I just got this email — I get similar ones on a regular basis. I'm not suggesting that it's offensive, only typically misguided. I'm including his email address here because he's looking for feedback (I have added the links)…
I am a student at the University of Nottingham in the UK. I am currently writing an essay entitles: Can Contemporary Bodily Practises such as Tattooing and Piercing be adequatley be explained by Lacanian Theory? I am particulary interested in whether people who are into Body Modification think that it can be equated to Self-Mutiliation and whether there is a deep routed identity crisis involved.
All thoughts welcome.
The following was my response, I hope it makes sense, and doesn't seem to foolish for those knowledgable in Lacanian Theory:
Obviously there are many misguided individuals who mutilate and abuse themselves both through these means and others. BME is dedicated to people who are interested in modification and NOT mutilation.
Every subculture has it's unstable individuals. It is unfortunate that the media in general, including the academic media, chooses to constantly focus on these troubled people, who represent such a tiny tiny percentage of this subculture (and I should note are far from unique to the body modification community).
I have passed your email address on to the readers of the website; others may choose to contact you with their own viewpoints. Let me suggest that you read some of the tens of thousands of in depth personal stories people have posted to the site -- I think you will see that body modification is an interest that spans all demographics, and includes primarily people who are as happy and well-adjusted as anyone out there.
If you have specific questions I will do my best to answer them.