Words: Hannya Jayne
On February 3rd 2017 body modification specialist Mac ‘Dr. Evil’ McCarthy, owner of Punctured Body Piercing & Modification Emporium in Wolverhampton, attended an initial court hearing, accused of three counts of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and three counts of wounding without intent after performing consensual body modifications between 2012-2015.
For many of the modified, pierced and even tattooed community, the immediate concern is that this could be the first step in consensual body modification becoming prohibited, and both the specialist and customer being prosecuted.
My own experiences
I myself have been a customer of Mac’s and couldn’t recommend him highly enough. He answered my many questions with a wealth of knowledge which made me feel instantly at ease.
Before the procedure I had a slightly faint spell (which I’m use to as I have a nervous disposition at times). Mac was so genuinely patient, I will never forget his wonderful bed-side manner. I have a list of procedures I’d like to have done in the future by Mac, due to his knowledge, skill and passion for his craft.
About body modification
Scarification, branding, piercing, stretching and tattooing has been performed for thousands of years, in many cultures, all over the world.
Many find these modifications a spiritually-fulfilling experience. It connects our consciousness with our bodies and often makes us feel more beautiful and comfortable in our bodies, too.
Anyone wishing to undergo these modifications should be able to have these procedures performed by a specialist, in a safe and nurturing environment.
A petition for Mac
I have launched an online petition to raise support for Mac. There were two main reasons for starting this petition:
Firstly, to support Mac ‘Dr. Evil’ McCarthy, as he has provided a highly professional and specialist service for many years. He conducts himself and his business with morals and knowledge.
Having the foresight to see the rise in demand for body modifications and piercings, Mac also runs training courses, ensuring that individuals wishing to get into the industry have a place to learn correct and safe execution of scarification, branding and piercing.
Mac’s expertise was sought after by Channel 4, when they made a programme about the increased call for professional body modifications.
Mac also organises Halloween Tattoo Bash, an annual tattoo convention. The event attracts top quality tattooists, nationally and internationally. Artists and local independent retailers get together to celebrate professionalism and quality in tattooing and piercing.
Mac uses the popularity and success of the convention to hold a charity raffle, raising over £5,000 each year for local charities such as Wolverhampton Homeless Outreach, a charity and shelter for women and children affected by domestic violence.
A large amount of Mac’s modifications are in fact ‘reconstructions‘.
Ear lobe and labret stretching has become very commonplace in recent years. Stretching is achieved by a process of placing larger jewellery in an existing healed piercing over a period of time. This process is conducted by individuals themselves at home.
For varying reasons, individuals who have stretched their piercings sometimes wish to have their earlobes, lip or other piercings ‘back to normal’. Mac provides this reconstructive service, saving people having to go to the NHS or attempting such a procedure at home.
The other reason for the petition is to demonstrate to the court that there is a demand for these services.
I urge councils and governing bodies to work with specialists like Mac to ensure there is legislation in place that protects people from inexperienced individuals performing body modification in unsafe environments.
I am sure we don’t want the UK following in the footsteps of Japan’s ban on tattooing as a whole, put in place due to sub-standard cosmetic tattoos. Although there are many baths and other businesses where tattoos should be kept concealed, a knee jerk reaction to unsafe cosmetic tattoos has made a full ban on all forms of tattooing very possible.
A large part of Japan’s cultural heritage, identity and tourism is linked to tattooing. Because of this ban, Japan’s tattoo artists are at risk of prosecution and losing their livelihood. It could put a holt to thousands of years of history.
A ban is not always the answer
Similarly in the UK, there have been rises in cases of female genital mutilation, which is understandably largely non-consensual.
These procedures vary from removing the clitoral hood, glans and inner labia and sewing the labia together leaving just a small hole for bodily fluids to escape. The procedure can be performed on girls as early as a few days old. An opening is then made for intercourse and childbirth.
Understandably action needed to be taken to protect women and girls form this procedure. But as a result of this procedure becoming illegal in the UK there was going to be a proposed ban on female genital piercings.
Female genital piercings are in nature the opposite to genital mutilation. Clitoris hood piercing celebrates and enhances woman’s pleasure. It doesn’t deny it and is strictly only available for consenting woman over the age of 18.
A beautiful procedure
I understand that body modification isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But I am sure you will empathise with the truth of ‘beauty being in the eye of the beholder‘. Tattooing is also a very subjective art form. Many of you reading this will have experienced countless occasions of explaining (and at times) defending your choice of tattoos.
Whether you have body modifications or not, I believe it is important for us stand up for our right to make these choices to modify and decorate our bodies. We should have access to and support professionals who can provide the service safely with knowledge and care.
A call for industry professionalism and regulation
In the past, many tattooists have approached their local councils offering their knowledge and expertise to put into effect stricter regulations for tattooists and tattoo studios to adhere to.
The tattoo industry has no union of tattooists or governing body of our own, and tattooing is often not taken seriously as a ‘profession’. Because of this, tattooists are often turned away from these councils. No progress is being made to ensure only specialists provide these services. There needs to be sharing of information between specialists like Mac, and councils.
How you can help
This tattoo blog, Inkluded, provides passion and unbiased support to tattoo enthusiasts and artists alike. I personally felt excited by the ethos of “Inkluded”, the concept of bringing like-minded people together to feel included, and have been part of this community since its launch. Well, this is our chance to stand together.
Please sign, share and support the petition for the right to express ourselves in any way we wish (tattooed, pierced or modified) safe in the knowledge neither modifier or client will be prosecuted.
There is a Facebook group set up to encourage people to stand in support of Mac, on 3rd March outside Wolverhampton crown court, for the first hearing.
Petition comments include: “this will cause stress and worry to a very well respected and professional man” and “if this sort of ‘claim nation’ continues it will bring tattooing, piercing and body modification to its knees”.
Here’s the link to the official petition, which now has 3,150 signatures (as of 5th Feb 2017).
You can also read more about the story in detail on other news websites.
Hannya Jayne is a UK-based tattooist. Read more articles about her and her work on Inkluded.