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.