Girls & Tattoos

In the last four to five years, the majority of American women who get a tattoo have been putting it in the same place: the small of their backs.

This type of tattoo is often referred to as a "bumper sticker," a "chick spot," a "girl spot," a "California license plate," or a "tramp stamp."  The most popular designs for these tattoos are: butterflies, flowers, tribal designs and Chinese characters called kanji.

Tattoos are more prevalent now than they have been at any time in American history.  An estimated 39 million or one out of every seven people in North America has at least one tattoo, according to en.Wikipedia.org.  Once considered taboo because of their associations with criminality, tattoos have become a main stream trend.

Throughout history tattoos have had a myriad of meanings for various cultures.  Some have had positive meaning and signified status and others had negative implications as they were used simply a means of identifying people.

Tattoos have signified social rank and rites of passage for Polynesians and for the Maori of New Zealand.  Capitan James Cook's expedition to Tahiti in 1769 and subsequent South Pacific voyages in the 1770s made tattoos popular among European sailors.  Wikipedia also states the word "tattoo" is traced back to the Tahitian word tatu or tatau, "meaning to mark or strike."  Sailors had crucifixes tattooed on their backs to avert flogging as punishment.

Tattoos also indicated mob membership in the yazuka – the Japanese mafia and in the triad in Hong Kong.  Phaseloop.com, a web site dedicated to human rights for foreign prisoners, states from the 1960s – 1980s, 20-30 million Russian prisoners used tattoos as statements against authority.  Tattoos are still common in American prisons.

People have also been tattooed against their will.  During the Holocaust the ka-tzetnik followed by a number was a means of identifying Jewish people in concentration camps.

tatsTara Wolfstar, 43, a registered nurse and the master tattoo artist at Enchanted Ink in Boulder, Colorado, said she first saw the lower back tattoo emerge in the early nineties, and it has grown in popularity exponentially.  The trend picked up in 2001 and is still going strong.  Well over half of her clients want their tattoo placed on the small of their backs.  Joe Martinez, 33, a tattooer at Bolder Ink, said that 70-80 percent of his female clients get their tattoo on their mid-lower back and attributes the location's popularity to the fashion of low-riding pants.

Today, the lower back tattoo often has personal significance to the recipient.  Wolfstar added, a lot of women get a tattoo after a divorce; it can also be an age marker, among other symbols.

"It is art and it should have meaning.  I know what it means…I could care less if someone judges or stereotypes me," said student Stephanie Shucard, 24, who recently had her lower back tattooed with the Celtic symbol for the rowan tree in honor of her 2 ½-year-old son, Rowan.  The tattoo is an intricate design of interwoven branches with berries, representing the path of life.  She suffered for her art; describing the tattooing sensation as feeling "like someone was taking a needle to a sunburn.  When it hit the bone I got a buzzing sensation up to the top of my neck."

No anesthesia is used for the procedure since it constricts skin cells and prevents the ink from setting into skin.  Martinez warned that torso areas are more painful than arms and legs.  Wolfstar said when a woman ovulates it is difficult to get the ink into the skin, when she is menstruating the pain is more intense.

"If you have tattoos you have to be ready to hear people comment on them," said Grace Larson, 23, who has tolerated some tactless remarks.  She went against the butterfly and flower tattoo majority by getting a traditional "Sailor Jerry" scull tattoo on her mid-lower back.  Sailor Jerry tattoos are a set of designs created by sailor and tattoo artist Norman Collins, which were especially popular among American sailors during the 1940s.  She likes the location of the tattoo because, "It's kind of in a discreet spot.  You can see it if you bend over."

Shucard also said, "Girls consider it a sex symbol.  It's considered more sexy to show more of your lower back."

Hidden or not, others such as librarian Jenny Gerke, 30, choose to keep their skin tattoo-free.  Gerke said that she could never get a tattoo because, "Your tastes change over time.  What seemed really cool to me at 18…it's not the same things that are cool to me at 30."

tattsTwo men had mixed feelings on the trend.  Film studies student Daniel Ellis, 27, said, "Body art can be rather tasteful and attractive regardless of placement," but added that in terms of a woman's physical appeal, "I think it detracts; in the vast majority of cases it's not attractive."  Journalism graduate student Dana Query, 35, said, "I have seen some that I think are attractive, but generally I'm not too crazy about them.  I've seen some that are too big or gaudy.  It's just a total turn off."

The price of a bumper sticker tattoo ranges from $65 to $600 depending on the tattoo parlor, the size of the tattoo, and the amount of detail and color.  Oftentimes tattoo subjects have to go for more than one sitting to have the detailing completed.

"It's a really stupid place to put a tattoo," said Wolfstar.  She elaborated, saying that part of the body goes through changes with pregnancy and age.  A woman's hips widen with pregnancy and with age it is common for fat to be deposited at the base of the spine.  Over years of normal development, a bumper sticker tattoo could take on a different shape than the one intended by the artist and the client.  "That's the thing working with a living canvas, it's all a crap shoot.  I would definitely not put one there on myself."

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17 Comments

michaela..'s picture

I have a tattoo on my lower back..they are not tramp stamps..its up 2 the person if they want it..mine is a pretty design..really nice and i do not regret gettin it one bit..so who agrees they are not tramp stamps??

krissy b's picture

well.. i have a so called 'tramp stamp" and i must agree. i dont regret it one bit. i love it. and if someone wants a tattoo their they shouldnt be labelled. why is it yor concern about anyone eles's body i would be more concearned with your own. some people just dont get the tattoo culture and thats fair enough but labelling people who do is just stupid.

tattoos are art and they are a personal expression of the individual.

but fair enough thats your opinion but let others have theirs.

shay's picture

i have 3 tattoos and i am 18 years old i got my first one when i was 15 and i havent regreted it all my tattoos are there for a reason they all symbolize something big that happpened in my life and one of those tattoos is on my lower back and it is not tacky or distasteful at all.. all of those people who stereotype others that have a tattoo shouldn't because tattoos are just like makeup exept you have the guts to make it forever

Tattoos are art and they should all be admired as a piece of artwork no matter where they are placed

Gemma's picture

i love my tattoo i think it is all down to personal taste

Nic's picture

I have a tattoo on the inner wrist of my starsign in a tribal sign I think it is very nice. I dont really care what others think.. I'm not stupid enough to get names on my back as that is a bit silly, it may show you have alot of commintment for that person but is it really worth it? Im getting a lower back tattoo and I dont think it is trashy it may be sexy but people need to get their head out of the gutter....:)

Odalis's picture

I have to say that everyone has there own opinion. There is no right or wrong. Everyone has a choice if they want one or not, if they like it or not, and if it's good or bad. I have 3 going on my fourth and yes there's been people who like it and some people who talk to me about there opinion with attitude as if i asked. People need to understand that everyone has there own personality and their own reason to have tattoos and what it means to them. All these names "tramp stamp" or "chick spot", those are names given by people who don't really understand tattoos or just think it's disgusting. If the lower back has names for girls, then how about every other spot of their body? naming it a tramp stamp and 5 other names is so dumb. I don't think girls would get a tattoo on the lower back so they can have a name for it. It's what they like and many tattoos have meaning. And for most of the guys i've met, they always think that tattoos on the lower back are automatically easy girls; Sorry guys not always. My family tell me that i'm such a beautiful girl and that why i have tattoos that it makes me look ugly. I tell my family that " if it makes me look ugly, then why do i have so many guys wanting me? and i Love tattoo's!!" just to piss them off. People will soon get over it. I always have someone looking at me like if i'm an alien cause of my tattoo's, but i don't care i smile and blow a kiss. Actually, i get some guys attentions with my tattoo on my ankle, so you never know. i wonder what that tattoo on my ankle would be called since it attracted attention? A "tramp stamp" too? it's ridiculous. It's not a big deal, but then agian no one in this world can mind their own damn buisness.

Tasha's picture

I live in England and have 2 tattoos and one of them is an American so called 'bumper stickers'. It's of a celtic cross and doesnt look tacky. I think calling them tramp stamps is harsh.

Ashleigh's picture

Tattoos Are Addictive!

I got a tattoo on my foot, about 3inches long, and now i desperatly want another one..i keep telling myself that my taste will change from now to when im about 60 and the tattoos are all wrinkled etc..but that wont stop me for some reason. i will stop at 3 tattoos..because i believe having to many tattoos on a woman is a real turn off. my next tattoo will be so called "tramp stamp" which i think it a bit unfair. some tattoos may look tacky, but i have style, and know not to get anything that i will later regret in life! For example, cartoon characters, simply pathetic in my opinon. you watch them on tv..why not keep it that way?

QassEm's picture

good 4ever

Ryan's picture

This article doesnt mention the medical reasons why not to get a tattoo in this place.... The facts are that hospitals, in canada anyway will not give you an epiderral as there is a risk that ink can infect the spine..

e's picture

Having to defend your tramp stamp says it all. The reason you have so many guys "wanting you" is they think your easy, due to your advertisement. Tattoos are the new belly rings for those that can't think on there own. There are easier/cheaper/less permanent ways to look like a slut. But go have fun and paint a target over your but for guys to shot there load on.

cristine's picture

I am about to get a full back done. Tattoos have existed way before your great great grandparents's parents were even born. I think about tattoo as a symbolism and expression. For people who disgusts tattoos because they think of it as a tram stamp let them be. Everybody has a preference. I've had this lower back tattoo for years now and not regreting a single bit. I am working on getting my full back done. I'm getting a tiger because that symbolizes the year that I was born. Granted indeed some sluts get tattoos for sex reasons but not everybody has the same reason of getting ink done. And she's right. It only depends on how you look at it so get your head out of the gutter.

J~'s picture

Well....I have a so called "tramp stamp". I personally think that everyone has the freedom of choice. I don't believe that this should mark me as a "tramp". Whether I am one or not....doesn't matter. I'm sure there are women out there who are married to good men, have children and have great careers and are the biggest in the closet whores. So that's my take on it and if you (whoever) out there thinks otherwise....that's your choice.

RateMyLeftArm.com's picture

I like tattoos, I even started a site where people can compare and rate them RateMyLeftArm.com. I think its just a preference, some people like them, others don't. The latter shouldn't get them.

ashlee's picture

to respond to o few of the people who do NOT agree with lowerback tattoo's (FYI... thats what its called. not a TRAMP STAMP) then why are u even looking at this site?? If your not into tattoo's then why bother? I have 2 tattoos. and both of them have meaning to me. And i haven't once received a negative comment. I have a "TRAMP STAMP" and one on the back of my neck. But does that make me a whore? NO! its an expression of oneself. GET OVER IT! don't like.. don't look at it.

Lois Muro-Terry's picture

I have 5 tattoos, wrist, ankle, 2 armbands and a lower back. 3 of them are the same, and I also feel that tattoos are an expression of art that you have guts to put on your body and make permanent. I really hate the fact that people label a lower back tatoo as a so called"tramp stamp" just because you choose to have one there. Express your art and be yourself with it!

myrrh's picture

I am 47 years old and just got my first tattoo. A small lotus flower in the middle of my lower back. I am a professional and cannot show body art or unusual piercings at work. My husband is 54 and thinks the new addition to the old me is a turn on. Even an old barn looks better with a little paint on it!

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