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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Perception of Body Mods

Since yesterday was my 18th birthday, I did what many teens do when they hit this milestone: I bought a lottery ticket and a lighter. Why? Because I can legally do it. But I also got to fulfill a wish of mine. I was finally able to sign my own name on the consent form to get a piercing. I got an industrial piercing in my ear and a stud in my nostril. I'd been dreaming of the day that I could do it for years, and it finally came. This got me thinking about how people perceive body modifications like tattoos and piercings. I got a pretty positive response to my new piercings, but I had a few friends tell me that they didn't like it. Now, I don't take it offensively, but it's interesting that they feel that way.

The majority of those who disapprove or dislike piercings are of the older generation (my mom said it was my decision, but she didn't like it). Why is that? The common perception and acceptance of body modifications are changing. It used to be a taboo, that only a certain "undesirable" set of the population got, but now more than 70% of Americans have more than one tattoo.

But the opinion is not shifting radically. Though having tattoos and piercings is more accepted, most people believe that they should not be visible, especially in a professional environment. In a 2001 online poll, 85% of 1,009  respondents believed that having a visible tattoo or piercing would hinder you in the workplace.

There is also a negative stigma associated with tattoos. With all other factors the same, a person will be given more negative descriptions if they have a visible tattoo than if they do not by an audience.

Is this a fair assessment? Coming from a young woman who now has 3 new holes in her body and is planning on having more and some ink under her skin: no. What is on the outside of your body and the way you choose to express it does not determine who you are as a person. But I'm interested to hear what you all think. Are body mods appropriate in all contexts or only in certain ones? Does a visible body mod change your opinion of someone? Leave your answers in the comments below!

1 comment:

  1. I'm someone who thought seriously about getting a nose stud and a tattoo (a small one to remember my first dog) before I turned 18, and once my birthday rolled around, it just so happened that I... chickened out. I'm not sure if it was the polite request from my boyfriend that I not change my body, the knowledge that my parents would not approve, or just sheer laziness, but all my drive to make these modification that I so desired a year ago flew out the window. When I think about getting another piercing or tattoo now, I rationalize everything, arguing with myself that I'll only get to expose ad enjoy it for about four years, then will have to hide it as I enter the professional world; and it seems that four years is just not time enough for me. So in the end, I find myself wondering whether this is really a valid argument or whether I'm just bending to what society has always told me: that people with tattoos and piercings are hooligans with no futures. What do you think? Is it possible for an opinion on this sort of body modification to even exist outside of this social context?

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