Play Piercing 101

Back corset using temporary piercings (click to enlarge)

Ed Note: This is a guest post by Courtney, a professional piercer at TRX Studio on S. Grand in celebration of International Body Piercing Day (June 28)!

Body piercing has long been used by humans as a way to decorate our skin.  Be it to identify ourselves with a group, express our individuality, or to simply have another place to wear jewelry, it has had a role  in literally every culture under the sun.

“Play Piercing” however, is a term many people are not familiar with. It is used to describe the process of piercing the body, with no intention of trying to heal the wound with jewelry in place. In other words, it’s a temporary piercing. This practice has also played a role in history, a more extreme example being the work of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival in Thailand. Locals pierce their lips, cheeks, and tongues, among other parts, with large implements, in an act of religious ritual. However, this is just one of many.

In the recent past, play piercing has come to develop a presence in western culture as well, beginning the fetish community, and moving into the modern body piercing industry.  It can be not only incredibly stimulating, but also yields potential as an exotic and uncommonly beautiful display of the flesh.  With this approach to body piercing, as with any, proper safety precautions are going to be key.

For those seeking the most aesthetically dramatic results, I always recommend seeking out a professional piercer.  “Surface” piercings, or piercing that are placed through a flat plane of tissue (rather than a natural protrusion like the lip, or the nostril) have distinct limitations when you are attempting to heal something long term. When a piercing is intended specifically to be temporary, it opens doors for jewelry styles and placements that would otherwise not be viable.

Possibly the most recognized of modern play piercings is the corset piercing. A series of rings placed most often on the back, can be laced up with ribbon to create the illusion of a corset on the skin. You will find these most commonly being worn at tattoo conventions, or similar events where they can be worn publicly and appreciated.

Rob Hill, the owner of Prysm Body Piercing in Des Moines, Iowa, is known for his artful and innovative interpretations of the corset piercing, as well as other decorative play piercings. He was kind enough to share photos of his work for this article, including his unique use of titanium spirals, turned twice through pairs of play piercings along the back.

Members of the kink world have also come to appreciate the many facets of needle play.  When seeking to experiment with this type of piercing, there are many things to consider. Because of the risks involved, I never suggest that anyone attempt to pierce themselves at home. An excellent option is to seek out the services of a professional dom, many of which are skilled in the craft of safe play piercing, and would be more suited to accommodate a sensual experience.

Sensual play piercing is typically done at a very small size, partly to minimize the potential for scars.  Needles in the range of 30g-18g are most common. The piercings are sometimes done in decorative patterns, like with corset piercings. Some piercee’s choose to experiment with play piercings in the nipples and genitals as well.

Elaborate play piercing design (click to enlarge)

My Friend Kendra Jane, a piercer from Edmonton, Canada, is the artist behind the photo on the right. This is a great example of how play piercing can be just as visually appealing without the use of jewelry or other accessories.

Some safety measures to consider when seeking a play piercing experience:

Proper disposal of needles is a MUST.

Skin prep is vital!  Infections can certainly be caused by the bacteria that is already on your skin. Unless the area is properly disinfected, you don’t know what you may be pushing into your body with the needle.

Walking around with uncorked needles in your skin is never advisable. Cannula needles (I.V style) are helpful, as the needle itself can be removed, leaving only a plastic sheath in it’s place.

Cross contamination is also a big risk.  It’s vital not to let anyone touch the pierced area, or lean against people/furniture with play piercings in your skin.  This exposes the punctures to any bacteria that may be on those surfaces, but also exposes everyone/everything else to your blood. For this reason (among others) it is also never advisable to get piercings when you have been consuming blood thinners, like alcohol.

Please remember that the risk is not gone just because you are dealing with people that you trust, and know don’t have any blood borne illnesses. MRSA (a strain of antibiotic resistant staph) now kills more people annually that HIV, and it can be found on the surface of human skin.

If you are interested in learning more about play piercing, or finding someone who is qualified to perform these types of piercings, I can be reached at In addition,, the homepage for the Association of Professional Piercers, is an excellent resource for health and safety information in regards to body piercing.