Social Question

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Please help me understand the attraction of tattoos, can you?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (25562 points ) March 26th, 2012

I mean no offense to anyone, but I do not understand the attraction of tattoos. I have a friend whose entire back is covered in an ornate tattoo, and now she wants a half sleeve.

I don’t get it.

Why do people want to mark their bodies like that?

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44 Answers

Trillian's avatar

Psychologically? Group identification, (perceived) prestige, artistic instincts.

Jude's avatar

People like what they like. Some find them find them to be a work of art.

Beauty is in the eye…

tinyfaery's avatar

Look. There are going to be lots of things in this world you are not going to understand. Motivations. Desires. You don’t have to. Just respect that some people see tattoos as religious symbols, gang symbols, personal expression, a canvas, a way of adorning their body…

CaptainHarley's avatar

I always wanted to get a tattoo, but when I was single I was spending all my money on women, and when I was married I was spending all my money on ONE woman. Now that I’m remarried we decide jointly where our money goes, and “having a tattoo” is not one of the destinations! : )

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

If done properly, I think they’re beautiful. To me, it’s sort of like jewelry, only permanent. There’s no real need to wear jewelry, yet many of us do so either because we think it looks nice, or because we want to send a message, like, “I’m married.”

Sometimes, people are attracted to “tribute” tattoos, with which they pay homage to someone or something special in their lives.

I went through a lot of pain to have my daughters’ names tattooed down both sides of my ribcage; it’s like a tribute to them, or one way of showing how much I adore them. My oldest daughter got to go with me, and saw the pain I voluntarily went through to have her name done. She loves it, and she strokes that side all the time.

Blackberry's avatar

@tinyfaery has a point. I don’t get it, either. I think our bodies are cool and amazing already, so why change them. But I also realize the diversification in society is normal and natural as well.

I have a love/hate relationship with tattoos that I don’t fully understand. Maybe it’s because the art is so cool, but I was never an art person and wish I could understand any art more. So I’m relegated to admiring from afar like someone watching an exclusive club that I wished I could be “in” on, lol.

whitecarnations's avatar

I’m partial to “flash/old school” tattoos. It is kind of a culture within the tattoo community. For me a tattoo doesn’t even have to be deep in meaning. But indeed I do have meanings behind my tattoos. The aesthetic of tattoos can probably be summed up as a staple in counter culture. My art history professor just told us today that some of the oldest found frozen peoples of ancient times even had tattoos. I would say it’s strictly a means of messages with out saying anything. People send messages with their style everyday with out having to explain it. Most people either like it or they don’t. I didn’t like them originally, and then I read about it, and I saw the different styles, and I just flat out stumbled upon it. Nothing like, “Damn, Kobe Bryant has a tattoo, I want a tattoo.” But also I think seeing it on artists and musicians made me fall in love with the aesthetic. I wouldn’t say it’s a mark of belonging in a certain club either. I know some people who love tattoos, but don’t participate in it’s “grimey” culture. I also know those who love to show theirs off, and those who love to keep it under wraps. I love your question because I used to question it too :D Also a reason I did it was to help me remember. As I have a black eye and can look rather “unfriendly” getting a peacock, rose, and gypsy helps me contrast my natural demeanor in public. Because inside, I love really feminine stuff. Also to add! (because I love this question so much!) you can get a good read off of peoples tattoos. Let’s say you are in a store, and an employee has a tattoo, not that it’s important but you can just get a quick read, or an appreciation or hint of what they are about. I’m not saying it is definite but it is one such way to read a person. Also, that kind of reading allows for messages to cross without having to get into a deep conversation with the employee. I guess as an artist myself, it’s just something visually attractive, especially when you learn about the skill of blending, drawing straight accurate lines, art design etc.

deni's avatar

It’s just something different, and to some people it’s “why not?” they can be creative and expressive and interesting, whether or not you think they are, the person probably does. And maybe they like it and don’t care what you think. Just possibilities. I have no tattoos but appreciate a good tattoo on another person and someday aspire to have a snake wearing a vest rolling a large donut tattooed on me somewhere.

Aethelflaed's avatar

I don’t know that it always has to do with making your body better. Some are about having something with you, like @WillWorkForChocolate‘s children’s names or a religious symbol, all the time, no matter what. A lot of the ones I see are more artistic things, like this and this where, why do artists ever create anything? (Because, gorgeous, because, it moved me, because, I can).

I think the same can be said of piercings. But we don’t keep asking women, aren’t your earlobes beautiful enough just as they are, must you mar them like that?

Ponderer983's avatar

I have a tattoo, and it wasn’t until I had a good enough reason to put something permanent like that on my body that I got one. It wasn’t a whim, or an artistic expression, it’s a permanent remind of my late father and the struggle he went through. It’s not for other people or for attention. It was something deeply personal, and this is how I chose to remember him by. In fact, I didn’t tell anyone I was getting it. I just walked into the place and got it done. I see it everyday and remember him. That’s why I did it, but i can’t speak for other people.

jonsblond's avatar

Sometimes a person is young and drunk, or high (or both) and they think it will be cool to get a tattoo.

just my experience. I would love to have one of the two tattoos I have removed because I only got the stupid thing after a long night of partying with friends. (friends I haven’t seen in over 20 years)

digitalimpression's avatar

How is it different then someone liking sushi, or not liking cheese?

Sunny2's avatar

I know at least one person who got several tattoos, each symbolizing something extremely eventful in her life. Have you noticed that they are more prevalent in some life callings than others. Chefs, for instance. Sailors, wrestlers, I can attest to. Have you noticed others?

Nimis's avatar

To understand the attraction of tattoos, you might have to rewind a bit.

Do you understand self-expression?
Do you understand fashion?
Do you understand art?
Do you understand the appeal of pain?
Do you understand the appeal of ritual?
Do you understand the appeal of permanence?

If you answered no to any of these, it might be hard to explain.

downtide's avatar

There are a few factors for me:

- Carrying a piece of artwork around on my skin.

- Symbolism of the image chosen

- Rite of passage/marking a significant event in my life

- A teeny little bit of exhibitionism

MollyMcGuire's avatar

There is no attraction for me and I do not find it in any way attractive.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I believe I may have struck a nerve with some jellies with this question.

@Trillian : Okay, I can understand that.
@Jude : Yes, some tattoos are indeed beautiful, and others must be beautiful in the eye…
@tinyfaery : I mean no disrespect to anyone, but please, your reply comes across to me as if you think you’re speaking to an 8-year-old. That’s just my perception, and I am flawed.
@CaptainHarley : I can understand why money would be a factor. I know that some of the finer tattoos cost over $1000.
@WillWorkForChocolate : Thank you for sharing the story of your tattoos.
@Blackberry : Diversity is a word I am intimate with. I like that word.
@whitecarnations : Thank you. That was thorough and informative.
@deni : Expressing creativity – I believe I’m beginning to understand.
@Aethelflaed : Those pictures are amazing. Thank you. I don’t understand the correlation with piercing one’s ears though, but that’s probably just me.
@Ponderer983 : Thank you. That is a touching story.
@jonsblond : I hope you can have that one you dislike removed.
@digitalimpression : I must be missing something, because I don’t understand how liking certain foods is at all comparable to permanent designs on one’s skin.
@Sunny2 : I haven’t really thought about how tattoos may be prevalent in some occupations.
@Nimis : Do I understand self-expression? Better than you might imagine; I’m an actor. Do you understand fashion? I got the gay fashion gene. Do you understand art? Would you like to come up and see my paintings? Do you understand the appeal of pain? I’m bipolar 1, so yes. Do you understand the appeal of ritual? Extremely well. Do you understand the appeal of permanence? I read Shakespeare for fun. Many of his sonnets are about the permanence of words as opposed to the aging of the body, so yes, I do.
@downtide : Only a teeny bit of exhibitionism? I bet you’re a show off. ~
@MollyMcGuire : Straight and to the point; Thank you.

bkcunningham's avatar

I think it is like the penquin effect in a lot of cases. It is a trend just like certain fashions. The current trend really got its started and became popular in the late-1980s with the body manipulations like cosmetic surgeries, silicone, piercing your nose or multiple piercings in the ears, crazy contact lenses, etc.The only thing is, it isn’t something you can put away and look back on and laugh at yourself for wearing and thinking it was so cool at the time.

Jude's avatar

For me, I have no interest in getting one. It’s like wearing the same sweater day after day, after day.

But, when I see a friend with a great tattoo, I ask them if I can have a good look at it (not if it’s near their naughty bits), and I’m in awe of the artwork. I definitely can appreciate that.

Blackberry's avatar

Here is some awesome work. This is really beautiful, and I would have no problem being attracted to this person, but a part of me still asks why they had to do this.

Jude's avatar

They lost me at the pads of the fingers (darkened). That’s horrid. The rest is beautiful.

The pads of the fingers look like burnt marshmallows.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@Blackberry I think that’s just henna, and it washes off. The Indian cultures do that for weddings. It’s not a permanent tattoo.

tinyfaery's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake If you don’t know by now what to expect of me by now, you have not been paying attention.

Ponderer983's avatar

@Jude Yeah that’s Henna

Leanne1986's avatar

I do understand the attraction to tattoos but I don’t know if I can explain it enough to help you understand. I don’t have tattoos, mainly because my boyfriend isn’t a fan and I was with him long before I started to really want a tattoo. I like original tattoos that tell me something about the person, what they are passionate about, memories etc. I know plenty of people that have generic tattoos (tribal, butterflies, roses etc please note that I don’t think all tattoos of this nature are generic and I am sure some have meaning to the person sporting them) that they got at a young age and fully admit that no real thought went into them. I am not interested in these as they tend to be tattoos for the sake of tattoos. However, if I see a tattoo that appears to represent something that the person feels strongly about I can’t help but feel sucked in by that.

All the tattoos I would like represent the ocean (I would like a mermaid, a lighthouse and a pirate ship) as I have a strong family connection and love of large masses of water.

fundevogel's avatar

It’s sounds to me like it’s just an aesthetic that doesn’t correspond to your own. That’s normal. People have all sorts of tastes and plenty of them don’t coincide. That’s just how it is and that’s how it will always will be.

Personally, I don’t understand how you expect other people to justify their aesthetic tastes to you. Do I ask you to justify how you dress or why you’re attracted to your partner? You could explain your attraction to me, but if it’s not compatible with my own aesthetic knowing why you like something isn’t going to make me like it.

I am an art person, I’ve been steeped in it since I was a child and have been exposed to a wide range of the arts—visual and performing. I rarely participate in questions about art because it bothers me that so many people trash art that doesn’t appeal to them personally. There’s plenty in this world that just isn’t my cup of tea, but it is somebody’s cup of tea and that’s all that matters. Art and beauty aren’t defined by any one person’s tastes.

You don’t need to understand why people like tattoos any more than I need to understand why people like Thomas Kinkade paintings. We just need to understand that these things do bring enjoyment to other people recognize that is where their value lies.

Nimis's avatar

I’m not saying that if you don’t understand the appeal of tattoos that you’re not a good actor or that you dress in the dark.

Understanding something goes beyond appreciating some part of it for yourself. It’s also understanding that there is a wide range of tastes and interests.

@fundevogel Kinkade is not art.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@fundevogel Tattoo of a Kinkade painting.

fundevogel's avatar

@Nimis Art is subjective. I’m perfectly willing to accept damn near anything as art. Doesn’t mean it’s good art. Of course, Fountain is bad-ass art.

@Aethelflaed MY MIND HATH BEEN BLOWN

Nimis's avatar

@fundevogel Sure, art is subjective. But any art has to have some soul in it. Thomas Kinkade is soulless.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I am fascinated by the discussion this question has caused mainly because I’m fascinated by the emotions that art brings up. This question was about art in general, and the debate it engendered devolved into insults. It was hilarious.

fundevogel's avatar

@Nimis Eh, I won’t hold it against him. I’m pretty sure I don’t have a soul either.

fundevogel's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake I avoided that question like the plague. I gave up trying to impose a definition on art in highschool. It’s fair too personal, subjective and amorphous to pin down.

digitalimpression's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake You don’t understand because you don’t like them…. just as I don’t understand how anyone could eat crab. It’s all about preference. Surprise! We’re all different!

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@digitalimpression : Where have I written in this question or this thread or anywhere else on Fluther that I don’t like tattoos? Please, read my response to @deni above. I am beginning to understand the attraction.

What I do not understand on this thread are the assumptions that a few jellies are making about my likes and dislikes.

ro_in_motion's avatar

I certainly don’t ‘get’ tattoos either.

Yes, they can be beautiful but who hasn’t seen an older person where their inks have migrated or blurred/darkened and dulled with the years? I am old enough that I remember that when people got tattoos they were drunk at the time. Today, clearly, that’s not so.

If I have something permanent to say, I put it up on a wall. Why? Because I change my mind and it’s far easier to take something off the wall than off my body. I have yet to have something on the wall that stays on the wall for more than a few years.

There’s a part of tattoos that I don’t like as they seem to say: ‘Look at me, this is important!’. It seems at times like it’s a little child coming up to me with a drawing and saying ‘See what I did!’. You compliment them but know that it will be meaningless to them in a few days/weeks/years.

I lived in a place where there were a LOT of people with a LOT of tattoos. Pure peer pressure made me consider getting one. However, when looking at tattoos I realised that there was nothing I wanted to stamp myself with. I am an evolving changing person. Even the art I have in my living room will probably be relegated to the attic or given to others some day.

I love being flexible. When I meet people, they have to get to know me. I have friends with very opposite views to mine. If I had a tattoo saying what I might feel about, say, their religion, I would never have gotten to know them as people. Tattoos can be – and often are – polarising.

The bigger issue here, for me, is the treatment of the OP. I am brand new to Fluther and I wonder if I will fit in. If someone doesn’t ‘get’ something and asks for help, give it to him. It was a positive question that garnered a large number of what I view as negative answers.

I still still seriously consider getting a tattoo – albeit it for comedic effect. I want a tattoo of a freckle on my shoulder. ;) However, I must add, I would get sick of the joke after a while and would cease talking about it.

If you ‘get’ tattoos, cool. I don’t. This is also cool.

Jude's avatar

Check out my avatar. It’s not me, but, I think that it’s beautiful.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Jude : I agree. That is beautiful.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@Jude Oh, Lordy, that’s one painful tattoo. The ribcage is sensitive enough on its own, but that’s a long tat and has lots of detail. Ouch.

Paradox25's avatar

Personally they’re not my thing, both for me and anybody I would consider dating. I find no real attraction value in them but it doesn’t bother me if someone has maybe one or two smaller tattoos. To each their own I say.

Earthgirl's avatar

It’s funny but I have known a couple men who have distinct aversions to tattoos. It’s not just that they don’t like them, it actually turns them off. One Valentine’s day, before I was married, I played a joke on my now husband. I put a temporary tattoo on myself in an intimate spot. Not only did he not laugh he thought it was terrible. I couldn’t believe how extreme his reaction was! We had our first fight over it. I thought he should lighten up. He felt I shouldn’t expect him to laugh or anything since I knew he hated tattoos. Sigh. My mother was so extreme that she felt that a tattoo was defacing yourself. I am somewhere in the middle. I don’t like extreme tattoos which are very large. I like smaller inconspicuous ones. Of course, it all depends on how nicely it’s done. But all in all I agree with ro_in_motion I am constantly evolving and changing and I don’t know that I would want something permanent marking my skin that way. To each his own, right? I cannot explain what goes on with people who can’t seem to get enough tattoos. I am curious if it’s a phase in a person’s life and how many people regret it later. I hear that tattoo removal is a booming business now.

digitalimpression's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake If you were attracted to them you wouldn’t have to ask what the attraction is. If that implication isn’t clear in the question than I’m a purple reindeer that farts out candy every time someone wins at checkers.

Ponderer983's avatar

^ can I rent you for parties?

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