Genital Piercings: What is Known and What People With Genital Piercings Tell Us

Myrna L. Armstrong; Carol Caliendo; Alden E. Roberts


Urol Nurs. 2006;26(2):176-179. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Nurses need information about people with genital piercings so that they may provide non-judgmental, clinically competent care. The genital piercing procedure, types of genital piercings, information found in the health care literature, and data from 37 subjects who have self-reported genital piercings are presented.

Nurses in many practice arenas are encountering clients with body piercings in visible (face and ears) and semi-visible (navel, nipple, and tongue) sites. Nurses caring for patients with urology problems are encountering more patients with body piercings in intimate sites such as the genitals. For example:

While performing a physical assessment, the professional nurse discovers that the 25-year-old female client is wearing two silver rings on her labia.

A 32-year-old male presents with a groin injury. During the examination, the urologic nurse notices several pieces of jewelry in his scrotum and penis.

As the proliferation of body piercings continues so will numbers of clients who seek care for treatment of adverse effects. These patients may present for health care for a variety of physical conditions, including piercing-related infections, bleeding, nerve damage, or allergic reactions (Meyer, 2000).

For health care providers, the physical aspects of treatment and care may pose a dilemma, but so might their personal reaction to the genital piercings. The authors have overheard the following types of responses to the above sample client interactions, "Why would someone do such a thing?" and "Are these people normal?" Others have been heard to exclaim, "They must be sex fiends," or "Watch out! These people have lots of STDs and other awful diseases."

Professional nurses may not agree with or accept the practice of genital body piercing, nor make the choice to have anything but their own ears pierced. In fact, just the thought of piercing the genitals may provoke feelings of discomfort and distaste both personally and professionally. Additionally, lack of knowledge and understanding of these client practices may challenge the nurse's ability to provide nonjudgmental care. Some health professionals feel that people who choose to have body piercings deserve whatever outcome occurs (Ferguson, 1999). In contrast, this type of body art could be a meaningful part of the client's human behavior (Meyer, 2000), including a deliberate modification of one's appearance similar to what Shilling (1997) and Atkinson (2002, p. 219) call "purposive body projects."

The focus of this article is to address the (a) genital piercing procedure, (b) various types of genital piercings, (c) genital piercing information, including recent information about complications and treatment found in the health literature, and (d) data from 37 subjects who have self-reported genital piercings. These subjects were part of a larger study reported elsewhere (Caliendo, Armstrong, & Roberts, 2005). One aim of that research was to seek further information about individuals with genital piercings, from those who actually have genital piercings. The information contained in this article is additional anecdotal information not reported in that study.


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