I’ll rip that ring right out of your (insert name of pierced body part)!

As time goes by, the more I realize how much culture really affects one’s view of the world. Especially in the US, the typical sentiment is that if something is foreign to me, well then it must just be weird and useless. Take genital modification for example. Posts containing pictures of various genital mods are made almost every day here on Modblog. Among the many comments that always accompany these posts, one may find a few by readers who are less than impressed. In fact, some people will outright claim that these modded individuals are “sickâ€? or “wrong.â€? But what do they know? For all anyone knows (except the modded themselves, of course), genital modification just might be the key to the most pleasurable sex life one could imagine!

I wanted to make this point before continuing on to the real topic of this post because I feel that my opinions may not sit well with some people. But if you take the time to remove your culture goggles for a moment, and perhaps question the validity of some cultural conventions, you will see that there are very few things in this world that are truly “weird,â€? “sick,â€? or “wrong.â€?


Now, the minimum age one must be to attain a piercing or tattoo without parental consent around here is 18. Quite arbitrary, I always thought. This is not to say that I believe that we should all allow our children to get modded willy nilly. It is quite obvious to anyone who remembers their childhood that kids and many teens just aren’t mentally equipped to make good choices. But on the other hand, we need to let kids make their own decisions sometimes in order to learn about life first-hand. If we protect kids from everything that may cause them unhappiness (not harm, mind you), they will never be able to handle the unjust real world once they hit that golden age of 18. A heavily modded woman recently told me that the only way she was able to put her parents at ease about her mods was by explaining to them that although things may be harder for her now (in terms of finding employment, and social persecution in general), she has grown stronger because of these obstacles. Yet another advantage to youth modification is that the task of caring for a mod can teach kids a great lesson in responsibility.

So what is the answer? Should we allow those under the age of 18 to acquire mods? Many already do, may it be in a less than reputable tattoo shop or someone’s basement, both of which are invitations for infection. And what about the countless cultures that encourage body modification of their children? Then again, I look at the “Tattoos and Piercingsâ€? section of my local high school’s yearbook and see the same gaudy butterfly designs that I’ve seen on many a tattoo flash sheet. Will these designs be regretted, or remembered for the experiences that surround them? I believe that it depends on the wearer, much in the same way that one’s ability to make a modification decision depends on the wearer. If the meaning is truly there, or the mod really gives the young wearer a feeling of confidence and pride in their body, what’s the problem? After all, weren’t we always told as kids that it’s the inside that counts?

40 thoughts on “I’ll rip that ring right out of your (insert name of pierced body part)!

  1. Great post! My honey & I just had a great conversation about mods and when ornamentation crosses the line to become self-mutilation. It’s a fascinating topic to discuss: I find that where you draw that line individually depends largely on your community. I love full backs (depending on the subject matter and skill of the artist, of course) but will never do my face because I’m a healthcare professional. If I came to work with subdermal horns I would be quickly pulled aside / dismissed. For a piercer, though, it’s completely acceptable. So here’s the question: Is there ANY mod that’s considered “too extreme” by everyone? Removing a finger? An entire hand?

  2. Yes, I think people under the age of 18 can aquire a mod, but no one under 16 without a parent consent, but the only mod that you can aquire from the ages of 16-18 is piercings, and I think people from 16-18 can be tattooed in New York State, with a parent consent, after 18, they can do what ever they want, I had to go to Erie PA for my tattoo.

  3. I worked on my school Yearbook this year. I so should have done a peircing and Tattoos section. There are so many pericings and great tattoos in my high school. That would have been wicked.

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  6. This is a question that will be asked forever, I feel. I don’t really want to give my opinion on it though, I just wanted to say how cute that baby is!

  7. Tanya, your posts are always amazing, i wish i could comment on YOUR page, but i’m not a member so i keep my comments to myself.

    I 100% understand what you are saying.
    Still, I think 18 is a good age, just like I think the US law of having to be 21 to buy alcohol is a good idea. More maturity I guess (for some people.) Too many life altering mistakes can be made.

    On a funny note:
    My sister walked into my room, looked at the screen,
    and went

  8. Now that I’m older and a father, I have to say no. At least not before 16 (if you can kill someone with a car, you should be able to put a hole in yur own nose).

    If I was able to get a tattoo at age 13, I probably would have ended up with the zombie-creature from Iron Maiden or the cover of a Quiet Riot album (at 14 or 15, it at least would have been The Clash, which would be slightly better). I also would have let anyone with a tattoo gun, or a set of needles and some india ink, give it to me. Because I was forced to wait, I didn’t do something permanently stupid.

  9. Yeah, I agree with Greg. However, I’m only 19, so I can still remember people telling me “13-15 is way too young to get a piercing/You can get anything you want, just wait until you’re 18!” It was a good thing that people told me that, because when I was that age, I genunely felt that I was too young for it. Now that I’m actually old enough to get modded, I can look back and say “Wow, if no one told me not to do it, I would’ve ended up with that stupid Blade tattoo, and would have gotten it done by some guy in his basement who was high at the time.”

    And I definitely would have regretted that.

  10. First, I’m 22 with three earrings, and I plan on getting a backpiece.

    For piercings I think that 18 is fine, lower with parental consent.
    Tattoos on the other hand, needs to stay at 18. First, getting ink on a body that’s still growing is just stupid. Second, we’re talking something that’s not nearly as simple to take out. If you tire of your piercing, or your job won’t let you have it, take it out, it closes up. The end.
    You regret getting a tattoo though, you’re in for a whole lot more work to make it go away.
    It needs to be something you want, something you’re willing to have for a long time, not something you picked out that day in the parlor.

  11. I agree with the age limits mostly, but I find one problem with them. The studios (and the government) look at it by chronological age only. This is something that should be measured by maturity age as well.

    I know some 25+ year olds that can barely wipe their own butts after using the toilet, let alone care for a fresh tattoo. On the other hand, I also know a 15 year old that is just as mature as most 21 year olds I have met.

  12. I started getting pierced at 14…
    out of the many that i’ve had, i have 3 that still i wear jewelry in… the other ones i took out, and while i have many piercings that are still open, only the ones that i wear stuff in are obvious…
    as for tattoos; if i got the tattoos that i’d planned on when i was 15, i would have some stupid tattoos, and they would be in the way of the bigger pieces that i’m working on now…
    however, in the small chance that i do have children, i’ve always had the plan that when they turn 18, assuming they don’t get any tattoos before then, i will pay half for a sleeve… i won’t pay half if they already have something, and i won’t pay half for a small piece, but i will gladly pay half for a sleeve…

  13. an0n – so realistically speaking, how are you going to measure ‘maturity age’ at a shop?

    there’re no age laws in america on pregnancies, and bearing and raising a child can potentially alter a mind and a body more than a tattoo is ever going to. kids can get nose jobs and boob jobs years before they can get a tattoo with a parent’s signature. we let young kids get into activities like ballet and gymnastics that can potentially alter their development in permanent ways.

    just let them get the gorram tattoos.

  14. well, the infamous question about age and maturity
    as the talk is quite america-centered, i can offer you a point of view from a certain distance. i live in estonia, eastern europe, ex-soviet territory.
    so, while at first glance, our lives are not that different (as similar as in any “western civilization” type country), there’s someting that makes us living in different world.
    the views on responsibility and maturity.
    disclaimer: this is not about bmezine people or anybody specific, it’s just how the picture i get from … well anything reaching to here.
    you are very strick about age limits, especially when it comes to sex. and mods. it’s almost like there’s really a belief, that as some abstarct number passes, the person who has had no reason to learn responsibility, will somehow be automatically able to make decisions.
    recently i (accidentally i swear) happened to watch dr phil talkshow about teenage mothers. and one girl said something, that about sums everithing up. it went in the lines “i’m still underage so i should not even know the word “responsibility”, not actually have any of those”
    by forbidding anything that might need good judgement and taking responsibilities, you will not let them learn. if they can’t start making choices and learning to be adult before actually becoming one, whom do you expect them to grow up?
    are you sure, that trusting a right to drive a car needs less maturity than decisions about one’s own body? at least you can’t kill someone else with your modding. but you can crash your car.
    the fact i do not know, help me out – is there any state you can get a gun before you can get any kind of non-ear piercing?
    so, do you really believe, that right to get tattoos and piercings should be set by a random number of years since your birth? or perhaps every case (for younger persons, ok) should be worked out between the person, parents and proffessional studio staff and perhaps with help from some pshychologist and/or doctor?
    so anybody wanting a mod and having a body and mind that will not be hurt by it and being able to take care of it will get the ##### mod. no agechecks.

  15. I agree that it should be judged on maturity. I know fifteen-year-olds who did their research, found a good shop, and took incredible care of [and healed] surface piercings. I also know 20somethings who still run out and get surface collarbones done with straight barbells.

    My take on it is that if they can answer any given question about procedure, aftercare, etc, that they’re mature enough for the mod they’ve chosen.

  16. ^^^they dont have age laws for pregnancies because they have age of consent laws. before that certain age the law forbids you from sex which would mean no pregnancy

    but yeah my toes are shaped funny from dancing with tight shoes since i was 8, and i started late O_o And actually, there’s a few organizations that now have rules against younger children doing certain things in dance before theyre developed enough to do so.

    so both those points are kinda eh.

    I think 16 year olds could be responsible enough to make the decision for a piercing on their own, but that may start too many fights between teens and parents who didn’t want them to get it done : /

  17. My niece got a tattoo on her upper arm at age 14. That made her a “Freak” in school, and while she said that she would enjoy the attention, she hated it. I don’t understand why her parents allowed that and why the tattoo artist worked on such a young person. In a 2 minutes conversation he would have found out that she was not mature or had thought about it enough.

    I was (and still am) appalled about the studio and mostly about her parents to allow her to do it. Her mother told me “Well, I have a tattoo, too, I can’t forbit her anything.”

    Ha ha, mother got her tattoo at age 36 and often complains about the quality. And yet, she send her daughter to the same studio.


  18. I think that all the fear that people has against the mods are because yes, that it’s the inside that counts, but they are scared of what kind of “inside” can have somebody who modificate his/her body.
    I think that it’s a educational problem yet… if the popular conscience learn that the modification is not a symbol of psychos or mental problems, then, what’s the problem about kids beggining with all this stuff before 18?

    PD:Sorry about my english… :P

  19. As someone under 18 with mods, this post (especially the headline – how many times have I heard THAT from my parents?) struck a chord with me. I have done all but 3 of my 14 piercings myself, with proper equipment and jewelry, and I don’t think I’m any more the worse for wear. I won’t say they were all sterile procedures, because almost nobody can guarantee that at home, but it was at least clean and all my piercings are well-cared for. I would never, however, get a tattoo under 18, even with my parent’s consent. I think something that incredibly permanent requires alot more thought than a teenager can dedicate to it, in my opinion After all, teenagers are still mostly using the part of our brain that controls impulses instead of reasonable behavior.

    Although, I know some adults who need lessons in reasonable heavior, too. :]

  20. I wish my yearbook had a tattoo and piercing page. But, in fact they were banned at my high school. Even if you were eighteen and legal by law to get something done they would still suspend you until you “made the right decision and took it out.â€? Luckily I was always able to hide mine. It was not even a private school just a bible thumping school in south Georgia.

  21. i was always told that when im out of my partents house i can get what i wants done to myself, i will be 19 on the 13th. i have one nice sized tattoo outline on my back now and i plan on getting the rest done really soon. i feel that if you thinks your the right age and the person that is doing the tattoos or piercings are profressional in what they does, go for it. thats what i did… the local tattoo artise in my town works out of his kitchen. hes the best, better then some that would tattoo in a big city. well in short…age 14 and up for tattoos and piercings to a certain extent( like not gential piercings or tattoos in private areas/ or areas that the tattoo person thinks they should not get it done too), and over 16 for the rest, your old enough to make your own choices and shit..so go fer it

  22. Wow… “I’ll rip that ring right out of your eyebrow” is exactly what my dad said to me!

    Lovely post, I enjoyed reading it!

    And that baby photo is great. Look at that little tattoo! Awe!

  23. I’m a fan of “If you get _body part_ pierced/tatttooed, we’ll stop paying for college.”


  24. I think age of consent in shops should stay where they’re at. The biggest thing is that at 16′ish, the body is definitely not done growing. So especially 16/17 year olds going in wanting genital & nipple piercings is pretty ludacris. Well, not them wanting it, but if a shop were to actually do it.

    I know the shop I go to frequently now is under new management but previous piercers/tattoo artists there didn’t ID and had no visible sign up with age restrictions. Now they get alot of annoyed customers because they require ID and have signs up for 16-18 with parental consent,18+ for nipples/genital and 18+ for tattoos. I think this age guideline works well.

  25. Ugh, Whispers, I’ve been hearing that for the past 2 years of my college career. I continued to get modded, and my mom got over cancer, so eventually my parents kind of eased up. But even now, I’m told that if I get any more *tattoos*, I will be out of school immediately. Ridiculous. When I was under 18, it was “Wait until you’re 18″ now that I’m 20 it’s “Wait until you graduate college.”

  26. One one hand, I think the age limit is arbitrary and naive. One does not, at the age of 18, magically become responsible enough to get tattooed. Fuck me, most people over the age of 18 are too dumb to get tattooed.

    However, I recognise the capacity of an age limit to reduce the potential dumbness of adolescent tattooing. If you give a 14 year old free reign to tattoo themselves, you’re going to get a bowl full of shit.

  27. The more interesting question to me is should parents be allowed to get their children pierced or tattooed? I can certainly imagine a rationale or situtaiton where a body-mod advocate wants to pierce or tattoo, say, their 6 year old. The vast majority of our current society (I am in the US) would be appalled, but I really don’t see much difference between that and the COUNTLESS other ways our parents shape/mold/influence us every day of our childhood.

    The difference is not qualitative, unless you believe physical molding is a different caliber than emotional/psychological/intellectual, which I do not (in fact, I think a case could be made that physical modifcation is FAR less significant than the other kinds). I do think there is a line to be drawn — I do not believe parents should be allowed to abuse children, for instance (some would call tattooing abuse; I would not). The common example of this argument is should parents be allowed to withold medical attention based on their relgious belief. I can certainly envision a more… enlightened… society where tattoing your child raises no more eyebrows than sending them to a catholic school, forcing them to play football, or making them wear braces.

  28. Well, since there is no way we will ever develop a system that measures or quantifies maturity, we need to have some guidelines in place. I do think its an individual choice to make(for example, I’m not very hip on parents piercing their children’s ears) but there is a reason we set age limits on certain things(of which you could argue the validity all year, but they’re there).

    I waited till I was 19 to get my first piercing(nipples) and nearly 30 before I got my first tattoo. And I am so glad I waited in each case. It always interests me just how many people on BME/IAM have ‘lost’ mods that they got while fairly young and grew ‘tired of’ or whatever-and how old those people are now. It would be interesting to see some stats on what age those were gotten at, versus those gotten as one got older-and if those were kept at a higher rate or not. As you age, you get a better sense of the long term consequences of altering your body-and what damage does to it-even consensual modification. I do believe there is a correlation between knowing who/what/how you are in the physical and emotional sense and knowing what you want on a more succinct/permanent basis. And no matter what anybody says about “I was mature for my age” there is a lot to be said for straight up chronological experience.

    And there is a HUGE difference between forcing your kid to play football and say, tattooing their face, especially if you were raising that child in a culture where facial tattooing was not only not valued but frowned upon. Modification should be appropriate to the individual FIRST and culture afterwards, since some choose to follow cultural norms and some do not.

  29. I completely agree. If you hold your child back from every experience they will not quite know what to expect when they hit what we call “The Real World”. I think a good parent is one who finds that fine line balance between being your child’s friend, and being their parent. This is a very delicate line to follow and the ones who figure it out are the ones who got it right. Be straight up with your kids, they are not stupid.

  30. I’m surprised no one has mentioned infant circumcision, which is widespread in the US and is acknowledged by professional medical associations to be an elective, social or culturally motivated surgery. This is a permanent genital modification but because it is considered to be a social norm in the US it rarely raises eyebrows. (And piercing little girls’ ears at any age from infancy on up doesn’t get too much attention either for that matter.) Parents are allowed to make these decisions because these particular mods are acceptable to the cultural values of the medical and legal professionals and policymakers. I think that’s the real issue underlying the whole question of age and tattoo or piercing.

    And as far as age, maturity, etc. I’ve been to a couple of shops that had mandatory ‘cooling off’ perriods of a few days, so you couldn’t get same day tattoos. That seemed like a wise policy to me.

  31. Slackary, thank you for bringing up a great point…why are some permanent and non-permanent mods acceptable here, and others not? Culture.

  32. warning, i have used some theoretical examples that are meant to cause shock for not very open-minded readers. read at your own risk.

    well, the circumcision is a good point
    circumsising boys is completely normal in some parts of the world, and i have even heard, that in US there’s sometimes even some pressure from medical persons and society to do it.
    and, it is a lot more dangerous than piercing and changes persons body more than a tattoo. where should the line be drawn? why not legalize female cricumcision too? girls are cut worldwide, and legalisation would most probably have an actual positive effect – hopefully the cutting will be performed in more sanitary conditions by persons with actual medical knowledge. so, if local culture strongly supports it, should it be legal?

    the biggest problem is, that we judge modifications by emotional, not mediacal, point of view. if it’s shocking and strange to us, then it must be dangerous and bad.
    another strong example – someone mentioned facial tattoo for 6 year old. what’s the only technical/medical problem? the tattoo will be streched by growing. anything else? pain perhaps, and aftercare, but those are complications, not actual dangers. should it be legal? perhaps in a culture, where some kind of (tribal?) markings on the face are norm, yes. here the social complications will be beyond anything that medical problems can bring. people just won’t accept it.
    let’s get even worse – genital tattoo for the sam kid. well, i would not even dare to talk about it openly in most coutries (usa esp). still, are ther any medical problems? well, for boys there most probably will be that stuff will grow very rapidly soon and the skin is very thin, but for girls? skin on outer labia is not that thin. technically possible? might be. it should be small of course. and in light colors & thin lines, because most probably it must be corrected due streching aftr growing is done. ethical? who is the on to decide, providing that the one getting the tattoo is very-very willing? the weirdest part would be the social complications side – if they can’t see it, it most probably will not cause any problems.
    still reading it, instead of trying to figure out, how to report me to police as a pervert? good, hope for you still left ;)
    do you think, that anything described above should be legal? well, i personally would not allow any of them. there are some very good points for allowing the f.circ, but these are “can’t beat them, legalize” type of points.
    the reason i used some very extreme examples was, that by showing that even things that feel very dangerous and twisted can be actually technically & madically safe.
    perhaps we should not use ag systm or anything like that, just add madical/pshychological consent to parental consnent?

  33. Astute comments. If you look at the history of movements against ‘female circumcision’ you’ll find that the medical risks was one of the early arguments against it. Medicalization of the procedures minimized the risks, and so campaigners against it refocused on the human rights aspects instead. But that opens the gender question: why are the genitals of little girls protected but not the genitals of little boys? That’s a bigger question than even modblog can answer…

  34. thanks slackary, it’s a good feeling to know that someone reads your long posts and is supportive to you ;)
    the kind of refocusing in against campaigns is a classical example. it’s just not about why they are against something, it’s about finding reasons to attack. i do not believe that it’s fair to those girls who are cut against their will. ok, that kind of a cutting is mor damaging to sexuality. still, ideologically, some ar protected and others are not. some parts can be amputatd without consent (foreskin) and some can’t.
    changeing the world starts from within, so while we here can not legalize or criminalize anything, we can still discuss the matter and try to understand it. then at least we can give ourselves and anybody who should asking a reasonable and argumented answer.
    so, should both be protected for equality? well, trying to protect one gender and forbidding and criminalizing led not to abolishment of the practice, but just moved it to unsanitary and unprofessional underground. is that what we want?
    or should the only protection for both be legal requirement of the abiltity to consent? be that ability defined by age or maturitytest or whatever. as far as i know there arte quite many countries that hav banned any kind of female genital modification in the fear of fgm. banned for anybody, so even adults commiting consensual acts are criminals. it does not sound like a solution?
    so, would it work to allow both genders circumcised, providing that the procedure is voluntary and done in safe conditions? sounds actually reasonable, doesn’t it?
    of course, som cultures want the procedur to be done at quite young age and that brings us back to the maturity question. how old person can decide to have such a serious modification done? does she/he understand the consequences on her/his sexuality in the future (presuming too young age to be sexually active. sexually active person, regardless on exact age is makeing serios enough decicions, to be decide such things too, that i’m certain). or perhaps the decision is not that much about being ready for modification, but being ready to give something away in the name of following one’s culture and traditions? well, i do believe that such decision can be made in a lot younger age than decisoin about bodymods. of course, there will be pressure to submit and accept. but… most of such pressure won’t be direct “do it or..” because such pressure can be escaped from. it will be upbringing – you are *some nation/group* and such thing is part onf you. whatever the thing is – cutting something away or scarmarkings or tattoos or lipstreching or neckstretching.
    if you know who you are and fully accept it, then you are ready to accept anything it brings along.
    hopefully i have again provoked some (perhaps even angry) thoughts. again, i do not think about forcing anybody to do something or allowing such thing to happen. still i do belive, that banning things we do not fullu understand is even worse.

  35. Another great point by ul.
    I wonder sometimes how some people can be completely ignorant to the fact that many of their ‘opinions’ are the result of the culture in which they were raised. I took an ethics class this past year, and learned that there is a very fine line between “right” and “wrong” or “good” and “bad.”

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