Commodified Bodies- Societies Entitlement toward Modified Individuals

There is a saying in the modification community that has been echoed for years. “You buy the ticket, you ride the ride.” As visibly modified individuals, we often deal with unwanted attention. It is the nature of looking so different and unique. People come up to ask questions about tattoos, piercings, hair color, and clothing. The general population is deeply curious about modifications and having them is seen as an open invitation to ask about them. Sometimes people will grab your arm for a closer look at tattoo or touch your stretched ears to see if they are real. And the more modified you are, the more this occurs and the worse it becomes. People shouting and catcalling from across the street. Summertime is know for modified folks as “Ay mama nice tats” season. Some very modified people will be denied service at bars and theaters. Parents will turn around with their kids. And, as happened to me this week- your photos will be posted in “shaming” groups online, where hundreds of people may call you ugly, gross, and disgusting.

This is an unfortunate reality of existing as a modified individual, and the more we express ourselves the way we choose and the happier we are, the worse we are often treated and the more entitled society feels to our bodies. It’s a nasty catch 22 of being modified. To the general public we are a freak show. We are a carnival attraction to be poked and prodded and gawked at. Our modifications seem to remove our humanity, and behind a computer screen people feel incredibly comfortable saying some of the most hurtful, nasty, negative things. People forget we are a human with feelings and emotions deserving of respect. We become an object, a commodity, something to consume. And that consumption often included violating our boundaries, and asserting their opinion of our bodies as the priority.

“Looking like yourself will force you to work much, much harder then people who all look the same. Being free requires a lot more work then being a slave…

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The fundamental question in becoming publicly modified is a question of finding balance between how free you want to be and how hard you want to work. The more free you are, the more responsibility you have to take for yourself. The more you blend back into the crowd, the less freedom you have, but the ‘easier’ your life gets. But is it really your life if you aren’t controlling it?” -Shannon Larratt

This week I had the express pleasure of finding out my images were posted in shaming groups on facebook. Not only that but they were posted by someone who claimed to be a fan of mine on tiktok. When I went on there were hundreds of comments all in the same vein. “Disgusting. Gross. Looks like she smells bad. Why would you want to look like a freak like that? What is the point? She looks horrible. I wouldn’t fuck her.” Those are all fairly polite compared to some comments I have gotten, including people telling me I should kill myself for looking like I do.

It’s an interesting dichotomy because the more modified I become the happier I am in my skin. My bright yellow hair makes me feel beautiful, and playing with different hair colors and styles allow me to have endless fun with my looks and fashion. My piercings make me feel gorgeous. Some have roots in cultural tradition for me. Others are just pretty. After a life time of struggling with body image issues and eating disorders piercing and tattoos empower me to stand in front of the mirror and love what I see. No compliment hits home more for me then those about my modifications. “When you talk about your piercings you look blissful! Your tattoos look beautiful in the morning light.” These compliments hold special homes in my heart. Because not only is someone telling me I look good, but the things they complimented were things I chose. Not a genetic lottery I won, not a happenstance mixture of chromosomes. But actions I took and decided for my body- like a piece of art I created.

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“Personally I prefer the beauty of a modified person, but in no way do I think that’s what’s right for everyone. Beyond a few basic rules of aesthetics (and even those are debatable) this is a matter that is very much in the eye of the beholder.

But one of the objective things I love about modified beauty is that it is self actualized. It seizes control away from the biological lottery and the luck of who your ancestors are and it makes the transformative statement “I will be whoever I choose to be”. That alone I find incredibly attractive…That beauty can arise from an act of will, a conscious dominance over fate.” -Shannon Larratt

It is unfortunate that this is the reality we live in. That you can expect to be shamed and mocked and belittled for doing things to your body that make you happy and allow you to feel beautiful. But it is the sad reality. The more modified you become and the more you embrace your best self and look the way you desire, the more negativity you have to be prepared to endure. I am thankful for those who warned me about this as I was beginning my modification journey, and I am writing this to warn the next generation about the realities they may face existing as a modified person. You’ll need to grow a thick skin to go along with your piercings and tattoos.

It’s so important that your sense of self worth and value come from within. That you know at your core that your modifications are things you have chosen for yourself that make you feel beautiful. When you do, the opinions and voices of others on your modifications will have a minimal effect on you. Because your confidence and value will come form yourself- not the voices of others. Theres no shortcut or secret path to finding that inner peace and confidence. It comes with time, effort, and focusing on self love and self worth. It is not easy to attain. But if you want to be very modified, it’s a need.

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And to those who are not modified and feel entitled to our bodies, or who just think think it doesn’t look good. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. I can promise you no one is going to remove all their piercings and laser their tattoos simply because you don’t like them. And at the end of the day if a piercing or a tattoo makes someone feel confident, beautiful, or empowered- it’s that amazing? There’s many multibillion industries around body image- diet, fashion, hair. And many people will never be truly at peace in their own bodies- they are always chasing an impossible standard. So if someone has found their peace and love, and it happens to be wrapped in some piercings and tattoos- who cares! Society is making billions off our hatred of our bodies and impossible beauty standards. In a world like that it’s a revolution to break from the norms and feel confident being uniquely, expressly you.

And most modified folks know they attract attention. Generally we don’t mind a compliment or a sincere or curious question. Just don’t touch us without consent, don’t be rude or mean. And if someone need to keep going on along their day, let them do so! We don’t always wanna talk or answer questions- respect that. At the end of the day our modifications are still our bodies- and they don’t belong to you or anyone else. Nor is your opinion of our bodies more important then our own relationship with them.