Ear piercing and nose piercing have been particularly widespread and are well represented in historical records and among grave goods.
It can also, by metonymy, refer to the resulting decoration, or to the decorative jewelry used.
Contrary to popular belief, that piercing is related to visual jewelry only, piercing implants alter body and/or skin profile and appearance (e.g.
The practice of stretching the lips by piercing them and inserting plates or plugs was found throughout Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and South America as well as among some of the tribes of the Pacific Northwest and Africa.
In some parts of Malawi, it was quite common for women to adorn their lips with a lip disc called a "pelele" that by means of gradual enlargement from childhood could reach several inches of diameter and would eventually alter the occlusion of the jaw.
Nipple and genital piercing have also been practiced by various cultures, with nipple piercing dating back at least to Ancient Rome while genital piercing is described in Ancient India c. The reasons for piercing or not piercing are varied.
Some people pierce for religious or spiritual reasons, while others pierce for self-expression, for aesthetic value, for sexual pleasure, to conform to their culture or to rebel against it.
Kama Sutra, dated to the Gupta Empire of Ancient India, describes genital piercing to permit sexual enhancement by inserting pins and other objects into the foreskin of the penis.
In the Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 64a), there may be mention of a genital piercing in the probition against the kumaz, which medieval French Talmudic commenter Rashi interpreted as a chastity piercing for women.
Deuteronomy –17 dictates ear piercing for a slave who chooses not to be freed.