August 14, 2013

Why girls with tattoos in our neo-Victorian age?

I hear this question a lot, so here goes.

Heavy tattoos may serve to distinguish the type of girls who get them from other girls who don't, during the same time period and place. But why is that type of girl getting them now, when they didn't back in the '80s, before the craze for piercings and tattoos?

The phenomenon seems even more puzzling because the past 20 years have seen a steady prudification of youth culture. How can we reconcile that with the rising numbers of girls inking up their entire arms?

Prudification goes along with uglification. (See also mid-century art, architecture, and graphic design.) Notice how those girls dress in drab, dark monochrome colors, wear no girly jewelry, and sport flat hair rather than Big Hair. Their sassy, sarcastic, even nasty attitude echos their off-putting look.

Fundamentally, they are part of the larger trend toward drab dressing, and its signal of reluctance to get loose. Their personalities are more anti-social, so they express the neo-Pilgrim style in a more antagonistic fashion than the less abrasive girls in their generation, but they're both variations on the same theme.

Indeed, they look more to the Victorian era or the Fifties pin-up era when taking cues from earlier styles. Not the Romantic-Gothic period of Jane Austen, before the Victorians, nor to the Jazz Age after them. Also not to the New Wave Age after the mid-century and before the current Millennial era. Something about a buttoned-up and settled-down zeitgeist must resonate with them.

They are also part of the larger trend among women toward fear of or hatred toward men. During the date rape hysteria of the early-mid 1990s, mainstream young women (not hardened feminazis) portrayed the typical guy as a predator waiting for the right moment to pounce, or at best a desperate dork who would let his horniness get the better of him in a crucial situation, and force himself on a girl, even though he hadn't planned on it beforehand.

The overt animosity may have calmed down since then, but that's only because the fear, distrust, and aversion toward men has become taken for granted. Try showing signs of a healthy, red-blooded male libido, and you're creepy. In fact, just using the phrase "red-blooded male" marks you as a probable date rapist.

In such a climate, women will alter their appearance and demeanor in order to deflate rather than excite the male libido. They act like prey trying to give warning signals to potential predators. The tattoo chicks are only the extreme version of this widespread trend. Girls sure don't look or act as cute and flirty as they used to in the boy-crazy Eighties, when they thought of guys not as predators but as conspecifics who they wanted to court with engaging mating displays.

Off-putting style also serves to filter out the more assertive and independent males, who would rather spend time on a girl who looks cute, rather than settle for one who's all marked up or not willing to show anything at all. No time to waste in a guessing game, only to suffer from buyer's remorse later. By inking themselves up, girls ensure that only the guys who are willing to get walked over and slapped in the face will approach them. Why go through the long hassle of having your new boyfriend fixed when you can advertise that only the neutered need apply in the first place?

The pervasive effort in falling-crime times to tame violent male nature also seeks to appeal to men's reason -- be more of a family man. But given how little faith they have in men to control their red-blooded nature, they rely on a more extensive program of trying to keep guys from getting too turned on, and to keep them at a distance should that fail. Women understand intuitively that their appearance and demeanor are the main factors that make a guy think she's interested or not, so they adopt drab looks and numb behavior.

The tattooed girls take this to the extreme of off-putting looks and sassy attitude, but qualitatively they're no different from our neo-Victorian / neo-Fifties mainstream.


  1. I don't think girls consciously realize its off-putting. They were tricked and bullied into it by fashion magazines and the older generations of women.

    Your idea about how women use tatoos to filter out bad boys is interesting, but I don't think its true. I don't think they are thinking that sophisticated, even if on a subconscious level.


  2. If anything, from what I've seen, the more aggressive men are likely to have a girlfriend with tatoos.


  3. Are lesbians more likely to be heavily tattooed than straight women?

  4. You have written about "ornamentation" before, so I'm surprised you don't mention that here. That's what distinguishes this from Victorian type periods. Tattoos are ornamentation, the opposite of "drab". They aren't intended to scare away guys, the "tramp stamp" sends an entirely different signal. And they tend to go along with other attention-grabbing features like hair dyed to an obviously unnatural appearance (bright neon colors, multiple colors, etc) or cut in a "Skrillex" style. If you want to slot it into a negative trend you've identified, it's narcissistic attention-whoring.

  5. "Prudification goes along with uglification"

    Ugh. Two years ago while visiting another city, I met just about the prettiest girl I had ever seen. Flawless skin, excellent facial structure, long, beautiful hair, and the most adorable little-girl voice.

    I just recently moved to that city, only to find that she's defaced herself with hideous Betty Page bangs. What a waste.

  6. I think both males and females are off the charts with the tattoo craze. Even middle-aged women and those into their fifties are tattooed out here in CA. It's bad, really bad.

    It's an ugly fad, even for guys. I hate seeing guys tattooed along their necks, down their arms, wherever. Ugly now? Imagine what that skin will look like in a couple of decades with faded ink and sags. Ugh.

    The women? It has crossed racial and social class lines as well as economic lines out here. You're just as likely to see a female with a master's degree in geology or in English with tattoos as you are someone from the worst parts of Oakland or Compton. And no, it's not just ugly girls, but pretty ones too, or I should say "formerly pretty."

  7. "Tattoos are ornamentation, the opposite of "drab". "

    Well there's no such thing as "tattoos" that covers everything from tribal group markers in primitives or advanced militaries, to tramp stamps, to ironic finger moustaches, to unreadable written passages, to overly encrusted images.

    You're trying to analyze the phenomenon abstractly and logically, ignoring what's plain to see -- that the tattoos of the group I discussed are not ornamentation.

    Girls who want to ornament themselves don't say, "Gee, a tattoo would really complete the look." That's why, despite the lengths that girls in the '80s went to in ornamenting themselves, multiple piercings and tattoos never occurred to them. That would have *ruined* the ornamentation, not added to it.

    And guys who appreciate design and ornamentation don't say, "Wow, check out the tats on that chick."

    Ornamentation is meant to aid memory -- to make a person or place memorable through a pleasing, repeated motif or other easily identifiable / recallable sign.

    The trend for girls with tattoos is to get more of them, and to have each one be more unrecognizable -- e.g., by using overly baroque typefaces. Over-encrustation is just as antithetical to ornament as is drab minimalism, in that both prevent you from remembering the person or place. Too much detail = info overload, cannot recall. Too little detail = no distinction from others like it.

    Girls with tattoos don't dye their hair bright colors -- black, if anything, as part of the neo-Beatnik / neo-Roller Derby / neo-Betty Page thing. And again look at their clothing and accessories -- monochrome, dark, drab, free of details. What little jewelry they do wear is meant to be off-putting to guys, like spiky cuffs or skull rings.

  8. "They aren't intended to scare away guys, the "tramp stamp" sends an entirely different signal."

    The tramp stamp was a fad, though. Mid-2000s only. Again you're not looking at the phenomenon as it actually exists.

    You have to see the whole thing, from the '90s era when piercings and tattoos started to catch on, through today. All those piercings weren't meant to attract boys but to show how much 'tude the girl had. That whole anti-beauty movement during the '90s -- greasy hair, purply brown lipstick, no make-up, etc.

    The early "tribal" tattoos picked up on that, along with the trendy Asian tattoos of the same later '90s / early 2000s period. They were general "fuck you" signs because you didn't know what they meant, and the wearer liked to rub it in your face how ignorant of other cultures you were.

    It seems like tattoos from the mid-2000s weren't so obnoxious -- one of those "express yourself" kind of things that some people go for and others don't. And the tramp stamp was at least trying to be playful and inviting, if in a coarse way.

    But as of the later 2000s through today, that minor detour of playful tattoos has resumed course toward "fuck you, world" markings. It's impossible not to notice how hostile the typical tattoo chick is to boys.

    ...Never thought I'd get somewhat nostalgic about tramp stamps, but there you go.

  9. Bad ton to flaunt a scar. America is getting a good deal poorer and a LOT trashier.

  10. You've mentioned before how certain horticulturalist peoples have markings that indicate which tribe you belong to, in which case it doesn't distinguish the individual from the tribe. But modern tattoos aren't like that.

    Various fads come and go, the fact that tattoos/piercings were uncommon in the 80s doesn't tell us more than their rarity in all previous decades.

    You claim that girls with tattoos dye their hair black rather than bright colors, I see both. When I see a typeface that's hard to read, I ask what it says and they seem universally happy to oblige rather than angry than their man-hating 'tude didn't come across. The notion that the "asian" tattoos were intended to make others feel ignorant is quite funny, since their bearers are notoriously ignorant of the real meanings themselves!

  11. Women are signaling promiscuity with tattoos:

    Tats on women aren't meant to turn away men. Just the opposite.


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