Why BME Supports Self-Piercing [The Publisher's Ring]

Why BME supports self-piercing

"When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong."

- Buckminster Fuller

BME occasionally catches flak from other sites and from the piercing industry for being an ardent supporter of people who choose to pierce themselves. Now, before we get any farther into this discussion, let me make one thing very clear: Over the past twenty years, we have evolved a talented and worthwhile piercing industry. Most urban areas have excellent quality studios, and it is almost always better for an individual to go to a studio for their piercing than it is for them to do it themselves. At a studio they not only get access to an experienced practitioner and their advice, but also to a controlled environment and quality tools.

In addition, let’s be very clear on what BME does not support. I am not supporting self-piercing as a way to “get around” things like age laws. If someone is going to pierce themselves, it should be because they’ve determined on some level that it’s the best thing for them. Self-piercing as a “second best” option is quite obviously a bad idea. Additionally, I absolutely am not in support of people running “amateur home studios”. As soon as you have multiple people involved you start getting into cross-contamination and bio-pathogen risks that one simply can not safely control in a home environment. This is absolutely not a defence of irresponsible and reckless behaviour. If a person wants to pierce themselves, they have a duty to educate themselves and do a good job of it, and it is paramount that they not put others at risk.

Many of my piercings are self done.

I grew up piercing myself. I had genital piercings and genital tattoos when I was sixteen. They were most certainly safe, and, more importantly, they had a positive impact on my life. I learned something about myself, and I walked away from the experiences a better person. No one has the right to tell me that those experiences are wrong because I didn’t pay someone else to provide them for me. A sexual surrogate may well be “better at sex” than average, but you don’ t see people arguing that one should choose a surrogate over one’s partner.

Read the self-piercing experiences on BME, especially the ones submitted by older readers, and you’ll come to a clear conclusion: on the whole, even in cases where the piercing itself was unsuccessful, people almost always walk away from the experience enriched and without real regrets. How dare we try and devalue that experience with an ignorant blanket statement of “self piercing is wrong”?

The piercing industry is built on and by self-piercing.

It’s a simple fact: this industry is built on self-piercing, and if it ever fades out of mainstream popularity, it is self piercing that will keep it alive. The piercing industry was formed by individuals who had all been piercing themselves, and I think it’s safe to say that the majority of older “celebrity” piercers all started by piercing themselves as well. I’m not even sure that I’d be comfortable with a piercer that hasn’t pierced themselves at least once.

How dare we throw away all of their contributions because we have the misguided and self-aggrandising notion that because they self-pierced they are somehow the scourge of this community, rather than the founders?

Not everyone has access to a decent piercing studio.

While most areas in North America have a piercing studio within a forty minute drive, that’s certainly not a universal truth. Yes, even most small towns have piercing studios nowadays, but I’ve seen any number that I would never trust to pierce me. Just because a person can come up with the money to put up a sign doesn’t mean they are qualified to perform the service safely.

In addition, people may have social reasons for not wanting to be pierced in a studio, or they may not want to have that experience in a studio. A good example are older life-partners who choose to pierce each other in a private setting. How dare we try and tell them that they don’t have that right simply because we believe that self piercing is wrong?

BME’s role is to provide information, not to force one view.

BME’s primary job is to document the life of the body modification community as a whole. While we clearly provide educational information in order to help the community grow in a positive direction, it would be detrimental to our purpose to attempt to silence a significant percentage of the community because we disagree with the way they did their procedures.

How dare someone try and suggest that BME use its mass-eyeball power to try and lie about the nature of this community?

Self-piercing will happen, independent of our statements.

Self-piercing supplies (of varying quality) are very easy to get from numerous sources, and it’s effectively impossible to cut off easy all-ages access to these supplies. In addition, in the few cases where there isn’t access to supplies, it’s been made clear over and over and over again that people will improvise and use whatever they can find. Also, all of my educational efforts via BME have made one thing clear: people ignore warnings. No matter what dire warning I put up about the risks of a given activity, if people want to do it, they will.

How dare we suggest that BME is wrong to provide high quality tools and comprehensive education when the alternative is poor tools and no education? What kind of monster believes that if someone is going to be self-pierced, that they’d like them to have as poor a chance of doing a good job as possible?

It’s their right.

Ultimately that’s what it boils down to, isn’t it? Does a person have fundamental ownership of their own body? It is my belief that if a person is of sound mind, that they are the sole owner and controller of what happens to their physical body. While I believe that as compassionate human beings we have a job to guide our neighbours into the best decision when possible, I also believe that we don’t have the right to try and take away that sovereignty.

If, after reading all the data provided and becoming as fully educated as possible on the subject, a person makes an informed decision to pierce themselves, of course I will support them in that. How dare anyone who believes in basic human freedoms and rights try and take that away?

So what’s wrong with self-piercing?

As they say, “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.”

Basic piercings (ears, genitals, noses, etc.) have been done since we were cavemen. That’s right; cavemen could do it safely. The human body is quite resilient — puncture us through our outer shell and we will heal. There might be a small scar but the odds of serious injury are miniscule and largely unrelated to whether the piercing is self done or not. If a person is sticking to these piercings, then it would be almost impossible for them to get much more than a crooked piercing or a tiny dot of scar tissue.

As far as contamination risks — I recently got an email that said “ever heard of cross contamination? don’t you know you can get AIDS from piercing yourself?” — in some ways these risks are actually reduced when self piercing. Cross contamination (of the sort that carries blood-borne pathogens) happens because of blood from another person entering your bloodstream via contaminated tools, supplies, or jewelry. If you are “outside the loop” (that is, your supplies can not come in that type of contact with people), then short of dragging dirt and dust into the piercing, you’re not going to get AIDS. I suppose there’s a minute chance that someone in the factory that made some of what you’re using has hepatitis, and that somehow their blood got on the item and survived the trip to you, but that’s such a remote chance that you’re far more likely to be hit and killed by a car on the way to the piercing studio.

But don’t underestimate the risk that simple environmental contamination poses — a dirty piercing (that is, a piercing with dirt inside it) is far more likely to get infected and will harbour dramatically more bacteria than one where every item has been kept meticulously clean and sterile.

As I said above, by reading the experiences on BME you can see all the good that comes from self-piercing. But don’t be blind to what is also being said — there are many mistakes made, and not all of those lessons need to be learned over and over and over.

In Conclusion

To summarise, I’m not saying “go pierce yourself” or that self-piercing is in any way “better”. I believe that 99% of people would be better off getting pierced at a studio. That said, I am making two very simple requests of people:

  1. Educate yourself fully and make the best decision for you.
  2. Respect other’s right to do the same.

Thank you,

Shannon Larratt

Next week: A counter-argument… “Dangerous Mods, Hidden Risks”

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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by BMEzine.com LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by BMEzine.com LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

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