Genital, nipple piercings raise questions of benefits vs risks

Plenty of people wake up after a night of drunken hijinks to find a new piercing in a weird place. Lately, however, young people around the world have decided to pierce the more bizarre locations completely sober: genitals and nipples. 

Both men and women can pierce their genitalia—women piercing their labia or clitoral hood, men piercing the tip of their penis—and both sexes can pierce their nipples. It appears that for many, there are sexual pleasure rewards post-procedure—but there are also serious risks. 

The piercing process for both men and women can be documented online. 

“A [penile piercing] is traditionally placed through the underside of the shaft toward the head of the penis,” according to Painful Pleasures, a website that sells genital jewelry.

For women, the site explains that there are eight separate forms of piercing for women, with the most popular being a vertical clitoral hood piercing. A VCH piercing passes through the clitoral hood, almost like an earring. 

A penile piercing is designed to stimulate the g-spot or the prostate during sex. For both men and women, it aids orgasm best when used during anal sex. For women, however, the piercing can be more difficult to adjust to before it becomes useful for pleasure. 

While this may sound enjoyable, there are several major risks to keep in mind. Genital piercings can be particularly problematic because, if infected, they can become life threatening, according to gynecologist Sarah Wagner.

Genital piercings can also pose issues for women during childbirth, so it is key that before getting a clitoral piercing, women talk to a doctor, find a sanitary piercing facility and make sure all future doctors are aware of the piercing before medical procedures. 

For men, the risks are more pronounced. In their section on piercings, American Family Physician explained several key issues. The jewelry will often interrupt urinary flow and in severe cases can cause priapism—a persistent erection that must be treated to preserve the ability to save erectile function. 

And for both sexes there is a critical problem: condoms are likely to tear. 

Nipple piercings—a common piercing among women—have a much simpler piercing process. A piercer inserts a needle horizontally through the nipple and bulbs are placed at either end. After six weeks of healing, the passageway will become permanent. 

The risk for infection is still high, however, so finding a sanitary location is key. Nipple piercings can start to hurt during regular points in the menstrual cycle. Due to changing hormones, nipples may swell, shrink back, harden or soften. All of this can change the sensation of the piercing, especially for larger breasted women. 

Before getting a piercing, women should take note of their cycle and should talk to their doctor if they are worried about this becoming an issue. 

Of course, for men there is just the risk of infection—but it should not be taken lightly. Couples who take the new nipple piercings for a spin in the bedroom too early will be risking infection, swelling and future scarring.  

If you are considering a genital or nipple piercing, make sure that you are aware of the risks, your area’s reproductive healthcare options, the piercer’s cleanliness and a form of birth control or durable condom to use afterward. 

If the benefits seem worth it, the piercings can be done. Just be sure to do research before making any hasty decisions.