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Is it taboo? Or is it just . .

Body modification?

“Over the ages, people have squeezed, stretched, and even mutilated themselves for their cultural group.”  National Geographic’s series, “Taboo” is, I think, in it’s third season.  If you’re not familiar with it, it’s definitely worth a look.  The series covers all sorts of extreme practices including, of course, body art.  Here is National Geographic’s main page on the show, and here’s a sample:

The latest episode, “Bizarre Bodies” highlights individuals who are extreme body art collectors and artists, including a man who is having the whites of his eyeballs tattooed (pictured above), a young girl getting horns in her forehead, and the art of extreme corsetry.  I was very interested in the scenes where the newly modded people showed their family members their new art.    The young girl with the horns showed her dad, who was very disapproving.  “You just hurt yourself again.”  The guy with the eye tattoing went home to show his wife and mother-in-law, who were interested, if a bit shell-shocked.   But even though their responses varied, what struck me was the sense of accomplishment, pride, and delight shared by the modded people themselves.  It’s this feeling that I think doesn’t translate well into words, and that is a major part of body modification for a lot of people, including me.  Even when their nearest and dearest Just.Don’t.Understand.


I like the show . . . and I don’t.  It’s valuable for appreciating the wide range of body modification practices world wide, like the neck rings of these Burmese tribal women, and the traditional moko (chin tattoo) of the Maori people of New Zealand.  It is valuable because it shows that widespread practices such as plastic surgery are body modification too.  However, the narration is done in a breathlessly hyperbolic style which gushes.  “And he’s doing it with [gush] no anesthetic! [heavyemphasis] but he insists he felt no discomfort at all!”  Nevertheless, it’s a very well-presented, informative series, that should be on every body art aficionado’s playlist.


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8 Responses to Taboo

  1. Paige says:

    I was wondering if you watching that episode of “Taboo” as well!

    I also thought they over-dramatized the narration…I wasn’t sure if it was just me whom it slightly annoyed. It was still really, really interesting to watch.

    I found myself a little disturbed by how that woman had to breathe differently b/c she has a fifteen inch waist w/ her corsets on. I’m really desensitized to a lot of things, but that kind of got to me somehow. Not saying tight-lacing is wrong/weird…to each their own ;]

    • piercedconsumer says:

      “Over-dramatized” the narration–that’s just what I was trying to say! And yeah, the corset thing kind of weirded me out, too, but I couldn’t find a clip showing the piercing portion of the show.

  2. Something I just wanna point out about those Padaung women with the neck rings: if all the women in a society are forced to have the same cosmetic manipulation regardless of whether or not they want it, is it a “cool” body modification or is it a repressive practice like female genital mutilation?

    Same thought regarding corsetry and piercings: maybe not all the rich ladies in Victorian England wanted to wear corsets that screw up their breathing and digestion. Maybe not all the women in that African tribe whose name I don’t remember want to have those huge lip plates that probably make it hard to talk and eat.

    And when I say “repressive”, I don’t mean to blame men only. Women are just as much to blame for giving in to and enforcing peer pressure among one another, and forcing their daughters.

    I’m ethnic Chinese. If I had been born about a century and a half ago I might have had my feet twisted, bound, and broken until they were so horribly deformed I wouldn’t be able to walk properly as an adult. In our cosmopolitan culture, if other women want to wear painful pointy shoes with 6 inch heels, whatever, but I’m glad I don’t have to.

    People in general tend to think exotic = cool. But coming from a Western society and looking at the cosmetic practices of other societies, you should ask yourself whether the causes and effects of a body modification are really good or not before wholeheartedly endorsing it.

  3. Old Gringo says:

    As always, Xeno makes good points.

    Now, about those corsets. My body mods are modest, even conservative, as these things go. I try very hard, with varying degrees of success, to keep an open mind when it comes to more extreme mods. Only occasionally do I fail completely.

    This is one of those times. The dude in the corset: Ewwwww.

  4. pt says:

    hi, i am the guy that is helping with the girls implants(my sister) and the circle silicone in guys fore head.

    my question is where can i find a copy of this episode i cannot find it any help is greatly appreciated.

    i have 2 silicone half domes in my forehead as well tattoos on my ears and was behind the doctors mask.

  5. piercedconsumer says:

    Seasons 1 and 2 are available from the National Geographic store:

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