The Customized Body, Photos & Interviews by Housk Randall

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Re: The Customized Body, Photos & Interviews by Housk Randal

Postby admin » Thu Dec 13, 2018 9:32 pm

THE FOOT & THE SHOE

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Fizzy: I must say I find these ballerina shoes REALLY uncomfortable, I would love to wear them out but there's no way. It's a shame, they give you such long legs.

A 'masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.' The face? The hands? No, this is Leonardo da Vinci's assessment of the human foot. And without doubt he was justified in his praise -- not only because of the extraordinary complexity of the foot's 26 bones, 114 ligaments and 20 muscles, but also because it was this typically un-praised and often joked about part of the body which set the course for all of human development.

By facilitating bipedal rather than quadrupedal locomotion, the human foot released the hands to pursue their own development of the unique, opposable human thumb. (That is, a thumb which can move independently and in opposition to the other fingers so as to make grasping objects easier.) This, in turn, facilitated complex tool use and making -- the shaping of spears, flint or shell blades and, in time, even the computer on which I am writing this book. But such technological expertise is only part of the story. Tool use and making demanded more social cooperation and this created the foundations of tribal life, complex cultural systems and language. All the time, our ancestors' brain size expanded while, at the other end of the body, the feet went on adroitly making it all possible.

In short, we as human beings stand apart from other primates because we stand on two feet. Naturally, however, this hasn't kept us from 'improving' on this masterpiece of art and engineering in our species' drive to customize the human body. As with other parts of the body, the feet may be tattooed or painted (the semi-permanent body art of intricate designs applied to the foot with henna dye being especially highly developed amongst women in parts of Northern Africa and India) and, as with fingernails, the toenails may be painted. The ankle, as previously mentioned in our discussion of jewellery, is a valuable site for attaching bracelets and other ornaments -- and in India, for example, rings may be worn on the toes just as they are on the fingers.

More dramatically, if initiated at an early age, the entire shape of the foot may be altered. Infamously, this body art was highly developed in Imperial China. Girls between the age of 5 and 7 whose feet were tightly bound to force the toes back towards the heel over many years were, in later life, highly desired as courtesans or wives by wealthy, powerful men. Ideally resulting in a tiny foot measuring only 3 or 4 inches from heel to toe, effective locomotion was sacrificed in pursuit of an aesthetic ideal. The 'Lotus Foot,' as it was known, had strong, arguably obsessive, erotic connotations in Imperial China: the exaggerated cleft of the foot being seen (even apparently sometimes used) as an imitation vagina.

More typically, throughout human history the foot has been customized by being placed within the outer covering of a sandal, shoe or boot. Originally worn for protection (from sharp stones, thorns, poisonous animals or plants, extremes of temperature, etc.) a good example of such footwear is provided by that of the "iceman' who had oval pieces of leather under the soles of his feet which were turned up at the sides and held in placed by an intricate web of grass cord straps which surrounded each foot and under which was stuffed a tight layer of grass to provide warmth.

It is a mistake, however, to assume a fixed correlation between footwear and practical protection. Firstly, many if not most tribal people get by perfectly well (and often have healthier feet in the process) without any means of protecting their feet except the thick calluses which nature and exposure provide. On the other hand, a great deal of footwear (especially but not exclusively that found throughout Western history) has been specifically designed to make locomotion more rather than less difficult. To view such shoes and boots as 'impractical' is, however, to miss the point. As with any other adornments or garments, the practical functions of footwear may have little to do with the physiological functions of the body -- serving a wide range of cultural and erotic functions instead.

For example, as in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, a key practical purpose of footwear may be to serve as a sign of wealth or status. To these ends, the more 'impractical' the shoes or boots the better -- a clear indication that one can afford to get from A to B by more extravagant means than simply walking on one's own two feet. In extreme form (for example, the tall, precarious pedestals which the women of Renaissance Venice or the Japanese geishas strapped to their feet) such inhibition of efficient movement appears to be designs to mark subservience (of women to men) as well as to signal wealth.

Time and time again (despite our typical assumptions and jokes about their ugliness or odour) the feet -- and therefore shoes and boots -- are highly charged with erotic possibility. Beyond the real and symbolic implications of footwear which impedes movement and escape, thereby suggesting dependence, submission, vulnerability, the shape of the foot has often been seen as indicative of the genitals. We've already mentioned the Chinese view of the 'Lotus Foot' as a vagina. In Europe in the Middle Ages, on the other hand, men's shoes known as the poulaine sported absurdly long points way beyond the actual toes in a symbolic representation of an enormous penis. (So blatant was this symbolism that both the Church and various governments tried to legally restrict the size of such pointed shoes but, as is usual with such 'sumptuary laws,' with little actual success.) While less extreme, the "Winkle-picker' and other sharply pointed shoe and boot designs of more recent times must surely owe much of their popularity to this, even if subconscious, symbolic equation of the foot and the penis.

Another important erotic motivation in footwear design concerns the high heel which is often a feature of women's shoes and boots. The raising of the heel has the effect of altering posture such that the backside is thrust further back and the breasts further forward. In this way the high heel (interestingly, like Chinese foot-binding) emphasises both of the primary female sexual triggers.

Additionally, of course, the precariousness of extremely high heels also has the effect of underlining vulnerability and dependence. Yet, at the same time, if the heel is sharpened into the stiletto style (perfected by Italian designers in the mid 1950s) completely contrary erotic connotations are also present: the feminine shoe as a weapon and a means of keeping men 'under the heel' of dominant, even dangerous women.

The erotic implications of such designs make the shoes and boots which feature them an obvious candidate for fetishistic obsession. Yet writing about and by shoe fetishists makes it clear that even quite plain and seemingly unerotic designs can hold powerful fascination. Beyond which, of course, the naked, unadorned foot can itself be the object of sexual desire -- even serving for some 'true' fetishists as an essential, even exclusive component of sexual experience.

While any part of the body (and any of its adornments and items of clothing) can become the focus of fetishistic obsession it is statistically remarkable how often it is the foot and footwear which acquires this adored status. But perhaps, moving beyond the popular comic degradation of the foot (humour always being a clue to more serious preoccupations), all this is completely unremarkable when we return with clearer insight to da Vinci's 'masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.' If we are obsessed by the foot and its attire this is perhaps simply a manifestation of some subconscious awareness that it is this part of the body which, more than any other, makes us what we are.
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Re: The Customized Body, Photos & Interviews by Housk Randal

Postby admin » Thu Dec 13, 2018 9:42 pm

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Arthur: My god, I mean these are heels ... it's still hard to get them in men's sizes. They're probably the most impractical design ever but they give me that extra few inches of height which I feel nature robbed me of and this gives me more confidence. There's such a big taboo against men wearing women's shoes ... not the other way around ... I think we should all be able to wear what we like.

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BJ: What can I say? Under the heel of a beautiful woman ... it doesn't get much better.

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Fizzy: I've been wearing stilettos since I was 13 so I'm really comfortable in them, they make me feel proud and dignified and I know I walk taller.

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Giles: What's nice about these boots is that both men and women can wear them, I like that.

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Pia: It's about being very vulnerable & very strong at the same time, about falling forwards off the shoes & pulling your ass in tight to stay upright, so your sexuality is raw, on the outside but untouchable.

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Michelle: I really need to get the odd bit filled in but it's sooo painful! My Achilles tendon won't take the ink easily and it's really slow to heal. I like the way this tattoo enhances my ankle and foot but I feel it's important to explain that I liked my ankle and foot without it, too. Part of the pleasure I get out of life is the sense of freedom I find in choosing not to conform to the usual conventions of my society. At the same time I think everyone should be able to look as they want, I don't look down on or dislike people who choose not to do anything different to themselves.

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Marissa: Lilith is a myth I identify with ... the bad girl, the Scarlet Woman, the Jewish red, hairy sexual monster of untamed female sexuality ... that's me in my alter ego. My first stage performance was titled 'This Woman Wants Your Skin For Her Shoes!'. I've always had a shoe fetish. I originally trained as a ballet dancer and I was continually praised for my feet, 'Darling, you have such good arches!'. It was my plus point and I think my fascination with feet and shoes began then. I saw these Gaultier rockabilly shoes and they were alone on a shelf, marked down to 5 pounds ... I couldn't just leave them, could I?

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Ria: These boots have seen a lot of action and they take forever to put on and take off ... but they're worth it!

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Sally: Aren't these the most bizarre and elegant shoes? I love their understated fetish connotations ... the spurs on backwards and stiletto heels ... I feel quite sexy in them.
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Re: The Customized Body, Photos & Interviews by Housk Randal

Postby admin » Thu Dec 13, 2018 9:44 pm

MASKS

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Gaile: When I'm horned, dressed and masked I actually become something else ... I leave this reality behind.

A covering of the face designed to disguise or transform identity, masks date back at least to the Stone Age. Found on all continents and in an astonishingly wide range of cultures -- from the 'secret societies' of tribal Africa to the Incas of Peru and Aztecs of the Americas, from the ancient Greeks to the Rio Carnival -- the pervasiveness of masks causes us to consider just why it should be that human beings are so desirous of concealing or altering their identity.

While our own recent and contemporary use of masks seems predominantly designed to conceal who you are (for example, at a masked ball or fancy dress party) the much more ancient -- and no doubt original -- function of masks was to transform what you are. A magical, extraordinary invention (in its own way, at least as imaginative as, say the creation of flint cutting implements or the harnessing of fire), the mask made it possible for its wearer not only to escape his or her personal identity but the bounds of human existence as well.

Thus the Stone Age hunter in a mask representing a particular animal had the capacity to become, understand, capture and then subdue the spirit of the hunted animal. Or a shaman donning a mask which represents the spirit of, for example, the clouds or rain, immediately embodies this natural force (as amongst the Hopi and Zuni Indians of the American Southwest) and thereby, it is hoped, ensures the fertility of the harvest.

Alternatively, the obliteration of personal identity which masks confer can serve to render the wearer a more effective representative of social forces. The practical advantages of this are particularly clear when it comes to meting out punishment -- in New Britain, for example, a secret society known as the Dukduk, its members all wearing huge five-foot-high masks, judges and executes wrong-doers. Their onerous task completed anonymously, they can then return as individuals to live without prejudice in their community. On the other hand, the same anonymity afforded by a mask can be used in other societies in initiation rites. This can take the form of a tribe's elders donning traditional masks in order to step out of the role of a particular individual known to the initiate and to step into the role of mythic ancestor. Or, as in Zaire in Africa, initiates may emerge from their rite of passage ritual wearing masks in order to symbolize the moment when they leave their youthful identities behind and are transformed into adult members of the tribe.

Additionally, masks can be made as horrific as possible to frighten off disease, evil spirits or, on the battlefield, a human enemy. And they can serve as story-telling devices -- visual reminders of mythic and real characters from a culture's history. This is obviously of particular importance in cultures which have no written history or literature, but the playwrights of ancient Greece also recognized the role of masks in theatrical performance and this tradition was continued throughout Europe in Medieval times in the form of mystery plays which enacted the stories of the Bible. (A particularly highly developed form of this theatrical use of masks is found in the No drama of Japan which gives names to some 125 different types of masks.)

Although masks figured prominently in the Commedia dell'arte theatrical innovations of Renaissance Italy their importance in Western theatre diminished (and almost disappeared) in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Nevertheless, another important role of masks -- that of marking special festive occasions -- has survived and even thrived. In particular, the popularity of the Venice Carnival gave a new lease of life to all the masks/characters which first appeared in the Commedia dell'arte -- most famously, the white Harlequin. Separate, but equally vibrant mask traditions have developed around all the great carnivals of the modern world: Rio, Bahia, Trinidad, Mardi Gras in New Orleans and, in Britain, the Notting Hill Carnival which celebrates the cultural heritage of West Indians. (Even when not actually worn, the mask defines the processional -- disguised -- activity of masquerading.)

As well as serving to underline the importance of certain festive occasions, masks also contribute to the ribaldry and fun of such events by obscuring personal identity. Able to step out of everyday roles and given the licence which anonymity affords, masked revellers can party in an uninhibited fashion. This, of course, is also the special advantage of a masked ball or fancy dress party: the possibility of conducting ourselves in a way which is free of our normal social constraints. (The downside and also the essential inherent danger of such occasions is seen in Edgar Allan Poe's chilling short story 'The Mask of the Red Death.')

Such anonymity no doubt also accounts for much of the popularity of masks within the contemporary 'Fetish Scene' -- making it possible to dress, undress or behave in ways which are defined by the mainstream as deviant, immodest or perverse while safely protected from personal identification and censure.

However, it seems to me that the rubber and leather masks which have gained great popularity with 'Fetish Fashion' and often in more extreme and deliberately sinister forms within the 'S/M Scene,' also draw upon many of the more ancient functions of masks found amongst traditional peoples. Thus the masked dominatrix embodies magical, even spiritual forces in a way which is not unlike that of the 'primitive' shaman -- the actual individual becoming a symbolic representation (in this case, of demonic, Sadeian forces). And the masked submissive, on the other hand, becoming depersonalized in a way which is reminiscent of the tribal initiate -- the individual ego being supplanted by a generalized identity of role within the context of a ritual in such a way that an erotic act becomes simultaneously a mythological event.

Our Halloween tradition also revives functions of masks which go beyond that of simply concealing identity. Whether in the form of ancient witches, demons, ghosts and monsters or modern-day superheroes, the masks and costumes worn for Halloween transform mere humans into larger-than-life mythic characters who, if only for one night, are afforded their rightful place in our world. While we typically treat Halloween as an occasion for playful fun and feasting, the masks we wear link us to pre-Christian, Pagan spirits of great antiquity.

Far from being just a bit of fun (and they certainly are that masks play a vital part in human existence -- transporting us beyond our mundane roles and identities to commune with the gods and to break free of those everyday inhibitions which, if always constantly adhered to, would drive us all insane. Reviving our flagging spirits and affording us much-needed escape from the rigorous conventions of modern life, masks are at least as important now as they were in the Stone Age.
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Re: The Customized Body, Photos & Interviews by Housk Randal

Postby admin » Thu Dec 13, 2018 9:52 pm

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Betti: I sometimes feel like an insect or a creature from fantasy, this I really love! If I want I can almost become my image ... like a shape shifter ... very exciting.

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Fabian/Nigel: We had to wear these masks, they're so us ... weird and sweet ... we decorated them ourselves too, as if you couldn't tell.

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Isa: I feel very Middle Eastern, like a harem girl, in this mask. It's actually one of my necklaces but it looks so good on the face. The only problem is keeping it in place, the bottom pieces keep falling down and they can end up in my mouth.

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Nicola: Don't ask me why because I haven't figured it out but I like making myself look grotesque. I'll just wrap bits of wire, cling-film or whatever around me and distort my shape. It's probably an extension of my stage persona ... or vice-versa.

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Martin: I was raised in South Africa and I love the tribal way of presenting yourself. I've always taken bits of cloth and wrapped them about myself ... I'm experimenting all the time.

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Marissa: This is a Mexican wrestling mask I'm wearing and it ties into the comic book iconography I've always loved. It's part of my super-hero outfit which I wear to clubs and use in my performances.

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Betti: I wasn't the daughter my mother wanted but lately she's begun to accept the way I look and am. I've always liked an eccentric self-image ... I'm aware of how I look and teh effect it has on others.

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Nick: I was influenced by H.R. Giger and his insect-like designs ... combinations of organic and inorganic as a living duality. I wanted to wear an armour, or carapace, as flexible as possible which is what led me to the Roman style. My mask is Greek, as enthusiasts always point out, but I never intended to make an exact copy, this outfit will continue to mutate. Once I'm enclosed in this metal casing I feel powerful. People don't fuck with you when you wear a visual statement like this!

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Ria: Isn't this glamourous? I love feather masks, they make you look so exotic ... like a bird of paradise. I own a few and when I'm not wearing them I hang them on my walls so everyone who visits can enjoy them. It's fun dressing up and masks can finish an outfit off, plus no-one is sure who you are.

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Xandra: The stranger the better! I love the smell of rubber and I can almost go into a trance when I'm all zipped up and enclosed. I find it a real turn-on. I'm both powerful and captive.

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This is my alien surgeon's mask ... it really makes me look quite evil. Most of the tubes are just for show, it's more theatrical than functional.

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Gaile: Through the garments and horns I make I can bring the creatures of my imagination to life. Celtic satyrs and fairies. I often wonder if I was a part of this mythical world in another life.
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Re: The Customized Body, Photos & Interviews by Housk Randal

Postby admin » Thu Dec 13, 2018 9:54 pm

SECOND SKINS

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Pandora: I feel like a 20's vamp in this outfit, a dangerous woman.

Fur, scales, bark, cellulose, skin ... all organisms must have some sort of outer covering to serve as a barrier between themselves and the environment; a division between inside and outside. Only we human beings, however, have been able to devise additional membranes -- second skins -- of our own choosing.

Of course not all humans wear such additional outer coverings. At least until waves of missionaries convinced them otherwise, a great many of the world's tribal peoples (perhaps a majority in the warmer regions of the planet) saw no need to cover those parts of their bodies which Western culture requires to be hidden. This is not, however, to suggest that such peoples possess no sense of modesty.

The definition of modesty varies from culture to culture and fluctuates markedly from one historical period to the next. When worlds collide -- that is to say, when markedly different cultures come into contact and conflict -- a focal point of this collision is inevitably different definitions of modest concealment. Inevitably too, it is the victor's definition which prevails. This is, of course, what happened in the great 'Age of Discovery' when Europeans first came into contact with vast numbers of previously unknown 'naked savages.' We won -- and century by century, year in year out, it is our Judeo-Christian-European definition of modesty which has prevailed -- with once proudly adorned, tattooed, scarified peoples now almost universally hiding their bodies behind hand-me-down, tattered T-shirts and shorts.

Aesthetic considerations aside, there are two distinct reasons why the current near-ubiquity of Western dress is profoundly disturbing. Firstly, the missionaries' disdain for the native body arts (all those techniques of customizing the body celebrated elsewhere in this book) has deprived traditional peoples of crucial symbols of their ancient heritage through which their way of life took sustenance. Secondly, despite our own ancestors' unquestioned assumptions, these were never 'naked saves' in the first place.

While the definition of modesty is part of one's culture, a sense of modesty -- of shame and, alternatively, of propriety -i is an inherent part of human nature. For example, in societies where lip plugs are traditionally worn, to be without one's lip plugs can be a source of embarrassment precisely equivalent to our own sense of shame should we discover that our fly is undone or our skirt has ridden up beyond what we intended. The same is true of the other adornments worn in traditional societies -- even a thin coating of animal fat (barely perceptible to our eyes) may be the difference between proper and improper attire. We in the West have never had a monopoly on modesty. (And by the way, what might be termed 'the politics of modesty' has also been subject to dispute within the West: the kilt traditionally and proudly worn by Scottish men was labelled as scandalously immodest by the English who, after their conquest, tried to ban it but succeeded only in making it a symbolic focus of Scottish identity.)

While our clothing has inevitably developed an association with modesty its original function no doubt derived from the more immediately practical need of keeping warm. Indeed, it was the technical advances of clothing which allowed our ancestors to inhabit practically all geographic regions and, crucially, to withstand the rigours of the Ice Age.

In this regard it is interesting to consider the garments of the recently discovered 'Iceman.' Especially so, as this individual's outfit constitutes the earliest surviving example of a 'second skin.' This 5000-year-old Neolithic man's dress consisted of (1) a pair of fur stockings, (2) a leather 'suspender belt' (so to speak) which went around his waist and, as well as serving to hold various objects, held up his fur stockings by means of thin 'suspenders,' (3) a leather loin cloth which wrapped under and flared over his belt, (4) a sleeveless fur cape or cloak (its fur sewn in decorative horizontal stripes), (5) an outer cloak made of plaited grass which was also textured in horizontal stripes, (6) a fur cap and (7) leather sandals which were stuffed with grass for added warmth.

A more recent use of the phrase 'second skin' derives from the 'fetish fashions' which have become so popular in recent years. Here the association is with materials like rubber, PVC, Lycra or leather designed to cling tightly to the body and thereby expose its every curve and crevice. The clubs where such garments are worn in their most exotic forms always have strict dress codes to keep out those in casual (non-fetishistic) clothing. The Iceman would have little problem getting in: his fur and leather garments a 'second skin' in both senses of the term.

While clothing has become the cornerstone of modest concealment it has also, in the same process, become a key component of fetishistic allure. That which covers the 'naughty bits' inevitably acquires the erotic power of that which it conceals. The power isn't eradicated, simply transferred and externalized. Furthermore, our own history would seem to suggest that the more rigorously and extensively the body is concealed, the greater the extent of fetishistic obsession. (Consider, for example, the Victoria era in Britain or the fin de siecle era of Freud's Vienna which were characterized by both a hyper concern for modesty and, at the same time, endemic fetishistic fixation.

A fetish is an object which possesses an unexpected, intangible power which is beyond rational explanation. In the West we usually define this in erotic terms. While certain garments (high heeled shoes, corsets, stockings and suspenders) or materials (leather, PVC, rubber, fur, silk) are popularly categorized as 'fetishistic,' in actual fact any object can acquire such erotic power for a particular individual. It is simply a matter of personal associations -- in particular, the specific circumstances of our early sexual experiences seem to be important.

We are all fetishists -- it is simply that some of us are more finely or, conversely, broadly focused than others. In the former case -- where one fetishistic association predominates above all others to an exclusive degree, sexual arousal may become totally dependent upon the presence of the fetish object. Most of us, on the other hand, are more polymorphous -- finding a wide range of objects and materials sexually exciting (or not) depending upon our own personal backgrounds.

Our culture as a whole goes in and out of periods of fetishistic preoccupation. In the early '60s, for example, the 'kinky' imagery of The Avengers, 'Swinging London,' the Psychedelics and sci-fi visions of a sexy future focused erotic attention on certain garments (boots, catsuits, tight mini skirts) and materials (plastics, leather) to the point where these almost eclipsed the erotic power of the naked body itself. By the late '60s, however, the Hippies' pursuit of 'The Natural' brought attention back to the 'liberated' naked body. The '80s and '90s, with their renewed emphasis on 'fetish fashion,' have seen another swing of the pendulum.

Conceivably the advent of the next millennium will see the erotic appeal of the naked body once again triumph over that of its 'second skins.' But despite what the Hippies (or their predecessor Rousseau) may have thought, there is actually no such thing as a purely 'natural' human body. Whether it be with garments or with tattoos, piercings, make-up or hair styling, the human body is always a product of culture and personality as much as a product of biology and it is the former rather than the latter which, ultimately, sparks our desires.

Even if it were possible to completely decustomize our bodies to revert to a truly 'natural' state, we would be left with a physicality which was an unenticing as it was meaningless. While the male baboon may be excited by a female baboon's pink, fleshy bottom -- a trigger which is purely biological in origin -- our sexual arousal is stimulated by a vision of the human form which is defined by our particular cultural and historical circumstances. Our eroticism, inevitably, focused on that supremely unnatural object, the customized body.
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Re: The Customized Body, Photos & Interviews by Housk Randal

Postby admin » Thu Dec 13, 2018 9:58 pm

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Fizzy: 'Why do people wear rubber?' I always used to wonder about this until I tried on my first rubber catsuit and realised how it pulls the right places in ... and pushes the right places out. It can also make you feel hugged, held tightly. I believe in fairies -- in this outfit I can suspend belief and become one myself. I even wear the wings for sex.

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John/Joni: I like standing out and I've got a thing for spikes ... hence the jewellery I've designed. When I saw this jacket I thought, 'Right, I'll have that.' By looking visually aggressive people leave me alone, which is how I like it.

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Pia: It's about which of the infinite number of possible sexual identities you reveal from under the surface, about the power of keeping it a scret under a second skin until you choose to take it off.

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Jed: My parents saw me as the bright one and so they pushed me to get degrees but it wasn't for me. I wanted to know I could take care of myself, express the real me. This led me to being a survivalist fora while, living in derelict squats and washing in water I had to boil in the backyard over a fire. This armour was made by a friend of mine and I love it. I was the family rebel.

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Matt: I saw a friend of mine doing robotic dancing in a club one night ... and everyone was watching him. My first thought was 'Me too!' so I asked him to teach me and he did. This outfit evolved out of that and I made it myself from football shoulder pads and various bits and pieces. When I enjoy most about my robot persona is the feeling of power and inner-peace it gives me.

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Nicola: I'm fairly camp and a natural born actress. What you see here is my wicket queen look. I make my own costumes and do performance art with the band Minty and on my own.

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Lisa: If I'm dressing for sex it's important to wear clothes that help bring out that part of me I'm trying to express. When I wear rubber I enjoy the fact that it's vacuum packed on -- it makes me feel all sinewy and sensuous. Leather gives me strength ... and I love the smell.

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Johnny Chrome and Silver, he's a cyberpunk, super-hero and the future ... that's who you're looking at right now. Don't stare too hard!

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Tracey: I hate to admit it but appearance is primary for me, just as important as personality. I like guys who really dress up ... wear make-up ... who really take the time to look special. I do.

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Camilla: How camp of me! Cross-dressing is so much fun ... if only I had smaller boobs ... they just get in my way and cause trouble.

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Tammy: I once wore this little number in a fashion show and as we were waiting to go on stage I suddenly realized how big I looked compared to all the other willowy girls. I figured the only thing for it was to stomp around and act tough ... just call me Ms. Amazon. To be honest, I love attention and I'm always creating wacky outfits to wear in the clubs .. you should see my surgical gloves mini-dress.

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Nadia: I wanted to be a nun and go to Heaven when I was young. Instead I'm a secretary ... and I love rubber.
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Re: The Customized Body, Photos & Interviews by Housk Randal

Postby admin » Thu Dec 13, 2018 10:00 pm

BODY SCULPTING

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Jason: What you see here is achieved purely through hard work and diet ... no steroids. I get really angry that I might not win any major competitions just because I refuse to take something that would ultimately damage me.

Up to this point we have considered various means of customising the surface of the human body. There are so many of these techniques (painting, scarification, tattooing, piercing, covering) that one would have thought human beings would be satisfied with the seemingly endless possibilities of such superficial alteration. Not so. Human history has seen an extraordinary -- truly mind-boggling -- range of techniques for altering the body's shape as well as its surface.

Perhaps most famously, women of the Padaung tribe of Burma (until quite recent times) had their necks stretched by means of the gradual addition of brass rings, one on top of the other. The process was begun in childhood and once the neck was fully stretched, it is said that the rings could never be removed as, unaided, the neck wouldn't be capable of supporting the head. (According to some sources -- perhaps this is myth, perhaps not -- a Padaung woman caught in an act of adultery would have her neck rings removed and be obliged by the frailty of her neck to spend the rest of her life in a horizontal position.)

Although generally less well known, a more widespread -- and equally amazing -- technique of modifying the body is cranial shaping. Practised by a wide range of peoples including the Mangbetu tribes of Central Africa, the Chinook peoples of the northwest coast of North America and the ancient Egyptians, this can only be done to newborn infants (whose skull is still comparatively elastic). Cranial shaping is accomplished either by wrapping the skull tightly with fabric to force it to grow in a more conical shape or by means of securing cradle boards to the baby's head front or back to produce a flattening effect. A less extreme form of cranial shaping (partial wrapping with a linen 'bandeau') was practised in rural France until the 18th century.

Although today's 'Modern Primitives' seem determined to revive and develop most traditional methods of customizing the body, 'cranial deformation' (as it used to be termed in the West) is surely one technique which will resist re-discovery. The reason, of course, being that such parental control of appearance runs precisely counter to our contemporary inclination to view customizing the body as an expression of individuality and non-conformity.

The traditional peoples who practised cranial shaping saw things very differently, however. Often permitted only for those born of the upper strata of society, such flattened or pointed heads were the mark of high status and privilege. ("The Chinook, for example, had slaves who were immediately identifiable by their naturally rounded -- 'ugly' -- heads.) Because pointed or flattened heads were seen as both aesthetically and socially desirable cranial shaping was viewed as a parental responsibility rather than an imposition.

Other techniques of body shaping practised in non-Western societies include the use of tight bands to restrict either the biceps or the calf muscles in order to produce a pronounced bulge above and below the constriction, the stretching of the penis with weights (until it becomes dysfunctional) among certain Saddhu religious sects in India and, of course, the well-known foot-binding of the ancient Chinese (discussed at length in chapter 5).

While, to my knowledge, foot-binding, cranial alteration, neck-stretching, etc. have not been practised in our own society (but see Modern Primitives for descriptions of Fakir Musafar's experiments in California with muscle restriction and penis stretching) this is not to say that we reject all methods of customizing the shape of our bodies. Far from it. In particular, 'foundation garments' -- corsets, bustles and, more recently, girdles and bras -- have served to transform women's bodies into a closer approximation of fashionable ideals throughout much of Western history.

Currently enjoying something of a revival, the corset in other centuries (in particular, the 17th, 18th and 19th) was seen as a necessary part of a respectable woman's attire. (The phrase 'a loose woman' originally referred to an uncorseted woman. Conversely, a 'staid woman' -- meaning steadfast and proper -- derives from an earlier word for corset, stays.) Corseting garments have had a fascinating history: swinging back and forth between accepted fashion and, conversely, fetishistic innuendo. In Britain during much of the Victorian era it managed to be both -- 'strait-laced' on the one hand but when carried to extremes of tight-lacing tipping over into provocative and controversial eroticism. Nevertheless (or perhaps because of these associations) the corset remained very popular even de rigeur in certain circles -- becoming much longer in the 1890s when it served to thrust the chest forward and the rear backward to produce a distinctive 'S' shape when viewed from the side.

By the 1920's, however, when the ideal woman's body was suddenly boyish, the corset gave way to elasticized girdles and breast 'flatteners' designed to minimize feminine curves. Then, immediately after the 2nd World War, a yearning for a return to a more traditional definition of femininity brought Dior's popular 'New Look' with its pinched-in waist and voluptuous curvaceousness. To achieve this a form of small corset known as a 'waspie' was often necessary. Yet by the 1960s things changed yet again -- in part propelled on by the 'Youth Revolution' -- and a straight up and down girlish figure undermined the desirability of any curve-accentuating garments.

Throwing off their foundation garments (the burning of bras, even if mythical, perfectly capturing the spirit of the times), the search for girlish, natural slimness focused interest on an entirely different method of altering body shape: dieting. While dieting has also been practised in non-Western, traditional societies, the desired result was typically the precise opposite of ours. For example, in parts of West Africa girls whose families could afford it were sent to a 'fattening house' where, after months of eating weight-inducing foods and taking as little exercise as possible, they emerged to face inspection by potential husbands.

Strange to our eyes, the equation of plumpness and beauty is perfectly logical in societies where food is scarce and fat is, therefore, a status symbol. Judging from the extremely rotund 'Venus' figurines which have survived from the Upper Palaeolithic period (some of the oldest examples of sculptural art) it is clear that the notion that 'Big is Beautiful' represents the original human beauty ideal. (While our current 'Less is More' ideal may prove to be simply a short-lived, curious historical blip.)

At the same time, however, it would be a mistake to assume that plumpness is seen as desirable everywhere outside the West. To achieve a trim, slender waist corsets have long been used by some tribal peoples from as far afield as New Guinea and Africa. Interestingly, in all the cases of which I am aware it is men rather than women who wear such constricting garments. For example, amongst the Dinka peoples of Sudan the men day in and day out wear beautiful, long corsets which are made of thousands of colourful beads, which flare up dramatically in the back to a point above the shoulders and are actually sewn onto the men's bodies -- to be removed only when replaced by one of a different colour to indicate a change of age status.

Are there techniques of body-shaping found only in the West? Perhaps body building and plastic surgery can qualify in this regard. Deprived of exercise -- obviously a necessity in traditional societies -- many Westerners are drawn to a physical ideal which harks back to earlier, more physical ways of life and, to compensate, have developed extraordinary technology and exercise/dieting regimes specifically designed to 'pump up' muscle tissue. In the process, champion body builders (now female as well as male) have created forms of physical development which have never actually existed previously.

In the area of plastic surgery, while our technical accomplishments are without equal, our motivation falls outside the usual sphere of customizing the body in one important regard. As with most of our mainstream make-up, the objective of the plastic surgeon is always to remain invisible -- to artificially enhance the 'natural body' without being seen to do so. This is very different from all those traditional body arts which proudly proclaim their artifice and which, amongst other things, serve to set human beings apart from 'nature.' Of course, in the process we delude ourselves. The ideals of 'natural beauty' which the surgeon so skilfully seeks to create are actually only our own inventions -- a product of culture rather than biology -- and, as such, they are subject to the caprices of fashion. This is not to argue one way or the other on the desirability of plastic surgery, only to question if it deserves to be classified as a 'body art' in the same sense as tattooing, scarification, piercing, cranial shaping, neck-stretching. In my view, an art must proclaim itself as such rather than hide behind a facade of 'natural beauty.'

There is one fascinating exception. The French artist Orlan has, for several years now, undergone a series of plastic surgery operations which explicitly defy the normal expectations and motivations of such procedures. Orlan's objective isn't to make herself more beautiful -- indeed, her latest operations shift her appearance precisely in the opposite direction. 'An art form for the 21st century,' The Reincarnation of Saint Orlan project began when Orlan combined elements from great female icons (Mona Lisa's forehead, the chin from Botticelli's Venus and eyes from Gerome's Psyche, etc.) into a computer generated self-portrait. Then, in a series of cosmetic surgery operations which were videoed and beamed by satellite to art galleries around the world, Orlan's face was actually altered to fit this digital image.

The next stages of the project depended on Orlan finding plastic surgeons (in New York and Japan) prepared to work towards a result which would be deliberately in contradiction to our accepted definition of beauty. In 1993, in New York, she had a series of implants normally used for accentuating the cheek bone, inserted above her eyebrows to create 'horns.' The next stage, in Japan, will involve the conversion of her small, pert 'attractive' nose into an enormous, bulbous one. What she really wants is a nose 'like a rhinoceros' but surgeons tell her that this may 'only be possible in 50 years' time.'

A true 'Modern Primitive' Orlan is blending Western science and ancient body art objectives -- freeing the body from its biological inheritance and making it an expression of the human imagination.
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Re: The Customized Body, Photos & Interviews by Housk Randal

Postby admin » Thu Dec 13, 2018 10:06 pm

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Giles: I've always constricted my waist with belts. When they're pulled tightly around my waist I feel stronger, more supported. I don't like wearing loose things. I don't really wear corsets very often but when I do I become quite intense and disciplined, this gives me great pleasure. One of the reasons it took so long for me to come to be photographed is that I gain weight easily. I'm not always pleased with my shape but I'm slim enough now.

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Fizzy: I've always wanted a cleavage and never had one, so when my boyfriend gave me my first Wonderbra I was over the moon! To be honest it's a little bit like wearing a cage ... it's very tight ... but it's worth it.

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Shelly: I have large breasts, womanly hips and a small waist ... I'm not always comfortable with my body. When I wear a corset and accentuate and control my shape, it creates an image I can accept more easily.

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Ria: These old-stile girdles are great, stretchy yet still firm enough to keep that tummy in. I feel like my mom when I wear this one but I'm a lot naughtier ... I think.

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Pandora: I've always wanted to be a femme-fatale. A woman who causes men to behave foolishly and eyes to raise. I now model for different corset catalogues and occasionally fly around the world to attend the specialist balls for corsetry enthusiasts ... this is great fun and much more glamorous than my fairly mundane regular job. Corsets, as well as creating a classically feminine figure, impart a tremendous sense of protection ... like strong hands holding you up at the waist, it's comforting.

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Cindy: I was an ugly duckling before transforming myself through plastic surgery. No one of any importance used to look twice at me and yet now, I'm feted and talked about ... interviewed on prime time T.V. For those of you who would dismiss me as a bimbo for modelling myself after Barbie Doll, I happen to be a member of Mensa. If you think about it for a moment it makes sense ... Barbie Doll is the most famous and loved creation there is in terms of femininity ... I want some of that. I've had over 30 operations, some of them fairly experimental. I'm having a major one soon after this particular photo shoot, a chin reduction ... pretty drastic but it must be done! The problem is that as I attain my goals I have to then go back and get earlier work redone to match the latest ... it's never ending.

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Pearl: As a child my brother and I helped lace our grandmother into her corsets and afterwards I used to enjoy dressing up in her clothes ... that's the only explanation I have, tenuous as it is, for my obsession. It was on a visit to the States that I saw my first truly tight corsetry and knew what my destiny was. It takes tremendous will and determination to live like this and it's given me a focus that was previously absent. My waist has been reduced from 30" to 17" during the four years I've been training it but there are sacrifices. Because I can now only use the top half of my lungs I tend to only speak just above a whisper and my food intake needs to be little and often. I must also have plenty of spare time, both in getting somewhere and returning, for if I was to be late and become anxious the stress could possibly kill me ... I might suffocate. It's all worth it. You see, I spent many years drifting and almost penniless whereas now, I'm doing beading on the clothes of many top haute couture houses and making corsets myself. This was unthinkable before. Sex is good too, the pressure creates an intensity that can make you swoon ... would you consider wearing such a thing?

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Isabella: Tiny shoulders and a big bum, that was me before ... I wasn't too happy with my body. Luckily I responded quickly to weight training and I've managed to achieve what you see in just 10 months. Being an attention-lover, the thought of winning competitions and being noticed and admired really appeals to me. I don't want to become massive though, just defined and shapely. To tell the truth I like to attract men and most of them don't find Olympic size women very sexy.

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Brian: I use steroids intermittently but I still need to keep a close eye on my intake. I'm gay and basically want to attract a certain kind of man ... I'm not interested in competition, just masculinity and sex. Although I've never thought of myself as effeminate, subconsciously I'm probably still proving something. This is where the danger lies. With steroids you get such a dramatic size increase to begin with everyone suddenly wants you. Then they get used to your new size and you don't get noticed so much. If you're not careful, that's when you start overusing them ... to get that attention again.
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Re: The Customized Body, Photos & Interviews by Housk Randal

Postby admin » Thu Dec 13, 2018 10:08 pm

GENDER TRANSFORMATION

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Siv: Sometimes a woman, sometimes a man.

The human body has traditionally be available in two basic models: male and female.

That it is now possible to transform a male body into a female body (and, less easily, the reverse) would surely amaze tribal and peasant peoples -- even those who have perfected and take for granted those, often astoundingly, bodily transformations previously discussed in this book. But however technically advanced, these operations should be seen as a different kind of customizing of the body than previously considered body arts like tattooing, scarification, piercing or adventurous hairstyling.

To stretch the neck beyond its natural length, to shape the skull into a point or even to simply paint the skin blue with pink spots is to boldly go where human biology never foresaw nor intended. To re-shape a male penis into a female vagina is, on the other hand, to remain completely within the definition of the natural body. One biologically defined body is simply being substituted for another. As with almost all of Western plastic surgery, physical 'gender reassignment,' while an extremely artful technique, isn't a body art which incorporates a creative, imaginative leap beyond genetically determined physical reality. As with a 'nose job' or a 'tummy tuck,' the objective, the ideal, is that the transformation of the body involved should be invisible and undetectable. While the individual transsexual is transformed, no new -- artificial and hence 'artistic' -- model of human appearance results.

This distinction has important -- practical -- ramifications. Focusing on gender as a physiological phenomenon, a matter of genitalia, breasts and buttocks), gender reassignment neglects the enormous extent to which gender is a cultural phenomenon. To be a man or a woman in, say, New Guinea, Bali or the Amazon is a very different matter from being a man or a woman in our own society.; And, indeed, the same is true of Western society in previous centuries. By focusing on gender as a purely physical matter -- and by proposing a purely physical 'solution' -- we side-step a crucial question: isn't it possible that it is our culture's definitions of 'masculinity' and 'femininity' which are urgently in need of reassignment?

Human beings have always constructed separate, distinctive 'male' and 'female' identities. Differing from one society to the next, one era to the next, such identities are learned rather than genetically inherited. Is there a physiological bottom line of gender, a universal territory of maleness and femaleness which is found in all societies? Perhaps, but what is undeniable is that most of what we label as 'typically male' or 'typically female' derives from the specific social and cultural world which an individual happens to be born into.

Speech, gait, posture, gesture and so forth all play an important part in any society's construction of 'male' and 'female' identity. But it is different rules and possibilities for customizing the appearance of the body which most immediately and vividly sets the sexes apart -- thereby introducing yet another important function of body decoration and adornment.

For example, amongst the Nuba it is males and only males who spend long hours painting intricate designs on their bodies while it is females and only females who have detailed patterns of scarification etched into their skin as they progress through life. In societies where clothing is worn differences of dress (for example, trousers for men, dresses for women) also serve to visually differentiate the sexes. Whatever the medium used -- paint, scarification, hairstyles, piercings, neck stretching, attire, etc. -- there is always some distinctive feature of how the body is customized which signals that someone is a 'real man' or a 'real woman.'

The purpose of such visual differentiation, however, extends far beyond that of simply distinguishing one sex from another. Indeed, in societies where clothing is minimal, tightly fitting or non-existent, there is no need for such visual coding -- nature's own gender indicators performing this task perfectly well. Rather than just signalling 'This is a man/woman' the real function of gender-specific adornment or dress is to give some symbolic clue to how a particular society defines masculinity and femininity in a broader sense. That is, in any society the differences between 'proper male attire' and 'proper female attire' underline and define key assumptions concerning 'proper male behaviour' and 'proper female behaviour.' Compare the two styles and what results is an instant visual guide to 'proper' relations between the sexes as defined by that culture.

For example, it is apparent from the differences of male and female body decoration amongst the Nuba that they view males as more creative and individualized than females (who must conform to and accept decorations which are as uniform and traditionally determined as they are permanent and painful). Likewise, in our own society, the (now rather old-fashioned) view that women should wear draping dresses or skirts while men alone can wear bifurcated trousers implies -- and, indeed, imposes in a very practical sense -- limitations on what sort of activities are and are not suited to women. At the same time, our society's traditional view that women and not men can be highly adorned and decorated (a subject we will return to in a moment) underlines an assumption that men are more 'practical' and 'serious,' women more 'frivolous' and 'superficial.'

In this way gender-specific differences in the customized body function as indicators not only of what sex a person is but also as a symbolic expression of the culture's definition of 'masculinity' and 'femininity.' In short, differences in how the body is transformed according to gender serve to define -- to express, visualize, represent and explore -- gender itself.

For this reason, whenever someone challenges and refuses to comply with their society's rules of what a male or female should look like they are challenging far more than simple aesthetic principles. As in the recent, Western instances of female 'Bobby-soxers' in jeans, male Hippies with long hair or male Glam Rockers or Goths in make-up, it is the very definitions of 'male' and 'female' which are being questioned -- as is, ultimately, the significance of gender.

Many traditional societies, rather than belligerently resisting such 'gender bending,' found ways of accommodating and even institutionalizing it. Most famously, in a wide band of North American Indian tribes stretching across most of the Plains and the Prairies, those who wore clothing or adornment deemed appropriate for the opposite sex were simply reclassified in a sort of 'Third Sex' category known as the berdache. Included here were males who dressed in female attire, females who dressed in male attire and members of either sex who chose some blend of the two styles. Instead of being ostracized, berdaches were generally afforded a higher status -- being typically seen as spiritually powerful individuals. Likewise in many parts of India, the hijra (transvestite or eunuch males) are traditionally given special spiritual duties which are believed to confer good fortune on a newly born male child and its family.

The point is that those who defy the rules of a culture's definition of appropriate male or female customized appearance can either be classified as a positive or a negative anomaly. In the West it is, of course, usually the negative reaction which is most typical. At least in recent times, this has been especially true when men have adopted those forms of adornment and dress traditionally associated with women. While once even female athletes were ostracized if they dared to wear trousers or, heaven forbid, shorts, this battle has now been largely won and a woman in leggings or jeans is seen as completely normal on all but the most formal social occasions.

A man in a dress, stilettos and make-up, on the other hand, is still likely to be harshly ridiculed. Unless, of course, 'she' is a model or an entertainer. In which case the negative flips into the positive to confer a special status which isn't that far removed from that of the Native American berdache or the Indian hijra -- conferring in some instances (e.g. Quentin Crisp, Bowie, RuPaul, Winston, George O'Dowd) not only fame and fortune but even a certain aura of spiritual or magical power.

For the ordinary man in the street, however, skirting with feminine attire and adornment remains a risky business. While the same might well be said of men in most traditional societies (a Nuba male who wanted to indulge in scarification rather than body painting would no doubt have a very hard time of it) we Western males face a particularly acute problem because our society's views on appropriate male appearance are so unusually restrictive.

It was not always so. UP to the time of the French Revolution the Western definition of masculinity gave plenty of scope for painting and preening and generally exploring in a creative way the expressive possibilities of the customized body. After the French Revolution (in part because the bourgeoisie wanted to distance itself from the excesses of the aristocracy by emphasizing boring, bland respectability) Western men suffered what the social psychologist J.. Flugel has termed 'The Great Masculine Renunciation' -- that is, a renunciation of what was once called 'finery' and which included everything from the use of bright colours in dress to exotic hairstyles, the use of make-up to the wearing of sexy shoes. The result was what might be termed The Invisible Man -- a creature strangely cut off from that long and wonderful history of the human body as a medium of creative expression and artistic experimentation.

As we have seen time and time again throughout this book it is more often than not the male of our species who has delighted in the status of 'peacock.' 'The Great Masculine Renunciation' of the West has effectively excluded men (and, with ever increasing Westernization, this now includes practically all male Homo sapiens) from that arena of bodily expression which -- as this book has tried to show -- constitutes a primary, fundamental and necessary component of human behaviour.

While the great majority of men have simply accepted this state of affairs (probably not even realizing their loss) a minority have fought back. Dandies, Hipsters, Bikers, Mods, Hippies, Psychedelics, Glam Rockers, Punks, New Romantics, Rappers, Ravers, Modern Primitives and others have all pushed against the restrictions on male adornment which Western society has decreed to be 'normal.' Battles have been won but the war is far from over. Despite enormous media excitement about 'unisex' and 'gender bending' it is still the case that a man on the street wearing, say, a bit of eye shadow or lipstick (our society's last preserve of the ancient art of body painting) risks verbal harassment at the very least.

Faced with this situation many Western males have simply opted to switch their gender identity -- either temporarily in the form of the transvestite or permanently in the case of the transsexual. While the latter option -- that of actually, physiologically switching one's gender -- has only been available in recent times (the first successful male to female 'sex change' was performed in the 1920s) the former option, a substitution of the adornments, attire and mannerisms associated with one gender for that of the other, has probably existed throughout human history. There have always been and presumably will always be a small percentage of people (both males and females) who grow up feeling that their true self is 'trapped' in the body of the opposite sex. What is, however, noteworthy about transvestism in our contemporary world is its dramatic and ever-increasing impact on mainstream society.

In the cinema, the theatre, popular music, club culture and the phenomenal success of events like New York's 'Wigstock' festival, we see evidence of a pervasive preoccupation with transvestism -- with the 'drag queen' a (perhaps the) key iconic image of our age. To some extent, this simply -- but significantly -- reflects our culture's growing confusion and concern about gender identity itself. As the consensus which existed only 20 or 30 years ago about what is 'typically male' or 'typically female' has been questioned and challenged, our culture (and, ultimately, we as individuals) enter a period of 'gender crisis.'

While spotlighting the transvestite as a popular icon, this contemporary 'gender crisis' has also prompted another response -- one that is less imitative and straight-forward, more complex and potently creative. Increasingly, literal cross-dressing has given way to a freer, less stereotypical, approach which simply ignores categories of 'male' and 'female' style altogether. Both within and without the 'Drag Scene' (for example, amongst 'Modern Primitives' and the 'Fetish Scene' as well as amongst so many of those flocking to New York's 'Wigstock' or clubs like London's 'Kinky Gerlinky') one today finds more and more men who are experimenting with ways of adorning, decorating, dressing and customizing themselves which, while defying traditional Western notions of masculine appearance, are also largely outside our traditional notions of femininity. Instead of simply switching male for female attire, these 'Angels' (for like the biblical creatures they are not men and not women) are creating a 'Third Sex' -- one which embraces all and every possibility of the customized body.

As with all stylistic revolutions, this reflects an important ideological shift: the growing view that personality and potential are not -- or need not be -- defined or limited by one's sex. Weaving together arguments put forth by feminists, Gays and Lesbians, those within the ever growing ranks of "The Third Sex' are vividly translating new ideas about gender into visual reality.

This marks an entirely new development in the history of the customized body. While in all previous societies and eras your biological gender defined and restricted what you could and could not do to transform your body, a new age is slowly but steadily dawning in which your genitals may play no part in determining your appearance. And just as some men are kicking back the boundaries of 'The Great Masculine Renunciation' -- embracing peacock-like colour and 'frivolous' adornment -- some women are increasingly experimenting with body arts like tattooing which were once seen in the West as a purely masculine preserve. The phenomenal rise in body piercing combines both tendencies: males embracing a delight in jewellery which was previously seen as 'unmanly,' women going far beyond previous (Western) definitions of what constitutes 'feminine' adornment.

Incorporating so many ancient, pre-Western techniques of customizing the body -- irrespective of whether our culture defines them as 'masculine' or 'feminine' -- these modern-day 'Angels' mark a return to those 'primitive' visions of the body which have for so long been ignored or even denigrated in our culture. But, at the same time, such 'Modern Primitives' are in the forefront of a radically new approach to body decoration. Tribal societies -- indeed, all previous societies -- were founded on the principle of conformity. As well as gender, age, social role, family background, class, caste and so forth all limited appearance. Our present and future approach to the transformation of the body, on the other hand, is based on individual choice -- the customized body as an expression of unique identity.

In the past, what you were determined what you looked like. Today what you choose to look like expresses who -- or indeed what -- you would like to be.

The choice is yours.
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Re: The Customized Body, Photos & Interviews by Housk Randal

Postby admin » Thu Dec 13, 2018 10:12 pm

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Jon: As an art student in the 60's I had long hair and looked the part and even recently my mother told me, "John, you're so zany!" and my father's comment on my piercings was, "You're really with it, kid!" Bless 'em. I guess my look is an extension of my Goth leanings. My girlfriend doesn't understand but I just keep doing my own odd things. Who knows where all this is going but I just keep on. My eldest son isn't into this at all, he's very conservative but he accepts me.

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Arthur: I design and make clothes, as well as wear them. What I don't agree with are the rigid definitions of what a particular sex can or cannot wear. Why can't a man wear cloth cut in a shape we label feminine? Clothes are clothes ... they have no gender. I would love to own a shop that sold garments meant for either sex. I don't just mean unisex but 'dresses,' 'skirts,' 'blouses,' etc. to be worn by whoever felt good in them.

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BJ: I really get the hump with girls putting steroids in their bodies to grow facial hair and look like men. I mean, what do they think? Dress up and play but you're still who you are ... they're never really going to be men. I don't get off on walking down the street looking like a geezer. I do it for sex. I'm not into the drag king bit, I just like being able to put it on and take it off.

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Ben the Wendy: I used to put on one of my mother's long skirts and whirl like a dervish in our backyard ... round and round and round ... good memory. I would feel giddy and exhilarated, I was just 9. It was an identity search which although submerged in my teens, (you could get hurt wearing frocks on the street) I still practised privately. By the time I reached my 30's I was in crisis. I entered into therapy and tried hormones but that wasn't the answer. My identity conflict has caused me much pain through lately I've been wondering if this long journey through the darkness is actually leading me back to my masculinity rather than gender re-assignment.

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Jed: Looking at these pictures you've taken is a real eye-opener ... I look like a queer boy. I like it. I look like someone who can take care of themselves ... someone you wouldn't mess with.

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Christie: We met at a fetish club, it's quite an unusual story actually. I was lesbian while I lived as a woman ... even ran a lesbian club. I never felt comfortable though, I felt like afraud and it wasn't until I finally saved the money to have my breasts removed, they were quite large and cumbersome, and a hysterectomy that things began to fall into place. With my new body and stage of androgyny I became heterosexual, more or less, although I didn't know this until I met and fell in love with David. We were friends for a long time before he asked me to be in a relationship with him and now we've been together for more than three years.

David: I was attracted to Christie because she's androgynous, I'm in love with her.

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Danielle: I'm still planning further changes, still redesigning my body. I'd prefer larger breasts and a smaller nose but that depends on me saving enough money which isn't easy. On the other hand I'm very pleased with my vagina, it can pass for the real thing. The question of my gender was tremendously stressful and pushed me into an aggressive state which has eased considerably since the change, I'm multi-sexual ... I like men, women and different stages of gender change but I prefer not to tell others I was once a man. As far as I'm concerned I'm a woman and always was.

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Sam: I like looking androgynous. My name is too ... could be a boy's name, could be a girl's ... take your pick. Actually it's a combination of the first letters of my three given names, not a lot of people know that.

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Mahn: I used to get tattoos on my arms to look like one of the lads, camouflage, but I regret it now ... they're not very nice. I feel more comfortable in drag. I'm more glamourous and attractive as a woman but I don't know if I'm ready to have a sex-change.

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Fran: I hate it when people address me incorrectly, it can ruin my mood for the rest of the day. When someone opens a door for me or tells me I'm looking pretty, it makes such a difference.

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Tina: I grew up in Greece and because of my build was perceived as masculine. I used to be uncomfortable with this and tried to conceal it with padded bras and long hair, etc. I felt like a fake. It wasn't until I left my country that I felt confident enough to present myself as more male. Now that I dress like this I've become more sexually responsive, I feel very much at home. My main problem is that looking like this on the street can be dangerous. I try to play with the shame of possibly being discovered, pointed out, and turn it into something positive. Recently, I've discovered a very disturbing element to my cross-dressing: A young woman saw me looking at her and became uneasy which, I realized, made me excited. It was the sense of power it gave me ... not very PC ... but true.

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Fabian: I'm a dark angel, a sexual creature born from my own private fantasies. I'm not gender-specific when I recreate myself, that would be too limiting ... not enough! When you come from a small, dull town and you're theatrical, it's stifling ... so I spread my wings and flew.

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King: How do you know until you've tried it!
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