Piercings hurt (it is illegal to have an anaesthetic injection for them), can take up to a year to heal, and bring the risk of hepatitis, HIV and potentially fatal bacterial infections. Pass a bar through your tongue and you'll be unable to talk or eat for a while; modify your genitalia and even walking (never mind other activities) will be uncomfortable. Yet piercing has become ever more popular and is now a respectable business, governed by the GMB-affiliated Tattoo and Piercing Industry Union. It goes back 30,000 years: Australian Aboriginals, ancient Egyptians, American Indians, gladiators and even royals all did it, motivated by everything from mysticism to status. Today, teenagers stick rings and barbells through their flesh just to be like Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. And even extreme piercings are no longer reserved for rebellious punks or hardcore sado-masochists - who's to say that smarmy sales rep isn't secretly sporting a Prince Albert inside his Paul Smith strides? Piercings cost about £25 a pop and are usually easily reversible, and only 27% of studios seem to require clients to be sober. So if you're a risk-taker or think a strategically placed piece of jewellery will spice things up, this trend is for you too.
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