This Week in BME

IAM: xronix

A fine week, in the books. Some highlights:

  • We had apples.
  • La Negra popped in and, as usual, lit up our lives.
  • Some people find tattoo shops in malls an affront to everything that the art-form stands for, while some merely hate the idea.
  • Scotty may or may not have left a mark on that handsome chair.
  • Noobs were told to STFU, and some people did not approve.
  • Paul King schooled us on nipples.
  • And that’s all for this week, folks. We’ll pop in a couple times over the weekend, and then it’s back to normal, bright and early-ish on Monday morning. Happy Halloween, ModBlog. Stay safe.

    Nipple Piercings, Male and Female

    (Editor’s note: These articles were first published in The Point, the publication of the Association of Professional Piercers. Since part of BME’s mandate is to create as comprehensive and well rounded an archive of body modification as possible, we feel these are important additions.

    Paul King, the article’s author, has given BME permission to publish a series of articles he wrote for The Point that explore the anthropological history behind many modern piercings. This is another in that series. This time, however, we are combining two of his articles — male and female nipple piercings — into one general nipple piercing–related column. Enjoy.)

    MALE NIPPLE PIERCING

    Dear Readers,

    It may seem odd at first glance that I have chosen to separate the history of nipple piercing, a shared anatomical piercing, into two topics. The reason is twofold. Until modern times, males and females within a culture have not shared this custom, and because of the volume on this topic, the articles work best broken up.

    First of all, Roman Centurions did not have their nipples pierced. Over the years it has been my great pleasure (and fortune) to have had many long discussions with Jim Ward, Founder of Gauntlet, PFIQ and longtime friend of Richard Simonton (a.k.a Doug Malloy). Jim has told me the genesis behind this urban myth. It appears that Doug’s only evidence of the Romans having pierced nipples was a photograph of a baroque statue from Versailles. In the photo the statue is wearing a breastplate with rings for attaching a cape. When Jim conveyed his doubts about Doug’s rather stretched conclusions, Doug replied, “Well it makes a good story…”

    It appears the Karankawa Native Americans, a now extinct nomadic people that previously inhabited the Gulf Coast of Texas, “pierced the nipples of each breast and the lower lip with small pieces of cane.” That they could heal these piercings is particularly interesting since they “smeared their bodies with a mixture of dirt and alligator or shark grease” to thwart mosquitoes.1

    Both American and British sailors have passed on legends of getting pierced as an initiation for having passed an important latitude or longitude, (i.e. Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn or the International Date Line, etc.). There is enough folklore and photos to substantiate the old tales of “sailors with pierced nipples adding links each time the sailor crossed the equator.”2 However, the adding of links seems to be a lesser known practice. Additionally, there exists an abundance of sailor stories for earlobe piercing. Since the turn of the century, sailors such as Le Captain Ringman or The Great Omi, heavily tattooed and pierced, would sometimes reenter mainland society as sideshow human oddities.

    The 1950s and ’60s were a time for self-exploration and sowed the seeds of the modern day body modification and S/M communities. Men such as Fakir Musafar (Rowland Loomis) and Jim Ward compelled to pierce their own nipples, bravely figured out their procedures in an information vacuum.3

    Let’s count our blessings, times have changed!
    __________________
    1 The Handbook of Texas Online, by Carol A. Lipscomb at www.tsha.utekas.edu, her bibliography: Albert Gatschet, The Karankawa Indians, the Coast People of Texas, (1891), William Newcomb, The Indians of Texas, (1961), Richard Schaedel, The Karankawa of the Texas Gulf Coast, (1949).

    2 PFIQ (Piercing Fans International Quarterly # 21)

    3 Fakir pierced his nipples in 1956, Jim Ward in 1968

    * * *

    FEMALE NIPPLE PIERCINGS

    The previous issue discussed the history of the male nipple piercing. As most of you know, I enjoy setting the record straight, debunking myths and documenting the facts. I thought this month I’d do the same thing. Instead, once again, I’ve gotten another of life’s lessons on expectations. Things are not always as simple as they would seem. What I’ve done this month is uncovered a quagmire of dead-end trails, shedding some new light on the history of female nipple piercing, with much still remaining in the dark.

    Perhaps the oldest attribution of female nipple piercing comes from Eduard Fuchs. He was a German scholar, “sexologist” and writer from the early 1900s. To the best of my knowledge his work has never been translated. Unfortunately my understanding of the German language isn’t even rusty, it’s nonexistent. So I have to rely on quotes from his works that appear in various books and documents. It has been mentioned on the rec.arts.bodyart newsgroup that Fuch as well as an author named Pelham,1 “made extensive use of the same English source, one article in Society, a journal unavailable to me.”2 I, too, have been unable to find any record of this journal from the turn of the century. Perhaps some inquisitive and persistent English readers could help with further research through their local libraries.

    Quoting Fuch’s writing as the source, Hans Peter Duerr’s book, Dreamtime,3 traces the earliest known practice of female nipple piercing to perhaps the Court of Queen Isabella of Bavaria. Her rule (1385 to 1417), though extravagant was rather short lived:

    “Queen Isabella … introduced the ‘garments of the grand neckline,’ where the dress was open to the navel.4 This fashion eventually led to the application of rouge5 to freely display nipples, those ‘little apples of paradise’ to placing diamond-studded rings or small caps on them, even piercing them and passing gold chains through them decorated with diamonds, possibly to demonstrate the youthful resilience of the bosom.”6

    I have included the entire section of text here with footnotes not normally quoted from Dreamtime in order to illustrate that though piercing of female nipples may have occurred during the Court of Queen Isabella, we cannot draw that conclusion from this passage as written. The paragraph was patched together by Mr. Duerr using three sources, some written over 60 years apart and in different languages. Until more research is done, one can only deduce that the fashion of the time led to a trend of piercing nipples at some unspecified later time, perhaps months or even years later. Some may say I’m splitting hairs here, but I would hate to see the female nipple piercing renamed the “Queen Isabella,” follow me?

    Eduard Fuch is again quoted by author Stephen Kern, in Anatomy and Destiny. This time the reference is much later and from a different source. “In the late 1890s the ‘bosom ring’ came into fashion briefly and sold in expensive Parisian jewelry shops. These ‘anneaux de sein’ were inserted through the nipple, and some women wore one on either side linked with a delicate chain. The rings enlarged the breasts and kept them in a state of constant excitation.7 This provocative ornamentation was rare …”

    Unfortunately things get even murkier from here. D.W. Jones, who seems to have done a fair amount of research, posts on rec.arts.bodyart, “In 1898 a single Bond Street jeweler is supposed to have performed the nipple-boring operation on forty English ladies and young girls … In fact many ladies, instead of rings, had small chains fastened from breast to breast, and a celebrated actress of the Gaiety Theatre wore a pearl chain with a bow at the end.”8 Unfortunately, this is not footnoted and as such will have to be treated as an urban myth until the source is traced. If anyone knows how to track down D.W. Jones, please tell him I’m looking for him …

    The twentieth century brought a flurry of sensational books on erotica. Unfortunately most authors’ intent was more to titillate than to educate. It’s hard to find facts not steeped in the authors’ opinions, usually running to extreme. The necessity for footnotes or bibliographies was usually overlooked in these quasi-scientific books. A strong support for D.W. Jones’s post may be found in this following passage from a book of this lurid genre:

    “No more perfect example of Victorian extremism can be found than the unbelievable breast piercing craze that swept London in the 1890s. This barbaric practice achieved fantastic popularity among seemingly sane, civilized Englishwomen, who submitted to the excruciating pain of having their nipples, pierced in order to insert decorative gold and jeweled rings. In an attempt to explain what had driven so many females to embrace such a crackpot fad, a fashionable London modeste wrote a letter to a popular magazine,9 which said in part, ‘For a long time I could not understand why I should consent to such a painful operation without sufficient reason. I soon, however, came to the conclusion that many ladies are ready to bare the passing passion for the sake of love. I found the breast that the ladies who wore rings were incomparably rounder and fuller developed than those who did not. My doubts were now at an end … So I had my nipples pierced, and when the wounds healed, I had rings inserted … With regard to the experience of wearing these rings, I can only say that they are not in the least uncomfortable or painful. On the contrary, the slight rubbing and slipping of the rings causes in me a titillating feeling, and all my colleagues to whom I have spoken on this subject have confirmed my opinion.’”10

    Fuch’s French joined with Jones’s and Hurwood’s English references of the same period seem to support the notion of a brief but extraordinary fashion trend. It would be wonderful to someday discover in which country the trend started and by whom.

    A piece of folklore I feel compelled to share was passed on to me by Jim Ward. However, please understand none of my research, in anyway substantiates this information appearing in World Medicine. “In the France of Louis XIV [1638-1715], the church condoned the extreme décolleté of ladies’ fashions only because the wearing of gold rings through the exposed nipples made them ‘dressed,’ not bare. The fashion spread across the Channel and a few haut ton [hauteur?] had gold rings inserted in their nipples. But as far as I can find out, the regular wearing of nipple rings has been common only among the Berber tribe of northern Algeria known in the mountains as the Kabyle.”11

    Researching the Kabyle, I could find no anthropological references to female nipple piercing. It is near impossible to believe the women of the Kabyle-Berber society, would have nipple piercings when one considers:

    a) Religiously, they’re fairly strict Muslim.
    b) Culturally, they’re extremely subjugated and sexually repressed by Kabyle men, and,
    c) Materially, they’re almost exclusively limited to silver and coral for jewelry adornment. Trying to heal a nipple piercing with silver seems rather hindering, if even possible.

    It’s surprising that such a sensational article could appear in a medical journal without any annotation. But to quote Doug Malloy, “It makes for an interesting story anyways, doesn’t it?” If any reader has documentation to support any statements from the medical journal article, please come forth. I have been unable to track the article’s author.

    After the 1890s, the female nipple piercing seems to go completely underground. I have been unable to trace any references or photos until the quite remarkable piercing legend, Ethel Granger. For those readers unfamiliar with Ms. Granger, she appeared in the first edition of Guinness Book of World Records. She was entered as the Smallest Waist in the world.12 With strong encouragement from her husband, Ethel started modifying her body when she got married in the 1920s. By World War II, she had both her nipples pierced and over ten ear piercings in each ear many of them stretched and or punched, including her conch. She had two piercings in her nostrils and one in her septum that she could connect by running a knitting needle from one nostril, through the septum and out the other nostril.13 Certainly there were more women secretly with adorned nipples, however material remains elusive.

    In closing, having read both nipple articles, the reader will notice from the 1890s onward both men and women of European and American societies were having their nipples pierced. However it appears very early on, female nipple piercing was preformed within the fashion conscious affluent classes while male nipple piercing was practiced by the working class fringe, mostly sailors and carnies. While the stylish quickly dropped the practice, those finding significance in the ritual or ornamentation in their lifestyle, carried on the tradition. In the later half of the twentieth century, it appears not much has changed.

    ______________
    1 I am not familiar with the author Pelham or his work.

    2 A website hosted by Anne Greenblaat, http://www.faqs.org/faqs/bodyart/piercing-faq/historical/, Article: “Titrings, a bit of History” by D.W. Jones, posting date May 2000

    3 Dreamtime, Concerning the Boundary between Wilderness and Civilization, by Hans Peter Duerr, 1978, translated by Felicitas Goodman, 1985.

    4 Dreamtime, pg 54, original text footnote #62, author K. Weinhold, Die deutschen Frauen in dem Mittelalter II, (Wein, 1882), pg. 276

    5 Dreamtime, pg 54, original text footnote #63, author M. Garland, “The Changing Face of Beauty,” (London 1957), pg. 71

    6 Dreamtime, pg. 55, original text footnote #64, author Eduard Fuchs, Die Frau in der Karikatur, (Muchen, 1925), pg. 179.

    7 Anatomy & Destiny, Stephen Kern, (New York 1975), pg. 97, original text footnote # 8, author Eduard Fuchs, Illustrierte Sittengeschichte vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart, Erganzungsband, (Munich 1912) pg. 68. Fuchs refers to an original article in Geschlecht und Gesellschaft, Bd. II, Heft. 3.

    8 From the website hosted by Anne Greenblaat, http://www.faqs.org/faqs/bodyart/piercing-faq/historical/, Article: “Titrings, a bit of History” by D.W. Jones, posting date May 2000

    9 Unfortunately no magazine title is given! Could this also be the illusive “Society” magazine?

    10 The Golden Age of Erotica, Hurwood. 1965. pg. 305-306.

    11 Those Little Perforations. Tim Healey, Radiologist. Article in World Medicine November 15, 1978.

    12 Guinness has since changed the category to Smallest Waist on a Living Person. So unfortunately, Ethel has been displaced by a living, though larger, waist!

    13 Piercing Fans International Quarterly (PFIQ), Issue #15, Interview by Fakir Musafar, Editor Jim Ward.

    My usual disclaimer: I am not an anthropologist. From time to time, there will be errors. Please be understanding and forth coming if you have any information you would like to share.

    * * *

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    BME’s Big Queston #4: Training Days


    Welcome to BME’s Big Question! In this weekly (hopefully) feature, we’re going to ask a handful of the community’s best and brightest piercers, tattooists, heavy mod practitioners and shop owners for their opinion on one question or issue that’s affecting the body modification community. Many, many thanks to all of the contributors.

    If you’d like to be a part of future editions, or if you have an idea for an issue or question you’d like to see addressed, please e-mail me.

    This week’s topic:

    Particularly when you were breaking into the industry, how did you prepare when you were attempting a new procedure or method with which you were not experienced? Consult with other practitioners? Study images online or peruse anatomy books? Find a trusted client on whom to experiment?

    * * *


    Joy Rumore
    One word: logic.

    Meg Barber
    Back when I was starting out, yeah, I did all of the above. Now? Well, there really aren’t too many instances where I’m asked to do something I’m not familiar with.

    But, if that DOES come up, I generally contact another practitioner, bounce ideas off of them, and then just put it to use on the client. I tend to think of myself as pretty logical when it comes down to it, and if I slow down, think about the dynamics of what I’m doing enough … I can figure out how to do pretty much anything thrown at me. That said, I only do piercing and scarification. If someone came in wanting something more involved, like an implant, I’d send them elsewhere.


    Brian Decker
    Like Joy said, I do count on common sense for most of what I do. A lot of procedures are very similar in technique, even if the work is completely different. I’m self-taught with most of what I do, but I definitely make phone calls to work out specifics of new procedures — quite often, honestly. I used to call Tom Brazda pretty often for his input and advice. I don’t think it was ever really anything about how to approach a particular procedure in general, but more so the specifics that could help better the procedure. Things like suture type and size, suturing styles, jewelry designs, etc. He was always very helpful. That man loves to talk.

    I remember calling Shane Munce, whom I’d never spoken to previously, about his approach for the Nefertiti piercing before trying it. In the end, I’d already had the work mapped out very similarly to his approach, but I’m all for sharing ideas to make sure there’s nothing I’m overlooking. Hell, I even talked with Todd Bertrang online for a while about scalpelling piercings.

    Years ago, I talked with Emilio [Gonzalez] about ear pointing and he threw me one idea that that made things much easier. Even though I don’t use the same technique now, I’ve definitely built from what I learned from him at the time.

    When I started making the switch from tools to freehanding piercings, I talked to tons of people. Some ideas I was comfortable and some I wasn’t. Dave Gillstrap showed me the most satisfying holding position for tongue piercings ever.

    Since I’m always open to new ideas (and asking for them), I have no problem sharing, either. I encourage it. When I was in Cincinnati, Meg asked for some input regarding skin removal in scarification, which she’d already done, so we set up a piece we could work on together so I could show her exactly what I do. Very rarely do I just shun people away. When someone has absolutely no idea what they’re doing and they just want me to tell them because they’re too lazy to do some homework, then I get frustrated, but otherwise I’m all ears.


    Stephen DeToma
    Whether the client asks me for something new or I wish to try something different, such as freehand V clamps, it’s important that it’s made perfectly clear that this will be new.

    A lot of prep for something new starts with discussion with others and researching listed techniques. Often, it comes down to hands-on application, but that doesn’t always mean with a needle. When I was switching away from forceps for nipples and navels, doing a dry run with a cotton swab in place of a needle helped to give me the feel of the piercing without actually having to poke the skin or follow through.

    Learning how others do something, even if you don’t end up applying the same methods in your own work is just as important, and that applies even to piercings that you’ve been doing for years. Traveling and being able to observe artists that I respect and admire goes a long way to help sharpen my own skills. Sometimes it’s as simple as seeing how someone approaches an unrelated procedure to help blossom new ideas for your own work.


    Brian Decker
    I fully agree. When I first started moving away from forceps, I was piercing everything other than people to get a better feel for different grips. Paper, jeans, cardboard, bookbags … everything.

    Steve Truitt
    I pretty much agree with everyone else. Common sense can go a long way. When I was learning to do procedures, I thought about them for a while before doing them to map out the technique I thought would work best. Then I’d usually call someone I knew that had done that procedure before. Usually that was Steve Haworth, and he was very helpful.

    I also normally started out doing the procedures I hadn’t done before on friends and regular clients that knew I was trying something new and were aware of the risks.


    Meg Barber
    Brian [Decker] has been really helpful to me with input, and he is who I turn to most often. I think he and I just work well together, and we respect each other enough I know he isn’t gonna call me a chump when I ask about something. I’ve also touched base with Ryan Oullette and John Joyce once or twice …

    That’s when knowing artists who aren’t total rock-star douchebags comes in handy.


    John Joyce
    Whenever I was looking into a new procedure or a new technique, I’ve always researched the hell out of it before jumping in. Talking to more experienced artists, looking at photos, and whenever possible actually watching someone else do it.

    A great example of this is when I first started looking into doing the punch and taper method for surface piercings. I had the general idea down, but before I attempted it, I contacted people I trusted that were already doing it. Tom Brazda was very helpful; he and I wrote back and forth many times before I eventually attempted one, and the first few that I performed after that were all done on friends only. I made sure they understood it was something new that I was trying out, and there was a very real possibility that they may end up with just two holes in them and no jewelry. Fortunately, that never happened.

    Before punch and taper, I did the same thing when I was learning to freehand surface piercings instead of clamp and pierce. I talked to Luis Garcia, and a few other people about their techniques.

    The Learning Forum on IAM is a great place for exchanging information between piercers, experienced or not. Unfortunately, I do think it’s underused by newer piercers. When I was first learning to pierce, there wasn’t a place like that where you could ask questions and get responses from so many great piercers all at once. It really makes getting information much easier.


    Stephen DeToma
    IAM in general is a great resource. Thank you, Al Gore.

    John Joyce
    I couldn’t agree more with Stephen when he said that, “Traveling and being able to observe artists that I respect and admire goes a long way to help sharpen my own skills.”

    Scar Wars helped me sharpen my skills as a scarification artist tremendously. Even though I was there as a respected practitioner, watching other artists work made me think about the way I did certain things, and made me a better artist. This is another example of the newer artists not taking advantage of something amazing that could better themselves more than anything else. At the last two Scar Wars events I was really disappointed at the lack of the younger/newer “scarification artists” that made the effort to come and learn from the best of the best.


    Stephen DeToma
    I don’t even cut and Scar Wars was a great learning experience.

    Steve Truitt
    Yeah, I learned a lot at Scar Wars from watching people cut as well.

    Meg Barber
    I think that Scar Wars is easily one of the best learning environments that there has been for scarification, hands down. The ability to schmooze with and watch all of these skilled artists for a period of three days?! Yes please!

    Ryan Ouellette
    I think preparation is the best kind of research — does that make any sense? Whenever I’m around other professionals I’ll make sure to keep my ears open and ask a lot of questions. Sometimes it’s just that one small piece of the puzzle that brings everything together. I’ve learned so many little tricks (from a lot of people here on IAM) that has really advanced my work. If someone comes in and asks for something I’ve never done before I’ll typically refer them to someone else. If it’s just a different variation on a familiar procedure then I’ll inform them of my experience and it’s their choice to have me perform it. A good example would be when I tried a punch and taper microdermal on someone when I had only done freehand microdermals and punch and taper piercings. You can try new things on clients at certain skill levels, but if it is something outside of your field of experience it’s best to research and train, or refer to a trusted colleague.

    But I don’t mean to make it sound like I’ve never rolled the dice on a procedure. Luckily my experiments have usually been on myself, or at least my friends. There’s always a first time for everything you’ve done. Experimentation is really important to advance the industry. I’m not a heavy mod practitioner, just piercing and cutting really. But my first flesh removal was on a regular client/coworker/friend … and it came out horrible. But I never would have been able to nail down a solid technique without getting my mistakes out of the way first. I think part of knowing how to do something right is seeing how to do it wrong.


    Allen Falkner
    I think everyone agrees that research is important and that clients should be fully informed prior to attempting a new procedure. So, I’m going to try and give an answer coming from a different angle.

    When I first made the jump into suspension I knew zilch, zero, nada. The only person I knew that had hung from hooks was Fakir. He was helpful to a certain extent, but in general I stumbled into it blindly. For those that haven’t heard the story, my first suspension was an utter disaster. I understood the basic physics. Knew it was possible. However, the information, equipment and materials just weren’t out there. Well, at least not like they are now.

    Looking back on it I see the first years of TSD as reckless. Granted, I tried to convey to people that my experience was limited, but ego and pride can really be one’s undoing. Yes, I learned a lot from working with other people and communicating with others online. But really my first two to three years of suspension were riddled with comments like, “Well that didn’t work,” and, “Yeah I guess that won’t hold.” Nowadays it’s easy to dismiss it all by saying things like, “There really wasn’t anyone else to ask” and “I was young and stupid.” These statements might be true, but it’s still no excuse.

    Basically, in the beginning I was very headstrong and often attempted things that in retrospect I really wasn’t qualified to do. Do I regret these experiences? No. However, I was lucky. No one was ever seriously hurt and the lessons I learned really shaped who I am today. The main thing that came from this behavior is that I am much more cautious now. Do I still do stupid things without adequate research? Sure, but whenever possible I’m the first guinea pig.

    Personally I think experimentation is a good thing, and yes reinventing the wheel should be avoided whenever possible. However, there is definitely something to be said for learning things the hard way.


    Stephen DeToma
    Absolutely, sir. Learning something the hard way can often times be the greatest teaching tool. If someone tells you the stove is hot, you may forget; but you touch a hot stove, you’ll never forget again.

    What do you think? Let’s hear it in the comments.

    * * *

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    BREAKING NEWS: Body Piercings Are Anti-Israel

    This will kill you immediately.

    This is obviously a delicate subject, so it’s with some apprehension that I even broach the topic, but the evidence is overwhelming and it must be addressed: Body piercings — the piercings themselves — are actively attacking Israeli citizens. Crazy, right? “But how could a piece of perforated skin with a piece of jewelry in it harbor any sort of political or nationalistic bent?” you might ask, but the facts are irrefutable. Exhibit A: an Israeli soldier died this week from complications following an infected tongue piercing:

    A 19-year-old combat soldier who died at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center on Monday as a result of complications of a tongue piercing he had done in July was a rare case [Ed. Note: Or so they would have us believe], but oral piercings commonly cause infections, according to experts in the Israel Defense Forces and Tel Aviv University’s School of Dental Medicine. [...]

    The victim of tongue piercing felt severe pain around his lips a week after undergoing the procedure. He went to the Emek Medical Center near his home in Afula and Bnei Zion Hospital in Haifa and was transferred to Rambam as his condition worsened.

    He developed a dozen infections in his brain that had begun in his mouth. First he was in the neurology department, but then the soldier was transferred to intensive care.

    And as if this transparent plot weren’t transparent enough, there’s this unconscionable attack on the children (THE CHILDREN):

    A 14-year-old boy who underwent a piercing in his nipple is hospitalized in Safed and facing surgery to repair damage from a serious infection, Ziv Hospital said on Thursday. [...]

    It was not clear whether the high school pupil from the Galilee had received his parents’ permission in writing to undergo the piercing, which is required by law for anyone under the age of 16.

    Dr. Yuri Weiner, deputy head of pediatric intensive care at Ziv Hospital, said the boy previously had other parts of his body pierced with the insertion of a ring, but doing so in his nipple caused a serious infection in the lining of his chest and that he would need intensive antibiotic treatment and surgery, which is disfiguring.

    The moral of the story? Piercings are terrorist organizations that must be eradicated at all costs before they kill again. I am suspending posting on BME so that we can focus our attention on this urgent matter. Posts will resume immediately.

    Soldier’s tongue piercing causes fatal infection, Nipple piercing in 14-year-old boy leads to infection and surgery [Jerusalem Post]

    On Eyelid Microdermals, ModBlog and Turning Body Modification Into a Contest.


    (Author’s note: Excuse me while I get all meta on you.)

    Full-disclosure time: When I first saw on Lane Jensen’s IAM page pictures of the microdermal he’d put into someone’s eyelid, I was mortified. This was too much, too risky, and, though I had not been apprised of the details of the situation, it read as irresponsible at best and fame-seeking at … well, not quite “worst,” but getting there.

    The client, it seemed, was quite young [Author's note: She was 17 years old and her father was present. My point stands, nonetheless], with minimal visible prior body modification work done — not to say she was too immature, but, in the same way that most responsible tattoo artists will refuse to work on a lightly tattooed client’s hands or face, so should it be when it comes to highly experimental piercings (a distinction which, for the sake of this article, we’ll say includes microdermals). Because, as widespread as microdermals have become (and my God have they become widespread), this is still a new concept. The first images of microdermals (then called “dermal anchors” — oh, memories!) appeared on BME in an image update dated October 27, 2005. The first mention of them on ModBlog was April 15, 2006. On November 6, 2006, an article was published featuring interviews with a number of practitioners who had been performing microdermal procedures.

    ModBlog’s first microdermals

    So let’s say that microdermals are, in their current iteration (as a modernized and ostensibly simplified version of traditional transdermals), at most, about two-and-a-half years old. In most circles, this would place a project in its infancy — far from having been extensively tested or fine-tuned, and potentially rife with unknown (and sometimes well known) risks. (Very seldom are feature films released, for example, that comprise a series of unedited first takes.) Yet, in the body modification community, infamous for its impetuousness, two-and-a-half years is an eternity. The idea of the “guinea pig” is now largely irrelevant; as soon as something “new” has been done, provided the client doesn’t die on the spot, it’s added to the portfolio, uploaded to all manner of Internet forums and, if it’s interesting enough, it’ll probably even get posted on ModBlog.

    Pardon me while I put on my ombudsman hat, but make no mistake: ModBlog takes a lot of blame here, playing the dual role of collective consciousness and enabler. Almost everything posted on ModBlog comes via BME submissions, which are filtered for funny, attractive and generally unique content, given a punny caption and then offered up to be criticized and lauded, copied and adopted.

    That is to say, ModBlog is supposed to feature the best that BME has to offer.

    Such is our position: We want to promote an environment in which new, exciting and beautiful procedures can be put on display and discussed, yet we’re also an archive, for whom comprehensive documentation is a mandate. Appearing on ModBlog, vitriol of the commentariat notwithstanding, is often a validation of sorts: If it’s good enough for BME to showcase, shouldn’t it be good enough for you?

    Well, no. Not always. Sometimes in documenting things, we come off a little too enthusiastic about items that aren’t quite ready for prime time, or that we’ve convinced ourselves are worthy of attention simply because we’ve given them a lot of attention — the state of “being famous for being famous.” (See also: Anything related to Kim Kardashian or Brooke Hogan; Gawker’s tireless efforts to track Julia Allison’s every move; The Hills in its entirety.) Is this really a healthy phenomenon? Making stars out of people because of their physical modifications and creating an environment in which this miniscule level of fame can be achieved by pushing one’s limits further, harder and, quite possibly, dangerously quickly? There’s a fine line between celebrating the community and unduly, unfairly celebritizing its members.

    And, like I said, this is, to an extent, our fault — “us” being the body modification media, slight as we may be. There is — be it real or imagined — an element of pressure to be more “extreme,” for lack of a better word (and there are many). On another forum, one commenter recently posted that he’d just passed his one year anniversary of entering the wonderful world of body modification, and posted the following laundry list of work he’d done (consider the entire quote [sic]):

    septumx2, smileyx2,tongueweb, Apadravya, lorumx5, fingerwebx3, handwebx3, nipplex2, navelx3, lobex9, conchx2, helix/2g Dermal Punch, tragusx2, eyebrowx6, labretx10, “rhino”/unidentified

    Though I definately don’t still have all those and I counted where I re-did piercings, I remember wach one… I wonder what mods are to come in the future?

    Fifty-three piercings and six tattoos in one year. His first year. Holy crap. Another poster followed up with their own first-year anniversary inventory ([sic] again):

    it all started with a septum piercing … It’s now at 1g … 0g flat punch, 0g conch punch, x4 vertical bridges, x4 horizontal eyebrows, 6 tattoos, 1 chest scarification, 6 lip piercings, venoms (now stretched to 10g), tongue webbing, ears pierced at 8g (now 5/8ths), multiple arm surface, belly button, clavicle surface, x2 nape, x5 lower back surface, tragus, smiley.

    AND MANY MORE TO COME.

    This isn’t a journey — it’s an obsession, whether it’s instigated internally, by a desire to fit in, lead the pack, or otherwise. A bodybuilder doesn’t start out deadlifting 700-pound weights. A mountain climber doesn’t scale K2 as an introductory ascent. This is unhealthy behavior, regardless of the outlet, but body modification allows for it rather easily — even encourages it, be it to pad a portfolio or to get one’s 15 minutes of ModBlog fame. If I had a nickel for every conversation I’ve had with people who mention the role that ModBlog played in the popularization of microdermals, well, I’d probably be able to afford to have one put in my eyelid.

    This isn’t to decry experimentation or having fun with one’s body — Rachel posted a video of Lassi doing a guiche suspension a few weeks ago, for God’s sake. But this eyelid microdermal business is different; these images presented an ethical dilemma. By all accounts, it was awfully unsafe and, while not in direct contact with the eyeball, would potentially be a nightmare for the general eye-region. It’s one thing for a trained professional and experienced body modification enthusiast to throw a hook through his taint, but it’s another matter entirely to risk massive harm to a young, inexperienced client just because the opportunity presented itself and it seemed like an interesting procedure to try. I’m not an expert of anatomy, but one thing I’ve picked up on is that unless you are incredibly certain of your methods and the anticipated outcome, you don’t screw around with someone’s eyes. In a field in which calculated risk-taking comprises a significant portion of the action, simple consent should not be the be-all end-all for a practitioner when deciding whether or not to perform an experimental procedure.

    The microdermal in question

    On the other hand, though? This was ModBlog fodder in every conceivable way. It was probably the first time it had been done, it looked healthy enough and, most importantly, it was new. Considering our standards, it probably deserved to be posted.

    We decided not to post it. ModBlog’s influence is tangible, and we decided that appearing to endorse it in any way would have been irresponsible. Let’s wait, we thought, and maybe once we can see some results, we can determine if this is appropriate to post. It would end up in the BME image archives, of course, but ModBlog, to be sure, is a different beast altogether. This was a test — one that didn’t need to be publicized, and arguably performed on the wrong client. We didn’t want to be nannies or censors — BME would still accept the photos for its galleries — but as for ModBlog? This didn’t yet embody the best that BME had to offer. Body modification practitioners should cherish their guinea pigs — not exploit them.

    Of course, being an online company has its drawbacks. Through a miscommunication, it ended up getting published on ModBlog. Naturally, some people loved it, some peopled hated it. Some claimed it was yet another moment in BME’s perpetual decline, while others probably asked their piercers if they could get their own (or, conversely, some piercers likely asked their clients if they were interested in trying it out). This isn’t a criticism of the chain of events: It’s just occurred enough by this point that there exists a recognizable pattern and, for the most part, we love it (see also: mustaches tattooed on fingers, etc.) — that’s why we do this. Body modification is a passion, and dealing with it professionally every day would be impossible if we weren’t legitimately excited by people’s experimentation and determination to modify and beautify themselves.

    But that’s not an absolute, and it doesn’t mean that everything must be supported or looked upon favorably. Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be; there may be no right reasons for modifying yourself, but there are sure as hell wrong ones, and those are made substantially worse when the client is being used — whether it’s by the one performing the procedure or the one publicizing it.

    (Ed. note: While Jordan is an editor for and a valued member of BME, this is an editorial and does not necessarily reflect the views of other BME staff or BME as a publication. As well, Lane has been invited to do an interview and defend his position. This will be published as soon as possible.)