For many people, body modification involves a lot of planning and decision-making. Many aspects of oneâs life come into play during this time, such as job-related concerns and general aesthetic preferences. One commonality I have come across time and again when discussing specific modification choices with fellow modders is symmetry. I personally have never been concerned with the symmetry of my mods, but I know many people who have become so anxious over an asymmetrical piercing or tattoo that they are compelled to acquire its counterpart. Upon searching through the BME experience archives, I found a number of other people who seem to have a âthing for symmetry,â? claim that they âbelieve in symmetry,â? or even go so far as to say that theyâre âobsessed with symmetry.â? But why this focus on symmetrical modification?
One clue as to a possible reason behind this fixation is the need for symmetry or order that sometimes accompanies cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Persons afflicted with OCD often become extremely anxious if they feel that some particular aspect of life is not symmetrical, and often go to great lengths to achieve this balance. There is even a disorder called asymmetriphobia, which is (yea, you guessed it) the fear of asymmetry. So maybe there exists within some humans an inherent (or perhaps learned) anxiety in the presence of asymmetry.
Another clue comes in the form of scientific research that has led to the common belief that facial and bodily symmetry contribute greatly to oneâs perceived attractiveness. Studies show that even babies are inherently attracted to symmetrical features, as they spend significantly longer looking at pictures of symmetrical than of asymmetrical faces. Thereâs even a website that utilizes a picture of your face to show what you might look like if your right side was perfectly symmetrical with your left side, or vice versa. I tried it (pictures above), but the results were not as âattractiveâ as I had expected.
There may even be evidence of an evolutionary reason for the perceived attractiveness of bodily symmetry. An article on WebMD points out that âIf the potential mate has a great degree of asymmetry, he or she is judged to be less than optimal. In numerous species, asymmetry is linked to greater rates of disease and early death, and lesser success in fertility — all important to their selection as mates.â? So perhaps the acquisition of symmetrical body modifications is the outward expression of insecurity about oneâs natural features, and an attempt to give the illusion of symmetry. After all, no one wants to be alone.
Okay, so now that I know that the symmetry issue is relevant even outside of the body modification sphere, Iâm still left puzzled as to why humans are so drawn to it. I have begun to wonder whether it is simply the fact that our bodies (and those of many animal species) are naturally symmetrical in many ways. Our bodies contain mirror images of each arm, leg, ear, cheek, kidney and so on. Maybe weâve just become so comfortable in our own skin that somewhere along the way we developed an affinity toward symmetry.
Iâm sorry that I couldnât offer an absolute answer to this query, but perhaps those of you modders out there who do indeed have a love for mod symmetry can help fill me in. Until then I feel just fine about the fact that my left profile contains 5 more holes and one more tattoo than my right :)