Written By Sherwood Kohn

I guess you know this, so it shouldn’t come as a shock: Some people think body decoration – primarily tattooing and body piercing (see story page 68) – is barbaric.

There are many arguments in favor of the custom: that it is fashionable, a way of pledging one’s love for another, announcing affiliation with a group, improving one’s self esteem, a badge of honor, and somehow sexy, but they don’t convince the anti-tattooists.

For them, the tattooites (tattooies?) are only trying to justify a practice that has its roots in primitive societies and is evidence of how little mankind has evolved in 5,000 years.

And there is something to be said for that point of view. Most of us are not much different, emotionally, from the hunter-gatherers who wore bones in their noses and ears, painted their faces (not to mention various other parts of their bodies), and rubbed ashes into self-inflicted wounds to make designs on their bellies.

Our primary reactions to basic human situations remain much the same as cavemen’s. The “fight or flight,” hunger, fear and sex drives are still there, although we strive mightily to control them, and I must admit that given the choice between a booty tag and mayhem, I’ll take the tattoo every time.

At the same time, as our feature story indicates, society has traditionally associated tattooing and piercing with the more violent and, yes, primitive, elements of the population.

There are solid grounds for the attitude. Think bushmen, Genghis Kahn, Goths, drunken sailors and rebellious teenagers.

But this is dangerous territory.

Do the anti-tattooites regard their wives and daughters, who wear jewelry in their pierced ears, as barbarians?

They better keep that opinion to themselves. Strict logic would dictate that if they continue down that path, they risk alienating people they love. Let’s just say that the situation is analagous to the one in which your wife asks, “Does this dress make me look fat?”

Of course, if she turned up with a butterfly at the base of her spine, hubby might have serious reservations, not the least of which would be the conflict between civilization and biology.

It isn’t easy being human, is it?