Piercing was a popular body modification of the past, and it has recently experienced an increasingly widespread presence and popularity in modern society. Piercing can be traced as far back as 5,000 years.(4) Commenting on how old the practice is, California State University anthropologist James Myers, said it is "possibly as old as genus Homo."(3)
The Aztecs of Mexico and the Alaskan Eskimos are well documented for using piercing as body art. Native American art revealed representations of piercings, and historical and archaeological records also document the presence of piercing in Native American life.(1)
"In Victorian times the 'dressing ring' or Prince Albert, a genital piercing named after Victoria's husband, was used, allegedly, to chain the penis to the wearers leg, to overcome embarrassment with the tight trousers fashionable at the time."(1)Piercing in Society
In the 1970’s, Punk re-established piercing into mainstream society. Previously it was only practiced by a small subculture.(1) "Body piercing and tattooing were viewed as exotic and pagan practices often associated with maritime identity or criminal and pathological behavior." (4)
Today, body modification is considered by some to be "pathological, deviant and self-mutilating," but other consider it a means to "forge a self identity, achieve higher states of consciousness, fulfill a spiritual need, achieve group affiliation or disaffiliation, enhance sexuality or for aesthetic reasons."(4) Some feel it can be difficult to determine if the actions are self expression or pathological because of society’s current widespread acceptance of body modifications.
Much debate surrounds the argument of whether these activities are healthy or unhealthy. "Many who routinely engage in piercing, burning and ritualized cutting vehemently disagree with the perception that this behavior is pathological. They seem outraged that a society which routinely spends millions of dollars on cosmetic surgery to conform to rigid cultural stereotypes of beauty would condemn their behavior as grotesque, deviant or mentally ill."(4)Piercing Today
Piercing has become more pervasive in modern society. The number of professional piercing and tattoo studios has increased from 300 to 4000.(1) In fact, in some large European and US cities, the number of piercing studios exceeds the number of possible customers.(2)
The amount of information on the subject has also increased with information surfacing from the underground into more general circulation.(1) The Internet has a wealth of information on piercing and body modifications.
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