From the SPC: Boys Club?


The documentation of the early western Body Piercing scene isn’t exactly filled with diversity. Piercing was something enjoyed by a very small percent of the population and in that circle  gay white males were the most active, but by no means only, participants. Early PFIQs frequently featured female (to the horror of some)  piercings/models, but in the grand scheme of things it was males documenting males. Sailor Sid’s shop, for instance, advertised itself as being for ‘gay males only’ though obviously exceptions were made like in the case of this rare photo of Sid doing a female nipple piercing.

I’ve heard about entire collections of photos being destroyed after a piercing devotee passes away; Will executors wanting to ‘tidy up’ a person’s belongings before family members arrive; whole lives worth of documentation being lost to the world. It makes me think about the people in the early piercing scene who weren’t able to come out publicly as piercing and modification fans and what happened to all of their memories and how that possibly leaves certain groups underrepresented.

This photo originally ran in 1998 on the SPCOnline site, and is dated approximately 1980.

Shawn Porter has spent the majority of his life in the modification world. As a body modification archivist and documentarian, he has one of the most extensive collections of documents relating to the early American body modification community in existence. He edited the SPC website from 1995 to 2005, co-founded ModCon, was the host of ModCons 3.5 and 4, and created and hosted The Scarwars Project from 2004-2007. In 2011 Shawn launched Occult Vibrations, a blog devoted to traditional American tattoos with a focus on the occult and esoteric. He currently resides in Philadelphia with his wife Julia and their creepy pets Mr. Bailey Papers and L. RonBenet Ramsey.


  1. Fascinating that everyone’s still presumably naked when he’s doing a female nipple piercing. Well, except for the hat, anyways. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Sexuality was a major part of the piercing scene before it got co-opted. I remember a piercer friend having a Saint Andrew’s cross in his studio just incase the client needed to get flogged to ‘work up’ to getting pierced. He also had floggers available if you didn’t bring your own. Walking into Jack’s place or BRAVO! often found people totally at ease with themselves, fully naked, just waiting their turn to get pierced.

  3. That’s actually why I find it fascinating. Sid was gay, correct? My natural assumption was that for him performing a female nipple piercing, it’d be the opposite of sexual and it wouldn’t look the same as him performing say a male genital piercing and there being shared nudity, etc. I’m assuming Sid wasn’t heterophobic but I’ve heard stories about some prominent piercers of the time being so, and my first thought went to that.

    The nudity has an odd allure of “we just do this for everyone” in the photo versus “this is actively sexual” given the circumstances. Fascinating.

    1. Sid was gay, yes.
      I think ‘sexuality’ is sort of misleading in a certain way- it wasn’t necessarily a backroom free-for-all where everyone was BEING sexual; just the acknowledgement that the reason we did these things was sexual.

      When I first came up in the scene, casual nudity was part of the package. You’d really not think too much about it.

      1. Its funny when you think about it, when I started piercing 20 years ago I only did a handful of lips/eyebrows/nostrils for years, the majority of piercings by far were genital. Piercing was just sexual in nature back then, very intimate in my opinion.

        p.s. Shawn,that’s an awesome photo!

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