Question in black--Doctor's running response in blue:

It has been reported that corset wearers become not only physiologically, but also psychologically dependent on their corset. This would indicate to me that there is probably a degree of generation of endorphins during the tightlacing process. Throughout the history of human culture, some degree of body modification or use of natural drugs has been the rule, rather than the exception. In most cases there were few problems ensuing from these practices. 

You are correct. Body modification has existed as long as history has been recorded. These processes are often self-limiting, but in other instances are part of a more complex ritual, which may  indeed release endorphins. However, tightlacing itself is not intended to be painful. It may in some cases have been desirable to be constrained, to create a particular appearance. Remember that women in earlier centuries (15th - 19th) wore corsets as part of their regular clothing, with no other intention than to maintain or improve the shape and to support the torso. Most corsets from the 19th century look like regular, albeit structured, underclothing. Very few are decorated and imply an additional (ritual) purpose.

In general it seems that the intentions were to add an item of underclothing that was perceived as beneficial. The gradual process of modifying the torso did not necessarily involve a gradual increased constriction. As the body adapted, the actual pressures may have remained fairly constant. Thus, the endorphin effect may have been limited to occasional events such as weddings or balls, where additional constriction could have been applied for the duration of the event.

Our modern "enlightened" society bans most drugs and has strongly discouraged body modification. We have problems such as the movement of organized crime to control the distribution of drugs, and the rise of conditions such as anorexia. Anorexia seems to me to be an endorphin-related phenomenon. There are strong feedback loops leading to fatal consequences in both illegal drug taking and anorexia. 

Body modification can include many forms, and depending on local culture and time period, some of these forms may be taboo, and others encouraged. Corsets were expected to be worn at some point in time; then, in recent years, they were not, and today they are accepted again at some levels.
Modification may create shapes that are expected to conform to an accepted norm; if the norm is exceeded it is viewed as unacceptable. Perhaps a norm for the average modern women is a 26-36" waist. Both a 20" and a 40" waist may draw some form of attention, as they are viewed as "non-average." This is problematic in itself, as many of us take pride in our individualism, but at the same time we do not want to be too different! My personal belief is that body modification by corseting, if done carefully and gradually, is a reasonable form of self-expression, and I see no reason for it to be regarded negatively. Self-expression in itself should be applauded, provided no one is injured or insulted. The latter brings social implications with it.

I enjoy eating chili-hot food, and have become, I'm sure, a little addicted to it. Again, its an endorphin-related effect. There seems to be little problem associated with this as it is both socially acceptable and relatively self-limiting. I would think that strait-lacing would be also similarly self-limiting and certainly far less harmful than illegal drug taking or anorexia.

The degree of lacing that will be accepted by the corset wearer varies greatly, and I would agree much has to do with a state of mind. Gradually increased moderate lacing will condition the mind and body until its pressure is perceived as pleasant. As I have indicated in my articles, the gradual process is safe, when pain signals are not ignored. Hence I am not convinced that endorphins are released for continuous tight-lacers; but it is quite possible that periodic instances of extreme lacing stimulate the release of endorphins. 

During sexual activity, endorphins are released as well, making the individuals involved less perceptive of what otherwise would be painful experiences. The transition from pain to pleasure is vague and requires a particular sequence of events and associated conditions. For each individual this could be defined as their "unique path to satisfaction."  This does not always imply sexual satisfaction, but is a more general level, which may include sexual elements.

Often that which lacks public acceptance is viewed as harmful. Proper corsets do not cause localized pressure points and, because of that, risk tends to be minimal. Yet, the mere fact that they cause a level of compression is often viewed as unhealthy. Careful analysis of the topic undermines the prejudice that corsets are unhealthy. Any excess probably is harmful, but for the general wearer this is not the case. On the counterside, one could argue that lacing into a corset at least provides some structure and support, and certainly avoids many back problems. Muscle atrophy can be an issue, but it can easily be prevented with regular exercise. Only when excessive compression is used are problems experienced. "Excessive" is still ultimately defined by the wearer's comfort level.

The human being is an extremely complex and subtle thing. Surely it is folly to think that there is any single formula which can be used by all people for dealing with reality. 

A reasonable statement. --- Don (10/7/00).



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