Have a safe and happy weekend everyone! Thanks to Arseniy Andersson for the photo.
TRIANGUL-R sent in this really cool photo of himself and I just had to share it.
The_holeyone sent us in this beautiful self portrait showing off her large-gauge piercings. Maybe it’s just me but big stretches like this seem to be a lot less common on women than they are on men. Do you agree? Disagree? Do you think my title could have possibly been sadder?
I really enjoy the symmetry in these piercings and, of course, we all enjoy pretty girls.
Seems silly pictures is the theme of the day, eh? I think I’m going to print this out and put it on business cards so that if any uninitiates on the street ask me how I got my stretched ears I can whip out the card. And if I ever see anyone actually trying them? I’m going to tickle them and see what part of their body breaks first.
Photo: Brandon Wolbers
I’ve sort of gotten hooked on reading these old patent records related to body modification, and just came across one that surprised me because of how ahead-of-its-time it was. In early 1875, Albert S. Baker of Somerville, MA filed a patent for what he called an “Imrpovement in Ear-rings” (US Patent #161,853). The patent is for a small gauge flanged tunnel to be worn in the earlobe — he explains,
“It is well known that in the use of ear-rings, as ordinarily constructed, the wires frequently tear out or cut the ear, and when not made of proper materials poison the parts with which they come in contact, thus sometimes causing great injury to the wearer. My invention is designed to obviate these difficulties and objections.”
He goes on to describe the device (which he calls a “spool” at times), which he instructs should be made of high quality gold, thus eliminating materials reactions such as nickel allergies. In addition, because the device is larger gauge than the fine wire that often makes up the hook of an earring, it reduces the chance of the jewelry pulling through. What, you thought Todd Bertrang was the first person to tell the world these things? Still, I was pleasantly surprised to see these concepts tossed around in detail nearly 140 years ago.
Many later jewelry designs also presented similar ideas (his appears to be the first hollow tunnel that was patented), but I will just very briefly mention another one of them, a patent filed in 1976 by Mary C. Ivey of Atlanta, GA (US Patent #4,067,341). Her concept is almost identical, and she explains it very similarly in her application, but adds that her design both allows the secondary jewelry more freedom to move due to the tunnel being larger, and also suggests taking advantage of advances that have been made in materials sciences (specifically plastics) to improve the design. Unfortunately she’s vague on many aspects (as is frustratingly common in patents) and does not however come out and say the actual diameter of the tunnel — as pictured I’m guessing in the realm of 8ga.
As you can see in those illustrations, the visual effect of someone wearing these tunnels — or “pierced earlobe protector” as Ms. Ivey titles it — is very, very close to someone wearing a small gauge tunnel of the sort we see all the time walking out the doors of your friendly neighborhood piercing studio. The one thing that neither Ivey nor Baker mention in their patents how the piercing is to be done, which I’m curious about, especially with Ivey’s, which seems to be getting too big to just shove into your average hole*. The only such insertion-method explanation I stumbled across regarding this style of jewelry was one filed in 1949 by Robert W. Spicher of Havre, MT (US Patent #2,568,207) for a “Surgical Piercing Device”.
The jewelry itself is superficially similar in design and intent to the others in this entry, but it also includes a sharpened taper that can be tightly fitted over the tunnel, either creating the new piercing hole or squeezing into an existing one, and then expanding that hole. The particularly creative part is that he then uses a syringe to blow air into the tunnel to make the taper pop off like a champagne cork — hopefully not shooting like a tiny bullet into the wearer’s neck! — to be replaced with a cap that keeps the tunnel from falling out.
* “that’s what she said”
In the vast majority of cultures that stretch ears, the procedure is the same as the one that’s common in modern body modification — a simple hole in the soft tissue of the lobule (earlobe) that is increased in size over time. A small percentage however — the Maasai of Kenya and northern Tanzania for example (click here to see a typical Maasai-style ear) — also remove the anti-tragus. I don’t know why they choose to do this more invasive version of the procedure for sure, although my theory is that because it makes hearing slightly more multidirectional (that is, makes it easier to hear sounds behind you, but more difficult to understand sound in a closed environment — for example, to isolate the conversation you’re having in a packed room), making it a specific body modification adaptation to improve hunting on the savannah. Of course it is possible they just “like the way it looks”, but I don’t think it’s that simple.
In any case, this procedure is quite rare in our body modification culture, but it does happen. For example, Jacob Lawson recently had Brian Decker (purebodyarts.com) remove his anti-tragus. He tells me that the journey started with his inner conch removal, inspired by saivite yogis cutting their inner conches “to open up spiritual channels”. He found that having weight on my his inner conches influenced his mindset during meditation, grounding him. Not really liking the look of jewelry “unnaturally bulging out of the [inside of the] ear”, he wondered whether there was a way to get this same grounding, but from jewelry in his lobes instead — which he did like the look of. This lead to the anti-tragus removal procedure that Brian Decker did for him. He feels that this modification also makes the stretched ear look more natural — as if it was “meant to be that way”, rather than modified.
In these three pictures you can see it fresh and sutured, and then healed three weeks later. Jacob is planning on stretching larger as well, to increase the modification’s influence and to increase the weight, probably using primarily stone jewelry. Click to enlarge any of the pictures in this post.
Another person who has had this procedure done is Matthew Blake of Superfly in San Diego, his being done by Howie (lunacobra.net). The procedure was nearly identical (they even both had an inner conch as well, which in each case was left separate and intact), although Matthew’s lobes are of course stretched longer — here you can see the healed result with the jewelry removed (and check out the oblong cartilage removal in the upper ear).
And here’s his ears wearing a beautiful set of 2.5″ orange adventurine plugs — Matthew says, “I personally love the aesthetics of how high my plugs sit without the antitragus,” and I agree completely. They look great. Similarly, I’ll also mention one more person by the way that’s had this done is Mateo, a ModBlog regular — you can also see the way his plugs sit in this post from three years ago.
This photo is from two years ago when Florian and his girlfriend were in Kenya. On their way back from a safari they passed a Maasai village, where they decided to stop. This was their first reaction when they saw him and his stretched ears — perhaps the first time they’d seen a white guy with stretched ears, a practise that is all but dying out in their own culture. A very fun, friendly encounter that saw them dancing together not long after.
His picture reminded me — when Rachel and I were in Africa (an amazing experience) in 2004, in Durban we bumped into an older Zulu that made his living taking photos with tourists. As you can imagine he was a bit beat down by life, unsurprising given that he’d been essentially reduced to a zoo exhibit, turned into a curiosity for visitors due to his cultural background. So there wasn’t any dancing. He did however appear happy, or at least bemused, to meet a white guy with stretched ears as well.
Here’s some BME boy appreciation for you. I love when people submit portraits of themselves to BME. TheTrueStasis sent us the following portrait. I’m not sure, but I think this might be “Blue Steel”.
I like the choices and placement of his piercings, they have a certain flow about them.
Send in portrait shots of you and your body modification! Remember, there are two ways to submit, either by uploading photos to BME directly through your BME account or via email.
Tobias, who you may know not just from here on BME, but also if you take part in the tattoo and modification forums on Reddit, said that ever since he saw the 0ga tragus I posted back in 2008 he worked toward it. At that point he was wearing itsy-bitsy 16ga jewelry in each ear, and over time he’s stretched them to that 0ga that first inspired him. Success! He currently wears skin-color Kaos Softwear silicone jewelry in it, which I think is perfect because it makes it look even bigger. He adds, “to this day, it still amazes and wows people, and they’ve become my absolute favorite piercings.”
My old friend David also wears BME a 0ga tragus — two of them as well, one of them in each ear, although he wears matching 0ga Anatometal steel tunnels. That’s David’s “Dumbo ear” (his words, not mine) there on the right, and Tobias is on the left. By the way, if you like this, check out the 1/2″ tragus I posted just a little while later.