Re: Mutilation and ritual

Adrienne Dearmas (DearmasA@AOL.COM)
Mon, 15 Jul 1996 11:55:18 -0400

In a message dated 96-07-13 00:22:32 EDT,

> I would like to know what the significance of location is with
> respect to tattoos and body piercing; certainly some are meant to be
> seen -- indeed, cannot go un-noticed -- but do these have the same
> import as those customarily hidden from view ? I am curious about this
> primarily because I have an interest in the import of regions of the
> body; that is to say, why some cultures localise vital or 'significant'
> functions in one region, or why some organs or parts may not be
> exhibited and so forth.

I agree that more research needs to be conducted in this area of placement.
With regards to tattoos in Western culture, I have found the following:
Visibility vs. Secret
some tattoos are supposed to be visible ("Mom" or "Winona Forever"), some are
supposed to be secret (my stepbrother's Grinch on his ass, which I'm not
supposed to know about)
Pain threshold
some areas (due to amount of nerve endings in the area) are more painful than
others. Use the tickle theory - if you are ticklish there - it's gonna hurt.
This is why you see a lot of unfinished ankle/arm bands. The person was going
for the visibility but was sidetracked by their own pain threshold. Remember
that many tattoo artists won't do hands and faces.
Wall hanging vs. Wallpaper (or the Lays Potato Chip theory)
because of tattooing's addictive properties (pain being addictive for some),
what starts out as an experimental tattoo turns into a full body work of art.
I wanted to go back immediately but could not decide what to get and did not
want to get a tattoo just for the rush.
Now, obviously this is based on Western tattooing. There is much written on
irezumi (Japanese full body tattoos) and what it meant - it's fairly out of
fashion today, having been associated with non-Western negative stereotypes.
Check your local university library.

I would be very interested in your work. I have always been interested in the
origin of sexual organ modesty and how mammary glands on female humans became
"obscene" and associated with sex.

- Adrienne