Pop Culture

Tattoo Taboo

By Elisha Jones

Photo by Elisha Jones

Tattoos have gradually made an impact with their ever-growing take over into the pop-culture. They’re a conversation starter and give strangers an insight into your life. But even during this unity, people have found a way to separate men and women once again.

Tattoos have been a controversial topic in the Western society since they were introduced. Some people love them, some people hate them and if you’re anything like my Nan, you’ll nod and say, “very nice, but not for me.” 

Tattoos date back to around 3100BC, and have been practiced around the world. There is evidence for this on mummified skin, with the oldest discovery of tattooed skin being on Ötzi the Iceman who was found with 61 tattoos dating all the way back to 3370BC-3100BC. Although they have been around for thousands of years, they didn’t really move over to the UK until the 19th century. Sailors started to get them to remember their travels around the globe. Soon British soldiers were encouraged to acquire them to promote military pride and to help identify bodies of those killed in action. This then led people to believe that higher ranking soldiers then inspired the upper class to start getting them, with many of them tattooing their family crest or coat of arms on them to show their pride.  

Photo by Elisha Jones

A lot of the time tattoos are still deemed unprofessional and intimidating, with a lot of people’s educational and class status still being judged; even with how popular they are now. People who don’t like tattoos often have strange reactions towards people who do, and make assumptions about people with them, and they aren’t usually nice. Studies have also shown that women get judged more negatively than men do, it’s also shown that women are seen as less attractive but more sexually active, however, a man is more likely to approach a woman with tattoos as they are seen as ‘easier’ and they think that they will be more likely to sleep with them sooner. Studies have also found that even a man with tattoos are more likely to look down on women with tattoos and I have experienced this first hand.  

Working in a pub as a young woman, I’ve heard all kinds of remarks from older men (this isn’t a generalised comment, it’s just what I’ve experienced), and my tattoos have often received the brunt of these comments. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of lovely compliments from men and women about my tattoos but it’s not the kind words you are likely to remember. A man came up to the bar for a drink (this was pre COVID of course) and he pointed at my arm, then looked me in the eye and bluntly said “you were SO much prettier before you got them.” I just shrugged because I was gobsmacked that a stranger could say that to someone, I don’t have any tattoos on my neck or face either so my appearance has not changed in the slightest, and the most frustrating part of this was that he had visible tattoos on his arms! I also had a male co-worker with nearly a full sleeve who never got anything like that, we once stood next to each other and someone complimented his tattoos whilst looking at mine in disgust, and I think this all emphasises how men want women to remain pure and innocent looking.  

Photo by Elisha Jones

I asked my Instagram followers and Facebook friends to tell me if they had ever experienced any negative comments in regards to their tattoos, I had very little men comment yet lots of women reply, and you could see that the women were all collecting the same sort of remarks. Receiving blatant comments as simple as “I don’t like women with tattoos”, a lot of women said things like they were told it doesn’t look “classy” or makes them look “common”. Another one the girls wrote was a lot was: “what if your future boyfriend doesn’t like them?”, “how will you get a boyfriend with that?” and “how will you look on your wedding day?” All of these slurs revolve around what will make men happy, which links back to the studies that found women are insulted more often than men.  

Although tattoos have become more popular and less controversial, have they also given people another reason to judge others? Tattoos have come so far over the past 20 years but still have a long way to go when it comes to being the new norm.  

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