Calling all Professional Body Piercers

Hi

I am currently doing my Masters dissertation on the topic of body piercing and need the input of professionals within the industry.

If you are a professional piercer please help me out by filling out the questionnaire below and emailing your answers to ksummers306@googlemail.com.

Thanks!

Kimberly

Questions for Professionals

Age:

Sex:

What piercings do you have?

If you have any, what are the reasons behind them?

What is your occupation and what does it entail?

How long have you worked in this industry?

Why did you choose this job?

What training was involved?

What do you enjoy most about the job?

What do you enjoy least about the job?

How do you deal with the intimacy you have with customers?

Is there a common trait amongst those who get pierced?

What do you think are the main reasons why your customers get pierced?

Do you think your customers plan their piercings or are they impulsive?

Help me with my dissertation!

Hi

As part of my dissertation fieldwork I need pierced people to fill out a questionnaire about their experiences.

I would appreciate if you could help me out by filling it out for me in the comments. If this is too personal or you want to do it more anonymously then you can email me your answers at ksummers306@googlemail.com.

Thanks!

Questionnaire

Age:

Sex:

What piercings do you have?

How old were you when you got your first (non earlobe) piercing?

Why do you choose to get pierced?

Are your body piercings long term or do you foresee taking them out at some point?

Have you ever been piercing outside of a studio, for example by yourself or a friend? If so please give details.

How much do your piercings define your identity? Choose from 1-5. (1= not at all, 2= a little bit, 3= don’t know, 4= a fair amount 5= completely).

Do you socialise with other people that have piercings?

How would you describe the experience of getting a new piercing?

Do you consider what other people will think of your piercings?

 

 

 

Body Piercing Through the Ages

Body piercing dates back thousands of years and has been present in most civilisations across the world. It seems that humans have always been fascinated by the process of altering the body; engaging the senses and gaining new experiences, asserting power and control over the flesh and constructing how we are seen by others. Historical accounts of body piercings could give insights into possible commonalities with modern practices.

Aglaja Stirn’s work “Body Piercing: Medical Consequences and Psychological Motivations” outlines some key examples of piercings from the past. There is evidence that in around 700AD the Mayans had royals pierce their tongues and genitals for religious events. North American natives such as the Lakota and Mandan would suspend themselves from piercings on their chests in order to reach an “altered state of consciousness” as part of a ritual. The septum piercing has its origins in India. Africa, Polynesia and South America often as a means of warning off evil spirits. In Victorian times high society women would seek to deliberately change the size and shape of their nipples through piercing. After the Second World War in Germany tongue, nipple and labia piercings were prevalent. More recently the punk movement in the UK during the 1970s involved widespread facial piercing which could be interpreted as counter cultural expressions of defiance. While US queer and sadomasochistic communities also engaged in body modification around this point in history.

“Inscribing the Body” a piece by Enid Schildkrout explains that our skin is a medium for defining ourselves as individuals and reflecting cultural differences. She states that piercings themselves are symbols of status and the actual act of being pierced is a “…ritual of personal transformation”. Going as far as to say this form of body modification is a “microcosm of society”. It is clear that piercings can hold several meanings and there are endless reasons behind each one which changes from society to society over different time periods. Decisions regarding piercing can often be deeply imbedded in cultures or merely for aesthetic purposes. It could be said that there is a connection between ancestral modifications and what people choose to get done now. Are people today inspired by tribal body modifications of the past? According to Schildkrout this consideration can involve notions of idealised non-western cultures and therefore questions of authenticity and possible cultural appropriation must be raised.

There are some similarities between the past and present. Piercings today could be viewed as ritualistic because it still involves a process with different stages. You have to prepare for it and endure the pain then work through the healing process. Sometimes it marks an event in someone’s life, personal stages of change or representations of sexuality, gender and potentially nonverbal expressions of political beliefs. It is a lived experience relating the mind and the body. Personally I see my piercings as symbolising a transitional stage from teenager to adult, I think they hold feminist principles for me because they show that I am in control of my body and how it looks.

Perhaps it is an inherent trait of humans to want to decorate the body and push it to extremes. Maybe the relation we have to our body is always the same no matter what the time period. It is always possible that body piercings can be no more than just a fashion accessory and hold no greater meaning merely than having an individual, introspective purpose that is not shared. Perhaps reflecting on historical body piercings in this way assumes by default that they were more meaningful and significant then than they are today. There is a lot to consider.

Why have people always been interested in body piercings?

Does anyone else see a connection between old and modern piercings?

Experiencing Piercing Studios

Body piercing can be done at a hairdressers or on the high street these days but for more complex procedures tattoo parlours and piercing studios are where most people go. I got my ear lobes pierced on my 5th birthday at a hairdresser, they used a gun and I cried. I have never had any other modifications done in those types of venues. Therefore my experiences and judgements are mainly based on piercing studios so I acknowledge that my views could be entirely different from people who get their piercings done elsewhere.

First impressions of a studio are really important, going into one is a sensory experience. The environment needs to be welcoming and clean first and foremost so you feel safe being pierced there. Often it takes a lot of courage to come in by yourself, if perhaps you don’t know exactly what you want or are unsure of prices. When you find a really good studio you will usually return and recommend it to others, I largely tend to choose studios on a word of mouth basis.

There is an instant intimate relationship between customers and their piercers. Your wellbeing is literally in their hands and they have to relax you and make you feel secure. If you are going to be taking off clothes for them you need to feel comfortable. Often you have to go back to check progress and get smaller jewellery fitted so you shouldn’t feel left on your own or struggle with problems.

Studio visits can admittedly be off-putting. Places can have an intimidating atmosphere due to heavy music blaring loudly, dark furnishings and pictures of extreme body modifications adorning the walls. It can be an assault on the senses with so much to look at. Often these places are down side streets or unfamiliar parts of town. Instruments on the walls can be scary because I never actually see what is being done to me because the piercer is obscuring the procedure, so the reality of it can put you off.  The bed, tables of needles and gloves can make it seem quite clinical. Sometimes there is no one at the reception desk so you can feel unsure of yourself on entry. I regularly see posters on the walls with scantily clad, thin, attractive women with numerous piercings and tattoos posing suggestively which personally makes me self-conscious.

The worst studio experience I ever had was in a tattoo parlour. I generally prefer when it is solely a piercing studio because when it is not you can be treated as an inconvenience and can have less privacy if it is done in the same room. I was young and inexperienced at the time so the piercer spoke down to me and questioned my choices because I did not know the names of certain piercings. The procedure was done as quickly as possible with no small talk.

While the best studio for me is the one I always go to. The staff are honest and tell you if a piercing won’t suit your body or the real health risks involved, even going as far as advising against it despite potentially losing trade. You always get a conversation and they appear to be interested in you personally which puts you at ease. The full procedure is always explained in detail and questions about piercings are welcomed. This studio has given me free antibacterial solutions and money off and one time they opened on their day off just to do a piercing for me. I definitely feel that there it is all about satisfying customers rather than pure business.

Piercing studios bring together like minded people of all backgrounds and allow opportunities to make friends while you wait. Staff can give you advice so know you can go there if you have concerns and creativity can flourish as you may collaborate on new modifications. Every studio is different as they often reflect the personality of the owner and can be influenced by the customers.

To you, what makes a good piercing studio and a bad one?

Negative Perceptions of Body Piercings

Body piercings are said to be more popular than ever* and are becoming more widely available, with services now in hairdressers and high street shops such as Claire’s Accessories. People in most cultures all over the world have them and they come in a range of ever evolving different types.

However, the way the  media in our society portrays body piercings perhaps still informs and dominates how most people think of them. Which often helps to exacerbate negativity by reinforcing stereotypes such as piercings being a major health risk; stigmatising them as unhygienic and infected, as pointless self-mutilation or merely a phase of rebellion associated with adolescents. This process could be identified as being part of the medias continued agenda to under-represent deviations from the mainstream.

I personally have been judged on account of my modification choices, experiencing funny looks and mean comments about my appearance. Admittedly this was more of a problem when I had shaved short hair. While working in a clothes store a customer boldly informed me that she did not like my septum piercing and that it was ugly; I still vividly remember this moment 4 years later. A work colleague stated that I must have all these piercings because I am depressed or have low self-esteem, I don’t believe I have either. When telling my friends what new piercings I am getting they usually say no you have too much, while my mother insists I am not allowed to get any more on my face as it would ruin my looks.. When I tell people I have under my tongue pierced they say it is disgusting and wince if they see it. While some believe more intimate piercings are a sign of promiscuity and attention seeking or they remove the agency from the individual by assuming the piercing is for the benefit of a partner.

Furthermore, I have been asked why I have dermals on my back as others can’t see them, showing how people fail to see the fundamental non visual point of piercings. They are my activity that I enjoy and I want to develop my body to look like how I want it and this does not require an audience or for me to constantly have a view of these modifications. It frustrates me that people can be so presumptuous and take it that step further by telling me to my face their opinion, in some ways I have to develop a thick skin to ignore these comments. However, these occurrences never deter me from getting more. Although I am always fully aware that this is a definite consequence of getting a piercing.

Why are some people, a minority in my case, still intimidated and vehemently against body piercings? Perhaps it is just the number and type of piercings that divide people. There appears to be more ire directed particularly at those who carry out different types of stretching and those who have genital piercings, perhaps there is a line where you go beyond social acceptance. Or maybe because piercings can represent the destruction of the body and violating the norm so people are uncomfortable. To me, viewing piercings in a negative way reduces their complexities and ignores positive factors such as liberation, creativity, individuality, empowerment and self-determination.

However, some members of the public are very complimentary and interested in piercings. People have questions and want to learn more, I have been asked if they hurt and long it takes to heal or if I could recommend a studio. Also I love the automatic bond you can have with other pierced people. You can start and maintain a conversation with strangers and have common understandings and experiences of the world, giving you a sense of belonging and feelings of inclusion. This shared community can at times feel more open minded and less judgemental than those who aren’t pierced. Rather than being intimidating and scary as some would assume. Some of the friendliest and nicest people I know are heavily pierced.

Perhaps the fact that I lived in a small town or have a high number of piercings has skewed my experiences in comparison with others. Perhaps I focus too much on the negativity; I suppose the large majority of people are indifferent to my appearance.

Has anyone else had similar negative experiences with their piercings?

Why do you think some people dislike piercings?

* 1 in ten people have a body piercing other than the earlobe. BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7451580.stm.

Identity Building through Body Piercing: My Experience

I got my first non-earlobe body piercing, my tongue, when I was 17. I had recently moved into University Halls in a new city and six months before this I made the decision to have my long hair shaved off. On reflection, several years later, I do not think these events were unrelated.

When I got my tongue pierced it was part of a group activity with my new flatmates, we all descended on the piercing studio together. A tongue piercing is significant modification that can have complications and in my case leaves you temporarily unable to eat or speak over the coming days. Despite this I still wanted to get it done and in hindsight I think it was largely because it was a hidden piercing that could be revealed to others in situations I decided on. Which in my first year at university was every time a camera was in the remote vicinity. Perhaps less so in front of my parents, although I did tell them beforehand, it was no secret just disapproved of. To me piercings were an exciting and fun act, we were not trying to be cool or rebellious. Every time I saved up a little bit of money I could go treat myself and would spend my time thinking of which one I could get done next, revelling in the possibilities and creativity that it allowed me in terms of my appearance.

I no longer felt boring, combining the new haircut and piercings made me feel interesting and different. It allowed me to create a new identity for myself that I was more comfortable with, for the first time I felt like I was free to look however I wanted. It symbolised my move from teenager living at home to independent adult making new friends in a new place. I see it as part of the overhaul of my image in that important year of my life.

The next piercing that I experimented with was the tragus on both ears. I no longer needed a group to go to studios but was confident enough to go on my own. I definitely had the bug for piercings and knew I would get more. The fact that getting piercings in both ears at the same time meant I couldn’t sleep lying on either of those sides due to the swelling didn’t put me off. Neither did the months of cleaning and maintenance. Taking care of the piercings means you have to be serious about them and you become more aware of the reality of having them and what that entails, if you neglect them they will reject. Piercings for me are not a phase or a fashion because you have to invest time and effort into them.

Over the next year I pierced my nose, got scaffolding, a helix, both anti tragus, a conch and both rooks. My ears were more visible due to my short haircut and so everyone could clearly see my piercings, I think this was quite deliberate. I wanted my piercings to define me. Perhaps showing defiance that I was not girly or cute, I guess I didn’t want to be defined as feminine, I had been a tomboy my whole life and this was important to me. I enjoyed having control over people’s perceptions. In this way I think piercings allow people to be playful with their image. I like to defy expectations because I am not as often is assumed, a Goth or into heavy metal or have lots of tattoos. I think there is a common misconception about people with piercings so I enjoy that new people consider me a certain way then find I am not like that at all.

My more recent piercings have been attempts to try new things, a septum piercing, 4mm tunnels which I got punched straight out instead of stretched over time, two micro dermals on the bottom of my back and my tongue web. Some of these are hidden as the process has become less about showing people my choices but more about enjoyment for myself. I have grew my hair out so some of my ear piercings are no longer visible but this does not render them pointless for me, I still enjoy having them and intend to keep them. I think the decision to get my septum pierced, the partition between the nostrils, was a big one. I had to seriously consider whether to get it done or not because it is so obvious in the middle of my face and often the thing people focus on when they speak to me. But in some ways it is my favourite piercing because it divides people, some have told me it is ugly while others tell me it’s cute. It marks me out as a pierced person and that is a vital part of my identity.

Would anybody else like to share their body piercing stories?

Do you think piercings contribute significantly to identity?

Hope to start a discussion!

P.S

Anyone interested in reading more about this topic should check out…

“Body Piercing and Identity Construction: A Comparative Perspective – New York, New Orleans, Wroclaw” by Lisiunia A. Romanienko, published by Palgrave Macmillan of in Basingstoke 2011.

My Tongue Piercing

My Tongue Piercing

Different Ear Piercings

Different Ear Piercings

Micro Dermals

Micro Dermals

Hi

This is my first attempt at a blog. I have created this as part of an assignment for my Masters of Research in Human Geography at Glasgow University. I want to engage the public with academic research, in this case relating to my dissertation entitled Piercing Geographies: Self , Body and Identity.

I will be posting entries on my thoughts and experiences of body modification and would really like to inspire discussions and learn more about other peoples experiences.

Here we go!