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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Body modification: A piercing question

Published: January 27, 2012
Section: Opinions, Top Stories

Piercings are a curious phenomenon. Though they can exist for religious or spiritual reasons, some people use them for more controversial purposes, like rebelling against one’s culture (or especially one’s parents). The value of piercings seems to be in the eye of the beholder: My grandmother hates my cartilage piercing, yet I think it is one of the cutest things about me.

In the early 20th century, piercings in any body part were uncommon, at least in the United States. Piercings eventually became popular partly due to the gay rights and punk movements. Piercings of the lips, navels, noses and eyebrows did not become common until the 1990s. Navel piercings, for instance, became desirable after music idols began sporting them in music videos on MTV.

Today, approximately 10 percent of people have body piercings in sites other than the earlobe, with women aged 16-24 making up 46 percent of that demographic.

What makes piercings such an interesting topic is the fact that every person has differing views about them. I have friends who are almost addicted to piercings; once they get one, they cannot wait to get another. I also know people who are either afraid to get them or think they somehow maul the body.

The most common reason people cite for getting piercings is to “express their individuality.” I believe this is a right that all people should have. People should not judge others on their piercings or how they look with them. Though some piercings have sexual connotations (think navel and nipple piercings) it is possible that the person got the piercing for their own benefit and for personal reasons.

Another interesting thing about piercings is the communal aspect of them. Earlier in the year, my friends and I all got ear piercings together. It seems strange that shoving a needle through your ear could become a bonding activity, but the fact remains that I do think it brought my friends and me closer together. In this aspect it is almost like the ritual of “blood sisters,” that strange, cult-like event in which “sisters” pierce their fingers with a needle and smash them together so that their blood mingles and therefore creates a pact. In this same way, going through a slightly painful experience and coming out on the other side with identical piercings can form a connection.

One point of contention is that some people, especially teenagers, try to pierce themselves without professional help. No matter how much you want to rebel, piercing yourself is not the way to do it. Piercings require precision, and if done incorrectly can cause a lot of damage. Even angsty adolescents should realize that piercing is something that should be done by a professional.

Like it or not, piercings are very much part of the culture in which we live. Whether it is for artistic expression, to show individuality or even for sexual purposes, others should not judge piercing choices. It is a very personal choice just like the clothes we wear and, despite the controversy, all choices should be respected.