Piercing, also called body piercing, is a form of body modification, specifically the practice of puncturing or cutting a part of the human body, creating an opening in which jewelry may be worn, or where an implant could be inserted.
Play piercing, needle play, or recreational acupuncture is body piercing done for the purpose of enjoying the experience rather than producing a permanent body decoration. Needles, sharpened bones, or other tools used in play piercing are removed from the body when the episode is complete, allowing the wounds to heal. This is considered a form of BDSM when done for sexual pleasure.
In needle play needles may be arranged in aesthetically pleasing configurations such as a smiley face, may be laced together like a corset, or may be used to sew on temporary decorations such as bells using sterile thread. Twisting of the needle(s) or pulling them away from the skin is also sometimes done.
Some places have a minimum legal age for body piercing, and some require parental permission and the use of a piercing studio for minors to receive body piercings.
It is safest for body piercing to be done by a reputable piercing studio. Such a place should provide clients with written and verbal aftercare instructions, as is in some areas mandated by law.
Needle play should always be carried out using new sterile hypodermic needles or acupuncture needles on skin which has been cleaned with an antiseptic such as alcohol or povidone iodine (keeping in mind providone iodine is a potential allergen), by people who have been properly trained. Improper technique can result in the transmission of bloodborne diseases (due to needlestick injuries, for example) or puncture wounds, but if done correctly there is far less danger of injury or infection than from being scratched by a cat due to the depth of insertion being controlled and the use of a sterilized needle.
Body piercing jewellery should be hypoallergenic.
A table in Larry Townsend’s The Leatherman’s Handbook II (the 1983 second edition; the 1972 first edition did not include this list) which is generally considered authoritative states that a purple handkerchief is a symbol for piercing in the handkerchief code. As well, placing a hanky in the left pocket indicates the wearer’s alignment with a top/dominant role, while a hanky in the right pocket indicates the wearer’s alignment with a bottom/submissive role. Townsend noted that discussion with a prospective partner is still important because people may wear a given color “only because the idea of the hankie turns them on” or “may not even know what it means”.