Urban Savagery?

Posted by Antony Pryde on September 21, 1998 at 22:07:33:

Urban Savagery?

In the interesting area of “Body Decoration” the official world record (Guiness Book Of Records 1997 edition) for the most pierced person is 137. Alex Lambrecht (Belgium) has 137 piercings adorning his face and body. He began piercing at seven years of age. In the ensuing forty years he has acquired more than 130 studs and rings which weigh approximately half a kilogram. With an average cost of $50 a piercing, this would have come to the grand total of $6,850, had he not done the piercings himself! Large majorities are to be found on his face, but more than 50 are in, let’s say, “intimate” positions. “Bodies are a bit like a district full of houses,” he says. “At first they all look alike. Then people put on green curtains, others red, some plant lilies, others roses. Piercing is basically the same, it customises the body.”

I myself have gone through the ordeal of having a piercing…

Recently I ventured to Tattoo City in Dandenong, in order to decorate myself with an eyebrow ring. In an apprehensive state of mind I strolled casually through the front door of the establishment. Stepping into the hazy room I was swept into the underworld of extremism and respect through pain. The modern warriors, covered in tattoos that represented the war paint of ancient tribes, confronted me, and questioned why I had stepped into their domain. “Um…I was wondering if I could get my eyebrow pierced?” I answered with cautious boldness. The bigger one glanced to his counterpart, “Do ya reckon we can fix him up?” was his booming response. With a daggered look he ordered me to sit and wait. I took my seat around the ritual coffee table, glancing down at the historical scrolls of Biker mags and Playboys, and examining the ancient art that covered the walls, I felt amazed that I was awaiting my initiation. After witnessing a young male receive a nipple ring, and watch, as his best mate fainted at the mere sight, I felt strangely confident, eager to impress the crowd. The head warrior summoned me. As I passed the reception desk, delving into the point of no return, I glanced back at the waiting hopefuls, the minions watched, as I took my seat in front of the crowd. My chest filled with uneasiness, I felt my heart beat increase at an alarming rate as the warrior painted my eyebrow with iodine extract. As he reached across for the curved stitching needle my eyes instinctively shut. I felt the pull as he pushed the hot metal through my brow; surprised by the lack of pain I snuck a look through my left eye. After been presented with an exquisite close up of a blood covered needle I again sensibly opted to close my eyes. Pain… I felt pain as the warrior removed the needle in unison with inserting the metal barbell. He then skilfully screwed on the ball to the rod, and it was over.

Although the Alex Lambrecht case may be an extreme example of body piercing; his view on piercing is held by many that decorate themselves with such apparel, including myself. It is quite simply their way of expressing their individuality in what they feel to be a creative, and to some, eye-catching way. Another view to why people go through the ordeal to pierce their bodies is that they are rebelling at societies constraining view of what is the “norm”. They are standing up and voicing that they will not abide by these so-called rules, they are saying “I am my own person and I will determine my own actions.”

Many people agree that the idea of piercing originated from ancient tribes residing in such geographical areas as Africa and the Amazonian Bason, also the American Indians partook in piercing. These tribes’ views were that piercing was a sign of respect to their individual gods. Also it was considered a symbol of manhood or womanhood in many cases. This was because pain equalled esteem, power, admiration, respect and homage from the fellow tribesmen.
This view has been lost in the modern transition of body piercing; however, it still may be an underlying reason why people continue to pierce. There has been a recent resurgence in body piercing, which has moved from the simple ear pierce, on to more interesting areas: namely the nose, eyebrow, tongue, nipple and belly-button. Also in more intimate places, these being the foreskin, clitoris and the, ah, rod through the head of the penis. The first group of piercings (nose to belly) is now widely accepted by most groups of people. Even with their interesting positions a majority of the second group has received acceptance (bar a few!).
Whilst these piercings still may be viewed as awful and sick by some narrow minded people. In actual fact they are an expressive medium used to represent strength, and rebellion against constraints.

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