A tongue piercing is a body piercing usually done directly through the center of the tongue. Since its decline in popularity around 2011, it has seen a recent upsurge making it now the second most popular piercing amongst young women aged 18-25 in 2019. It remains unpopular amongst men. Standard tongue piercings, or one hole in the center of the tongue, is the most common and safest way to have the tongue pierced.
There is a history of ritual tongue piercing in both Aztec and Maya cultures, with illustrations of priests piercing their tongue and then either drawing blood from it or passing through rough cords designed to inflict pain. There is no evidence of permanent or long term tongue piercing in Aztec culture, however; despite the practice of many other permanent body modifications, it was done to honor the gods.
Piercing the tongue has a long history in religious and performance practices. Mesoamericans such as the Aztecs practiced this as well as other perforations as a part of offerings to their deities. Asian Spirit Mediums of the Far East practiced tongue piercing as an offering and proof of trance state.
Permanent or long term piercing of the tongue is part of the resurgence of body piercing in contemporary society. The ready availability of high quality, surgical steel barbell style jewelry is associated with the emergence of this piercing in the 1980s. As with many piercing innovations, the origin of this piercing is associated with Gauntlet, the first professional body piercing studio in the United States, formerly located in Los Angeles, California. Elayne Angel, the first person awarded the Master Piercer’s certificate by Jim Ward, body piercing pioneer and founder of Gauntlet, is commonly associated with the promotion and popularity of this piercing. Also note that the tongue piercing is not gender specific. It was not created specifically for just a man or just a woman. Popular names for tongue piercing include tongue ring, which is a misnomer, as only rarely are rings worn in tongue piercings.