When I wrote about making a model of my own genitals in a recent article for Metro, I mentioned that I’d been concerned about the silicone potentially getting stuck in my vertical clitoral hood piercing (VCH).
The very mention of this appeared to give some people a bit of a shock – but given that I have piercings in my nose, ear, tongue and nipples, I’m not sure why it was such a surprise to discover that I had a full set.
So what makes people want to pierce their most sensitive areas? Chelsea Bunz is a professional piercer and also the person who did my own VCH – this woman has seen more of me than pretty much anyone other than my boyfriend.
I think genital piercing has always been popular – it’s just discussed more openly these days, which makes it increasingly acceptable to the mainstream. People from all classes and professions have them – you’d be amazed at some of the outwardly unlikely people who have ‘secret’ piercings.
Everyone has genitals and part of my job is to help relieve people’s nerves – being horrified at seeing a ladygarden would not be useful! I honestly don’t view them any different to an ear.
I’ve seen bad piercings – bad placements and badly fitting or poor quality jewellery. I spend a lot of time helping people who have had bad experiences in the past.
Piercings aren’t at all unhygienic, most people who have them are sensible and know how to care for them and I always discuss aftercare during consultations. Most people have already done some research or have other body piercings.
They are aware of how to care for both the piercing and the jewellery and do a great job in doing so.
Piercings do not spread STIs or increase the chance of catching one – unsafe sex does that.
I would say the majority of people have piercings for themselves, but sometimes you do meet people who want to improve their love lives. No professional will undertake any piercing if they think the client is being over encouraged by a partner.
I also wouldn’t do any piercing unless the anatomy is correct for that particular piercing and safe.
For me personally, it was sheer aesthetics – I just like how it looks. Even if I was the only person who ever saw my piercing, I’d like it in the same way that I like having painted toenails – something pretty for my own personal pleasure.
And clitoral piercings can enhance sensation, because of the metal bar that’s pretty much constantly in contact with the surrounding nerve endings. It’s sparkly and it feels good – what’s not to like?
Some people have more profound reasons for piercing. Lynne is 35 and from Cumbria – she told me the thoughts behind her own decoration.
Initially I think I wanted a VCH because it was a bit ‘out there’ and I like to try unusual things.
But when I made the decision to actually go ahead with it, it was as a kind of declaration of self-love. I have had some significant issues with sex and sexuality throughout my life and am constantly trying to teach myself to overcome that. So having what is possibly the most sexual body part I have pierced was basically a massive ‘f*ck you’ to my demons.
As for how it feels? Amazing. At first I found it very strange as I could feel it all the time. I nearly took it out after a few days because it was quite triggering being turned on so much. But over time it has only been a positive thing.
It’s a lot easier for me to become aroused now, which for me is a MASSIVE deal. I also actively use it for stimulation as it provides a different kind of feeling.
It’s a personal accomplishment for me and really has been part of my self therapy – with the added bonus of having a sparkly foo!
There is a great deal of satisfaction to be had from taking control of our own bodies and decorating them however we please.
BUT WHAT ABOUT MEN?
Whereas clitoral hood piercings only go through the thinnest of tissue (and even labial piercings are fairly simple), male genital piercings involve a bar being placed right through the penis. Ouch.
By far the most common piercing for men is the Prince Albert (PA), named after Queen Victoria’s consort, who was alleged to have had just such an adornment – the story is undoubtedly false but the name has stuck.
The PA consists of a heavy-gauge curved bar (or ring with a ball-closure) entering down the urethra and coming out through the underside of the penis, just below the ridge where the glans joins the shaft. A far less common version is the ‘reverse PA’, which again enters through the urethra but exits through a hole pierced through the upper side of the glans.
I have far more knowledge of these piercings than most people as my own boyfriend has both. I personally love them, but I know he did them for himself (although he did ask me beforehand if I would mind him adding the reverse PA, and rightly so – let’s face it, I’m the one who has to deal with all this metalwork in the bedroom).
I asked him what the appeal was of piercings that would seem to many as being quite extreme.
I had my PA done at the age of 23 after splitting from a girlfriend. That one was bravado, I guess – and for the record it didn’t hurt much.
It’s been a slippery slope ever since! Apart from the PA and reverse PA, I also have a scrotal ladder as well as pierced nipples and various dermals. As a life model it certainly raises eyebrows on occasion.
I can’t really explain why the process is enjoyable, but a large part of it is connected to a personal mastery over fear, as well as the endorphin rush.
I asked Aidan Johnson from Adorn Body Art about the technicalities of male piercing.
The reverse PA is quite rare actually, because it’s pretty brutal. And it takes a while to heal. But the PA itself has always been popular – in fact body piercing itself is pretty much as old as humanity itself. Tutankhamen had his navel pierced.
With some male genital piercing I do have to ask fairly intimate questions about the client’s sex life – you shouldn’t have an apadravya piercing if you’re into anal sex for example, as it could cause serious damage to your partner.
If a couple both have piercings then I talk things through with them so that they’re compatible.
There’s a lot you can do with male piercings and they’re not at all harmful if they’re cared for properly. And we use much heavier gauge jewellery on men – you don’t want to end up with a ‘cheese wire effect’ on your penis!
Genital piercings are particularly popular with men in high power professions – it’s something hidden away that no one can see but they know is there.
One last point – NEVER ever attempt a genital piercing yourself.
Yes, there are home kits available online and no, you should never use them. Read up on it, find a good studio and put yourself in the hands of a professional.
Then lie back and admire your glittery bits.
AMERICAN STATISTICS ON GENITAL PIERCINGS
Self-Reported Characteristics of Women and Men with Intimate Body Piercings
The current discussion concentrates on the data subset of 37 subjects who specifically self-reported only genital piercings. General demographic information includes 15 females and 22 males; age range 18 to 59 years; residence across 16 states; 84% Caucasian; and 54% single. Almost half had completed some college and a quarter had an undergraduate degree. While 63% of respondents reported church attendance when growing up, now they rated their current religious faith in two distinct groups, either moderately strong to very strong (39%) or moderately weak to very weak (39%). Most (84%) reported good to excellent health with many (73%) having annual physical examinations.
Over half of the respondents (53%) obtained their genital piercing in their home region and paid between $40 and $75 for the piercing. Thirty-eight percent reported no bleeding during the actual piercing event. Pain during the procedure ranged from a small (39%) to a large amount (22%). Healing time was not asked.
Participants were asked if they considered themselves to be risk takers. One subject said “sometimes” yet another stated “I take calculated risks, not stupid ones.” As to actual high-risk behavior, only 8% reported drinking or using drugs before their genital piercing procedure (routine alcohol consumption was not asked). A subject commented that it was the “policy of the artist to prohibit alcohol as it thins the blood.” Almost half (49%) of the participants reported no cigarette smoking; however, 30% smoked one-half to one pack or more daily. Caliendo et al. (2005) have already reported that these respondents denied STDs, HIV, hepatitis, recurrent enlarged lymph nodes, allergies, or urinary tract infections.
While this population is unique just by having genital piercings, Caliendo et al. (2005) felt the sample did not reveal great differences from mainstream society. One subject explained:
I have three adult daughters (who are also pierced and tattooed) plus two grandchildren. We all have respectable jobs I worked for the state for 6 years and also have my degree in British & Russian history. We aren’t deviants we’re all well-educated, family people who just live an alternative lifestyle.
Many replied, as one subject stated, “my piercing was my own desire and decision w/plenty of deliberation (over a year)”; another said “I wanted one for a long time, but it was only a few minutes when the opportunity presented itself.” Another subject, a health care worker, stated:
My piercings have not affected my career. I do not discuss or bring up the topic of [genital] piercings with my patients or co-workers. My tongue piercing is far enough back that it does not inhibit my speech and is not easily seen. My tattoos are also covered and not noticeable.
The three frequently reported purposes for obtaining their piercings were sexual expression, sexual enhancement, and uniqueness (Caliendo et al., 2005). One woman said, “I’m more sexual than I use[d] to be.” Another subject expressed his feelings this way:
In general, I feel good about my genital piercing. I had to enlist assistance of my partner to change out my first barbell, because the balls were screwed on too tight. Other than that, I haven’t had any problems. I feel it has enhanced the degree of sexual pleasure I experience alone, or with a partner. My piercing experience was a declaration of independence, and freedom of expression, regardless of what anyone thinks of my piercing. I got it for me. It was the first decision I got to make alone. When I turned 18, my body was finally mine. I got to decorate it as I see fit. It’s like moving into your own place for the first time. I can hang pictures, posters, repaint, and it’s all mine. Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to share my piercing experience.
A female stated:
My genital piercing has made me more interested in sex, and I enjoy it a lot more. It doesn’t ever bother me, most of the time I can’t even tell it’s there. I also like the fact that if people know I had one they would be shocked. When you look at me, you can’t see any tattoos, just my earrings and nose ring (when I wear it). A lot of people, like the people I work with, think I’m “sweet and innocent.” My piercing has completely changed my sex life. I’m willing to experiment (to an extent), and I’m just more open.
Aesthetics also seemed to surface in the subjective data with both genders. The subjects spoke of “seeing it and liking it,” “I liked the way it looked,” “I wanted to visually enhance my vaginal labia,” and “want[ing] to be unique.” Another called his piercing a “new accessory for an old toy.”
Almost all of the subjects reported a daily skin care routine for their genital piercings as washing with antibacterial soap and water in the shower at least once a day, then rotating the jewelry, followed by another washing and rinsing. “I wash as I always have” was a common report. Most made comments such as, “You need to keep your hands off the piercings that’s what causes problems.” Emphasis also was on a thorough cleaning around the genital area following urination and bowel movements. Many of the subjects reported only removing the piercings to change the jewelry, or as one reported, for short periods of time such as for the “metal detector at the airport, surgery, and a MRI at [the] hospital.”
Heavier grades of jewelry (up to 1.75 inch thick) are recommended for genital sites to support the surrounding tissue and “avoid rejection, migration, or tearing” (Armstrong, 2004 p. 50). Respondents reported wearing jewelry with gauges ranging from 2 to 14. The smaller sizes represent very heavy gauge (typically used for males), while the larger gauges tend to be used for female piercings. One subject described what could happen if a heavy enough gauge is not used:
“I got pierced by an ‘apprentice’ and he used the wrong gauge…18-gauge ring which turned out to be too small in diameter to pierce that kind of flesh. Thus 2 years later…the hole had stretched to about a 12 gauge or more…some piercers call that the piano wire effect.”
Of the men (n=22) in this data subset, 17 (77%) had a Prince Albert piercing. One stated:
I personally have…a Prince Albert (PA)…It is very pleasurable for both partners during intercourse as for a male it rubs and pulls on the head of the penis and for the female adds a rigid rubbing sensation and fullness…many tell me they love their PA penis piercing except for one minor thing. During urination while standing you must hold your thumb over the point where jewelry enters the penis behind the glans, as the pressure of the urine stream will force some urine out of a small opening occasionally spraying their shoes.
Three of the males combined their Prince Albert piercing with an ampallang and apadravya (see Figure 1). Another described a frenum ladder of six barbells running horizontally toward the scrotum. No artificial penile nodules or beads were reported.
Of the 15 women with genital piercings, seven had clitoral hood piercings, while six combined clitoral hood piercings with labia piercings. One woman reported that she combined genital piercings “as a way of honoring my sexuality.” Another stated, “My piercings (labia and clitoris) gave me a feeling of control in my life when I needed it.”