Men's nipple piercings are a common body modification choice. Celebrities such as Tommy Lee and Lenny Kravitz may have helped popularize the phenomenon. Men's nipples are easy to pierce, provided they are not flat or inverted, and even these conditions can be accommodated by an experienced piercer. The piercing goes through the base of the nipple, where it meets the areola. It may be placed horizontally, vertically, or at an angle. These piercings can be quite painful, as the nipple is full of sensitive nerve endings.
There is scattered if convincing evidence that prior to the 20th century, sailors had a tradition of piercing their nipples to mark their first crossing of the equator. This seems to have been the primary appearance of male nipple piercing in Western culture prior to the 1970s, when the modern body modification fad began to flower primarily among gay male subcultures. In the 1990s, however, male nipple piercing had moved decidedly into the mainstream.
Meaning and Significance
There is no particular meaning or significance to whether you get your left, right or both nipples pierced. Piercing the nipple can increase sensation and sensitivity, and some men do get pierced for this reason. Others merely enjoy the visual appearance, or the sense of customizing their body.
Male nipple piercings take about three to six months to heal. Follow the after-care procedure recommended by your piercer: Wash daily with a gentle antimicrobial soap and soak once a day in a saline solution. Master piercer Elayne Angel warns that nipple piercings in the process of healing often feel "tight" and the jewelry hard to rotate. This is normal. Do not try to "force" the jewelry to move. Angel also suggests that men wear a tight undershirt to support and protect the healing piercing, especially while sleeping.
Initial jewelry should be a straight barbell, curved barbell or ring in a hypo-allergenic material such as stainless steel, titanium, gold or medical-grade plastic. The size should be 14 or occasionally 12 gauge--smaller runs the risk of rejection, and larger will be too much for most men's nipples.
Risks and Considerations
The risk of male nipple piercings are similar to the risks of piercings elsewhere on the body, and mostly revolve around the chance of infection. A good after-care program will minimize this risk. These piercings can also permanently alter the shape and size of the nipple to a larger, more prominent and, sometimes, less symmetrical appearance. Nipple piercings can be stretched, but they take to it slowly.
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Facts on Nose Piercings
- "The Piercing Bible"; Elayne Angel; 2009
- Association of Professional Piercers: Aftercare
Lori A. Selke has been a professional writer and editor for more than 15 years, touching on topics ranging from LGBT issues to sexuality and sexual health, parenting, alternative health, travel, and food and cooking. Her work has appeared in Curve Magazine, Girlfriends, Libido, The Children's Advocate, Decider.com, The SF Weekly, EthicalFoods.com and GoMag.com.