Body modification is nothing new. All over the world, for thousands of years, people have been piercing, scarring, tattooing, and enhancing themselves, sometimes literally breaking their bones, in the case of Chinese foot binding, for example, and subjecting themselves to extreme pain in the process of modifying their bodies. Body modification takes diverse forms, from cosmetic plastic surgery to full-body tattooing, and varies in extremity.
The decision to modify ones body is, for the most part, a personal one, but its not made in a vacuum. Social and cultural contextual factors undoubtedly play a role in that decision. For this reason, body modification is interesting from a sociological perspective, as a social phenomenon, as well as from a psychological one. What drives people to such extreme lengths to achieve a certain aesthetic?
Below, take a look at some of the most extreme examples of body modification.
Erik Spraguewho has a forked tongue, Teflon horn implants, and head-to-toe tattoos meant to look like reptilian scalesmight describe himself as simply a freak, but his road to becoming The Lizardman is rooted in a philosophical context. Erik, who received his B.A. in philosophy at Hartwick College, was on his way to a PhD when he decided to focus on being Lizardman full-time.
As a student, he was interested in the ideas of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who claimed that humans are recognized as humans because of how they look, not because of things like intelligence (in stark contrast with earlier philosophers, who believed that reason, for example, was one of the distinguishing features of humanity). Sprague decided to play with this idea, to challenge our categorical notions of humanity, by modifying himself so extremely that he no longer resembled a regular human. 700 hours of tattooing and hundreds of other body modifications later, Sprague now makes his living as a freak show performance artist. He estimates that the total cost of his procedures adds up to around $250,000, but the return is goodhe makes hundreds of appearances each year, and is one of the best-known extreme body modifiers alive today.