The Pros and Cons of Penis Jewelry
Most people like to feel a little fancy on occasion. It's fun to dress up or wear something shiny for a night out—even if it's not all shiny gear meant for general viewing. In that case, we're talking genital jewelry, perhaps the ultimate commitment in bling.
Penis piercing and other forms of penis jewelry have been around for at least 2,000 years, as evidenced in the "Kama Sutra," an ancient sexual guidebook. Piercing the penis is believed to have become briefly fashionable among the upper classes in 19th-century England, and the act enjoyed an underground resurgence in 1970s San Francisco.
Today, it's as good as mainstream. You can walk into a body modification shop in almost any city and walk out with a piercing. But if you're considering prettying up your penis with some shiny new bling, it's probably not something you want to approach casually.
The long and short of penis piercing
Healthcare providers suggest if you're going to add extra holes down there, you should know what you're getting into. Plus, you should be cautious about who you trust to puncture your precious wedding tackle.
"Men need to consider who is doing their piercings and what they can expect from them," said William Brant, M.D., the chief of urology at the Salt Lake City Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "They also need to realize that the issues they create may not be reversible. If they want piercings and jewelry, we don't generally discourage them, and more power to them. But they need to take extra care if they want to avoid injury and [medical] procedures in that area."
Here are a few of the more popular options for a penis piercing.
The main choices for penis piercings include devices made of surgical titanium, biocompatible plastics, 14-karat white or yellow gold (not gold-plated jewelry, which can cause infections), or platinum.
Common penis jewelry shapes include:
- Captive bead ring. A ring with a bead where the ends come together.
- Straight barbell. A rod with beads on either end that can be removed.
- Circular barbell. A horseshoe-shaped piece with beads on the ends.
- Bent barbell. A barbell with beads similar to the straight barbell but slightly curved.
The types of available piercings are numerous. Some of the more common sound varyingly regal, painful and exotic.
Prince Albert (PA)
The Prince Albert is the most common type of penis piercing. It goes in through the urethra and pokes through the underside of the shaft just behind the penis head (glans). It is so named because Queen Victoria's husband is rumored to have had a ring piercing to fasten down his allegedly impressive appendage to make it less obtrusive in the tight trousers of the era. This story is probably apocryphal.
The apadravya piercing is done vertically through the glans from top to bottom.
Another piercing that involves the penis head, the ampallang goes horizontally from side to side through the glans.
Another horizontal piercing, the frenum, appropriately enough, goes through the frenulum, the spot just underneath the glans where the head meets the shaft.
The dydoe, or King's crown, is a lengthwise piercing that goes through the ridge at the base of the penis head.
For the magic cross, two barbell piercings go through the glans and cross each other, leaving four beads exposed.
Reverse Prince Albert
A reverse Prince Albert goes through the urethra and loops upward, poking out the upper side of the penis head.
Deep Prince Albert
Roughly the same as the reverse PA, the deep Prince Albert emerges much farther down the upper side of the shaft.
A horizontal or vertical piercing farther down the penis shaft, the deep shaft goes all the way through the penis.
Picture several frenum piercings that start at the frenulum and continue down the shaft, and you have Jacob's ladder.
Poking a hole in practicality
OK, so you're caught up on the options. No matter what you choose, be aware of one detail: The original hole in your penis is there for a specific purpose. If you introduce new openings to the system, they can permanently alter the landscape down there.
"A lot of people get them either for their own sensory pleasure or for their partner, and that's all good," said Amy Pearlman, M.D., a urologist and the director of men's health at the Carver College of Medicine at University of Iowa Health Care. "But things to keep in mind—especially if those piercings go through the urethra—is the urethra, especially the tip of the urethra, functions to funnel urine. So if you mess that up, either with a piercing or scar tissue that may develop as a result of the piercing, you may have spraying of the urinary stream. And then, if you ever decide to take out that piercing, the urine is going to come out of that hole."
Know thy piercer
This should go without saying, but we feel especially obligated to reiterate it: You only want to get a piercing from someone you trust.
Laws for licensing and regulation of body modification services vary from state to state. But often, all that's required before a person can be considered qualified to create new holes in your member is paying for a license to operate a business and meeting some very basic standards of hygiene.
Keep in mind that even if a shop has a license to operate, that's no guarantee the piercers there have the training, education or hygiene practices to ensure a good outcome, so it's on you to be an educated consumer.
When you have a consultation with a potential piercer, you should make sure of several aspects:
- They are experienced and knowledgeable.
- They operate in a clean, sterile space.
- They have an autoclave or a cassette sterilizer—not a liquid soak or "dry heat" type of sterilizer.
- They have a separate piercing room.
- They inspect your anatomy and talk to you about the procedure.
- They talk to you about aftercare and healing.
The Association of Professional Piercers is a solid resource for information and provides a checklist for what to look for at a piercing facility. It also has a search tool to find a qualified piercer in your area.
Penis piercing has a long history. While it may not be universal, it is nonetheless quite common and enjoyable for some people. If done safely, under sterile conditions with closely followed aftercare, a piercing can be a pleasurable and fun accessory to add to your junk.
In the second installment about penis jewelry, we'll discuss what you can expect from your piercing in terms of pain, recovery time and side effects. Then we'll talk to piercers and people with piercings to learn a little about why they're into them and what sexual benefits they and their partners enjoy.