These days, nipple, ear, navel and eyebrow piercings are relatively common. Nipple piercing goes back thousands of years and is believed at one time to have been a sign of allegiance and manhood within Caesar’s Pretorian Guard. Many Roman statues are thought to show pierced nipples, but they could be representing a lorica or breastplate. There are even suggestions that cloaks were fastened to them. If true, they would have been very lightweight particularly when in battle – for obvious reasons!
Genital piercings (through the cock and balls) also have a long history. The ampalang (a barbell placed horizontally through the glans) comes from Borneo, where the women of certain tribes will not marry a man who does not have one. This and other piercings like the hafada (a ring through the ball sac) were considered rites of passage by some cultures, to mark the passage of a boy to a man.
The Prince Albert (a ring passing in through the urethra and exiting at the back of the glans, underneath and to one side or other of the frenum) has a more intriguing origin. During the Victorian era, the bulge of a cock in a man’s trouser was considered unsightly. This piercing could be used to strap the penis in place which is where the saying ‘…on which side does Sir dress’ is thought to originate. It is also rumoured that Prince Albert wore one, hence the piercing’s name. While genital piercings have become popular with some gay men, they are still a relatively small group, even though in some ‘specialist clubs’ you could be forgiven for thinking that you’d walked into an armoury.
Part of the pleasure of piercings has to do with the subtle sensations of wearing them, and there is no doubt that these types of piercing can be strikingly visual and a real turn-on, both for those exhibiting them and those admiring them. What you can have pierced will depend on your anatomy. A good body piercer should be able to advise you as to what will suit and the types of jewellery that will be most comfortable or visually striking.
Choosing your piercing
The barbell, the ball closure ring and banana bell (with equal sized balls) are not unusual. Normally a barbell in any body piercing will heal quicker than a ring, as there is nothing sticking out to catch or rub on clothes. Only jewellery made from highest grade surgical stainless steel or solid gold should be worn in a piercing. Silver and other metals which can tarnish should never be used.
The important thing is to discuss what you want with the piercer who – if they’re good – will encourage you to do so. It may also be helpful to discuss it with friends who have piercings. For men, the experience of the piercing can be quite intense and can lead to an endorphin rush and can be an essential part of the ritual. For others, it’s a sharp, intense feeling, but like with a tattoo, you only really feel it as the needle goes in.
- Ask your GP if there are any reasons why you shouldn’t have a piercing (other than his/her thoughts on the matter)
- If you need more than one visit to choose what you want, check over the clinic and discuss your needs with the studio – do so
- Believe it or not, there is no uniform standard in the UK. However, studios have to be registered in London with their London Borough and, elsewhere, they are usually registered with the local council (where they have to have a licence) or the health authority
- Set sufficient time aside, eg: it’s not a particularly intelligent idea to have a tattoo or piercing on your way to work!
- Make sure the studio is covered by the appropriate health certification
- The studio should be scrupulously clean with separate waiting, tattooing/piercing, and sterilisation areas
- Get the studio to explain in advance the procedures involved and answer any questions
- After the tattoo/piercing, the studio should provide you with a written aftercare sheet
- If you have any doubts – follow your gut instinct and leave... you can always go back or find another studio
Piercing after care
- Remove dressing after four hours
- Clean with TCP antiseptic for two days only
- Continue to clean with pre-boiled water and salt
- Do not pull or tug jewellery
- Ensure that your hands are pre-cleaned using an anti-bacterial soap before touching your new piercing
- If you have any problems then contact your piercer for advice, this can usually eliminate a trip to your local GP