Men get full-sleeve tattoos, and women get tramp stamps. That’s the stereotype, and according to a recent poll, there’s some truth to it: 84 percent of the men polled were interested in full-sleeve tattoos, compared to 16 percent of women; on the flip side, 86.5 percent of women polled were interested in lower-back tattoos, compared to 13.5 percent of men. The poll also found that men were more interested in chest and lower arm tattoos, while women were more interested in hip, foot and ankle tattoos.
While this poll fully supports the idea that tattoo placement is extremely gendered — women tend to want smaller tattoos that can be hidden under their clothes; men go balls-to-the-wall all over — it’s a bit misleading. That’s because those polled were visitors to Custom Tattoo Design, a website that connects those looking for tattoo designs with artists who will draw them up.
This means it’s likely that anyone visiting such a site either doesn’t have any tattoos yet, and/or knows little about tattooing in general. Those more involved in the tattoo community (for the record, 80 percent of my body is covered in tattoos) would likely tell you that using such a site is tantamount to blasphemy, since it’s really your tattoo artist who should design your tattoo, not a stranger on the internet.
As to the gendered nature of tattoo positioning, the existing stereotypes shown by this study clearly do still persist amongst people with one or two tattoos (who do make up the majority of tattooed people). Those who collect multiple tattoos, however, have largely broken free of these rules, at least per strong anecdotal evidence.
“I tattoo many more women than men, and the women I tattoo get tattoos all over their bodies,” says L.A.-based tattooer Dillon Eaves. “They’re also more committed to finishing larger projects [like a full sleeve tattoo] than men are.” He adds that he’s noticed a steady drop in gendered tattoo placements in the past two years: “While lots of women used to believe that tattoos in certain places masculinized them, people want to break these stereotypes nowadays.”