Body piercing is a form of body modification. It involves piercing a part of the human body and subsequently inserting and keeping a foreign object in the opening until the wound heals. This forms a tunnel of skin around the foreign object, thus creating a suitable place for wearing different types of jewelry. The term "piercing" also often refers to this jewelry. One example of the process is the common ear piercing. This procedure is so simple and mainstream that some people do not even think of it as body piercing.

The practice is common among many indigenous peoples, but was almost unknown in industrialized civilizations until the mid 1970s. Some cultures practice piercing as part of religious traditions. In industrialized countries, most piercing is performed for ornamental or sexual reasons.

Piercing the body carries with it a number of risks, most notably the risk of infection and the risk of delayed healing. The risk of infection varies; good sterile practice greatly reduces it, whereas the risk is considerable with "do-it-yourself" piercing. An infection in the cartilage of the upper ear or of the earlobe, can lead to a permanent lump called a keloid. All piercing sites should be kept clean until they are healed. The piercing healing time (see below) varies depending on what sort of piercing has been performed.

Table of contents
1 The Origins of Piercing
2 Piercing in Industrialized Civilizations
3 Types of Piercings
4 Healing Times
5 Famous People Who Have/Promote Body Piercings
6 External links

The Origins of Piercing

Piercing has ancient origins. The oldest mummified body in the world discovered in an Austrian glacier was found to have ear-piercing 7-11 mm in diameter. Nose piercing is mentioned in the Bible. In Genesis 24:22 Abraham gave a nose-ring to Rebekah, wife of his son Isaac. Nose piercing reached India in the 16th century and rapidly became accepted. Tongue piercing was popular with the elite of Aztec and Maya civilization; it was carried out as part of a religious ceremony of ritual blood letting, not to insert jewelry. Ancient Mesoamericans did pierce ears, nose, and lower lips for jewelry. In Dreamtime by Hans Peter Duerr, it is claimed that nipple piercing became popular in 14th century Europe. On many websites it is claimed that the Romans invented nipple piercing and that soldiers attached their capes to the piercings. This is just a myth and in reality the capes were hung from rings attached to their armor.

Piercing in Industrialized Civilizations

In the United States, ear piercing for females was long the only common piercing. Other body piercings were popularized by Jim Ward and his piercing shop, The Gauntlet, which opened in 1975 in Los Angeles.

Some regard body piercing as a kind of artistic expression, others as a form of sexual expression and/or stimulation. Genital piercings are some of the most common, and some piercers report that the Prince Albert piercing is the most popular of all. Many wearers of genital piercings keep their jewelry in during sexual intercourse and other sexual activities, but others find it uncomfortable. It depends to a large degree on the design of the jewelry and the type of sexual activity.

In the United Kingdom, decorative piercings are legal but those done in a sexual context are not. In R v Brown 1994 the court held that sado-masochistic piercing was "violent" and "cruel", and that there was no public interest in allowing people to consent to it.

Types of Piercings

Facial Piercings:

Body Piercings: Male Genital Piercings: Female Genital Piercings: Specialty Jewelery:
  • Prince's Wand

Healing Times

Different types of piercing take different amount of times to heal. Below is a rough guide to the times taken for some different types of body piercing to heal.

  • nostril piercing (6-12 months)
  • septum piercing (6-8 weeks)
  • ear piercing - lobe (6-8 weeks)
  • ear piercing - cartilage (2-4 months)
  • lip piercing (8-10 weeks)
  • cheek piercing (10-12 weeks)
  • tongue piercing (4-6 weeks)
  • bridge piercing (8-10 weeks)
  • nipple piercing male (2-4 months)
  • nipple piercing female (4-6 months)
  • navel piercing (6 months)

Famous People Who Have/Promote Body Piercings

  • Joan Osbourne (nostril piercing)
  • Fakir Musafar
  • Bob Flanigan
  • Shannon Larratt aka glider, founder of BME

External links