Another one for Self-Injury Awareness Day, or is it?

The post below this is one about today being Self-Injury Awareness Day. That is why I am posting this now rather than tomorrow, even though today’s modblog plate has already been filled up. The words self-injury in this context brings up one of the oldest arguments in the body modification world which is modification vs. mutilation. Obviously, a lot of the deciding factor is in the eye of the beholder. Seriously, ask around enough and you will find plenty of people who think that a standard navel piercing is a mutilation. However, I think most modblog readers, even those that are not fans of navel piercings, would never consider one to be a mutilation. However, there are some other modification we cover on BME are not so black and white.

No one modification is responsible for more modification vs. mutilation arguments then the voluntary amputation of healthy and viable body parts. That is why I couldn’t overlook the coincidence of a photo submission of a finger amputation (amputation submissions in general are extremely rare) on Self-Injury Awareness day.

In my many years of involvement in this community, I have met and talked to a lot of amputees. Some of whom had the most sane justifications for their choice to amputate a part of themselves. So justified, in fact, that there was no question it was a modification and a sane decision for them. Others I met were a little bit more questionable in their level of mental stability, but still managed to make me feel like this modification was the right choice for them.

Then there is a small minority, people who I might dare call insane, who hate themselves and are slowly cutting away bits of them selves in a hateful fashion. Those people obviously fall into the mutilation category.

So to me, amputation and pretty much any body mod for that matter is neither modification nor mutilation 100% of the time. It is the owner of these mods and their decision making process that, to me, determine whether something is a modification or a mutilation, or to keep with the theme of the day, a modification or a self-injury.


So I ask you, the modblog readers, where do you draw the line between modification and mutilation?  To answer that question, see unwrapped photos of this amputation and learn what other non-major (but far sweeter) holiday today is, keep on keeping on.



These photos were submitted  by Devo238, for whom I could not find any contact info on. If Devo238 sees this and wants to provide me some information on it, please shoot me an email.

So what do you guys think, modification or mutilation? Share your thoughts in the comments section, I like hearing where everyone stands.

PS: Besides being Self-Injury Awareness Day today is also (in the states at least) National Pancake Day, so when your done reading modblog why not head over to IHOP and get some free pancakes?

31 thoughts on “Another one for Self-Injury Awareness Day, or is it?

  1. Looking at his ring finger, he appears to suffer from variant psoriasis. I’d guess the other finger was equally affected and he finally lost his shit and cut it off. I think about that pretty regularly.

  2. I view this as intentional mutilation. I see the difference between mutilation and modification as changing the function of a body part versus body decoration. Removing your pinkie degrades the functionality of your hand, whereas a body modification is purely aesthetic. Technically this is a “body modification”, but to group it in with piercings, tattoos, scarifications, implants or other ‘decorations’ seems inappropriate. I also feel that if this is truly what devo238 wanted, then devo has every right to do so. I would never do this to something as important as my hand, but i know nothing about devo’s life experiences. Anyone with amputation experience know if the dead skin on the ring finger is normal?

  3. call me closed minded, but man…I just can not get behind amputation. I definitely see that as a mutilation. And no, I dont have a real, logical, thought out explanation as to why I feel that way. Its just my knee jerk reaction to it. I would LOVE to talk to someone who has amputated to listen to their reasoning…I would LOVE to understand.

  4. Modification is positive, it makes the modified person happier in some way. Mutilation is negative, it is harmful and causes the mutilated person anguish. That’s the line as i see it.

  5. I don’t comment here much, but I figured I’d jump in – I’m a former self injurer, and the topic of mutilation vs modification has come up quite a bit in my life (I’m also active in the BDSM community, where I was originally a bottom, though I no longer find bottoming interesting or arousing anymore).

    I always felt that the intent behind the action is the key. When I hurt myself, (I was a cutter, a self puncher, and occasionally banged my head against the walls, as well as being a binge eater, which I count as self injury because I used to do that to the point where it *hurt*) I was doing whatever I was doing because I was angry, or upset or stressed or just because I didn’t feel at all, and wanted to feel something. I think just about anything I did to myself with that kind of intent would have been mutilation.

    Whereas, when I got pierced, started getting tattooed, and bottoming, I did so from a different head space. I got pierced and tattooed because I wanted to decorate myself, and in the case of my tattoos, dedicate myself in a specific and permanent way. When I would bottom, and get hit, it was (for me anyway) about endurance, and endorphines and doing something that was transgressive and sexy. (It still is, but it took a while before I realized I preferred to do the hurty parts).

    Along with the intent of the action is the outcome – after every tattoo, piercing, and scene, I was happy. I had a good time, even if parts of it were bleh (not all cane strokes are fun, and my first tattoo was a bitch to get coz I couldn’t take a deep breath. Of course. Things.) I am pleased with the outcome of all those actions. Whereas, with self injury, I was unhappy with the scars, ashamed, scared to let anyone else see them. Until recently, in the past 5 years or so, I was still worried and ashamed about some of my self inflicted scars. It was a huge part of why I didn’t own a bathing suit, go to the beach, wear shorts, etc (nearly all my injury was done to my legs). It affected me and my life in a negative way, and I was not happy with my actions and their results.

    the TL;DR version is basically, its the intent and outcome that mark if something is mutilation or modification, and those things are specific, very specific, to the people doing.

  6. For me, there is no line.

    I’ve modified to mutilate, I’ve mutilated to modify.

    Even though the act may be the same, it’s the intent that separates it. I’ve gone into things before with the full intention of physically hurting myself, only to come out afterwards with something positive and beautiful.

  7. I first want to disagree about it being an issue of adornment vs. changing functionality. *Many* non-mainstream modifications alter functionality significantly. A split tongue may cause a slight lisp, filed teeth are going to alter the way you eat, subincisions/meatotomies alter both bathroom and sexual function, etc., etc.

    I think that it depends on the psychological head-space of the individual that is either modifying or mutilating. Body dysmorphic disorder hasn’t been verified with piercings/tattoos/less common modifications, but is closely associated with repeated plastic surgeries. (See also: Michael Jackson) Body integrity identity disorder is closely related to voluntary amputation of healthy limbs (which is viewed by most doctors as being mutilation), but amputation in that case seems to relieve the psychological pressure.

    From my own personal experience, I used to be a very depressed person; most of my piercings were done while I was in a depressed state. Was it mutilation, or was depression partially caused by a dissonance between my internal self-image and my external appearance? I know that I’m fairly happy and well adjusted now, and I still have around 30 of the 100+ piercings that I’ve had over the years, plus the tattoos, split tongue, transscrotal, scarification, implants, blah blah blah. It’s possible that it was mutilation at the time, but is now modification. I’m not sure that any bright line exists to divide the two.

  8. @DangerBitch: Thanks for pointing that out. I was going to ask what was up with that (it kinda looks like flour stuck to his hand, which doesn’t make sense).

    I’m more in agreement with Wendy… The intent of the modification is what separates it for me… I don’t really have a lot to say on it now because she made pretty much the points I was going to make.

    However, Tobias definitely brings up something interesting that I haven’t really thought about before…

    And I wish I knew IHOP was giving away free pancakes… I want me some free pancakes!!

  9. I agree with the others who said that modification vs. mutilation depends on the intent. No judgement can be made about Devo238′s mod (or mutilation) until we know what CAUSED him to want to have it done.
    Also, thanks to DangerBitch for letting us know what that was… I was confused.

  10. I don’t know what to think of this amputation without knowing the story behind it. I DO always have a deep, visceral reaction whenever i see an amputation of “WHY???!!?!” since most of the time it’s a perfectly good body part….and I DO think, most of the time that removing a perfectly good body part is pretty far on the edge of mod vs. Mutilate.

    But it’s not my place to judge a person for doing things to themselves. if it makes them happier, ‘healthier’ people in the end, then it’s modification and not mutilation. if it was done out of a bad head space or ill judgement and negatively impacts them, then it’s mutilation.


  11. I think that if a modification is done in a sound state of mind, and the person in question achieved the desired result, it is modification.

    Which is why I and other people in the modification industry make sure out clients are in a state suitable to consent to a procedure- Even piercings and tattoos can be mutilation/self harm. That being said, I think body modification can be a safe a productive form of self harm under the right circumstances- many people have sought out a mod in response to a traumatic event. I don’t think its just a black/white good or bad thing.

    So I guess I feel that a simple piercing can be self harm just as much as cutting off your leg can be modification. Its about the person, not about the mod itself or how extreme we may see it to be.

  12. I see this as a modification. In a society where it is more acceptable to put large implants into the chest of a woman *or certain men* most people judge too harsh on those with different goals in mind. If the hand was diseased and he cut off the pinky out of anger then I believe it was an act of mutilation. So a planned act is a mod, an unplanned mod is mutilation.

  13. I think I’m with you that it depends on the mindset of the person. Compare, for example, cutting scars. I’m sure that the majority of people (within the bodymod community at least) would look at a scarification piece as a modification, while there’s very little argument that the typical “self harm” scars on a troubled individual are certainly a mutilation. I think Nixiie (post 5 i think) summed it up pretty well, in saying that modification is about positive emotions while mutilation is about negative emotions. The one issue with that definition is that for many self-harmers they see the harm they do to themselves as a way of making themselves happier, so in that way many people could say that there’s no real difference between a depressed person cutting themselves and someone electing to have a body part amputated. I think the way I’d define it has less to do with why the act is carried out in the first place, but the effect that it has on the person afterwards. Someone cutting themselves as an act of self harm, although they may feel that the cutting is a solution to their emotions, will most likely to continue to harm themselves again and again, still seeking that release from their emotions, and never really finding it. Conversely, someone who (for whatever reasons) wants to electively amputate a part of their body may well find that the amputation does effectively eliminate whatever negative reasons they may have had for the amputated body part. Going by that definition, I feel that I can differentiate between an amputation that is a modification, where the person amputated for whatever reasons, and as a result is a happier, healthier and more rounded person, and one that is a mutilation, where the person amputated, yet still has all those negative emotions and, as Sean originally said, is likely to continue cutting away parts of their body in a continuous cycle.

  14. io non capisco l’autolesionismo……
    perchè una persona arriva al punto di amputarsi un dito????
    vorrei capire da chi si amputa il perchè delle sue azioni….

  15. I have peeling skin like that (due to allergies) on one of my hands and my feet. People often refuse to touch my hand because they think it’s infectious. At the moment it’s not too unatractive but sometimes it blisters, peels and cracks so much that my hand hurts. Sometimes I think of wearing one glove a la Michael Jackson to hide it.

    Less occasionally I wonder if an amputation would be perceived more positively by others than the skin I have – amputations clearly aren’t infectious and amputees tend to be viewed with pity or curiosity rather than the fear and disgust my skin seems to provoke.

    For me amputation will remain an idle fantasy/question, if I can’t even be bothered to confront people or wear a glove, it clearly doesn’t bother me quite enough. Ignoring it is the path of least resistance for me. Others may find that ‘mutilation’ is theirs and that’s okay too, some things just aren’t worth the continual hassle.

  16. one could go so far as to say that suicide is a form of body modification. could go even further to say that suicide could be a sane decision as well. personally, i think suicide is our way of telling god, “you can’t fire me, i quit!”

  17. Hi all.
    It was intresting for me to read your opinions. Thank you. And let me explain shortly:
    This amputation is a body modification for me, nothing else. From my childhood amputated fingers cause some sexual filings. I don’t know why. At last I decided to amputate my own. It was 6 month ago and I happy that I got enough courage to did it.
    I have no problem with my skin, it is just cast remnant. This pictures was made a few hours after surgery and I had no way to wash my hand :)
    I ready to answer your questions if you have any. But unfortunately my English is not so good…

  18. as long as it is done safely and consentualy and doest impair the individual from his hability to be usefull and functional in society it is not mutilation to me! so this guy amputation is not a problem to me!

  19. There is a wonderful book called ‘Geek Love’ that touches on voluntary amputation, which I found to be incredibly fascinating. The ‘devotees’ slowly have their fingers, toes, feet, hands, etc. removed in order to become more enlightened, as they believer their ‘leader’ Arturo to be. Arturo happens to have been born with no arms or legs, and flippers as hands and feet. It’s quite an interesting book in general, considering that the children are created to be freaks in order for their parents to tour them around and make money off exhibiting them. That’s a whole other discussion tho. My point is that people have their own motivation and reasoning for modifying their bodies, and sometimes this can actually cause the physical [or even mental and emotional] Self harm. However, as individuals, we should have the choice to do so, whether or not other people like it, accept it or even get it. While I may not understand the motives for someone to willingly amputate what would seem like a perfectly healthy body part, or even cut so deep that there are things exposed only doctors should see, it is not for me or anyone else to pass judgment.

  20. I think amputation can be a modification and have a medical need as well. I have very bad psoriasis and i’ve thought about permanently removing my fingernails/toenails and then replacing them with some sort of neat looking implants because of the intense pain my psoriasis sometimes causes in that area. I would never remove them simply because sometimes they hurt too much, but pain would certainly factor in my decision.

  21. I think what Tobias was saying was eventually leading to what I was originally thinking.

    I think all mods have a bit of a mutilation factor involved in them. I only have had tattoos and piercings but even in getting those done there is a kind of masochistic characteristic to those actions. Even if it means conquering the pain for a positive result.

    Any type of physical alterations to your own body is a mutilation of sorts, even in medical surgery one is submitting to a more dramatic alteration of their body to achieve a healthier life and future – once again, the submission to immediate pain and/or mutilation (the pain factor is now removed with modern anesthetic, but the action of mutilation is still there) to achieve a what is perceived as a healthier life. And modern medical surgery is still a man-made alteration of a body.

    Also, take for instance a normal ear piercing. For women to get their ears pierced there is a submission to cultural pressure, norms, and mores to achieve a goal, but it is injuring of the body – a mutilation – that is needed to achieve this goal.

    So my answer to the question is that it is both a modification and mutilation.

  22. As someone who used to self-harm, I am so glad nothing I ever did left a scar. On the other hand, I still have a scar from a piercing and it doesn’t bother me at all; I sort of cherish the little mark of what it once was. I’ve watched people go through lengths to hide the evidence of self-harm, and I’d say this is one of the deciding factors for me; regret.

  23. I’m with the mutilation, this is one thing I don’t understand but am trying to

    I used to do self harm and I did leave A LOT of deep scars that will never go away

  24. On March15th, I attempted to amputate my pinky. I had it all staged and could explain it as an accident with an axe in the back yard. I had my pinky on the tree limb that had yet to move into the limb pile. I rested the axe across the middle phalynx of my pinky for several seconds. When I raised the axe to make the chop it landed on my pinky below the middle knuckle breaking the bone and creating only a half-inch open wound.
    I think for a moment I was shocked as to how easy it really was to break a bone.

    I think I’m sure I will try again. The doctor was having problem setting the break so I had surgery the next day to insert two pins on either side of my finger. More than a week later one of the pins came out and had to be replaced. That required one more surgery. My hand is still wrapped up from the last surgery.

    I was looking at my ring finger as it sticks out beyond the the wrapping on my hand. I crossed my mind that I could cut the distal joint of my ring finger off. I’m just trying to determine how.

    And suggestions??

  25. Had I been successful, the my pinky stump on my left hand would have looked alot like Devo238′s. I think it’s cool!!

  26. I really don’t have anything against any kind of bodymodding. But amputation, I really don’t get it. But I don’t have anything against it either. I guess anyone can do just anything with their bodies and I’m not one to judge. If amputation makes you happy, then you do it.

  27. Seems a lot more like xenomelia, “the dysphoric feeling that one or more limbs of one’s body do not belong to one’s self.”

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