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Belly Buttons, Navels and Yankee Shots: The Ethics of the Bare Midriff

“I don’t mind if other people feel the need to get their belly buttons pierced. What I mind is when they feel the need to show me.”

So said a friend at supper last week when conversation turned to body piercing.
Pierced body parts are as popular as ever—ears, tongues, brows, noses, lots of places to remain unnamed here, and most trendy of all, belly buttons.
Or if you prefer, the navel. It’s also been called, by folks south of the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Mason-Dixon line, one’s “Yankee shot” (i.e. where a Yankee shot you).
Pierced navels are arguably mainstream. Your pastor may not have one, but … Well, how do you really know? They’re everywhere!
Seriously, BodyJewelry.com offers a quote from the New York Times, which said body piercing went mainstream with supermodel Christy Turlington’s navel ring debut at a 1994 London fashion show.
Now, pierced belly buttons are about as omni-present at the local mall as they are on the Internet.
YourBellyButton.net is “the website with 100% user submitted photos.” Isaac and Phil, the two guys who run the site, even offer Web banners for those who’ve submitted pictures. The banner reads: “See My Bellybutton Online At yourbellybutton.net.”
Talk about feeling a need to show others your belly button … A few clicks and—wham!—more people can see your belly button than weren’t allowed to see Barbara Eden’s on “I Dream of Jeannie.”
We’ve gone from NBC’s “No Navel Policy” in the 1960s to sporting not just a bare midriff, but a bare midriff with a pierced navel.
And don’t think piercing a navel is a catch-as-catch-can business. It’s serious. The jewelry alone merits a new dictionary.
You’ve got your banana bell, your jeweled banana bell and your jumbo jeweled banana bell.
You’ve got your ball closure ring, your jeweled ball closure ring and your vertical jeweled BCR.
You’ve got your “stainless steel bent doorknocker with 2 free-moving niobium rings,” priced to sell at www.steelnavel.com.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
And don’t forget the glow-in-the-dark or UV reactive rings. Word on the street is they’re “great for clubbing.”
CoolPiercings.com says it’s possible to pierce your own navel. “Only the ‘Inny’ type of navels should be pierced,” the site warns, “but there are some odd shaped navels out there so if you are unsure whether or not your navel can be pierced you should probably go to the closest piercer and ask for their opinion.”
Right.
All this is about as perplexing as that covered in Ken Ham’s book, Did Adam Have a Belly Button? And Other Tough Questions About the Bible.
Most other books with “belly button” in the title are for kids. But as the popularity of pierced navels attests, we never outgrow our fascination with the “depression in the middle of the abdomen that marks the point of former attachment of the umbilical cord,” according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary.
Indeed, the only thing more fascinating than the navel itself is a pierced navel—unless we count Graham Barker’s collection of his own “navel fluff,” certified by Guiness World Records.
Cliff Vaughn is BCE’s associate director.