Extreme Forms of Body Modification Around the World

Mursi - Omo valley Ethiopia, Africa

Body modification has become more widespread and accepted in modern times. The older generation may have their gripes about it still. However, we cannot deny society at large no longer * bats its lashes at these modifications.

These changes that we do to our body can be temporary and simple, like getting a Brazilian waxing at your favorite salon in Salt Lake City, or cutting and dying your hair the colors of a rainbow. Modification can also be more permanent, like heading to an ink shop for a piercing or a tattoo, or going under the knife for a cosmetic surgery procedure at a reputable clinic.

Oftentimes, we modify our appearances because of dissatisfaction. We are of the opinion that these changes are improvements that will lead to happiness; and many times, they indeed help us feel better about ourselves.

In other corners of the world, though, this is not the case. Body modification for other people is not a result of body images. Instead, they are driven by culture and tradition.

Here, we discuss some of the most extreme cases of body modifications from around the world.

Mursi Lip Plating

One of the oldest forms of body modifications dates to 8700 BC. The women of the Mursi tribe from southwestern Ethiopia undergo several lip plating procedures throughout their lifetime.

People of the Mursi tribe believe that the lip plates are an art form. They represent the maturity of the female body. They also symbolize the time when the women are ready to have children. Females first experience lip plating before marriage, with the plate sizes replaced into bigger ones as they age.

Kayan Neck Stretching

Young smiling Asian long-neck Kayan Padaung woman in traditional costume

The Kayan tribe from Myanmar continues to practice the tradition of neck stretching. Women from the tribe first begin wearing brass coils around their neck at the age of 5. Doing so makes the neck appear longer, but in truth the collar bones are deformed. The brass coils push them down, leading to the deformation of the rib cage.

There is no clear reason that the women of the Kayan tribe do this. But some anthropologists argue that it is for protection. The deformation of their physique makes them unattractive to other tribes. This prevents women from being taken and put into slavery.

Chinese Foot Binding

The binding of women’s feet was tradition that persisted in China until the 20th century. It was an excruciating practice done by breaking the toes and arches and binding them to the sole of the foot with a cloth.

Historians believe that the Chinese performed foot binding for male satisfaction. The entire notion of it was inherently sexual. Males considered small feel to be attractive, but the resulting change of gait was beneficial as well.

Body modification in the west is rooted in our desire to better ourselves. However, given the difference in state of living, it isn’t all too surprising that this isn’t always the case. Appalling circumstances have led many people to modifying their bodies — either for protection, or because society told them to do so.

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