10 Irrational Arguments Against Tattoos and my Responses to Them

Note to readers: If you have anything else to add to this list, please contact me. I want to hear your reasons for disliking tattoos since these are apparently just weak arguments from “the lowest common denominator” of people with negative opinions of tattoos. http://www.thetattooedengineer.com/?p=2405

I see a lot of arguments, questions or statements used against tattoos that really don’t make any sense at all. I am going to highlight 10 that I hear over and over again and explain why they are irrational.

  1. Would you put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari?
  2. Another variation is “Why put a bumper sticker on a Bentley?”

    My reaction to this question used to be something along the lines of, “It’s my Ferrari, and I’ll put a bumper sticker on it if I want to.” But, the more I think about the analogy, the less sense it actually makes.

    The Ferrari is obviously supposed to represent the human body. Every person on the planet has a body, and skin with space for tattoos. A Ferrari is an exotic sports car that a very, very small percentage of people on this earth can actually afford. How can the two even be compared? I am not a car, I am a living, breathing, thinking being.

    If a bumper sticker on a Ferrari is bad, how about a tattooed Ferrari?

    Or a Ferrari tattoo?

  3. What will happen when you get older?
  4. People use this argument from 2 general angles. First, they attack the way tattoos will age as your skin ages and wrinkles.

    My skin will sag and wrinkle in the same way regardless of whether I have tattoos or not. Fine details in a tattoo may become obscured and colors may fade, but tattoos do not run like wet paint and can always be touched up if necessary.

    With advances in ink, the days of black tattoos turning into unidentifiable green blobs are long gone and modern tattoos generally age very well if taken care of properly.

    The other thing I often hear is, “You are going to be embarrassed by your tattoos when you are old and in a nursing home.”

    Considering the fact that close to 40% of people in my age group have tattoos, if I do end up in a nursing home when I’m older, I expect to be in good company, surrounded by others with tattoos. We can sit around sharing stories about our ink and reminiscing about our youth. Some may even continue getting tattooed, no matter how old they are.

  5. People with tattoos are all just sheep, following the herd.

  6. I am the only person in my family with tattoos, a small percentage of my friends have tattoos, very few of my co-workers have tattoos, and only about 21% of the general population have tattoos. Would someone please explain exactly which herd I am following by getting tattooed?

    The biggest issue I have with this argument is that it’s just lumping all people with tattoos into one big group. It’s kind of like saying that all people that wear pants are just sheep, trying to fit in with the other pants wearing people of the world. Everyone knows that pants are made in many varieties. Well, the same is true about tattoos. All tattoos are not created equal. There are gang tattoos, prison tattoos, generic flash tattoos, and then there are extremely artistic and intricate tattoos.

  7. People with tattoos are rebels, trying to stand out from the crowd.
  8. Wait a second. You just said I was a sheep and trying to fit in, now I’m a rebel, trying to stand out. Which is it?

    The complete contradiction between these last two arguments is pretty much the only proof I need to show that blanket statements about people with tattoos will never apply to all tattooed people equally.

    A person who chooses to cover their face in tattoos is probably trying to stand out. But you cannot take an extreme example of something and try to universally apply it to all people who partake in the same activity at a different level. Like all things in life, there are varying degrees to be taken into consideration when talking about tattoos.

  9. The Bible says tattoos are wrong.
  10. I already covered this topic in detail in another post, but I’ll summarize here.

    First, the bible does not say modern day, non-ritualistic tattoos are wrong. Read Leviticus 19 in its entirety, and be aware of the context. Unless your tattoo is being done as part of a pagan ritual, you are doing nothing wrong by getting one.

    People also love to proclaim “the body is a temple” and should be treated as such. Have you seen many temples? This one looks pretty well decorated to me.

    “But god made you perfect, and a tattoo is a desecration of god’s work.”

    God made me with terrible vision and I chose to permanently alter my eyes by undergoing laser eye surgery. Should I be condemned for this as well? After all, I chose to make permanent changes to the perfect body I was born with.

    Another point that I hardly see brought up is the fact that not everyone follows the same religion. Why should someone care about a misinterpreted, ancient law, printed in a religious book that they have no association with? If you want to avoid tattoos due to your own religious beliefs, that is fine. But don’t try to push those beliefs onto others who may not even be of the same faith.

  11. You won’t be able to find a job.
  12. Follow my basic tattoo advice, don’t get tattoos that cannot easily be covered, and this will not be a problem.

    Of course there are exceptions to this. If you happen to be a Japanese government worker, being forced to reveal even your hidden tattoos, I can’t help you. It isn’t the tattoos fault that your rights are being infringed upon.

  13. Tattoos are responsible for the spread of Hepatitis C.
  14. Hepatitis is not something to be taken lightly. But tattoos that are done in reputable shops carry very little risk. The CDC concluded the following after studying this issue:

    “There is no definitive evidence that [hepatitis C] infections occur when sterile equipment is used,” comment the investigators. “Of note, no outbreaks of hepatitis C infection have been detected in the United States that originate from professional tattooing or piercing parlours.

    If you choose to get tattooed in your friends basement, all bets are off. Please be smart and leave the tattooing to the professionals.

  15. Tattoos are a waste of time and money.
  16. Variations include, “they are a waist of time and money.”
    My short answer to this is “It’s my time and my money and I can do what I please with it.”

    If I am capable of paying my bills and still have enough money to get tattooed, why should it be any of your business? And while tattoos may appear expensive at first glance, they really aren’t if you look at the cost over their lifetime.

    I started getting tattooed at 30 years old and let’s say I live up to the average life expectancy of a male, living in the U.S. and make it to 75. Even if I spent a total of $10,000 on tattoos, that would equate to $222 per year, $18.50 per month or about $0.61 per day.

    There are dozens and dozens of things that people spend far more money on, every day of their lives. Half of Americans spend an average of $1000 per year just buying their morning coffee.

  17. Tattoos are only for sailors, criminals and gang bangers.
  18. Please turn on the news, pick up a newspaper or look at the date in the corner of your computer screen. You see those last 4 digits that say 2012, that means we are well over 10 years into the 21st century. Times are changing, try not to get left behind.

  19. I have never seen a tattoo that enhanced a persons beauty.
  20. I typically see this comment made by men, in reference to women. “I have never seen a tattoo on a woman that made her look better.”, or some variant. It is usually followed by a statement about how they would never date a woman with tattoos.

    The world would be a very boring place if everyone had the same standards of beauty. People are attracted to a certain hair color, eye color, body type, or any number of physical attributes. I may not prefer a woman who dies her hair blonde, but I’m not going to spend my days ranting about it and trying to convince them that they are wrong. What turns one person on may repulse the next. It’s called variety. You know, the spice of life.

I could not possibly capture everything written against tattoos in a single blog post, so this list is just of few of the many things I see written on a regular basis. If anyone wants to share their own, I would be happy to respond to them here.

50 responses on “10 Irrational Arguments Against Tattoos and my Responses to Them

  1. Randy

    This blog is clearly confirmation bias where the author is attacking the lowest common denimator’s opinion against tattoos rather than real issues people have with tattoos, their culture, and the conformity of anti-conformity. If you want people to care about what you write, you shouldn’t pick on the weak arguments.

    1. Paul

      Yes, this blog is obviously biased and clearly this particular post was intentionally calling out the weak arguments. Weak or not, these are the arguments I see in comments across the web on a regular basis.

      These are the issues that the people speaking the loudest are talking about.

      If you can name some of the real issues people have with tattoos, I would be happy to address them.

      1. Woooohooo

        I am against tattoos. Normally, in the case of such things as clothing or styles, I am more aloof. The problem is permanency. Therefore, when I have kids and they start thinking about tattoos, I will need to have a real opinion on the subject as their decisions will affect them for the rest of their lives…and I’d much rather they steered clear of them.

        So if I do not really have a problem with different styles, why would I have a problem with tattoos? Style in the matters of visible adornments such has baggy clothes, tight clothes, or paper bags, is a superficial means of self expression. You are delivering an instant message about yourself through visible cues. The fact of the matter is, there isn’t much you can say superficially, it is a very weak form of communication (which is why superficiality is not held with a high regard). So let’s say someone wants to express that they are edgy and overt to social norms… well they will dress as such by not following trendy styles. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much it when it comes to expressing yourself through clothing, it’s all surface level. If you want to express yourself further, you’ll have to actually talk to someone. In realty though, you are asking people to judge you based on your appearance. While some people enjoy that idea, others like me don’t. This is not to say I do not express myself at all through my clothing or style, I just do not put much emphasis or importance on it. I am too complex to express myself through purchased goods… they simply compliment my personality.

        Now let’s talk about tattoos, body art that expresses who you are visually. You do not get a tattoo for your eyes only; you get it because you want others to see it as well. Don’t tell me it’s only a reminder of blah blah (it’s not worth remembering if you need a tattoo to remind you of it), you’re getting it because you want to put something on display. Let’s say that person is your grandmother that passed away (I’m using this example as such tattoos are usually used in these arguments), you loved her very much and you want to immortalize her on your ribcage. We’ll assume your grandmother approved of tattoos (otherwise that would be a pretty stupid way of representing the person), you are taking your dead grandmother you loved very much and putting her on display as a superficial means of self expression… It is in bad taste. Sure, your grandmother may be a part of who you are, but she is not part of your style and not meant to be used in other’s judgment of said style.

        Another thing tattoos can express are personality traits or interests. Interests are fleeting and there is no need to tattoo them on your body, it is a silly risk (especially when you’re younger). Personality traits also change (again, especially when you are younger), the risk is also silly. The important point is that you can express such things without the permanency. It is in my opinion that all individuals should continuously strive to improve themselves; therefore, you should never limit yourself to current traits. This renders tattoos useless; you will never assuredly capture yourself through one nor should you strive to. This is why so many regret their tattoos once they get older. My mother worked with a plastic surgeon who did tattoo removals, people don’t know that you can’t always remove a tattoo or that it can leave hefty scarring. She has told me many horror stories of people breaking down after learning that they will be stuck with those wings on their shoulders for the rest of their lives. When they were 18, they represented freedom, now they represent a simplistic cliché and a bad decision.

        The last styles of tattoo I will address are cultural. People get tattoos to show they are Italian or they were in the army. This is something about yourself that will never change, so the idea makes more sense and I have a tough time arguing against it. I don’t think tattoos are nice enough to warrant a permanent place on your body, but that is a matter of taste. The only thing I could say is that being part of an ethnicity or other social group doesn’t really express much about you, so why would you designate a permanent place for it instead of wearing an Italian t-shirt from time to time.

        Overall, I think current society is obsessed with superficiality. It is not a value that was instilled in me as a child, I was always taught you should express yourself through words, not your body or clothes. As I have grown up, I have noticed this has helped me develop much quicker because I was never limited by tangible representations of myself; I was free to change and be what I wanted at any given time. It also forced people to actually get to know me rather than make snap judgments based on what they saw. I think I have led a better life due to these ideals and I will want the same for my kids. In other words: “No, you will not get a tattoo of a dolphin on your ankle.”

        1. Paul

          I can apply almost everything you said to myself in spite of the fact that I have tattoos.

          Superficiality was not a value that was instilled in me as a child either. I do express myself through my words and actions and no matter how many tattoos I have, I am still free to change and be what I want at any given time. My tattoos are very much a part of me, but they do not define me by any means. Tattoos are never meant to be an all encompassing representation of a person, so there is no need to feel limited by them in any way. I am also too complex to fully express myself through purchased goods. My tattoos simply compliment my personality.

          My ink is a reminder, but you will never hear me say that it is ONLY a reminder. Of course I want people to see it and I like the way it looks. But don’t let that detract from the meaning behind it. Just because I have a tattoo to remind me of something, does not mean that I depend on the tattoo to remember. It is more of a catalyst that makes me think back. We all have events in our lives that helped shape up into the people we are today. The memories of these events are never truly forgotten, but how often do we actively think about them without some kind of trigger to remind you? These triggers come in many forms. They may be pictures, seeing a childhood friend, driving through an old neighborhood, watching your old favorite movie, hearing a song on the radio, or in the case of tattoos, looking in the mirror and seeing it on your skin.

          In my opinion, people who break down when they realize that their tattoos cannot be removed, were not educated enough on the tattoo process in the first place. No matter how much the removal process is improved upon, tattoos are intended to be permanent and should always be treated as such.

          Is there ever a case where people are not forced to get to know you, rather than making snap judgments? No matter how you dress or look, people will get a general first impression of you and from that point on it is up to your words and actions that either confirm or contradict those impressions. If I am dressed for work in khakis and a button down shirt, most people who meet me for the first time in that context would be likely assume that I did not have any tattoos.

          I live my life by all of the same ideals you mentioned, but also decided to get tattooed at a later stage of my life. The two are not mutually exclusive.

          1. Woooohooo

            Everything you say has some truth to it. I won’t pretend it doesn’t. That being said, I cannot accept that something that simply compliments your personality has a permanent place on your body. It’s like picking one shirt for the rest of your life… and most people doing it when they’re young and dumb.

            If I am going out of my way to make a statement with a tattoo (as I would with certain shirts as well… but again, not permanent), I am inviting others to pass judgment based on it. Dressing well won’t do that in the same way as a tattoo will. A tattoo is much bolder, it is meant to be. It’s yelling at everyone you meet “HEY! I’M A LION BECAUSE COURAGE PULLED ME THROUGH MY PAST STRUGGLES!” (if the tattoo is a lion… or a botched grizzly bear). In turn, you are highlighting whatever your tattoo symbolizes so you better be sure whatever it means remains relevant to you.

            You did not raise this as an argument, but I want to address it anyways. Other people can do what they want with their bodies, I really don’t care. Being forward thinking though, it is likely that I will run into this issue with at least one of my kids while they are young and dumb and I will need valid reasoning behind my concern. “I don’t think you’ve thought this through enough” or “You’re not old enough to make such a long term decision” will not sit well as making mature, well informed decisions is not a teenager’s forte. Once they’re older and more independent, I would leave them with a simple: “Personally, I wouldn’t do it.” I do not want to come off as someone who alienates tattooed people, I just think there are non-permanent ways of expressing yourself that are just as powerful. To me, it’s a mistake to commit yourself to something that is inherently superficial. If you really love your tattoo though, who am I to tell you otherwise?

          2. Paul

            Maybe I understated things when I said my tattoo simply complimented my personality. It is a lot more than that for me, but I was really just trying to make the point that it does not define my personality.

            A tattoo is permanent, but does not always have to be shown. When I get dressed in the morning I have a choice as to whether I want my tattoo to be visible or not. I can easily cover it with a long sleeved shirt, even with the sleeves rolled up to the elbow. I can show a small portion of it by wearing a short sleeved shirt, or I can make a more bold statement by wearing a tank top and showing even more.

            Many people I know have tattoos that are almost never visible in public. How is this screaming out to everyone that they meet? If I chose to get a tattoo on my face or forehead, then I would totally agree with you. But I made a conscious decision to place my tattoo where it can be covered with normal clothing.

            My advice to pass along to your kids when the time comes is to wait a minimum of 6 months, a year is even better, after choosing a design for a tattoo. If you haven’t changed your mind in that period of time, then and only then should you even think about getting it tattooed.

            This has been a really good discussion. It’s always refreshing to hear from people who are against tattoos, but still have an open mind on the subject.

      2. Rae

        I thought this blog was great! I hear these questions myself, and I’m not even 20 yet. Keep this up, it was really interesting to read and I feel so much better, thank you for this!

        1. Paul Post author

          Thank you Liz. I’m glad that all of the readers of this blog are now aware that “these are real problem”.

          Next time, rather than calling me dumb in broken english, why don’t you actually contribute something by leaving a real comment.

  2. sam

    love the blog man. as a person who plans on getting tattoos i like how you address the issues people have with them. honestly its just closed minded people that think everyone walking around with a tattoo is a rebel or thug. Tattoos are so mainstream today i cant image why people have such distorted view about people that choose to get them. keep it up :)

  3. Larry

    What about our our men & woman in the service protecting our Country. Have you ever seen a Marine without a Tattoo to show pride of being an American & and a Marine?

  4. Sputnik

    My opinion, don’t take it personal please:
    I am not agree with the article. I think tattoo is actually for criminals, prostitutes, freaks, slaves, jerks, plebeians, people with inferiority complex, midlife crisis or other mental issues, etc. It’s not stereotype, it’s true. People with good self-esteem and good manners don’t need to spoil their bodies and turn them into public toilet wall. Tattoo is like a dirt, skin disease or livestock brand, it makes you ugly.
    In Russia man or woman without bad habits (smoking, drinking and drug using), without tattoos, piercing and other “body modifications” looks respectable and beautiful. Or classical, natural, respectable look is “boring” and “outdated”? If you want to be “bright” and notable, why you can’t impress other people with your good manners, knowledge, skills, hobby, looking and acting like a real gentleman or lady. Is it still “boring” or too difficult for you? Why it’s easy for me?
    Your body is your appearance, you must respect it. Can you imagine a Venus or David with tattoo? They are looking disgustingly with it, right? Anyway, with tattoo you look like a kid with pencil in the nose: cool and impressive for you, but horrible and silly for others.
    I think and hope, the most of Europeans and Americans are not so vulgar and dissolute. Remember: freedom is not permissiveness, you need some limits and discipline.
    Respect yourself and your body.
    Good luck. Greetings from conservative Mother Russia.
    Sputnik.

  5. tattoobby

    i absolutly agree with this post.
    I am a 19 year old woman. I got my first tatto at the age of 16. I was raised with great manners. I am a smart young woman with a bright future. I have never gotten in trouble with the law nor have i ever been “gang related” I was a cheerleader in high school. The negative view about tattos piss me off. If you looked at me you wouldnt even know i had tattoos. You would think i was just another bubbly cute girl. But if you look closer i actually have tattoos.
    Tattoos dont make a person good or bad. They are an expression of what the person feels.
    Sputnik you are wrong. Im not a freak, slave, prostitue or a jerk. I have tattoos because i think they are beautiful. I dont have any self-esteem issues. I think i am a very beautiful girl. My tattos represent the most important thing in my life which is my family. Maybe you should actually look at what the tattoo means rather than classify every tattood person as a thug or gangster. I am 19 years old with 2 tattoos and i have never even seen a gang member. So before you start classifying me as a thug maybe you should know more information about me

  6. Dien Thoai Vertu

    Have you ever considered writing an ebook or guest authoring on other websites?

    I have a blog based on the same ideas you discuss and would love to have
    you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would appreciate
    your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send
    me an email.

  7. Maurice Kiely

    You missed a major one that people say: “Tattoos last forever” when actually Tattoos are an art form on a dying canvas! There are cave paintings going back tens of thousands of years still in existance today but each tattoo art piece will only exist for 70 to 80 years and then it is gone forever.
    This thought occurred to me after getting my first tattoo done so happy I was with the design and then thinking this will die with me. :-(

    1. branwyn

      Yeah, I have hear that one so many times, though tattoo removal does mean they are not always as permanent, my reply to these people is that, on the contrary, tattooed mummies such as ‘Otzi’ are a common enough find, and tell us a huge amount about the lives and spirituality of the individuals who lived many thousands of years ago. I think this is wonderful, I would love my tattooed pelt to be poured over by civilizations of the distant future. : )

  8. Robin Walker

    Re: the “Irrational Arguments” section: there’s nothing irrational about some of those arguments. Some of them are perfectly rational – you just happen not to agree with them. Take the “bumper sticker on a Ferrari” argument. The crux of that school of thought is that the human body – hundreds of millions of years in the making by Mother Nature through the sublime process of evolution – cannot be aesthetically improved upon by an ink gun in the hands of someone who makes drawings for a living, etching a wound into living skin that is permanent. This isn’t a personal judgement on those who sport ink, it’s an honest reflection of the dissonance some people feel when they see irreversible sketches on human skin. Tattoos are made to be observed, and to some observers, seeing a tattoo has the same quality as seeing, say, a “KHOT 99.9 FM!” bumper sticker placed on the back of a beautiful $400,000 sports car. It’s a legitimate visceral reaction not necessarily associated with conservatism, judgementalism, fear, conventionalism or close-mindedness. It’s an honest matter of taste. To deride a person who generally does not appreciate tattoos for authentically aesthetic reasons, is an ugly form of stereotyping no better than any other. You may disagree with opinions relating tattoos to bumper stickers, but that’s simply your opinion. It’s not the “rational” debunking the “irrational”. People who like tattoos – who resent people who do not like tattoos – are not on a special moral high ground. I think that as much as anything, they just enjoy spending time resenting people.

    1. Paul

      Thanks for commenting, Robin. If you read more of my blog you will see that I have stated on a few occasions that I have no problem with people generally disliking tattoos. I don’t resent people who do not like tattoos, hold grudges against them, or hold any feeling of contempt towards them.

      If you read my post again, you will see that my argument against the bumper sticker analogy is aimed towards the analogy itself. The idea of comparing the human skin to an exotic and rare automobile.

      But I can also see things from your perspective, and what you are arguing against sounds more like my last argument, “I have never seen a tattoo that enhanced a persons beauty.” While disliking the aesthetics of tattoos is a perfectly valid reason to not get one yourself, it is not a valid argument against me getting my own tattoo. If someone who owns a $400,000 sports car wants to show support for their favorite radio station with a bumper sticker, that is their business. It isn’t hurting anyone, and for every person that sees the bumper sticker and hates it, there are probably just as many that will see it and simply recognize that the car owner might have similar music interests.

      You said yourself that the reaction to tattoos is a matter of taste. My main point that it is irrational to apply your personal likes and/or dislikes to the rest of the population.

  9. elsa

    Well I have a tattoo on the back of my neck with my maiden name and a butterfly. Not big. But my 3 sisters and I all did it the same day as a showing of our love for each other and those who gave us life. It is shown when I want it to be and private when I don’t. Needless to say today my daughter and I plan on getting a mother daughter tattoo and we are excited. Who cares what anyone else thinks.I do not drink, do drugs, hurt anyone, I work, raised great children so judge me based on that.

  10. Nikki

    Here’s one for you! I read on a website that “only the less attractive get tattoos in order to enhance their looks and receive attention and that extremely attractive individuals don’t have tattoos”.

    1. Mathew Williams

      Please do yourself a favor and go through Maxim top 100 hot women and GQ top 100 hot men and please tell me, of the top 5 in each, which DON’T have tattoos?

  11. April Cook

    Very interesting blog, interesting replies as well. I’d like to make note of something. In the final paragraphs of rebuttal #2, you mention that 40% of people within your age group have tattoos. That’s almost half. Rebuttal #3 is in response to the idea that people get tattoos because everyone else is doing it, and yet you say only 21% of the general population have tattoos. If that’s the case, the highest percentage of those people that do happen to choose to get tattoos also happen to be within your age group. Followers don’t follow people outside of the group they wish to belong to. Perhaps the influence of almost half the people within your age group having tattoos played a larger role in your decision to tattoo yourself than you’re willing to admit. People may bluster in pride that they aren’t influenced by the herd, but something encouraged 40% of young people these days to get tattoos.

    1. Paul

      Tattoos are on the rise throughout all demographics and I happen to fall within one of the age groups that is statistically the most tattooed. I have never been a rebel, but I have also never been one to follow the crowd. The popularity of tattoos today makes it virtually impossible to avoid interacting with people with tattoos. The more tattoos I saw and the more I learned about tattooing in general, the more interested I became in getting one.

      I did my research and waited years before eventually deciding on my tattoo design. I
      believe that my decision to get tattooed had more to do with society’s higher level of acceptance of tattoos than trying to fit into a certain crowd. I also feel that there is a difference between being influenced by the herd and trying desperately to become a member.

      You also missed an important part of my #3 argument, “The biggest issue I have with this argument is that it’s just lumping all people with tattoos into one big group.”

      Some people want to get tattooed just for the sake of getting tattooed and decide to walk into a random tattoo shop with their friends and pick a piece of flash art off the wall that hundreds of people before them are already walking around with. Others will commission an artist to create a custom piece of artwork that has deep personal meaning to them. Both of these people will answer yes when surveyed about whether they are tattooed, but to me they fall into very different categories.

      Polls also show that the vast majority of people with tattoos (over 70%) say that their tattoos are not normally visible. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf People often claim that tattoos are all about seeking attention, but I think this statistic goes a long way towards countering that argument and also the idea that everyone with tattoos is just trying to fit in.

  12. Dwight Porter

    The clincher for me is simply that there is never, under any circumstances, a downside to not having a tattoo. It starts no conversations, invites nobody to judge your taste or good sense or self-esteem issues, costs nothing, wastes no time, doesn’t hurt, can’t give you hepatitis, and can never be regretted. And you can always change your mind.

    1. Paul

      I can think of lots of things that don’t have a downside if they are not done, but that isn’t a reason not to do them.

      Is there any real downside to not skydiving? You don’t invite yourself to the risk of slamming into the ground at terminal velocity, it doesn’t cost you anything, won’t subject you to judgments from people who think you are crazy for doing it, won’t give you altitude sickness and won’t waste any of your time. But tell that to anyone who loves doing it.

      The only thing on your list that is somewhat unique to tattoos is that it is very difficult to change your mind about them once you go through with it if you grow to regret the decision. Everything else can apply to thousands of things that people participate in and enjoy on a regular basis.

      I also don’t agree that there are no circumstances where not having a tattoo doesn’t have a downside, and you even mentioned one in your own comment. “It starts no conversations”. I posted a while back about how my tattoos have served as an icebreaker and lead to some great conversations on quite a few occasions. I love this about tattoos, so missing out on those conversations would be a definite downside for me.

  13. Dwight Porter

    Nice try! But there is a downside to not skydiving, i.e. depriving yourself of an experience which, if you survive, you certainly won’t regret, and which is far more likely to enhance your prestige than to dim it. Compare that with getting a tattoo, which is not exactly an achievement, and will inevitably cause many people to make negative judgements about you throughout your life, though few, perhaps, will express them openly. So if you have half a brain you’ll often wonder whether it was an ill-advised move, after all. It was, but the damage is done, permanently, so you’ll have to keep toughing it out until you’re old enough to blame it on your youth. As far as the “look how I disfigured my body!” gambit for starting a conversation goes, just sticking a pencil in your eye would be even more effective.

    1. Paul

      We can go back and forth all day giving examples of things that have or don’t have downsides, but we aren’t going to get anywhere. I see the positive side to getting tattoos and for me they outweigh the downsides. This to me is far more important than the triple negative argument that you outlined. You have weighed the pros and cons and obviously reached a different conclusion.

      I gave you my downside for not being tattooed and you dismissed it by comparing having a tattoo to jabbing a pencil in my eye. I can assure you that the conversations started by my tattoos are for more interesting than, “Hey buddy, do you need me to call you an ambulance, you seem to have a pencil in your eye.”

      I can live with the fact that certain people will judge me based on my tattoos, but I see that as more of their issue than mine. And I don’t wonder whether my tattoos were an ill-advised move because for me they were not. They were not done in haste during my youth and a significant amount of thought went into the decision. So it’s not a matter of “toughing it out”, but a choice that I am honestly happy with and have no regrets about.

  14. Dwight Porter

    The pencil is the eye was only a rhetorical flourish –please don’t do it!

    It’s”their” issue only to the extent that “they” are of no importance to you, which will not alway be the case. I’m glad you’re happy with your tattoo, though I would expect you to claim to be even when assailed by doubts, or when someone is candid enough to say, “I think that’s hideous/pathetic/foolish/a gratuitious and grievous self-inflicted wound to your reputation. I’m sorry, but the deal is off!”

    But I’ll let you have the last word. Goodbye, and thanks for publishing a dissenting opinion.

  15. Jim

    Generally I do not like tattoos. However I believe very much in live and let live. It is a persons right to choose what they do with their own body. That being said the choice in artwork that many people make surprises me as often they will permanently etch something on their skin that they would never wear on a piece of clothing or put on their wall because the art would be deemed too tacky or otherwise seen as kitsch.
    Everyone has a right to dress as they please and the same goes for tattoos, but no one is obligated to admire a tattoo that is ugly, baroque or just plain unappealing.

    1. Paul

      With the exception of generally not liking tattoos, I am in total agreement with you. I have seen plenty of tattoos out there that I would never consider putting on my own body. But I also think there is a lot of tattoo art out there that wouldn’t work well in other forms. A piece that looks great wrapped around the contours of the human body might not translate well on a flat canvas. Proper placement of tattoos on the body is a very important part of the tattoo artists job and unfortunately they don’t all get it right.

      No one is obligated to admire anything about the way anyone else looks. No matter what style you choose for yourself, there will be those who admire it and those who find it ugly or unappealing. I have stated many times in my writing that I don’t care if you don’t like my tattoos, just don’t make assumptions about me because of them.

  16. Mathew Williams

    I think what stuck with me most is your point that tattoos are a reminder, not ONLY a reminder but a catalyst. I really appreciate that statement. I was born in South Africa, am an Australian citizen and currently live in Los Angeles. I have the Southern Cross on my chest (Aus), a tribal map of Africa on my back, and am currently in the process of designing something relating to America, which will connect the two. I have moved around all my life due to my father’s work and never had a place to call home. So, home is where my heart is, which is why i got the southern cross on my chest. But, in the back of my heart is where I was born, this being the reason i got Africa on my back. Finally, my time in America is tugging at my love for both my home country and the place i call home, thus the reason I am getting this tattoo.

    These tattoos have been a visual catalyst, reminding me where I have come from. It reminds me of the countless life, cultural and emotional lessons I have learnt along the way. I hear of people regretting tattoos but how could i regret the lessons i’ve learnt? My tattoos are a visual reminder to remain humble, remember these lessons and strive forward as a global individual.

    As you said as well, they aren’t simply a reminder. It’s an expression of who I am.

    1. Paul

      Thanks for the comment. The idea of describing tattoos as a catalyst came to me in a conversation about scars and to date is the most accurate way I can think of to describe my tattoos. I’m glad to see that someone else was able to relate so well to this idea.

      I have the same reaction as you when talking about tattoo regret. My tattoos represent a time in my life when I went through some pretty amazing changes. Those times got me to where I am today and shaped me into who I am now. I never want to forget the path I took to get here.

  17. Sarah

    Everyone is more than welcome to have their opinion and express it, but no where in this article did the author insult anyone — at least not intentionally. The responses, however, are COMPLETELY insulting to anyone with body modifications or not. Is it WRONG for someone who witnessed the horrors of war (and survived) to want to get a tribute to their country? You have NO idea what these people go through every day of their lives, just as you know nothing about my life, the author’s life or ANY ONE ELSE’S. Plebeians, Sputnik, really? I have to admit that is a new one. News flash, it’s the 21st Century, not ancient Rome, and I’m pretty sure slavery is pretty frowned upon today. I absolutely love reading posts from the people who show their success — all while having tattoos. Making a decision to do something to your body, permanent or not, is not a reflection of work ethics. In fact, I find it EXTREMELY unprofessional for companies not to hire someone just because their body is modified. Any job you apply for has a certain dress code or uniform. If the tattoo is not breaching that or isn’t wildly inappropriate, then what reason do you have not to hire the employee? That is not a fact, that is my opinion, and that is me respectfully expressing it. I am not “bashing” against anyone here. I just don’t see why people with or without tattoos have to go around and condemn or insult people for something that ultimately DOES NOT EFFECT THEM IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM

  18. Jessica Miller

    I love what you have written here! I am female RN with a BSN and am currently working towards a MSN/MHA (Masters of Nursing and a Masters in health care administration). I have two tattoos that are covered by my scrubs (the one can be seen only occasionally depending on the neckline of my scrub top). I have never gotten anything but compliments of my tattoos and have used them to break the ice with patients. I have worked most of my career in the nursing home setting and many of the residents have several tattoos. And I can vouch that tattoos do not “melt” with age, and many of them were as vibrant as the day they were inked. More often than not I am able to asses mood and health by just sitting and talking with them, and one of things we talk about is when/where we each got our tattoos!

  19. Nikki

    These arguments annoy the hellllll out of me! I have seven tattoos, two of them (one on each wrist) can be seen easily or covered up. You can’t go through a magazine now a days and not see a tattoo on a model, or walk down the street and not see some ink on someone.

    I don’t have issues with my self esteem, I’ve always been a highly creative intuitive person and basically just enjoy any art form. I often say artist’s are my favorite people, due to the fact that when you listen, see or read art the artist is showing you a piece of themselves; which is exactly how I see tattoos on someone’s body.

    Working in the health care field and with the elderly I’ve seen many tattoos that are far older then me and they still look great, and no they do not sag. Yes some can be discolored simply due to the equipment back then and it not being as sophisticated as it is today.

    As for people having low self esteem, being sluts, dirty w.e it all comes off as being unintelligent when making arguments or accusations such as these when discussing tattoos. There has never been a true right or wrong or label for anything, these are rules and thoughts made up by society in order to keep the general population in line. There is no law in the universe stating a woman is a slut if she has a tattoo or gets one. Seriously people do you ever question your ideals and thought process?

    It’s perfectly fine not to view tattoos as attractive, everyone is different. I don’t find the combination of dark hair and eyes attractive so what? As far as tattoos go, yeah there are some that are unattractive if they are profane and insulting to a group of people ect. Just don’t go around bashing people, show some respect for people’s choices in life especially if they aren’t hurting anyone or the general population.

    It’s your life to live, so live your life and fuck off when it comes to other people living theirs.

    :)

  20. Destin Ardoin

    I am currently in the Air Force and understand what you say and have the same views as you on the fact that if you don’t care if people resent you for having them. I see people at stores come up to me in uniform and tell me he has a tattoo watch out he might be affiliated with a gang. Well all I do is open my top and show them mine to disapprove that fact. Long story short thank you for playing this.

  21. Michael Kenney

    Older guy here and yes I have a few tattoos from my younger days in the military. IMPO I think the whole tattoo craze has taken something that really used to be an individualistic expression and made it just another thing that everyone does when they hit 18. YES I realize that is a broad stroked statement with little statistical truth behind it which is why I said it’s my opinion. Like a$$ holes we’ve all got one. :-)

    I’ve read every argument from both sides and I really do believe it comes down to simply being a personal choice. I would just pray that a person would follow the authors advice and seriously consider the tattoo for a period of time before getting it. Like being engaged, take the time to weigh all the possibilities before committing yourself. All too often people rush into a tattoo without taking the time to get to know the artist or their work. Like any artist tattooists have varying skill levels and most have developed a certain signature to their work. Make sure to match up what you want with an artist that can appropriately provide it.

    Thanks for the great conversations and your well thought out responses.

    Mike

  22. Matthew

    my tattoos have and always be a story line of my life.. yes my likes and dislikes change.. my styles change.. but like mentioned above.. my life lesson don’t.. they jusy get added to.. having a tattoo done is a time stamp of my life at that time.. I would never regret what my life or my path in life is.. as we get older we do tent to forget, my tattoos are a picture book of my life.. my family etc.. that can never be lost or taken from me..

  23. Jade Baker

    I have nothing bad to say about tattoos nor will I think anything negative about people getting tattooed. At the end of the day it that individuals body and they have the right to do what they want. To people who say tattoos aren’t beautiful/are ugly are seriously mistaken. In many cases people choose to get a cover up tattoo on things like e.g Scars, ex lovers names or as a beauty stamp for any imperfections they may have. This may help with someones personal insecurities which is beautiful in its own way. There’s also times where females who have faught breast cancer get tattoos over there scars. This is a huge turning point in a persons life where they say goodbye to that part of their life and embrace there newly beautiful body which may help them overcome any negative thoughts. Most tattoos have real meaning behind them that helps them remember that certain happy time etc in their lives. I am currently looking forward for when I get my first tattoo, and am excited for when I can look at this new beautifly amazing addition to my skin. Not all tattoos are rushed, unplanned or ugly. Much thought goes into this process, So before people say it is wrong, ugly a disgrace or whatever are seriously delusional and should quit judging people and getting involved in what they do to themselves. You may be pretty and have no ink, but we shall be pretty with showings of creativeness. And if we are “ugly” on the outside, then you are imperfect and ugly on the inside for openly judging people. Didn’t mean to rant, that is all :)

  24. Dwight Porter

    I dropped today in to read the subsequent comments, and would like to point out that my position is not that tattoos should be banned or that they are the mark of the devil, but simply that getting a tattoo is objectively an unwise choice in almost every instance, and most particularly during a craze. No one wants to be seen in clothes that are out of style, but you’re pretty much stuck with your tattoos. A fashionable and tattooed young friend in Sydney has just confirmed to me that the craze is over in Australia –the “in” crowd regrets them, hides them, and wants them removed. Why? Because like all fashions, this one was ultimately adopted by too many of the wrong sort of people. When “everybody’s doing it” the cool people stop doing it, and eventually “everybody” stops. None of you figured that out? Subcutaneous ink is not a strong indicator of brains, apparently.

  25. Pete

    Nothing against tattoos, I really like them but…, what’s up with those dudes with tattoos on their foreheads? or face? it’s their body I know but basically they are getting isolated.

  26. Alyssa

    I think tattoos are amazing. It is a way for people to express themselves. So many people don’t like it but it wont stop them from getting them. Most peoples tattoos tell a story either they could not tell or could not describe it. Tattoos do not make the person bad or a criminal. Most people with tattoos are actually quite nice. I had a doctor one time with quite a few tattoos and he sat and talked with me about them and how when he visits the old people he talks about his tattoos with them he even said their are old people there who have tattoos and are proud of them. I don’t see the point in hating on people with tattoos I mean its like them hating on you for your clothes because they don’t like them. Its pointless to argue about something you cant prevent anyway so its a waste of breath and time.

  27. Ella

    So first you say this:

    “Considering the fact that close to 40% of people in my age group have tattoos, if I do end up in a nursing home when I’m older, I expect to be in good company”

    But then, like, three sentences later, you say this:

    “I am the only person in my family with tattoos, a small percentage of my friends have tattoos, very few of my co-workers have tattoos, and only about 21% of the general population have tattoos.”

    I’m not trying to bring down your entire argument structure with simple arithmetic. You make lots of good arguments and i have absolutely nothing against tattoos, though I am uninked. I just think that if either of these arguments is restricting somebody from getting one, those two rebuttals are just going to cause more confusion for them.

    I’m aware that you use the word GENERAL population when you hit us with the 21% figure. But you DO also say that only a “small percentage” of your friends have them. 40% is not a small percentage. I realize as well that you’re probably trying to identify two completely different groups of people when you present these numbers. I’m just saying, to someone who is ink-shy like me, it’s confusing and doesn’t offer me too much information.

    The best argument against tattooing is if I say to myself “Ella, I simply don’t want one.” Similarly the best argument in favour of tattooing is if I say to myself “Ella, I simply want one.” but deciding which argument is going to win IS, really, based on a lot of concerns that you address here. You address them well but I still maintain that these are not irrational arguments to somebody who constantly has to explain to others why she doesn’t have any. I don’t feel like getting a cosmetic procedure that will not age well if I don’t do frequent housekeeping on it, for example. There is enough housekeeping involved in aging as it is.

    Though my main reason for not wanting one is permanence. Right now, there is nothing in my life that will hold the sort of permanent fixation necessary to ensure i never regret the thing. I’m not sure if this is considered irrational or not. I just know that I spent years trying to decide on one before I finally figured out that I don’t want to assign that sort of permanence to anything in my life. Am I overthinking things? Probably. Do I have a fear of commitment? Most certainly. To me, none of my concerns are irrational.

    1. Paul Post author

      The 21% and 40% figures came from a national poll, which you can see here: http://www.harrisinteractive.com/NewsRoom/HarrisPolls/tabid/447/mid/1508/articleId/970/ctl/ReadCustom%20Default/Default.aspx
      My age group currently has the largest percentage of people who reported having tattoos. Many of my friends, family and co-workers do not fall into the same age range as me and are not an accurate representation of the general population. I also have a few friends who have small tattoos that remain hidden almost all the time and I never think of them as “tattooed” . I guess when I said that very few of my friends are tattooed, a more accurate statement would have been “very few of my friends are heavily or visibly tattooed.”

      Your reasons do not sound irrational at all to me. In fact, not wanting something permanent on your body or just not being able to find anything that you think you would be happy with forever is one of the most logical and rational reasons I can think of for not getting tattooed. If there is any doubt in your mind, you should not get a tattoo. I would never try to convince someone that a tattoo was right for them and you shouldn’t ever have to explain to people why you don’t have or want tattoos.

      My post was aimed more at people who try to convince others that tattoos are a bad idea using these arguments.

  28. jonathan

    I am a Tattoo artist and I definitely will not tattoo someone who does not believe in this religion… Enthusiasts should educate themselves and make sure that it is treated as an extension of the art of living.

  29. Chanti Niven

    I do not have tattoos and will most likely never have any. For me the most sensible argument against having a tattoo is that I will have to live with it/them for life. When you decorate your home you can change the decor to reflect your changing taste. Not so with tattoos. I can change my dress, my hairstyle, my nails etc. but my tattoo is a constant. I’d get bored if I was stuck with one thing.

    I respect your right to have tattoos and I hope you will respect my right to not have them.

    I will say this. If I had to meet a potential mate and he had tattoos, I would not find them appealing but it would not be a deal breaker.

    By the by, one of your arguments contradicts another. In one line you talk about not having regrets as you age because 40% of your generation have tattoos but in the next line you argue about not being a sheep because you’re one of only a few who have them. I think you listed 21%. Either way, the figures don’t add up. A debate requires that you use accurate information. I’m not sure that this stat is accurate because other sites list 8%. It’s interesting to note that 75% of all prisoners have tattoos.

    1. Paul Post author

      If you do not like the idea of having something permanent on your body, that is a perfectly valid reason not to get tattooed. But as I have mentioned a few times before somewhere on this blog, my tattoos might remain constant, but every day that I put clothes on I can choose how much or how little of it I want to show.

      I absolutely respect your right to not have tattoos. This article is supposed to be speaking to people who use these arguments against the tattoos of others.

      As for your question about the contradiction in my statistics, I recently answered this same question. Just look a few comments above yours.

      I always strive to provide the most accurate data available in my posts and the numbers came from a 2012 Harris poll. It is the most up-to-date and complete survey that I am aware of that breaks down tattoo statistics by age range. I’m not sure where you found the 8% statistic, but I cannot help the fact that there may be conflicting information out there.

      You might find it interesting that a high percentage of prisoners have tattoos, but unless you can show me some data that shows a high percentage of people with tattoos are in prison, I see it as a meaningless correlation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>