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5 Myths About Body Mods

Updated on October 9, 2014

1. Guns are just as safe as needles

Oh, how I wish I could bludgeon this one to death personally. While I have written on this topic several times, as have some highly skilled body mod artists and fellow writers, it's the myth that refuses to die. Part of this is likely because certain stores have a vested interest in maintaining a large clientele, and so spend a lot of money promoting the use of piercing guns. The other part is simply word of mouth: "I got pierced with a gun, and it was fine". Both of these are not only bad, but dangerous reasons to ignore the dangers.

Piercing guns are not sterile. Let me repeat that, because it's kind-of a big deal. Piercing guns are not sterile. Most piercing guns used in mall shops are made of plastic, and plastic cannot be sterilised. The sterilisation process involves incredibly high temperatures which would melt the plastic casing. This means that reusable guns potentially have the blood and bodily fluids of numerous other clients on them, which can then be transferred into your brand new hole. Gross. And dangerous. Single-use guns aren't much better, as they've been handled, shipped in packaging that has also been handled, handled again, and at no point properly sterilised. Everyone who touched it, from manufacturing to unwrapping, has left their germs on it to be inserted into your fresh piercing.

Needles are the only currently available piercing tool that can be sterilised.

2. Tattoos hurt less if you're drunk

It should go without saying that getting tattooed when you're drunk is a stupid idea, and pretty well all reputable shops will refuse to tattoo anyone obviously under the influence. But, despite that, it's still a prevalent myth that a few drinks will take the edge off.

I'm not going to lecture you about getting drunk and making a bad decision. We've all been there. I'm just going to give you the professional, technical reasons why this is a myth. Alcohol thins the blood. What this means when getting tattooed is that the ink is more likely to bleed out, forcing your artist to reapply ink to the same spot several times. Put simply: they will have to tattoo you longer and harder, making it hurt more, not less.

3. Piercings can damage nerves

For obvious reasons, body-mod professionals get asked often about possible loss of feeling in the nipples, or "you know...down there", frightened by horror stories about a friend of a friend's cousin's girlfriend who got a piercing that went terribly wrong, and now she has no feeling in the place she got pierced. That's understandably scary - no one wants to get a piercing, especially in an erogenous zone, and suddenly find they've lost all sensation.

Rest easy. This myth is based in a lack of anatomical knowledge. Our nervous system is much more centralized and protected than we think, largely contained in our brain and spinal cord, and almost impossible to access with a piercing needle.

4. If you're worried about pain, use numbing cream

Anyone who works in the body-mod industry has likely been asked about numbing creams hundreds, if not thousands of times. And yes, some shops allow and use them. There is nothing inherently wrong or dangerous about using a numbing agent. The problem is, they often don't work.

Numbing creams only numb the first couple of layers of skin, so they can offer a little relief to tattoo clients, but piercing clients are wasting their money. A piercing generally goes through more layers of skin than the cream covers, and the freezing changes the consistency of the flesh, which forces your piercer to apply more pressure than is ordinarily necessary, which may actually make it hurt more, not less.

It's important to remember that the pain of a piercing only lasts a few seconds, and tattoos usually hurt a lot less than you expect them to. Numbing agents are simply not necessary.

5. There's a "gay side"

I'm happy to report that, as LGBTs are more accepted and normalized, this myth doesn't seem to be quite as prevalent. But, that doesn't mean it's disappeared. It's still fairly common for us to be asked by nervous boys wanting their ear pierced, or girls wanting their nose pierced, which side is "the gay one".

There isn't one. Can we just put that to rest right now? There. Isn't. One. Back in the 70s and 80s, there was a rumour that ear piercings were used as "code" to indicate one was gay, but if you take the time to research it, you'll find that no one can agree even on what side it was, let alone where that rumour originated. It's simply untrue, and ridiculous. When choosing which side to pierce, the only things you should ask yourself is which side you sleep on, and which side you want it on.

© 2014 Robyn J Williams

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