Like it or not, body piercing is a part of our society |

Like it or not, body piercing is a part of our society

John DiMambro
Nevada Appeal Publisher

What to do. What to do. In the past few weeks, the Nevada Appeal has taken it on the chin – err … make that in the belly – for our feature on body piercing. The prominent photo showcased the belly of a 23-year-old woman with 20 piercings filled with tiny metal barbells.

Now, believe me, I would not want my 13-year-old daughter even thinking about such dermal ornamentation, but the only thing “piercing” about the Appeal’s feature was some of the criticism. Ouch! That’s “ouch” times 20, in fact – 20 points of dermalÐpunching, pierce-gunning pain coming right at us in the form of “What were you people thinking?” publishing such “… trashy body art.”

I’m not complaining about the complaining, of course. I mention it only as a point of interest. And I do find it interesting. Very.

Personally, I don’t see what all the “belly”aching is about. I mean, it isn’t my body. Nor does it belong to anyone I know. I happened to be talking to someone (one of many) last week who told me how appalled he was that we published the metal-bedecked belly on the cover of our features section. I wondered, was he really upset about the photo? Or, was he more upset at the Appeal publishing the photo? And as he continued to tell me what a bunch of lobotomy patients we all are at the Appeal for making this decision, a soliloquy of mine was struggling to morph from the inaudible to a reverberating sound system. I so badly wanted to ask: “Alright, where ya hidin’ it? You have body piercing of your own, don’t you? You hypocritical modern day primitive. Well, do ya p-p-p-p-punk?”

But I sort of just laughed it all off. Not out of disrespect, but because he was so unintentionally funny as he continued to tell me what idiots we were to have wasted space on body piercing, and with such sick-minded, stomach-twisting pictures.

Yet another person (different place, different time), who was much more serious, cornered me. So after listening to him, I asked if he would have reacted the same if we published a photo of aborigines with boar tusks bulleting through their facial cheeks and bamboo shoots barreling through their nostril cartilage.

“No. That’s accepted in their society,” he fired back.


“I said that’s their society … they accept it.”

“Ohhh, so body piercing and tattoos are not part of our society, is that what you’re trying to tell me?”

“No, you don’t get it. What you published was disgusting … offensive … just disgusting!”

“Oh really? And what about news of teenagers killed in auto accidents? Babies born with incurable diseases? Families brutally killed while sleeping in their beds by cold-blooded thieves looking for drug money? Little girls and boys abducted and raped? Terrorist plans and attacks? What about those stories and the grim and shocking pictures they illustrate through the imagery of words?”

Don’t pretend to hide from it. This is our society. Reports have shown that more than 25 percent of our youth from 18-24 are tattooed. More than 30 percent of students in many high schools have body piercings, not including those for ears. That’s a lot folks.

It’s so easy now. Just walk into a piercing parlor.

“Can I help you miss?”

“Um … sure … I’d like my ears pierced.”

“Okay, miss, just step right over …”

“And I’d like my nose pierced, and my tongue, and my naval, and my ….”

Not our society? You’re sure about that? Aside from the 25-and-under population, many older people going through mid-life changeovers are experimenting with more subtle body decoration – small tattoos on an ankle, wrist, bicep or back, or maybe a pierced lip or a pierced nose, while others prefer to turn their bodies into horizontally mobile jewelry boxes.

Even if I were younger, would I till my body like a metallic corn field? No. Can I ignore the fact that this cultural design is now a societal phenomenon? No. Was the Nevada Appeal wrong to publish an extreme stage of body art as a bodily expression of attitude and identity? No! No more than we are guilty of reporting any points of interest.

What many people fail to recognize is that our civilization is merely repeating history, which is one of the few things we have truly and unconditionally mastered over the centuries of mankind’s existence.

Body piercing and tattoos can be found just as easily in the Bible as they can in a Herman Melville novel. Isaac’s wife Rebekah accepted a nose ring from a servant of Abraham as a symbol of submission in the Book of Genesis. The powerfully corporeal harpooner, Daggoo, in “Moby Dick,” has a face described by Melville this way: “Suspended from his ears were two golden hoops, so large that sailors called them ring-bolts….” In an exhilarating exclamation of worship to manhood, these were just glimpses, in truth or in fiction, of man’s fancy for self-adoration and decoration to depict values and beliefs.

Whatever symbol in which you place your faith – a crucifix, a jewel, a garment, a tattoo, a body piercing – we find it necessary for public display and as an inescapable reminder to ourselves of its personal message.

What I find uglier than the steel-studded face of a woman, or a fully tattooed body of a man are the invisible yet perceptible tattoos that we all have – the kind of tattoos that blanket our brains with murals of narrow-mindedness, block our two-way avenues of thought, and seal the depth of our emotions with the suffocations of repulsion, hatred, jealousy, and malignity. Now that’s ugly.

• John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. Write to him at