KOTW: needle play? no way!

When it comes to kink, they say you should never say “never”, and I get that. After all, the only constant in life is change, and I’ve got first-hand knowledge of that: my own sexuality changed radically less than two years ago, and I couldn’t be more pleased about it. I’m still just starting out in my explorations and there are things I’d like to try that, until fairly recently, could have fairly been called hard limits.

Needle play is most assuredly not one of those things I’d like to try. It is and will remain a hard limit. I’ve always disliked needles. No shock there, and I’m in good company. But a collection of experiences leads me to believe that for me at least it goes well beyond simple dislike.

When I was 19, after wearing a fake nose ring for months, I took the plunge and decided to get it properly pierced. I felt kind of spacey afterwards but put that down to the fact that I hadn’t eaten much that day.

Two years later, I got my bellybutton pierced. The clamp went on – hard! – and it hurt a lot. “How bad could the piercing be then?” I rationalized. Very bad, as it turns out. It hurt like hell, worse than the clamp, but mostly what I remember was the distinct sensation of nausea. I didn’t throw up, but I’d come quite close.

A friend of mine had gotten her nose pierced, and after losing the ring or otherwise having it out for too long, she got it re-pierced twice, for a total of three times. Ugh! I vowed that if any piercing grew over for any reason, that would be that, and I’d content myself with not being pierced. And I wasn’t getting any new ones either.

A number of years later I was at a small, alternative bar that had live music. My belly dance group was performing with the opening act, a local death metal band. Despite being tired after dancing, I stuck around to see the headliner (a theatrical sort of punk group), and freak show performances interspersed among the songs: I’d never been to a freak show and was curious.

I was far from the stage and couldn’t really make out what was going on, but this particular routine involved two people and seemed fiddly. It took me a moment but I worked it out: one woman was sticking needles into another. Not threading through, in and then out, so the needle would lie flat, but rather straight in like a pincushion. Lots of needles. Bristling.

The unusual circumstances controlled for so many variables that it was effectively an experiment. I found my reaction to the scene interesting, mostly because of what it wasn’t, and what I wasn’t experiencing. It wasn’t about pain or even discomfort because I wasn’t feeling anything. It wasn’t about empathy for the pain or distress of the person getting stuck because it was voluntary and she didn’t seem distressed or in pain. It wasn’t about blood because there wasn’t any. It wasn’t a medical procedure. It wasn’t about how it looked because I couldn’t see details. The sole element was needles.

And yet despite all of the things the experience wasn’t, my vision started to cloud and go dark, and the sound seemed to be coming from a great distance. I was standing and began to feel unsteady on my feet. I had to look away; at first I kept looking vaguely in the direction of the stage and just unfocused my eyes because I didn’t want to be seen to be having difficulty, but then I turned away completely and focused on my companion. It took a while to pull myself together and I left the bar as soon as I could. It took me a while to realize that I had almost fainted, something that’s never happened before or since.

Since then, I’ve had to have IVs twice. The first one was unsuccessful because I got nauseous and couldn’t handle it anymore; they gave up and fortunately I didn’t need it after all. The second (when I had my wisdom teeth removed) worked, but only after I had nitrous oxide and was off my head: they had wanted to insert it before the nitrous kicked in, and I flat-out refused.

Looking back, I can recall only one needle that didn’t bother me. I had gone to emergency because of a mysterious, excruciating pain in my abdomen, and was finally feeling the effects of some blessed Tylenol 3. Between the pain and the medication I was exhausted. Someone came to draw blood, and though I looked away when the needle was inserted, I watched calmly while the blood filled the vial. But again, I was high.

I have needle phobia. It’s not a classic phobia resulting from a bad experience in my childhood, which could be overcome with therapy. What I have is a vasovagal reaction (hence the pronounced dizziness), which is entirely out of my control. It’s not about being weak or overly sensitive. It’s just a physiological fact. I’m not aware of any treatment that can overcome a vasocagal reaction, and so for me, needle play will always be “no way”.