Body piercings still have that stigma that only criminals, masochists and deviants have them. But contrary to its negative image, body piercings have been around since ancient times and is practiced by both sexes in different cultures.
The most common type of body piercing, ear piercing, is considered to be one of the first body modifications practiced by man. The famous mummy Otzi, dated 5,000 years old, was found to have has his ears pierced. Today, some groups still practice ear piercing as a puberty ritual. It’s also a common procedure to have girls’ ears pierced even as babies. So how about the guys? The association of ear piercings as an effeminate practice is recent. Many famous historical men wore ear piercings including kings as a status symbol. Even Julius Ceasar had them.
Tongue and Lip Piercing
Piercing the tongue was practiced by various groups in North and South America, the Aztecs and the Maya in particular, as a way to propitiate and communicate with the gods. The Dogon and Nuba tribes in Africa still practice lip piercing with a ring. Other groups in the world use labrets for lip piercing to stretch the lips. The women of the Nilotic Mursi stretch their lips by wearing lip discs which they replace to gradually increase the diameter.
Nose piercings are just as old and it was even mentioned in the Bible that Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, had one. Some ethnic groups in the Middle East and Africa consider giving nose rings as a symbol of financial security. In India, the left nostril is pierced to make childbirth easier according to Ayurvedic medicine. Septum piercing was also common especially among warriors in different parts of the world. Nose piercing became popular in the West when travelers to India took note of this practice.
Navel piercing is considered new and so far there are no records that ancient cultures practiced this. It became popular ever since the fashion industry introduced the bikini and crop top clothes to show off the body’s midsection. Then supermodels started showing pierced navels and that started the trend.
Nipple piercing probably began in the 14th century when it was common for women to wear low necklines. They decorated their chests with rouge, diamond rings, tiny caps, gold chains and piercings. The bosom ring was introduced in the 1890s. Some tribes practice nipple piercing as part of their tradition too but it was popularized in recent years by celebrities.
If you think that seems extreme then you’d be surprised to know that a lot of ethnic groups practice clitoral hood piercing, Prince Albert piercing (which held the manly parts to one side to avoid bulges with a urethra piercing), Fraenulum piercing, foreskin piercing, Apadravya and Palang piercing (or piercing the glans), Guiche piercing (or piercing male perineum, the area between the anus and testicle), and Hafada or scrotum piercing.