Piercing the body to insert pieces of jewelry.
Piercing the flesh, removing tissue, to insert foreign objects, such as earrings, rings, and other assorted jewelry devices.
[Ancient] Piercing appears to be as old as mankind. It is even referenced in the Bible, and the earliest proof of piercing comes from the remains of Otzi the Iceman.
Ear piercing is the most noted form, however other ritual forms are recorded in history. India has had centuries of where the piercing of the nose is noted, among ears.
Western Society has been a late comer to the practice, and generally does so for cosmetic reasons, rather than spiritual or religious practices.
[Modern] Body piercing became more noted in Western Culture with the rise of the Gay BDSM culture. Also the punk movement and hippie cultures helped in the popularity of piercing.
Depending on the location where the jewelry is to be worn, the method is to pierce the skin, with a needle that is hollow. This hollow cavity helps to actually remove tissue in the way, to allow for easy insertion of a bar that will act as a bridge for the jewelry item.
Healing time varies depending on the location, but generally for proper and full healing, the time frame seems to be between 4 and 8 months.
The hole can close up, when the jewelry is not worn, so it is not for casual wearing.
Most common body parts used for piercing are, the tongue, ear lobes, eyebrows, lips, nose, nipples, and belly. Other areas include erogenous zones such as the vagina, scrotum, penis, foreskin.
The use of some piercing is considered to be stimulating, adding to a person's sensitivity. It supposedly gives a unique experience for example, when a person with a pierced tongue, performs oral sex on another, or when they rim another. The same hold true in their explanation for penis piercing.
In the 'rough sex' culture, they are sources to administer immediate pain to the participant. In addition, it can be a sign of submission to the demands of another, in allowing for such an invasive procedure to occur. Again further stimulating the sexual attractiveness of a partner.
In some cultures, the number of piercing is a sign of wealth, while in others it is a sign of rebellion against society. A form of showing the establishment, of shocking the norms.
Today's 'gay culture' is more about erotic arousal than rebellion or a sign of wealth. It is primarily found in the BDSM genre, as a sign of accepting pain, of administering pain as well. It is also about 'risk' which is supposed to also be a turn on for some.
The concept is that in some ways, the piercing increases one's sensitivity, while others believe it has some form of primitive spiritualism.
There are many who find it a total 'turn off' and call it 'trendy' or conforming to a current fashion phase. Most disagree on that, arguing it is a rebellion to the status quo.
In some instances, piercing is form of therapy, of release. It gives a person a feeling of control over themselves, that might have been taken, such as in the case of rape victims.