|the deviants' dictionary Factsheet Updated 11 Feb 1997|
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The most obvious thrills are the aesthetic effect of piercings and the excitement and satisfaction that some of us feel at having semi-permanent (though relatively harmless) modifications to our bodies. For some people this feeling is non-sexual, though there is often a sexual element in the appeal of piercings, particularly in the genital variety.
For SMers, healed piercings can be put to use in all sorts of games. Use them as anchors in bondage (though be careful how much pressure you put on them and certainly don't suspend someone by them!), for leading people around, for twisting and tugging (carefully), for convenient conductors in electrical play, and, with genital piercings like foreskins and labia, in chastity games.
In recent years body piercings, along with other forms of body modification like tattoos, have grown in popularity and been linked to interests like modern primitivism. It has been argued that this state of affairs says less about the positive aspects of self-expression, and more about a defeated social and political mood in which people feel that the domain of their own bodies is the one remaining area of life where they can exert their control. In this view, the term 'modern primitives' is revealing, since it indicates a link with pre-technological societies that also experienced lack of control of their environment. Whatever the reasons, the growth of the piercing scene has been good news for those with a sexual interest in the practice.
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Various Ear Piercing sites (as depicted by piercing studio Metalmorphosis
Clitoral Piercing, left, and multiple labia piercings, right (from Love 1992)
Hafada (left) and Guiche
Prince Albert, Dydos and Lorum piercings. Photo courtesy of the Body Modification Ezine © BME 1996
As well as the socially-respectable earlobe piercings, there are many other possibilities in the ear, all of which heal moderately slowly. See diagram.
|Medicut needles (above) and traditional piercing needles (below)||Piercings are normally made with a hollow cylindrical needle, such as a traditional piercing needle or, more commonly, a 'medicut' canula needle. These types of needles have a very sharp cutting edge rather than a point, so the skin is not stretched apart as the needle goes through. Typically, a new piercing is made with a 2-2.6mm diameter needle for the insertion of 1.6-2mm gauge jewellery.|
There are also spring-loaded piercing guns that shoot a stud through the skin which are widely used for piercing earlobes cheaply in high street shops. These are just about adequate for earlobes, though they are difficult to place with any accuracy and make a thinner hole that is much more difficult to stretch later. They are certainly not to be recommended for any other site.
Piercing requires some skill and experience and excellent hygiene practise to be done safely and we'd recommend in most cases that you go to a reputable specialist piercing studio, especially for piercings on delicate sites. Ensure the piercer has permanent premises and a phone number, so you can easily ring for advice or return should you have any trouble. Canvass friends' recommendations, and check the piercer has clean-looking premises and an autoclave to sterilise their gear: most will be pleased to let you look over their studio before you book a piercing. Make sure the piercer uses solid stainless steel or niobium jewellery, not plated jewellery, since platings can become detached and cause problems. With the expansion of the market, it is now worth shopping around on price too. Some reputable London area piercers are listed below; other websites have extensive listings.
Most piercings hurt momentarily (nipples are arguably the worst), and to avoid discomfort for the client most piercers offer some form of anaesthetic. We'd be wary of anything injectable: most piercers probably aren't qualified to give injections and the sensation of the injection needle can sometimes be as disturbing as the piercing. A numbing spray should be adequate. You may well find that if you can grin and bear it you won't even need that, since a confident and experienced piercer will be quick. And of course you may enjoy the experience.
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Though we'd generally recommend going to a professional, particularly for delicate jobs, it is possible to learn to carry out some piercings yourself, which gives you the advantage of incorporating them into a scene. The best way is to gain some experience with play piercing first: this will give you an idea of both the 'feel' and the hygiene practise. Then try things out on a more innocuous site like an earlobe or navel.
|You will need a piece of 1.6-2mm surgical steel piercing jewellery, available from a piercing studio or supplier like Wildcat (see below), and, if you use one of the popular ball closure rings, a pair of circlip pliers, from the hardware shop, to open and close it. These are pliers with thin blades that push apart rather than together as you squeeze the handles. If you place the blades inside the ring and gently squeeze, the ring will open up enough to remove the ball. To close the ring again, once more open it gently with the pliers, insert the ring and let go. The ring should now grip the ball tightly once more. Practise this a few times: it requires a bit of a knack. And be very gentle with the pliers or the ring will lose its tension and be impossible to close again.||
Above, a selection of ball closure rings and below, circlip pliers for opening and closing them, as supplied by Wildcat.
Before piercing, the ring should be sterilised. It should ideally be autoclaved, but if you don't have these facilities, you can use a pressure cooker. Open up the ring, remove the ball and keep to one side. Now wrap the ring securely in a sturdy paper packet sealed with masking tape, place in a wire basket that keeps the packet out of the water at the bottom of the cooker and, following the manufacturer's instructions, cook for 30 mins at 7kg/15lbs pressure. Then place the basket in a preheated oven for at least three hours at 110oC/225oF. As an absolute minimum precaution, boil the jewellery in water in a covered pan at a rolling boil for at least 45 mins. But in all cases make sure the ring and ball are separated before the ring is sterilised.
Use prepacked sterile gloves, or at least clean examination gloves, and clean the piercing site with alcohol as you would for temporary piercings. Now take a fresh, sealed Medicut canula needle, available from surgical stores or from Wildcat: use a 2mm gauge for a 1.6mm ring, and a 2.6mm gauge for a 2mm ring. Open up the sealed pack carefully, touching the needle as little as possible. This type of needle has an attached plastic sleeve intended for connecting to other equipment but ideal for piercing purposes. There is a usually a small syringe attached to the other end of the sleeve which is not required for piercing; remove it carefully before proceeding.
Now line up the needle and push it steadily through the piercing site, continuing all the way through until the needle itself has passed through completely and the plastic sleeve is threaded through the hole. Remove the needle from the sleeve and replace it with one end of the ring. Holding both ring and sleeve gently but firmly, feed the sleeve back through the piercing with the ring following on behind, using the sleeve as a guide to place the ring. Once the ring is through, remove the sleeve, and replace the ball with the circlip pliers. Discard the needle and sleeve carefully as you would for temporary piercing: they are intended for one use only and should not be used again even if sterilised.
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Successful healing of a piercing requires scrupulous care and attention. If the piercing bleeds a little when first done it is best to dress it for a short time; after that, the piercing is best exposed to the air and should be dressed only under clothes or at night if necessary. Use clean lint or sterile melolin dressings, held in place with surgical tape (all available from pharmacies); after the first few days it is usually fine to wear the piercing under clean clothes without a dressing.
Leave to settle for the first night, and after that clean the piercing regularly at least for the first month, even if it appears already healed. First clean your hands, then use boiled water with salt (about a teaspoon/5ml of salt to 50ml/2 fluid ozs water), cooled to bearable, to soak the piercing two or three times a day -- an eggcup is very useful for this. Avoid antiseptics: they can dry out or otherwise irritate the wound. Oral piercings should be treated with glycerine of thymol mouthwash regularly, and always after eating, drinking, sleeping and smoking.
Be very careful to avoid tugging on the piercing and keep it away from dirty clothes, hair, fingers and other people's mouths and genitals: in the case of oral piercings, this includes avoiding kissing for at least six weeks, though genital piercings can be protected by condoms once healed enough for comfort. Avoid getting the piercing wet, at least for the first few weeks: take a shower rather than a bath if your piercing is in a site where it would have to soak in the water. Avoid swimming until the piercing is well healed. The more it is left alone, the better.
After a few days the piercing will probably get a little sore and begin to exude light-coloured fluid, lymph, which will dry on the jewellery -- remove this gently with a new cotton bud soaked in sterile saline, and once more don't forget to wash your hands. The piercing should become slowly but steadily more comfortable, though the discharge can go on for a couple of weeks.
If the piercing does become especially sore, swollen or bleeding and the problem persists or worsens, contact the piercer or your doctor. Don't be tempted to remove the jewellery: if you do so, you will not only most likely lose the piercing for good but you will also leave the wound even further open to infection. Antiseptics like Dettol or surgical spirit will sometimes help clear up acute infections if used two or three times a day in conjunction with saline, but not all piercers will recommend them (and tea tree oil, in our experience, is a very bad idea!). Failing this, a course of antibiotics prescribed by a doctor will do the trick. Don't treat infections lightly; remember they could rapidly spread with serious consequences.
Only once the piercing is fully healed should you attempt to play games with it, and even then be careful. Healed piercings can still be torn out if subjected to too much strain.
Fully healed piercings can usually be enlarged by incrementing the size of jewellery. You may find that you can fit wider jewellery comfortably in your piercing already, but if not the piercing suppliers sell tapered enlargement pins that can be used to stretch the hole. The watchword here is patience: only attempt one size up at a time, go slowly (a hot bath is said to help) and never try to stretch the hole so far that it hurts. If you don't reach the next size up in one session, replace your old jewellery and try again over a series of days. Once the new size is reached, you may find the piercing is sore for a while, so you should apply aftercare, and leave it to settle for a good few weeks before you attempt further enlargement.
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In London, the most perve-popular piercing studio is undoubtedly Into U, 144 St Johns Street, LONDON EC1, +44 (0)171 253 5085. There is also Metal Morphosis, 10/11 Moor Street, Soho, LONDON W1, +44 (0)171 434 4554, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Both these also supply a range of jewellery.
The best-known supplier of piercing jewellery and requisites (including needles) in Britain is Wildcat, 16 Preston Street, BRIGHTON, +44 (0)1273 326577, email email@example.com. They also run a studio.
Medicut needles can also sometimes be obtained at medical suppliers such as John Bell and Croyden, 50 Wigmore Street, LONDON W1, but they may not stock the unusually large gauges needed for piercing. All the aftercare requisites mentioned above (except antibiotics which in many countries are only available on prescription) can be bought at local pharmacies, which are usually rather cheaper than piercing studios and specialists.
There are a number of magazines dealing with body piercing from which you can find information about piercing studios in other areas: Body Art is one. You can also check on the web: the Body Modification Ezine is a particularly good source (see below).
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