Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Flesh Suspension

I admit to finding the extremes of human fetishes and role playing to bring me some wonderful inspiration for my horror writing. One that I’ve never wanted to explore because it so repels me made me actually decide to shed some light on the practice for that very reason. Didn’t I mention once that I tend to be counterphobic? I wouldn’t be much of a writer of horror if I didn’t take a look at the horror versions of human beings, those who believe their vampires or serial killers or even those who enjoy flesh suspension; the hanging from hooks by one’s own flesh.

Not surprisingly, there is actually a website devoted to it. The motivations for this are extreme and varied. There are those who enjoy self mutilation and feel a kind of emotional purging with it, as if giving yourself physical pain takes precedence over emotional pain; a kind of externalization of the internal. There are those into body modifications from extreme piercings and tattooing to having their ears pointed like elves and implants placed under the skin for decoration. It seems that those into altering their bodies to extremes are searching to feel at home in a body that they for whatever reasons do not accept as the house of their true self. It isn’t enough for them to have certain hobbies, likes, and dislikes; they want to display it publicly for all to see and hopefully cringe. It reassures for them that the world does not understand them and drives the chasm between them even wider. Others believe in the artistic concept of such practices. To suspend from hooks by one’s own flesh it symbolic for a complete and total cathartic freeing of the soul and release of fears and a moment of evolution into a new fearless realm; a kind of twisted rite of passage.

For the majority of people who are afraid of a simple needle in the doctor’s office, the concept of sticking a metal hook into one’s skin and then hanging from it is unthinkable. It’s not actually a new concept for our culture. Ancient man and many tribes used this method as a passage for their men. I admit to getting a tattoo that is a life-sized oak leaf in many colors. This took over 2 hours to complete and was of course quite painful, but as a female the pain was kept within the context of childbirth and admittedly was a cakewalk. So, the pain was not an attraction for the process. For me it was a symbol that brought good luck, that embodied the essence of me, and enhanced my beauty. As hard as it is to get into the mindset of someone who would hang by hooks, for some it’s a badge of honor and a source of pride. Just think, if you can hang by your skin, everything else is pretty simple (like the childbirth pain measure that I carry).

What do I see when I look at someone suspending by their flesh? I see a lot of pain. Oh, not the obvious pain, but a sort of deadness in the eyes. I would liken the practice to pornography. You have your folks who start off with something light like Playboy magazine or soft core porn and then work their way right up to the hard stuff, and then the harder stuff, like an addict needing more drug to provide relief. This is really just the evolution of self-mutilation taken to an extreme with the hopes of finally feeling something. It still repels me as a human being but fascinates me as a horror writer. After all, any good villain should have the same disregard for pain and dead lifeless eyes….


  1. holy crap! I don't think I'm brave enough to check out the website..but I found your theory as to why people feel the need to do this completely fascinating.

  2. Hey Pam;
    Don't blame you. I had to force myself to study it until I was more "numb" to it. After all, it's really the extremes of human existence that make for the best horror...

  3. eeeeewwww! autumnforest, i can see what you mean about having to increase sensations to get the same feeling...must be like drug tolerance...

  4. Libby-Girl;
    Yup. I know a few people who got addicted to tattoos. It's not hard to do. My son has two and wanted to get another one, but I said, "dude, you're an artist. Every time you're in a phase, you get a tattoo for it. You're 21 years old--what are you going to look like at 60. Admire art, put it on your walls, but never define your body by one moment in time." Lucky for me, the autumn leaf has always been my symbol and isn't going to change any time ever.

  5. Interesting post ! I find it fascinating, and I am scared of needles.

    I wouldn't do it, but I can see why others would want to. They just want to feel alive in some way. Any way.

  6. Yikes! I get the going into the fearless realm, but we all have to do that at death anyways, why choose to do it now through hook hanging? Just gives me the heebies.

  7. I agree with you on this. Piercing and suspension is another form of self mutilation. I've talked to many former cutters who turn to tattooing, piercing, suspending etc. to gain the same outcome as the cutting had in the past.

  8. Yup, I've known a few tattoo addicts and one who did this practice and they were all self mutilators first.

  9. Back in the '80s, the Aussie body modification enthusiast & suspension performance artist, Stelarc, made the rounds doing this sort of thing suspended & clothes-lined across the intersections of more fringe neighbourhoods 'round the world. One of 'em wuzz mine, the Lower East Side, former world capitol of Punk superstars, avant garde artists, open air drug markets, teensy tiny after hours clubs, and beyond cheap & affordable tenement apartments.

    In all honesty? As a boy I wuzz shocked when the movie A Man Called Horse came out & in it, the Sioux Nation-Tribe's initiatory Sun Dance, wherein eagle's claws pierce the young warrior's pectoral region & they're suspended, and spun, 'til an altered state of consciousness is achieved, is undergone by actor Richard Harris as the title's lead protagonist.

    Figures it only took 40 years before it became the new jaded generation's passtime. I'll pass on this one & stick with my ink & pierced ears. Nice blogticle ~ (•8-D

  10. Okay, bro, now I gotta know what your tatt's are like!

  11. Yack! You are going to write some really creepy stories!
    Thank you for commenting on my blog. As always you made me feel calmer.
    Brightest blessings.+

  12. I enjoy your posts...great blog. So, I gave you an award at!!


  13. Georgina; You are such a dear heart. Hope you're feeling contented and centered.

    That's super sweet! Thanks!

  14. Okay, I'm reading your posts out of order again...again, "OW!" and "WHY?" I don't get it. I think these kind of people have sideshow freak circus people genes in them or something. So disturbing!

    But different strokes for different folks. I find it fascinating to read about from the safety of your blog!

  15. Just because I have a love for flesh suspension does not make me a freak.

    I'm a teacher.

    I pay taxes.
    I go to church.

    Get the picture?