May/June 2001
Play Piercing
by Susan Abel

Play piercing is the SM technique of consensually inserting needles underneath the skin for erotic pleasure. Care should be taken to follow all appropriate safety precautions when engaging in play piercing in order to avoid injury. In the context of this document, the “bottom” is the person being pierced, and the “top” is the person doing the piercing.


One should purchase sterile needles, and not reuse them after they have been used. One should dispose of needles in a sharps container. Most medical supply shops and drug stores will sell sharps containers, and will tell you where they should be disposed of. Some states allow one to purchase needles without a prescription.

The smaller the gauge, the larger the needle diameter. Common needle gauges for play piercing are 26 through 18. Different gauges of needles have different color hubs, but these colors are not consistent across brands. On the needle package, the needles are commonly identified first by gauge, and second by needle length (in inches). Thus, a package labeled “ 22 1 ˝” would contain 22 gauge needles with a length of 1 1/2 inches.

The plastic disposable protection around the needle is called the sheath. The plastic portion permanently attached to the needle is called the hub. One shouldn't attempt to resheath the needles, as this can be hard to do without sticking oneself (actually, one should be careful about unsheathing as well).

One can practice piercing on a fresh orange, or on a chicken breast.

Basic Principles

The basic idea is that the needle should travel just underneath the surface of ordinary skin, to emerge through the skin a short distance from where it was inserted. The needle tips have a bevel. With regard to the skin being pierced, the bevel may be up or down (it's personal preference); having the bevel sideways makes no sense, however.

Shallower = More Pain

Larger Diameter Needle = More Pain


Do not stick needles into internal organs, bones, eyes, etc. Again, the idea is that the needle should travel just underneath ordinary skin, passing only through skin and the subcutaneous layers just underneath the surface. Play piercing involving the genitals is a special topic, with special precautions that must be followed to avoid causing permanent damage; don't try any sort of genital piercing without further training from someone who is familiar with and competent at genital piercing.

Don't pierce wrists, hands, or spines. Waist to shoulders is usually fine, though one should avoid the armpit and sternum.

The surface to be pierced should be disinfected first. There are three types of substances that may be used for this:

 Iodine - this is opaque (which may be a problem) and shouldn't be used on someone who is allergic to shellfish.

 Alcohol - this should be 70%-90% rubbing alcohol (isopropyl). One shouldn't use it on someone who is on antabuse.

 BAC - these kill a broader spectrum of pathogens than alcohol, and allergic/ irritation reactions are rare.

Allergic reactions (distinct from irritation) are characterized by pale skin, sweating, localized redness, and asthma-like symptoms. At some play parties, it is required that one cork the tips of needles. This is not always easy to do without sticking oneself, though. The black corks can be autoclaved.

Some people like to spray the area with their disinfectant of choice and/or apply a gauze bandage after the piercing.

Some people prefer to wear latex or nitrile gloves as they do piercing, and to use the needle sheath to press down the skin in front of the needle as it is going through so that their hand or finger is not in the needle's way. Although most gloves will not protect you should you stick yourself with a needle, they can protect your hands against any blood (of uncertain infectious status) that may flow from skin punctures.

The primary danger in play piercing is infection. Be sure that the person you are playing with would recognize the signs of infection should they occur, and if so to go receive proper medical care.

Laura Victoria's Guide to Exotic Piercing

Body Modification