Although Quinn has no interest in getting another, she loves showing it to her grandchildren.
Despite the growing acceptance and popularity of body art, it still prompts strong reactions. “People are disgusted, intrigued, or astonished, but rarely indifferent,” says one man in his twenties who has debated removing the tattoo. Some see body art as provocative, an intimacy made public. “Tattoos blur the line between public and private,” says YouBeauty Attraction Expert Viren Swami, Ph.D. “The process of getting a tattoo is incredibly personal, whereas the act of wearing a tattoo can often be a very public affair. Interestingly, though, when asked, most people with tattoos don't think they got tattoos to 'stand out in a crowd' or 'to have a beauty mark.' So, I don't think it's an overtly sexual statement,” he says. However, he notes that people do get tattoos to be unique.
Jesse Lee Denning, a 30-year-old public relations representative with a Masters degree in art history, has published a calendar with twelve photos of herself revealing a lot of skin covered in extensive tattoos. She’s also graced the cover of tattoo magazines. Her tattoos make her “feel more beautiful,” she says. “It’s 100 percent vanity—I’m not into pain.”
As covered as she is, she’s nonetheless deliberately kept her tattoos in areas she can cover up, and she kept them under wraps for her first meeting with her boyfriend’s parents. “People do judge you,” says Denning. Although women are as likely as men to get tattooed like Denning they tend to pick private spots—for example, the small of the back, a rare location for a man’s tattoo, says Swami. That may be because women hear more criticism, especially from their fathers and doctors. When strangers compare a woman with a tattoo to one without, they’re more prone to guess that the one with tattoos sleeps around or drinks heavily, Swami has found.
The bad-girl image may not be all wrong, though it’s increasingly outdated. Full-time college students with four or more tattoos (or seven or more body piercings) are more likely to report smoking marijuana regularly, using other illegal drugs occasionally and a history of arrests. To a lesser degree, they admit to cheating on college work, drinking in binges and having more sex partners, according to a 2009 study of 1,753 students drawn from two major state universities and two expensive and selective religiously affiliated colleges. The authors of the same study, however, noted that 14 percent of the respondents, who were successful enough to be in college, had at least one tattoo. Swami has four himself, including a quote from an Indonesian poet on his left forearm, and plans to get more.
The positive effects from receiving a tattoo last at least three weeks, Swami has discovered, though there is no research on how long that boost continues. And negative reactions can hurt self-esteem, interfering with the tattoo’s positive effect, Swami notes. After her first tattoo, for example, Marnie Galloway’s usually supportive father said he was “disappointed in her,” a “harsh rebuke” for him,” she says. Now, Galloway, a book artist, gets off her bike a half block away from her part-time secretarial job to cover up her arm tattoo.
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