Britain’s most tattooed man says the law on extreme body art is totally out of date and urgently needs updating. Current legislation labels him a “victim of consensual abuse,” which he calls “ridiculous.”
King Of Ink Land King Body Art The Extreme Ink-Ite (he has officially changed his name by deed poll), or ‘Body Art’ to you and me, was awarded the title of Britain’s most tattooed man after spending a total of 600 hours under the needle.
Besides being covered from head to toe in colorful Maori-inspired patterns, Body Art has also subjected himself to extreme operations such as ear-reshaping, corneal tattooing and various implants.
He’s been committed to transforming himself ever since the age of nine, and wants body morphing to be legalized.
However, existing laws are rather dated. Body Art says the relevant legislation – the Victorian-era Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 – fails to address modern habits and trends.
“We are now evolving from tattooing and piercing … we are now talking about cutting the skin, implanting things under the skin, we are doing a lot of things for the body that are surgical,” he said.
“Tongue splitting for example, it’s very brutal, lots of blood. It’s surgery, and the industry is not regulated.
“A lot of us would like it to be insured and these people to be regulated.
“I think they [practitioners] would be happier if there were some kind of qualification and they were safe doing it because we are talking about laws now from over 100, 150 years that are so outdated they didn’t even consider body modification.”
Under the current framework, people who carry out such extreme body art may face prosecution for inflicting bodily harm or wounding, while those who undergo the risky practices are referred to as “victims of consensual abuse.”
Body Art said such a definition is debasing and misleading, as it ignores his personal agency in choosing to transform.
“It’s quite ridiculous really because I don’t perceive myself as a victim.
“The law accepts that I don’t perceive myself as a victim, yet they have to log it as a crime and waste loads of people’s time and taxpayers’ money… when I haven’t died, I haven’t had any health risks, I have given consent, and I fully understand the risks.”
He added: “[We’re] all very well educated with this stuff, we always know that certain procedures are going to be more dangerous than others… but we are consenting adults and when the law says we are victims of abuse, that’s just shocking, because a victim of abuse is someone who has actually been abused.”
It follows a case in February where body modification practitioner Brendan McCarthy was charged with several counts of grievous bodily harm (GBH) after carrying out extreme practices including consensual tongue splitting and ear reshaping.
While conceding that multiple body art studios carrying out surgeries without a license are effectively illegal, Body Art believes practitioners are not breaking the law, as “they are just helping us achieve what we want.”
But he said that although the cost of insurance and regulation may be high, it is needed for body modification to be carried out safely.
Worth the risk?
Medical news website Medcare has provided a comprehensive outline of the risks of carrying out invasive, extreme body modifications.
Skin piercing can come with life-threatening complications, including sepsis, which can result in damage to vital organs, and the transmission of HIV and hepatitis.
Ear stretching comes with the risk of deformity, which would be reversible only through surgical correction costing anywhere from $500 to a hefty $3,000.
Subdermal implants come with multiple risks, including infection, implant rejection, tissue destruction and skin ulceration, allergic reaction, chronic pain and nerve and muscle damage.
Scarification is the process whereby one intentionally decides to scar for decorative purposes, which generally entails the removing, cutting or abrasion of the skin with a sharp instrument. Its risks include squamous cell carcinoma, HIV, hepatitis and disfigurement.
In some cases where people were already affected by other diseases, however, scarification turned out to be fatal.
Tongue splitting, also known as forking the tongue, comes with the following risks: excess blood loss, HIV, hepatitis, damage to nerves and glands which may lead to speech impairment and loss of taste, as well as tongue swelling that could block airways.