71. Primitive.

Something triggered a bit of an odd memory for me today. Someone mentioned, in a comment on my blog, that they flipped through the pictures before reading the post.

So what do you make of this, then?

So what do you make of this, then?

Snap! I used to do the same thing. We used to have a subscription to the National Geographic. I don’t know if I ever actually read any of the articles. It was a long time ago. What I did do, though, was look at the pictures. It was the old-fashioned version of the internet. Instant gratification. Pinterest for a pre-internet civilisation.

There were all sorts of things in that magazine. Modern cities, space, albino gorillas who spoke sign language and owned kittens, the works.

I'm not smiling, you bastards! Get me out of the sun!

I’m not smiling, you bastards! Get me out of the sun!

But one of my favourites was the so-called “primitive” cultures. Topless dark-skinned women dancing in grass skirts. Men with painted faces running naked over the backs of lines of cattle. Brightly adorned and heavily bearded New Guinea tribesmen. They were all there, and they took me away to another time and another place.

A place where magic mushrooms were freely available.

A place where magic mushrooms were freely available.

I needn’t have bothered. I didn’t need a magazine. One day, driving to, of all places, the local dump, we passed a settlement filled with women who looked like this.

Mr T's mom.

Mr T’s mom.

They were Ndebele, a local tribe famous for their neck-rings and their bright, geometrically patterned houses. This was the only time I ever saw them outside of a touristy, “look at how African they are” context. They were just a group of women, going about their daily business in about five kilograms of neck-rings.

And they are just amateurs. Check out these women from Nepal!

She hasn't swallowed anything but yoghurt since 1984.

She hasn’t swallowed anything but yoghurt since 1984.

It seems like a rather strange thing to do. But maybe it isn’t. Eroticism is a strange thing to try and get your head around in the age of the internet. At the push of a button, you can see all manner of men and women in all sorts of nudity and sweat related situations. It’s all a bit dull.

It’s dull because it takes the easy way out. For the internet generation, it’s all about genitals. Hundreds of them. In all manner of unimaginable situations. And in some pretty large groups. With some pretty unnatural tan colours.

Which is all well and good. In their heart of hearts, when no-one is watching, no-one really minds the odd well-framed genital or two. But genitals are not erotic. This is.


All it is is an exposed neck on a young woman. But it’s enough. There’s nothing crass about it. Nobody is thrusting anything plucked like a chicken and spray-tanned orange at a camera while gurning like a sideshow freak.  It is just a delicate exposed curve of vulnerable skin, hair pulled back and laid bare. It’s the sort of thing that should give proper grownups the shivers, while the teenagers busy themselves with the orange genitals.

You can insert your own "stupid tits!" joke here whenever you please. I'm not going to mock the Oompah Loompahs.

You can insert your own “stupid tits!” joke here whenever you please. I’m not going to mock the Oompah Loompahs.

The Ndebele get this. And so they have focused on the neck as a thing of beauty. They accentuate it. They draw attention to it. They emphasise it.

And those women from Nepal stretch it. Technically, they don’t actually stretch it. They just push down their shoulders and rib-cages. But the idea is the same.

These are not the only people to isolate some aspect of femininity and emphasise it. Like nibbling on the odd earlobe? Try these babies.



Got yourself a little bit of a foot-fetish. You’re not the only one.

Hubba hubba!

Hubba hubba!

God only knows what this is about.



Or this.



This sort of extreme body modification is not limited to the distant past or obscure cultural backwaters. Slim waists and wide hips are erotic too. Remember all those stories about Victorian women swooning all over the place? They weren’t just pathetic weaklings. They just couldn’t breathe. Because they were being a little tribal. Corsets. Tight ones.

Don't worry about me. I'll inhale later.

Don’t worry about me. I’ll inhale later.

Luckily, we live in a more enlightened age. Many of these so called “beautification” traditions could be pretty horrifying. Those Chinese women with the bound feet, for one, were left crippled and in almost permanent pain.  These days, women are not expected to modify their bodies in bizarre ways to make themselves attractive to


Oops! I’m sorry; I have no idea where that came from. What I was saying was that we have moved on from the more primitive tendency to modify the female form in grotesque ways to fulfil some sort of cultural ideal of beauty, and besides,


Sorry. I think there’s something wrong with my computer. Where was I? Oh yes. And besides. And besides, no doctor who had been through seven years of medical school to heal the sick, and sworn a Hippocratic Oath, to boot, would ever mutilate a patient to satisfy some sort of bizarre obsession with


This is all getting to be a bit much. I need to contact my service provider. The internet has been buggy all day. I’ll try to write a proper post once this is all sorted out. I just



35 thoughts on “71. Primitive.

  1. mariekeates says:

    Strange what we think of as beautiful isn’t it? The National Geographic is alive and well too. It’s one of the magazines that I have to send out to the ship and I must admit to looking at the pictures as I remove all the junk inserts before I pack it up for shipment 🙂

  2. People are so strange.

  3. The things people do to themselves is sad. I hope your internet problems are fixed asap.

  4. Jocelyn Hers says:

    Ugh. But, I know of a female plastic surgeon, by sight, who looks like a stretched white trout, & you would think she would know better.

  5. narf77 says:

    I promised Mrs 23 Thorns if I saw you going off the rails I would give her a heads up…I didn’t think It would happen this quickly! Sigh…

  6. albertine says:

    There’s a really nice poem that makes good use of those same pictures in the National Geographic: “The Waiting Room” by Elizabeth Bishop.

  7. Typehype says:

    LOL love the photo captions. Scary stuff, though.

  8. NobblySan says:

    Hippocratic oath, eh?

    I’m pretty sure that Hippocrates was the ancient Geek bloke who invented the cash register. Therein lies the problem (or at least, one of the problems).

  9. its a good post, because u showed the tribal mutilations and then the modern ones, it illustrates and put in context the modern ones … they are all the same in the long line of traditional mutilations in the search for and uphold of what each culture sets its ideas of ideal beauty.

  10. Oh dear, you obviously have a daughter. I find that having one of these small female things around has made me foam at the mouth about the fashion/diet/beauty/photoshopping industries as well. My husband just looks at me while I go on about how popular culture is teaching girls to starve themselves, get plastic surgery at 12, tan themselves to a crisp, dress like hookers, etc… He thinks just because our daughter is not yet two, she is not being pressured by the other toddlers at church to conform to some impossible ideal. Well, I’m not going to sit by and wait until she comes home with… Oh jeez. Sorry. I guess that’s why he just sits and looks at me. Nice post. I agree.

  11. Lyn says:

    Do women really hate themselves so much to increase the size of their breasts that much? The problems it will cause their backs, not to mention the headaches. Seriously, the doctors who do this should be flogged – publicly. I’m happy to hand out the cat-o’-nine-tails.

  12. sisteranan says:

    Excuse me while i go throw up in the nearest potted plant. Yes, you really should fix your internet!

  13. LOL I guess they don’t kiss in the “lip plate” tribe?

  14. Mary Southon says:

    Looking at the last four pictures, my response is, why did these women do this to themselves? What terrible things happened to them as children? How horribly damaged they must be on the inside. It’s sad.

    • 23thorns says:

      i just find it odd that doctors are allowed to do this.

      • Mary Southon says:

        Oh, I completely agree with that. They are taking advantage of some very sad people, and in my opinion, are violating their oath: First, do no harm.

      • 23thorns says:

        Where there’s muck, there’s brass.

      • albertine says:

        The women bribe them – with . . . money. And society bribes the women to do it with . . . that ol’ filthy lucre again. Time was, you could look any old way you happened to turn out and you could still make a living – as long as you were related to the nobility.

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