Dustin’s Pussy Finger

It’s fresh in the large photo, but Dustin’s tail-wagging black cat finger tattoo was done for him by Sean Holmes at Altered Image in Indianapolis about a year ago. The animated version is how it looks now and in motion. Admittedly, it doesn’t make a very convincing mustache, but I’m sure the pose leads to many vaguely inappropriate jokes about sniffing the pussy on his finger.

pussyfinger pussyfinger pussyfinger pussyfinger


Dotwork Hand Outline

Hand tattoos more than almost any other body part allow the artist to create a tattoo that has movement and life that a static piece could never have. For me, this means that simple yet fluid designs can easily beat out photo realistic mastery dumped flat on the back of a hand, and this tattoo of dots tracing the “mold line” of the hand by Christian Bedics (of Germany’s Time Travelling Tattoo) is a great example. Like all of his tattoos, this dotwork piece is hand poked. I should also mention that Christian is probably better for his scarification work — he’s one of the scarmasters appearing at the First International ScarCon, taking place May 4th and 5th in London.


Speaking of movement in hand tattoos, here’s another, much more whimsical tattoo also by Christian Bedics. Sure beats a finger mustache!



I thought I’d seen just about every variation of finger tattoo gags — after mustache tattoos and then teardrops opened the floodgates, people came up with idea after idea, and I guess that well has not yet run dry. Here’s a pirate tattoo — eyepatch and sabre — that Matteo Masini at Lucky Clown Tattoo Shop (luckyclowntattoo.com) in Bologna, Italy just did. Appropriate, given that September 19th this year marked the 10th anniversary of “Talk Like A Pirate Day“.

John Waters, Eat Your Heart Out

There are very few people that can successfully pull of a pencil ‘stache without attracting the attention of Chris Hanson.  Salvador Dali did it, Raoul Julia was able to do it occasionally, Prince became a sex symbol with his, and of course John Waters has been rocking his for decades.  Now when many of us were kids, especially those of us with dads who had a mustache, a pencil could easily transform into a mustache.  Just stick it under your nose and curl your top lip.  It was the memory of doing that as a kid that led IAM: Ominous Angus to get this finger tattoo.  To him it’s a reminder to never grow too old.

Full Coverage: Links From All Over (Oct. 24, 2008)

[BMEzine.com] Oh hey look! It’s one of those newfangled editions of BME’s Big Question that all the movie stars are talking about! Let’s go read it immediately! Yeah, good idea! No, me first!

[io9.com] The ever-wonderful io9 has just posted a pretty comprehensive list of notable tattoos that have popped up in various science-fiction films and series over the years. To the right is a picture of Angelina Jolie from Wanted from their gallery, which I have included here because why the hell not.

[KTVO.com] Are you an adult of voting age in or around Kirksville, MO, who is planning on braving the booths on November 4? Well slap your mammy, because Dyed Hyde Tattoo and Body Piercing is offering “free” (plus $5 for equipment, allegedly) piercings to customers all day, provided they bring their identification, their voter registration card and an “I Voted” sticker!

“This is the most important election in history, as far as I’m concerned, and my idea to give free body piercings on election day is just to get voters out there, give them some incentive to get out there and vote,” said “Flash” [a shop staff member].

[...] He says Democrats and Republicans are welcome to take advantage of his offer.

So after you have navigated the mazes of imaginary 11-foot-tall black gangbangers from the planet Africa who want nothing more than to beat the piss out of you and carve you to pieces, reward yourself for having done your civic duty! Meghan McCain will be on hand, trying in vain to convince the shop owner to give her a free mustache tattoo on her finger.

On Eyelid Microdermals, ModBlog and Turning Body Modification Into a Contest.

(Author’s note: Excuse me while I get all meta on you.)

Full-disclosure time: When I first saw on Lane Jensen’s IAM page pictures of the microdermal he’d put into someone’s eyelid, I was mortified. This was too much, too risky, and, though I had not been apprised of the details of the situation, it read as irresponsible at best and fame-seeking at … well, not quite “worst,” but getting there.

The client, it seemed, was quite young [Author's note: She was 17 years old and her father was present. My point stands, nonetheless], with minimal visible prior body modification work done — not to say she was too immature, but, in the same way that most responsible tattoo artists will refuse to work on a lightly tattooed client’s hands or face, so should it be when it comes to highly experimental piercings (a distinction which, for the sake of this article, we’ll say includes microdermals). Because, as widespread as microdermals have become (and my God have they become widespread), this is still a new concept. The first images of microdermals (then called “dermal anchors” — oh, memories!) appeared on BME in an image update dated October 27, 2005. The first mention of them on ModBlog was April 15, 2006. On November 6, 2006, an article was published featuring interviews with a number of practitioners who had been performing microdermal procedures.

ModBlog’s first microdermals

So let’s say that microdermals are, in their current iteration (as a modernized and ostensibly simplified version of traditional transdermals), at most, about two-and-a-half years old. In most circles, this would place a project in its infancy — far from having been extensively tested or fine-tuned, and potentially rife with unknown (and sometimes well known) risks. (Very seldom are feature films released, for example, that comprise a series of unedited first takes.) Yet, in the body modification community, infamous for its impetuousness, two-and-a-half years is an eternity. The idea of the “guinea pig” is now largely irrelevant; as soon as something “new” has been done, provided the client doesn’t die on the spot, it’s added to the portfolio, uploaded to all manner of Internet forums and, if it’s interesting enough, it’ll probably even get posted on ModBlog.

Pardon me while I put on my ombudsman hat, but make no mistake: ModBlog takes a lot of blame here, playing the dual role of collective consciousness and enabler. Almost everything posted on ModBlog comes via BME submissions, which are filtered for funny, attractive and generally unique content, given a punny caption and then offered up to be criticized and lauded, copied and adopted.

That is to say, ModBlog is supposed to feature the best that BME has to offer.

Such is our position: We want to promote an environment in which new, exciting and beautiful procedures can be put on display and discussed, yet we’re also an archive, for whom comprehensive documentation is a mandate. Appearing on ModBlog, vitriol of the commentariat notwithstanding, is often a validation of sorts: If it’s good enough for BME to showcase, shouldn’t it be good enough for you?

Well, no. Not always. Sometimes in documenting things, we come off a little too enthusiastic about items that aren’t quite ready for prime time, or that we’ve convinced ourselves are worthy of attention simply because we’ve given them a lot of attention — the state of “being famous for being famous.” (See also: Anything related to Kim Kardashian or Brooke Hogan; Gawker’s tireless efforts to track Julia Allison’s every move; The Hills in its entirety.) Is this really a healthy phenomenon? Making stars out of people because of their physical modifications and creating an environment in which this miniscule level of fame can be achieved by pushing one’s limits further, harder and, quite possibly, dangerously quickly? There’s a fine line between celebrating the community and unduly, unfairly celebritizing its members.

And, like I said, this is, to an extent, our fault — “us” being the body modification media, slight as we may be. There is — be it real or imagined — an element of pressure to be more “extreme,” for lack of a better word (and there are many). On another forum, one commenter recently posted that he’d just passed his one year anniversary of entering the wonderful world of body modification, and posted the following laundry list of work he’d done (consider the entire quote [sic]):

septumx2, smileyx2,tongueweb, Apadravya, lorumx5, fingerwebx3, handwebx3, nipplex2, navelx3, lobex9, conchx2, helix/2g Dermal Punch, tragusx2, eyebrowx6, labretx10, “rhino”/unidentified

Though I definately don’t still have all those and I counted where I re-did piercings, I remember wach one… I wonder what mods are to come in the future?

Fifty-three piercings and six tattoos in one year. His first year. Holy crap. Another poster followed up with their own first-year anniversary inventory ([sic] again):

it all started with a septum piercing … It’s now at 1g … 0g flat punch, 0g conch punch, x4 vertical bridges, x4 horizontal eyebrows, 6 tattoos, 1 chest scarification, 6 lip piercings, venoms (now stretched to 10g), tongue webbing, ears pierced at 8g (now 5/8ths), multiple arm surface, belly button, clavicle surface, x2 nape, x5 lower back surface, tragus, smiley.


This isn’t a journey — it’s an obsession, whether it’s instigated internally, by a desire to fit in, lead the pack, or otherwise. A bodybuilder doesn’t start out deadlifting 700-pound weights. A mountain climber doesn’t scale K2 as an introductory ascent. This is unhealthy behavior, regardless of the outlet, but body modification allows for it rather easily — even encourages it, be it to pad a portfolio or to get one’s 15 minutes of ModBlog fame. If I had a nickel for every conversation I’ve had with people who mention the role that ModBlog played in the popularization of microdermals, well, I’d probably be able to afford to have one put in my eyelid.

This isn’t to decry experimentation or having fun with one’s body — Rachel posted a video of Lassi doing a guiche suspension a few weeks ago, for God’s sake. But this eyelid microdermal business is different; these images presented an ethical dilemma. By all accounts, it was awfully unsafe and, while not in direct contact with the eyeball, would potentially be a nightmare for the general eye-region. It’s one thing for a trained professional and experienced body modification enthusiast to throw a hook through his taint, but it’s another matter entirely to risk massive harm to a young, inexperienced client just because the opportunity presented itself and it seemed like an interesting procedure to try. I’m not an expert of anatomy, but one thing I’ve picked up on is that unless you are incredibly certain of your methods and the anticipated outcome, you don’t screw around with someone’s eyes. In a field in which calculated risk-taking comprises a significant portion of the action, simple consent should not be the be-all end-all for a practitioner when deciding whether or not to perform an experimental procedure.

The microdermal in question

On the other hand, though? This was ModBlog fodder in every conceivable way. It was probably the first time it had been done, it looked healthy enough and, most importantly, it was new. Considering our standards, it probably deserved to be posted.

We decided not to post it. ModBlog’s influence is tangible, and we decided that appearing to endorse it in any way would have been irresponsible. Let’s wait, we thought, and maybe once we can see some results, we can determine if this is appropriate to post. It would end up in the BME image archives, of course, but ModBlog, to be sure, is a different beast altogether. This was a test — one that didn’t need to be publicized, and arguably performed on the wrong client. We didn’t want to be nannies or censors — BME would still accept the photos for its galleries — but as for ModBlog? This didn’t yet embody the best that BME had to offer. Body modification practitioners should cherish their guinea pigs — not exploit them.

Of course, being an online company has its drawbacks. Through a miscommunication, it ended up getting published on ModBlog. Naturally, some people loved it, some peopled hated it. Some claimed it was yet another moment in BME’s perpetual decline, while others probably asked their piercers if they could get their own (or, conversely, some piercers likely asked their clients if they were interested in trying it out). This isn’t a criticism of the chain of events: It’s just occurred enough by this point that there exists a recognizable pattern and, for the most part, we love it (see also: mustaches tattooed on fingers, etc.) — that’s why we do this. Body modification is a passion, and dealing with it professionally every day would be impossible if we weren’t legitimately excited by people’s experimentation and determination to modify and beautify themselves.

But that’s not an absolute, and it doesn’t mean that everything must be supported or looked upon favorably. Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be; there may be no right reasons for modifying yourself, but there are sure as hell wrong ones, and those are made substantially worse when the client is being used — whether it’s by the one performing the procedure or the one publicizing it.

(Ed. note: While Jordan is an editor for and a valued member of BME, this is an editorial and does not necessarily reflect the views of other BME staff or BME as a publication. As well, Lane has been invited to do an interview and defend his position. This will be published as soon as possible.)

Practical Magic: The Art of David Bruehl

Rain Polsky / brokenumbrella.com

When I was first introduced to the art of David Bruehl — work with a solid illustration base and easily recognizable style — I immediately thought, “This guy should tattoo.”

Never one to leave it to the whims of fate, I grabbed the bull by the horns and told him as much. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to suggest it. David quickly transitioned from a mild mannered illustration student at the well regarded S.C.A.D. in Savannah to a tattoo apprentice in the heartland of Indiana. Quicker than you could say abracadabra, he was on his way to becoming a skilled, versatile tattooer.

David is now in his seventh year of tattooing with an international reputation for his client-centric process, continues to paint and, most importantly, is the husband to his wonderful wife, Kimmy, and father of two amazing boys, Zeke and Abe.

Shawn Porter: Hey David.

David Bruehl: Hey Shawn.

SP: Let’s do the getting to know you. Where were you born?

DB: I was born in Oklahoma City, OK, on November 7, 1979.

SP: I know you have at least one sister — the hot one that I have a crush on. Any other siblings?

DB: That sister, Sheryn, is technically my half-sister, along with my other half-sister, Treisa. I’ve known them as long as I’ve been alive though, so it’s all the same to me. They’re respectively 11 and ten years older than me. (Irish twins!) I also have a younger full sister, Jessica, who’s two years my junior. I essentially grew up among women; I wasn’t really close with my dad.

SP: What were you like as a child? Typical “artsy dreamer” or more conventional kid?

DB: I always looked at myself as a normal kid, but moving back to Oklahoma has resulted in getting my extended family’s impressions of me as a child. Several cousins have described me as, “the kid reading a science book while everyone else was playing army men.” They all seemed to think I was going to be a scientist until I was around 11 or 12 years old, when I started always carrying a sketchbook.

SP: When did you discover you could draw? Did your family encourage it?

DB: I drew a little Halloween bat when I was about three that everyone made a big deal about — how much it looked like what I was drawing. They gushed over the thing so much, I still retain that memory as my proudest moment as a kid. I think on some level, my need to create seeks to relive that moment.

SP: Were there any other artists in the family?

DB: My grandmother painted and worked as a gallery artist, mostly doing wildlife themes. When I was a child, she would bring me with her to her art association meetings, and as a result, I viewed art as being something one could do as a career from the very beginning. She’s retired herself from painting now, unfortunately. Around the time I started attending art school as an adult, my mom introduced an art program into her school district and works as an art teacher now.

SP: When I first started seeing your work, it had a very cohesive “Bruehl” look to it — your pinups in particular were very easily recognizable as having come from you. Has tattooing made it easier or harder for you to adapt to other styles, and how do you keep that from losing your particular aesthetic?

DB: I think that working outside of one’s comfort zone, imagery wise, is very healthy for an artist. I see it all the time with artists, where someone repeats themselves stylistically and subjectively so much that every fault within their work gets magnified and they lose that freshness. You get the feeling that they’re coasting. Having to synergize with a client’s needs stretches me in ways I wouldn’t have, left to my own devices. My personal aesthetic gets retained by trusting myself and my intuition in creating a piece.

SP: You’ve recently started painting more. With your first gallery show under your belt (DB01-New Works, OKC, OK), you seem to be solidifying a personal iconography: birds, occult/esoteric symbols, numbers and invented crypto-zoology. How much research goes into a new painting? Do you use specific symbols to “charge” the piece? Or do you make your own up to thematically go with the work? Why have you consciously stayed away from “tattoo” iconography in your paintings?

DB: A lot of my painting work is done in an almost subconscious manner. I do a lot of distracted sketching, little tiny drawings, and the ones that resonate with me become paintings. The subject manner comes from being in a place with my children mentally, a simpler land of wonderment and mystery and the like. I’ve actually been looking at the work of Winsor McKay lately, as I think he was sort of coming from the same place creatively.

The symbols within the pieces are “sigils,” which is a blanket term for symbols used to create some sort of effect on reality. A quick and easy example of what I mean is cave painting: man draws buffalo getting killed, and then within a couple days the men in the tribe find a buffalo and kill it for the benefit of the tribe — the art then created the result in the tribe’s eyes. In cultures of the past, artists served a role much more similar to a magician or shaman; we still do, albeit in a more obscure form, especially if you loosen your term of what “art” is. Anyways, getting back to it, the sigils I use are mostly things dealing with personal change, though some are more general, especially the repeated ones. Those specifically serve to connect the work into a unified whole, much like a signature. I don’t use symbols outside of my personal symbol-language, as that’s what I’ve chosen to work within and what resonates the most with me.

Some of my more recent work has incorporated some tattoo iconography, albeit in a more reduced form. There’s several design elements within tattooing that I think work well within paintings as well. In a way, painting started out as an escape from the tattoo juggernaut, which has a way of becoming all-encompassing in one’s life. The fact that some of it has started finding its way into my painting work is a sign of the proper integration of tattooing into my life, I think. In the end, whether it’s a painting or a tattoo, it’s all part of the whole of my work.

SP: You “gained speed” as a tattooist pretty quickly; I remember watching your work progress at a geometric rate and knowing early on that you “got it.” What are your thoughts on traditional apprenticeships? Do you think that the ability to make needles with a soldering iron and jig or being able to build machines is necessary for the modern tattooist?

DB: Tattooing is in a weird spot. Most good artists out there have no interest in taking apprentices, which leaves hopefuls to take on the dangerous task of learning on their own — which really puts a lot of people in a worse position than not knowing anything, since they end up with a bunch to unlearn — or to learn from sketchy bad tattooists who are taking them on for the wrong reasons. It’s inevitable that there’s always going to be new blood becoming part of the community, so there has to be some way to sift through everyone to ensure that the people who deserve it. I don’t know that there’s an answer to that conundrum.

I think knowing every aspect of one’s craft is important. I know how to make needles. I can build a machine from raw materials (metal, magnet wire and some screws). I can make pigment. I can essentially make anything involved in my craft except a power supply. Do I do all of that? No. I no longer make my own needles. I make machines, some of which I keep, some I sell. I don’t make my own pigment, except on rare occasions. Learning all of that, though, connects me to and further refines my process. So much of tattooing is about learning what works for you, rather than knowing the one “right” way to do something. It’s easy to get lost in all that, though. No matter how hard one tries, there’s not going to be that magic machine or magic pigment that’s going to make a person a good tattooist. That’s the result of a lot of hard work and a lot of time spent at the drawing table.

SP: Tattooing is in a weird spot. I can remember headlines when I was a kid boasting, “Tattoos: No longer for Bad Boys and Bikers!” Yet, all of the people covered in the articles were bad-asses or bikers. We’ve finally hit a place where it’s transcended that: almost everyone in our age group has at least one tattoo. But it’s moving past just regular joes and hitting the superculture. What do you think about the “tattooist as celebrity” concept? You know, mix your Ed Hardy energy drink with Sailor Jerry rum and down it when you’re watching Miami Ink — is this good for tattooing?

DB: Not just regular tattoos, it seems like a good chunk of people our age are rocking a half sleeve, or at least one in progress. To me personally, I find celebrity culture in general obnoxious, so seeing it come about within my own craft is especially annoying. As it relates to the tattoo community as a whole, though, I think it’s too complicated to frame it as necessarily good or bad. It’s a total paradigm shift, and it forces us to rethink what our expectations of “tattooing” are.

It’s not really a surprise that it came about, though. The market wants to frame everything simpler and sexier to make it into a commodity, so this “tattoo subculture” comes about, with the clothes, the look, the phones, et cetera. That’s so limited, though, and doesn’t get to the essence of what tattooing is. Most serious tattooists I know don’t relate to that whole thing at all. It almost resembles the “maya” concept of the veil that obscures reality as it is.

The funny thing with it all is that the permanent nature of tattooing itself denies it from being able to be a passing trend. Someone may be into the “tattoo culture” and get a bunch of tattoos then later grow out of it. However, the tattoos are still there. So, as they grow older, they’ve gotta rock them, they inevitably get more, but the nature and style of their tattoos change to reflect their growth.

SP: Cliche interview question, but whose work are you into these days? Tattooers, painters, directors, musicians — whomever. I find that listening to the proper music really helps me write, but can’t read before I work on something, lest Bukowski or Palahniuk get channeled without me realizing it. How does the output of others influence your work?

DB: The first artist that really shifted my perspective in tattooing was Grime. I can trace that to a specific tattoo. When I was very young in tattooing, I was into all that ’99-era new-school cartoony tattooing. Looking at artists online, I found Grime’s portfolio on the Tattoo City Web site. I had heard of him more almost as a legend from people who had been at shops when he did guest-spots. In his portfolio he had a sleeve of Houdini, in a straight jacket, upside down on an arm, rendered almost like a painting of a Catholic saint. It also incorporated some severed flying hands in handcuffs, and a key, with a background that was an abstracted and more dynamic form of Japanese iso bars. It was the first time I saw a tattoo that you couldn’t really pigeonhole into some category. It was simply illustrative. Seeing that really pushed me into a direction; not to do tattoos that looked like Grime’s, but to do tattoos that drew from my approach to subject matter, rather than an established genre within tattooing. (I frequently use the term “genre” rather than “style” to refer to traditional, Japanese, new school, et cetera. I feel it’s a more accurate term.)

Most of my influences have been more from the painting and illustration world. Jeff Soto and James Jean have both been influences. Kathy Olivas and Brandt Peters are personal friends of mine, and have helped me and definitely influenced my painting work. I owe a lot to them. Musically, a lot of Canadian post-rock stuff like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and HRSTA, along with Beirut, and lot of softer stuff like Belle and Sebastian, and then some ridiculous power metal round me out. Jodorosky is inspiring as a director, as I’m sure you know. I also have gotten a lot from Aronofsky, particularly from The Fountain, which I highly recommend to any visual artist. Winsor McKay, who I mentioned before, is a visual treat …

But going back to tattooists, I’d like to also mention Tim Biedron. It’s been a while since he’s really been a direct influence on my work, but I’ve gotten to work with him a few times at Deluxe this last year, and seeing him go from a rough, energetic stencil to a highly polished tattoo is amazing. He definitely puts out his own vision. My friend Jason Vaughn is right there, too, for much the same reason. Jason also has such a great knack for breaking down subject matter into simplified elegance. Another guy, who I haven’t met or talked to, is Jeff Gogue, who does a purely painterly soft style of tattooing. It seems to me that many guys who do work like that almost use it as an excuse to be a bit sloppy for the sake of energy, but his work in particular is very refined. Then, going in a totally different direction is Spanish and Italian traditionalists, Deno and Gore, and Rudy Fritsch, respectively. They all do a very folky style of tattooing that just has such raw visual power.

That brings me to Dan Higgs. He also seems a bit ubiquitous within modern tattooing, but he, as a whole person, has definitely been an influence. The retired tattooist/musician/magician/poet/painter is such a personality that he has achieved mythical proportions in many ways. I see an undercurrent of an attraction to his weaving of alchemical philosophy into traditional tattooing, but the result for the most part has just been a homogenous genre of “mysterious traditional” without respect to the whole picture. (I’ve been guilty of this.) It seems like the path that Higgs in many ways started should be a jumping off point rather than an end point. I think the permanence of the form of tattooing leads us to use established solutions as a crutch.

I guess my personal vision is to use tattooing to develop synergistic personal narratives. In a way, one person’s experience is every person’s experience, and tattooing records this. In the best form, it’s me utilizing my vision to express my client’s vision culminating in something that ends up becoming more universal. In the more limited form, though, we draw from a standard established symbol system, when more appropriate symbols could be used, instead. There’s definitely growth out there, though. Look at all the nature tattoos people want. How many owls/birds/trees has every tattooist done in the past couple of years? There’s meaning behind all that.

SP: Higgs is a strange case. I’ve seen him flatly turn down a client’s design request and then give them a (well deserved) lecture on why you should know the significance of the Sacred Heart before you get it tattooed on you. What are your thoughts on putting “hidden language” tattoos on clients? You’re one of the few tattooers I know who knows what a lot of these things represent — do you feel a responsibility to talk to a client who wants a symbolically powerful design but who’s ignorant to the meaning?

DB: I’m a little more light-hearted about it than that. In those situations, I take on the role of the educator. We live in an entire world of symbology, and I think everyone who chooses a tattoo does so because it resonates with them, albeit sometimes on a very subconscious level, so I don’t judge. They likely may not know the specific significance, but a part of them speaks the language. I hope that’s not getting too abstract.

On the same subject, but an even more light-hearted note: Every time a person has ever come in wanting to get a yin yang tattoo, I’ve joked with them that I won’t do it unless they tell me what religion/philosophy it’s associated with. In my seven years of tattooing, I’ve never had someone correctly answer “Taoism” or even “Chinese” philosophy. So they may be ignorant of the origins surrounding the symbol, but they do correctly seek to realize the balance that it represents.

Used like that, tattoos become sigils themselves. Great sigils, as a matter of fact — ones you spent a small portion of your life focusing on just dealing with when receiving the tattoo, and then they’re there forever. I see the same reoccurring themes among clients: simplification, seeking balance, connection to nature, connection to a higher power, connection to art/process/work, self-improvement, and escapism.

Outside of the pure “collector” mentality, tattoos are usually there to symbolize/elicit an effect, so my job is to understand the motivations behind a tattoo and know “the person” behind what they’re wanting. Once I’m there, people tend to be a lot more open to imagery and approach, and I’m able to render something that may be a lot more appropriate to their objectives than what was in their head. I get it all the time, “It’s not at all what I was envisioning, but it’s exactly what I wanted.” I don’t take this as me being some astounding artist, I just listen to what’s behind a person’s words.

SP: You did a set of flash with Dan Rick, but most (or all?) of your work is custom. Do you think a design loses its “power” when it’s constantly reproduced? Or is the opposite true? Have you seen any tattoos done from your designs?

DB: For the most part everything I do is custom. As a community, we’ve kind of moved out of the flash era of tattooing. There’s a lot of flash that’s being put out, but its purpose has changed. Flash exists either for purely artistic reasons, or to act as a jumping off point for clients to figure out what they want tattooed. No one wants something directly off the wall anymore.

As far as a design losing its power? I think much of it depends on the design itself. Some things gain a lot and get refined as different people explore a form and as a result put out some mighty powerful imagery. Other designs are so quaint and personal that repeating them just waters them down. A lot of “clever” tattoos fall into that category, like the finger mustache.

I’ve seen people who have copied my designs before. I’ve seen elements of my work that were obviously my approach in others’ work. (Like roses that are identical to specific ones I’ve done; not drawn like them, but obviously traced from the original.) I’ve also seen a couple fully copied tattoos where it looks like the client must have brought an image of mine from online to their artist. Honestly, those things in no way bother me, but make me feel sad for the other artist and client. Copying my work does nothing to affect me, but serves to define them as unoriginal copiers.

SP: I recently read an interview with tattooer turned “fine artist” Mike Giant. He gives his reasons for quitting tattooing:

“Also, tattooing has become the hardest job I can do and pays the least. I make way more money with REBEL8 and fine art now. And in the end, I’m content just sitting in my studio drawing on paper with Sharpies. I’m tired of drawing other people’s ideas and trying to get those ideas into their skin.”

This is a guy who started tattooing roughly the same time you did. Would you give it up for painting if money wasn’t an issue?

DB: I don’t think money is an issue. If I felt really strongly about it, I would bust my ass as a painter and make that into a successful career. What it comes down to is that I consider tattooing to be my primary medium. It’s what I have the most love for. Sure, there’s lots of frustrating aspects of it, but there’s nothing else like it.

SP: So with the dynamic of tattooing changing, do you ever see yourself taking on an apprentice?

DB: It’s tough. I see the need for it within the community, but I worry a lot about committing myself to teaching someone for that long. I definitely can’t say, “No, I never will.” I suppose if the right person came along with the right art skills and drive … Actually, my friend Jason Vaughn apprenticed in Tampa at Atomic, the shop I worked at several years back. He and I shared the most similar aesthetics and sensibilities in the shop, so I sort of got to act as a mentor back then, but I was pretty green myself. When he first came around, though, just looking at his sketchbooks he had with him, you could just tell that the tattoo community would be missing out if he didn’t become part of it. I think what he’s accomplished so far shows that. He’d be a tough act for another person to follow.

SP: I’ve met Jason — really great guy. That he’s an amazing artist wouldn’t be the first thing I said about him; it would be more about who he is as a person. Same goes for you. So would taking on an apprentice for you be more about what they bring to the table artistically or more what they bring to the trade personality wise?

DB: It’s a combination of both. I’d have to hit it off right with the person, but the art has to be there; I’m of the belief that in order for someone to be great artistically, they need to have a strong personality to provide the drive, endurance and such to create. Natural talent is a myth.

SP: I remember a conversation we had once about you restricting your hours at the shop so you had your tattoo days, your painting days and your family days. Very structured to make sure Kimmy and the boys had dad/husband time. You guys have been together forever — where did y’all meet?

DB: Yeah, I’ve pretty much dropped the painting days from all that, but that’s how it works. Kimmy and I met on IAM — we each had a page and met up through there. Kimmy and I probably did everything you’re not “supposed” to do in relationships: Met on the Internet, moved in together quick, got married quick, had kids quick. It just all works for us. Our relatives say that we seem like two old souls that met up again.

She’s an integral part of the whole dynamic of my work as well. Kimmy helps out where ever she can, helping out with contact with clients, scheduling, Internet work, providing a much needed second opinion on design issues, et cetera. I joke that if she wasn’t involved, it would be weeks before I got back to anyone.

SP: Kimmy is awesome. She seems to really be at ease with my continued attempts to steal Abe (Ed. Note: Abe is David’s youngest son) while still finding time to schedule appointments and keep your clients in the loop.

Going back to Higgs for a second, what’s the connection between guys with big beards and guys who do strange tattoos? You have a big ol’ beard and you’ve tattooed some strange things. Same with Higgs, Hedgie … What does a big beard mean to you?

DB: I’ve had some level of facial hair ever since I could grow it, because without it I look like a child. (I know, I shaved it all off once. Once.) I resisted the mustache part of the beard for a long time until my wife finally convinced me to grow it all out. It really doesn’t have any deeper meaning to me necessarily. I range between letting it get real big and wild, and keeping it trim and well put together depending what mood I’m in. I have to admit, I really like the image of the otherwise well dressed man with just a totally wild beard.

SP: How would you like to be remembered?

DB: I’d like to be known as an honest person who truly pursued his own path while putting the important things first.

SP: Anything I haven’t covered that you’d like to finish up with?

DB: No, I’ve gotten to put a lot of more abstract musings in my head into a concise and concrete form. It might be fair to mention that while I may have a magical perspective on tattoo symbology and its affect on people, I don’t necessarily overtly interact with people on that level. The tattoo consultation process is usually a pretty light, enjoyable experience, rather than deep and intense, which discussion of all this stuff on such a philosophical level might lead people to misunderstand.

David Bruehl tattoos by appointment only at Think Ink Tattoos, 1430 W. Lindsey, Norman, OK 73069. You can contact him about appointment info/consultations via cell at (813) 205-3419 or email him at davidbruehl@gmail.com.

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A Man Without a Cock or Country

The voice. That’s it. When you meet Buck Angel, the one thing that even comes close to betraying that he was born a woman is the slight, feminine lilt in his voice. Still, it sounds more like the stereotypical “gay man” voice than one belonging to a biological female, except that isn’t quite right, either: the pitch is close, but the timbre is far from flamboyant. Even when discussing his role in a graphic sex show with a male accomplice at London’s Torture Garden — “I mostly slap him around and make him get on his hands and knees, maybe flog him a little and drip candlewax, and maybe I’ll fist him; I do some fisting stuff up there” — he keeps a modest tone, never lapsing into caricature. But the voice … that’s really the one clue, the closest thing to a giveaway that there’s something different about Buck. Well, that and the vagina.

* * *

FEBRUARY 8, 2006

The voice fools Howard Stern. When Buck shows up at Stern’s Sirius Radio studio to take part in a self-explanatory game called What’s My Secret, the crew sees a man, five-foot-eight, muscle-bound and covered in tattoos, sporting a clean-shaven skull and a thick Fu Manchu that, says Stern,“is a better mustache than I could ever grow.” For the purposes of the game, that little vocal flourish is a red flag.

“You’re gay,” Stern guesses incorrectly, and the air goes out of the room. If not gay, then what? What else could there be about a biker-looking workout junkie with a deceptively faggy voice? The crew is stumped and silent until Stern’s longtime sidekick, Robin Quivers, has an epiphany.

“You have not always been a man,” she announces, triumphant and grinning. Buck’s eyes close to slits as he turns to face her, grimacing and nodding his head. Bang on. “This is a man who went through a sex change.”

“You are very good,” he says, thinking, Quivers is a total dyke — of course she knows who he is. “That is awesome!”

Stern looks legitimately dumbfounded, saying he never would have guessed Buck’s secret … except that’s not the extent of the story. “You really have to guess what’s going on in Buck’s pants,” says Stern’s producer, Gary Dell’Abate. Stern looks like he’s catching on and asks Buck if he’s had “the surgery,” but Buck shakes his head.

“No, I’ve still got a pussy. That’s the whole thing: I’m Buck Angel, the man with a pussy.”

Like manna from heaven. All tension dissipates, and the Stern crew starts the inevitable pile-on. “So you’re not really a man.” “You have sex with women? So you are gay.” “You’re just fooling the authorities. If you’re legally a dude, then I’m legally a black man,” Stern says. Ad nauseam.

Yet Buck is all smiles, happily whipping out his wallet and passing around his driver’s license to prove that, legally, he is indeed a man. “My vagina does not make me a woman,” he insists, a statement that lands so far beyond the crew’s breadth of understanding that he may as well have delivered it in Martian. As Stern repeatedly tells him he’s “a chick, no offense,” Buck lets it roll off; he understands they’ve never seen anyone like him before, and he realizes that they’re not going to “get it” right away. Then it’s revealed that, as a woman, Buck was a female model, and Stern is even further flummoxed: Photos show Buck in a former life, a tight wet T-shirt over perky breasts and a slim frame, frosted blonde hair and strong, sharp features.

“You were a hot chick,” Stern says, less disrespectful than disbelieving. “What a waste. I would’ve done you.” That’s funny, Buck thinks, because God knows he would never have done Stern.

Ostensible mutual disgust aside, it’s still the Howard Stern show, and Buck ends up being asked to take off his pants. He obliges, but first asks, in complete earnest, if everyone’s ready for what they’re going to see — “a big man vagina,” that is, with a clitoris enlarged by nearly two decades of testosterone therapy. He drops his trousers and groans rise immediately from the room; writer Artie Lange barely peeks through fingers laced over his eyes, Quivers cackles, but Stern lets loose with a guttural laugh that belies the horror he’s tried to put on and instead indicates some sort of tangible fascination with what he’s seeing.

“I had a really weird thought,” Stern says to Buck at one point. “Do you want to get on the Sybian?”

The Sybian is a sex toy that looks like a saddle with a rod in the center, onto which different “heads” can be attached and then vibrate, weave and rotate. Porn stars are frequent Stern guests, and they’re often asked to ride the device. Buck, although he’s the world’s most successful female-to-male transsexual porn star, bristles internally at first, thinking there’s no fucking way he’s getting on that thing, but that’s quickly quashed by the showman inside that tells him to just do it. So he hops on and proceeds to purposefully make everybody as uncomfortable as possible.

He stands up a few minutes later after having taken enough, the room full of staffers on the brink of convulsions, and decides to bring down the house. “Oh God,” he says, pawing at his tenderized crotch and looking down at the machine, “I squirted!”

* * *

“I was fucking with them so hard,” Buck tells me two years later from his home in Mérida, Yucatán, where he lives with his wife, body piercer Elayne Angel. He’ll never go back on the Stern show, he says, not because he was hurt by what Stern and the others said to him, but because he thinks it would detract from the dominant performance he gave the first time around. “I know how to play that game,” he says. “I can make fun of myself too. I’m a porn star! Give me a break.” And though the experience was degrading to an extent, Buck knew exactly what he was getting himself into — it was the Howard Stern show, after all.

Watching the video of his appearance though, I tell Buck I got the impression that for all the fronting Stern did, it seemed like he really, truly wanted to be OK with Buck and what he was seeing, but that it was so different from the world with which he was familiar, he came off as incredulous and more than a little phobic.

“Exactly!” Buck says, downplaying the severity of Stern’s barbs. “I think Howard likes me a lot, and I think Howard respects me a lot. The stuff he said to me was very minimal.” That is to say, Stern was just confused; there are plenty of others who make concerted efforts to actually attack him — often, the community of transgender men.

According to Buck, this is because he doesn’t identify as a trans-man — he considers himself a man, plain and simple. “They’re the ones who are more political,” he says of trans-men. “I think they get sort of upset about me calling myself ‘the man with a pussy.’” 

Buck has also butted heads with the trans-man community over what Buck claims is the increasingly frequent practice of fundraising parties thrown by pre-op men to finance their sexual reassignment operations; he was even quoted by the Village Voice for an article on the subject. “Boy, did I get myself into a big problem with that,” he says, but claims he received a decent amount of supportive feedback, too, from others who feel that if one wants to be a man, then, well, “be a man, dude.

“Too many of these fuckin’ people are in this situation where they’re begging,” he says, which he understands to a point, “but how come you can’t get a job?” Buck worked two jobs to pay for his surgery, and the sense of pride that comes along with that achievement itself nicely complements the satisfaction of finally feeling comfortable in one’s own skin. “But a boob-cutting-off party?” he asks. “What the fuck is that?”

It could be, of course, that these men feel they’re entitled to reach their transformative goal any way they see fit. They were slighted to begin with by being born with the wrong body, and that the destination, in this case, is far more important than the journey.

“It just seems so female,” Buck says of the trend, though. “I don’t know any transsexual women that throw cock-cutting-off parties! They just don’t go there.” He concedes, however, that there aren’t any guidelines on how to be a man, and that, his objections notwithstanding, he’s not suggesting that all men should feel they need to emulate him. “I’m just an old-school kind of guy,” he says. “I couldn’t imagine anyone paying for my surgery.”

Sexual reassignment surgery is expensive, though the prices vary. For a transgender man, breast removal can run from $3,000 to $15,000, a range Buck likens to the difference between buying a Volkswagen or a Cadillac. Some people can wait a few years and have a higher-end procedure, but for some, the urgency takes precedence. “And believe me,” he says, “it is an urgency for most of us. You can’t deal with having boobs. It’s horrific. To me, and a lot of guys, I think, it’s worse than not having a cock.”

Buck opted for a $7,000 operation, which, he says, would likely run closer to $10,000 nowadays — not cheap, but, he admits, it was a necessity for a person who’s more than a little vain. The first nine doctors he visited told him any chest surgery would result in nasty scars, which he found unacceptable; he wanted to be able to take off his shirt and not have anyone know he used to be a woman. His tenth consultation was with a surgeon from UCLA who specialized in operating on biological men with gynecomastia, a glandular issue that results in overdeveloped breasts, and who was confident he could perform surgery that would leave minimal scarring. Buck was lucky: He had small breasts to begin with, and the doctor’s prediction was correct.

This was 15 years ago. The surgery, combined with testosterone therapy, had Buck well upon his way towards a sense of ease he’d never really experienced. And a good thing, too, because he probably would have killed himself otherwise.

* * *

Buck was born the daughter of parents he (lovingly, sarcastically) calls “old school, Republican, scary white people,” and was equal parts loner and tomboy. He was raised playing football, wearing boys’ clothes and playing almost solely with guys — hell, he was even called “Buck” as a young woman. The second of three girls, he always felt that he was raised more like a boy than either of his sisters, though he rejects the idea his crisis of gender was caused by his upbringing; rather, he thinks his parents knew that there was something inside him that required a different approach than those tried with his sisters.

He eventually came out as a lesbian to his parents, but with what, at the time, seemed an unthinkable qualifier: “‘It’s not that I feel like a gay woman,’ I told them, ‘I feel like a man.’” Buck’s dad, who he describes as “super macho,” began to weep and blamed himself; he had wanted a boy, and must have thought he had somehow left his middle daughter fundamentally confused and irreparably damaged. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Buck started doing a whole bunch of drugs. Coke, crack and massive amounts of booze did their thing — he admits there are significant parts of his life of which he has little to no memory — and before long, his family disowned him completely. He doesn’t blame them, and, without a hint of self-pity, cops to being, by all accounts, a miserable scumbag. By his mid-twenties, he was suicidal, having been tossed off by most people in his life, and was living on the streets as a thieving, drug-addled prostitute. He hit bottom about as hard a person can, but he somehow conjured up the presence of mind to start attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, which he says undeniably saved his life.

He started having what he calls “awakenings,” and tried to isolate what made him start doing drugs in the first place. Three years into his sobriety, with the help of a therapist, he felt like he could comfortably trace the roots of his drug abuse to his incredible gender confusion; at the time, he didn’t even know transsexuals existed. But one shot of testosterone, he says, was all it took, “and all of my problems were lifted from me.”

Then he lost everyone all over again.

“When I first decided I was really a man and not a woman,” he says, “because I was a dyke, my circle of friends all pretty much dropped me. They couldn’t even comprehend.” Buck says the stereotypes are true, and that, about militant lesbians, “they are male-haters; they are not positive about men, and they have a lot of issues about men. I don’t know if it’s penis envy or what, but most of them were like, ‘Dude, you’re out of here.’”

A handful of friends stuck with him, but having worked so hard to build back up a strong network of people after being alone for so long, only to see it disappear again, was devastating. Fuck communities then, Buck thought, if all they do is uphold the tenets of a rigid, unchanging identity, and then spit you out when you deviate. The dykes won’t stick with a trans-man, and the trans-men get offended by a guy who has the balls to trumpet the virtues of his vagina. Why go through the effort of establishing nomenclature for every variation of queer identity if they’re going to be used as tools of division? If only your average straight-laced queer-baiter knew how closed-minded some sects of these hated deviants can be.

A funny thing happened, though. Over the past few years, a number of these women who once told him to go screw? They’ve come to him for advice on how to have a sex change. And at first, empathy was far from the order of the day. “I’m not one who likes to hold on to animosity,” Buck says, “but my first impulse was to say, ‘fuck you, you guys totally dogged me when I was hurting and feeling so confused.’

“But then I thought, OK, you know what? I’m a pioneer. It’s sort of my duty to say, ‘yes, I can help you.’”

* * *

JANUARY 13, 2007

The Adult Video News Awards, which are essentially the Oscars of pornography, were once described in a David Foster Wallace essay as an “irony-free zone.” The porn industry is, if nothing else, helplessly earnest. Buck knows this, and can see the humor in his surroundings, but the fact that, on this night, he’s nominated for Best Transsexual Performer of the Year is an honor nonetheless, especially considering it’s the first time a female-to-male performer has ever been nominated. Though he only started doing porn in 2003, it’s taken some serious chutzpah to get here.

“In the beginning, they would not even look at me,” he says of others in the porn world. “They were mortified, and I was shocked because I thought they were going to love it. They have everything! Fifty-million-man gang-bangs, balloon fetishes, clown fetishes, horse fetishes, whatever the hell they do.

“But,” he says, “they thought I was the sickest thing ever.”

Though he initially signed on with the production company Robert Hill Releasing, he ended up branching out on his own, and now produces, directs and stars in his films himself, after he realized that, otherwise, he was just going to be mocked. (Also, he was being screwed out of money.) Once he left Robert Hill, the company hired another trans-man to star in their films and called him “The Man With a Pussy,” a title Buck now has trademarked. (Seriously.) This performer, however, had had no surgery, and once his clothes came off, he looked like a woman. “They used him to make freak-fest movies,” Buck says, “and they bombed.” Working within such a small niche market, a producer needs to have the utmost respect for the material — the people who are going to be turned on by it comprise such a small market share, you can’t afford to make them feel like they’re freaks.

The industry must have recognized his dedication, because when it comes time to announce the winner of the 2007 Transsexual Performer of the Year, Buck hears his name called, sees his face on the screen, but is told not to go up to the stage to receive his award; his category is the very last one of the night to be announced, and people are already filing out of the auditorium.

“It’s totally rude and disrespectful,” he says. “We’re behind the ‘best anal gang-bang,’ we’re behind the ‘best cumshot up your hole,’ we’re behind every single other genre. They look at us like we’re freaks.”

(Dykes? Check. Trans-men? Check. The vultures of the adult entertainment industry? Check.)

“Of course, I was still super happy to win the award,” he says. “It was super huge and historical.”

He even called his dad after the show.

“He loved it,” Buck says. “He said, ‘That’s so cool! I have a son who’s a porn star!’” Once Buck started his sex change, he rehabilitated his relationship with his family, with whom he says he now has as healthy a connection as he could ask for. His parents call him their son, his sisters call him their brother, they come to Mexico to visit and love Elayne. “I truly believe,” Buck says, “that all your family ever really wants is for you to be happy and successful and not fucked up on drugs.”

* * *

Many people’s lives may be easier if Buck didn’t exist. Not if he were dead, mind you, but if he had just been born in a man’s body. Or, barring that, if he had just shelled out the $70,000 for a limp piece of meat to hang between his legs, risked the 50-percent chance of never having another orgasm, and lived his life as a sexually unsatisfied man who at least fit in neatly somewhere. Ours is a society built on binaries, after all: Man and woman, good and bad, husband and wife, hero and villain. They allow for order, or at least the illusion of such. A person is one thing, or they’re another thing, and that’s it. Without a Buck Angel around, one need not address the idea that sexuality is perhaps more fluid than originally thought.

It makes sense in a masochistic sort of way. You feel certain impulses, desires, and rather than addressing them and finding a way to incorporate them into a healthy life, you don’t just suppress them — you adopt a world view that makes such urges impossible to even consider. The idea is to simplify your life, to reduce everything to a pair of choices, but the grand irony is that it’s this attempt at simplification that ends up destroying a person. Which is not to say that embracing these multiform routes through life is simple by any means, but the potential payoff is far greater. Under the current system, who is supposed to be turned on by Buck, anyway? The vagina is a deal-breaker for gay men and straight women, and the fact that he’s a man probably wouldn’t sit well with straight guys and lesbians. And yet, he’s got his fans, his following.

That said, he’s not a hero. He’s not saving the world by getting fucked in his big man vagina. To an extent, though, he is indeed the face and the voice of a new way of thinking, one long denied its existence and its relevance, and of that, he is living proof.

Let’s just not give it a name.

Visit Buck online at BuckAngel.com.

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On Pins and Needles: A Life of Play Piercing [BME/News]

On Pins and Needles:
A Lifetime of Play Piercing

My friend “Mr. Thomas” was the artist behind the Pins and Needles bonus gallery in BME/HARD (members-only link) until his diabetes made him decide that it might be best to put his play piercing interests behind him — as he writes, “I guess I’ve had my fun, and now that I’m approaching middle age, it’s time to leave the fast lane, and start being more careful.” In this interview we reminisce about his experiences in over thirty years of heavy play piercing, almost all of it in secret. Because his play piercing interests developed independently and without outside influence, I think you will find it an interesting contrast to the standard play piercing that is currently popular.

* * *

Shannon: Tell me a little about yourself.

I’m in my early forties, was born in Colorado, and moved around the country a lot as my folks were in the military. We finally settled in the deep south of Mississippi in 1981.

I’m an A+ certified computer technician with an extensive background in holographic imaging for over fifteen years off and on, and I’m an amateur artist who sings classical choral music and opera. I love classical music as well as all other forms of music like new age, light rock, pop, disco, and so on. I’m heavy into science fiction as well as science fact. I’m also heavy into video games to the extent that I’m building an arcade machine for my living room. I’m considered legally blind from birth.

[Editor’s note: Thomas is currently involved in a number of fascinating projects that are quite public; unfortunately they can’t be talked about here without risking revealing his identity.]

Shannon: Legally blind?

Legally blind means that I have some vision, but not enough to drive, fly a plane, or recognize people at a distance. I also have limited fields of view, and some blind spots. In my case, I only see bellow the horizon, and my side vision is very poor. My vision in the left eye is only finger count at four feet, and the right is only correctable to 20/100 with lenses, but still both eyes have the field of view loss, and blind spots. This condition is called bilateral coloboma. It’s a congenital birth defect that involves the lack of cells that make up the light sensitive retina in some parts of the eyes, and is often mistaken for detached retina by less experienced eye doctors. The condition also affects the shape of the iris which gives me a “U” shaped pupil. Fortunately, I have brown eyes which hides this a bit. The United States Air Force medical division even did a medical documentary on my condition using video footage of me trying to read a book demonstrating another eye problem I, and many others have called “astigmatism” or something like that in which the eyes can’t fixate on a target very well, and move around too much to be able to focus properly.

I chose to make holograms because there is no focusing involved. You just bounce light off carefully placed mirrors, subject matter, and film. No camera is involved. Just a dark room. But I’ve been out of the holography business for a few years due to financial reasons. Hmmm… How about a hologram of a piercing for the cover? I only wish I were set up do industrial holography for mass production. Oh well, it was just a thought. I couldn’t do a live subject, it would have to be a small replica or something. It’s a physics thing.

* * *

Shannon: Tell me about your play piercing interest?

I frequently enjoy sticking pins into myself as an adrenaline rush as well as the satisfaction of an idle sadistic curiosity, I suppose. It’s also a kind of “mind over matter” thing. It really gets my heart pounding when I’m piercing my breasts and or nipples. It sometimes enhances sexual stimulation.

Shannon: How did you discover this interest?

I got started with this sort of thing more than thirty years ago when I was a kid. It all started when I accidentally crashed my bike into one of those trees that has all those long three to four inch thorns on them. Some of them stuck me very deeply in the arms, legs, and even my chest. The strange thing was that there was almost no pain, and I noticed I had become a bit aroused by the strange sensation of a dozen or so of these thorns stuck in me. Ever since that day I found my self experimenting with just about every pin and needle I could lay my hands on, and I also got extremely fascinated by images of acupuncture being done, or injections being given.

The next thing I knew, I found my self stealing my mother’s pins and needles and sticking them just under my skin in my fingers, and arms at first, and then a few months later, I started experimenting with inserting them into my breasts. The sensation of having pins stuck deeply into my breasts was awesome, and very arousing. I’m sure my mother wondered what was happening to all those pins she noticed missing from her sewing box!

Shannon: What specifically do you enjoy about it?

The sexual thrill, the rush, sexual, rush, and curiosity drove my obsession with needles and piercings.

Shannon: Do you think being blind plays a role in it at all?

There may be something to that, as tactile sensation does play an important roll in the life of someone with visual problems… Yes, it certainly played a major roll in my piercing sessions.

Shannon: When you started play piercing, did anyone know what you were doing?

All of this was happening while I was still in grade school, and I wasn’t even ten years old yet. I tried my first deliberate self inflicted piercing back in 1975. It was not much, just under the skin of my hand, and a friend of mine and I would freak out the girls in our class by showing them what we had mastered.

Shannon: Did you continue to “share” your interest?

Back in 1975, I really kept to myself, and only showed one close friend this activity. I think my mother was aware of my activity back then when she noticed a small scar on my left breast — she is a nurse, so she would know these things. My friend’s reaction was “You are weird!” But, he got over it, and I never pressed the issue with him. Even today, only about three other friends of mine know about my play piercing activity. Sometimes I’ll tell this to those I want to run off that I don’t want to be bothered by relationship-wise if they don’t get the message. It works well.

Shannon: How did your play piercing interest escalate?

For about twenty years or so I mainly stuck to shallow insertions just under the skin of my belly, and chest, and then gradually worked my way up to experimenting with the more dangerous straight in, and deeper piercings. I damned near punctured a lung with one of these stunts, but the sensation I felt of a needle that deep was awesome. But I came to my senses and never went quite that deep again.

Shannon: When did you start doing play piercing in your nipples?

It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I started exploring the intense sensation of pushing a needle deep into my nipples, and giving them a light twist. Even then, I still had not tried going through the nipple like one would for putting in jewelry. My first nipple piercing was of course straight in, and deep. This was an awesome sensation, and I did it frequently for a long time. I tried my first full breast skewering just within the last couple of years. I have slowed down my piercing activities recently as diabetes makes it take longer for the body to repair itself. But I still engage in it from time to time. A few years ago, I wanted to use very long needles for full breast skewering, and deep penetration, but could not find any anywhere, so I experimented with making my own needles from 18 to 20 gauge steel rods or wire, and a dremel with a sharpening stone on it. These actually worked better than the common straight pins I had. But I got tired of making my needles, and actually found a source for long hat pins through Manhattan Wardrobe Co in New York City, and a few other sewing supply houses that sell nice two and a half to three inch corsage pins as well. I suppose that in my time, I’ve used everything including common straight pins, safety pins, tacks, push pins, home made pins, hat pins, corsage pins, and even acupuncture needles, of which I was even able to find six inch versions although these are so flimsy you really have to work to use them. The only type of needle I have not used yet are the injection type needles. I won’t use these for several important reasons. Most importantly, they are not cheap. Second most important, they do a lot of tissue damage because they have an off axis tip which does more cutting than piercing. Third, they are hollow, which can serve as a a vector right into the body for bacteria. Also, I’ve noticed most piercings done with these needles tend to bleed. So I stick to pins and needles that do as little damage to tissue as possible. I have yet to try suspension, and probably won’t because I’m a diabetic. Diabetics have thinner skin than healthy folks, but I may at least try having the hooks put in, and do a light pull, just not a full load suspension. Who knows.

Shannon: Tell me more about the deep play piercing…

Very deep play piercing has its price. It’s highly risky if you don’t know your internal anatomy, and don’t pay attention to pain. I have a nice deep scar in my left breast which was caused in part by a very deep piercing which tore a muscle when I did not do the piercing right. I simply went all the way through the muscle, and well into the rib cage. That’s when I almost punctured a lung. Turns out I was very close to the heart, because I could see the needle swinging like a pendulum. It didn’t hurt and I didn’t realize how deep I had gone until I saw it beating.

The docs say there is nothing they can do about it without making the scar much worse. A pissed off iguana did not help matters by making the original scar area worse by tearing a nice gash in me when I was trying to force feed it after it had gone off feed from being sick. I neglected to get the injury looked at in time, and the resulting infection left the scar you now see. A friend said to me, “Well, that’s what happens when you breast feed an iguana!” These days, I’m more careful about not going into muscle tissue now that I know more about the fact that damaged muscle fibers won’t grow back. I stick to deep penetration, but stay out of the muscles. I’ve never been asked by a doctor about the scar. I also have noticed my nipples now have permanent holes where I had been going into the same part of the nipple repeatedly. After a few months of rest, they are finally starting to close up. As for the through and through breast skewering, this was partly inspired by the Slave Misty gallery, and I wanted to just try this for myself. I have not seen or experienced any ill effects from having done this, other than one bleed out that got my attention. No muscle tissue was affected by this. It was an extremely intense experience which really did not hurt at all. I did have one nasty experience where after getting twelve five inch hat pins through one breast, and taking all those pictures, and after taking the pins out, I closed out my imaging program before saving, and had to redo the whole shoot on my other breast. That’s why in some shoots you see a needle scarred breast in the first shots.

Shannon: What does the sensation feel like to you?

Actually I feel no pain other than a slight pinch on entry. I learned very early that you will only feel pain if you go into a nerve packed area and ignore the burn.

In case anyone is wondering, I don’t jam the needles in fast — I have found that it’s better to insert slowly. This lets me listen to my body, and if it does hurt, I can pull out, and try another site. Also, if you jab, you run the risk of breaking blood vessels, or hitting nerves, to say nothing of the risk of going through the ribs, and hitting an organ. By inserting slowly, the tip of the needle will simply glide around blood vessels, leaving them intact for the most part.

Shannon: Are there ever issues with bleeding or other complications?

Actually, in all the thirty years I’ve been doing this, I’ve only had about three or four bleed outs that really got my attention. Two of them can be seen in some of my later submissions which show about a dozen or so five inch hat pins inserted all the way through the breasts. Most of the times I luck out, and don’t get a single drop. Other times I might get a tiny drop of blood, what we call a micro bleed. Most often, the bleeds I do get happen between the nipple, and the arms where there are blood vessels found closer to the skin.

Shannon: Let’s talk a bit about different kinds of needles — it looks like you often use simple push-pins, rather than something medical?

Nothing is more frightening than to try to pull a pin out of your body only to have the head of the pin come off in your hand. This happened to me once, and I’m glad that pin had not been inserted all the way to the head of the pin like I used to do. If it had, I could very well have been off to the hospital to have it removed. The pin was in my nipple, but knowing how hard it is to pull a pin from a nipple, I made sure to leave a little pin hanging out so I could grasp it easily. As it turns out, that was a good thing, because the head did come off the pin, and I had to use a vice grip to pull the needle out the rest of the way.

So, when using pins with plastic, or other heads, don’t insert these all the way in, and avoid pushing them in so deep that if the head does come off, your flesh will envelop the needle. Leave enough needle hanging out that you can easily get at it if you have a problem.

Shannon: But you still prefer those needles over injection-style hypodermic type needles that seem more popular these days for play piercing?

I prefer to use pins over injection needles, because the tip of a pin is perfectly centered, and does not have the cutting edges found on injection needles. That’s why injection needles go in so easily compared with pins, but it’s why you tend to bleed more with injection needles. I find I have far fewer bleeds with pins, than with injection needles.

The other thing I don’t like about injection needles is the fact that they are hollow. This presents three problems. First, the hollow tube can act as a vector for pathogens to be transported right into your body. It’s harder for this to happen with pins, though not impossible. Second, the hollow tube can contribute to a frightful bleed out, if you don’t pull the needle out of whatever blood vessel the tip has intercepted. Finally, a hollow needle is more prone to bending or possibly even breaking than pins of the same gauge.

Shannon: What gauge and size of needles do you use?

I prefer to use needles of about 20 to 30 gage in size, because they do the least amount of damage to tissues. Acupuncture needles, are fine, if you use lengths under three inches. I have six inch acupuncture needles, but the gage is 28 which is just too flimsy to easily insert the needle all the way through my breasts. For this type of activity, I suggest a bit thicker needle that’s not too flimsy, but not so wide that it causes scars. I usually use six inch hat pins for going through my breasts, but never stick these into your rib cage, or insert in any direction that puts internal organs at risk. Just “stick” to surface to surface piercings, or deep piercings that don’t put you at risk.

Most acupuncture needles come with a tube. This tube is not for shipping purposes. It is used to start the insertion of the needle, and aids in easy insertion. You use it by placing the tube firmly against the skin, and then inserting the needle through the tube with a gentle tap. You will find the needle goes in much easier with the tube, because the tube stretches the skin, and keeps the skin from gripping the needle. It also provides rigidity to the needle while inserting. In some cases I’ve found it easier to shorten the tube by about no more than half an inch for the six inch acupuncture needles. This lets you get the needle in deep enough so that when you take away the tube the needle is less likely to flop around.

The larger the needle diameter (lower gauge), the greater that risk of infection as the hole the larger needle makes will also be larger. There is also greater risk of long term damage to tissues, blood vessels, and nerves.

For deep straight-in piercings, I prefer to straighten out a safety pin, or even make my own needles from 20 to 30 gage wire with a coiled, or bent head that I know won’t come off. You can go as deep as you like without worrying about plastic pin heads coming off, and leaving a pin buried in you.

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Shannon: I saw there were some photos where you were breast pumping… What was your motivation in trying that?

The breast pumping was originally intended for enlargement purposes, but as I discovered it was not really working, it later just became little more than a kinky toy thing. I have discovered the danger of over pumping when I noticed one of my nipples bleeding. I also got tired of the “ring around the boob” effect of prolonged pumping. These happen when done for more than twenty minutes at a time, and when over pumped. I no longer engage in pumping other than as a funny looking kinky toy for entertainment purposes these days.

Shannon: You mentioned you sometimes do genital play piercing as well?

I generally stay away from the genitalia when it comes to piercings because that’s a high bacteria risk area, and especially for a diabetic — this is a no-go zone for me. Even healthy folks need to be especially careful with genital piercing, either play, or permanent [Editor's note: I disagree with this assessment personally, as well as a few of the others]. This is also a high bleed out risk area for anyone. If done carefully, and if one takes the time to study internal anatomy, and learn where arteries, and nerves are, and exercises cleanliness, and sterile protocols, one can have a great experience with genital play, and permanent piercings.

Shannon: Since you occasionally cross-dress, do you mind telling me how you’d characterize your sexual orientation?

I actually consider myself multi-sexual in that I could easily go either way, and even though I have no desire to have a sex change, I also don’t have a problem with my large breasts, although I lately find myself gravitating more towards heterosexuality. A close friend dared me to try a bit of cross dressing, although that’s not my thing. It was an interesting twist just to see what a fat guy with a mustache would look like in a hot red boob out. It’s not the sort of thing I engage in on a regular basis. It was also done because I do have “A-cup” breasts. It was fun, but it’s behind me now, as they say. Who knows, I might try it again some day. I don’t mind talking about this to my close friends, or even with you for this, but it’s not something I’d rant about at the office.

Shannon: I have to ask you about your dress-up and computer gear in this hilarious photo — was that just a joke photo?

The computer gear is real, and in use, and you’re right, it was a hoot!

Shannon: Ever think about getting permanent piercings?

I have considered permanent piercings, but never had it done for financial reasons, and because of horror stories about angry lovers ripping them out on people. I’m also concerned about the long term affects of metal or plastic in one’s body, and am looking into any research that may be ongoing in this area. I have heard of some kinds of metal causing permanent tissue damage from metallic poisoning, but it’s pretty rare, and usually involves inferior quality jewelry, so I’m still looking into reliable sources for jewelry. I don’t think having permanent piercings would defeat the purpose of play piercing, but they might have some impact on how I went about the practice. That’s something I may have to explore someday.

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Shannon: Any advice to people who want to try this sort of thing?

Make sure you are mentally ready for this activity. You don’t want to engage in this activity if you have thoughts of suicide, or of bringing harm to yourself, or others. Never do piercings if you are in a bad mood. And never do it in a thunderstorm when you might jump when a clap of thunder hits. This could be bad.

Shannon: Let no one say you don’t have