Oddities Week: Flesh Suspension & Body Modification

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. Funny how some of these things were formerly used as tortures. Why can't people just learn to be happy with themselves?


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