Body modification

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Body modification (or body alteration) is the permanent or semi-permanent deliberate altering of the human body for non-medical reasons, such as spiritual or aesthetic. It can range from the socially acceptable decoration (e.g., pierced ears on women in many societies), to religiously mandated (e.g., circumcision in a number of cultures) to the rebellious (e.g., nostril piercings in punk subculture). Opponents of these practices call them disfigurement or mutilation. Body art is body modification for artistic reasons.


Nearly every human society practices or has practiced some type of body modification in its broadest definition, from Maori tattoos to Victorian [corsets to modern breast implants.

One controversial form of body modification is the attempt to resemble another race, such as Asians having their epicanthic folds modified to resemble non-Asian eyes or skin lightened with dyes, suntanning, increase in lips, or buttocks size by Caucasians, or African-Americans straightening their hair or getting a nose job.


"Disfigurement" and "mutilation" are terms used by opponents of body modification to describe certain types of modifications, especially non-consensual ones. Those terms are used fairly uncontroversially to describe the victims of torture, who have endured damage to ears, eyes, feet, genitalia, hands, noses, teeth, and/or tongues, including amputation, burning, flagellation, piercing, skinning, and wheeling. "Genital mutilation" is also used somewhat more controversially to describe certain kinds of socially prescribed modifications to the genitals, such as circumcision, female circumcision, and castration. Those opposed to the practice of sexual reassignment surgery may consider it genital mutilation, done for psychological reasons; this is universally rejected by those in favor of it, who more often consider the reasons medical.


Some futurists believe that eventually humans will pursue body modification for technological reasons, with permanently implanted devices to enhance mental and physical capabilities, thereby becoming cyborgs. For the substantial number of people with heart pacemakers and brain implants such as cochlear implants and electrical brain stimulators for Parkinson's disease, this is already a reality.

Whether or not a "cure" for transsexualism or gender identity dysphoria can be found using cybernetics cannot be determined at this time.

Effects on transition

Genital mods may affect one's choice of doctors. Dr. Suporn, for example, will as of 2004 not operate on anyone previously castrated. The neogenitalia of a MTF have been pierced and modified in a number of ways that female genitalia are modified (e.g. labia rings). No accounts to date of postop ftm genital modifications have been collected.

Ear piercings have seemed to lost their gender distinctiveness as men with studs in both ears are fairly common. Several members of the Susan's Place community have or plan to have multiple ear and body piercings.

Some types of body modification

"Mainstream" surgical body modification

"Extreme" surgical body modification

  • tongue splitting
  • transdermal implant
  • subdermal implant
  • subincision

Sexual surgical body modification

Other surgical body modification

  • amputation

Non-surgical modification of the body

  • anorexia (willful)
  • bodybuilding
  • Corsetry|corsetry, Tightlacing
  • foot binding


*Some information provided in whole or in part by