You know what I’m talking about… that spot in the small of your back.. ahh yes, the Tramp Stamp.
It's true. Many of the lower back tattoos out there can be nauseatingly similar, can't they. That's probably where the problem starts. They typically have sweeping lines that are supposed to contour the curves of the wearers body, which certainly can be seen as "adornment intended to entice." Unfortunately, because these pieces are so cliche, artists are tired of slapping them on. They are often not drawn to the right size, or contours. They frequently contain standard elements like flowers or butterflies or dolphins. Sometimes, when these pieces aren't falling into these predictable patterns, they get just downright creepy or gross.
The association that is automatically made about about a woman with a piece of ink on the lower back, is that she's "easy".
I guess part of it is a joke about doin' it doggie style. Another basis of the snide remarks is that the tattoos are typically boring and under-thought. Since tattoos are permanent, some folks assume they should require a lot of thought, and if someone would slap a tattoo on themselves without much thought, surely they'll fuck just about anyone, right?
...what a bizarre and self-serving thought process!
While a great deal of lower back tattoos we've seen done since the fad reared it's head int the 90's totally lack inspiration and look completely phoned in, it is NOT ok to verbalize your "hilarious" observations about someone's ink.
It doesn’t seem necessary to even bother to start by saying that it’s as inappropriate for one to comment on the placement and subject matter of someone’s tattoos as it is for one to comment on an unfortunate mole or birthmark. Simply because they chose it, and weren’t saddled with it at birth does NOT give anyone the right to try to make them feel shitty about it. Their tattoo is a personal choice, just like your haircut, both of which could have been a mistake- I don’t know because I can’t see your hair right now, but you certainly wouldn’t like it if someone told you that your new ‘do made you look like a giant douchebag, right?
So, Unspoken Lesson One: Don’t be a dick.
But you knew that rule already.
So now let’s address the assumption that’s made with the Tramp Stamp. For some reason, having something tattooed on your lower back means that you’re “lose” and “slutty”.
Tattoos DO have meaning, and many of them mean even more when placed on certain body parts. Sailor tattoos are notorious for placement/symbolism connections. For instance, the “Pig and Chicken” combo is usually found on feet to ward off drowning at sea. A variation has the pig on the left knee and cock on the right: “Pig on the knee, safety at sea. A cock on the right, never lose a fight.” So it’s true that placement may have something to do with meaning. But we know that correlation is not necessarily causation. The lower back is not an indicator of how often the wearer is willing to get it on, because that’s crazy. What a silly excuse for someone to comment on someone else's sexuality. It's almost a cheap shot.
The lower back is a fantastic place for a tattoo. First of all, they are typically less painful than other areas of the body with large canvas space, like ribs. It’s a pretty common place for first tattoos, because it’s meaty and hurts a little less. Another reason for a lower back tattoo is that it’s a huge, usually gently contouring surface. The beautiful lines of a woman’s body can be elegantly accentuated with perfectly placed tattoos on her curves. This area is giant canvas! It’s also an area that doesn’t change much over time. Tattoos on stomachs, ribs and breasts don’t always fair as well through changes a woman’s body naturally experiences.
Beyond that, it’s an area that is easily covered, not usually flashed around. Tops of backs are shown in today’s fashion more than lower backs, but there are still bikinis and crop-tops. It’s true, this is probably where some of the snide connotation enters the picture. We all can picture the chick sitting at the bar, their shirt pulled up so that a bit of their back is showing, their pants awkwardly hanging a little open and low so that you can see their panties… “SLUTS!”
… and hear me out on this… those are chicks who don’t have the money/time/fashion sense/need and/or desire to have their clothes tailored to fit them properly- aka- EVERYBODY. Any woman can tell you that finding a pair of jeans that actually fits their body is a near impossible task. Nothing wraps around our hips and ass just right, but wearing a muumuu would mean certain ostracization, so… we stick with blue jeans. This crap is a fact of life for most ladies. It happens to women without tattoos on their lower back, too.
Truly, the biggest downfall about slapping a mass-marketed concept like the 90's lower back tattoo, is running the risk that the artist is SO tired of doing cliche work, that he throws it down without much thought. If you want to use this part of your body for art inspired by anything in your life, DO IT! But consider working with an artist to create a piece that has some genuine meaning to you and accentuates the curves of your body. Ask your artist to help you do something unique, they'll be HAPPY to let their creative energy loose on your project! As we've already discussed, this is a large canvas, and artists have more freedom with design.
Whether you’re a feminist who genuinely knows that the patriarchy has taken this "Tramp Stamp shaming" crap way too far, or you’re one of the folks that enjoys being judgmental in a boring, cliché way and are now bummed about being called out- you might be thinking “I’ll bet SHE has a Tramp Stamp!”
Fuckin right I do!
It says “Aerosmith” and I’d be absolutely delighted to show it to Joe Perry while he bends me over a big velvet couch in some expensive penthouse room in Vegas. Whatever that guy wants to do, anytime he wants to do it is cool with me, ok, Joe?
Anyway, does that make me a slut?
No, it makes me a girl with a dream.
This blog post is to urge more kindness in daily life, and less judgement. It's to support those of you who want to put tattoos on your lower back, or who already have them. It's a reminder to allow your artist to use his skills and experience to create something personal and unique to you. I can only speak for myself. I put the "Aerosmith" tattoo there because I knew I wanted it to be very large and my body is imperfect. We could call it “fat”... but let’s not! Let’s say what the most tactful Tattoo Artists say, I’m a “curvy” chick.
Being curvy can limit your choices on large tattoo placement, if you allow it- and I do. Tattoos placed in curvy areas run the risk of not looking “as right” in any position other than the one the wearer was sitting in when it was laid down. (tattoos placed on thinner bodies that gain weight over time do not usually look as awkward)
I knew that I wanted to build on the lettering. I’ve had various ideas over the years, but I finally added a pinup who is sitting around smoking a joint and listening to my favorite Aerosmith record. The design now goes to the middle of my back, and I have a plan for an image I’d like the smoke from her joint to create on my upper back.
So anyway! Let’s all try to be a little more kind to each other, and stop making fun of people with tattoos on their lower backs. They aren’t REALLY “Tramp Stamps” unless they have an arrow pointing down and say “Stick it in Here." That would be a questionable decision, but I STILL wouldn't comment on it! It keeps life simple, not having to find a way to work unnecessary insults into daily conversation.
I think my lower back tattoo is fuckin rad.
You don’t have to agree with me. I wasn’t thinking of you at all when I got it… unless you’re Joe Perry, in which case, I was ABSOLUTELY thinking about you. ...call me!