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Body mods – branding

AKA body modification(s), branding, scarification, piercing, tattooing.

What are body mods?

Body mods are a range of things that permanently or semi-permanently alter parts of the body. They range from pretty tame changes, like ear piercing, to more extreme stuff like branding and scarification, as well as things not covered in this site like cosmetic surgery implants, tongue splitting or subincision (deep cutting of the dick).

More common body modifications include tattooing, body piercing and ear lobe piercing or stretching. Some body mods have only become possible thanks to recent advances in surgical techniques; others have been carried out for thousands of years.

Things to know

Following the Operation Spanner trial in the 90’s, it was established in English law that you cannot consent to serious, lasting harm to your body. So certain, more extreme body modifications (but not professional piercing or tattooing) may be against the law to perform or have done to you.

Branding and scarification

Also known as strike branding.

What are branding and scarification?

Branding is intentional scarring caused by placing heated metal on skin. After scabbing over, the scar tissue fades to pink, with the skin ending up a lighter colour to the surrounding skin and possibly raised: this can take up to six months.

The aim is to make the wound heal as noticeably as possible. Some advise leaving it to heal on its own; others irritate the wound to increase scarring.

Branding falls under the umrella term scarification, which also includes marking the skin with chemicals or electrical devices (similar to soldering irons), cutting with blades, abrasion or rubbing ash into a wound to increase scarring. This isn’t to be confused with people cutting or hurting themselves as a response to stress or psychological pain (self-harm).

What’s the attraction?

Scarification is seen in many tribal societies, especially scarring of the face in West Africa (dark skin doesn’t show up tattoos well but can scar dramatically). New Zealand Maoris traditionally cut their skin, then rub ink into it to make a permanent black indented groove. For them, scarring symbolises a rite of passage into adulthood and belonging to the tribe; a sign of high social standing and sexual attractiveness.

Among modern day body modifiers, scarification can also mark an important period in someone’s life, such as commitment to a partner. It doesn’t usually feature as part of a sex scene but, especially among Masters and slaves, is more of an intense ritual, often signifying submission, control, ownership and feeling wanted.

Being branded can cause a rush of natural painkillers (endorphins) giving a high that some people describe as addictive. Others just like the look and feel of a scar, especially when it’s raised or forms a pattern.

In our own society scars have long been seen as sexy or having prestige. Until recently, European upper class males would wear with pride facial scars they got during fencing duels. Today, scars from branding are seen as a badge of honour, a test of endurance and an initiation rite among gangs or other groups.

Last review: 19/09/2018
Next review: 19/09/2021