Physical Graffiti: A Catholic Perspective on Tattoos, Piercings, and “Body Art”
Every day, across the United States — indeed, throughout the world — men and women, boys and girls, get themselves tattooed and pierced. And not just their ears. They are participating in the modern fad of “body art,” which has its origins in antiquity, but which in recent decades as developed into some extreme forms that are often quite disturbing.
— By Deacon Robert Lukosh, Envoy Magazine —
The intentional marking or mutilation of the human body under the guise of “body art” goes beyond simple tattoos or ear-piercing as adornment for women. For many, it is a personal expression of solidarity with a social cause, a trend that attracts predominately young people, driving them to ever wilder and more shocking expressions of what some term “personal mutilation” that includes: total-body tattoos, pierced eyelids, lips, noses, tongues, foreheads, and even disfigurement of the genitalia, in a never-ending quest for the most “outrageous” form of self-expression through what is commonly known as “body art.”
These forms of personal exhibition have spread rapidly throughout contemporary Western society, resulting in a secondary wave of participants (namely, the children of those who engaged in radical body art during 70s and 80s) who, like their parents and role models, are disfiguring their own bodies irrevocably, claiming as their justification “personal freedom” and a right to unlimited self-expression.
In earlier generations, garish tattoos and unusual piercings were found almost exclusively only among members of social groups and subcultures that lurked at the fringes of mainstream society. Aside from your relatives who served in the military (which is definitely not a fringe subculture), chances are, neither of your parents nor any of your grandparents, aunts, or uncles — in the case of those born before 1950 — have tattoos or unusual piercings. But look around today and you will see a massive number of people — especially young people — who have become enamored of extreme tattoos and unusual piercings.
This modern fad of body art permeates American society, affecting virtually every industry, age group, race, sex, and religion. Since many of these people occupy leadership and mentoring roles in the lives of children and young adults, such overt displays have an additional rebound effect by providing tacit justification sufficient to overcome the doubts of those who are unsure if they want to dabble in the body art fad themselves, resulting in yet a third generation of pierced and tattooed bodies. . .