Tattoos, Piercings and More: Body Modification Now and Then


Body modification has come to be one of the most popular forms of self expression around the world; it has been popular for centuries and has become very valuable in the lives of young Americans.

More intense body modification, such as puncturing, branding and scarification, are more popular in countries outside of the United States and are done during religious ceremonies and cultural events. Even in other cultures, tattoos, scarification and even foot binding are more popular.

The Mayans adorned themselves with gold to represent fertility, and the Chinese used to bind women’s feet down to four inches so they could be fully dependent on their husbands. In Thailand among the Kayan people, young girls at just five years old get gold coils placed around their necks. The coils weigh about four and a half pounds in total. As they grow older, they receive more coils, and eventually, this leads to the elongated neck that the Kayan women have, which is a symbol of beauty.                     

In even just the few cultures described above, there are very different forms of body modification represented. In the U.S., the most popular forms of modification are tattoos, piercings, cosmetic surgeries and tanning.

Tattoos are greatly significant for many, like freshman Joo Seong Kim, who came from South Korea to attend Ramapo College.

“I don’t get tattoos of lions and dragons; pictures. Most of my tattoo’s are words; philosophical stuff,” Kim said. “I look at my tattoo when I’m having a hard time, and I endure.”

Modifications bring thrill, adventure, self-identity or remembrance into the lives of many.

Manuel Corte, a sophomore, says that getting his ear pierced during high school was his “first time being outgoing and not anti-social.”

He said he “wanted to make a somewhat bold statement,” since it was a transitional time in his life.  From Corte’s story, body modification can be a way to make a statement about one’s self and becoming a stronger person.

Body modification continues to be a popular choice for some college students to express themselves and use their canvases that we call the human body. Many cultures have different forms of body modification that are unique to their culture. It makes sense to believe that every tattoo has its story, but so does every scar, wound, piercing and gold coil.