Body Modification


Body Modification

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What’s The Deal With Body Modification?

Dear Doc,

One of the things I like to do to myself is to brand my skin with hot metal to create designs, my sack as well as other parts. It’s kind of a turn-on and something that makes me feel pride in my body. I really like it, and the turn-on part is more about feeling masculine, edgy and taboo. Not all my partners like it, but some get off on it, too, and think it’s really cool. The thing is, I’ve had people say (a therapist, parents, some friends) say it means I’m mentally unstable. Is it?

- Anonymous

I’m hearing more and more about people getting into body modification, scarring and branding for identity and sexual purposes. It’s an extreme form of sensation play and a growing practice. I’m not sure where it’s coming from, but beyond the origins and reasons for its growth in the Western world, we have to consider each person’s situation separately. Are there some people who do this and have a mental health issue, sure. It’s well documented in the mental health field that some people partake in self-injurious behaviors that alter their bodies. Are there folks stable and happy who engage in body modification? You guessed it, there are as well. I can’t tell you if you’re mentally stable from reading the few lines you wrote, but I can say that body modification can be done in healthy, sane and appropriate manners. I know, people are shaking their heads and their mouths have dropped. But read on.  

Most people don’t think about the different types of body modification practices across cultures and in Western society. Many cultures practice traditional and sacred/spiritual forms of body scarring and modification that include cutting, branding and altering the skin to create permanent marks and designs. It can symbolize fertility, social status, milestones and achievements, or honoring traditions or spirituality within one’s culture. It’s not deemed unbalanced or unstable; it’s expected and appropriate.

In Western cultures, I think we sometimes view non-mainstream acts like this as less civilized and make judgments on the decisions of adults. But what about the body modifications we have more acceptance for in our society? Why is a tattoo viewed with less judgment than a branding or raised scarring? Why is plastic surgery more acceptable than earlobe stretching? What we’re really talking about here is a matter of acceptance based on societal constructs and socialized opinions. Your skin branding would be much better received in certain African or Polynesian cultures. If there is a therapist from a small village in Papua New Guinea, they may have a different opinion.

Why would branding, whether it be through heat, freezing the skin, laser or cautery, be a turn-on? Pain and pleasure are centered in similar areas of the brain. It’s only natural for people to have associations and connections that overlap with both. For some, it’s a huge endorphin rush to involve themselves in body modification. Some forms of body modification can affect sensation and arousal in a good way. Piercings, for example, can heighten arousal for people. Just ask the folks out there with their clitoral hood pierced or the Prince Albert penis pierce. For others, it’s psychologically arousing to see themselves or a partner with modifications to their body. For many, identity is important, and feeling comfortable in their own skin produces confidence, increased self-esteem and self-worth. Those are helpful ingredients when being sexual and aroused.      

If this is something new to you, please seek out mentorship and educate yourself on safe practices, hygiene, risks such as infection and get smart about your interest through books, website communities and workshops. If you’re branding your scrotum, there most definitely needs to be some precautions taken and knowledge collected. Next Page

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