This article is from the Piercing FAQ, by Anne Greenblatt with numerous contributions by others.
In the US, Doug Malloy, along with Jim Ward and Fakir and, in England,
Alan Oversby aka Mr. Sebastian, are credited with being the
grandfathers of late 20th century piercing practices. The popularity
of body piercing as we know it started in the mid to late 1970's in
the San Francisco gay leather S&M scene. During the late 1970's body
piercing became popular among punks in the U.S. and England. Body
piercing remained an "underground" practice until the early 1990's by
which time it was popular in many musical subcultures (Alternative
Rock, Rave, Goth) and began to appear in music videos, on television
talk shows and, perhaps most unexpectedly, on fashion runways.
Doug Malloy created a number of the piercings now considered standard.
Much of the "ancient history" of piercing described by Doug Malloy was
written and invented by him; he never produced any concurrent written
records of his findings. For information and interviews with Doug
Malloy, Jim Ward, Fakir, and the creation of Gauntlet, the first full
time piercing studio of the United States, please refer to the book
_Modern Primitives_, 1989, REsearch Publications.
Why do people get pierced? The motivations often include one or more
of the following reasons:
- for aesthetics, the look
- for sensual pleasure, sensual play or adding sensation
- to mark a special event on one's life
- as a symbol of commitment in a relationship
- as a symbol of possession or for chastity (for example, in an S&M
- as a means or signifier of reclamation (for example, as an abuse
Some people endure the piercing process for the final result. Others
enjoy the process or enjoy the sensation. The pain releases
endorphins, the body's own pain killers, which some people find a
pleasurable effect of piercing.