Body modification

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Body modification is sometimes an intentional and primary consequence of BDSM activities. For example, cutting and needle play necessarily modify the body by putting holes and cuts in it.

On the other hand, some activities cause changes in the body which are secondary to the activity. For example, flogging can cause redness and abrasions, whipping can cause cuts and bleeding, caning can cause bruising and weals, spanking can create localised redness, and bondage can leave rope impressions where the rope was tight. All of these typically heal without scarring or marking.

Permanent Temporary

Response to temporary marking

The temporary bruising, abrasions, redness, cuts, weals, or impressions left by rope or chain on the skin can be outcomes in themselves, and can indicate:

  • A rite of passage,
  • A journey made,
  • An achievement or goal reached, or
  • Reclamation of self

See also motivations.


Beyond the other, more general, motivations for involvement in BDSM, body modification can be about:

  • Claiming ownership of one's self
  • Claiming ownership of someone else (such as by branding, or simply the right to bruise or cut)

This has to do with manifesting ownership by exercising the right to change or modify what one owns.

Note: for some people using body modification to flag or claim ownership can be unsatisfying due to a blurred understanding of the difference between identity and one's physical body

Body decoration

Beyond the act of marking or modifying the body, the outcome may be symbolic, decorative, or aid in decoration:

  • Holes in different body parts (body piercing)---such as earlobes, nipples, genitals---can be places to attach rings, bars, and jewellery
  • Designs can be permanently embedded in the skin via scarification, branding, and tattooing

See also collar.

See also