In Defense Of “Tramp Stamps”

Growing up, I was never the type to get a tattoo. My mom said if I ever got one I’d have to pay for my own college education in its entirety *gulp*. However, after losing a friend my freshman year of college, I knew I wanted a more permanent reminder of everything that she taught me not only during her life, but as well in her death.

After explaining the meaning behind my first tattoo to my parents, they agreed to let me get it without the consequences my mom had originally stated *phew!*. A year and a half later, I now have a grand total of six tattoos (people aren’t kidding when they say they’re addicting). My mom has softened up a bit and now says that it’s okay, “just so long as it doesn’t show on your wedding day”. Fair enough, mother.

Among my collection of six (very small, mind you) tattoos is a lower back tattoo, otherwise known to the British as a “slag tag”, to the Germans, “ass antlers”, and to Americans a “ tramp stamp”.

Having a tattoo here supposedly implies that I have questionable morals, a list of sexual partners a mile long and a bulls eye on my back that’s equivalent to a flashing, neon “insert here” sign. On top of that, a French study was recently published that determined that men are more likely to believe women with lower back tattoos will sleep with them.

For your information, I’m 20 years old. I’ve had a grand total of two boyfriends in high school and a whopping zero in college. I can count on my fingers how many people I’ve kissed. I take school seriously, get good grades, and was on the A honor roll every year starting in 6th grade. I’m invested in my faith, and I have big plans for my future. As for the whole college hookup scene, it’s been almost a full calendar year since I even so much as gave a guy a peck on the lips. But who cares?

However, according to society’s label for my back ink, none of that’s true. According to my back, I’m a slut.

This is EXACTLY why we need to stop calling lower back tattoos “tramp stamps”. I refuse to be labeled as someone of questionable morals simply because of where I decided to place ink on MY body.

When choosing a place for my tattoo, I didn’t even so much as take into account what men, or women, would think about it.

A little bit of background here: my tattoo is of an Unalome, or the Buddhist symbol for the path to enlightenment.

Buddhist Unalome

I have always had a fascination with Buddhism, and after living in Nepal for a month I knew that I wanted to make my affiliation more permanent. For me, the symbol represents the path of life. You start out without a direction (the spiral at the bottom), trying to figure out which way is up. Once you find your path, the rest of life is lived out with a series of ups and downs (the loops) until eventually you fade to nothing (the dots at the end).

Aside from my personal choices, there are three main reasons as to why I believe women choose this place for a tattoo, none of which have to do with said person’s sexual history.


1) The meaning of the tattoo corresponds with the place you put it.

In Buddhism, it’s important to find the middle path, or a balanced way of living. I honestly couldn’t think of a better place for this symbol than right above the base of my spine, the center of my body; the center of balance. Out of all the other women on the planet with lower back tattoos, I’m positive I can’t be the only person that placed their tattoo here for a reason similar to this as well.


2) Your lower back won’t change much over time.

The size of a woman’s stomach or the curves of her thighs might wax and wane over time due to things such as pregnancy, but the lower back stays consistently the same size. According to Kevin Wilson, the manager at Sacred Tattoo in New York, “The lower back is probably one of the least problematic spots to get a tattoo”.


3) We’re bringing sexy back.

Backs are sexy. Seriously. I think the way a woman’s spine curves up to her shoulders is absolutely exquisite, even artful in a sense. It’s such a beautiful part of the body, so why not decorate it?


It’s time for culture to stop labeling, judging, and categorizing women for where we decide to paint our bodies.

Personally, my tattoos are for me. I don’t give a damn where anyone thinks they should or shouldn’t be.

As the writer Sara Stewart so eloquently stated, “To anyone who wants to keep calling it [a tramp stamp], I’ve got a few words of advice: Kiss my ass.”

Amen, girlfriend.

Molly Street

Contributor, University of St.Thomas Major: Communications and Journalism Her heart belongs to:family and friends, weekends at the cabin, summer nights, her cat Tigger, the ocean, guys with a sense of humor. Take her away to: anywhere with a beach, a surprise date, or someplace to hike with great views.

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