Writing about body modification, Part II

This was originally written on 8 March 2015 but indefinitely shelved when I never got around to finishing Part III or writing any other installments.

This is the second official installment of a series on all the things to consider when writing about body modification. Part II will cover important baseline considerations.

It cannot be stressed enough that piercing guns are a bad, bad, BAD idea! Unless your intent is to show your characters going to a really sketchy piercing shop with a lot of other red flags, and the subsequent consequences of getting gunned, just don’t do it! I only had my first two sets of lobe piercings done with a gun because I was young and didn’t know any better. Guns can’t be sterilised and thus can pass along diseases and infections. It’s also blunt force trauma vs. the quick, clean jab of a needle. Just imagine trying to cut an apple with a spoon, and you get the idea.

Self-piercing is NOT a wise idea unless the character absolutely knows what s/he’s doing and is using sterile equipment in a clean area! This has the potential to go so wrong, so quickly. My character Portia is furious to be refused a navel piercing at twelve years old, even after she throws the Hitchcock family money around, and finally does it herself with a diaper pin.

Predictably, not long afterwards, it becomes horribly infected and lands her in hospital on Christmas, after her much-older doctor brother Cadmar succeeds in removing the jewelry which had started to become adhered to her skin. Over the next few years, the navel infection recurs, until she finally gets it done professionally on her sixteenth birthday.

Extreme body modifications are just that, extreme. Just because your character already has a lot of tattoos and piercings doesn’t mean s/he automatically needs to get elf ears, a subdermal implant, microdermals, magnetic implants, transdermals, or hugely-stretched piercings beyond the earlobes. Extreme mods are never done spur of the moment or to be cool, nor are masses of people running out to get them. Only do it if it makes sense to the character.

It’s called stretching, NOT gauging! A gauge is a unit of measurement, and the number goes down as the size goes up. Past 00, it’s measured in tenths of an inch, or millimetres. One stretches one’s earlobes (and sometimes other piercings). One doesn’t “gauge” them. The jewelry to fill the earlobes are called tunnels and plugs, not “gauges.”

At one point, I had my second lobes slightly stretched (no more than 14, if I had to guess), and that really healed the damaged tissue from my traumatic gun piercing. They’ve long since grown back, but if I’d stretched them to a bigger size, they might not’ve regained their usual size. The point of no return varies, but most people feel it’s 2, 0, or 00.

2 thoughts on “Writing about body modification, Part II

  1. Yes, these lobes and other parts do need to be stretched.

    The quickness of the needle and the cleanliness are an important consideration – thank goodness Portia had an elder doctor brother – though he could not have been expected to do that.

    And you are right. What modifications made sense to characters you created/know from other stories?

    And those of us who reason from rings and their sizings and such will be sorely misled when it comes to piercings and modifications.

    Good to know about that “point of no return” being at least 2.


  2. I pierced my own earlobes with a needle sterilized in alcohol when I was eighteen. I have two piercings in the left lobe and one in the right. I thought I was being really edgy. These days, nobody notices pinpoint piercings like I have. Of course, these days I could care less.
    I have seven tattoos, one on my left outer calf, one on my right inner calf, one on either deltoid, one on either shoulder (back), and one on my left front shoulder. The one on the left front shoulder is to honor my own struggles with mental illness. The others are to honor people and animals that have special meaning to me, some of whom are dead.
    I would like more tattoos but have absolutely no interest in getting more piercings.

    Liked by 1 person

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