Tattoos, Piercings and Boys

Tattoos, piercings and boys – I don’t even know how to get into this one but as far as I can see it, it all gels and works together nicely. But not according to Lihle, my friend. We were in conversation about journeying together to her sister’s graduation in the UK, when I excitedly shared my thoughts on potentially getting another tattoo done there. She shook her head, hardly turned to look at me and with a firm voice and only catching a glimpse of me from the corner of her left eye, said, “Billz, men don’t want this thing’. “This thing” of course being tattoos and as she had alluded once, the piercings too. 

I considered that perhaps her conclusions about what men want (and don’t want) has a lot to do with her ‘plain-Jane’ self that she is yes, comfortable with, but also, that she is convinced is what men are all interested in . No make-up, dreadlocked, nails not done, only two piercings per ear, no tattoos and just good old clean. Which is not too different from me except of course, I have an additional three tattoos and a nose ring. Three clean nicely done tattoos and a tiny stud on my nose. Does this level of neatness even matter? Look, I reckon Lihle long concluded that a simple and natural look leans more towards what men want and therefore anything that suggests a worldly character decorated with tattoos and piercings is less desirable. That’s me. That’s us, so-called ‘likers of things’. And yet I thought we were just expressive hearts and lovers of art but alas, some of us are genuine ‘likers of things’.

Photo Credit: Prince Akachi

I guess I should be glad that as things stand, I’m still somewhat acceptable and stand a good chance of getting hitched. But anything more spells trouble. Thanks Lihle, noted. But also, whatever dude. It’s already problematic that one must entertain comments such as, “Men don’t want this thing”, and it’s also problematic that we must still entertain conversations on what women should and shouldn’t do in order to be any more attractive to men. But not now on those politics. What I do want to interrogate though, is why tattoos (and piercings) on women come across as unattractive to men and I guess generally to other people who are repelled by a woman clad in ink and piercings. Someone between my siblings (bloody agent) told my mother about my first tattoo before she could even see it. I remember she had sent me a very sharp and stern message expressing her disapproval of what I had done and alluded to Satan’s ways which I had fallen victim of. My poor mother’s heart. I didn’t respond to her message and spoke to her only two weeks after her message and when I eventually went home and had her see it, she displayed a level of calm that insinuated relief. Not an outrageous tattoo, I guess.

For some people, tattoos are fascinating and those who have them go further into loving the endorphin rush that comes with getting inked and placing permanence on significant moments in their lives. Some perceive tattoos on women as sexy but this also depends on where on the body they are placed. My brother, for instance, hates chest tattoos because “they’re too much”. I reckon though, that he imagines the tattoo artist in that ‘private’ space and doesn’t quite like the idea (or he just shudders at the level of pain in that area)… We won’t even talk about the thigh area… Then there are those who loath tattoos and disregard them as being any form of art and find them unattractive, basically. And then, interestingly, on the other hand, the same people who couldn’t care less about tattoos find them particularly beautiful, intricate and intriguing on women. Another friend of mine says that a tattoo does not make one any more interesting than the other and that it’s not everyone who feels the need to wear their stories and scars for the world to see. A bit of spice there, right?

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When it comes to dating, people of course have preferences and men have definitions of beauty and how they prefer the female body to be presented and represented. Numerous studies conducted on men’s perceptions of women with tattoos reveal that inked women are generally perceived in a negative light. And I can believe this just from my own experience. I’m generally surrounded by men who couldn’t care less about whether the female body is decorated in ink or not. But then of course, there’s always just that one or at least a handful of them that will throw stones and denigrate the woman and her decisions.

A good friend of mine, Thami, after spotting my latest tattoo, told me clearly that I wouldn’t be allowed in his home, that they’d probably keep me far out by the gate – not in their home with my tattoos. Never! I laughed at his outburst, even the way he had expressed himself, with all the seriousness he could master on his face. He praised my boyfriend for being a ‘nice guy’, what with not dumping me with my additional tattoos and piercing. And come to think of it, when I went for my first date with my him, I deliberately wore a long-sleeved shirt to cover up my tattoo. I gave up on covering my thick and long dreadlocks and so I let them hang. All this because I was aware of the stereotypes and judgement that I may fall prey to so thought to save myself. The plan was to just go on the date; no real plan for the aftermath, I mean, the tattoo would still be there. Then it happened. The tattoo showed itself as my one sleeve dropped down a bit from my wrist. He spotted it and immediately asked to see it. Game over! Well, not so much, he was chilled with it and chastised me for thinking he was that ‘backward’. Phew! 

Photo Credit: Dom Hill

Anyways, as I was saying, women with tattoos are more often than not perceived in a negative light. Common conclusions made about them are that they are less attractive, less honest, less religious, less intelligent and tragically and sadly, more promiscuous. I mean, can you believe it? This is so bizarre! How does one make so many conclusions because these are evidently only some of them? But then again, I consider how women have always been unfairly interpreted and judged based on the clothes they wear, the hairstyles they have, whether or not they wear make-up and on the lip colour they choose, their nail colour and nail length… it just doesn’t stop! We are all at risk as human beings, of being judged on what we decide to display for the world to see but in most cases, women are not only judged differently from men but more harshly. What is it with us glorious beings? 

But in response to Lihle, I don’t think it’s as simple as “Men don’t want this thing” because some men approach tattooed women purely because they conclude that they are more sexually receptive and even forward. I’m half giggling as I write this because why is life honestly this complicated, interesting and even unfair! These things vary I reckon, different strokes for different folk so whilst tattoos, piercings and boys gel for one, they might be the worst thing for another. 

So what’s your experience inked girl? What with your piercings too, tell us all about it.

Photo Credit: Jazmin Quaynor
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