Don’t let a date’s clean cut appearance fool you: you can’t always tell what’s lurking underneath your prospective lover’s clothes. Private piercings are more popular than ever, so don’t be too surprised if an otherwise vanilla lawyer reveals he’s packing a pair of pierced nipples or steel chunks in his junk beneath that Brooks Brothers’ suit.
Worried about how you’ll come across should you stumble upon a genital piercing? With a little help from our (pierced) friends, you can avoid embarrassing yourself, wasting time worrying, or straight up annoying your new paramour with the questions they’ve likely heard a whole lot of times.
(Some names have been changed.)
Did it hurt?
This is probably the most common question ever in the history of human adornment. The short answer is yes, probably at least a little; the long answer is that it depends on a lot of different things, not the least of which is what you’re piercing. According to Shawn Porter, 39, getting his Prince Albert pierced felt like “just a pinch” while “others — like the ampallang — were indescribably painful.” Kathleen, who is in her thirties, reported that her horizontal hood piercing “hurt a little but wasn’t too bad” and that her “inner labia [piercings] were painful but not horrific or anything.” On the plus side, Kathleen reported, “they healed faster than any other piercing I’ve had.” (Fun fact: peeing on your piercings helps heal and clean ‘em!)
Dear God, why????
This is a personal question with an endless variety of answers, so if you’re gonna ask, don’t be a jerk about it. Not everything means something — this isn’t “Ink Master” — but you never know. Sometimes it’s just fun and functional, although there can be more to the story.
May, a Canadian in her thirties, cited her “sleepy nipple” as one reason why she got pierced, but the piercing itself was more than merely functional. With an ex who was nipple negligent, the piercing was a great way to simultaneously perk things up and give her ex a middle finger. James, 44, had a different reason to get pierced. “I was trying to ‘reclaim’ some kind of buried sexual identity,” he said. “It didn’t work at all — my nipples tore at 10g and I took them out a few months after getting them, and my apadravya was entirely too much for everyone.” On the other hand, Dan, 39, didn’t have a particular reason. “My main response jokingly, but honestly maybe it’s not really a joke, is ‘presentation,” he said, noting that “it’s a novelty, which I believe makes it a draw. If I did mention [it] to someone, others’ interests are piqued.”
As long as you’re cool about your curiosity, your partner will probably be happy to talk to you about how and why. Like most things in life, you should be okay as long as you’re not a dick about it.
Are you a super freak?
You don’t really know what your new partner might be into unless you talk about it first, no matter what they look like. Don’t assume that a few rings and things in one’s private parts gives you a green light to get rough — without, you know, asking first. Kathleen described one guy who definitely put the ass into assume. “I had one dude think that my nipple and hood piercings meant that I was into pain,” immediately assuming it was kosher to choke her and pull her hair. Not cool, dude. Not. Cool.
Is that even clean?
Good lord, as if people aren’t paranoid enough about smelling and tasting good to other people! Throw some metal into the mix, and everyone gets their pantaloons in a wad. It’s really not that hard to keep healed piercings fresh and clean, I promise. Rob Hilerio, senior piercer and manager of Venus by Maria Tash in NYC, suggests simply cleaning your healed piercing in the shower with mild soap like Dr. Bronner’s. Anecdotally, some people like to take their jewelry out and give it a good scrub once in a while, or soak it in something like alcohol or peroxide. Anyone who does this has to make sure that their jewelry is rinsed off super well before reinserting, because you do not want that stuff in or on your piercings. Trust.
In general, a piercing is not just a festering hole full of bacteria and gunk (well, provided you’re sexing someone who takes care of themselves, which I sincerely hope you are).
What about safer sex?
Let’s assume everything is healed up and good to go. If you’re about to have sex with someone who has a pierced penis, you might be worried about condoms. (For the sake of brevity, we’ll skip dental dams and latex gloves because the major source of anxiety seems to revolve around penis piercing mishaps.)
Hilerio recommends a “well-fitted condom” for pierced penises. “It could tear. It’s usually rare, but it can happen. And as for with oral, obviously be really careful. Depending on what the person has pierced and what gauge and size jewelry they’re wearing, or type of jewelry, there’s always a chance you can hurt yourself or chip a tooth or something, unfortunately,” he said with a laugh. The good news is that you don’t have to worry about gum or tooth erosion, no matter how thorough or enthusiastic you are.
What do I do with it?
Part of the anxiety (and hopefully the fun) of sleeping with a new partner is figuring out how to push their buttons. Of course, it gets infinitely more complicated once you factor in dangly bits and whatnot. The best advice is to ask questions, listen to your partner, and be attentive to his or her body language. That means no pulling! Unless they ask. “Not many people (at least in my experience) stuff rings and rods into places they want ignored,” said May, and you can’t really disagree with that logic. Some people like to surprise new partners with their jeweled bits, and others like to give ‘em a heads-up first. For Dan, that initial surprise is part of the fun; the most amusing reaction he’s gotten so far is a woman who turned on the lights to inspect the situation. “All activities cease[d] for her scientific investigation,” he said.
The women I talked to didn’t report the same sort of hazards, just a general fumbling around and confusion, which, let’s face it, is sometimes par for the course when it comes to female anatomy. The VCH is basically a giant arrow pointing you in the right direction, but if you get lost, ask for directions.
Will it hurt?
If your lover is rocking a giant ring in a penetrating part, you might encounter some problems. Shawn described having some requests from partners to take out his 00 gauge Prince Albert for sex, which was, as he says, “understandable.” (A 00 gauge ring is about 3/8″ thick, and that’s not even taking into account the circumference of the jewelry or size of the beads.)
James experienced similar problems. “The apadravya didn’t fit into anyone! It sucked! No orifice could take it! I got smartie beads for the ends of the barbell (recommended by Stainless Studios when they still existed) and it didn’t help at all!”
Can’t you just take it out? What’s the deal?
Asking your lover to take out a piercing (or, if it’s a long-term relationship, not get pierced in the future) is a sensitive situation. If it’s something that’s legitimately a problem, you should have a chat about it when you’re not mid-coitus. For some people, asking them to remove a genital piercing — a decision that’s usually not made lightly or without good reason — is a deal-breaker. That’s the case with James, who said, “If someone requested that I remove them as a condition of the continuing of the relationship, the relationship would be over immediately.”
On the other hand, it is a two-way street. “Usually, I believe do what you have to do with yourself, but when there’s someone else involved, try and take them into consideration. At least have a little thought for them,” suggested Hilerio.
If you come face to face with a piercing part in the wild, just remember it’s attached to a human being. You might not be in love with that person, but you like them enough to swap spit, so have some respect for their body and for yours. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up dropping trou in a shop like Venus yourself some day.