If you know me, you know piercing and body modification is my great love in life, and I’m all about everything related to it. On that end, from a young age I have ravenously consumed media about piercings, tattoos, and body modification. I regularly see folks asking for suggestions on content related to this to watch, read, and consume, so I decided to collect it all into a blog post for ease! If you have any further suggestions that aren’t on this list, message me so I can add it!
Modern Primitives- This essential primer from ReSearch takes a look at the modern primitive movement across the 70s-90’s. They sat down and did a series of interviews with body piercing and tattooing pioneers such as Fakir Musafar, Jim Ward, and Lyle Tuttle. This collection of interviews is directly responsible for many peoples first taste of the industry, and an inspiration for hundreds of piercers and enthusiasts on their Journey.
Running the Gauntlet- This book tells the story of the gauntlet, americas first body piercing studio. It tracks how Jim Ward got his start in this industry, what inspired him to pursue piercing, and what shaped the first piercing studios in the country. It will also teach you how many tools and techniques we used today came to be.
Spirit and Flesh- this photo book tracks the work of Fakir Musafar, the grandfather of modern body modification. It showcases many of his self portraits documenting his early interest in modification and piercing, and his personal journey through it.
A Brief History of the Evolution of Body Adornment in Western Culture- Written by Blake from Nomad, about his and his mothers personal experiences in anthropology and body modification, and tracking the spread of tribal modification through to modern times.
Africa Adorned- this gorgeous hardcover examines the traditional adornment and body art of multiple African cultures. It looks as different forms of scarification, tattoo, and piercing among other adornment.
Bodies Under Siege- this psychological piece examines self harm in modern culture and psychiatry, and touches on the intersection of body modification and body piercing and self harm.
The Piercing Bible- this primer on piercing from Elayne Angel is a good historical reference, and you will find it on anyones list, including the reprinted version. While many of the techniques and suggestions are outdated, it paints a picture of what piercing looked like in the early 90’s. It's worth noting Elayne made some incredibly transphobic comments in a court of law during her divorce. While I want to acknowledge divorce is a difficult time, it also does not justify transphobia and setting a legal precedent against trans marriage rights. She has refused to applogize despite many trans and nonbinary voices requesting accountability for the harm she has caused.
This letter, written by a trans man directly effected by her transphobia is worth a read, and I encourage folks to donate to the trans legal defense fund rather than support her book.
Better Safe then Ari- This series of books follows Ari Pimsler as he interviews various important members of body piercing history. Each interview is succinct, and filled with gems of wisdom and advice, and entertaining stories about the formation of the modern piercing industry.
Nodal Points- These collect different articles and interviews from Sacred Debris cataloguing different aspects and elements of body modification history. They paint a beautiful portrait of the people who made this industry the way it is today.
Modcon- this book is a rarity to find these days, but it follows the events of mod con and the BME days, and gives a rare inside look at the early days of the growth of the heavy modification scene.
Wings of Desire: Learning to Fly- this book tracks the evolution of the Oslo Norway based suspension team wings of desire, and how they came to be the icons of the suspension industry they are today. Follow Haave as he explores this gorgeous art form.
Return of the Tribal- a photographic exploration of the modern revival of tribal practice. Piercing, tattooing, scarification, and body paint, and tracing their origins in tribal cultures to modern times.
In the Flesh: The Cultural Politics of body Modification- an interview based study on the subculture of body modification, looking at gender, sexuality, and ethnicity are reconfigured through body modification.
Pagan Fleshworks: The Alchemy of Body Modification- an examination of the cultural trends ofd tattooing, implanting, branding, and piercing as a quest for the transformative psychic experience.
Penis Inserts of Southeast Asia- this piece reviews various forms of penile piercing and implantation across south east asia, with a focus on pearling
Marks of Civilization: Artistic Transformations of the Human Body- a look at how body piercing, scarring, and tattooing have for years been invested with profound cultural ands social meaning.
Hidden Exposure and Private Portraits- These two photobooks document the work of Stefan Richter and showcase some of the best genital piercing documentation and collection of modified portraits to come from the 80's and 90's. These books have been a major inspiration for generations of genital modification work.
PFIQ and Body Play- these print magazines were a fundamental way to bring modified people together in the time before the internet. They inspired generations of young piercers and enthusiasts and have become highly collectable if you can get your hands on them.
The Butchering Art- This novel takes a look at the life of renown surgeon Joseph Lister, who set about to prove the existence of germs and the benefit of the use of antiseptics for wound care. Using a mix of excerpts from his letters and journals, and a thrilling recreation of the period, Lindsey Fitzharris takes you into dark, dirty victorian operating rooms where surgeons barehanded removed limbs before gathered crowds. She explores the way infection was often times more deadly than the surgeries themselves and takes us alone Lister's life long quest to determine the cause of infections. While not directly related to piercing, the advancements made by Lister are still in practice in studios around the world, and understanding the history, and sacrifice, that made our careers possible is essential for anyone.
Hurts So Good, The Science and Culture of Pain on Purpose- From sexual machochists, to hot pepper enthusiasts, ballerinas, and polar plunges, author Leigh Cowart explores what drives humans to explore painful experiences- and why so many folks say they find a release, a catharsis, and healing in pain. By participating in many of these activities themselves, and through conversations with psychologists, fellow scientists, and people who seek pain for pleasure, Cowart unveils how our minds and bodies find meaning and relief in pain—a quirk in our programming that drives discipline and innovation even as it threatens to swallow us whole. This book explores tattoos and piercings, along with body suspension, and a myriad of other painful practices. A deep dive into what drives pain, and a must-read for any piercer to better understand the science that brings us back to the piercing room again and again.
Sacred Pain- Why would anyone seek out the very experience the rest of us most wish to avoid? Why would religious worshipers flog or crucify themselves, sleep on spikes, hang suspended by their flesh, pierce their skin, or walk for miles through scorching deserts with bare and bloodied feet? In this novel Ariel Gluklich sets out to answer these questions and explore the idea of pain on purpose. He examines pain from the perspective of the practitioner, looking at both scientific understanding of pain and ritual and religious texts.
He also ranges over a broad spectrum of historical and cultural contexts, showing the many ways mystics, saints, pilgrims, mourners, shamans, Taoists, Muslims, Hindus, Native Americans, and indeed members of virtually every religion have used pain to achieve a greater identification with God. He examines how pain has served as a punishment for sin, a cure for disease, a weapon against the body and its desires, or a means by which the ego may be transcended and spiritual sickness healed. "When pain transgresses the limits," the Muslim mystic Mizra Asadullah Ghalib is quoted as saying, "it becomes medicine." Based on extensive research and written with both empathy and critical insight, Sacred Pain explores the terrain of self-hurting and reveals how meaningful suffering has been used to heal the human spirit.
sacreddebris.com- A collection of the best safe then Ari interviews, some of my historical essays, and other photos and snippets of piercing and modification history. A collaborative effort of four unique minds all driven to document and preserve the history of this industry.
The Point- found on safepiercing.org the point is a quarterly publication from the APP about body piercing. It is no longer a printed magazine and now an online resource fore folks to learn more, with different topics and information covered every issue.
Modblog and BME- it’s safe to say we wouldn’t be where we are as in industry without the influence BME had on a generation of young piercers and clients. ModBlog remains online where you care read about every topic under the sun related to piercing and modification. BME also remains up, and while access these days can be hazy, there is still a welsh of information to be had.
Confessions of a Piercing Nerd Blog- Jeff Saunders, former president of the APP, has an inform native blog directed at young piercers and industry members. Full of strong technical information and great discussions of best practice and technique, it’s a worthwhile read.
The Piercing Wizard Podcast- Host Ryan Ouelette sit’s down with different members of the industry to discuss any and every topic under the sun, in guided interviews. Often equal parts informative and light hearted, these hour interviews are perfect for your daily commute.
Modified- This classic documentary explores body modification in all facets, from body building and plastic surgery to piercing, tattooing, and branding. Meet with some of the pioneers of different elements of our industry, and take a peek into how piercing and modification grew to be.
Flesh and Blood- this documentary follows heavy modification practitioner Steve Haworth through this life. Traveling, doing heavy modifications, and working out new and experimental procedures.
The People Who Suspend- follow suspended and film maker Lucas Larson as he explores modern body suspension around the world. From art installations, to base jumping, to ritual, learn more about the how and why we fly.
Dances Sacred and Profane- famed photographer and documentarian Charles Gatewood follows Jim Ward and Fakir Musafar to experience a chest suspension and body piercing rite and ritual. Juxtaposed with the debauchery of Mardi gras, we examine both the sacred and profane extremes of human experience.
Hellraiser- for many modification enthusiasts, the scenes of body suspension in hell easier ignited a spark that for them never went out. In speaking to numerous community members, this film is often cited as an early inspiration for piercers and suspension practitioners. Therefor, while not educational, it makes this list, and y’all can fight. Me on it.
A Man Called Horse- a captured aristocrat joins a Native American tribe, and eventually becomes one of the, taking on the name Horse. During this he participates in a chest suspension as a ritual to accept him into the tribe. CW for cultural appropriation and not aging well, this film from the 70’s still remains an important element of body modification history.
Erotic Tattoo and Body Piercing (Pt 1,2,3 and 4)- a series from Charles Gatewood, documenting various tattoo and piercing conventions and events, and the sexual side of body modification. These offer a glimpse into the history of the industry, and what the early ages of piercing and tattoo looked like.
Pierce with a Pro- These classic videos were piercing instructional pieces from the gauntlet era. While many techniques are these days outdated, they are an amazing resource for the history and evolution of piercing techniques.