Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Body Nonmodification

I'm the only person on all of LiveJournal who lists "body nonmodification" as an interest. By contrast 1000 people and 44 communities list "body modification" as an interest.

I think this proves I'm really cool. Or, well, uncool, in a good way.

I wonder if I've ever met anyone with an actual unmodified body. Recently I got an ad in the mail for porn videos and noticed that it claimed the stars of some of them had "natural bodies." Immediately I wondered what this phrase is code for. Can they really have found a group of porn stars who never had their teeth straightened? Have none of them ever had their ears pierced or gotten a tattoo? Do the women have leg hair and body hair and no makeup, and the men have long hair and beards? Seriously, what did the advertisers intend to communicate with that phrase? Were they trying to tell me that the women have never had silicone implants, or did they mean that the men are all uncut? Or are they just saying that those videos don't contain shemales? I really don't know.

I do know, however, that as any anthropologist can tell you, the usual purpose of nonmedical body modification in all cultures has been to mark someone as being a member of a particular culture. For example, if you belong to the culture where they dangle plates a foot in diameter from their faces with piercings, then you'll be marked in such a way that no one can ever possibly mistake you for a mainstream American teenager from the suburbs. Alternatively, if you get yourself tattooed with a large Metallica logo and pierced nipples, you'll be marked in such a way that no one can ever possibly mistake you for a native of Sudan. So the fact that all these people on LiveJournal are so interested in body modification indicates to me that a large number of people are eagerly signing up to join cultures which define themselves firmly in opposition to other cultures, and which jealously guard their membership rolls by demanding that members fly their particular culture's "flag" on their bodies at all times and never fly the flags of the opposing cultures. (Try dangling a dinner plate from your face and at the same time walking around in heavy metal clothing and Metallica tattoos, for example, and I suspect that both cultures will ostracise you as a definite nonmember.)

It's far too late for me to ever go the truly unmodified route; by the time I was seven years old my teeth and lower jaw were already being massively realigned to fit the latest American fashions in jaw and tooth alignment. (Tooth and jaw rearrangement are far less common and less extreme in all other countries in the world than they are in the United States.) My mother, as an American of the previous generation, had her upper jaw pushed back to accommodate that generation's jawline fashion trends, and was subsequently much chagrined when her own jaw job went out of fashion, but hastened to assure me that the new fad for pulling the lower jaw forward, which is the style of jaw realignment she purchased for me, was far more attractive. It will be interesting to see if she changes her mind again when the next new trend in jaw realignments is all the rage.

But even though I'll never be truly unmodified, I don't personally feel inclined to plastering myself with any further flags. I don't think I'm an extremist about this. I think Frank is the ultimate anti-flag extremist, actually, because he doesn't like it when people put rainbow flag stickers on everything. Me, I like plastering all my websites and my journal with rainbows, no matter that I know it is rather conformist of me. But I just draw the line at having flags surgically implanted in my face with piercing holes. That's a bit too invasive a procedure for my personal taste. Not that I'd ever want to outlaw other people doing it or anything, though - I believe in personal freedom and the freedom to do whatever you want with your own body is certainly an extremely basic freedom. And I also know it does drastically improve some people's quality of life. A severely burn-scarred child, for example, who gets plastic surgery to be re-marked as a member of the unburned people's culture can certainly benefit greatly from that. But see, there are 1000 people on LiveJournal already endorsing body modification, and in a culture where I'm not sure I've ever met eve one person whose body wasn't modified, I just wanted to be the one person to speak up and say:

Imagine if a body had never been modified! Wouldn't it be cool if somebody someplace had tried that exotic alternative lifestyle?
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