I’ve just mentioned wanting another tattoo to the girl I’m partnered with on this project. She’s surprised to hear I have any: they’re not large and easily covered. She doesn’t ask what design, or where, or what ink I already have. She doesn’t even ask why I like it. She asks what most people who have no body art do when talking to those who do: “Doesn’t it hurt?”
Well, yeah, it does a little.
First of all, I’m a sexual masochist. I get off on pain. So I wouldn’t call the pain a drawback.
That’s hardly relevant though. The pain isn’t the reason I go for piercings and tattoos, but if I didn’t like pain it still wouldn’t be a reason not to get them. Pain is a side effect, usually fairly mild.
“But doesn’t it hurt?”
My partner plucks her eyebrows. She goes to the gym regularly. She’s lamented that a sunburn would be “so worth it, if I could just tan!” Pain for beauty is a transaction we widely accept. If someone believes the misery of yanking out eyebrows one by one every [however often one plucks eyebrows] for years on end is worth the result, surely they can understand that a single sitting followed by a brief recovery in exchange for a permanent desired modification is a better return on investment.
We do things that hurt. Not because we like the pain (though some of us do), but because we value what it brings us. Pain is a side effect.
“But doesn’t it hurt?” is a stupid question. Of course it hurts. If something breaks the skin and there’s zero pain you’re probably looking at some serious nerve damage. Anyone who asks already knows this. The question is really “what kind of person would endure pain for body art?” The question shows a certain idea about body modification: that it’s barbaric, disgusting. That (unlike a perfectly arched eyebrow), it has no value.
That’s actually okay. I don’t care if this girl, or my mother, or any number of other people think piercings and tattoos are worthless or shameful or otherwise problematic. That’s a conversation I’m willing to have. But “doesn’t it hurt?” can only be answered with a “yes,” and it’s in no way fair to use that yes as evidence against body modification as a practice. It really isn’t relevant.
Also, seriously? I beg folks to hit me with blunt objects until they can’t lift their arms anymore. I’m supposed to be scared of half a second with a piercing needle? Please.