Dear Dr. G,

I am somewhat surprised about your article about nipple piercing.

Don’t get me wrong, not that I am interested in any form of body modification or piercing, I am simply curious about one form of piercing called Prince Albert.

With no piercing in mind, I hope to put Dr. G on the spot about this “Crowning Prince” in the pants.

Which Prince Albert’s name is associated with such penile piercing?

What is the origin of such practice and how is it performed?

Is the piercing purely for aesthetic purposes or are there sexual benefits?

Are the piercings only for men and what are the variations for the piercing?

Are they uncomfortable? Any risks involved?


Curious Cuthbert

Body modification is a term used for physical alteration including tattoo and body piercing. Part of the practice is genital piercing which involves traversing part of genitalia with devices as a form of ornaments or jewelry. Technically, genital piercing also includes other sexually related organs, including nipples, pubis, anus and perineum. Such piercing is carried out in both men and women with the main intention for beautification and individualisation. Some also have piercings with the belief that it will enhance one’s sexual experience.

The practice of genital piercing is believed to have existed as early as 2,000 years ago as depicted in the writings of Kama Sutra. However, the modern day documentations of genital piercing were only found in the many tribal communities in South-East Asia. The Dutch explorers were the first to describe traditional genital piercing in the different tribes in Borneo. The Ampallang Ring, which is passed horizontally through the glans penis is common in different tribes throughout Sabah and Sarawak. Apparently, some believe that Dayak women have the right to insist upon the Ampallang and if the man does not consent, can be a ground for separation. Such practices were believed to be introduced to Western societies in the 19th Century.

Prince Albert piercing refers specifically to “a ring style piercing that extends along the underside of the glans penis, from the urethral opening to where the glans meets the shaft of the penis” while the “reverse Prince Albert piercing” enters through the urethral and exits through a hole pierced in the top of the glans. Piercing for circumcised men is done through the frenulum in the midline; the off-centre practice for uncircumcised men with surrounding skin reposition itself is also common. The initial piercing is generally done with a small diameter piercing (2.5mm) and this is followed by gradual stretching soon after, for the jewelry insertion with the larger diameter up to 9mm. Some piercers may choose to have the immediate stretch to accommodate wider rings in the first setting, which may risk delayed wound healing or even “cheese-cutter effect”.

Generally, the healing time for genital piercing can range from one to six months, and mild acute complications such as bleeding, swelling and local inflammation may be expected. Other long-term complications such as rejection, chronic irritations, vaginal injury during sex are also well-recognised. Upon removal of the piercing, men may also face complications of fistula which results in downwards leakage of urine for the redundant orifice from the piercing.

There is no robust medical evidence to support the enhancement of sexual performance in men with genital piercing. Some anecdotal reports suggest the placement of piercing such as apadravya and ampallang (Both are piercing passed through the head of the penis vertically or horizontally) will have the benefits to heighten the sensation for female partners. On the contrary, many reports also highlight discomfort to female partners, when the piercing encounters the cervix.

Historians believed that genital piercing had the primary purpose of securing the penis in a certain manner, rather than having a sexual or cultural purpose. There were even suggestions that the ring was for decorative purposes and to keep the foreskin retracted ensuring no foul smell in uncircumcised men. Another myth was that Prince Albert of the Victorian Era suffered from Peyronie’s Disease and the ring functioned as a penile straightener. The origins behind genital piercing and its association with the Prince Consort of Queen Victoria have no documented proof or historical backing. Others suggested that such rumours were fabricated by some Hollywood piercing artists in the sixties.

Body modifications and genital piercings are predominantly for aesthetic purposes and an expression of non-conformal uniqueness. Whether such “pieces” are purely for aesthetic enhancement, or the enrichment of sexual pleasure is open for debate.

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