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Why Do Some People Modify Their Bodies And What Light Does Sociology Cast On These Practices?

2377 words - 10 pages

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).
Throughout history, people have modified their bodies to follow certain traditions or as a way of identifying with their culture. There are many reasons why people modify their bodies and these reasons are viewed differently depending on several factors. Body modifications can be carried out purely for aesthetic reasons to create the ‘perfect body’ or one in which the individual believes will make them socially accepted within their group or society. Some forms of body modification involve legitimate practices and are considered to be perfectly acceptable in certain cultures. However, other modifications are said to involve the violation of moral boundaries and overstep social boundaries. This essay will identify some of the different ways in which people modify their bodies. It will also consider the sociological concepts that are related to body modification to provide answers as to why people carry out these changes.
In recent decades there has been a greater focus on body modification practices in society and the reasons why people change their bodies. Body modification involves the deliberate altering of one's physical appearance. Although body modification is often associated with piercing and tattoos there are a number of other methods and practices some of which have been around for thousands of years and others which are fairly new or uncommon. 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, piercing, and even stretch body parts such as necks or lips to express their loyalty and belonging to the group. “The best way of proving to oneself and to others that one is a member of a certain group is to place a distinctive mark on the body”...

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