What do Timothy Leary and Stretched Lobes Have in Common?

November 17, 2009

Some thoughts on stretched lobes:

Some friends of mine were talking about stretched earlobes.  They’ve seen  people wear large diameter plugs or other jewelry in their lobes and They Just Don’t Understand.  They’re ugly! They’re gross! Why would people do that? Tattoos seem ubiquitous these days; piercing of multiple body parts has caught on, but what’s with these giant stretched earlobes? (“Stretched” is usually considered the proper term, over “gauged.”  Not necessarily by me, but I thought I’d mention it!)

Piercees like to stretch their piercings for fun.  Stretched piercings are unique, it’s pleasurable to do things to your piercings, and there’s the shock effect, which some piercees enjoy and cultivate.  There’s nothing quite like a fashion or a look which requires real effort to achieve, and which few other people can wear.  It’s understandable that people would want to wear and collect some of the really beautiful jewelry for stretched ears that is now on the market. I’d be the first to applaud the innovation and artistry being exhibited by the people making some of these wonderful pieces, like the folks at One Tribe.

But are these good enough reasons?  In my opinion, yes.  And no. There’s nothing wrong with getting a piercing because it looks cool or to identify yourself with your peers.  I don’t want to be hypocritical–my earlobes are stretched moderately, and I plan to continue stretching just a bit more, in part to wear certain jewelry.   But I see a couple of problems in the trend:

1) Past a certain point, this is a permanent alteration to the body. Just like visible tattoos, facial tattoos, full sleeves, etc., these types of body mods should only be undertaken by mature individuals who have a good idea of how their life will play out and how they can support themselves. Surgical reconstruction isn’t cheap, and some people with large stretched lobes may find their employment options marginalized or reduced.  Not a good combination in today’s economy.

2) Too many people are stretching way too hard and fast. Not only does this result in a whole host of adverse consequences to the ear (blow out, cat butt, permanent disfigurement), but doing it this way fails to honor the journey and experience.

Stretching piercings are a way to honor those who have gone before us and to connect with a spiritual grounding in the past, and to the natural, primitive part of oneself.  As a part of Modern Primitivism, and a growing desire to align with all the peoples of the world, Westerners began to stretch and wear ethnic or primitive inspired jewelry.  In a similar matter to other historical trends in body piercing today, this practice has been influenced by hippie culture, punk fashion, sexual identity, and the media, but has strayed quite a bit from these ideals.   Timothy Leary and the other early drug gurus  explored drugs to connect with something greater, to explore the inner hidden reaches of the mind and spirit.  With the availability and passage of time, the transcendent has whittled down to the mundane, and people mostly take drugs now merely to get high, without a thought to expanding the consciousness.  In terms of the fashion for stretched ears, most people now just want big lobes to wear big, fancy plugs, with no thought for history or meaning.

Just like no crying in baseball, there should be no competition in body modification.  It should be an individual choice and a personal experience.  In competing for the largest ears or the fanciest collection of plugs, piercees have forgotten the journey.  The commitment it takes to stretch slowly for healthy ears should be honored and celebrated; and the end result savored.   Impatiently shoving large jewelry in to wear the bling not only destroys lobes, but diminishes the piercing, in my opinion.

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Coda: In reading this over, I wanted to stress that I think people can do what they want to their bodies, and I don’t think it’s a requirement that all body modification projects have deep meaning. But I do think some thought and care into the practice, especially if you are permanently modifying your body (unlike most piercings, which are durable but usually not permanent in the same sense as a tattoo, for example) is the mark of a well informed, thoughtful piercee and appreciated and cared for body art.

First pic from Gabriele’s Photostream at Flickr.

Second pic from Gusjer’s Photostream at Flickr.


Earrings for Sensitive Ears

November 15, 2009

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Do you have trouble wearing earrings?  Do they make your earlobes sore and itchy? Have you given up? Try body jewelry!

This pretty little girl (who belongs to mhowry’s photostream at Flickr) is beaming because she just got her ears pierced.  But could her jewelry be making her  vulnerable to a nickel allergy, or even lead poisoning?  Nickel allergies, a type of contact dermatitis,  are on the rise. It can develop immediately, or over time.  Jewelry worn in or against the body, especially earrings, is often cited as the cause.  According to the Mayo Clinic:

Nickel allergy is commonly associated with earrings and jewelry for other body piercings. But nickel can be found in many everyday items — from coins to necklace clasps, from watchbands to eyeglass frames.

The little girl pictured above probably got her ears pierced at the mall with a gun, and will be wearing lots of cute, inexpensive earrings of the type found in every accessory store.  Putting aside the problems associated with healing such a piercing with the typical crappy aftercare provided, because I’ve talked about them before, there are problems associated with the composition of the earrings themselves.  Even if the piercing heals and everything seems fine, after years of wearing this type of jewelry, anyone can develop an allergy to the metal.  I have talked to many women who lament not being able to wear earrings anymore, because their bodies have become sensitized to them.  Dealing with the pain, redness, bumps, and blisters that can result from nickel allergies can be disheartening, to say the least.  Such pierced ears can become infected, or abandoned and left to close up.

It’s all about the jewelry.

What are you putting in your ears? Most commercial earrings are made with low quality stainless steel, sterling silver, or gold filled posts or wires, all of which contain other metals as alloys.  Silver and gold must be alloyed to make them hard enough to be workable, and jewelers like using nickel because it makes the findings hard and non-porous.   Jewelry findings can be plated in rhodium or gold, which can flake and wear  off. Gold-filled earring wires are plated, eventually wearing off to expose the base metal  below.   Silver is not an appropriate metal to wear in anything but well-healed, happy pierced ears, because it tarnishes. Even gold jewelry can cause problems; 14k jewelry is only 14 parts gold to 10 parts alloyed metal.   Some jurisdictions have addressed jewelry quality with legislation.  The European Union banned all nickel in jewelry sold there since 2000, and  concerns about lead found in children’s jewelry prompted California to pass a similar law.

Be skeptical of jewelry industry claims! Even so-called “hypoallergenic jewelry” may not be. “Surgical stainless steel” is an empty term created as a marketing term by the jewelry industry.  (There are various grades of stainless steel; the best stainless steel body jewelry is manufactured to contain any nickel so it doesn’t come into contact with the skin.) These are the same people who promote the use of an implement derived from cattle tagging that inflicts blunt force trauma wounds (i.e., piercing guns).

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An alternative to try. On the other hand, jewelry made for body piercing enthusiasts is specifically designed for optimum healing and long-term wear in the body.  Quality body jewelry in a small gauge made from implant grade stainless steel, titanium, niobium, 14k or 18k gold not containing nickel, and some high-tech plastics are excellent for wearing in lobes.  Young children and people who cannot wear other types of earrings should take a look at some of the body piercing jewelry out there. Titanium is an especially good choice, because very few people react to it, it’s readily available and relatively inexpensive, and comes in un colors! Regular pierced ears are usually 20 gauge or 18 gauge, and you can buy such jewelry online without having to step foot in a tattoo or piercing studio. Take a look at some of these choices from reputable online dealers:

cbr sn TCBR_TBD_135Try a titanium captive bead ring from Steel Navel.  These Industrial Strength CBRs are high quality, and come in plain silver colored (polish) or anodized in host of colors.  They come in as small as 18 gauge, and 1/4 inch.  The anodized colors will come off in time, and those little beads can be really difficult to deal with, so how about:

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Stainless steel fixed bead rings from Tribalectic. They come in 20 and 18 gauge and are made of high quality, implant grade stainless steel.  These  have a very low chance of causing allergic reactions, and you won’t lose the bead.

Neometal_barbellFor a cutting-edge alternative, you could try a Neometal titanium press-fit barbell from BodyArtForms. You can buy various ends for these little beauties, which you simply push in.

More suggestions for happy earlobes:

This type of jewelry can be a little fiddly to get in and out (a friend with a good eye and a steady hand can  help) but is meant to be worn for long periods of time.  If you find something your ears are happy with, don’t change the jewelry too often. While healing, do not use alcohol, “ear-care solution,” hydrogen peroxide, Bactine, Neosporin, or anything other than a mild salt-water solution, and do not twist the jewelry. Leave the jewelry in, and wash your ears and the jewelry with mild soap and water in the shower.  Dry them well. (For more information on basic aftercare, see my Body Piercing Basics page.)

Don’t be afraid of exploring the world of body jewelry for earrings you can wear if your lobes are sensitive. Take a look through some of these retailers’ catalogs for rings, barbells, and other shapes.  They sell gold, titanium, and stainless steel body jewelry that’s worth a try.

Mayo Clinic Page on Nickel Allergy

State of California page on lead in jewelry ban

News article on lead in children’s jewelry

Pic of various jewelry from Ryheen’s Photostream at Flickr.

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Piercing the Cloud

November 10, 2009

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Am sick at home today and messing around, so I decided to make a little pierced cloud.  I think it came out nice.  That’s a Anatometal fixed bead ring, if memory serves me, which I wore for a while in my navel piercing.

I used it as my avatar in the BodyArtForms forums.  Appropriate, since they are retailers of Anatometal body jewelry.  Anatometal is a premium body jewelry company which makes awesome jewelry–soooo finely done and polished!  I own quite a few of their pieces.

I just joined the BodyArtForms forums, and the first response I got was from a moderator–“don’t revive old threads.”  I guess they wanted me to start a whole new thread to test my avatar, dunno.  Not a very warm welcome, but I guess I can overlook it.  I’ve run afoul of forum “unwritten rules” before, and I bet you have too.

Take a look at the Anatometal site. And here’s a link to the BAF discussion forums.


Workin’ on it

November 8, 2009

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New Books & Refs Pages

I’ve been working on rearranging my Books & Refs page.  First, to highlight the best piercing reference, The Piercing Bible, by giving it the place it deserves–the top spot!  And also to nest the pages so they are organized better.  (It took me a looong time to figure that one out–thanks WordPress.)

I’ll be adding books & refs as I go along, but each page is now at least started.  Click on the Books & Refs page at the top, or use the right-hand side bar to get there.

Let me know how you like the new set up.

Pic from austinevan’s photostream at Flickr.


Do’s & Tattoos

November 3, 2009

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Hairdo’s-Tattoos-Piercings

This is a pic of one of my local studios.  I dropped in on a whim on a Saturday afternoon, because I was curious.  Is having a hair salon together with tattoos and piercings a good idea?  Tattooers and piercers have been lumped together for a while, pretty much by default, but hair?  It makes sense, in a way, but it’s pretty much frowned on in the industry, both for hygienic reasons, and because most often hair salons offer only gunned piercings, which are crap.

The most positive part of the visit was the very nice owner of the studio, who graciously showed me around, but I have to say I was disappointed.  Or maybe puzzled.  Although the sign on the front indicated that the shop opens at 10 am on Saturdays, at just after noon, there were no piercers or hairstylists present, and the receptionist wandered in while I was there.

Where’s the door? I was given a tour, but with no mention of anti-contamination procedures, no “this is where our autoclave is” or anything.  I was shown the “piercing room” which had no door, and opened into a tattooing area.  There was a curtain rod . . . but no curtain in evidence.  This burns me–what kind of piercer makes no provision for privacy for the clients?  I was told that the shop had two piercers, and if one had been there, I would have inquired about their procedures in more detail.  But there was no jewelry on display at all just a lot of old skateboarding magazines.  No tattooer or piercer portfolios in the reception area, either.

So, how would a potential piercee be able to evaluate the services, cleanliness, or jewelry?   You’ll notice that there’s a beautifully done sign in the front, and there was obviously a lot of care given to the look  of the shop, but it’s all style no substance. At least there was no loud rock music and groups of people hanging around smoking in front, but the whole thing is so unprofessional.  Where are the employees?  Where is the jewelry?  Where’s the damn door to the piercing room? The only people who were there were two guys, presumably tattooers, who were working on drawings.  This is further indication that piercing is treated as a poor stepchild in the body art industry.

I’ve often said that I live in a podunk town, and there are no good piercers, and unfortunately I find no evidence at Do’s and Tattoos to contradict this.  Honestly, it was Halloween afternoon, so maybe people were off doing other things that day.  Maybe it’s the economy, and maybe it’s just poor business practices.  But what if I had wanted a piercing?  Or a haircut?  I need more than a nice reception.   And the apostrophe bugs me.


Should I tell my husband or surprise him?

October 28, 2009

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Piercings, Partners, and Problems.

What happens when your partner disapproves of your lifestyle choices?  An interest in  piercings can seem incomprehensible to others.  Parents, friends, spouses who don’t “get it” can be a big problem for the piercee.   What if you are thinking about getting a piercing, say, a genital piercing, but are unsure about what your partner would think?  Should you, as one lady asked, spring it as a surprise or talk it over beforehand?

It’s a complex problem and unfortunately there is no single answer.  Similar to the plight of teenagers who want to modify their bodies, there’s the issue of whose body is it, really? Are you free to do anything you want to your body if you are in a relationship?  Does your spouse have any rights in that regard?

Here are my thoughts:

–If you are a single adult, your body absolutely is your own to play with and modify as you see fit.  There are other considerations, of course, such as employment, aesthetics, and health.  Further, there’s always a risk that your close compatriots will object anyway.

–If you are married, or in a committed relationship, your body is still your own.  That is, I still think you have the right to make decisions about your own body; BUT–I think you should take your significant other’s reactions and wishes into consideration. It’s like any other issue in a relationship and communication is important.  So is sex; and if you are planning to pierce nipples or genitals, you absolutely need to consider your partner’s feelings.

–Sometimes the piercing debate can be a symptom of other problems in a relationship.  A common scenario is a middle-aged couple who are growing apart after years of marriage.  One spouse feels restless, wants to spice up their sex life, and suddenly becomes interested in body art.  The other spouse is pretty horrified (“it’s deviant! you’re a pervert!), and a big fight ensues over the piercings, even though the real problem is more complex.  Marriages have broken up over less.

–It’s also worth mentioning you should never get a piercing just because your partner wants you to. No one should pressure you to alter your body; unfortunately it does happen.  It’s your body, and if you don’t want those holes in there for yourself, don’t do it!

I can’t give relationship advice, other than to be patient and considerate, and to communicate.  If you want a piercing but suspect your partner may not approve, bring up the subject.  And bring it up again, because it may take some time for your partner to get used to the idea.  Here’s the progression:

  • –Piercings?  That’s weird and perverted!
  • –Piercings?  Well, they’re kind of interesting–on other people.  Hmm, maybe they can spice up our sex life?
  • –Piercings?  MUST HAVE NOW!

And no, I don’t recommend surprising your husband with a shiny new VCH out of the blue.  Bring it up casually first, and if he recoils, you know you have some buttering up to do!

Disclaimer:  I’m single, so I don’t have to worry about this myself!


PA Panel

October 18, 2009

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This is a continuation of the PA Project Part 1.  Sorry it’s taken me so long to get this up, but I want to thank my friends, Bash, Jacobite, and DC, who have shared their wisdom and experiences with this piercing with us all. I asked them to discuss choice of jewelry, stretching and gauges,  condom use, sex with a PA, how they solved the “pee problem,” whether the PA is a “gateway piercing,” and other tips on living with a Prince Albert piercing.  Without further ado, let’s hear what these gentlemen have to say.

DC

I think that the wisest thing that should be done and probably seldom is, would be to determine the gauge of the jewelry that the piercee wants to end with. Then the piercee can discuss placement of the piercing with his pierer to make sure that there is enough flesh to accomodate the jewelry without fear of it ripping out.

There are many  suggestions as to how to handle the peeing problem.  If you look at the floor in public restrooms there must be a lot of men who cannot aim without having the P.A. problem.  My best advice is to just sit down and be done with it.

For the PDB crowed it seems that most started with a princie, myself included.  After that it often gets addictive.  If you get a Prince Albert, you have half an Apadravya.

Prince Albert Piercing

Prince Albert Piercing

Jacobite:

It wasn’t so many years ago I sneaked in the door[of  the Tribalectic forum] without any piercings, feeling I didn’t have much to add.  Yet look around now and see how many guys like me are getting a PA as their first piercing in their mid 30s. Having been informed by a colleague who already had a PA that there were benefits for both my partner and me in getting a PA, I did a little research finally getting my PA on my 14th wedding anniversary.  The hardest part was actually making the decision to get my closest & best friend of 38 years poked with a needle–my first piercing now 6 years later I have 9 piercings and 6 tattoos.

Just a quick pinch and the needle was through; a 3 or 4/10 on a pain scale (I’ve endured much more pain on a visit to the dentist).  The most uncomfortable part was the receiving tube and fitting the jewelry.   For preference, get pierced at 10 or 8 gauge and immediately stretch to 8 or 6 gauge to minimize bleeding using a CBR.  Try to gauge the diameter of the ring you require before you go visit your piercer, measuring while erect the difference between the frenum at the bottom to the urethra opening up at the to (some guys are growers some are showers when they gain an erection).

Being a keen cyclist, when I initially had my PA pierced, the vibration as I cycled along the cobbled (granite sets) streets of my home city[Jacobite lives in Edinburgh] proved uncomfortable enough that I avoided these streets or had to stand out of the saddle while healing for the first 10 days or so.  Once healed I knew where theses streets were for another reason–the sensations  were not all together unpleasurable; even stimulating perhaps.

For the most part I tend to go commando, only wearing underwear when the situation dictates a little support or restraint, and then I choose boxer briefs.  The only problems I’ve had going commando were the one time with a Tribal Dream Ring fitted and attending a Highland Celidh wearing a Kilt and dancing the evening away.  Got home to find the jewelry had worked loose, as it’s just held together by a wee bolt/screw.  Alas, condoms I can’t help you with.  I had the snip before my PA and only wore them for a month or so during healing, although I do remember being disconcerted to see a little blood in the condom, due to me being too impatient to wait for healing to try out my new toy after 6 or 7 days.  This continued on occasions until I stretched to 3.2mm (8 g) or 4 mm (6 g) when the cheese cutter effect stopped.

Sex, whether solo or sex with a partner– certainly it takes two of you to find out what works best for each of you.  This may involve compromises.  I’ve found that thinner gauges pinched her more. This lessened as I increased the gauge of the ring.  As you stretch you may be able to reduce the diameter of the ring overall.  Many guys I know have done this, and it makes it easier to insert as the jewelry hugs the glans more closely, as well as being more comfortable for oral with less risk to teeth.  Larger gauges do seem to be better received–upto a point of about 00 gauge, which proved less comfortable than 0 gauge.

It cannot be stressed enough that this is a piercing for both you and your partner and you both need input into making it work for you. That might mean that you have to take it out for some positions.  I do have to take mine out but I never forget to put it back in, even for solo sex there is just something missing if I don’t have my PA in.

Would I do it again?  Hell  yea although I’d do it 20 years earlier!

Titanium Segment Rings

Titanium Segment Rings

Bash

I wouldn’t conmsider a PA a “starter piercing” for one reason: Piercing genitals is a real gut check for most people.  Nearly pain free and a yawner to heal it may be, but there is a psychological chasm between an earlobe and a penis that all of the assurances in the world will not close. Gateway? Perhaps.  It was for me, but for many it will be all they need/want.

There is no “best jewelry.”  I’ve tried just about everything, and they all have their pluses and minuses.  My favorite would have to be segment rings in titanium, because partners are more likely to find them comfortable/tolerable, urination is generally more easily managed; also the Ti is lightweight, and less prone to stretching the piercing.  On the subject of weight, the feel of that new weight swinging around “down there” is, at first, novel and pleasurable.  The body, however, adjusts quickly, and in just a couple of days it can no longer be felt.  Also, for me at least, there is such a thing as too much weight.  This is undoubtedly tmi, but when I was waring a 9 g stainless ring, it caused my penis, when flacid, to assume a long, thin profile.  I didn’t like the look at all.

Urination is a problem, but it is  manageable.  It varies from day to day with the jewelry worn, gauge of the piercing, how much oversize the piercing is relative to the jewelry, and whether the peen is pointing due north.  Feng shui is important! 😉  There are a number of strategies for dealing with this.  The most effective is to simply sit.  Next best is the twist and pee method; sounds awful, but it’t not, at all.  In all cases, a guy needs to pay attention. Wool gathering leads to accidents!

I don’t get many questions–most, I guess, deal with urination.  That, and some guys are really bugged when a bead disappears into their urethras. It should be a non-issue, but so far I’ve not had much luck convincing them of that.

I’m a patient guy, and go months/years between stretches, so they’ve been pretty non-eventful.  I actually don’t like this characeristic of PAs; they stretch on their own, and then don’t want to close up at least all the way.  This means you are stuck with whatever decision you may have made, good or bad.

Men are stupid; we’re obsessed with our dicks, and we do extreme things to them. I’m talking about stretching, here.  There is a point where jewelry begins to obstruct the urethra.  This has two effects, one demonstrable, the other theoretical.  The obstruction creates back pressure, which leads to “bypassin” during urination, complicating an already challenging situation.  Also, I believe that this obsruction inhibits the normal flushing of of the urethra by the urine stream, and sets up a sitution where bacteria can find a happy home.  This is, as I said, theoretical, and I have no idea what the critical jewelry size is, if in fact it’s a factor at all.  In my case, I stretched to 0g, decided to downsize, and the fistula retreated to about 4.

#1 Tip:  Patience, Grasshopper, Patience.

Again, thanks to my friends for sharing their thoughts on this very popular piercing.  I hope you can use some of these tips to make your own piercing a happy experience.

Pic of segment rings from Steel Navel.

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