January 28, 2020 at 10:05AM
Vagina piercings are more common than you might guess. Research estimates somewhere between 0.8% and 2% of women have one. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but gather 1,000 people with vaginas in a room, and eight to 20 of them will have taken needle-to-netherbits. If you’re thinking about getting a vagina piercing, you likely have questions, such as where does the jewelry go, exactly? How much does it hurt? And how will it affect sex and pleasure? Here’s everything you need to know about the process, risks, and benefits of vaginal piercings.
Types of vagina piercings.
First off, know that anatomically speaking, “vagina piercing” is a misnomer—the vagina is the internal canal, and no piercer is going to get all up inside you to plant jewels. Vagina piercing (or sometimes “vaginal piercing”) is the term the industry uses, but “vulva piercing” would be the more accurate term. The vulva is the external part of the genitalia, including the external clitoris, inner and outer labia, the vaginal opening, and the mons pubis—these are the areas where you can get a “vagina piercing.”
Below, three professional body piercers—Elayne Angel, a piercer who specializes in nipple and genital piercing and the author of The Piercing Bible: The Definitive Guide to Safe Body Piercing, and Minnesota-based body piercers Cole Radermache and Jack Kalvser with Leviticus Body Piercing—explain the different types of vaginal piercings. There are many!
Most “clit piercings” don’t actually pierce the clitoris but rather the hood that surrounds the external clitoris, which is the nub at the top of the vulva. Below are the main types of clit piercings.
- Clitoral glans piercing: This is the only kind of “clit piercing” that actually involves piercing your actual clitoris. According to Angel, this piercing is actually the least-common vaginal piercing because folks need to have a big enough clit and small enough hood for the piercing to even be physically possible.
- Vertical hood piercing, aka the VCH piercing: This is the most popular type of “clit piercing,” according to Angel. (“I once performed 22 in one day,” she says.) The best way to describe it: a clit sandwich. The barbell goes through the clitoral hood vertically, so that the top bead rests against the clitoral hood and the bottom bead presses against the clit itself. “It may look like an intense piercing, but this skin is very fine, so the piercing passes through a minimal amount of tissue, and most of the bar is simply resting beneath the hood—against the clitoris,” says Angel. “I’ve had plenty of clients say their ear or nose piercing was worse.”
- Horizontal clitoral hood piercing, aka the HCH piercing: “This piercing is one that looks good but doesn’t make you feel any better,” says Angel. This piercing goes through a pinch of hood tissue and rests on top of the hood, not the clitoris itself. “For an HCH piercing to be stimulating, the person’s clitoral glans needs to be somewhat exposed, the piercing must be perfectly placed and the jewelry sized in a way that allows the bed to sensate the clit,” she explains.
- Triangle piercing: A super-rare piercing, this horizontal piercing entails putting a hole and post at the base of the clitoral hood, just beneath the clitoral shaft at its highest point, explains Angel. “When done correctly, this piercing provides support and stimulation to the clitoral shaft,” she says. Unlike other clit piercings, which stimulate the clit head-on, this piercing stimulates the clit from behind. “This one can be pretty life-changing. I’ve had multiple clients with primary anorgasmia (never had an orgasm) achieve them for the first time after getting the triangle piercing!” she says.
- The Princess Diana piercing: This piercing is similar to a vertical clitoral piercing but instead of being done in the middle of the clitoral hood, this clitoral hood piercing is done off to the side. “If there’s anatomical symmetry, people will get one on each side,” says Angel. And, “sometimes if the hood is full enough, a VCH piercing can be done as a three-piece combo.” Hello, sensation. These are also sometimes called Duke’s piercing, depending on the piercee’s gender identity.
Also called a Venus piercing, the Christina piercing is a vertical piercing that looks like a belly button piercing but is located on the mons pubis, the plush pad of skin right above the apex of the labia. “To be anatomically suited for a Christina piercing, you have to have plenty of pliable tissue on your pubic mound and a defined divot at the very top of your hood—where the vulva separates into two sides—because this is where the bottom of the jewelry will rest,” explains Angel.
An aesthetics-driven piercing with a lengthy healing time of six to nine months, many genital piercers, including Angel, advise against this piercing. “It can be a hindrance to frontal sex for many months, and maybe even permanently,” she says. Of course, if you’re determined to get it, there’s always doggy-style.
The labia majora (outer lips) and labia minora (the inner lips) can be pierced. Just as an ear can be pierced anywhere along the dense tissue of the lobe, the same goes for each side of the labia majora and minora. And like your ear, you can get one side of the labia pierced or both for symmetry. Not every vulva owner is anatomically suited for a labia piercing, though: “The inner lip needs to be long enough,” says Angel. ”
“Sometimes folks have asymmetric inner lips and can only get one side pierced; other times both are too short.”
Although typically an ornamental piercing, an outer labia piercing can add to sexual pleasure, according to Angel. “If it’s placed next to the clitoris, it may stimulate the clitoris from a side angle,” and if it’s placed closer to the vaginal opening, it may rub against a penis or finger during penetrative intercourse, she says.
Done at the rear entrance of the vagina, right by the perineum (the sensitive spot between the vagina and anus), a fourchette piercing can only be done on folks with a pinchable amount of skin back there. Angel likens it to the guiche piercing on people with penises. “It can provide an interesting sensation but not in the way a clit piercing might,” she says. “A partner with a penis will likely feel it during penetrative intercourse.”
Princess Alberta piercing
You might’ve heard of the “Prince Albert,” a urethra piercing done on people with factory-installed penises. This is the vulva-owner iteration. A fairly rare piercing that’s challenging to perform due to the recessed location, Angel explains, “the ring enters the urethra and exits through the bottom, about three-eighths of an inch back and rests in the opening of the vaginal canal.” It can provide a great deal of unique stimulation during penetration, but, she says, “It’s probably not for those who have not experimented with urethral play,” she says.
Vaginal piercings for more pleasure during sex.
The piercers predict that the majority of folks who get vaginal piercings get them for increased pleasure, and to be clear, increased pleasure very much is a possibility of a vaginal piercing. “The clitoris has 8,000 to 10,000 nerve ends, so if the piercing rubs up against the clit, it can be incredibly pleasurable,” explains Marla Renee Stewart, a pleasure-based sex educator and sexologist with Velvet Lips Sex Down South. And because most vulva owners climax through clitoral stimulation (not vaginal penetration), “a vaginal piercing can make orgasming easier or even happen at all,” she says.
Davia Frost, a sex educator with a VCH piercing, says it has made masturbation and oral sex especially pleasurable. “I’m more easily able to have a squirting orgasm,” she adds.
But even more decorative piercings can result in boosted pleasure vis-à-vis boosted confidence. Stewart explains, “Getting a genital piercing can make someone feel more in charge of their sexuality and more confident in their body, and that can result in someone feeling more comfortable being naked, asking for what they want in bed, and experimenting.” Makes sense, considering research shows a person’s genital self-image is tied to their sexual functioning: Feeling more confident about how you look down there makes you more likely to have an easy time getting turned on and having orgasms.
But be prepared for some unintended consequences: Frost says, “For the first two years I had it, every time I walked, I felt like I was going to have an orgasm.”
Health concerns and risks.
Tristan Bickman, M.D., an OB-GYN and author of Whoa, Baby!, says the risks of vaginal piercings include:
- Nerve damage
While incredibly uncommon, it’s worth calling out that it’s possible for the piercing to get ripped out during sex. OB-GYN Felice Gersh, M.D., says, “This would cause intense trauma to tissue. And could cause bleeding, scarring, and the tear can expose tissue which can then become infected,” she says.
The jewelry “catching” a condom or barrier is also possible though unlikely. Angel says rings won’t catch, and the decorative balls at the end of a barbell are smooth and unlikely to snag a condom. Frost says, “I’ve had the piercing for 10 years and never once has it torn the condom.”
Reducing the risks.
You can reduce the health risks of getting a vagina piercing by only going to a professional piercer who specializes in genital piercings. The right piercer will have an in-depth understanding of anatomy and will know how to perform the procedure without damaging any nerves, says Angel. “Because what piercing you get is often driven by your anatomy, they’ll be able to have an in-depth conversation with you about what piercing makes sense for your vulva,” she says. If you’re not convinced your piercer knows what they’re doing or understands your anatomy, leave.
You want to make sure that the place that is administering the piercings is clean and that the needles and jewelry are sterile, Bickman says. “This reduces the risk of infection with a blood-borne pathogen like HIV or hepatitis.” An allergic reaction to the metal used is another possible risk. It’s pretty obvious, but if you have a metal allergy, don’t put that metal in your bits. Bickman recommends using titanium or stainless steel.
How much does it hurt?
The amount of pain you’ll feel depends on your own pain tolerance and which piercing you get. As a general rule, clitoral piercings and Princess Alberta piercings are more painful than labia piercings. But “everyone’s anatomy and pain tolerance is different, so it varies person to person,” Radermacher says.
Frost, who got her piercing done with her friend, says, “I have a high pain tolerance, and for me it just felt like a pinch. But my friend passed out on the table.”
“I’ve had a lot of piercings, and this one is a piece of cake,” another person with a VCH piercing tells mbg. “In two seconds it was over.”
Vagina piercing healing process.
While a Princess Diana, Princess Alberta, VCH, HCH, inner labia, and fourchette piercing may only take six weeks to heal, a triangle piercing and outer labia piercing can take three to six months, according to Angel. And a Christina piercing can usually take closer to six to nine months to heal.
“All the piercings require the same type of care as they heal,” says Angel.
- Keep dirty fingers away
- Avoid jeans and other friction-inducing materials
- Spray Briotech or a saline solution three to five times a day
- Avoid applying soap *directly* to the piercing
- Wash hands before touching near area (including before wiping)
- Wait a few months before getting in a pool, Jacuzzi, or oceans
- Use safer sex barriers, even with monogamous couples
- Use a water-based lube (not saliva!)
- Clean the area after urinating or having a bowel movement
Pro tip: If you like the way the piercing looks, keep it in. “Earlobe piercings might stay open without jewelry, but genital piercings have a tendency to close quickly—even after many years,” says Angel.
Body jewelry isn’t going to set off a metal detector, so you don’t have to take it out before flying.
How long it will bleed.
“All genital piercings will bleed for the first few days,” says Angel. The triangle piercing will bleed more so than others. She says you’ll want to wear skivvies after the “procedure” to reduce friction and irritation; you can wear a panty liner to keep from staining. Or just wear your period panties.
How long to wait to have sex.
You’re going to want to wait at least two weeks, Bickman says. But Angel says if you don’t feel ready, just wait: “People know when they’re ready, and that’s when they can—so long as they keep the activity gentle and stop if it starts to hurt.”
However, barrier use after getting a vaginal piercing is nonnegotiable. Even if you and your partner are monogamous or fluid-bonded, you want to avoid contact with your partner’s body fluids while it heals, says Angel.
And that includes their spit: “Saliva has a lot of bacteria in it, so you need to avoid getting it going near the piercing while it heals,” she says. So for oral sex you’re going to want to use a dental dam—which, FYI, feel less awkward if you apply a little lube to both sides.
“After intercourse, be sure to follow the cleaning protocols,” says Bickman.
Price for getting a vagina piercing.
According to Radermacher and Kalvser, depending on where you’re located, vaginal piercing costs start somewhere around $60. Then you have to purchase the jewelry, which usually brings the total cost to at least $120. More if you opt for gold or platinum.
Where to get a vagina piercing.
Look for a piercing studio that specializes in genital piercings or has a piercer who specializes in genital piercings on staff. (Angel has a referral list on her website Piercing Bible.)
Nowadays many piercers use social media to show off their work. “Seeing healed photos is huge,” says Radermacher. So don’t hesitate to look them up on social media to see if you like their final results and read what other people are saying.
What the appointment is like.
The first half of the appointment is pretty routine: You’ll fill out paperwork, present your ID, and tell them what you’re there for. “For vaginal piercings, a consultation is common so the piercer can determine which type of piercing is best-suited for your vulva shape,” says Angel. “In my opinion, if you’re interested in anything other than outer labia piercing and the piercer doesn’t seem concerned with checking your anatomy, they’re probably not a good choice.” A consult sounds more awkward than it is. “The right piercer will put you at ease.”
Next, the piercer will help you select jewelry. Then you’ll head to the private room and remove your lower clothes. “The piercer will wash their hands, set up their equipment, put on gloves and then prep the area with iodine or other surgical scrub before marking the placement with an X,” she says.
Depending on which piercing you’re getting, the piercer may use clamps or a receiving tube. Then you’re pierced. “The piercing should be very brief, then the jewelry should follow into the channel quickly and smoothly,” says Angel. At this point, the piercer will likely apply a cooling, soothing saline pad, which minimizes stinging.
“Usually we’ll pierce it with a larger gauge, to allow for swelling, so we’ll have you come back in a few weeks or months later for a checkup appointment and to downsize the jewelry,” Radermacher and Kalvser add.
Angel says that you usually don’t have to shave first, though if you’re getting a Christina piercing, you may choose to do so.
Why people get vagina piercings.
Here are a few people who have vagina piercings on why they decided to get it:
- “I have a passion for learning more about sex and sexuality. I always have. I got mine done when I was 18 or 19 because I was super interested in how it would affect my sexual pleasure. I thought it would just be a fad, but 10 years later I still have and love it!” —Frost
- “I got a VCH piercing to enhance sexual activities and also because it’s cute! It feels like I’m wearing a sex toy at all times.” —Anonymous
- “I went and got a triangle piercing to increase stimulation down there…but ended up taking it out because it never created the increased sensation as I had hoped.” —Judith M.
- “Honestly I got one because I read an article about them online and liked the way they looked. I ended up getting one outer labia piercing. It didn’t end up increasing pleasure, but I’ve enjoyed how much my partner enjoys it.” —Sally D.