Be Careful. You Have Enemies.
In this column I’d like to give you a behind-the-scenes look at some of the things body modification artists and studios have to deal with that clients may not be aware of, and that younger artists may still need a warning about. It’s very easy for us to get a false impression of the world because of the crowds of mod-friendly people who characterize BME members, but the world in general is far from so accepting a place. You all know about how this restricts our lifestyles on a surface level, but what you may not be aware of is that these sometimes prejudicial laws are also a tool for profit and business manipulation.
There are a lot of people who’d like to see the body modification industry go away or at least be under heavy regulation. Some feel this way for moralistic reasons, and others, such as those in government health agencies, are simply trying to do what they believe is in the best interests of public safety. Then there are those in competition, such as ear piercing gun manufacturers (or even just competing studios), who want piercing to be popular, but are motivated to keep financial traffic away from certain studios so they can drive as much of it as possible to their own establishments. What the industry needs to understand is that these people aren’t going to fight you by firebombing your shop — they’re going to play the system into shutting you down.
Luckily, these Police officers are modification friendly. (photo: CJ)
In order to play the system against you, they (whoever “they” may be) need to find a place that you come into conflict with the law. Most obviously this can involve finding (or sometimes fabricating) procedures that may not be entirely legal; tongue splitting, scarification, suspension, or other health code or criminal violation. If the assault is from outside the industry the outsiders tend to be easy to recognize at least.
In “the old days,” those doing procedures that were gray or overtly illegal operated by word of mouth, accepted new clients only when they were referred by an existing client, and certainly never advertised or talked to reporters — even photos sent to private insider publications like BME or BCQ were sent through anonymous email accounts with no names attached. When it comes to procedures like tongue splitting, practitioners should consider the wisdom of their predecessors’ discretion.
Sometimes though it’s not so easy to identify one’s enemy. Since piercing is a business, and there are now people who make their living at it, sometimes those people get carried away with fighting their competition. I’m reminded of a well known Chicago piercer, ***** ***** who conspired with the Health Board to have his competition shut down, which eventually lead to the death of a number of America’s first studios. By managing to convince the Health Board that he was their lone ally, even though he was piercing out of a tiny single room studio in the back of a clothing shop without even a separate sterilization room, he was able to dramatically increase his income and reputation — but at what cost?
Later the Health Board in the same region put a ban on suspension performances. Seeing another opportunity, this piercer attempted to “rat” on any competing shop who he felt was involved in BME BBQs or other events that might legally cross the line. It boggles my mind that someone who did “legally questionable” procedures themselves as well as suspensions would choose attempting to initiate prosecution of others for those activities as their line of attack, but ***** ***** is far from the only piercer I’ve seen try and convince the government to go after his competition, the whole time professing to be doing “the right thing”.
Others, like Canada’s **** *****, genuinely believe that instituting a conservative piercing industry is the right decision. One part civic duty, and one part — and much larger part — shameless self promotion, ***** keeps himself in the public eye with body piercing world record attempts and rabid promotion of body modification safety. An apparent career nomad, as he moves into a new region, piercing shops in the area start to feel heat due to his actions.
Later this same piercer decided that BME was a part of the problem, and began “harvesting” the site for any photos or stories that he felt could do damage to competing businesses. He even went so far as to phone in fake complaints to the police when BME events were being held in an effort to make life unpleasant for the members of the site in return for them not helping him shut down his competition.
Police, called to investigate a suspension party, instead reveal their sense of humor. (photo: CJ)
While regulatory and internal attacks are the most common, as I mentioned earlier, the ear piercing gun industry is another source of grief. The gun lobby has already managed to silence through threat of lawsuit many of the people who spoke out against them, but now that government health agencies are starting to regulate in response to the dangers of piercing guns, manufacturers are beginning to target piercing studios themselves. I believe this is in an effort to convince the government that studios are “even worse” than piercing guns.
The point of all this is that there are always people who can profit from your loss, so there will always be people who will use any dirty trick they can to try and cause you to lose. Above are only a very small number of the attacks I hear about weekly. Most of them come from those who seek financial gain, and others come from moralists and theocrats, but whatever the source, the preparations and defenses required are the same.
A few basic rules:
These things should be common sense. Laws are in flux, and it’s not always clear what’s permitted and what’s not, and where the lines are going to be drawn, and even with clearly defined laws, they can still be used as a tool to negatively affect the lives of others. While I certainly encourage people to share their experiences on BME, I also urge people to be prudent in selecting which ones should be shared anonymously. Remember that as much as you have friends watching you, you also have enemies watching you.