Tak­ing back their bod­ies

Many young peo­ple turn to body art with the in­ten­tion of trans­form­ing them­selves.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING -

TI­MOTHEE clenches his jaw and grips his sweat­shirt as the tat­tooist's nee­dle sinks into his skin.

The an­gel he wants on his shoul­der is not go­ing to get there by it­self. He is go­ing to have to suf­fer for his body art. Like many teenagers, Ti­mothee has not waited till his 18th birth­day to get his first tat­toos and piecings.

In fact this is the blond 18- year- old's sev­enth tat­too. He had the names of his par­ents tat­tooed on his wrist at 16, and six oth­ers else­where to go with his nose pierc­ing and the lit­tle stud on the in­ner lobe of his ear.

So far, he has spent US$ 2,800 ( RM11,763) on var­i­ous bod­ily adorn­ments, but he is far from fin­ished.

“For the next one I want some­thing writ­ten down the length of my spine,” he said, con­vinced that he will never re­gret his tat­toos.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2010 Ifop sur­vey, one in 10 French peo­ple – and nearly a quar­ter of 18 to 24- year- olds – have a tat­too.

Ev­ery year Ma­rina gets an­other pierc­ing. She started with her belly­but­ton at 13, fol­lowed by each end of her lower lip. Next she had her ear­lobes stretched, be­fore hav­ing her eye­brows, tongue and in­ner ear lobes pierced, and then topped it all off with a tatoo on her wrist at 17. Oh, and she has a nose ring too.

Cle­men­tine couldn't wait ei­ther for pierc­ings be­tween her breasts and on her tem­ple. Since she was 12, the 17- year- old has been beg­ging her par­ents for a bull- style nose ring. “They didn't want me to have it, they were wor­ried what peo­ple would think. But in the end they gave in to pierc­ings on her tem­ple” when she was only 14.

Af­ter a few more years of ar­gu­ments her par­ents fi­nally cracked and al­lowed her to get a nose ring af­ter she had got her high school diploma.

‘ It's my body’

For so­ci­ol­o­gist David Le Bre­ton, au­thor of Signs Of Iden­tity Tat­toos, Pierc­ings And Other Body Mark­ings, the need to al­ter their ap­pear­ance is a “a way of say­ing, ‘ It's my body and I can do what I like with it ... And I can­not stand the idea of any­body say­ing no to me.’

“For teenagers it is a way of tak­ing back their bod­ies that they don't be­lieve they were re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing.

“So putting their own mark on them­selves is a way of say­ing, ‘ My body be­longs to no­body but me,’” he said.

No mat­ter how in­tent teenagers are on trans­form­ing them­selves, the law in most of Europe and United States is clear. Mi­nors need writ­ten con­sent from their par­ents, with many tat­tooists also de­mand­ing that they also bring their par­ents along.

In Ja­pan, regulation is even tighter, with tat­toos pro­hib­ited for any­one un­der 20.

In the United States, ac­cord­ing to a Har­ris Poll study in 2012, one adult in five now has at least one tat­too, and while there is no fed­eral law reg­u­lat­ing tat­toos or other body art or mod­i­fi­ca­tions, most of the 50 states al­low tat­toos for mi­nors pro­vided they have parental con­sent.

In Europe, some 100 mil­lion res­i­dents have tat­toos, or 10 to 20% of the adult pop­u­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures cited in the pub­li­ca­tion Tat­tooed Skin And Health, which was pub­lished in 2015 for a med­i­cal congress en­ti­tled the Se­cond Euro­pean Congress on Tat­too and Pig­ment Re­search, held in Bel­gium. So no mat­ter how much a re­bel­lious a teenager might be, they have to ne­go­ti­ate with their el­ders, even though a grow­ing num­ber are turn­ing to so- called “scratch­ers” who op­er­ate il­le­gally.

Ti­mothee's mother Sev­er­ine was very re­luc­tant to give him per­mis­sion to have a tat­too. “We did not want to af­fect his chances of get­ting work, and we didn't want it to be vis­i­ble, above all on his neck and face.”

But in the end he so won her over that she and her hus­band got tat­toos them­selves.

‘ Body tun­ing’

Corinne Du­bosque, a tat­tooist in the sub­urbs of Paris, said most par­ents are re­al­ists “They know ( their chil­dren) will have it any­way so they pre­fer to check out the par­lours them­selves to make sure they are hy­gienic.”

Char­lotte be­gan by hav­ing her in­ner ear lobe pierced at 15, and two months ago had a “ver­ti­cal labret” in­serted, a lip pierc­ing that comes out on the chin. “I felt my body didn't suit me so I am car­ry­ing out some im­prove­ments,” she said. “It is go­ing to take years and it is go­ing to cost,” said the arts stu­dent, who lives in Metz in east­ern France.

Ti­mothee calls this “body tun­ing” while Cle­men­tine in­sists all her pierc­ings have noth­ing to do with youth­ful re­bel­lion or pol­i­tics “but sim­ple aes­thet­ics”.

And of course fash­ion has a lot to do with it too. “Younger peo­ple are more likely to fol­low trends, to imitate their peers or an ac­tor, singer, foot­baller or swim­mer,” said Le Bre­ton. – AFP Re­laxnews

For teenagers it is a way of tak­ing back their bod­ies that they don’t be­lieve they were re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing

David Le Bre­ton

Du­bosque ( left) tat­toos the arm of teenager Ti­mothee at her Ate­lier Par­adise Tat­too in Paris. — AFP

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