“Deep breath in.”
I knew what was coming. I inhaled before a long, slow exhale, my focus on blowing air out, even as that breath became a bit of a yelp as the piercer’s needle slid through my left nipple. But my time the acute pain sizzled through my neurons, it was already over. My left nipple finally matched my right one, giving me a bit of balance despite my love of asymmetry.
I picked purple for both barbells, and I’ve loved my nipple piercings every day since.
People can get weird about piercings. Where piercings go and what they mean often comes with plenty of assumptions, especially when new jewelry starts showing up further afield from our ears. And to have your genitals pierced? Reactions seem to run from “Ahhh! Nooooo!” to “Hot.”
Honestly, I couldn’t tell you exactly why I got my right nipple pierced a few years ago. I didn’t write an oral report on it. I just wanted to. It seemed fun, a little extra bit of decoration. So I went to the same piercer who did my ears for new hole number three.
The actual stick didn’t hurt all that much. It was the soreness that came after, as if my body was waking up to what I’d just done, that made me go “Yowww.” But that stopped after about an hour and I admired the new set of bumps underneath my shirt.
I can’t say that there were any physical benefits as my piercing healed. I didn’t notice any difference in sensation. I didn’t play with it and my partner didn’t show much interest, either. The little tiger’s eye barbell was merely ornamental. And so it was until I after I started hormone replacement therapy, when estrogen began to awaken nerve connections that had mostly been dormant for years before.
Suddenly, the little piece of metal and glass felt good. Especially as my breasts started to grow in, the barbell was fun to fiddle with — a habit I had to watch given that I had a tendency to idly touch my boob while my mind was otherwise occupied. And the difference in feeling was fascinating. Sometimes, before falling to sleep at night, I’d touch my non-pierced side and then my pierced side to get some idea of what that little augmentation had done. Right — sparks. Left — nice but more subdued. My conclusion was that I should definitely get leftie pierced, too.
The experience was much the same as the first, but healing was different. I didn’t have tits the first time. I was a little more prone to accidentally bonking into doorways now, and I watched to make sure my dog didn’t swipe the barbells with a paw when he jumped up for attention. Still, everything healed up just fine and the sensations coming from my left side soon matched my right.
But the feelings are only part of the picture. Obviously any interaction with my piercings is a pretty small part of my day. I’m not hanging plants from them or anything and they’re not so useful to my career as a writer that I could claim them as a tax-deductible expense. I’m just happy I have them. They’re a little sexy secret all my own, not all that different from a favorite item of underwear. I just feel better for having them.
Of course the piercings are sometimes a little visible through my shirt. I don’t really care. If I was worried about that sort of thing I’d wear a burlap sack. But multiple people have asked me about these personal items — why I did it, how they changed sensation, and so on. That’s part of why I’m writing this piece, to have something to share the next time the topic comes up.
I couldn’t say how you or your body might respond to nipple piercings. There are so many variables around anything so personal, from how long it takes to heal to how likely an infection or swelling is. Sensitivity is another question altogether — my piercing didn’t make much difference at all before HRT, with daily doses of estradiol flipping the switch that made the new feelings so delectable. The psychological boost was the biggest part for me — another little part of my self-expression — but your response might be different.
Getting your nipples pierced isn’t all that much different from getting an industrial or a ring through your tragus. It’s a fun decorative thing, a symbol of your autonomy, that may or may not have some other hidden benefits. It doesn’t have to be anything else. People claim themselves in all manner of ways. A barbell through the nipple is just another way to do it.