The other night I wasn't quite ready for bed yet, but Chris had already gone up - that means I got to choose exactly the movie I wanted to watch without trying to figure out what we'd both like to watch that would be mostly OK for both but not quite right for either (unless we hit the jackpot!). I enjoy documentaries so I flipped through the possibilities on Netflix and saw one called Flesh and Blood. I don't like horror movies, so that's not what this was. Rather, it's a very graphic movie about body modification as done by an artist named Steve Haworth.
I had never seen anything like it.
Steve Haworth lives in Arizona and works with people to modify their bodies in ways I'd never even considered. One of his main pursuits is to insert what appear to be silicon shapes under the skin in order to raise the skin in that shape. One man had rib-shaped inserts and spheres put on his arm by his bicep. When he flexed, the bulge would have the shape not only of the muscle, but also of the ribs and spheres. It was hard to look at.
One man had more piercings than most. He decided to have his scrotum pierced because he wanted to be able to put his finger through it. He also wanted to be able to insert a rod in it so he could feel his prostate. All of these operations are done without anesthesia because Haworth is not a doctor and is therefore not allowed to use it.
When asked what he's discerned about why people get their bodies modified, Haworth said there are four primary reasons:
The shock valueSome people take the pain as a challenge. For others as a spiritual thing. One woman said that she has learned to perceive pain completely differently from having her body modified. Knowing how much she can endure when getting pierced or whatever, when pain comes her way in "real life", she knows she can just breathe and get through it, knowing it'll pass, just like it did when she had her body modified. I bet childbirth is an easy affair for these folks!
For the experience of the pain
Another activity Haworth leads is called Suspension. He inserts hooks into people's skin and lifts them off the ground so they hang suspended for different periods of time. One man, the one who had his scrotum pierced, was suspended the entire length of his back, then his girlfriend was suspended from his front by her entire front. They glowed afterwards, talking about how close they felt and how amazing it was to do that with each other.
Haworth also has developed a process whereby he can insert things into the skin into which things like spikes and horns can be screwed. One guy had 12 or so spikes coming out of the top of his head. He eventually had them taken out because he became a full time father and he was finding that it was simply too difficult to have conversations with people because they were too distracted by the spikes. Haworth was very sad to take them out, but did so anyway.
There was another man who was part Native American. His totem is the Cat. He had a facial tattoo of a tiger/cat, and Haworth has modified his face to make him look more like a cat. His upper lip is split. His nose has been sewn down to his upper lip so it is flatter like a cat's. I believe he has claws on his fingers. He had a ridge inserted above his eyes so his facial structure is more like a cat's.
When I watched a Lady Gaga video the other day, I noticed her odd cheekbones and shoulders and wondered if she had inserts put in there.
It was very uncomfortable watching this video. They showed many of the people getting the procedures done and the pain they experienced. It opened up a whole new world to me, though. And it helped me understand some of the reasons people have for undergoing such procedures. I found myself wondering what their upbringing was like and what would have brought them to the point where they would feel a need to modify themselves so much. It did not make me want to get it done to myself at all. It was absolutely fascinating at the same time as it was horrifying. I'm glad I watched it - I learned something new - but my goodness! Yikes!
This journey is taking me some very interesting places and is certainly challenging me to let go of my preconceived judgments. I continue to find that, as I learn more about why people do things, I become less judgmental and more accepting, even if I wouldn't make the same choices for myself.