The most obvious definition of the phrase ‘body play’ would be playing with the body in one’s terms. Piercings, tattoos, and even self-mutilations are all forms of body play. It’s hard to comprehend why some body play yields admirations, while others are faced with harsh criticisms. Really, who are we to judge? Who are we to limit what others can do to their body?
For some, our body is given to us by God and should not be altered in any way but for others the body serves as a canvas, especially to those who perceive tattooing as art. It’s unique and irreplaceable because each tattooed piece have its own distinctive meaning that only the owner of the body will know. I have seen the same tattoo on many veterans but I know that they all have different meaning to each and every one of them. No one experience life the same way. The tattoo serves not only as a reminder of what they had to endure during their service time and also as a symbol of bravery, and courage.
The thing about body play is that it might not be suitable for everyone. For those who enjoy playing with their body, it might be due to different reasons. Some are done as a rite of passage, some as a sign of respect for someone they hold dearly, and some use body play as a mean to gain back the power that they lost. My respect lies for those who do it as a way to reclaim their body. In the passage written by Fakir, he mentioned a time when he would ask his clients what was the reason behind their piercing and one of his female clients responded: “I’m getting pierced to reclaim my body. I’ve been used and abused. My body was taken by another without my consent. Now, by this ritual of piercing, I claim my body back as my own. I heal my wounds.” There is so much significance behind this one simple piercing. For any outsiders, it will appear like any other piercing but for this female client, it represents empowerment; it will give her power to continue on with her life despite the unfortunate events that happened to her.
Obscurely, she is not alone. Many victims of rape and abuse use body play to regain what they lost. Body play has been considered taboo by those unfamiliar with it, especially the act of self-mutilation. Cutting is a popular one. It appears to fall into the deviant self-mutilation category, but is it really? It follows more of a self-help path – a not so positive method of self-help, but nonetheless it is. If cutting releases the victims from the pain that they suffered due to the abuse, is this topic of body play so taboo? It’s undeniable that some procedures should be prohibited; one said practice would be the traditional rite of passage for Indigenous Australian males called penile subincision, where they incised the underside of the penis and slit open lengthwise the urethra. I was extremely shocked when it came to my attention that people practiced this as a coming to age ritual. Not only does it increase the male’s vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections, it also affects urination. Unlike cutting, this practice possess no mean of self-help, instead, it brings on more pain and discomfort.
The term body play entitles too much. Parts of what it encompasses should be considered taboo but most of it is far more positive than what people give it credit for. Before judging, people should step back and put into perspective the meaning behind the tattoo, piercing, or the other acts of body play.