by Alicia Costa
It’s true. And I am so tired of justifying/explaining/feeling self-conscious about it. I am so tired of trends in urban speak that shame women’s bodies and sexuality.
I got my first tattoo when I was 18, about 10 years ago. I was fresh in the city from my small town and wanted something to mark the occasion. I was celebrating a new chapter in my life. I choose my lower back to place a small tattoo that said the word ‘freedom’ (I know, I know but I was 18, so give me a break). And as someone with a voluptuous and lumpy body I don’t exactly have a ton of flat surfaces on me, if you catch my drift. Seemed like the perfect place.
This was 2003, before ”tramp stamp” came into pop culture (or at least before I had ever heard it) as another tool in the misogynists’ toolbox to vilify women into feeling shameful for taking ownership of their bodies. I chose the placement because (at the time) I could say to myself that my lower back was a sexy part of my body – a body that I had spent a lot of time hating and hurting over the years. And, (I assume other women also think this way) it was a place that was easy to hide in case I would grow up and be a successful business lady (Spoiler: that did not happen).
I got a little hooked on tattoos after my first (only partly because I found tattoo artists really hot and wanted to bone one). I got a few other tattoos but wanted something big, beautiful, and colourful on my body. I worked with a local artist who made me a lovely custom back piece to add to my existing tattoo on my lower back. It’s water and cherry blossoms and stretches from one side of the hips to the other with my older tattoo in the middle. I felt so powerful getting a piece of custom artwork on my body forever.
It is something beautiful on my body, which I never thought was beautiful.
When “tramp stamp” started making its rounds my initial reaction was a mixture of anger and embarrassment. I was suddenly ashamed of this tattoo that I had got to celebrate my body and my new life was now something people could use to judge my sexual behaviour and how I chose to modify my body. Why does anyone have the right to make judgements on your body and sexuality over the placement of a tattoo? Someone please remind me why it’s so wrong to be a woman and like sex? Oh right. I refuse to prescribe to your bullshit expectations of what I should do with my body. I keep forgetting!
There are good tattoos and there are bad tattoos. I’ve gone through periods in my life where I’ve hated my tattoos and regretted them. And other times when I am happy to have them because they make me unique. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a lover tracing the tattoo with their finger.
My tattoos may be silly to other people but they marked moments in my life. They are physical markings of personal growth and self-realization. Now when people ask me if I have tattoos I proudly say, “I have one on my foot, one on my wrist, and I have a huge tramp stamp.”
I am a tramp. And I like tattoos.
Can we talk about something else now?