The gloves are off


I’ve received a few emails lately questioning my decision to feature content here on SD that shows practitioners working without gloves on. Most have been polite, with a ‘I understand what you’re trying to do’ caveat ahead of the eventual use of the words ‘unprofessional’ or ‘dangerous to us all.”

The truth is, I get it. The content I tend to favor is history content and a lot of it features unsterile technique due to the time period it originated in. I try to be responsible and add my own caveats about responsible modification behavior- but ultimately I just don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Sacred Debris is a fairly niche blog and most of our visitors ‘get’ that these photos are old and that they’re being presented for archival and not a how-to.

I respect the arguments that have been brought up- but we’re living in a world where and Ebay sell tattoo kits, there are commercially made hand-poke kits and there are nose removal procedurals on Instagram; I don’t think that a 30 year old photo of someone piercing a PA without gloves is the worst game in town.

That said- I’ll absolutely work harder to add the warning on every post that features practitioners working without gloves. Like this image here- which has sadly suffered water damage. There’s no information on the back save that the meatotomy was done in 1982.

As with all modification practices- gloves should be worn (and changed as situations require) throughout the procedure.

What are your thoughts?

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 outside of academia. 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. I was there, when I 1st started piercing, few wore gloves, those that did used un sterile gloves. A pre wash if there was one consisted of either Betadine or Alcohol. That is the way it was throughout the piercing and MEDICAL world. get over it kiddies

  2. I wouldn’t post new photos of people working without gloves, so there would be some sort of self censorship on my part.

    Christ, if I post photos of piercers using betadine the new generation of piercers would all spontaneously combust- or cum all over their MSDS sheets 😀

  3. I think everyone here knows that you MUST wear gloves and basic hygene rules are not the topic. I always thought this was a bodymodification HISTORY blog. It tell things how they happened in the past and documents the path the community took to get where it is now. If someone thinks this is a manual has taken the wrong turn a while ago!

  4. Perspective helps.
    The reality of safety precautions with early body art was that admittedly most body artists didn’t yet know any better way to protect themselves and their clients. Most clients were in their immediate social circle, unlike today where one can walk in to a commercial studio and get a procedure done as a complete stranger. Outside of surgery and infectious disease care, there was very little glove use until the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s.

    Some of us who decided to consider body arts a career wanted to learn more about evidence based safety precautions, procedures and materials. Through research and experimentation a new set of standards and goals have come about to help make our field consistent and conscientious as it became more popular and in public scrutiny.

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