Body modification has been prevalent in society for centuries. It is defined as "the deliberate altering of the human body for any non-medical reason, such as aesthetics, sexual enhancements, a rite of passage, and religious reasons, to display a group affiliation, to create body art, shock value, or self expression." (Wikepidia.org). Put in its simplest term body modification is defined as “deliberately alter one’s physical appearance” (St. Leone, 2012, para.2).
Almost all of us engage in some form of body modification or other. For instance, it would be pretty hard to find a woman these days who doesn’t have her ears pierced. (St. Leone, 2012, para.2).
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Some other examples are binding, branding, corseting, cutting, and inserting implants, neck elongation, body building and even dieting and anorexia.
The body can be described as a social object and is a social construction which can therefore be analysed from a sociological perspective. There are a number of sociological concepts which relate to body modification to help establish why people deliberately alter their bodies. For some sociologists body modification is viewed as a way in which individuals can express themselves. Others argue that it is a form of social deviance or political resistance.
For Durkheim, body modification in elementary society is seen as a symbol of membership within the group as discussed in his book ‘Elementary Forms of the Religious Life’. (Durkheim,1965, p.137) He describes how members of aboriginal totemic clans have tattoos, piercings, and even stretch body parts such as necks or lips to express their loyalty and belonging to the group. They often indicate social positions within the group. (Crossley, 2 p.12).
Globalisation has led to changes in culture which in turn has produced new lifestyles. As individuals we are responsible for creating our own identities and making lifestyle choices.
Giddens suggests that “We have become responsible for the design of our own bodies” (Giddens, 1991, p.102). Society and the media present us with ideas and images of the ‘ideal body’.
Langman (2003) argues that body modification is a way in which people claim their identity. He believes...