Needles & Thread: an Erotic Sutures Primer

"It doesn't make any difference what you do in the bedroom as long as you don't do it in the street and frighten the horses."

- Mrs Patrick Campbell, friend of George Bernard Shaw


Dr. Leo Garcia holds his stage well. His elocution suggests a thespian training that belies his doctorate in medicine. He smoothly begins the lecture, “Thank you for coming to my class in erotic suturing. Let me introduce our demo bottom, Ms. Saffron, who kindly volunteered to let me stitch her up tonight for your educational benefit.”


Two dozen people fill the seats of this small classroom – dominatrixes, sex educators, kinksters and friends of Dr. Garcia who have gathered to learn more about the safety practices of erotic suturing. The genial boyfriend of Ms. Saffron sits a few seats down in a yellow seersucker suit. For the past two years, he has amiably watched Ms. Saffron and Dr. Garcia explore electricity, needles and more.  He winces and laughs through the class with the rest of us.


Dr. Garcia claps his hands together with a grin. “To begin, how to carry your equipment? To be impressive, I used to carry a fancy metal laptop case. But it got stolen along with a bag of dildos. I would have loved to see the face of that thief when he opened up his haul of needles and strap-on cocks.” A big laugh from the audience. “Now I carry everything around in a boring backpack.”


As always in the world of bondage, domination and sadomasochism (BDSM), the watchword is ‘informed consent.’ Dr. Garcia continues, “I always begin with questions and information about safety.” He turns to Ms. Saffron, a bouncy red head with a flapper’s haircut and feet that dangle pigeon toed off the massage table. “Are you allergic to anything?” She shakes her head no. In a serious tone, he says, “Sutures rarely leave a scar but it’s impossible to promise that this will not. If you are diabetic or develop keloids (the rubbery collagen nodules that sometimes form after piercings), you are more likely to scar. Are you sure you want to proceed?” She nods again with a vigorous grin.


“Excellent. Then please get undressed.” Without modesty, she strips efficiently until her tight pants get caught around the knees. She chuckles at herself in frustration as the crowd good-naturedly laughs with her. Dr. Garcia’s girlfriend – another fetching redhead - comes up to help her. She pulls hard at the bottom of the pants until they snap free. For a moment, Ms. Saffron covers her face with her hand and shakes with a bout of the giggles.


He smiles broadly, waiting for her to calm down and then turns back to the audience. “Suturing is not about the pain – it’s about crafting the scene. If I just wanted to cause pain, I’d hit you with a 2x4.” Another big laugh. “So what do you want to do and why are you sewing them up: to get laid? Play with power dynamics? Have some fun with needles? The kind of scene you want to create affects all parts of how you handle yourself:  wearing a pair of jeans or a black apron – making direct eye contact - how you talk during the scene. The power dynamic gets inside the head while the casual scene feeds off the endorphin rush of a needle shoved through the skin.” He gives a practiced evil grin, a friendly dark haired devil, “Personally, I want to scare the shit out of them.” Ms. Saffron chuckles nervously.


The briefest of histories: piercings, pleasure and purpose


Dr. Garcia mentions the long human history of piercing for religious and erotic purposes. He gives the example of bell dancing - the suturing of bells onto chakra points for ecstatic dance. Dr. von Glitter murmurs approval at my side. She’s seen the practice at a festival dedicated to the nexus of sacred sexuality and BDSM. The practitioners rightfully claim that they are tapping into ancient spiritual practices that are inexplicably ignored in the West.


The oldest mummified body in Europe – Otzi the Iceman from 3300 BCE – had pierced ears stretched to quarter inch plugs. When the men of the Crow nation wanted to see visions, they pierced shoulders and chests and then were suspended from the Sun Dance Lodge. The Aztecs and the Mayans pierced the tongue to feed the gods and allow the shamans to enter an alternate state of conciousness.


The Dogon of Mali believe that the ancestor spirit Noomi created the world by weaving thread through her teeth and bringing forth speech. The tribe incorporate the piercing of lips into their ceremonies because as Terrence McKenna said, “The universe is made of language.”


The practice of piercing the septum (the cartilage between the nostrils) often relates to traditions of warriors like the fierce tribes of the South Pacific. The Asmats of Irian Jaya place a thick plug of bone – usually from a pig but sometimes from the leg of a slain enemy. The Bundis of Papau New Guinea perform a septum piercing as a rite of passage around the age of ten. The name of the Nez Perce tribe of Washington state came from the French fur trappers designation for ‘pierced nose.’


For sexual pleasure, the piercing of the penis dates at least back to the Kama Sutra which said, “The people of the southern countries think that true sexual pleasure cannot be obtained without perforating the Lingam, and they therefore cause it to be pierced like the lobes of the ears of an infant pierced for earrings."


The Western interest in piercing rose after World War II and started to skyrocket in the last twenty years or so. One strange legal twist occurred in the United Kingdom in 1987. During a police investigation known as Operation Spanner, a group of homosexuals were convicted of assault for their consensual BDSM activities involving piercing. The courts decided decorative body piercing was legal but erotic body piercing was not.


There’s currently a large community in the United Sates that forms around the ritualistic and spiritual practice of piercing and suspension but that’s an article for another day.


DIY safely


Dr. Garcia continues, “Now we move onto the practicals. I recommend buying a minor laceration tray – they’re ten bucks on Amazon and have the equipment you need: needle holders, scissors, forceps and gauze – all disposable. At medical supply sites, you can buy the two types of needles: straight or curved.” He passes around a sample of each, still wrapped in their clear sterile bags – sharp points of gleaming metal. “I prefer the straight needle because it’s a cutting needle with a sharp edge - no need for a scissors because the needle cuts the thread. Just to keep things confusing, the thickest needle size is 0 (pronounced ‘oh’). Then they go from 1-0, 2-0 and up to the smallest: 7-0.”


“There’s many types of thread that you can buy: nylon, silk, stainless steel and intestines from a cow and. I personally enjoy the new fiber wire – super strong and super pretty. The major difference between these types is whether the thread is absorbed by the body. The longest you can leave in non-absorbent thread is around three days.”


“For sterility, most of what you hear is hokum based on,” delivered in a drawn-out mocking whine, “personal … experience.” He shakes his head in frustration. “Nothing fancy - 70% alcohol is the best. If it’s good enough for the operating room, it’s good enough for us. People use 100% alcohol because they figure more is better but it actually doesn’t penetrate the cells. At least, that’s what they taught me in med school.”


“The easiest place to begin piercing is the back.” Ms. Saffron swings around on the table to present her long ivory back to the audience who leans forward. Dr. Garcia pinches the skin and counts to three. She jumps only slightly as the needle quickly forces through the epidermis. In his professorial tone, “The beauty of back piercings is that there’s very little bacteria so infection is unlikely. It also allows you to make beautiful corsets that can be left in for a party or show” such as the ones seen here.


He pierces the back of Ms. Saffron twice more, connecting the sutures with dental floss white thread. On the last pierce, she arches her back hard and lets out a high squeal. She can’t stop giggling as Dr. Garcia continues his sober talk on techniques. “For tying the knot, I recommend practicing on meat before you try it on a person. Check out Ethicon for a general knot tutorial. Once you get good, you can do it fast with one hand,” and he shows off his skill by throwing in three quick tight knots. A dominatrix in the audience (who once practiced her stapling techniques on the Good Doctor) asks how many knots to tie. Dr. Garcia smiles, “I’m glad you asked because I like simple rules of thumb. For every 0 in your thread, tie one knot. Since we’re using 3-0 thread, I tied three knots.”


“Before I let the audience come up to see, let’s ask Ms. Saffron what it felt like.”

She beams and wriggles, “It only hurt for a microsecond but then, oh my, it’s a huge erotic rush – that’s why I arch so much,” and she collapses into a squirming pile. The doctor nods in slow satisfied approval as the crowd roars in happy amusement.


After the audience circles around Ms. Saffron murmuring comments, hands behind their back like patrons at an art gallery, Dr. Garcia sits her upright. “Another fun idea for control is suturing the arms together.”

As he describes the nerves to be aware of, needle poised over her skin, she mutters, “It makes it hurt so much worse when he talks technical.”

Dr. Garcia turns his face back to us with a fiendish grin and painstakingly draws out his description. She winces when he expertly shoves the needle through her forearms and ties it off with a flourish. “I like to leave options so I only put in one suture – it allows her arms to twist. You must always be aware of what positions their body can take to avoid putting too much pressure on the sutures and possibly ripping them out.”


“Now we move onto advanced suturing: the vagina.” The audience sharpens at these words, sitting up straighter in their seats and licking their chops.


“A word of caution on the vaginal sutures: if a sexual partner is not fluid bonded (ie: not gone through the process of STI testing and discussion to reach an agreement to stop using condoms), the absolute shortest time until you can have intercourse is two days. It takes that long for the skin to close but not heal.”


Dr. Garcia’s girlfriend comes up to hold down Ms. Saffron’s arms as she lays back on the massage table with her shaved vagina angled towards the twisted doctor of medicine. When the needle goes through her labia majora, her groans of pleasure and pain resemble the raucous orgasms I’ve heard from her at play parties. Her entire body tenses up, leaping into the rush of endorphins. She murmurs, “Wowww, that’s legit.”


At the second piercing, she screams. As anyone with two nipples rings will testify, the second one always hurts much worse since you know what to expect and most of the protective endorphins have already been spent. Dr. Garcia ties off the suture and notes “You can leave the excess string to dangle over her clit. She can’t ignore that feeling as she walks around.”


As the audience comes up to examine the stitched vagina with a few drops of crimson blood at the entry points, Ms. Saffron elaborates on her experiences with erotic suturing. She cocks her head towards Dr. Garcia, “He’s in it to create fear but I’m in it for the rush of adrenaline and endorphins when the needle goes through – that’s the kick. The first time I played with Dr. Garcia, it was fantastic and terrifying.”


“To tell how much a piercing is going to hurt, you can get an idea by pinching the skin. The piercings in the back are painful for a bit but the adrenaline rush is long. When the needle hits the pussy, it hurts much more but the pain stops as soon as it’s through.  After a scene, I can feel high for days.”

Dr. Garcia turns to the audience and bows. “I want to thank you all for coming to this class. Remember, erotic suturing is never 100% safe but nothing is in this life. If you follow these precautions, you can enjoy a wonderful experience.” He cuts the sutures and slowly pulls the thread out of her skin as Ms. Saffron’s face scrunches as the strange sensation.

Dr. Garcia claps his hands together with a grin, “And perhaps the most interesting lesson to take away today is that everything can be sexualized and erotic. People assume that their OBGYN might be perverse but they never consider that the doctor stitching up a wound may be getting off on the needle.”