Tattoos are funny things. They're not just pictures imprinted on one's skin, there's a whole culture, history and iconography therein.

One of the things one learns in a tattoo apprenticeship is what you tattoo, and what you don't. In some places, like France, if you are asked to tattoo cobwebs on someone's elbows, you cannot charge the client for performing this tattoo. Likewise, tattooing the hands and/or face are not acceptable. Breaking these rules can result in getting your hands broken, receiving a severe beating, or worse.

There are variants on these rules everywhere. Getting tattoos that make some sort of claim, without backing that up, can get the wearer of the tattoo some serious problems and often the artist who performed that tattoo as well. Examples would be clocks or clock faces (implies having spent time in prison), or cobwebs on the elbows (meanings vary - to some, time in jail - to others, murder of a visible minority), motorcycle club tattoos or anything resembling them (such as a side-view winged skull, which is the Hells Angels emblem).

Society at large has these sorts of levels of acceptability, as well. A tattoo used to be the mark of the scumbag, the sailor, the biker, the ne'er do well. But now it's perfectly acceptable for Mrs. Middleaged Housewife to sport a small Betty Boop on her shoulder, and her husband's upper arm sporting a small tribal tattoo is no big deal. One could very probably apply for a job or a loan in a bank with a tattoo on one's bicep. Not so much on the neck. Definitely problems with it on your face. Placement has its own connotation and meaning as well. So does number - for example, the Armed Forces in the United States have a maximum number of tattoos one is allowed to have.

Men tended to get tattoos on their upper arms (to be covered with a T-shirt if need be) and women tended to get them on the back at the shoulderblade, on the breast, calf or ankle, or in this instance, the lower back.

The lower back is, in theory, a great place for a person to get a tattoo. That is probably one of the few areas of skin that will not stretch, shrink or deform during pregnancy or age, distorting the tattoo.

The problem is, it became an affectation of a certain class of woman, the kind who bleaches her hair blonde and hangs out in jock bars with meat-headed guys in Jeeps who listen to rap and wear "Affliction" T-shirts, get drunk and obnoxious and have bail bondsmen on speed dial, and who themselves get real easy after a few drinks. The same with navel rings, which used to be the province of Modern Primitives, until the same set (tee hee, I has a flavour noone knows about) went and did the same thing.

And one can see the irritation, a lot of people with tattoos deal even to this day with some kind of discrimination because of them. For someone to deliberately attempt to go "mild to wild" by virtue of wearing a belly-and-back baring shirt to the club... well, how convenient.

I feel for the first people to do this, before it got co-opted and given that connotation. I also pity the first person to get a Tasmanian Devil tattoo - he's most certainly in pretty bad (and derivative) company.

The tattoo in this area has a whole host of unpleasant names. Tramp stamp is the most common, but there are other ones - if it's a tribal piece it can be called ass antlers. There's also the vile term cum target or cum catcher which implies that it was placed there to give a man a place to ejaculate, implying that she is so slutty, she often has sex similar in fashion to a porn star. Almost all of them are pejorative, and followed with a comment similar to "the calling card of the American slut".

Not all tattoos in the lower back area are considered tramp stamps. I know of one rockabilly tattoo artist who has one in that area, and it complements her waist/hip ratio nicely. But she also has tattoos from shoulder to wrist, and so this does not apply. To truly be a tramp stamp, it has to be on a certain type of woman, and it has to be her ONLY (or maybe one small other one) tattoo.

When this node was last written, I got some feedback that it had also acquired a certain meaning in the gay community - for a man to have a tattoo on his lower back advertises to the world that he is a bottom.

This term has been noded because it is in common parlance, but also as a warning to consider, in general, what to put and where, and to advise you that sporting a tattoo in that area might be suggesting something about yourself you don't want to be. There's a girl on OKCupid in the Atlanta area who expressed her love of Pirates with "Welcome Aboard" tattooed across her lower back in Gothic script. She has rued that since. Likewise, some tattoo artists here discouraged a young race fan from getting the word "Faster" tattooed across her lower back (she thanked them, not realising that people would take it in a sexual context).

Caveat Emptor

For Timeshredder by request

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