History of Piercing


It’s hard not to observe contemporary society and not notice the exploding popularity of body piercings. While ear piercings have always been considered in the mainstream and a part of female adornment, they have also become more accepted among the men. Piercings in other body parts have also worked their way into gradual acceptance in institutions that have previously frowned on body piercings for various reasons.

Among the youth, acceptance of body piercings is very high, and in fact the pressure to conform and go along with the trend of piercings is most prevalent among teenagers and young adults. Surveys and studies have revealed the popularity of body piercings (apart from ear piercings) among those aged 16-25 years old. In North America, it is said that between 25-35 percent of high school and college students have body piercings other than traditional earlobe piercings, with higher incidences in urban areas.

Of the overall American population, about 14% have piercings other than their ear lobes. Among American women, the most popular piercing locations include the navel (33%), nose (19%), ear (besides the lobe, 13%), and tongue (9.5%). Meanwhile, popular piercing locations for American men include the nipple (18%), eyebrow (17.5%), ear (besides the lobe, 17%), and tongue (16%).

The body piercing phenomenon is not exclusive to the United States, of course. It is estimated that about 10 percent of the English population has a piercing other than in their earlobe, and that about 46 percent of women in England between the ages of 16 and 24 have a body piercing other than their earlobe. Body piercings are also more accepted and part of the culture in many countries around the world.

One major reason for the popularity of body piercings is mass media, particularly television, films, music videos, and the Internet. Big-name celebrities, professional athletes, and television and film stars openly flaunt their body piercings any chance they get. Whereas body piercings were considered to be more taboo in past decades, a shift in the late ’80’s to the mid-’90’s emboldened popular personalities to show off their piercings.

Recording artist Christina Aguilera, for instance, has 12 body piercings as of the most recent count, with piercings in her eyebrow, belly button, tongue, nose, lip, nipples, and genitalia. Britney Spears showed off her belly button piercings during a live performance at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards. Meanwhile, Rihanna has been known to select very revealing and skimpy see-through or sheer outfits that highlight her nipple piercings. Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, Alyssa Milano, Amanda Bynes, Kesha, Beyonce, Rooney Mara, Dave Navarro, and Paulie D are among the celebrities known for their body piercings.

A quick look at the history of body piercing will show you that their acceptance in society has experienced various ups and downs over time. While their popularity has become resurgent over the last couple of decades, body piercings have been around for a long time. Mummies from 5000 years ago already had ear piercings, while nose piercings were already documented in historical records dating back to 1500 BC. African and American tribal cultures practiced body piercings of all kinds, such as lip, tongue, and nipple piercings.

In Biblical times, earrings and nose piercings were documented in Genesis, the first book of Scripture. In Genesis 24:22, when Abraham’s servant found a wife for his son Isaac, she was given a golden earring, with the original Hebrew word Shanf translating directly to “nose ring”. Among some nomadic African tribes, nose rings were a symbol of family wealth. Nose piercings first became popular among hippies in the 1960’s who brought them over from India and associated the practice with the Punk rebellion.

Tongue piercings were part of rituals and religious ceremonies performed by the Aztecs, the Mayans of Central America, and the tribes of the American Northwest. It is said that when the tongue was pierced, the blood would summon the gods and the priest or shaman could enter an altered state of consciousness allowing communication with the deities.

Because of conservative perspectives as well as health and hygiene reasons, body piercings have been discouraged in institutions, and only recently have been more tolerated in schools, workplaces, and health facilities. This could also be attributed to the fact that body piercings in modern fashion started off as a rebellion against the established order, and as such are still seen as a form of revolution or insubordination by the older generation.

If you are a young person or a minor thinking about getting body piercings, you will very likely need to let your parents know about your plan. Many jurisdictions require parental consent or approval before a minor can get a body piercing. Even in areas where minors are not required to get approval or a signed waiver from a parent or guardian prior to getting pierced, reputable establishments still require underaged customers to have the form signed by their parents.

Now, some parents would be okay with their children deciding to get body piercings, especially if the parents themselves sport various piercings in different areas of their body. These parents would be hands-on not only in guiding their children to know what these piercings entail, but also in selecting the best establishment to go to for their piercing. Other parents would not be thrilled at the idea, but would passively give approval or tolerate the decision anyway.

But there are parents who will vehemently and sternly advise against getting body piercings apart from the traditional earlobe piercings, and if your parents are this way, then you have some work ahead of you. In order to get their approval, you will need to not only explain to them why you want the piercings, but also the overall safety of this practice and your readiness to assume responsibility for the piercing aftercare.

You can probably wait until you are 18 so you can get the piercings on your own, but if you can’t wait until then, you should be aware that it is normal for parents to feel protective and cautious when their children make these big decisions, and it is up to you to prove your case and get approval for your body piercings. In the following pages, we will look at some helpful tips that could assist you in convincing your parents to allow you to get those body piercings that you really want.

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