Are Tattooed/Pierced People "Cutters"?

Why do people get tattoos and/or body piercings? Are they “cutters”?? Is the impulse to do this a form of self-mutilation??? Or are the people who have lots of tattoos/piercings (think porn stars, Hell’s Angels members, prisoners, etc.) psychologically healthy people who had normal childhoods who just do it as a decoration???

[out of touch old guy with tattoos/piercings] WTF is a “cutter” [/out of touch old guy with tattoos/piercings]

Sorry, superbee.

A “cutter” is a person who cuts on himself - usually arms or thighs- or even burns themselves because it makes them feel good.


I have two tattoos, and I think members of the Razor Brigade (as a friend of mine calls them) are asshats.

I know that’s insensitive to call them that, but I don’t care. It’s asinine behavior, no different from bulimics or crack addicts.

No Cutters is a great movie and a cutter is a person who worked in a quarry.

Are you trolling, or do you think that everyone who has a tattoo can be pigeonholed into one group of people?

You’re kind of all over the place here. Are you talking tattoos in general, or just porn stars/bikers/inmates?
I’ve got 4, and consider myself pretty psycologically healthy. Had a normal childhood, too.

read the whole post, Shrew, before getting your panties in a twist

Porn stars are, pretty much by definition, not psychologically heathy people, IMHO. As for other people who have MANY piercings, calling them cutters may not be too far off the mark. I only have tattoos, no piercings other than earlobes, so I can’t really speak to that.

Sorry for my initial reaction, needed time to think.

Thanks for the clarification.

I wouldn’t consider myself a “cutter,” although I did do my own piercings, it wasn’t for enjoyment, but more just an act of a rebellious youth. I came up during the punk invasion of the late 70’s, and that was just part of the “culture,” to be shocking.

As for tattoos, (5) they were anything but pleasurable. Hurt like hell to be honest, but I just like 'em. Since I waited 'til I was 35 to get my first one, it was probably more of a mid-life crisis thing than anything. Each one represents some occurance or belief in my life, and I plan on getting a few more. But I don’t consider it a form of mutilation in any way, shape or form.

4 tattoos, here, and a couple of piercings. Just in case your question was a serious one, here’s my reasoning: I WANTED THEM. I thought for a long time (min 6 months) before any of my tattoos, and I placed them where I WANTED THEM, not necessarily where they could be seen and commented on by the general public. I chose things that were important to me, as reminders of things I feel I need or want to be reminded of.

IMHO, piercings are a different case, not being permanent. I got a nipple pierced because I think it looks great, and again, that’s not exactly out there where people can see it unless I choose for them to. The pain was certainly incidental to the experience.

FTR, I work in a nice company in a nice cubicle in Finance - so I’m clearly not a porn star (at least by profession).

My .02.

To answer this question, I’ll just provide you with a link. (usual warning: ALWAYS very explicit stuff on the front page, not necessarily for the squeamish, but absolutely necessary for education about all things bodmod). Go. Read. Learn. Rid thyself of ignorance.

I don’t think you can even lump people with tatoos into one group. When I was younger, the price of a full back tatoo kept me from getting one, but I wanted the art on my back; the pain was irrelevant.

Contrast this with one guy who didn’t get a tatoo until he quit drinking. After he quit, he would get a tat whenever he needed a drink. After two years he was sleeved (tatoos across his body; only his hands, neck and face were clean.) This might be what you’re thinking of, but even then I’d say it is different.

Are there some cutters who have tattoos or piercing? Probably, yes. By a rule are people who have tattoos or piercing cutters? Certainly not. The motivations are much different between the two groups. People who do body modification do it for a variety of reasons, usually social. The pain is something that must be endured to make the physical change to themselves they desire, the pain itself is not the objective or focus of the act. People who commit self-mutilation also have a variety of motivations, but the difference is that the pain itself is the objective. They are often seeking some sort of emotional release or catharsis. In the most severe cases, cutters will drop into an almost trance like state as they cut, feeling very little or no sensation. This should not in any way be confused with maschocism, although their is a cathartic release in the act it is NOT done for sexual gratification.

The numbers between the two groups also don’t add up, people with piercing and tattoos far outnumber people who are self-mutilators. Since it’s not (yet) recognized as a disorder by the DSM-IV there are no solid statistics tracked for it, but the only figure I remember was from the Canadian Health Board where they estimated that there were one or two cutters per school on average, so I think that puts the number at about one in 1000–regardless, there will be a sizably larger amount of people at a given school that will have a tattoo or piercing in their lives than there will be that suffer from self-mutilation.

Lumping the two groups together is dangerous for a number of reasons. Fist of all, as I said there really is no direct parallel between them, but I think it slights both groups. It implies that people who have had body modification do so out of mental illness, which isn’t the case, and it also lends an air of frivolity to what is a very serious disorder.

Ummm… BZZZZZZZT. Wrong. That is a misconception of what is behind the behavior… they don’t do it because it feels good; that would essentially make them masochists. There are a few schools of thought on this: One, that it has far more to do with control than anything else… cutters perceive themselves to have little to no control over their lives, so they act out a behavior that they can control. Two, the cutter has major emotional problems, and feel that the only way they can control themselves is to cut (thinking, "If I cut myself I can release some tension and I won’t take out my anger on others). Three, the cutter can’t feel anything, so (much like the song Iris) they cut themselves to assure that they’re alive.

I was a cutter in HS. Long story short- I was under a lot of pressure to be perfect, to meet everyone’s expectations, and to never, ever, ever display any kind of emotion. As a result I had no clue as to how to express anger, frustration, fear, or any other powerful emotion. When I cut myself, it felt like I was releasing all that pent-up stuff, like my blood was toxic somehow and by cutting myself I could cleanse myself and be the good girl everyone expected me to be. Of course I was also anorexic at the time, so I was all kinds of fucked up. I’m doing a bit better now. :slight_smile:

Back to the OP- I have a tattoo, and it has nothing to do with me being a cutter. The pain one experiences during tattooing is, as has already been very eloquently stated, a means to an end. Indeed, the pain I experienced when cutting was far, far, far greater than what I experienced getting my tattoo. Were I a dedicated cutter who wanted the pain, I’d have been pretty disappointed.

However, I won’t say that a very small portion of the cutting population hasn’t turned to tattooing or piercing as a means to obtain the release of cutting in a socially acceptable manner. Remember that cutters go to great lengths to hide their activity- inking and piercing would make hiding irrelevant. ::shrug::

Shrew, sweetums, I like you… really. I even agree that cutting is dumb as hell, and that’s from having been there. But you can’t group bulimics and cutters in with crack addicts. The motivations behind the behavior are nowhere near the same. Perhaps you should educate yourself about the behavior before making those kinds of comments.


Well, in my misaligned youth I was a cutter. It wasn’t because it felt good (though it was a form of release) it was a way to express ‘bad’ emotions, anger, fear, frusteration. I was supposed to be the happy golden child and keep the dark emotions hidden. That was how I let them out without showing others. I thought of it as releasing toxins in my blood so I could go on with life…akin to a drug addiction.

No huge inclination toward piercings or tattoos. (Complete info: first ear holes at 13, second holes at 20. Henna tattoo about once a summer.) So for this cutter, nope, no correlation.

takes her asshat and files shrew mentally

Way to be understanding of large bits of the population. Yea, its a scary behavior…now try to imagine a world where that scary behavior is your only effective form of stress relief. Its not a good thing and the people who are caught in it need help and understanding, similarly to bulimics. (Crack addicts is a bit much, truly deep drug addiction will hurt others around you, but I haven’t heard of a cutter going after somone else with thier sharp object of choice.)

And as for not caring if you are being insensitive…who’s the asshat now?

May I ask on what you base this? Is it because nobody could possibly enjoy having sex on camera, so they must be crazy, or just what?

At any rate, I have 3 earlobe pierces and have considered getting a tattoo and a piercing elsewhere, and they’re for the same reason I dress and wear my hair the way I do: because I think it looks nice and I enjoy the way it makes me look and feel.

bobkitty- “When I cut myself, it felt like I was releasing all that pent-up stuff, like my blood was toxic somehow and by cutting myself I could cleanse myself and be the good girl everyone expected me to be.

Translating from convoluted psychobabble back to plain old English we have “I did it because it felt good, emotionally.”

Of course, the reason I like to whack off a lot is because I feel like my semenal fluid is toxic somehow and by “releasing” the pent-up toxicity I am cleansing myself and experiencing spiritual catharsis. But NOT just because it feels good. Not me. No way!

No, I don’t think we do. Bobkitty didn’t say that cutting herself actually felt good or enjoyable or pleasurable. I wouldn’t put any anger-release activity, healthy or not, under the “feels good” category. Cutters have psychological problems that cause them to see self-mutilation as stress relief. And they cut themselves under the (mistaken) impression that that act, and going through a lot of unenjoyable pain will make all of that go away. There is a belief that doing something that feels painful and taking out your negative emotions on your own body will make things all better. Sadly, it doesn’t. Also, I have known one cutter who says it was nothing more than an attention/sympathy ploy, but I don’t think that applies to the majority.

FTR, I have a tattoo, and the only time I ever cut myself on purpose was when I was young and stupid and thought I could remove a mole on my arm by myself. Turns out you can’t. Thankfully, puberty hit and arm hair pretty much obscured it.

bobkitty and medea’s child,

Certainly my attitude surrounding cutters is insensitive. I can completely admit that. I can even admit, medea’s child, that I am being an asshat about it. Sure. I’ve studied the behavior, bobkitty, but since I’ve never experienced the desire to do it, I may never be able to truly understand it. It has affected and tainted too many aspects of my familial life, and I am tired of it. I teach high school, as some of you know, and I also see cutting in frighteningly large statistics among the girls I teach. Obviously, I am more sensitive and understanding with them, but that doesn’t mean I condone or approve of the behavior. It scares me. It’s self-destructive in nature, at least to me it is, and it scares the shit out of me. I’m sure fear drives my insensitivity, but being sensitive about it here won’t change the way I feel.

matt mcclean,
I stated that porn stars aren’t psychologically healthy IN MY HUMBLE OPINION. That is from my personal experience and from my own personal schema of what I consider rational behavior. I’m not an encyclopedia. I occasionally have opinions based on nothing more than my own morals and ethics I have established for my life. It ain’t the gospel, and I don’t pretend that it is.

My ears are thrice pierced-mostly because the second holes were placed too close to the first holes to be able to wear two pairs of earrings at the same time-- and I have both nipples pierced.

I did my ears so that I could wear ear rings and I had my nipples done because I find it erotic as does my hubby. I should clarify that and say that the fully healed nipple piercings are erotic and produce all kinds of nice sensations but the actual piercings hurt like a motherf**ker. I did not enjoy it all.

I am a very respectable mother of 2 grown children and work as an RN. I had a normal childhood and I am of sound mind. I guess I just do it for the decoration.

As an aside I had a full allergy workup a couple of months ago where they pricked my back about 40 times and did about a dozen injections in my arms. I found myself thinking “if this is what it feels like to get a tattoo I don’t think I could stand it”

sorry matt, I just realized your name isn’t Matt McClean. I always say McClean when I read your name, but I didn’t realize I’d typed it.