Q:

In what cultures is stretching of the esophagus considered desirable?

A:

Quick Answer

The culture that views a stretched neck or esophagus as desirable is the Kayan Lahwi tribe of Southeast Asia. Women of this tribe use metal neck rings to create the appearance of a longer, stretched neck.

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Full Answer

The Kayan Lahwi, also called the Padaung, traditionally lived in Myanmar, but many fled to Thailand as refugees due to ethnic conflicts. They are part of the Kayan people, although other Kayan tribes do not wear neck rings.

Although the neck rings give the appearance of an elongated neck and esophagus, they actually do not stretch the neck. They work by pushing down the collarbone and rib cage, which creates deformed clavicles that give the appearance of a long neck. Women start wearing the rings as young girls and gradually add more rings as they age. The exact reason this tradition developed is uncertain, although some believe it was to emphasize the differences between men and women, as women tend to have longer and more slender necks. In 2015, most women cite tradition and beauty as the reasons they wear the neck rings.

Many young Kayan Lahwi women in refugee camps have stopped wearing the rings due to their restrictive nature, although many older women and some girls in rural areas continue to wear them.

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