Come On and PIERCE Me… Like You Did Last Summer!
ELAYNE ANGEL: The Piercing Bible
Walking around New York City’s Greenwich Village in 2009, it’s hard to be shocked or even to look twice at all the young urban trendsters who sport some type of piercing: eyebrow, lip, nose, septum, etc…. For most of us, it’s difficult to to even pierce-eve that that this form of personal expression wasn’t always common, accepted, or even available to the masses. Although body modification and ornamentation have been around since ancient times, it was a group of California gay male BDSM enthusiasts who are largely responsible for ushering in body piercing as a “modern lifestyle choice” in the 1970’s and ’80’s: most notably Doug Malloy and Jim Ward (regarded by many as the founding father of modern body piercing). For many of these men, nipple rings and genital piercings were just as much about sexual identity as about self-expression– and let’s not forget the pleasure principle too! Some piercings, such as the guiche (a perineum piercing, pronounced “geesh”), are likely gay male innovations. Elayne Angel, who has performed over 40,000 piercings in her 20 plus years in the biz, is a pioneer in the piercing subculture. Ms. Angel’s new book, The Piercing Bible: The Definitive Guide to Safe Body Piercing, is the first of its kind: an all-inclusive guide to all piercings– from the common earlobe to the rare, wince-inducing, bellow-the-belt piercings such as the ampallang and apadravya. What are these? Just wait till you find out! She goes into such subjects as the piercing equipment, the jewelry, the preparation, the aftercare, and hygiene– and includes dozens of illustrations as well as charts, a glossary, and the Piercee’s Bill of Rights. But more than just being informative,”The Piercing Bible” is FUN to read, even if you ahveno plans o add any more holes to your body! Angel offers as much humor as she does professional info and advice, and even throws in a few anecdotes, such as the story of the woman who used her labial piercings to hold up her stockings, or the truck driver who attributed his patience for his job to the enjoyment of gigantic (00 gauge) guiche! Now living in Merida, Mexico, Elayne Angel gave an exclusive interview to Dish Miss’ Jed Ryan:
JR: Hi Elayne! I really enjoyed your book, even though I’m not at liberty to get any more percings myself!
EA: Thanks! I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed it. I knew when I was writing it that it would be informative, but I didn’t know whether anyone would actually find it to be a good read. I’m thrilled to say that I’ve had a lot of positive feedback about that.
JR: Have you kept track of how many piercings you have done?
EA: I have kept track over the years and I admit to being kind of a nerd about statistics. According to the count from the release forms that customers must fill out before piercing, I’ve done over 40,000 piercings in my career since the 1980s! Over the past 5 years or so, the majority of clients come to me for genital piercings, so that has become my specialty.
JR: What would someone have to do to get pierced by you personally? Do they have to travel to you, or do you sometimes travel around the U.S. and world?
EA: I was going to open a B & B & P (Bed & Breakfast & Piercing establishment) at my home, but for a variety of reasons including poor water quality, and trouble operating my sterilization equipment, I decided against it. But I still love to pierce so I travel regularly and do piercings around the US and beyond. My next trip will be to West Hollywood, Long Beach, and San Francisco. If you want to keep up with my future piercing visits, you can sign up for my email list: http://piercingbible.com/emaillist.html
JR: In your book you point out that gay men, especially leathermen and guys into BDSM, have been pioneers in the piercing movement in the United States. What was that like? Was it a subculture in California that gradually spread to the mainstream gay culture, and then beyond?
EA: Yes, gay leathermen made up the initial clientele of Gauntlet, the first piercing specialty studio in the US (and apparently the world!). It was founded in 1975. The owner, Jim Ward, was a member of that community and he initially drew from his circle of peers. From there interest spread to the women’s and hetero BDSM communities, and into more mainstream gay culture. There were also people throughout the US, Europe, and other places who developed an interest in piercing and Jim traveled and pierced too. So it wasn’t exclusively a California phenomenon, but that’s where it really exploded. Once I came onboard in the 1980s, I helped to bring piercing to other populations and the release of the book Modern Primitives exposed a much wider audience to the possibilities of body modification. When models, musicians, and actors started to get pierced, that had a huge impact on the popularity of body piercing. Once it started to spread, it seemed to catch on like a forest fire! It was pretty amazing to see body piercing become so mainstream, because initially my personal passion and career were considered totally freakish and wild. In 1981 when my parents found out that my nipples were pierced, they thought I might need to be put into a mental institution. My how things have changed!
JR: Yes, they sure have! In addition to the Prince Albert and the guiche (Ouch!), what were some piercings that are or were identified with the gay male community? Are any piercings more popular among lesbians?
EA: Because of the way you expressed that question, I have to tell you that when a piercing is done properly by a skilled professional, it isn’t as painful as you would think. I routinely do genital and other body piercings on men and women who remark that it didn’t really hurt. The procedure should be so quick and smooth as to be quite tolerable, and some people, who are not masochists, actually enjoy getting pierced.
Nipple piercings were hugely popular with gay men. That was the most common piercing done in the early days, and navel piercings were almost unheard of. Piercings of the frenum (skin on the shaft of the penis) and scrotum were also common. Septum piercings (in the center of the nose) were also widespread in the men’s SM community. I introduced a piercing that became very popular in the women’s community (among others): tongue piercing. I still wear all five of my tongue piercings down the center of my tongue. Nipple piercing also became very popular with lesbians, and they still are.
JR: As a piercer, what’s your favorite body part to pierce, if you have one?
EA: I enjoy doing tongue piercings because they’re so surprising. Since it hurts so much to bite your tongue, naturally most people assume it will be at least as painful to pierce it. But a bite takes place around the edge where there are more sensitive nerve endings. And the teeth cause a crush injury, which is very painful. But a piercing in the center of the tongue is surprisingly painless– when it is done properly. The nerve endings there are primarily for taste and temperature. I love how surprised and pleased my clients are when it is done.
I also really enjoy doing genital piercings. That is a comprehensive experience in which I interview each client and evaluate their anatomy to be certain that they’re getting the placement that suits their build, personal preferences, and motivations. When I’m participating in something that could have a genuine impact on an individual’s pleasure and satisfaction, that makes me feel good too.
JR: Wow! In a nutshell, what’s the future of body piercing?
EA: As I put it in “The Piercing Bible”: “A Lifestyle Option: Here to Stay: One great advantage of our modern society is the remarkable array of acceptable ways to customize yourself and your life. Women can opt for careers over children, and men can be stay-at-home dads. You can live a BDSM, vegan, or rave lifestyle—or another alternative of your choice. You can hire a stylist to update your look or a doctor to alter your appearance. If having your fat surgically sucked out and injecting botulism toxin into your face have become standard practices for beautification, it is not a big stretch to understand how a ring or gem in a nose, eyebrow, or navel piercing could gain prevalence. Body piercing has been a part of our world for millennia, and now that it has earned a place in the grand buffet of personal options, there is no taking it off the table. You have the opportunity to choose for yourself: to pierce or not to pierce. The decision is yours.”
JR: Thanks, Elayne!
EA: My pleasure!
Elayne Angel will be piercing at:
November 20, 21, 22
8776 West Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA
November 28 & 29
22 Chestnut Place
Long Beach, CA
December 4, 5, 6
1783 Haight St.
San Francisco, CA
Make your appointment!
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Photo 1: Elayne Angel
Photo 2: Elayne Angel
Photo 3: Elayne at “The Piercing Bible” book release party in New York City, June 2009
Photo 4: Buck and Elayne Angel