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It might be hard to remember a time when piercings were not so popular, especially in porn. Nowadays, so many stars have either navel, nipple, or genital piercings, that the once "deviant mark" is now a commonplace attribute of several performers. Before piercing became part of mainstream culture, even before piercings were linked to "alternative" countercultures in the 1990s, very few people had piercings on body parts other than their ears. Some cultural historians have traced piercing in the U.S. to gay counterculture in the 1970s, specifically with men (and a shop named Gauntlet) in California. While this might be a popular origin story, many people forget that there were several women performing in adult films in the 1970s who were already pierced, and some of them had never been to California before they acquired their first piercing.

In the 1970s, the "Golden Era" of porn was emerging and filmmakers were willing to take chances on daring subject matter. 1972's The Story of O (based on the hit novel of the same name published in France in 1954) is the first known showcasing of a genital piercing in porn. The story's protagonist, Nicole, is taken to a dungeon in the middle of the French countryside by her lover in order to be taught how to better serve him as a lifestyle submissive. Nicole goes through several tests and series of punishments until the Madame of the house decides that her training is complete. Upon Nicole's presentation to her lover, Nicole is given away to another man in order to be his submissive. The Madame of the house then pierces Nicole's' labia as a symbol of enslavement to her owner. Another great interpretation of this classic story is The Story of Joanna starring the New York porn scene icon, Jamie Gillis.

Another New York icon, Annie Sprinkle was probably the first popular performer to have at various times her nipples or labia pierced. Sprinkle’s introduction to the porn industry began with her job at the ticket booth of the Tucson Plaza Cinema where the now infamous film Deep Throat was playing. When the film was busted for obscenity, Sprinkle had to appear in court as a witness. It was there that she met and fell in love with Deep Throat’s director, Gerard Damiano, became his mistress, and followed him to New York City. A contemporary of Sprinkle's, but never a costar, was Marilyn Chambers. Famous for her interracial scene with Johnny Keyes in Behind the Green Door, Chambers was one of the first women in porn to shave their pubic hair and don a genital piercing.

As the 70s turned into the 1980s, piercings for females was still not as popular in adult entertainment, but piercing remained a mainstay of the fetish or sexually adventurous cultures. In the early 80s, Janey Robbins made her entry into porn. At the beginning of her scene with Ron Jeremy in Inside Everybody, Janey tells director Gerard Damiano (director of Deep Throat) how she became a pierced woman. According to her interview, Robbins says that her husband thought she was being "a real mother" one day, and he decided to do something about it. He took her to a piercing shop in San Francisco and got her nipples and labia pierced. She said she loved the feeling, ended up hooking up with the female piercer, went home with her for a few days, and then came back to her husband with clean and healed piercings. Ron Jeremy talks about what sex with Robbins is like (he says she is one of the sexiest performers he knows), and what it is like to have sex with her as a pierced woman.

A little later in the 80s, the mysterious Viper came into the piercing scene first, and the porn scene second. At this time in California, piercing was starting to spread out from the gay, fetish, and biker communities, and fringe students and artists began experimenting with piercings. Viper was a popular model for tattoo magazines at this time, as well as posing for a piercing publication called PFIQ. Not only did Viper have an intense snake tattoo that wrapped around her hips, stomach, and around her nipples, she was the first woman in porn to have her clitoral hood pierced, as well as both nipples. Viper began performing in porn with all-stars like Nina Hartley, who has her own six degrees of separation with the piercing community in her husband Ernest Green. Green directed and performed in fetish videos with his first wife "Kitty," who is a famous piercer (who later went on to marry Buck Angel), and these fetish films sometimes featured "play-piercing" or using performer's existing piercings in the scene. You can watch an early video of Ernest and Kitty's collaboration in Final Exam.

Many porn fans know who Asia Carrera is, but not many fans realize she was one of the first contract stars to have a labia piercing. Carrera began performing in the early 1990s, and earned the coveted position of Vivid contract star. As far as careers in porn go, Carrera has achieved substantial status as an all-time fan favorite and she is in the AVN Hall of Fame. A few years after Carrera started her XXX career, piercing suddenly broke out in mainstream culture. Many piercing historians have noted that the Aerosmith video for Crying starring Alicia Silverstone was the catalyst for mainstream recognition. In the video, Alicia Silverstone gets her navel pierced, and then runs off with Liv Tyler for a strip club amateur contest. According to these historians, this moment in history is when fringe piercing shops became big-time businesses, and college students across the country began getting their nostrils, navels, and cartilage pierced on a regular basis.

In 2017 it is hard to imagine a time before bejeweled navels and "vagazzled" genitals. Now there is Burning Angel studio, whose main attraction and owner, Joanna Angel, is heavily tattooed. Though tattoo and piercing cultures are very different, they often get lumped together in porn. While Burning Angel is credited with making "alt-porn" a genre and popularizing several tattooed and pierced stars, directors Jack the Zipper and Eon McKai first featured stars with piercings and alternative looks during a period of time where mainstream porn was still mostly blondes with breast implants. Their movies paved the way for films like the Cum on My Tattoo series, which started in 2006. Looking at these newer stars and titles, it may be hard to imagine a time where only a small population of performers had piercings. Videos like Skye & Summer's Piercing Party 1 and 2 may not seem that intimidating or fringe now that so many performers have piercings. Even Carmen Rivera and all her crazy antics might not even impress a novice porn watcher these days. Yet, even though both porn and piercing cultures have changed a lot over the last five decades, there is still something that connects them in a strange way. Sometimes people get pierced because they like to show it off and sometimes people get pierced and want to keep it their little secret. Just like watching porn can be fun while you're with someone special or watching it by yourself.


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