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Genital piercings may seem shrouded in mystery, but piercers and body modification advocates are hoping to lift the veil for those interested. And while getting a vulva piercing may not be quite as simple as stopping by your local piercing shop for a new earring, the process is just as safe when you find the right piercer.
Elayne Angel, a genital piercing specialist and the author of The Piercing Bible, tells Allure that she pierces people from all walks of life and with all kinds of body types. There are a plethora of piercing options when it comes to exactly how you want to decorate your vulva. Some are more common, like the Vertical Clitoral Hood (VCH), while others, like the Clitoral Glans piercing, call for a very specific type of anatomy for the person to be a suitable candidate. Angel emphasizes the importance of trust between piercer and piercee when it comes to adding bling to your vulva. The results of such a piercing — whether you’re looking to enhance sexual pleasure, have gender-affirming jewelry, or heal from trauma — largely depend on your anatomy and where the piercing is placed. Talking to your piercer about why you want a genital piercing is an important aspect of figuring out the best option for you.
Different Kinds of Piercings
The Vertical Clitoral Hood Piercing (VCH)
"The majority of builds are anatomically suited for [VCH] placement, which passes through the fine tissue above the clitoris," Angel says. The reason this piercing works so well for most people with vulvas is that the piercing goes in the same vertical direction as the vulva.
When properly placed, Angel says VCH piercings "rest contacting the clitoris beneath the hood, [allowing for] more direct clitoral stimulation when there’s pressure or friction in the area." If you’re curious about a VCH piercing, Angel developed the Q-tip test so you can check if you are a good candidate for this option. To do the Q-tip test at home, you mark the Q-tip with a pen where the cotton tip ends, lubricate the top, and slide it under your clitoral hood. If your clitoral hood covers the swap tip completely, you could be a viable candidate for a VCH piercing.
The Princess Diana/The Duke Piercing
The Princess Diana (or Duke for trans and non-binary folks) is similar to VCH piercings but off to the side of the clitoral hood. Many people get two symmetrical piercings on either side of their clitoral hood — because of that, you will need to be able to fit two Q-tips in your clitoral hood to have the correct anatomy for this piercing. However, for people with asymmetrical anatomy (which is very common), you can get one Princess Diana or Duke off to the side to accentuate your asymmetry.
The Clitoral Glans Piercing
While vulva piercings are often referred to as clit piercings, actually having a pierced clit (or Clitoral Glans piercing) is actually extremely rare. For these piercings to work, "the clitoris needs to be large and exposed, and the hood must be scant or loose," says Angel. This option could work well for trans men or transmasculine people on testosterone. "It is recommended to wait about a year on testosterone before placement of a vulvar (or foreskin/glans, personal preference of terminology) piercing," explains Rixt Luikenaar, OB-GYN and founder of Rebirth Obgyn in Utah, tells Allure. The clitoris will often grow in size for people on testosterone, exposing it in such a way that is optimal for clitoral/foreskin glans jewelry.
The Triangle Piercing
Alternatively, the Triangle piercing has the opportunity to add different sensations during sex as it is placed just beneath the clitoral shaft. "This is the cord-like nerve bundle that runs upward from the clitoral glans and into the body," Angel says. Offering stimulation from behind the clitoral shaft, triangle piercings are placed horizontally high up where hood tissue meets the mons pubis.
The Horizontal Clitoral Hood Piercing (HCH)
The Horizontal Clitoral Hood (HCH) piercing also needs precise placement — and the right anatomy — to add sensory pleasure. Angel explains that HCH piercings need to rest atop a clitoral hood with an exposed clitoral glans for the ring on the jewelry to properly stimulate the clitoris. Both the HCH and triangle piercing require specific anatomy, as they lie horizontally, and the piercer needs to be able to pinch hood tissue without grasping the shaft.
Other kinds of vulva piercings
There are many options of genital piercings for people with vulvas that expand to the inner and outer labia, urethra, mons pubis, and frenulum. Inner and outer labia piercings are common for aesthetic reasons as you can add a ring (or several) to this part of your body without much added sexual sensation.
The Princess Albertina piercing goes through the urethra and exits at the bottom — it doesn’t interact with other genital piercings as it rests between the inner labia. This piercing is finding increasing popularity as it can provide pleasurable urethra stimulation. The Fourchette Piercing is placed between the vagina and anus if you have enough tissue in that region and can add pleasurable sensations for many wearers. Finally, there’s the Christina piercing, which is not necessarily a genital piercing, as it rests atop the mons pubis and exits at the top of the vulva. Angel considers this to be a surface piercing, as it’s done for aesthetic reasons.
Reasons to Get Pierced
Possibility for enhanced sexual pleasure
Several of Angel's clients who have received the Triangle piercing previously experienced anorgasmia (continual difficulty or inability to experience orgasm during sexual stimulation) and were able to have an orgasm after the piercing. "That validates my life’s work right there!" Angel says. A combination of the VCH and triangle piercing is dubbed, by Angel, the "tantalizing clitoris sandwich" as jewelry stimulates both the front and the back of the clitoris. Many people with vulva piercings report it’s easier to achieve multiple orgasms or squirting with their jewelry.
"[Enhanced pleasure] depends on how the piercing is placed, what shape it is, and how it arouses someone," says Luikenaar. The clitoris itself is much larger than the external glans — the pin point under the hood which you feel becomes enlarged when aroused. There is also the clitoral body, paired crura, and vestibular bulbs. The bar of a vulva piercing (depending on placement) may rub against these more internal parts of the clitoris, shifting or enhancing pleasure.
"I got the piercing for aesthetic reasons, and it was an unexpected surprise that it strongly increased sexual pleasure," says Asher Brown, a hospital tech and pre-med student who has a genital piercing. "I [experience] stronger and longer orgasms, both partnered and solo. I also found that I was proud of my piercing and enjoyed partners seeing this, so that increased pleasure as well." Not all vulva piercings enhance sexual pleasure, so consultation with your piercer is key. Talk with the piercer about your desired outcome so they can determine whether your expectations are realistic. If the piercing you want isn’t suited for your anatomy, ask the piercer why and what other options may work.
Modification for reclamation
Adding bling to your vulva can change sexual responsiveness — meaning the ways in which you experience sexual pleasure can shift completely. This allows many people to redefine pleasure on their own terms. Jennifer Brockman, director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center at the University of Kansas, offers trauma-informed consent workshops for piercers because her research has shown that survivors of trauma often seek body modification before accessing formal therapeutic or advocacy support. "Genital piercings can change the way arousal and gratification feels, that can help reframe healthy and consensual sex for survivors," says Brockman. She calls this process "modification for reclamation." The potential for healing through a genital piercing is expansive — some of Angel's clients have even reported relief from vaginismus post-vulva piercing.
Human sexuality consists of gender identity, sexual orientation, desire, arousal, orgasm, and emotional satisfaction. Genital piercings may play a role in enhancing a variety of those aspects. Many people get vulva piercings without pleasure in mind, seeking a sense of bodily or gender affirmation. "I'm a trans guy and while transitioning has allowed me to respect my body in a way I never could before, this was still the one part of my body I couldn't love," Brown says. "The piercing allowed me to intentionally focus on this part of me instead of feeling shame and that's been a real gift."
This jewelry offers self-expression on a part of the body many people have a complex relationship with. "Not everyone [who is trans or GNC] will choose to change the structure of their genitals and simply changing the appearance through a genital piercing may be enough," says Luikenaar. This form of body modification offers a chance to redefine sexual intimacy on your own terms — in respect to your gender identity, pleasure, healing, and confidence.
If you are seeking information about safety protocols for a genital piercing, you can check out Association of Professional Piercers.
Read more about body modification on Allure:
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Originally Appeared on Allure