Clitoral & Labial Piercings
Female genital piercing has only gained exposure in Western culture since the 1970’s, although it has been suggested that the practice has been in existence in various traditions since the 14th century. Acceptance of female genital piercing has grown significantly, and in many circles has become a common phenomenon. This article will explore the topic of female genital piercing in depth and will provide details of the range of simpler to riskier procedures available.
The act of piercing simply means puncturing or cutting a part of the body to create an opening in order for it to be adorned with jewelery. The reasons to pierce are many and can include aesthetic, religious, symbolic or erotic. Individuals may acquire these piercings in order to identify with a subculture or as a means of self expression. Alternatively, some are keen on the uniqueness of having their genitals embellished while others like it because it has become a trend in modern society. To some, it may be meaningful art or a symbol of overcoming; that is, wanting to alter their body is a celebration of a personal accomplishment. Another belief that draws many curious ‘trailblazers’ is that it provides sensual enhancement and in some cases, intense sexual stimulation.
Before we explore the ins and outs of female piercings, it would be valuable to review the female anatomy and in particular, examine where exactly the clitoris is! It is important to understand the structure and mechanisms involved in the female genitalia in order to appreciate the variety of piercings available. Moreover, before making a decision to modify your body, realize that there is much diversity from one set of genitalia to another, which makes some piercings physically impossible to attain!
The clitoral glans or head of the clitoris is approximately the size of a pea and is highly sensitive; it contains as many nerve endings as the glans penis. Just like a penis, the clitoral glans is connected to a shaft, which extends back several centimetres before it branches out into an inverted “V” inside the body. There is considerable variation in how much the clitoral head extends beyond the hood, ranging from complete cover to complete visibility. During female arousal, the clitoris swells and actually retracts back under the hood. Piercers take into account many factors when assessing which piercing is right for your body such as how big one’s clitoris is, as well as the amount of hood cover it has. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be forthcoming about immune deficiency, lifestyle and activities, diet and previous experiences with wounds.
Places for female genital piercing include the clitoral hood (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoral glans), inner and outer labia, as well as areas immediately surrounding the clitoris. The most common female piercing penetrates the clitoral hood (which interestingly has the same anatomical purpose as the foreskin does in protecting the head of the penis). The piercings close to the clitoris are known to create pleasurable stimulation during motion or sexual play, although some people may find the sensation too intense. The labial piercings are generally done for aesthetic purposes; multiple rings through the labia can create an opportunity for artistry in conjunction with lace or string.
Different piercings will suit your needs better than others; the piercing that is right for you depends mostly on your individual anatomy and lifestyle. Don’t have your heart set on a particular style; a consultation with a reputable experienced piercer will guide you in deciding which piercing is conducive to the shape of your genitalia. Types of piercing include:
Clitoral Hood (heals in 4-6 weeks)
This is one of the most popular forms of what is misleadingly called a ‘clit piercing’; the jewellery only passes through the tissue of the clitoral hood and does not penetrate either the clitoris or the clitoral shaft. The advantage of this type of piercing is that the healing time is speedier.
a) Vertical Hood - the ring or the curved barbell is inserted vertically and is known to create pleasurable stimulation, although some women may find that the constant sensation is not preferred. A female will ideally have a ‘loose hood’ in order to accommodate the jewellery.
b) Horizontal Hood - the idea behind this one is similar to vertical piercing in that the clitoral hood is the only tissue that is penetrated; the difference is that the jewellery rests on a horizontal plane. This type of piercing can utilize a barbell or a captive bead ring, the latter being ideal because the bead can rest on the clitoris. Alternatively, the hood can be pierced a number of times to create a ladder effect along the hood.
Piercing the labia has become more popular and affords people who enjoy multiple piercings the creative opportunity to synthesize how the rings look together!
a) Outer labial (heals in 2-6months) - due to the large amount of tissue that the piercing has to penetrate, the healing time is increased and the pain factor is higher than the inner labia.
b) Inner labial (heals in 2-4 weeks)- the inner labia, that surrounds the vaginal opening, is pierced. This skin is resilient as well as elastic, which means that it could accommodate a heavier piece of jewellery; for the same reason, it is recommended that you wear a ring to prevent a bar from sliding out. Moreover, both inner labia can be pierced multiple times to obtain a ladder effect; by weaving string or lace, one can accomplish a corset effect.
Clitoral (heals in 4-6 weeks)
Provided the clitoris is large enough to be safely pierced and the hood naturally exposes it, piercing the clitoris horizontally or (in rarer circumstances) vertically is possible; however, this is a very uncommon procedure and not normally recommended. There is also a concern that the barbell or ring may induce desensitization.
Hymen (heals in 2 months)
This is extremely rare. The hymen (membrane that partially closes over the ‘virgin’ vagina) is pierced. The onset of hymenoplasty, a procedure that recreates the hymen, may provide opportunity for these types of piercings to appear more often.
Christina (heals in 3-9 months)
This is a piercing originates above the clitoral hood and passes through the ridge where the outer labia meet and ends at the pubic mound. The general draw to it is aesthetic, rather than pleasurable. The Christina is a surface piercing, which is prone to higher rates of rejection; a person with a history of rejected piercings may want to stay away from this one. Other factors to consider are: a long healing time, pain caused by friction from undergarments, movement pushing bacteria into the wound, needing to remove piercing to shave (disturbing the area physically and possible irritation from shaving creams). This type of piercing utilizes a curved barbell, a surface bar or possibly even a ring; the jewellery is often customized to accommodate the client.
Fourchette (heals in 2-3 months)
The back rim of the vagina, where the inner labia meet under the vagina, is pierced with captive bead ring or various barbells. Some note that the fourchette provides a pleasurable sensation as it shifts around during coitus.
Isabella (heals in 2-3 months)
Considered to be a deep piercing, one end starts below the clitoris, above the urethra, goes through the clitoral shaft and ends where the Christina normally would be located. This is a riskier piercing because it pierces the clitoral shaft; the risk of blood loss and nerve damage is certainly higher due to the risk of puncturing the dorsal nerve, a branch of the pudendal nerve.
Nefertiti (heals in 2-3 months)
Named after an Egyptian queen, the Nefertiti looks like a combination of a Christina and a vertical hood piercing. This type of piercing makes use of a flexible bar made of tygon or nylon or metal. This is a safer version of the Isabella.
Triangle (heals in 2-3 months)
This looks like a horizontal clitoral hood piercing but it actually passes below the clitoral shaft, very close to the clitoris. The exact location is the point is where the clitoral hood and inner labia meet. It is said that this piercing provides unique stimulation to the clitoris from behind it. This type of piercing requires a skilled professional because of the risk of accidentally penetrating the clitoral shaft.
Princess Albertina (heals in 2-3 months)
This is the vaginal version of the Prince Albert: the piercing is inserted through the urethra and exits through the top of the vagina. Female Urethra is 1-2 inches long so the risk of urinary tract infections & bacteria going back up into your urethra is high. It is also noted that the urethra should be big enough to accommodate the jewellery; on the other hand, a captive bead can go into your urethra. The deeper the piercing the stronger it is, but the risk is also higher. Those who are prone to Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) should take this into account. It can also divert the flow of urine. The benefit of a Princess Albertina is that it can provide extremely pleasurable experiences because it stimulates the nerves of the urethra during sex.
It may seem that the most difficult thing to do when it comes to piercings is to actually make up your mind from all the options – and then undergo the procedure! But that’s just the beginning! Educate yourself about risks, healing and common misconceptions so that your aftercare is much more hassle-free, and any discomfort you experience is kept at a minimum.
There are a number of risks associated with piercing. Care for it like you would any wound – for that is what it is! Keep in mind that in order for your to accept the jewellery, you must create the ideal conditions. Why would your body go through the process of expelling a foreign object? Because it is easier for your body to reject a foreign object rather than grow around it. The most common occurrences for rejection are due to: allergic reaction, which varies according to the type of piercings; placement; restricted blood flow to the pierced area; length of tissue the piercing must pass through; material and jewellery used (e.g. stainless steel versus titanium, surface bar versus a barbell); movement, which causes irritation; bacteria; and overall health. Hepatitis B and C are very serious risk factors if basic sterilization techniques are not observed and the needles become contaminated.
Jewellery and Materials
Familiarize yourself with the following information about jewellery and materials. The jewellery that you choose from is entirely dependent upon the piercing you choose; factors include the individual’s anatomy as well as the piercings placement. The gauges (thickness) of penetrating jewellery are usually between twelve (0.08 inches) and sixteen (0.05 inches), with barbells and captive bead rings being the most commonly used jewellery. It is critical to get the correct size of jewellery in order to avoid both movement of hardware when flaccid or impingement of hardware when the clitoris is engorged. Common materials used are non-toxic to prevent allergic reaction, rejection and infection; examples of materials used are surgical stainless steel, titanium or niobium.
The way your healing progresses is dependent on a multitude of factors, but the variable that you have the most control over is your own behaviour and commitment! The other major aspects that impact your aftercare depend on the location of the piercing and your lifestyle.
The list of piercing precautions may vary among professionals slightly, so please consult your practitioner or health professional as a primary source of information. The most essential piece of advice is to use the utmost caution to protect yourself against bacteria! Rinsing the piercing with a sterile saline solution is valuable; remember not to mix up saline solution with contact solution, namely because contact solution contains many other chemicals. For many, soap may be irritating and anti-bacterial solutions can destroy all bacteria, including all of the ‘good’ bacteria that aids in healing. Make sure to have sterile cotton gauze available in case there is some bleeding; avoid blood thinners. Warm salt baths can also heal and sooth piercings and even reduce itching and irritation; it is recommended that you utilize sea salts or Epsom salts; avoid table salt.
It is also important to maintain hygiene during sex. During the period immediately after your procedure, piercers recommend that you have no sex, and in the weeks following steer yourself towards gentler sex or masturbation. It is important to utilize condoms, dental dams and gloves to prevent contamination of the site, particularly against the fluid and bacteria from another person.
Another crucial thing to note is to avoid touching or fiddling with the piercing, except as directed; rotating the jewellery while rinsing it may likely be recommended by your piercer. Every time you reach for the piercing site you risk introducing new bacteria, which greatly mushrooms your risk of infection and rejection. Maintain your overall health by getting lots of sleep and eating correctly. Insist on a superior level of cleanliness by wearing clean cotton underwear and changing sheets regularly; do this more often if you sweat a lot. The healing time can also be delayed because of sitting, wearing tightly fitting clothing and exercise.
Social Acceptance and Common Misconceptions
Some common judgements assume that people with piercings are sex fiends or body mutilators, have questionable characters, act distastefully, are riddled with disease and are plain old scary. As a result, they may receive distaste and judgement from others who become aware of their choice. The important thing to bear in mind is that as people become more exposed to information about genital piercings, it will over time soften their judgement and reactions. Some may appear to be put off upon seeing a sensitive spot that the piercing is placed in, merely because they envision pain! In any case, personal pride and self-confidence will guide you in fielding questions and comments about body modification from those less familiar to it.
When making the decision to undertake a genital piercing, it is crucial that you find a reputable experienced piercer. Going for a consultation to interview a piercer, even multiple ones, will give you the confidence to make an informed decision – one way or the other. Also, it is important that you never avoid seeing a health practitioner (post-piercing) for fear of judgement. First and foremost, they are medical professionals and have likely had exposure to many less usual things than whatever difficulty you have; if you suspect any medical problem, do not waste time – seek medical advice immediately!
Other Types of Alteration
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