Body modification is a broad category that covers anything from socially acceptable ear piercings to culturally mandated circumcisions, but there’s a small niche in this category that involves the most extreme manipulation of the human body. Some trendsetters treat their bodies like a work of art and some cultures are simply handing down tradition, but all of the following examples are shocking in their own way, so brace yourself. Here are 10 shockingly extreme body modifications that aren’t for the faint of heart (or stomach).
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Society has become used to seeing angsty teens with bad tattoos, but as society’s boundaries broaden, those who push against the limits continue to pave the way for the rest of us. Technological innovations now allow for the insertion of silicone based implants that won’t affect the body’s normal processes, but stand out in a way that would be hard to match with any tattoo. From horns to clovers, just about any shape can be slipped under the skin.
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Tongue splitting is incredibly painful and the resulting wound is in turns hideous and prone to infection. Once the tongue has healed, however, you’re left with something surreal: a tongue that works as two. Some find it hideous and disgusting, but nobody can deny it’s interesting to see such a mundane part of the human body transformed into something spectacular.
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When one thinks of piercing, the first object that comes to mind is not typically a stainless steel hook, but to some, it is. Suspension requires that several heavy duty hooks attached to wires are pierced through the skin. The biggest danger here is that not enough hooks will be used… resulting in a tear. Suspension looks grisly, but is apparently much less painful than you’d expect. It’s a staple for any dark underground show.
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Corset piercings are a unique twist on a typically benign adornment. A series of piercings are placed in two parallel rows down the back, side, or legs (or anywhere else you can think of), and a ribbon is woven back and forth to create a beautiful design. One can change the ribbon to suit the occasion, turning one’s body into an unusual and creative accessory.
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Scarification is still frequently used in Africa for decoration and to mark the passage into adulthood. Children have tribal designs cut into their faces, chests, and backs, in order to show they are man enough to withstand the pain without uttering a single noise. These marks help tribes identify friend or foe, and are considered aesthetically pleasing. The technique is slowly making its way across the globe, though scarification in the United States and Europe typically takes on a different aesthetic that involves more flat red scars, and less raised bumps.
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Kavadi is a structure held into place on a devotee’s body to venerate the Tamil god of war. There are several ways for believers to show their devoutness, from the mundane (carrying jugs of milk) to the more exotic (fire walking). Some choose a more extreme path and prepare for 48 days before their rites. These believers have over 100 metal spikes placed through their skin in a formation that allows the Kavadi structure to remain in place on their body.
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Just as some people have an innate desire to become the other sex, some have the seemingly random desire to become an amputee. These people are often straight-laced in every other facet of their lives, but cannot escape the need to have a limb removed. Since no doctor will perform a medically unnecessary amputation, most of these people have to take things into their own hands (and garage). When the need becomes uncontrollable, a tourniquet is tied around the limb, and once numbness sets in, they begin cutting. Afterwards, they’re left with a sense of relief that is not shared by friends and family.
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Even the most common forms of body modification can be taken to their extremes. In a world where 2-4 ear piercings are the norm, and then, mostly on women, people love to push the limits by piercing anything and everything they can. Some choose to pierce uncommon areas, such as genitals, whereas some decide that more is better, and shoot for the moon. The most pierced woman has over 1,000 piercings on her face alone.
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Teeth decorations vary and span from inlaid jewels to teeth filed to points. Some like to sharpen teeth to look more like a vampire, while others show their wealth by having them all coated in gold. In Africa, some tribes file teeth into points, and knock out others, to show the participant has made the journey from childhood to adulthood. Just as in scarification, it’s important for the child to show no pain.
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What looks like disfigurement to some, is the height of beauty to others. Members of the Mursi tribe in Ethiopia judge beauty by the size of a female’s lip plug. Girls begin placing plugs into their lips at a young age and slowly increase the plug size until the lip is stretched to a surprising degree. Women have to be careful not to increase the plug sizes too quickly, as someone with a broken lip will never find a husband. It’s thought this tradition began as a way to avoid having women stolen during raids by other tribes, as their members would not find the modified women attractive.