-timed or inappropriate comment on purpose or by accident. No one seemed self-conscious at all about their clothing choices and they generally seemed very happy at the idea of “girl power” and just being at such a special event.


IAM:Badcat
Badcat: I arrived with a friend of mine, only knowing Rachel and no one else. I initially wanted to try a pull, but by the time it was my turn, I’d changed my mind and wanted to do a suspension instead. It was a very comfortable atmosphere with really friendly and positive attendees, and there wasn’t a competitive aura. I felt a lot of support and acceptance about the girls’ preferences about doing pulls compared to a suspension, and how they were to be done (number of hooks, etc). I was impressed with how safe and health-conscious everything was arranged. They had food, juice and water for people to prepare their bodies with and there was even a hammock to recoup in!

The rig was set up in a private backyard with grass below your dangling feet, the fresh perfume from the flower gardens teasing your senses, and the warm sun on your skin. I couldn’t have felt more secure with my surroundings and it was one of the most spiritual experiences I’ve had. I was dealing with a rough relationship and had been very stressed in the month leading up to the suspension. Once I did mine, I felt crystal clear and very cleansed. I’ve never experienced anything like that before with such intensity. I can’t wait to do it again at this year’s event!



IAM:Alyssa Jane doing her first back pull
with IAM:Dyzcordia.

Alyssa Jane: That day I decided to do my first pull. The atmosphere was a lot different than any other event I have ever attended. There was a general feeling of support in the air even though I had never met any of the other attendees; they made me feel as though I had known them for years and it really put my mind at ease. There were no gawky onlookers, no pressure to act tough or to perform. It’s wasn’t necessarily more “comfortable,” but I did notice a completely different atmosphere than at other events and because of it, I felt very calm. One thing that sticks out is that it was the most organized event I’ve ever seen. If I didn’t live so far away, I’d be at this year’s, for sure!


IAM:vampy

vampy: I had travelled from England and didn’t know anyone at the event, but I immediately felt welcomed. It was a very relaxed atmosphere and all the girls were walking around talking to each other. I’m not the sort of girl who tends to seek out, or feel more comfortable in the company of women. I do have female friends, but the majority of my friends tend to be male. I felt relaxed and had fun chatting to people, just as I did the next day at BMEfest where there were men around. I didn’t suspend because I need to know someone very well before I can feel comfortable enough for them to suspend me, but if I had, I think the all girls rule would have been more of a hindrance than a help. While I would have been happy suspending in front of all of the people there, I like to have my close friends around when I am suspending, and most of them are male.

In the piercing tent, the atmosphere was very different than what I was used to. Previously, I had only worked alone or alongside men while piercing for suspensions. The atmosphere was a lot more open and relaxed. In my experience, I have felt that when offering a different opinion to male piercers (something like “don’t you think she’d be more comfortable if we lower the marks half an inch?”) they instantly see this as criticism and get defensive. I felt a lot more like everyone was working together for the benefit of the suspendee, and there was much less ego involved. At one point one of the organizers came over and asked me if there was anything we did differently to them and why; I’ve never felt that my opinion was respected as much at an event with male piercers, even by those with less experience than me.

After returning home, I did a small suspension event with another female piercer and mostly girls helping out (though there were a few men around). I found exactly the same thing while working; that we seemed to get along better as a team, and there was continual communication about what had been done and what needed to be done. Having said that, I did another event shortly after where I got to work alongside a wonderful male piercer. I found exactly the same thing working with him, so it’s not exclusively women I enjoy working with, but I do think that in general women accept constructive criticism as it is meant, and pay more attention to the needs of the suspendee.



IAM:Dyzcordia

Dyzcordia: This was my first suspension event and I did a chest pull. I wanted to go because it seemed as though it would be a smaller event than a lot of the others, so I thought I’d feel more comfortable. It was in Toronto, where I live, and it came at a time when I was craving the influence of female energy. I think there is something very different about being in a group of just girls, and it’s as much about how women are different with each other when there are no men around as it is about not having to interact with men.

There was an aura of excitement, that kind of eager anticipation that can be almost tangible. I felt that it was very well organized, but not overly so either. There was no sense of disorganization, but rather a lot of room for flexibility. It didn’t seem like there was any set order that people were suspending in, each person just seemed to go when they were ready. Everything seemed to just flow well. I am planning to go to this year’s event and am pretty excited about it.

I know that there was a lot of controversy surrounding the issue of whether or not excluding men was a negative action, but I don’t feel that the point was to exclude men, but to just focus on women. I can’t imagine how my first experience could possibly have been more positive, and I don’t know if that’s primarily because it was an all female event; I just know that the event was the perfect thing for me and I came away from it totally satisfied.

***

Having an All-Grrl’s Suscon is a wonderful idea. Women have a strong presence when we’re together, and when you add something as empowering as suspensions and pulls, our bond is strengthened. I wish Jill and Rachel the best of luck with this year’s event, and I hope they’ll continue it in the future, and I’ll see them in August!

— Gillian Hyde (IAM:typealice)




Gillian Hyde (IAM:typealice) is a vagabond, though her roots run deep into Nova Scotian soil. She’s lived and worked on three continents since 2001, and has never lived anywhere for longer than eight months since the age of 16. She loves fonts, puns, being barefoot, and office supplies. Calm to her is the roar of the ocean.

Online presentation copyright © BMEzine.com LLC. Requests to republish must be confirmed in writing. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published online, 2005 by BMEzine.com LLC from La Paz, BCS, Mexico.

Love at First Bite [The Publisher’s Ring]


Love at First Bite


“Behold I do not give lectures or a little charity.
 When I give, I give myself.”

- Walt Whitman


Before I begin, let me apologize for not having introduced BME’s new staff members more promptly. As you may know, at the end of 2004, I ran an “intern search”, looking for a writer to take over many of the duties here in BME/News which were lagging under my workload. The conclusion of the search was a tie, with both Jordan Ginsberg and Gillian Hyde joining the team, as well as Clive Mathias stepping in to handle BME’s new (actually, “reborn”) video division — you know him both as a long-time member of the suspension group iWasCured and part of the core team filming and producing Uvatiarru.

All of these three are currently telecommuting from BME’s “vacation offices” in Mexico where they met both me and each other for the first time. Part of working for BME means having access to highly sensitive information about things that people are doing behind closed doors, and thus signing a non-disclosure agreement was part of the hiring process. Jokingly I suggested that to really show they wanted the job, they’d have to lop off their little fingers as well. Obviously this didn’t happen, and I would never make such a requirement!


Gillian and Clive shortly after arriving in Mexico

I think to everyone’s surprise — including theirs — a whirlwind romance quickly brewed between Gillian and Clive, as some of you may have noticed on their IAM pages (judging by the spike in hits on both their pages (typealice and rookie), I’d say more than a few people have been vicariously reading those journals). What happened next came as a surprise even to me. Looking rather sheepish, they came into my office, holding hands, and began, “remember that thing you said about cutting our fingers off…?

They’d asked to keep their story private at first but have agreed to let me interview them here about what happened next and share a few of their photos publicly (the full video will go up on the new video site as soon as it’s launched, and a few more photos are scheduled for the next BME/extreme update as well).

 
***

SHANNON/BME:  
You know I was just joking about the finger chopping, right?
GILLIAN:  
Yeah, for sure; it doesn’t have anything to do with you… I think that comment just planted the seed. At first, I thought it was a stupid idea, but the more I went over it in my head, the more I liked it.
BME:  

What made you actually start thinking about the idea seriously?
GILLIAN:  
I think we wanted to really just experience this important event in our lives fully, and as Clive is fairly knowledgeable about amputations, certainly more than I am, I trusted him. I think I knew the first day we spent together that we were meant for each other, as corny as it sounds. Dipping my feet in the Pacific for the first time with him was really, really special, and I think that’s when it hit us: we were falling in love. We wanted to mark it with something really big.
CLIVE:  
If you love someone, you want to give something of yourself to them. I don’t think people take that seriously enough, I mean, they say it, but it’s just words… I wanted to show Gillian that I really meant it and it wasn’t just something I’d read on a Hallmark card. Go big or go home you know?

BME:  
Why not just give her a promise ring or something?
GILLIAN:  
I’m not dating a ring, and I don’t want a ring. I’m dating flesh, and I want flesh to make a commitment to me. What good is a ring to me? It doesn’t really mean anything. I’ve been engaged before — and look where that took me: Nowhere. I wanted this time to be different. Plus, he’s been previously married, and I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t a repeat of that relationship. I told him if he was serious about this, he had to prove it — and that I was willing to do the same.
BME:  
That sounds like a threat?
CLIVE:  
It wasn’t like that, we were just talking and it felt right.
BME:  
How did you decide what exactly to cut off?
GILLIAN:  
That was obvious — it had to be our ring fingers. We were both just out of rough relationships, and wanted to both reclaim and be rid of those fingers… this has a permanence to it as well. You can take a ring off your ring finger, but you can never put your ring finger back on once you take it off. It’s something that will last forever — it’s a physical testament to how much I actually do love him.
CLIVE:  
And if we ever break up we’ll just tell people it’s a permanent shocker.
Think about it…
GILLIAN:  

Shut up.

BME:  
Did either of you have an interest in amputation before this?
GILLIAN:  

No, and to be honest I never thought I would do one, but I think it’s one of those things that’s hard to understand until you feel it. It just sort of happened, and it feels right.
CLIVE:  
Like our love.
GILLIAN:  
Shut up.
BME:  
I’ve got to say, the procedure you guys used is, well, pretty unusual. Do you mind walking me through it, start to finish?
GILLIAN:  
We started by putting elastic bands around the base of the fingers and wrapping them tight so there wouldn’t be too much bleeding. Because we didn’t have any anesthetics on hand — I’m definitely not into that much pain — we soaked our hands in ice water for about half an hour until they were totally numb. We poked them with a needle to make sure we couldn’t feel anything.

I put my ring finger in Clive’s mouth and he put his ring finger in my mouth with our teeth resting right on the last joint. We looked in each other’s eyes, nodded, and bit down as hard as we could. It was a little disappointing because we couldn’t actually get all the way through, but we did pop the joint open and tear it a little. We cut the rest, just some skin and the tendon, the normal way.


BME:  

That sounds like a recipe for infection. Did you do anything to make it safer?
GILLIAN:  
Well, of course we washed our hands first, and gargled with rum to disinfect our mouths as much as possible.
CLIVE:  
Gargled? I drank it.
GILLIAN:  
And that’s why you bled a lot more, it serves you right.
BME:  
Did you bleed a lot?
CLIVE:  
No, not much, the elastics stopped most of it and even after we took them off there wasn’t a lot of blood.
BME:  
And did it hurt?
CLIVE:  

It was more of a numb pain, like a really deep ache. To be honest, the ice water was the worst part.
BME:  
Did you get out of it what you wanted?
GILLIAN:  
Yes, absolutely, it was intense, especially because we did it at the same time. I wasn’t sure if it was going to work (because really, our front teeth aren’t that sharp), or if the pain was going to make it just suck, but it was amazing. I’ve never felt so close to someone. Seeing someone when they’re that vulnerable is like peering into their soul. We tried to keep eye contact the entire time, but Clive winced a lot.
BME:  
What are you going to do with the finger joints? Are you guys going to eat each other’s fingers or anything like that?
CLIVE:  
Right now they’re soaking in Bacardi 151 just to preserve them, but when my hand is feeling a little better and I can work with it again I’m going to skin them and make a pair of amulets so we can each wear each other’s ring finger bones as necklaces.
BME:  
It’s been about a week now. How is the healing going?
GILLIAN:  
I’ve had a little skin retraction so a bit more bone is exposed than seems right, but other than that it’s doing okay. We didn’t do much as far as aftercare comes… just packed them with [no-stick] gauze, left them alone, and kept them clean. We try to go swimming in the ocean every day — I think the salt water helps keep the wound flushed out.

CLIVE:  
Mine is doing fine but I have a Wolverine-like mutant healing factor. Yeah, I always heal well. Just look at my elbow, I took the stiches out while at work and it healed so well you can hardly see it anymore.
BME:  
Would you recommend this to other couples?
GILLIAN:  
I don’t know if I’d recommend it, but it was right for us and I don’t regret it at all. I’d do it again.
CLIVE:  

On our ten year anniversary we’re going to take off the next joint, and then the whole finger on our twentieth.
BME:  
I apologize for asking this, but I have to… What if you break up?
GILLIAN:  
We can never break up, that’s the wonderful thing about this.
CLIVE:  
I don’t think that will happen anyway, especially with a kid on the way. If it’s a boy we’re calling him Bob, and if it’s a girl we’re calling her Chopper.
GILLIAN:  
Shut up.
CLIVE:  
But seriously, I have always wanted a child, and so has she.

***

BME:  
Finally, Jordan — I’ve got to ask, living with these guys, what do you think of all this?
JORDAN:  
Before I came down to Mexico, I was under strict orders from my mother not to get romantically involved with anybody I would be living or working with down here, and I was generally in agreement with that. That said, I hadn’t ruled out the occasional round of drunken grab-ass, but it became quite clear within the first few days here that Clive and Gillian had a good thing going, and I saw no reason to disrupt that.

Once they started talking about this amputation business, I knew I had made the right decision… my decision being, of course, to not touch that shit with a ten-foot pole. Maybe I’m just cynical, but I haven’t even had a relationship serious or long enough for a pregnancy scare, much less one where dedication-through-nullification was a facet of it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I generally support just about everything, but when Clive asked me to act as a witness to the “ceremony” — to legitimize it in the eyes of the Lord, perhaps? — I just did my best to claim conscientious objector status and keep my distance from the whole sordid affair.

Couldn’t they have just gotten matching tattoos like other shortsighted couples or something? I honestly think it’s just some nasty sex thing — like I really need something else to overhear and get the cold sweats from in the middle of the night.

GILLIAN:  
Shut up.


“When you make a sacrifice in marriage, you’re sacrificing not
 to each other but to unity in a relationship.”

- Joseph Campbell


More photos of the healing process and procedure will be in Monday’s BME/extreme update and stay tuned for the full video as the new site launches. Thanks to Clive and Gillian for sharing this with us, and best of luck to them in both their healing and their future together.

Finally, let me here wish them luck and longevity in their future together. You know what the strangest thing about all of this is? It doesn’t even seem weird to me — it seems right. I don’t know if that means I’ve been doing BME too long, or if it really means they made the right decision. I hope it’s the latter.


Shannon Larratt
BMEzine.com

Straightedge and Modified [The Publisher’s Ring]


Straightedge and Modified

“Those drugs are gonna kill you if I don’t get to you first
Make the wrong choice and I’m gonna judge you
I hope that fucked up head can tell you what to do.”

- JUDGE, You’ve Lost My Respect

Straightedge appears as an interesting connundrum — it advocates a strong sense of community, yet it willfully isolates itself from the mainstream. It advocates clean-living while over-indulging in risky behavior like body modification, glorification of violence, and even body rites. Its adherents aim for serenity while often embracing conflict and choosing fashion statements of guerrilla warfare and gangsterism… Earlier this year BME did a series of interviews on the subject, and, after sitting on my desktop for six months, I’ve finally had a chance to put them together for you here.

Straightedge (sXe) – Straightedge is a philosophy of “clean living” that espouses a total ban on drugs and alcohol (usually including cigarettes and caffeine), as well as promiscuous (or even pre-marital) sex and other “risky” behavior. The name is based on song lyrics describing the philosophy, and members identify themselves with X’s, often on the back of their hands (mimicking the X’s put on underage attendees at an all-ages show — indicating that they may not be served alcohol).

Militant Straightedge (aka “Hate Edge”) – While most straightedge members chose the lifestyle for personal reasons and are largely concerned with how they lead their own lives, some “militant” members feel that the entire world should agree with them. They adhere to oppressive slogans such as “bring back prohibition” and are known for hateful and anti-social acts such as violently assaulting strangers leaving bars. These groups often choose names including words like “courage”, “honor”, and “discipline”, suffixed with “crew”, giving the public impression that they are a “gang” or militia unit (the literal “Courage Crew”, who the media often pins much of the blame on, encourage their members to be physically imposing and become proficient in “self defence” skills — whether this is an offensive or defensive strategy depends on who you talk to). Instead of focussing on their own problems (and successes, other than edge in and of itself) they focus on the “war” they perceive is going on between those who drink and those who do not.

A number of governments, including the United States, consider forms of militant straightedge a terrorist or cult movement akin to eco-terrorism. Many members glorify the violence by choosing tattoos and icons of brass knuckles, knives, guns, and bats, often festooned with straightedge slogans, while dressing like ‘terrorists’ or ‘guerrillas’ with bandanas hiding their faces and so on. There is a strong neo-nazi element, and their community often suffers from other hate disorders such as homophobia and racism, sometimes echoing oft-co-opted working-class iconography such as the white pride/power movement’s Hammerskins crossed hammers logo.


VIOLENT TATTOO IMAGRY FROM THE
BME ARCHIVES AND OTHER ONLINE POSTINGS.

What’s interesting about hate edge is that it’s almost come full circle from where it all started. Straightedge was “founded” in part to combat the nihilism of early punk, but hate edge embraces this nihilism. It should be noted that sXe founder Ian MacKaye — who has repeatedly said it’s “not about rules” and you can still have an occasional beer (it’s about having a clean life, not blindly following) — doesn’t think much of where sXe has gone.

“I’m a person just like you, but I’ve got better things to do than sit around and smoke dope, ’cause I know that I can cope ... I’ve got the straight-edge.”

- Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat)


“Losing/Breaking Edge” – In an almost cult-like fashion, members may be “shunned” if they “break edge” and have a beer or otherwise slip. Often this can result in insults, homophobic accusations (ie. “drinking is gay you fag”), a total removal from the peer group, and even violence.

Straightedge till 21 – Over the past decade, straightedge has increasingly become a youth fashion movement as much as a philosophy of clean living. Because of this, some young people will adhere to straightedge while they’ve got nothing to lose by doing so, and then “lose the edge” when they are old enough to drink legally.

Well over a decade ago I spent a year — as an artist — researching LSD use in combination with bloodletting in the development of both an artistic and a spiritual voice. As a result I was offered and accepted a full fine arts scholarship to York University and there was able to pursue modifications more seriously, and I also met my current business partner as well as a friend who’d later help me create BME (as I didn’t own a computer at the time suitable for publishing). My conclusion from all of my experiences is that — when used responsibly — the role of psychotropic and psychedelic drugs is very similar in destination to body-oriented ritual. I also believe from my personal experiences that the psychiatric effects — the “redefinition of self” — that comes with mind-altering drug use echoes the redefinition that comes with body modification.

In addition, my feeling is that even without these similarities, straightedge was incongruous with body modification since it involved injecting foreign substances into the body and certainly fell into the same “risky behavior” category as sex — and one could argue that there were “addiction” issues as well. Body ritual I figured was a definite no-no on account of willfully inducing altered states!

Because of that, it came as a surprise when one of the most visible and vocal body modification groups that developed as tattoos and piercings popularized was the straightedge movement. At this point “drug free” subcultures represent between 10% and 15% of IAM’s membership. Most of the encounters that I recognized as being with straightedge people were militant — typically after they’d gotten in one dispute or another. To cite a recent example, after being asked why he had posted death threats against members of BME involved with drugs*, and how he would feel if the situation were reversed, Danny “I wear the X as a symbol of war” Trudell (of Seventh Dagger) wrote me,

If you want the right to say “look at me I have cut off my genitals and am an utter freak” then you would have to extend the same privelige [sic] to others and their views and lifestyle choices. Grow up and hey while you are at it get the mother of your deformed child not to drink while she is pregnant next time.

Not that it’s a sin unique to edge, but apparently he didn’t understand that there is a difference between loving yourself, and hating others!


* To avoid accusations that I’m misleading you, the issue began with a graphic shirt he was promoting on IAM saying “KILL YOUR LOCAL DRUG DEALER”. Like it or not, IAM, like all large international communities, has many members who are involved in drug trafficking, sometimes legally, sometimes not, depending on the culture they live in. Whether you agree with the act or not, one of IAM’s core philosophies is that you can’t threaten to murder your fellow members!

These sorts of baseless (outside of anything else, my wife doesn’t drink and my daughter is high-functioning and certainly not “deformed”) and bizarre attacks — reflex-like anger responses really — had me believing the stereotype (perhaps falsely) that most people were straightedge because of some sort of internal conflict, self-esteem issues, or childhood trauma that was making them unable to think clearly on the subject. These interactions seemed to typify the relationship that the militants were fostering with mainstream society, needlessly alienating themselves and non-militant straightedge in the process — as they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease… and a bad apple ruins the lot.

Of course, on the other hand I knew people like Phish of Slave to the Needle in Seattle, or Brian Decker (“xPUREx”) of Sacred Body Arts in Manhattan, both very talented piercers and modification artists — and of course Emrys Yetz, the driving force behind the influential suspension group Rites of Passage, to name just a few of many. All are vehemently straightedge, but sane, lucid, and deeply involved with body modification and mind-altering body ritual. I decided to sit down with them and others to talk about how their straightedge lifestyle fit in with their body modifications. After a little arguing back and forth, we were also joined by Danny Trudell who I quoted earlier.

PHISH… is a 35 year old professional body modification artist who loves guns, poker, pitbulls, and extreme body modification, and hates drunks, backstabbers, bad piercers, and Freddie Prinz Jr.. He’s also a member of BME’s QOD staff.
(CLICK THE PICTURES FOR IAM PAGE LINKS)

EMRYS… is a body modification artist and founder and main force behind the suspension group Rites of Passage. He has helped hundreds of people around the world take that first leap into the air
BRUCE (“Dr. Scorpio”)… is, in his own words, “a pervert, a poet, a painter, a jackass, and a psychic”. He is also a heavily modified performance artist
JASON (“Grazer”)… is an Ohio-based artist and one of the core voices in the suspension group iHung. He has travelled the continent bringing the joy of suspension to others.
BRIAN… is a piercer and modification artist in Manhattan and an experienced body performance artist with Rites of Passage. He’s known among other things for the advances he’s contributed to the field of surface piercing, and for his trademark one-hook suspensions.
DANNY… has been straightedge for fifteen years (nearly half his life) and is currently working on a book on modern straightedge culture.

BME: Tell me a little about what straightedge means to you, and why you chose it for yourself?

PHISH: To me, straightedge is not indulging in mind altering addictive substances that will affect my quality of life — or the lives of those around me. This includes alcohol and all drugs that aren’t prescribed to me for strictly medical use. It also includes tobacco. I saw my own life and the lives of my friends and family being so drastically affected by my early drug use, that I made a pledge to stay away from things that affected me in that way.

EMRYS: Straightedge is a drug free lifestyle. Some say you can’t drink caffeine, some say no sex before marriage, and some people go as far as saying you need to be vegan as well. In my eyes as long as you’re free of drugs and alcohol you can call yourself straightedge. I usually just say I’m “drug free” — not “straightedge” — to avoid the stereotypes.

BRIAN: I also usuaully use “drug free” or “poison free” over straightedge to describe myself nowadays. A stigma has been attached to that term that exudes such a negative characterization. I am not this person — don’t let the militant groups give me a bad name, cuz I’m not a bad guy!

Anyway, it’s a drug-free path which allows me to deal with life — its problems and its fun — with clear judgement 100% of the time. I chose it because if I can’t see something for what it really is, without distortion, I don’t need to see it at all. I know myself to be a fun and outgoing person without ever needing the “help” that some people have told me they need to find this person inside themselves. I like to think I’m a stronger person because of it.

JASON: For me it’s trying your hardest to live a low-risk lifestyle and keep your body clean, natural, and healthy. By low risk I mean sickness and disease — no promiscuous sex! I also feel that veganism is a natural extension of sXe since meat is merely an intermediary between you and chemicals, at least as far as agri-business is concerned.

I decided to stop drinking after a really drunk night in college — when I figured it would be a good idea to attend the riot I heard about on the news. At the end of it I’d been shot by the police and beaten extensively with batons! Alcoholism runs in my family, as does being a violent drunk, so I figured it would be for the best if I stopped drinking then. At about the same time I met other like-minded people at college and discovered the straightedge community. Before long it was just second nature not to drink, and just chill with friends.

Being straightedge has cleared my mind and body and made me a much more conscientious person. I feel more in touch with my environment and my friends. It’s given me hope and strength where religion has failed me, and it’s taught me to believe in myself. I used Catholicism as a crutch in hard times in the past, but this is not the same escapism.

EMRYS: I was at a very low part of my life — I was motherless, fatherless, and left to raise myself. I was in a haze of drugs, trying to run from my problems, and was about to end up dead like my parents, or in jail. I decided that if I was going to prosper in life I’d have to sober up. I didn’t want to work a dead end job just to make enough money for my next fix, even if it was just cigarettes. I lost a lot of friends when I made that choice, but I feel more alive than ever. I have more energy, I’m able to remember things, and I achieve my goals — I think if I hadn’t become straightedge I’d have slipped deeper into drugged states. Being edge gave me something to work towards, something that no one could take from me, that I could be proud of — I overcame my addictions, and I face my problems sober.

JASON: Straighedge has its downsides as well — I grew up in Dayton (home of the “Courage Crew”, an aggressive straightedge gang) and have gotten a lot of negativity from people who found out I was edge. I’ve even been sucker punched for it — “Do you want a beer?” “No thanks, I’m edge” — WHAM! and I’m on the floor. Through IAM I met a lot of really cool edge people that weren’t militant and just wanted to have fun — then I started calling myself edge again. I’m vocal about it now because I want to show people that there are straightedge people out there who aren’t assholes — straightedge should be something good, not something condescending.

BRUCE: I don’t identify as straightedge — I just haven’t done drugs or alcohol for the last six years in order to save my life. I grew up in the DC hardcore scene in the early 1980s where Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat coined the phrase in the first place, so I’ve probably been around straightedge for over twenty years now — back then it was just a way to alienate yourself from the norm. The community was very tight-knit and cliquish, and very anti-woman.

Now there seems to be an underbelly of violence and preachyness — today’s mosh pits with the thrown punches and karate kicks which purposely do harm to others… When it was just dancing and thrashing sometimes people did get hurt but when someone went down others picked them up — the last pit I was at when someone went down they got kicked in the ribs. You see it in the violent symbols they choose — bats, brass knuckles, knives, and so on. Those were not part of the old movement of politically conscious human rights oriented goals!

It doesn't take a big man to knock somebody down
Just a little courage to lift him off the ground

- DROPKICK MURPHYS, Fightstarter Karaoke

BME: And what drew you to body modification?

PHISH: My first lobe piercing was in 1979 when I was eleven. I watched a lot of pirate movies and always liked them. When I was fourteen or fifteen I was at a party and saw a tattoo that a friend of my older sister’s had — I can remember the design as if it was yesterday — and started becoming really interested in tattoos.

BRIAN: When I was about ten years old I was going to all the kickass 80s metal shows. You know, Motley Crüe, Skid Row, Van Halen, Metallica, and all that. The older (and so much cooler) people at the shows proudly exhibited their piercings and tattoos. I looked up to them a lot. When I got a little older, the metal turned into punk and hardcore. All the piercings and tattoos were still there — even more so. So, I guess the music I listened to and the people I revered in the bands and in the crowds drew me towards modifying myself for status.

Now, I am modified for the sole purpose of showing off who I am to myself, to my friends, to my family, and to strangers. My drug free tattoos are there to tell myself and remind others how strong I am for what I can do, and the things I’ve achieved. I hear far too often, “You do what with hooks where? You know you have to be fucked up for that. What kind of drugs are you on?” My proud response… none. Suspending is another way I prove to myself how much I can accomplish with my mind.

EMRYS: When I was nine years old I carved “EY” into my forearms with my first pocket knife. When it healed I did it again and again until it stayed. It hurt more to cut it deep so it would stay, but the pain of cutting it was made worth it by the pleasure of having the marks. After I did it I felt energized.

Growing up, my mother hung out with a lot of bikers so I was always around pierced and tattooed individuals. The piercings I wanted most were my nipples because I thought guys had no reason for having nipples — if I decorated them with jewelry, they would serve a purpose. So, when I was thirteen years old I got my nipples pierced, and the woman who did them later apprenticed me!

BRUCE: When I took the drugs and alcohol out of my life, there was a huge void. I didn’t know what to do with myself! I became aware of things in the world I hadn’t really thought about. For some reason piercings and tattoos stood out as a way to separate me from the norm… Within six months I had my lobes pierced and three tattoos and started feeling better about myself. My self-esteem started to rise, and the natural endorphin rush of getting tattooed was a thrill I enjoyed when I thought I’d given up all the things that got me off — yes, it got me off.

JASON: My first piercings were done with a gun the day before I left for college — my girlfriend and another close friend all did it to show we’re together, no matter where we were. I met a few kids at college who were more into mods and discovered BME (this was late 1996). I became immediately fascinated. Like a lot of modded people, I’d read National Geographic all my life, but not until BME did I realize how normal this was — I was addicted and spent hours pouring over the texts and pictures. Slowly the “I would never do that” turned into the “I’m not sure I’m ready for that… yet!

I got my tragus pierced first, and not long after, another cartilage piercing, and after some encouragement from my friend Ian I plunged into genital piercing, getting a few scrotal piercings, a lorum, an a frenum. Then came July 1, 2001 and iWasCured.

I drove six and a half hours after being told I could do a flesh pull — it seemed like the logical extension after being relatively pierced and tattooed. The drive was horrible, and I was manic the entire time — I kept bouncing between thinking about how amazing this was going to be, and flipping out about what the hell was wrong with me for wanting to so something like this.

But it turned out great.

After a few more visits with iWasCured, Phil [Barbosa] asked me why I didn’t start doing suspensions back in Ohio. I told him I wouldn’t know how, and immediately the crash course in suspension started. Not long after, iHung was born.

Suspension has become my obsession in life. Everything that I see that is taller than me, I quickly analyze it to see if I could feasibly hang from it. Suspending puts me into my mind’s space like nothing else has ever done. I have clarity, and it shows me what my life really means — enjoyment, good friends, and family. After my first suspension in your back yard, I was addicted… I knew it… I was able to think about my life and see myself from an outside perspective — I was able to just witness myself being myself and not trying to be anything else.

Suspending and piercing have helped me get through a lot of rough times. In the past I used the pain of getting pierced to remind me that I was in control of my life, and those moments helped me get my life back in order. These days suspending is even more important in my life because I travel and am able to give others the opportunity to suspend — I see people’s eyes as I hold thier hands when their feet leave the ground. That brief shimmer of reality that overwhelms every sitcom that they have ever been brainwashed by. The tears of pain and joy that people shed, I shed as well… When I assist someone with a suspension, a small part of me is hanging with them. I feel it.

Being raised Catholic I was used to ritualism — when I stopped believing in Christ I began to miss the ritualism of Mass. I think suspensions helped fill that gap. On the same thought, drugs have similar rituals with them — packing the pipe, lighting it for someone else, passing it around the circle. I can definitely see the correlations between drugs and rituals of the flesh… They are different doors to the same room.


BME: I guess what I don’t understand is that if promiscuous sex, putting drugs into the body, and so on are “bad”, then why isn’t “damaging the body” and inducing drug-like states from endorphins (ie. body modification) a bad thing as well?

BRUCE: Hey, I love promiscuous sex! But I can’t argue this point — I’m fucking high as a kite when I do a hard pull. There’s a great picture of me at LexTalonis’s second social with my cheeks skewered. I look stoned out of my mind and pretty much was.

JASON: My friends who do drugs have the same conversations with me about their experiences with psychedelics as I do with them about suspension. We each found a path that works for us and there are parallels between these paths. The difference is that with drugs there is an outside chemical being introduced into the body to achieve altered states, whereas with ritual like pulling and suspending, these use the body to achieve those states.

As it relates to straightedge, it is possible to get addicted to the adrenaline or endorphin rush — that’s where the old adage “all things in moderation” comes into play… or is that a cop out? Addiction is addiction no matter what the substance is. So maybe it’s “not straightedge”… But I don’t feel that it makes me any less edge since you can achieve similar feelings through hard workouts, skateboarding, or other rigorous exertion.

Suspensions are like exercise to me — I get a nice workout from it and I feel better afterwards.

PHISH: I don’t believe modifications control our lives like drugs and alcohol do — mods affect us in a positive way. They become part of us — I’m not talking about the spiritual sense, I’m talking about the rather obvious physical way. They raise self-esteem and confidence in ways that drugs can only do for short periods (which are just illusions anyway — and often end in the opposite emotion).

EMRYS: Modifying the body isn’t contrary because you’re changing your body in a way that will eventually heal and sometimes better your body and raise your self-esteem. Drug use on the other hand breaks down the body and causes irreversible damage such as destruction of brain cells, liver cells, and so on — modification practiced responsibly won’t cause any problems like this.

As far as body rites giving a drug-like state, that is your body’s natural reaction to what you are putting yourself through — not something you are taking. It’s produced inside the body. That said, if you’re doing the body rite purely “for the high” then that’s probably not very edge.

BME: I see a lot of young straightedge youth getting new mods constantly — is there a worry that maybe one addiction is being traded for another?

PHISH: I’ve never really subscribed to the “mods are addictive” philosophy. Addiction is a compulsive need and is characterized by things like withdrawal pains — and I’ve never seen anyone have even psychological withdrawal from lack of mods! Anyway, lots of groups patronize our business, not just sXe’rs.

EMRYS: …And not everyone who does drugs is addicted to them. If this is an addiction (and I don’t think it is), this is an addiction that betters me, not one that destroys me.

DANNY: Straightedge, simply put, is abstaining from drugs and alcohol. End of story. Getting too many tattoos is not hazardous to my heath, nor do they adversely affect my ability to function.

BME: Well, it does make it hard to integrate into mainstream society…

DANNY: If I wanted to do that I would drink and watch the Cubs game. I am not interested in mixing in with this society — clean living does not mean “fitting in with society”. I am straightedge, not a member of the Boy Scouts or Young Republicans. Straightedge has nothing to do with fitting in or mixing well with society. If anything, it is totally against fitting in becasue the norm is using drugs, drinking, or smoking, and sXe as a philosophy says, “stop and think about what you are doing, and the consequences it may have — don’t mindlessly consume”.

Society teaches from day one that these destructive behaviours are acceptable, just like they teach you to go to church, get married and have two point five children, animals are for food, or any number of other social “norms” beaten into you from birth. Everywhere you turn society is pushing drugs, but despite society’s desire for me to be unhealthy and appathetic I refuse to join in.

But to return to your original question, anything can be addictive. It is not the purpose of this movement to contol all addictive tendencies — though I would say that the discipline I have learned through sXe has tought me to moderate everything in my life.

BRUCE: With my own mods I have really had to contemplate the consequences before I go through with them. There are mods I like a lot that I won’t get because I would be crossing lines into addiction. So I don’t.

JASON: Straightedge isn’t really about “life without addiction”, it’s about being substance-free… Most sXe kids aren’t willing to talk about this — often times, at least in Dayton, kids claim edge because they don’t know anything else. They go to shows and see the tough guys who dominate the dance floor and want to be them. It’s sort of an upper crust that people flock to without giving it much critical thought. This leads to a lot of “sell outs” since they didn’t really know what they were getting into.

People rarely admit that there are flaws in their decisions, and the addiction trade-off is no different. I know several edge people who drink Mountain Dew (heavily caffeinated) like it is their job — to me that’s pretty un-edge. But edge is a personal decision and not some hard-line rules.

BME: Have your modifications played a spiritual role?

PHISH: My spirituality is from my sense of self; I don’t get it from mods or ritual play.

BRUCE: I think I have become more spiritually in-tune with my body. I just know it better.

EMRYS: By concentrating on my body and modifying it the way I have, it keeps my mind and body working together — it reconnects them when they start to fade apart. I feel in control and more aware of my body as I change it to how I want it to be. When my body is in pain when I’m doing a body rite, my mind has to take care of my body, and my body and mind talk to each other to handle what’s going on — I am aware of both of their messages because they’re working together on a level that they normally don’t achieve.

JASON: Spiritually, modification and body play has given me faith in myself again. After I gave up on organized religion I was deeply depressed — probably because I didn’t have anything to believe in and didn’t have faith in myself. Catholicism had let me down when I realized what it had done to other cultures, and straightedge had let me down due to ignorant assholes stigmatizing it. I’d let myself down and was failing school, and I felt like I was letting down my friends and family as well.

Body modification pulled me out of that shell and when I was emotionally level I did my first pulling. That opened my eyes to the natural energies of people — never before had I felt so at peace and completely moved at the same time. At that moment I realized that there is far more to the world than what I had ever been taught or really told about.

BRUCE: Twenty years ago I took a 30-day mountaineering course — complete outback, backpacking, with no contact with the outside in the Cascade mountain range. Two weeks into the course while crossing a boulder field I fell — my sternum hit a boulder and I was driven into the ground with an eighty pound pack on my back. I was hurt (but not as bad as I made it seem) and had to stay out for two days while the course went on — I gave up. I felt weak and like shit. My younger brother was a professional climber in the Himalayas and I had failed a backpacking course because I couldn’t handle the discomfort.

This tormented me for years, knowing I was weak and weak willed, knowing that I failed, and feeling like the only one who had failed. This hurt and I got therapy, but nothing helped. My self-esteem was obliterated.

That moment I said “take me up”, with the hooks in my back and my feet off the ground, and I swung back and forth, all thoughts of personal weakness were gone — my self-esteem has risen ten-fold since then. I feel worthwhile. I’m not a failure. I kicked motherfucking ass! I’m so glad my life doesn’t revolve around mind-altering substances — I’m so fucking happy I can’t stand it! If that’s not spiritual re-birth, I don’t know what is.

BRIAN: When I ready myself for a modification or suspension, I promise myself I will not back down until I get what I want or need from the experience. I get panic attacks pretty regularly and if I can prove to myself that I can overcome the pain, anxiety, and suffocation that comes from hanging from a single hook over my sternum, then I should be able to deal with a racing heartbeat and unexplainable fears that I know will be gone in five minutes so I can make it to work on the subway in the morning.

BME: And how has being straightedge changed the way that you perceive mind altering ritual play?

BRUCE: Without giving up the drugs and alcohol I would never have known or been aware enough to be involved in these things. Giving up the drugs and alcohol actually opened up something in my life that I now know I could not live without. I went from a used up worthless human being to someone who cares, is strong, and open to a daily world filled with life. I can’t even imagine how I lived with the blinders on for so many years.

JASON: It definitely helped me. I can’t imagine suspending while under the influence of any substances. To me it would dilute the effects of the suspensions and make it more difficult to obtain the clarity that I have during rituals. Then again, it could add a whole other level to it!

PHISH: Straightedge does help me because I can experience all of life in a coherent state of mind. I like to remember all of my experiences. If there is going to be a “spiritual” experience, I’d prefer having it from the experience itself, not from chemicals.

EMRYS: Yes — it’s simple — being sXe meant my mind was clear and my body was clear. I was more able to comprehend and understand what was taking place and happening to me.

BME: Given that rituals traditionally used to seek enlightenment involved drug-assisted altered states, or even non-drug altered states, is there a worry that there could be a conflict if you pursued such a path?

DANNY: I don’t have a lot of experience with this so excuse my ignorance. However, I am an avid runner. I run every day so the closest I can come to understanding what you are talking about is what they call “runner’s high”, when your endorphins kick in from the physical stress of running, making your aches and pains less painful, and making you feel like you can run more. I don’t see this as dangerous — that is not ingesting a mind altering substance, and it’s not engaing in an addictive or destructive passtime.

JASON: For me, being straightedge helps keep me on that path, and I know I’m not being influenced by the substances. If I was asked to take part in a ritual that involved taking drugs, I would politely decline but take in as much of it as possible through observation — I’ve done this with friends on hallucinogens. If I was traveling and had the opportunity to take part in an indigenous ritual that involved some drug use, I’m not certain what I’d do — declining such a once in a life time opportunity would be tough.

EMRYS: As someone who is planning his own version of the Sundance, I’ve had to face whether I want to include tobacco and other mind altering substances to follow the tradition of the ritual. After long thought and a lot of discussions I’ve come to the conclusion that technically it is “breaking edge”, but because it’s in a controlled manner where you’re using the substances for their intended purpose, I don’t think it would be a violation of my beliefs. I have chosen that when the time comes I will stay true to the ritual.

BRIAN: I admit, I take a prescription med every morning, to help keep my heart beating at a “normal” rate, and my tension down — I could easily take the easy way out and drink and use heavier drugs to deal with my problems with anxiety. I know a lot of people who do. I definitely think I’m a much stronger person for doing it “on my own”.

BRUCE: My past altered states achieved through LSD, mescaline, scopolamine, and so on were, to me, false altered states — just dreams. Taking those things out of my system has allowed me to go inside, to discover myself, who I am; not a lie. I do achieve some altered perceptions through body rites, but I view them as clean and pure, because they are totally me. I could never achieve them through drugs.

PHISH: Personally, I’ve participated in a lot of mod-related rituals and have yet to have a truly “altered” state of being. I have had an inflated sense of happiness, well being, and accomplishment… but I don’t view those as altered states of being. I’m not saying these rituals hold no spiritual value, but I believe that many people exaggerate these experiences to fit what they’re seeking.


BME: What made you decide to commemorate your straightedge lifestyle with a publicly visible tattoo?

EMRYS: For me there were two reasons — like I said, I used to be big into drugs and knew I had to get myself out. But I’m only human and have desires, so I got my “xDRUGxFREEx” tattoo in small sittings even though it could have been done in one. Every time I got the urge to use drugs or drink I would get the tattoo artist to cancel an appointment. Through the pain it would help remind me of my commitment I made to myself, and also remind me of the pain drugs brought me.

Second, whenever people at the shops I worked at asked me for an idea for a tattoo, I told them, “pick something that you are proud of or want someone to know about you just by looking at you” — I’m very proud of overcoming drug and alcohol addiction on my own.

PHISH: I wear my heart on my sleeve not so much for other people but to remind myself of my strength and pride in myself — there is pride in being able to resist the temptation of substances. I’ve never cared if someone else wanted to drink or drug so I don’t really care if someone else notices my tattoos or not. Most of them are hidden — the XXX under my chin, a sober heart on my chest, and sXe bombs on my thumbs. The tattoos are there for me, not for someone else.

DANNY: The tattoos are an extension of who I am and what is a huge part of my life. I’ve poured tons of time and energy into promoting this lifestyle, so naturally I will tattoo my convictions on myself. It’s no different than tattoos involving my decision to live vegan, or my faith in God. Tattoos being a permanent mark on my body blend idealistically with my permanent decision to abstain from what I believe to be a dangerous way of living.

I’ve always loved tattoos, so it’s natural that I blend the things I permanently believe in with that love.

BME: Do you think that’s why most people get the straightedge tattoos?

EMRYS: It comes down to the pride of being straightedge. Most people choose that label for a reason, for themselves, so they want people to know. I think also for a lot of people once you get it tattooed there’s no turning back — it shows another level of dedication that some people aren’t willing to take.

So many people say “I used to be straightedge”, but if you aren’t now you never were, because it’s a lifetime lifestyle and dedication. The people getting tattooed are showing they’re not “true till 21”, they’re “true till death” — and if they’re not, they are left with that tattoo, or the one that covers it, as a constant reminder that they sold out.

PHISH: I think the abundance of tattoos comes more from the scene (EC hardcore) that gave birth to straightedge, rather than the lifestyle itself. But a lot of straightedge kids of very proud of their achievements and it’s logical to fly a flag of pride.

JASON: Many edge people get their tattoos out of competition and peer pressure I think — that’s why they get them in such visible places. It gets them respect in the community, but it also makes them visible targets if they lose edge. I find it sad that so many people who are edge are pushed to get visible work — I know a lot of people that have deep regrets about their knuckles, chests, throats, and hands. It’s also the more militant members that seem to get these, as if to say, “yeah, I’m edge — you got a problem with that?

If you look at the general trend of edge tattoos, they tend to be aggressive — it’s about creating a “tough” image. I think that some people get edge tattoos to affirm their belief with others, and so they don’t have to be critical of themselves — if they’re not confident of their edge, but have the tattoos to “prove it”, then their peers will keep them in line, if that makes sense… Like the man who gets married to prove that he’s in love instead of getting married because he knows he’s in love.

DANNY: I will say upfront that a lot of kids get crazy straightedge tattoos way too early in an effort to appear cool or tough.

JASON: It’s been my experience that people with the less aggressive straightedge tattoos — simple X’s or “pure” and other variations — are more passionate about their lifestyle and less passionate about “the scene”. They tend to be the clear thinkers, strong in their personal convictions without preaching to others.

BME: Why do you think so many get the tattoos on their throats?

DANNY: How does anyone end up with a throat tattoo? I started with my legs and arms and before you know it, I’ve got tattoos on my hands and throat. I don’t think it’s inherently sXe to get these things. Whether I’d been involved in sXe or not I would have tattoos in these places — I’ve loved tattoos since I was a small child.

BME: Any last words?

JASON: When I am in need of strength I think about all I have done with my body — what I have endured and what I have felt from other people. It makes me realize that whatever is bothering me is probably rather petty in the grand scheme of things. Through body ritual, my eyes, heart, and mind have all been opened up to a greater presence in life and an awareness of those lives. Being edge gave me the clarity to understand what I saw.

EMRYS: Question: “Why do straightedge kids that break edge go emo?”
Answer: “Because it’s easy to cover X’s with stars.”


I’ve avoided turning this into a debate because my goal hasn’t been to suggest that straightedge is for everyone, or that drugs universally enhance ritual. I think though that one overwhelming suggestion comes forward no matter who you talk to: be yourself, tackle life with a clear head, and enjoy and learn from what it gives you.

Straightedge, especially when combined with the tools that modification and body rites have to offer, can be an effective way of helping achieve that — as long as it doesn’t degrade into joyless and narrow-minded oppressive militancy. I think the reason that path so obviously fails is that you can’t define yourself by what you’re not — that is, saying “I don’t do drugs” isn’t who you are. It’s who you are not. The individuals I spoke to above used their straightedge lifestyle to give them clarity which allowed them to find purpose — rather than attempting to have straightedge be their purpose in and of itself.

Body modification fits well with that, because it’s also a tool with a great deal of application in self-discovery and self-improvement. But ultimately, one must always remember that all of these things — even drugs — when used correctly do not add anything. They simply help you to bring out the best in yourself.


Shannon Larratt
BMEzine.com

PS. All stories have another side — if you have experiences combining drugs with body rites to achieve spiritual enlightenment, please contact me so I can interview you for that side of things!


While most of the feedback I’ve received on this column has been overwhelmingly positive, it has generated some anger as well, mostly due to the sidebar. The sidebar information is collected from news articles and web sites discussing the subject — people are certainly welcome to dispute them, but please understand that I’m simply repeating what’s already considered fact by the majority of the sources I could find, and not inserting my own opinions or notions. My goal was simply to frame the article with some information that would put it into context for people not experienced with the subject.

Most of this feedback is probably due to the sidebar which speaks negatively of militant straightedge. The sidebar has been edited since this was first published, but since this feedback is from that sidebar I am including the original version here for clarity:

While most straightedge members chose the lifestyle for personal reasons and are largely concerned with how they lead their own lives, some “militant” members feel that the entire world should agree with them. They adhere to oppressive slogans such as “bring back prohibition” and are known for hateful and anti-social acts such as violently assaulting strangers leaving bars. These groups tend to choose honor-implying names such as “courage crew” and instead of focussing on their own problems they focus on the “war” they perceive is going on between those who drink and those who do not.

A number of governments, including the United States, consider forms of militant straightedge a terrorist or cult movement akin to eco-terrorism. Many members glorify the violence by choosing tattoos and icons of brass knuckles, knives, guns, and bats, often festooned with straightedge slogans, while dressing like ‘terrorists’ or ‘guerrillas’ with bandanas hiding their faces and so on. There is a strong neo-nazi element, and their community often suffers from other hate disorders such as homophobia and racism, sometimes echoing iconography such as the white pride/power movement’s Hammerskins crossed hammers logo.

Anyway, on with the feedback:

From: Sean Rivers
Subject: response to article

Serisously what in the hell moved you to write that rediculous article. Ive been sxe for almost six years now, and im also courage crew. I can tell that everything you have said in that article is hear say, cause if you honestly new any one in courage crew, you wouldnt have labeled us that way. Like my good friend Kramer said, most of us all have lives and are all grown up. Me myself have a wife and kid and I work my ass off to provide for them. It serisously disturbs me when I see shit like this, how people just out of no where like to bring up lame ass shit like this. You must have no kind of life to actually spend six months to produce that garbage, journalism was obviously not your major. Im a member of the United States Navy, and it really gets me to know that I might have to actually die defending a piece of trash such as yourself. My advice to you would be retract that article, write and apology and get a fucking life. Grow up and stop causing unnecessary shit. But im fine, cause i know just how many people you pissed off, and i have a smile on my face knowing that you'll be looking behind your back for a lonnnnnnnng time. Just remember this, someone knows someone, who just might possibly know you.

ITSN Rivers, United States Navy USS Ford FFG 54

# # #

From: jill encarnado
Subject: you are full of crap!

you are full of shit..you and your article. What do you want to prove?..what's with the edge anyway? is it a crime not to intoxicate yourself? or to fuck or to become a vegan? is it affecting your life?! This morons or idiots who claim to be a straight edge is an impostor! i think no real edge would exagerate himself just to get attention..you're doing this for yourself...stop your crap and get on with your life!!!!

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From: "Ozzy Edge"
Subject: your article fabricates the truth a bit too much!!

You should be ashamed of yourself for putting such horse shit in you article. I guess it's not your fault because it's evident you're an idiot already, but prejudging, and generalizing sxe as a movement. First off Straight Edge is inside of me, i'm not apart of some sxe movement. There are a lot of sxe kids that I very much dislike. There's no leader, there never was. Again, every arguement made is not legitimate. Anyone can write an article that is truly opinion, and you have down so, with the most ignorant of opinions. I don't know why i'm even bothering with idiots like you because usually I don't care what worthless people would classify me as.

Another fase analysis, the part about why people go straight edge. You're right by accident in one part saying that many fall into because it may seem like a trend to them. However, if we look at that at a national level that's absurd. I was maybe the 2nd person to claim edge in my city, and I know I had to deal with a lot of ignorant people like you saying stuff to me, and maybe that's why now when people are like "ohhhhhh sxe, I heard they're racist, and homophobic""""""""""""';and on 20/20 they said they're idiots" I don't blame them, because idiiots like you mold their perception on straight edge. FUCK YOU. I am not racist, I'm a turkish Canadian and have definetly fought racism with my own hands. I am not Homophobic you asshole, the word fag may slip from my mouth but i have many friends who are gay and i'm all for it..

The whole violence thing: Another false claim. Hate edge. hahah. that's great you almost make people believe that straight edge kids are hateful because of straight edge and not who they were before. You idiot! There are good cops, bad cops. Probobly because maybe 1% is like this, really violent, and aggressive I've never herad of kids waiting after bars to beat up drunk people. That's the biggest fabrication of the truth, ever! Sure some straight edge kids may fight, I will fight to defend my friends, and family. Also, if you ever have been in a part of town that is known for "clubbing" or people getting drunk. You should also take note, you got a pen and pencil chump??? Alright, you should know that drunk people start fights, and maybe sxe kids more often than other kids won't back down. Maybe they're sick of everyone starting fights. Me and my friends never start fights, and half of my friends aren't straight edge. However, people have started with us and we've all fought TOGETHER to ensure the safety of each other. So what if we look out for each other it doesn't mean much... ANd idiot, if you say we're neo-nazia's again, i willl practise this Militant sxe style and say that I spit in your face and punched you because you're not edge. But Reallly it will be the same reason why anyone gets beats up, because they're idiots.

I Hope you make a follow up article, and that's the only way i'll let this shit slide. I can even help you out on that big guy. If not FUCK YOU, you're just as ignorant and as much of an idiot as 70% of the people out there.

love,
XOzzy ErenX The turkish Neo-Nazi ( that makes a lot of sense, just like your article :) ) and don't forget that i was being sarcastic, it seems you wouldn't catch that because of your stupidity.
XXX

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From: joshua kramer
Subject: straightedge

I would like to state that your article on straightedge left me deeply offended. I myself am Courage Crew and are in no way militant. I grew up in a household surrounded with smoke and alcohol and decided that i didn't want my life to be like that, for me to be militant i would have to turn my back on my family and some friends. I have been straightedge for 10 years and i couldnt imagine my life any other way.I don't know who you have met that is courage crew or what you have seen but i believe you are deeply mistaken. It seems nowadays when anything involving straightedge and violence it is always blamed on us. Granted there are instances when individuals that belong to this crew have resorted to violence to solve a problem but that is not always the case and has not been for years. For your information we all have similar beliefs and morals in the courage crew. Everyone that is part of this is either in college , over seas fighting, running their own business , or has a trade of some sort, we all follow a lifestyle dedicated to being physically fit, living drug free, training in some sort of self defense and a strong sense of self sufficiency and self worth. Several of the members of of this crew are grown men with families and are in their thirties... an age where violence has a much deeper penalty and could result in the loss of their families and/ or their businesses. I dont understand how any act of violence is concidered militant.If I was in a situation where i was threatened no matter if they are black, white, sober, or drunk i will not hesitate to defend myself as i assume many people straightedge or not would do. The reference to being neo nazis with hammerskin tattoos was absurd, our crew has people of all races and so does straightedge in general, the hammers are from the Judge album and have been adopted to be used as X's since then. I know members of your site that are cxc and are tattoo artists or body piercers that also find this article offending. I don't quite know what your point to writing this was, it seems to me like you wanted to exploit our lifestyle and misrepresent us in a fashion that makes us look like weak barbarians or hypocrites. As far as i can see you know nothing more about straightedge than you did before you wrote your article. This is a belief that thousands hold dear and it should not be made a mockery. "true till twenty one" I have no clue where this "form" of straightedge was concocted but as far as anyone that is straightedge is concerned if you are not now you never were. I have a feeling that you will just take this letter and exploit it on your website somehow and that is fine with me because hopefully the next person who reads this is a bit more opened minded and realizes that there is another way.

sincerely, Josh Kramer