What You Need To Know Before You Get A Genital Piercing

Photo: Getty Images.
There's nothing ballsy about getting a genital piercing — at least in the metaphorical sense. If you're in the right hands, then there's nothing to be afraid of, says Elayne Angel, a body piercer, member of the Association of Professional Piercers (APP), and author of The Piercing Bible. "Genital piercings are special, because there is the potential to affect sexual pleasure," both positively and negatively, she says. But otherwise, they actually don't differ from other piercing types that much, and they're usually totally safe, she says.
If you don't have any health conditions or anatomical issues, you don't even need a doctor to sign off on the procedure, she says. But genital piercings are a lot more involved than just going to a kiosk in the mall, and they do require in-depth consultations with a trained professional to figure out the best type and placement for your body. Everyone's genitals are totally different in size and makeup, but by getting a genital piercing, you are altering your anatomy in a very serious way.
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The reason why someone decides to get any sort of body piercing is very personal and varied, although chances are it has something to do with sex. Like all other sex topics, education leads to safety and pleasure. If you're considering one, here are answers to all the burning questions you've probably had about genital piercings.
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They're not one-size-fits all.

Angel says genital piercings are "anatomically dependent," meaning one type of piercing isn't right for all people with a vagina or all people with a penis. "A certain piercing might be perfectly pleasurable on one person, but hypersensitive or uncomfortable for another, and yet another won’t even have tissue in which to place it," she says. Luckily, she says there's a good number of piercings available, and you have to have an evaluation or counseling session with a piercer who will tell you which type is right for your body and personal preferences.
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There are a lot of different kinds.

The names and variations of genital piercings are kind of bonkers. "Some women are suited to only one of these options, yet other gals have their pick of them," Angel says. In your evaluation, the piercer will consider the form, size, vascularity, and tissue pliability of your genitals, she says. Angel's website has tons of information and helpful photos of the different kinds that are worth exploring if you're curious.

The most common male piercings include: Prince Albert, frenum, lorum, scrotum/hafada, guiche, pubic, ampallang, apadravya, reverse Prince Albert, foreskin, and dydoe piercings. The most common piercings for women are: vertical clitoral hood (VCH), horizontal clitoral hood (HCH), triangle, inner labia, outer labia, fourchette, Princess Dianas, Christina, clitoral glans, and Princess Albertina piercings. "It may be surprising to know that many of my clients are mature adults who have no other body art — no tattoos and no other piercings," she says.
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You can have sex right after getting one.

"I often point out that clients need to wait until they leave the building to have sex," Angel says, joking. There's no set period for how long you should wait to have sex while your piercing is healing, but most piercers are really strict that you have to be gentle and clean. "If your piercing feels sore, you must stop what you’re doing, or at least ease up," Angel says. Being too rough could injure the new skin cells growing on your body, she says.

You also have to use some sort of protective barrier until it heals (which usually takes three to five days), like a dental dam or condom, and keep all your sex toys clean. "You have to keep your partner's body fluids from getting on your piercing," she says. Sexually transmitted infections can be spread through a person's blood, according to the Mayo Clinic. So having a open cuts or sores on your genitals — from a healing piercing or even shaving your pubic hair — could increase your risk of contracting or spreading an STI, which is why it's extra important to use protection.
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There's no numbing.

It's actually illegal for a piercer to administer anesthetics, even topical ones, Angel says. Topical numbing products can cause swelling or, in some cases, negative skin reactions, both of which can make it harder to accurately place the piercing, she says. Skilled piercers can do it in a way that doesn't hurt, and Angel says most people tolerate the pain very well, because it's short and fleeting.
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There can be complications.

Any time you break your skin, there is a potential for things to go wrong, particularly when the skin is near your genitals. Migration (when the piercing moves), rejection (when the piercing is "expelled" from your skin), scarring, and infections could always happen, but if you go to a qualified professional (she suggests finding an APP studio that monitors the hygiene and techniques used) to have your piercing done, and they find the right jewelry that actually fits, Angel says it's much less likely. "A poorly placed piercing can result in a missed opportunity for enhancement or even a temporary or permanent loss of sensation," she says.
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They don't hurt that badly.

Believe it or not, Angel says genital piercings don't hurt any more than piercings on other spots of your body. There's very little trauma to the tissue of your genitals, and there's no lingering aftermath of pain, she says. This is all assuming you've gone to a studio where the piercers are properly trained, which is just another reason why it's worth spending time to find one.
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A small study linked genital piercings on penises with reduced STI rates.

One 2001 study found that men with Prince Albert rings on their penises did not contract chlamydia, even though their partners had it. The Prince Albert piercing goes through a man's urethra, so the researchers theorized that the piercings blocked the men from getting the STI, which is wild (though, to be fair, that study only looked at 12 men). The researchers also theorized that the metals in the rings could have had an antibacterial effect. Of course, like we said, this is one very small study, so a lot more research needs to be done before we draw any conclusions. While this research is fascinating, the findings don't suggest that you can skip safer sex techniques, like using condoms, if you have a genital piercing.
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They can make sex better.

The reasons why people choose to get piercings anywhere on their body are varied, but Angel says the majority of people get genital piercings for sexual enhancement. "Sometimes, it's done to improve self-esteem and feel sexier and more confident," she says. "For some, there is a desire to wear jewelry that will to add to a partner’s pleasure." More often than not, both motivations apply, she says. Some of Angel's female clients suffer from primary anorgasmia, but were able to have an orgasm once they got a genital piercing. "The only variable was the piercing; they still had the same partners and were engaging in the same activities as before," she says.

In a 2005 study, researchers surveyed 33 women (who had their piercings done at Angel's studio) about their sexual functioning before they got a clitoral hood piercing and seven weeks after they had it. The researchers found that having a clitoral hood piercing didn't result in any "dramatic" changes in the women's ability to orgasm, but the piercing did objectively improve their levels of sexual desire, which suggests that genital piercings could be useful in treating sexual dysfunction. But again, more research needs to be done. Until then, we think it's safe to say that if genital piercings are a turn-on for you, it's definitely worth considering getting one.
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