If you’re anything like us, you’ve spotted a picture of someone with a split tongue – meaning a tongue that’s been cut down the middle to make the tip forked – and had a lot of questions.
How much does that hurt to have done? Does having your tongue cut affect eating, kissing, or your speech? And why do people want to turn their tongue into one like a snake’s?
To get answers to all these questions and more, we chatted to Thibault Descamps, an 18-year-old living in Nice, France, who had his tongue split in August 2018.
Thibault’s reasons for getting his tongue split are pretty simple – he wanted to. He had a set idea in his mind of how he wanted to look, and took action to make that body his reality.
The process of having your tongue split usually involves either cauterisation or surgery using a scalpel.
A practitioner makes the tongue numb with a local anaesthetic then slices the tongue down a dotted line they’ve already drawn on, either with a scalpel, which can cause a lot of bleeding, or with a laser cauterising tool. To close the wound and control bleeding, each side of the newly split tongue is then sutured (stitched) or cauterised.
Thibault says he doesn’t remember any pain or sensation as he was under anaesthetic, and says he didn’t notice much blood – ‘three compresses filled with blood at most.’
The annoying part of the experience, for him, was that after having his tongue split he couldn’t swallow for around an hour.
While some people report changes in taste and difficulty speaking after having their tongue split, Thibault says that after the first week of recovery he experienced no negative effects.
‘The first week it’s impossible to talk well,’ Thibault tells us. ‘It was mostly a discomfort. In five days it was healed – still a little sensitive but much better.
‘In time you talk normally. I say that [tongue splits] force you to articulate.’
Thibault also says he never bites his tongue (we’d assumed a split tongue would double your chances), but this may be a result of the amount of control he has over his new tongue.
With a lot of practice, he’s able to move the two parts of his tongue independently, allowing him to do tricks and hold items. It’s important to note that not everyone will be able to do this, and there’s no way of knowing in advance if you’d be able to move your split tongue independently before you get the surgery done.
And yes, to answer the big question, having a split tongue does affect the sexual side of things – that was part of the appeal for Thibault.
‘[Oral] motivated my already existing desire to split my tongue,’ he tells us. ‘I think (or at least I hope) I give good kisses, too.
‘I manage to dissociate the two ends of my tongue so yes, there is an advantage.’
Thibault receives some negative reactions to his tongue, but that doesn’t stop him from loving his new body.
‘The main reaction I have is surprise,’ he explains. ‘People are still very ignorant about body modification, they are in a state of shock when seeing it.
‘I have been insulted because of my tongue and ears, which are also modified.’
Over on Instagram, photos of his tongue are flooded with comments calling it ‘sexy’, ‘gorgeous’, and ‘intriguing’ – so any negativity doesn’t have the power to dent Thibault’s self-esteem.
He acknowledges that if he were to want to reverse his tongue split, the option is there – although it’s said this is more painful than getting it done in the first place.
But he says he ‘will never regret it’ and that his ‘tongue will remain like this.’
Thibault has more body modification plans in the works to make his appearance match the body he imagines.
‘The list is very long,’ says Thibault. ‘I would like tattoos that would cover a good part of my body, scarification also, I would like to have eyeball tattoos, and get the nipples and navel removed.’
Yep, he’s planning to have both his nipples and belly button sliced off.
‘I have lots of projects for my body,’ Thibault adds, ‘and the work is already well started in less than a year – my tongue is cut, my ears are cut, and I hope I can quickly continue the fabulous work on my body.’
Is tongue splitting illegal?
In March last year, the court of appeal declared tongue splitting to be illegal when performed by a body modification practitioner for cosmetic purposes. This ruling applies to England and Wales, and is the case even if a person gives consent for their tongue to be split.
There’s still debate over whether tongue splitting should be illegal across the rest of the UK, and, of course, the legal status of the body modification may mean backstreet procedures are done without proper care.
Tongue splitting is not currently illegal in France, where Thibault had his surgery performed.
When tongue splitting was made illegal last year, the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons backed the move, warning that these procedures could pose serious health risks.
The stated that tongue splitting could cause significant blood loss, infection, and nerve damage, along with difficulties breathing, speaking, eating, and swallowing.
Selina Master of the Faculty of Dental Surgery said at the time: ‘As dental surgeons, we’ve seen some of the horrific consequences of these procedures.
‘It’s so important that people realise they are putting themselves at serious risk of significant blood loss, infection, nerve damage and problems being able to breath or swallow
‘The FDS and BAPRAS are concerned that despite the legal debate, the demand for tongue-splitting procedures may continue but simply be driven underground.
‘We would strongly advise people not to have oral piercings or tongue splits.
‘However, if they do, it is crucial they see their dentist on a regular basis so that the impact on their oral health can be closely monitored. Never try to carry out one of these procedures on yourself or others.’
In March 2019 a tattooist called Dr Evil was jailed for carrying out a tongue splitting procedure, removing an ear, and removing a nipple.
It was ruled that despite his clients giving him ‘consent’, the procedures still amounted to grievous bodily harm
MORE: Is cutting a massive chunk out of your ears the next big body modification trend?
MORE: I’ve refused to wear a prosthetic but I find the current body modification trend empowering
MORE: ‘Transhumanist’ has gone through hundreds of body modifications to evolve with technology and time
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