Running The Gauntlet: A Summary from Born This Way Intern Maya Coe

Our piercing intern, Maya was assigned to read “Running the Gauntlet” by Jim Ward as part of her piercing history study. This is her summary and recommendation, in her own words. Enjoy!

“Running the Gauntlet

An Intimate History of the Modern Body Piercing Movement

By Jim Ward

Summary written by Maya Coe

Running the Gauntlet is a 169 page encyclopedic treatment of the history of body piercing. However, this is not at all an unappealing fact feast. Jim Ward courageously reveals his history of childhood trauma in this semi-autobiographical revelation of his life. Considered the “Granddaddy” of the body piercing movement, Ward comes alive in these pages as he explains his devotion to bringing this movement into the light of day.

For me in the beginning of my internship, I had no idea who Jim Ward, or what the Gauntlet was until my piercing family assigned me to read this book. Today, I am fully embarrassed to admit what I didn’t know – as I feel anyone interested in this as a career should not only know who he is but understand his relationship to the modern body piercing movement.

When I was 15 year old, I decided to pierce my own nipple. I used ice cubes, a safety pin and a friend with a shaky hand. I held the ice cube on for about an hour. So there I lay pinching up my tissue and my friend taking several unsuccessful stabs at getting the safety pin to exit the skin. After about 15 minutes of this, I became agitated and grabbed the safety pin. I was absolutely going to get the job done… I laughed out loud at that memory after reading the author’s personal rendition of his first piercing. Running the Gauntlet is the best read I’ve encountered on piercing history as it weaves a personal narrative that draws you in completely.

Running the Gauntlet explains Jim Ward’s development of a procedure for safe and sterile piercing that brought it out of the back alley and into the realm of professional and reliable safety for clients. He teaches the invention of techniques and tools necessary to launch the modern piercing movement. Ward is the one with the idea to take a hypodermic needle and reconfigure it to meet the needs of a professional piercer. I found interesting the description of the efforts needed to find adequate materials for jewelry that the body would accept.  The trial and error people had to undergo in a process of elimination to get the right metals (and shapes) helps the reader feel grounded in the history of piercing… When I think about how few people were interested in this movement when Ward began his quest to develop his techniques and formulate his plans for opening shop; and now, how many are interested due to his influences: I am in awe.

This is not a book for closed minded, judgmental people. The value of the author’s vital life experiences would be lost to them. For the rest of us it is honest, and emotionally gratifying. This book will stand the test of time for every apprentice, professional practitioner of piercing, and the other interested souls wanting to explore the joy that is body piercing. As for me, by having read this book, I feel it has greatly enriched my appreciation of the history behind the career I have chosen. We can thank Ward for describing the difference between abuse, and the desire to enhance experiences and adorn the body by consenting customers through a technically masterful piercing experience.


~ by Born This Way Body Arts on January 29, 2013.

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