“No” Matters: Consent in Piercing

“No”. A word many love to say, and hate to hear. Today, I want to talk about the word No, consent, and why it is so important for both piercers and clients alike. Let’s start by making one thing clear. Both parties have a right to say no at any point in the process of being pierced. Clients, do you feel uncomfortable? Are you unhappy with the placement, or cleanliness, or feel you aren’t being treated with respect and dignity? You have the right to say no and leave. Even if you are all the way in the back with a mark on. Even if you just feel scared, are having second thoughts, or have decided that today isn’t the right day. You absolutely have the right to say no, I’m sorry. But I’d like to wait and consider this more. A reputable piercer will never been mad or upset! A piercing is a big commitment, and sometimes it takes getting in the room and seeing that dot to realize you aren’t ready. It’s your body, and your choice to make. On the flip side, piercers, you also have just as much of a right to sat no. Is a client being disrespectful to you, or to other clients in the studio, it is your right to refuse service and ask them to leave. (Yes, if you are rude to myself or my staff, or other clients, I will tell you to leave. This happens the most often with teens being very disrespectful to their parents. I don’t care if Mom will sign for you, if you start cursing her out in my lobby I’m not piercing ya.) If a client is being argumentative, won’t follow studio rules or policy, or is endangering themselves or others, it is your right to say no.

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For piercers, no goes beyond just refusing a client outright. No can also look like telling someone they don’t have the anatomy for a piercing, they shouldn’t start with a particular piece of jewelry, or they have too many healing piercings and they need to wait to get more. No is a good answer! It shows you care about a clients wellbeing more than their wallet. I know how hard it can be to disappoint an excited client, and how tempting it can be to try to focus on keeping them happy, but we must remember that the ethical choice often is the harder one. If someone just isn’t suited for a piercing, or has to much else healing it is your responsibility to tell them no. For clients, please understand none of us enjoy telling you no. We actually really hate it, and we stress about it and about disappointing you. But what we say it because we care, and we want your piercings to be healthy, happy, and safe. And sometimes that means not doing a piercing at all, or waiting for other things to heal first. It legitimately crushes piercers when you are hurt or lash out at out no. So please respect that we say this out of care and compassion, and be understanding if a piercer tells you no.

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On the other side of the coin for piercers, we are humans. We deserve a level of basic respect. This customer service mentality that the customer is always right is toxic. I have had customers throw things at me, scream at me, curse me out, call me names, threaten me. This behavior is never, ever ok, directed at any member of your staff. Even if a client just crosses personal boundaries, maybe they are flirting with you at work (inappropriate folks, your piercers and artists are working) perhaps they cross boundaries on social media. You have the right to no longer work with a client, just as they have the right not to come to you. It breaks my heart to hear what some piercers, front of house, and managers put up with. And to clients, 98% of you are fantastic. But there is absolutely that 2% that treats us like sub human, and it’s time to stop accepting that and start standing up for ourselves, as an industry.

For clients, no can sometimes seem overwhelming. You’ve already picked jewelry, or done paperwork, or gotten marked. Backing out now seems problematic, or hard. Whatever the situation though, it is your right to do so. Many clients tell me stories of knowing something was wrong or off once they were in the room, or seeing a piercer do something unclean or unsafe, but being too scared to speak up because it was so far in the process. That is never the case, consent is required for every piercing and tattoo, and consent is yours to give and take. If you feel uncomfortable or feel something has been done to make you unsafe, you absolutely can get up and leave.

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Sometimes a situation is not that serious, you may just be feeling cold feet or having second thoughts! A reputable piercer will take the time to discuss those feelings with you, and likely encourage you to get the piercing if you really want it and are just scared. But if it’s more than just some nerves, a reputable piercer will also understand and never make you feel pressured or ashamed to back out or want to wait. And to piercers, I know sometimes it can feel disappointing or you can feel like you “failed” a client by not piercing them. But consent is key, and you did more for a client by creating a space where they feel safe to change their mind and say no, then you ever did piercing them. Don’t beat yourselves up, and keep working every day to create a space where clients feel safe giving and taking consent, and trust you to respect their words.

Consent works both ways. A client consents to being pierced, and a piercer consents to doing the piercing. Content can be removed at any time, by either party, for whatever reason they deem appropriate to do so. If they do, be respectful and understanding of their no, just as you would want your no respected when you say it. Consent, always!