Why do people do this?

It has always been the case that people have tried to change their appearance using many techniques, hairstyles and makeup being the most common. While a person’s body belongs to themselves and they can pretty much do what they want with it, sometimes the things they do completely baffle me because I would never have dreamed of going so far.

Take for example this photograph of a woman who had been arrested on drug charges.


I admit I am baffled as to why anyone would go this far with piercings. At the very least, it looks like it would be uncomfortable, especially when one is sleeping and turns over on one’s stomach so that the face is resting on the pillow. Also simple acts like washing one’s face or blowing one’s nose become more complicated.

But maybe I’m wrong and these are as easy to get used to as earrings. Also, I am not sure if these piercings are easily removable and re-insertable by the wearer or whether they are more like tattoos and thus semi-permanent, requiring a specialist to take out.

You can see that I’m really, really old-fashioned and clueless about these things.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    Yeah, I don’t get it either. There’s nowt as queer as folk. And that’s a good thing! Keeps us old farts on our toes.

  2. weatherwax says

    By sheer coincidence I just saw a report of the news that plastic surgeons are reporting a large increase in people getting the huge holes in their ears closed up. Who’d have thought a 1″ to 2″ hole in your earlobe might get to be a problem?

  3. says

    Hair grows out (or falls out in people like me) and dye jobs eventually go away. Ear piercings have become unnoticeable, even on men noted for their “masculinity” (e.g Ed Bradley of “60 Minutes”, who started wearing one when he was greying). Reasonable amounts of tattooing has become socially acceptable and even encouraged. But extensive body modification is a one way trip into societal extremes. It’s very rare and difficult for people to undo it (e.g. former white supremacist Bryon Widner).

    It doesn’t matter that judging and making assumptions about people based on appearance is wrong, the closed minded are going to do it anyway. If you’ve got facial tattoos, you’re unlikely to get a job in retail sales, never mind a white collar office job. And people will assume guilt even when there’s no evidence or false accusations (re: basketball player Chris “Birdman” Andersen being falsely accused of possessing child pornography, and people believing it).

    Regarding the woman pictured, some “prison documentaries” from TV have been posted on youtube. I saw one that mentioned an early 20s man arrested for dealing drugs. He was put in special protection because of his body piercings, the risk of other prisoners trying to steal them and rip them out by force.

    One of the most famous “body mod” people was Dennis Avner. I say was because he committed suicide, and I mention him because of the date of his suicide (Novermber 5, 2012).


  4. Mano Singham says

    So does that mean these piercings are permanent and cannot be removed by the wearer like (say) earrings?

  5. says

    I’m no expert on piercing, but from what I’m told most external rings are easily removed, though some can lock and must be cut (they snap together, with latches on the inside of the rings). Many people keep rings in constantly because the body heals and closes the holes, often in a very short time. Only two of my four ear piercings remain open, twenty five years after first getting them (at different times, but all within a calendar year of each other).

    In the case of the man jailed (in the documentary mentioned), they were objects embedded in the skin permanently (e.g studs in the cheeks). But they could be removed by force -- painfully -- and have material value which other prisoners would take full advantage of.

  6. morejello says

    Most of these piercings can be removed by the user, but then they run the risk of the hole closing up and healing. If they do then they will have to be re-pierced to put the jewelry back in. I am told that piercings through cartilage (upper ear, septum) do not ever close all the way up, but I don;t know the validity of that statement. Regardless, there is scar tissue formed around the piercing which does not readily go away.
    I think that body modifications are a lot like clothing in our society -- some variation is permitted, but there are culturally accepted limits. And some piercings can be minimized or concealed for the situations where they are not allowed. My wife is a belly dancer by hobby (where tattoos and piercings are common and encouraged) and a waitress by employment (where she may not display facial piercings), so her nose stud is replaced by a small plastic spacer and covered with concealer makeup and she swaps out her septum ring for a small clip which easily hides inside her nose.

  7. Mano Singham says


    Thanks for the information about which I was quite curious.

    Your wife seems to have chosen a triple combination of love of piercings, a hobby, and a job that have guaranteed that her life will be a bit complicated!

    Regarding piercings being seen as advantageous for belly dancing, is this an American thing or did the cultures where belly dancing originated also encourage piercings?

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