Pearling (body modification)

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Template:Body Modification

Pearling or genital beading is a form of body modification, the practice of permanently inserting small beads made of various materials beneath the skin of the genitals--of the labia, or of the shaft or foreskin of the penis. As well as being an aesthetic practice, this is usually intended to enhance the sexual pleasure of partners during vaginal or anal intercourse.

The practice seems to have been fairly common across world cultures and is still done today. In contemporary society pearling is usually done by professional body piercers, and sometimes by people who specialize in surgical body modification (who are rarely qualified doctors and often very publicity-shy, for fear of legal repercussions).


There are two common procedures, one being very similar to a frenum piercing and the other being similar to inserting a subdermal implant, and requiring more medical knowledge and specialized tools. Either procedure is relatively safe with risks and healing much like a subdermal implant in any other part of the body, although, like many genital piercings, the generous blood flow to the genitals can reduce healing times considerably. Migration is very common, during and after healing, although careful healing can minimize the amount of migration. Rejection is rare, but can occur.


A wide variety of inert implant materials can be used for this implant. Teflon, silicon, surgical steel or titanium are commonly used materials. Prior to the availability of modern materials, there is a long history of pearls being used in this implant, hence the name pearling. There is an alternate form of this implant, where short curved "ribs" are inserted, rather than pearls.

History and culture

The most well known historical use of this involves the Yakuza of Japan, a semi-criminal subculture whose members perform several notable types of body modification, including full body irezumi tattooing and Yubitsume, the amputation of finger joints in penance to their superiors. By the Yakuza, pearling is performed in prison, with each pearl supposedly symbolizing a year spent in prison.

Pearling is a fairly common practice among Filipino seamen, especially among the older ones. They say they learned the practice from Japanese seamen. Most dockside prostitutes in Cape Town and Durban, South Africa consider the practice to be strange, say it hurts, and some refuse customers with pearlings.[1]

Pearling is very common in the military and prison systems of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, as well as among Organized crime syndicates. Modification is performed by inmates using household appliances, without anesthetics; soap is used as antiseptic. Typically, insertions are made from specially prepared round plastic pieces. In average, this modification involves 3-4 round balls 6-8 mm in diameter, and several cylinders 1 cm long and 3-4 mm in diameter. An opening in the skin is made by a metal chair hitting a penis or a specially sharpened handle of a spoon, then the plastic is inserted. These modifications are called "shary" ("шары", balls) and "shpaly" ("шпалы", crossties). Pearling is also found in members of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. This procedure involves the piercing of the foreskin and inserting a marble, 10-15 mm in diameter. The insertion of the bead, known as "el cinco" (the marble), is done mostly in prisons by inmates without the basic hygienic conditions. Gang members use the bead as a form of gang allegiance (along with ornately decorated tattoos that depict gang life) and as a sexual enhancer.


  1. Henry Trotter, What's the deal with your penis?!, accessed 18 May 2007

External links

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