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Body modification (or body alteration) is the permanent or semi-permanent deliberate altering of the human body for non-medical reasons, such as spiritual, various social (markings), BDSM "edgeplay" or aesthetic. It can range from the socially acceptable decoration (e.g., pierced ears in many societies), to the overtly religiously mandated (e.g., circumcision in a number of cultures), to corporal punishment, to provocative statement by the rebellious (e.g., tongue splitting).
Some futurists, such as those who identify as transhumanist, believe that eventually humans will pursue body modification with more advanced technological means, such as permanently implanted devices to enhance mental and physical capabilities, thereby becoming cyborgs. This has been explored in fiction such as the The Six Million Dollar Man and Doctor Who's Cybermen. For the substantial number of people with heart pacemakers and brain implants such as cochlear implants and electrical brain stimulators for Parkinson's disease, this is already a reality.
Body art is any body part modification for artistic or aesthetic reasons. However the term is often extended to all socially significant markings, often displaying the bearer belongs to some hereditary (e.g. tribal), age, religious or other group, and therefore on body parts that remain or can be 'decently' exposed in public, except if the group is private or even secret.
Types of body modification
- Anal stretching 
- Body piercing - permanent placement of jewelry through an artificial fistula; sometimes further modified by stretching
- Branding - controlled burning or cauterizing of tissue to encourage intentional scarring
- Breast implants - Insertion of silicone bags filled with silicone gel or saline solution into the breasts to increase their size
- Breast ironing - Pressing (sometimes with a heated object) the breasts of a pubescent female to prevent their growth.
- Dermal anchoring similar to transdermal implants 
- Eyeball tattooing - Injection of a pigment into the cornea.
- Ear piercing - the most common type of body modification
- Ear shaping  (which includes Ear cropping , Ear pointing or "elfing" )
- Extraocular implant (eyeball jewelry) - The implantation of jewelry in the outer layer of the eye.
- Female genital cutting - removal of the labia minora or the clitoral hood
- Frenectomy 
- Genital beading - also known as pearling
- Genital bisection - splitting of both the underside and the top of the penis, including Genital inversion 
- Male circumcision - removal of the foreskin, sometimes also the frenulum--conversely some men choose to take up foreskin restoration.
- Meatotomy - splitting of the underside of the glans penis
- Headsplitting - splitting of both the underside and the top of the glans penis
- Microdermal implants 
- Nipple removal 
- Nipple splitting 
- Nullification involves the voluntary removal of body parts. Body parts that are removed by those practicing body nullification are for example Fingers, Penis (penectomy), Testicles (castration), Clitoris, Labia or Nipples. Sometimes people who desire a nullification may be diagnosed with body integrity identity disorder or apotemnophilia. 
- Scarification - cutting or removal of dermis with the intent to encourage intentional scarring or keloiding
- Scrotal implants 
- Silicone injection 
- Subdermal implant - implantation of an object that resides entirely below the dermis, including Horn implants 
- Subincision - splitting of the underside of the penis, also called urethrotomy
- Tattooing - the mechanical placement of ink in the dermis
- Lingual frenectomy 
- Tongue splitting - bisection of the tongue similar to a snake's
- Tooth filing 
- Transdermal implant - implantation of an object below the dermis, but which exits the skin at one or more points
- Trepanation 
Body modifications occurring as the end result of long term activities or practices
- Corsetry or tightlacing - binding of the waist and shaping of the torso
- Cranial binding - modification of the shape of infants' heads, now extremely rare
- Foot binding - compression of the feet to modify them for aesthetic reasons
- Non-surgical elongation of organs by prolonged stretching using weights or spacing devices. Some cultural traditions prescribe for or encourage members of one sex (or both) to have one organ stretched till permanent re-dimensioning has occurred, such as:
- The 'giraffe-like' stretched necks (sometimes also other organs) of women among the Burmese Kayan tribe, the result of wearing brass coils around them. This compresses the collarbone and upper ribs but is not medically dangerous. It is a myth that removing the rings will cause the neck to 'flop'; Padaung women remove them regularly for cleaning etc.
- Stretched lip piercings - achieved by inserting ever larger plates, such as those made of clay used by some Amazonian tribes.
Some sources of controversy stem from the notion of attempting to artificially beautify the natural form of the body, often leading to charges of disfigurement and mutilation. Extreme forms of Body Modification are occasionally viewed as symptomatic of body dysmorphic disorder, other mental illnesses, or as an expression of unchecked vanity. Often the general public are unprepared for some forms of modification and reports of the ostracism of modified individuals are widespread within the modification community. Unlicensed surgery performed outside of a medical environment can often be life-threatening, and is illegal in most countries and states.
"Disfigurement" (a subjective term) and "mutilation" (regardless of any appreciation this always applies objectively whenever a bodily function is gravely diminished or lost, as with castration) are terms used by opponents of body modification to describe certain types of modifications, especially non-consensual ones. Those terms are used fairly uncontroversially to describe the victims of torture, who have endured damage to ears, eyes, feet, genitalia, hands, noses, teeth, and/or tongues, including amputation, burning, flagellation, piercing, skinning, and wheeling. "Genital mutilation" is also used somewhat more controversially to describe certain kinds of socially prescribed modifications to the genitals, such as circumcision, female circumcision, castration, and surgeries performed to conform the genitals of individuals with intersex conditions to those of typical males or females.
Individuals known for extensive body modification
- Pete Burns
- Elaine Davidson
- The Enigma
- Lolo Ferrari
- Julia Gnuse ("The Illustrated Lady")
- Cindy Jackson
- Michael Jackson
- Katzen ("Cat woman")
- Tom Leppard
- Eric Sprague
- The Scary Guy
- Lucky Diamond Rich
- Hao Lulu
- Horace Ridler ("The Great Omi")
- Stalking Cat ("Cat man")
- Jocelyn Wildenstein
- Pauly Unstoppable
- Attraction to disability
- Blood ritual
- BME, a large website devoted to body modification
- Fakir Musafar, the grandfather of body modification
- Full body tattoo
- Suspension (body modification)
- Anal Stretching - BME Encyclopedia
- Dermal Anchoring - BME Encyclopedia
- Ear Shaping - BME Encyclopedia
- Ear Cropping - BME Encyclopedia
- Ear Pointing - BME Encyclopedia
- Genital Frenectomy - BME Encyclopedia
- Inversion - BME Encyclopedia
- Microdermal - BME Encyclopedia
- Nipple Removal - BME Encyclopedia
- Nipple Splitting - BME Encyclopedia
- Jamie Gadette. "Underground". Salt Lake City Weekly.
- Scrotal Implant - BME Encyclopedia
- Silicone Injection - BME Encyclopedia
- Horn Implant - BME Encyclopedia
- Tongue Frenectomy - BME Encyclopedia
- Tooth Filing - BME Encyclopedia
- Shannon Larratt. "nullification, the voluntary removal of body parts". BMEzine. Retrieved 2007-08-29.
- Shannon Larratt (March 18, 2002). ModCon: The Secret World Of Extreme Body Modification. BMEbooks. ISBN 0973008008.
- Adam Callen. "What is TOO Extreme for Body Modification?". Ezine Articles. Retrieved 2007-08-29.
- Pictures of scarification in Africa - Features by Jean-Michel Clajot, Belgian photographer
- Body Modification E-Zine Encyclopedia entry showing various inappropriate uses of ear piercing instruments
- Body Modification E-Zine article on the Studex System 75
- A video of a child geting her ears pierced
- Church of Body Modification
- Tattoo Body Modification Discussion
- The Official Body Modification Organization
- The Scary Guy's Website