How Fakir Musafar made a few of history’s most extreme body modifications – Beautifaire

How Fakir Musafar made a few of history’s most extreme body modifications – Beautifaire

From flesh hook suspension to genital piercings and tightlacing, for this artist pain was the last word form of beauty

Extreme types of beauty are a number of the most beautiful manifestations of humanity’s obsession with pain and pushing the boundaries of the human form. Beauty is Pain is a latest Dazed Beauty series by author Lexi Manatakis that traces the history of the world’s most extreme body modifications while being an overarching interrogation of the philosophy of human pain and its link to beauty.

“Physical difference frightens people in our culture greater than anything. You’ll be able to be aberrant as hell mentally, politically, socially, but do one little thing physically – put a bone in your nose – and boy, you are in trouble!” For extreme body modification artist Fakir Musafar, physical beauty is the last word type of taboo. From flesh-hook suspension, to tightlacing, extreme piercings, tattooing, and scarification (all doused in fetishistic tones), from the Nineteen Forties until last yr, his body experimentations were artistic rebellions against a society unwilling to know the body beyond its heteronormative definitions.

Dubbed the daddy of up to date body modification, Musafar’s obsession with extreme body experiments got here from the pure spiritual ecstasy they gave him, describing a few of his most painful experiments as out of body experiences. “I met what I felt was God,” he once told the San Francisco Chronicle.Like the last word high, chasing this exact transcendence lead Musafar right into a lifetime of body modifications from age 14. He suspended himself from the roof by his nipples, tight laced his waist right down to as tiny as 19 inches, and played a seminal role within the birth of up to date piercing culture. He also contributed academically to philosophical theory on ‘body play’ – a term he coined to explain his art, and in addition the title of his self-founded magazine that spotlighted experimental body subcultures across the globe.

In 1980, anthropologist Charles Gatewood dubbed Musafar an “astronaut of inner spaces” for the way in which during which he unflinchingly touched uncharted parts of the human psyche. And Gatewood’s framing of Musafar was right, without the artist’s commitment to chasing the spirit through the body, it’s inconceivable to say if we might understand the inextricable, poetic links between beauty, fetish, pain and the body as we do today.

Below we delve head first into exactly how Musafar revolutionised and radicalised the concept of physical beauty.


Born Roland Loomis on 10 August 1930 (making him a Leo – after all) in South Dakota, America, Musafar’s experience of transcendence began as a toddler. “I remember way back to 4 or five years old being a bit of bit different than other people,” he reflected in an interview with Body Modification Ezine. “I wasn’t too aware of it then, not until I got a bit of older and got into school. At that stage a whole lot of strange phenomena occurred in my life. I might go into trance states very easily and I learned at a really early age to simply robotically go into lucid daydreams and will live a life quite separate from the one I used to be living in my physical body, after which come back and do things I got from the lucid daydreams in my body.”

By the point he reached his teens, these lucid states pushed him to experiment along with his body, the primary Musafar body play being a piercing. Sheltering himself from the Nineteen Forties widely held notion that piercings were taboo, Musafar performed his first piercing on the age of 14 within the cellar of his parent’s South Dakota home and this initial piercing began a string of secret body modifications in the identical basement. “Roland was straight as an arrow, a complete nerd before nerds were cool, with thick corduroy pants, suburban-style plaid cotton shirts with ink-stained pockets, and thick, bug-eyed glasses,“ reflects very long time friend and sex positivity artist Annie Sprinkle in Artforum. “But beneath his clothes lay a totally different story.”

An avid photographer on the time, the artist would tell his parents he was developing photos all of the while he experimented with self-bondage, by tying himself with ropes, and sensory deprivation where he would suffocate and clench his skin along with his mother’s clothes pins and super tight tights. Even from a young age, Musafar craved a transcendence only pain could achieve, and would eventually embark on a lifelong interrogation of pain. “Whenever you stand up frombed and stub your toe, you didn’t ask for it, you didn’t expect it, and it hurts, ”Mufasar told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2018. “That’s pain. Whenever you push needles through your cheeks, it’s an intense sensation.”


After high-school, between the Fifties and 60s, Musafar served as a Korean Veteran after which he went on to live a reasonably normcore life as a Silicon Valley promoting executive. But little known to his exterior life, while dominating the ad world, Musafar also began to widen his body experimentations in secret.

 Advancing from piercings, Musafar began to play with flesh hook suspensions, where he suspended himself with ropes hooked to his nipples, and tight lacing corsetry where he made multiple attempts at shrinking his waist to its smallest size. Eventually, the artist reached a 19-inch circumference. For years, Musafar kept his experimentations hidden from the world for fear of the way in which society would brandish him. “If people had known about my practices through my teenage years and through my 20s, they probably would’ve thrown me right into a mental institution,” Musafar told the Dallas Observer. “It wasn’t acceptable.”

Unable to precise his spirituality to the broader world, Musafar turned to the embrace of underground queer and BDSM communities where he could share his experimentations with other people and communicate his findings. It was inside the openness of those worlds that his work slowly began to maneuver out of secrecy, and he modified his name to Fakir Musafar. “We were all excluded from regular society, so we had something in common,” the artist reflected within the documentary Fakir Musafar My 60 Years of Body Play. “We were fighting for a standard goal, and that was to be let alone, to have the ability to do what we desired to do, not be thrown into mental institutions, harassed, bothered by authorities.”


Although commonplace today, until the Nineties, piercings were so taboo some were even illegal with authorities particularly targeting queer communities. Seen as a physical type of revolt against morality, in line with Musafar in Body Modification Ezine, nobody, aside from circus performers who pierced their tongues to wheel wagons around and generate income, openly wore piercings until the late Nineteen Seventies. Musafar himself played a really big role in bringing piercings out of the dark, including hosting piercing parties after they were considered illegal, and being one in all the one two people on the earth who perform do genital piercings. Should you wanted a piercing done outside of the law, Mufasar was your man.

The artist credits West Hollywood within the mid Nineteen Seventies because the birthplace of up to date piercings, something he was there to witness and contribute to himself. As he explains in an interview with Body Modification Ezine The primary place openly doing piercings was a bit of store Musafar and his crew rented on Santa Monica Boulevard. Musafar would fly down and pierce every weekend, where more people (particularly gay males) would want piercings than there have been piercers. In line with Musafar, the preferred piercings were nipples and Prince Alberts (penis piercings, commonly known as so since it’s said Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria of England, had his done)

From this tiny Santa Monica salon, piercings spread like wildfire in underground Los Angeles communities, uniting queer, straight, and fetish communities within the name of piercings, pain, and pleasure. The artist also prolonged his work to Recent York, where he gave a lecture in 1981 and hosted “the primary ever mixed genital piercing party” in the town at the home of Annie Sprinkle. He continues in Body Modification Ezine that the following wave of piercings were Nineteen Seventies punks, and that from there the art form spread to general youth culture.


Body suspension is an extreme body artform that involves the act of using flesh hooks to suspend a human body. Through perforations within the skin, hooks are attached that allow the body to drift from ropes tied to the roof or an object above the body itself. It’s said that Musafar taught and pioneered body suspension as a latest type of BDSM art, and a continuation of the ritual from ancient Savite Hindu and Sufi practises.

His investigations on body suspension began in 1962 when he stumbled across a book on the old and non secular flesh hook suspension practises of the 1800s Mandans. Knowing there was nobody left on the earth who could show him the work of the Mandans, Musafar set off to recreate their body suspension rituals. In 1963, his first attempt took place within the attic of his Palo Alto Californian home. He began by slowly piercing his chest with hooks which put him into a light-weight trance. He then began the flesh hook suspension. As he describes in a column for Body Modification Ezine: “The pain was intense to the purpose where I didn’t think I could proceed. I had ‘gone out of my mind’ and all that existed within the universe was the glowing fire in my heart center. At that moment, I tripped my distant camera, stepped off the last book almost unconsciously and swung free. The pain stopped and I began to drift off. I knew I had to come back back pronto or I could be gone eternally. So I struggled mightily to get my feet back on a solid surface. I had done it, even when for under three or 4 minutes! I used to be glowing, radiant and absolutely obsessed to try again.”

From this moment on, Musafar set out on one other 40 or so years of flesh hook suspension, bringing it largely back into contemporary art. Initially, he practiced privately, after which he took his performances public and even introducing them as group sessions. By 1967, he claims that body suspensions were taking him to a “white light” that soon became a guiding force chakra for him.  


Alongside Musafar’s extensive body modifications was a complete academic and journalistic profession committed to bringing body play out of societal taboo through teaching and writing. He achieved this through contributing to journals, interviews, documentaries, and by launching his own magazine Body Play in 1992.

Body Play was a quarterly publication that spotlighted global body modification communities across suspension, extreme corsetry, piercings, and branding. The magazine also thoroughly documented the history of body modification, paying strong homage to the traditional cultures for whom body modifications were spiritual rituals. Sadly, attributable to its radical content which mainstream advertisers and distributors refused to pay for, the magazine did not secure enough funding to last beyond 1999. In 1991, Musafar launched his very own piercing school in San Francisco. Fakir Intensives taught his practises and findings to over 1,400 people all over the world within the art of piercing and branding, and it still runs today even without Musafar.

Along with his teachings and writings, he hoped that extreme body modifications would attain their spiritual status, despite the ways during which he saw and discredited how such ritualis like piercings and tattoos have been commercialised through reality TV and the web. “The present ‘Body Modification Movement’ (piercings) fairly often obscures the deeper values and self understanding behind the literal acts,” Musafar once explained to author Paula Marie. “So long as the deeper meaning of the mods are suppressed within the body mod community, such mods will at all times be seen as fringe.”


On 1 August 2018, Musafar passed away from cancer. What he left behind was an unflinching pledge to beauty,  present in the way in which during which he sacrificed a lot of his social status for his work. “He had mostly lived his kinky life within the closet, lest he’d been judged as crazy and sick,” reflects Sprinkle in her Artforum obituary for the artist. “He’d had his struggles: He had been shunned by a few of his family, his ex-wife didn’t approve of his proclivities, and even some folks within the BDSM world found him way too extreme.” It’s inside this utter devotion to the pursuit of beauty that make his contributions to the human understanding of transcendental and spiritual worlds all of the more necessary.

When reflecting on his life, Musafar’s wife Claire Dubois told The New York Times that his life motto best be summarised as “The body is the door to the spirit.” The artist’s entire life was a devotion to demonstrating that beauty is greater than just what we present to the world physically – it’s a spiritual, transcendental exploration of the human psyche.“… Beauty only deals with the aesthetic side of life, the a part of us that dwells within the five-sense world, only relevant with other people,” Musafar reflected in a column to the Body Modification Ezine. “How concerning the deeper side of us that operates within the “invisible world”? How concerning the inner emotions, feelings, spirit and energy that animates the body?” Although now it seems the world has finally caught up, it’s inconceivable to say where our perceptions of spiritual beauty could be today without Musafar – the world’s most extreme body artist.

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