The Finer Points of Needle Play

Needles can be something of a highly charged supercar in BDSM play. They can go from ”zero to 100″ very quickly. Where activities like impact and electricity have infinite small step-ups and step-downs, it can be much more difficult to control the intensity in play piercing. Some bottoms find any needle to be intense.


Needle play or Play Piercing, like many forms of BDSM play, can and in some cases should be performed with a warm up and sometimes a cool down method planned into it. There are not as many controllable variables as many other forms of play, but here are a few that can be manipulated:

Adjust the Scene
You can make a piercing scene quite daunting by silently laying out your equipment, or you can take the approach many professional piercers take and engage in chat about anything that makes your bottom feel comfortable. How you set the scene is up to you. Lots of verbal distraction or hand holding at the start of a scene can reduce the effects of pain and as a scene continues you can stop talking, remove touch, add a blindfold or even use earmuffs, which will force focus on the pain.

One method is to do something else first, so the person already has endorphins on board. I recommend against using impact play for this (at least where the needles are going) if the goal is to make the experience less intense, as impact often sensitizes the skin. If the goal is to use impact play to make it more intense, realize it can bleed more. In play scenes where the design calls for one large needle size only, it may be necessary to warm up for the scene with a non sharps method such pinching, caning or spanking.

Gauge of Needle
NeedleGaugesThicker needles (lower gauge) are usually more intense (though some people find 25g hurt more than 22g, I’m not certain of why, but I believe it is because of how they bend under the skin during insertion). This eventually tops out. Most people seem to feel 8g, 6g and 4g pretty much the same (like being stabbed with an icepick). To ramp up intensity, you can change the gauge of needles being used, graduating to larger needle diameters as a scene progresses.


Depth of Piercing
Deeper usually hurts less, as the nerves are closer to the surface. Some people have an extra thick layer of epidermis, so really shallow on them might not hurt at all (again people vary).

Length of Piercing
Length of travel under the skin (if shallow enough to be on the nerve endings 1mm – 3mm depth) or multiple pierces (weaving in and out) will obviously have an effect on how intense it is.

Speed of Piercing
Slower usually hurts more than fast sticks. An exception is multiple fast sticks at once, such as with a needle paddle or similar. Or, having many tops piercing the person at once. How the needles are withdrawn will also have an effect. People seem to find medium speed least intense, but I think that it’s more related to what you do with the needle as you withdraw it (see below). To ramp up intensity, increase the rate of piercing or add another piercer.

Angle of Stick
If you pierce in a straight line (as most are taught initially) it will usually hurt less than if you move the needle under the skin before exiting. This is also true of removing it. If you twist the needle to a different angle when removing it, it will usually hurt more.

Tension on Needles
Pulling on them tends to hurt more. Tensioning a needle as you pull it out also does this. As well as grasping the hubs of the needles and stretching the skin manually, in advanced play you’ll often see other elements, such as weights, elastic bands and corset ribbons, being used.

Locations of Needles
This matters, but can be very personally variable between bottoms. Obviously most people will find the genitals hurt more than the arm, but whether the back is more or less intense than the breast or butt? Person to person (ask and experiment). To ramp up intensity, start piercing in an area that is less painful and progress towards more painful areas of the body.

Being Deliberately Evil
What else can you do once the needles are in? Moving them around, hitting them or shocking them with TENS or cattle prods, adding alcohol or salt, obviously make it more intense.


• Project Gutenberg – Play Piercing
• SassyOne – Needle Play
• Peter Masters Wiki – Practical Needle Play
• Edgeplay – Guide to Needle Play
• Piercing Ideas – 20 Different Styles of Play Piercing: Defined
• LeatherNRoses (Sue J. Abel) – Play Piercing
• FetLife – Needle Play
• FetLife – Sharps and Pointies
• Wikipedia – Needle Gauge Comparison Chart

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