Despite the return of the BBS, this section will be for well-written responses to the Round Table questions. If you would like to make a short comment concerning the Round Table or discuss anything else, the BBS is the place to do it, but if you have a longer response to a Round Table question, please send it to [email protected] for publishing in this section (please include the question you are responding to).

What does body modification mean to you personally?

I'm happy to say I'm incomplete.

And I will be until the day I die. I look at myself as an ongoing project. My mind keeps changing, growing, expanding. And as my mind evolves, my body goes with it.

I think it's extremely satisfying to know that I'm taking control over myself, and taking control over my idea of beauty. I'm changing myself into what I see on the inside. I'm happy to present the world with more than just fashion, but instead show what I really look like. And all the different facets that make up a human being.

When I look in the mirror, I can see my own strength staring back at me. When I look at my stretched ears I can see patience, endurance, and overcoming pain. And I see my face, and all my piercings, and I know that I can handle others' comments. And I can still be proud of myself, even if things might not go my way. Any "hardships" that have come as a result of being modified have made me stronger.

It's been a give-give situation. My mind feeds my body, and my body feeds my mind. For everything I've done to change myself on the outside, it has changed me on the inside, all for the better. And for all the growth that has taken place within me, I can see it reflected in my skin.

Mod enthusiast
IAM: Goblin
Date Added: 8-14-02

What types of laws and penalties should be put in place to draw a line between what bod mod practitioners can perform and what should be done by the medical community, and where should the line be drawn?

I think any discussion of 'laws and penalties should be put in place to draw the line' between what bod mod practitioners and what surgeons is incomplete until we define what both communities do for the individual and society.   There needs to be a discussion of the purposes of each community.  For me they are both separate and distinct and for purposes of argument, I would include Plastic Surgeons with bod mod practitioners.  Sure, I can see some eyebrows rising now but let's get real.  What do they really do even though they have the 'Dr.' designation in front of their name.  I do understand they are qualified to do other types of surgery but for the most part they do 'tummy tucks', 'face lifts', 'breast implants' and as much other cosmetic surgery as the client would wish.  What does a bod mod practitioner do?  Piercings?  Tattoos?  Implants?  Branding?  These too are also cosmetic and body enhancement modifications.  What is the purpose of the medical surgeon?  I would submit, what he/she does is for the preservation of life itself and the repair of the physical body as their primary purpose.  And for the most part irregardless of the cosmetic aspect.   Some argue that bod mod practitioners do heal people by modifying their bodies, IE. emotionally and spiritually.  Some have also argued that bod mods are genetically driven.  I'm putting all that aside  without comment to narrow the definition as that is another topic for another discussion.   Here we are, bod mod practitioners and medical surgeons.  One does 'cosmetic' work and the other does 'life' work.  They both need regulation, as to the degree or who should do the regulation is open.

Regulation by the government or self regulation is a double edged sword.  Both are human institutions with all the prejudices and bureaucracies that come with it as well as the human mistakes.  What makes AMA any different from the APP as self regulators?  What makes the FDA or DoH or any state/county/city regulatory agency any more qualified to pass regulations on either the Bod Mod industry or the Health Care industry?  I think what is needed is actually a coalition of all the interested parties to come up with the appropriate rules and regulations as well as to determine the separation of what can be done by which group.  Could this mean that mods like tongue splitting or subincisions are not allowed by bod mod practitioners?  Sure it could.  Will it?  I don't think so.  Educating both sides, both bod mod practitioners and surgeons, could be freely exchanged so that all points of view are considered.  At the very least some sets of standards could come out of it that all can live with.

Now I know there are some out there who say 'It's my F*CKING body and I can do with it whatever I want with it' and 'I don't care what doctors say I'm gonna do this !'.  Sure, I don't necessarily disagree with that.  That is actually a truism.  No one can ultimately stop people from doing things they ultimately want to do.  Not society, not family, not government and not laws.  We are individuals after all and will find the means and and the individual to do it.  BUT, we do have responsibilities not only to ourselves but to society but more importantly to family (yes I do mean family----close or not).  One does need to be aware of the environment around you.  For me, I don't care what people look like as I do have my point of view.  I do know most people in society do care what people look like and they do have a point of view.  All I can say is education over time is the answer for body modifications especially extreme ones.  It is not a revolutionary process but an evolutionary process.  If one chooses a life with extreme mods, understand that most people will at the very least not understand and at the most hate you for them.  It is your (and mine for that matter) choice.

--- Paul Fitzgibbons
--- [email protected]

PS.  FYI, as I do know one person that is part of the 'Round Table' and know another by reputation only.  I do think I need to let you know who I am.  I'm 45---have/had numerous piercings, some may call heavily tattooed (matter of opinion), branded, cuttings, implants as well as suspended a few times.  I'm not a doctor or body mod practitioner.  I wear a shirt, tie and jacket all day and yes people at work know about alot about my mods but in deference to them and the people I serve I stay covered up.  My older sister, who is a Conservative, understands and accepts what I have done but my oldest brother, who is Liberal, does not.  Go figure.

Date Added: 6-25-02

Hey there, you all asked for a response to your current roundtable conversation (well done, as always). Well, be careful what you ask for, you just might get a sermon in response.

Just to give a European point of view to this conversation, here's a brief summary of the official point of view adopted by the Spanish Junta de Andalucía (the U.S. equilivent of State Government). Although this document has still not formally been voted into law, it is a virtually certain bet for the upcoming legislative session, and was drafted under the aegis of the Junta itself by the Consejería de Salud (the statewide overriding body on health and sanitation). For those wishing to read the complete, original version (in Spanish, obviously) of the first draft of the bill, I've posted to

The bill formally recognizes and defines the following categories of "body art" (Which, by the way, has been defined as The practice of permanent or semi-permanent decoration of the body, done by a "technician" by any of a means of techniques, for example tattooing, body piercing or any other which might appear in the future.): Tattooing; Body Piercing; Cutting; Branding; Scarification; and Implanting.

In order to receive an operating license the studio must comply with a series of hygienic/sanitary regulations, and the "body art technicians" are required to assist a mandatory course on cross- contamination, sterilization protocol, emergency first-aid, bedside manner, etc. (We're still defining the course, and I'd welcome any and all suggestions on the subject.) This basic course is the only requirement for tattooists and piercers (who, by the way, are allowed to use any sterile "needle or other sharp, pointed instrument" (The use of scalpels or punches was intentionally not specified, but also intentionally not prohibited.). For any and all other practices, a second license is required. This license, described as, "Special Body Art License with Health Risk", will be provided only to those who are able to accredit the supervision of a Surgical Specialist (MD) and to the adequate facilities and preparation of the studio. Basically this means that anyone wishing to practice branding, cutting, implants, or "heavy" modification on the general public would require that a surgeon give faith to the practitioner's aptitudes. As this license will be conceded on a case by case basis, and after revision by the governing body, a brander would obviously have a much better chance of receiving a license than a castrator, but both could (in theory at least) open a legal practice.

Due to jurisdictional limitations, the only enforcement measures applicable are of an economic nature. (However, in case of serious injury resulting from an unlicensed "cutting", the practitioner could well face a battery of other charges ranging from assault to practicing surgery without a license.) Sorry about what I'm sure are myriad spelling errors, but I don't have an English spell checker on the computer, and am reluctant to go through with a dictionary IRL. Excellent job on the site. Keep up the good work.

Please send comments to [email protected] or, on BME, IAM:Shindo

Josh A. Grady
Seville, Spain
Date Added: 5-22-02

How should city government handle proposed bans on tattoo and piercing shops due to health risks and non-regulation, and the non-inclusion of ear piercing establishments in these bans?

I am a piercer in the state of New Jersey, and in February of 2002 statewide regulations on any sort of body art procedure (even henna was in there). These new regulations were fair, with input from tattoo artists and piercers, and include minimum and maximum gauge requirements, clearly written regulations on minors and so on. See here for yourself if you want to read it all.

The problem unfortunately is that from what I have seen so far, these laws are not being enforced. The only shops I have seen comply are the ones who followed industry standards to begin with, and were going by the new laws before they were written, while the boardwalk shops that do piercing and tattoos are just going about business as usual. Unfortunately, the laws were designed to deal with the problems these shops cause, but I have yet to see that happen. Part of the problem seems to be the health dept. itself, which seems to have no knowledge of what's going on with the laws they helped write. Every shop I've talked to says the local health inspector isn't sure what half of it means (if that much) and interpet them as best they know, which means we all seem to be using different guidelines now, depending on the local inspector. This seems to be how some of the places are still sliding by doing the same old thing, with them skimping on supplies (like Dustin pointed out).

Well to wrap it up, the main problem with regulations on any body art is there seems to be no one knowledgeable to enforce these laws (at least around here). Till there is, all of this is just words that are preventing nothing at all except allowing the bad shops to keep putting out shoddy work on people that just think everything's fine if there's a health certificate on the wall.

Date Added: 5-22-02

How should schools handle piercings in their dress codes?

It is my firm opinion that the public education system has no right to interfere with one's choice to modify his or her own body. This includes any modification of any varying degree of extremity or visibility. Remember that, at least here in the US, individuals under the age of 18 are required to go to school. Should this prohibit anyone from expressing themselves through their modifying their bodies? Now, I know that you're supposed to be 18 to get modified anyway, but we all know that there are minors who are getting work done...if there weren't, then this wouldn't be a question on anyone's mind.

Recall what it is to be told that you don't have the right to your own body. This is what youth face. By no means is it reasonable or fair to say that someone doesn't have the choice over how they express themselves, how they manifest their own perception of themselves, and so on. Schools have no say whatsoever in the appropriateness of a piercing. The argument that piercings are a distraction is much like saying that someone's looks or their physical attributes are a distraction. It's ridiculous. It would also be wrong to trivialize a minor's need or desire to express themselves through modification. While it's very clear that particular piercings are becoming some sort of trend or fad, it can't be any worse than the fact that a large percent of people have their ears pierced when they're too young to personally consent and boys still get circumcised without their consent and it's all very routine and normal. So everyone's decided to get their belly button pierced just like Brittany Spears...some people might see it as stupid and I for one wouldn't argue with that, but that doesn't mean that anyone has the right to prohibit another person from doing it, particularly schools. Public schools serve the public. They can't prohibit forms of self-expression. I don't believe that any sort of dress codes are really beneficial at all. I attended a school where we were reduced to little jumper/skirt things and black shoes and white socks and couldn't even wear nail polish and boys couldn't have long hair. Did it do any good? No. Students were still distracted by how much someone's Nike's cost or who was wearing what in their hair. It didn't level out competition, it just made it more subtle. I can't see one good reason for a school trying to interfere with the choices a person makes about their bodies and anyone who's ever felt like someone devalued their means of expression should be rallying behind these youth and supporting their efforts to make their own choices.

Santa Cruz, CA

Is there such a thing as too extreme regarding body modification?

A modification is only as extreme as its lack of preparation, professionalism or motivation. Through the continually evolving methods of body art, one can attain just about anything. Everyone's fire burns from different wood, but wet wood does not burn at all. Assuming that safety reigns supreme in one's attempt to reach one's comfortable bodily existence -- no, there is no such thing as a body modification that is too extreme.

Though it is true that society may view this matter differently. There was a time when society thought slavery was a good thing. So norm or not, a million people can be wrong. And if in one's own heart one decides to pocket one's eyebrows, one may due so, but only through the proper means. To do so otherwise escapes the realm of expression and enters into irresponsibility as well as disrespect for the temple of the body which one presumes to celebrate through ornamentation.

There are those that would look at splattered paint and liken it to the great works of Jackson Pollock. However an educated eye and artistic enthusiast can see the difference in the preparation as well as pin point manipulation of a true Pollock. The same is true with fine body modification. Carelessness for one's one body does not constitute self expression. It is only through educated pin point manipulation that one can exercise the gift of modification correctly. To ensure that we do not give society ammunition with which to slander the reputation and just meaning behind fine modification, we must educate would-be enthusiasts and practice such good behavior with all our modifications. To do otherwise is to invite discrimination, and delay societal acceptance. Only this could be considered too extreme.

A Concerned Modification Enthusiast

Should piercers have a mandatory training program they must complete?
What consequences should they face for an incident of "malpractice"?

I've recently finished apprenticeships for Piercing and for Artistic Cutting and am currently undertaking apprenticeship training in Branding and eventually Tattooing. I feel that an Apprenticeship is the best way to learn a skill.. it offers guided training and research, as well as closely monitored practice. However, what people seem to be forgetting is that our community and the things we do are inherently self-taught. With nothing but some research, some of the biggest names in our community simply started "poking holes in themselves at a young age." The arguement could be made that if we were to force training, we'd have to go spend months or years out in the sticks of some of the cultures that have been doing this for thousands of years (and practice their levels of sanitation and cross-contamination??). The biggest objection I have to FORCING some level of training is that it rules out the spontaneous creativity of "new fields of modern modification" and diversity of technique.

On malpractice, I think we should be a self-regulating community. Through communication and knowledge, we should be able to bring the general populace into the light on what constitues a good piercer/studio and what things to run from in fear. It will take much longer, if ever, to get laws in place all across the world to regulate the industry, so it's important to make sure that the potential piercee is educated. I've found that most of my clients tend to have at least a vague concept of what's sanitary and what's not. Those that don't are probably there for the wrong reasons anyways, and tend to be intimidated by the aftercare conversation. I've found that most potential clients have done some level of research (if it only be having spoken with pierced people). There are always exceptions, of course. It seems that if we spent more energy educating the public, they would be the best ones to decide who to go to for what services. But then again, I'm not a big fan of ANY law or agency enforcing THEIR views and morals on my body or my practices. Laws tend to remove responsibility from a person (ie. But there's no specific law saying I can't...).

-Randy, Body Modification Practitioner
CM Hurt
Garden Grove, CA