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What Can I Do About Loss of Sexual Sensation After Piercing?

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Updated July 06, 2011

Question: What Can I Do About Loss of Sexual Sensation After Piercing?

Hello Cory. I oftentimes read your blog and discussion topics. I have a question for you. I have heard of losing sensation in the breasts after piercing them. I took a risk and got them pierced. Everything was fine except the jewelry, I was allergic to it. So I removed the jewelry and the holes closed. I pierced them again and took them out again. The piercing closed and ever since I've lost sensation in both breasts, which has become a problem for me during foreplay. My question is this: Should I risk piercing my breasts again for a third time to see if sensation comes back? I've asked a couple of doctors and no one can give me a straight answer. Hopefully you might be able to shed some light on this.

Answer:

Hello. Thanks for the question. I can shed some light on the situation you find yourself in, but a new perspective isn't the same thing as an answer. I don't know your body, and while my knowledge of breast and nipple anatomy may be advanced enough to get me a date on a Saturday night, it isn't going to get me accepted into any decent medical program. So I can't tell you whether you should or shouldn't get re-pierced. Still, here are some things to think about as you try to make this decision.

The medical model -- which is the framework doctors, nurses, and most people understand bodies through -- thinks about bodies in terms of normal and abnormal, good and bad, whole and broken. Our bodies have a "normal" way of being, and every body is like that.  If you do something "different" to your body, then it will respond in a predictable way, which we can explain.

In my experience, this doesn't describe the very fact of bodies (which, when you pay attention, are incredibly diverse in their existence and display) and it certainly doesn't describe the way bodies work. There may be generalizations that can be made, but individual experience is subjective and unpredictable, and as soon as we stop talking about populations and start talking about people, we need to pay attention to a world of things that the medical model erases.

So, generally speaking, the nipples and breasts are sensitive spots on people's bodies. Nipples are often on the list of erogenous zones. But there is great variation in sensitivity and how that sensitivity is experienced. Some people say they are sensitive and love breast and/or nipple stimulation. Others are sensitive but don't love it. And others don't experience themselves as very sensitive in that area at all.

Whenever we cut or puncture the skin, there can be damage to nerve endings, which may be responsible for sensitivity to touch. There doesn't seem to be any clinical research about nipple piercing and sexual sensitivity. Most of what has been written are case studies of individuals who got an infection following a piercing (not good news for sensitivity or pain). But contrary to what you might expect, if you ask people who have their nipples pierced, or read anecdotal reports of people who have been pierced, many report that it increases nipple sensitivity, often dramatically.

So what does any of this mean to you?  I'd say in your situation, if you're able to see a doctor and you can find one you are comfortable with, who you think isn't going to be judge-y about your decision to get your nipples pierced in the first place, it's probably a good idea to have someone who has seen a lot of breasts and nipples have a look at yours and tell you if there's anything that stands out to them as a reason not to get pierced again.  They may give you an answer stated as fact. Keep in mind it's really their best guess. But if I could find a professional who has seen a lot of nipples, who I trusted, then I'd want that piece of advice.

You don't say why you took the piercing out the second time (another reaction?), but from the story you've told, it seems like nipple piercings aren't something you love.  If that's the case, I probably wouldn't recommend trying again simply to see if sensitivity returns. Unless the sensitivity during sex is worth having the piercings all the time. You have other options.

For starters, it's possible that a different kind of stimulation would produce a different kind of response.

Your body has changed, you have changed your body. And while it may feel like a drag that what used to work doesn't any more, it's an opportunity to find out what else might turn you on.  This, by the way, is great practice for the rest of your life.  Our bodies are always changing, and diminishing sexual satisfaction over time may be related to the fact that we don't always change our sexual exploration along with the changes we experience in our bodies.  Instead, we expect our bodies to respond the way they did when we were 18 or 34 or whenever it was that we found ourselves most easily aroused.

If you enjoyed one kind of stimulation before the piercings, and now that stimulation isn't doing it for you, maybe you can try something else.  There are hundreds of ways to stimulate the nipples and breasts, and if you're experiencing less sensitivity in your nipples, it's possible that you would respond to a different kind of stimulation.  Different might mean changing intensity (stronger, lighter, faster, slower).  Different might mean changing what part of the breast or nipple gets focused on (right on the nipple, around the nipple, the areola, more of the breast, etc..) Different might mean changing the kind of stimulation, from primarily physical to a mix of physical and psychological. Playing with the edges of arousal or more fully engaging your mind and fantasy into sex play can make physical stimulation actually feel more intense.

You may also want to try to mix up the kind of sex you have and the order you have it in. You mention that the reduced sensitivity is a problem during foreplay. Sometimes our expectations about how we have sex (e.g. start with kissing followed by oral sex followed by intercourse ending in orgasm) can get in the way of our ability to feel pleasure during sex.

I know this was probably a longer answer than you were expecting. And I know that there are times when we just want stuff to work. But the idea that sex comes naturally is bunk, and you should know that folks who insist on believing it probably end up being really bored by sex. The good and bad news is that the choice is yours (or at least it should be).

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