Cassi Lopez is the head body piercer at New York Adorned. She has worked in the field for 14 years and specialises in ear and female genital piercings. The following story was told to Kelsey Castañon and edited for length and clarity.
Growing up, I was always that kid who would pierce all my friends. When I was in high school, I worked at a tattoo shop that had opened up down the block from my house in Long Island. The owner needed a piercer, and I was available. Usually, you have to go through a formal apprenticeship and train under someone, but I just got thrown into it. They were like, ‘This is what you need to do. Make it work.’
When I first started, the guy who owned the shop gave me a collection of old school VHS piercing tapes to watch. There were two videos of genital piercings: one male, one female — and that’s how I first learned. Of course, then I started watching other people in real life, and it all snowballed from there.
I didn’t do a female genital piercing for at least a year or two into the job because I was absolutely terrified. I was probably 18 or 19, and it’s an area where people are already nervous for you to go near — let alone with a needle — so it was more of the anxiety projected from the person getting pierced than me being nervous. I’m not generally a nervous person when it comes to doing a piercing of any sort, but you definitely feed off the energy of the client. And most of the time, people that are getting a genital piercing are just naturally nervous.
How Exactly Does It All Go Down?
The actual piercing itself is so quick — it takes seconds. Most of the process is talking with the client. I answer any questions, discuss what they want, where they want it, and then I have them lie on the table in the room so I can check the anatomy. Anatomy is one of the most important conversations we’ll have, because not every piercing is suitable for every person. Assuming everything looks good, we decide on the jewellery, and then I sterilise that along with the needle.
I always talk through the piercing with my clients to help them relax. I practise breathing with them, which usually helps a lot. People have this urge to jump and move away from the pain — it’s just a natural instinct that happens to everyone. I have them take a deep breath in, and when they breathe out, I tell them to do it with their whole body. That way your legs become relaxed and your whole body is more at ease.
A Note On Anatomy
I’ve definitely had to turn people away from a specific genital piercing. It happens. That’s why, before I even bring them in the room, I give them a quick speech about how there’s always a chance that the piercing can’t be done, so that they know it’s not their fault. The vertical clit hood (VCH) piercing is the most common kind, for example, but there are people who can’t get it done either because the skin above the hood is too tight. Obviously, piercers have different techniques, but the way I do it is I take a small receiving tube and slide it underneath the skin, and then I push the needle into the receiving tube. Some people don’t have enough skin to hold underneath the receiving tube; their anatomy is just not made for it.
Same with Christina piercings — also known as a venus piercing, located on the surface pubic area where the outer labia meet, right above the clitoral hood — which are really popular lately. You have to have a very specific anatomy for that, and a lot of people can’t do it. Otherwise what will happen is your body will start to reject it, in which case it will just push the piercing to the surface if it’s not done properly. You just have to be open to other ideas in these cases.
When A Vagina Piercing Goes Wrong
Ten years ago, I was doing a VCH piercing. It didn’t matter how much I tried to relax the client, she was too much in her own head (which was understandable, given the area). Then, as I started pushing the needle through, she grabbed my arm, and pulled my hand away. This needle is sticking half-way in her hood — right in the middle of it — and she said, ‘I can’t do it.’ I was like, “But it’s halfway through your skin right now!” She told me to take it out. So she bled a bit, and I had to put some pressure on it for a while and just keep her there for a while. I felt bad — I remember that day like it was yesterday. That was the exact moment I decided to go deep into the speeches before I do these piercings.
Nothing like that has ever happened since. I think that particular person was just not mentally prepared for it in the slightest. As a piercer, I should have recognised that and said, “Maybe you should think on this a little longer.” But that was a long time ago, and you live and you learn.
What You Really Should Know About Aftercare
Most female genital piercings heal quickly. It’s an area that naturally cleans itself. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a really, truly infected female genital piercing. Irritation is very common, but an infection — when the piercing is done right — is very rare. If someone has a serious infection, they shouldn’t go to a piercer, they should go to a doctor. But as long as you keep it clean, the odds are pretty slim.
People’s natural reaction is to use soap, but soap can be pretty irritating in the female genital area, so you should avoid that. If you’re going to use anything, make it a saline solution — that’s supposed to mimic the amount of salt your body actually makes.
Flipping The Switch
I’ve thought about getting my own pierced, but it’s not really for me. I don’t like getting pierced. I can dish it but I definitely can’t take it. I’ve had many piercings in my lifetime — I’ve had a face full at one point — but I haven’t gotten one in God knows how long. That’s the fun thing about them, though: You can get a whole bunch and then take them out.
Getting Up Close & Personal
With piercings in general, people feel very vulnerable — and especially so when you are doing a piercing that involves clothing coming off. People just want to share things. I’ve had women tell me they are getting it done to reclaim their body after a bad relationship. Some people want to improve their sex lives. It’s also just a huge rush to get done. A few years back, I had a dom come in with her sub and they got pierced together. I’ve definitely had lots of interesting experiences, and I’ve learned a lot about people’s lives during these piercings.
At the same time, piercing the genital area is still very taboo to discuss. But there’s been this huge influx of people who are really comfortable with it. Women have come in uncomfortable with their bodies or the way it looks, and they’ll want to decorate it. They’ll say, “Maybe if I have this jewellery here, it will look more attractive.” And I’m like, “Girl, you’ve got a beautiful vagina. Don’t worry about it.” It makes you feel completely different about your body. And if it makes you feel good, let’s do it. I’m all about helping someone feel better about themselves.
Originally published at https://www.refinery29.com.