Improving Nature? The World Of Extreme Body Modification

Published January 11, 2015
Updated February 27, 2024
Extreme Body Modification Skull Tattoo

Source: Go Pix Pic

Once upon a time, having a couple of tattoos was the definition of body modification, at least across the US and Europe. But extreme body modifications are growing in popularity, and those who claim it as a lifestyle choice are always looking for ways to take it to new levels.

Extreme Body Modification Neck Rings

Source: Gallery Hip

However, body modification isn’t something confined to grungier corners of San Francisco or New York. A number of cultures have practiced body modification since before the Magna Carta was signed. In Asia, for example, body mods have literally shaped society over the centuries, from foot binding to neck rings. In some areas, neck rings are still used today as a sign of marriage and social status. The more copper and brass rings are worn, the higher the social and economic standing within the tribe.
It appears that wearing these rings elongates the neck – but that is just an illusion. The added rings are actually pushing down the collar bones and ribs, eventually twisting them into an angle 45 degrees lower than what would be typical, visually suggesting that the neck has lengthened.

Extreme Body Modification Lip Plate In

Source: Sad To Happy Project

Lip plates have been implemented by tribes in Africa for centuries, and are now being appropriated by the US body mod scene. Traditionally, the process of lip stretching would start just after a young tribeswoman reached puberty. The young woman’s mother would usually begin the process by removing her daughter’s two front bottom teeth, and then making an incision below the lip and inserting the clay disk into the hole while healing occurs.

Extreme Body Modification Lip Plate Out

Source: Sad To Happy Project

After healing, the young woman would replace the disk with a slightly larger one that she herself has created. Like with neck rings in Asian cultures, size indicates “worth” with lip rings. The larger the stretching of a young woman’s lower lip, the more cows her father would be able to ask for as dowry upon marriage.

Extreme Body Modification Gauging

Source: BME

Much like lip plates, ear gauging is all about stretching the body far beyond what would seem like reasonable parameters. Currently one of the most popular mods, ear gauging takes the long-since mundane concept of ear piercing to a whole new level. After a piercing, a small diameter ring is placed into the new formed hole. Every couple of weeks a larger circle is squeezed into the space slowly stretching the ear and creating an ever widening hole. At a certain point, some gaugers replace the open rings with ornamental discs or other decorative insert.

Erin Kelly
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.
Citation copied
Cite This Article
Kelly, Erin. "Improving Nature? The World Of Extreme Body Modification.", January 11, 2015, Accessed May 21, 2024.