Dare to Ask:
Tramp stamp? The term is half insulting, at the least
By Phillip Milano
The Florida Times-Union
Why are tattoos on the lower backs of women called tramp stamps? -- D., 53,
female, Springtown, Texas
Because the tattoo is half above the pant line and half below. If the tattoo
were completely covered, no one would notice it, and it wouldn't matter. If it
were completely uncovered, people would think "that's cool" or "that person is
socially deviant," depending on their view of tattoos. But since a tramp stamp
is half uncovered, it makes people wonder what the other half looks like, and
because of where it is located, that leads to other thoughts. -- Kayla, 18, St.
Because of the type of women who usually get them. -- A.L., 40, female,
Kansas City, Mo.
It's my understanding when you hear the word "tramp," realistically you are
probably referring to a female, right? So that's usually a woman's first place
to put a tattoo. It's very easy to hide when it needs to be hidden. Also, I have
yet to see a man with a tattoo right there. If so, I question his masculinity.
-- Lyrick, 20, female, Washington, D.C.
No shades of gray for Karen Hudson, author of "Living Canvas: Your Complete
Guide to Tattoos, Piercings, and Body Modification."
"I guarantee you that term was made up by some man who needs to be slapped
upside the head," said Hudson, Body Art guide at about.com. "A lot of men are
threatened by women with strong sexual tendencies, who are confident and
Hudson sees the "stamp" part of the pejorative as having come from early
lower-back (or lumbar) tattoos that often featured simple tribal and Celtic
designs that actually did look like stamps.
The "tramp" part came later, and now it's gone viral.
In an about.com essay, for example, Hudson laments the stereotypes of women
with such tattoos, railing against a user's definition submitted to
UrbanDictionary.com that reads, in part: "Those chicks with tramp stamps are the
kinds of girls you take home to -- . Don't get into relationships with them
because they are often immature gold-digging sluts who sleep with everyone."
That's not to say some women aren't trying to convey a message, especially
when such marks show a little and hide a little.
"It's a way to be suggestive and powerful without actually going the rest of
the way," Hudson said. "And sexy. So is cleavage. But it doesn't mean she's
After all, she said, some women are just comfortable being women.
"They don't mind having curves and accentuating that area, so they are more
open, and if they are more open to something, maybe they are more open to
others, but it doesn't make them a tramp."
Hudson, with lots of tatts herself, said she hasn't given over her lower back
yet to the iron.
"I consider that prime real estate for a really amazing piece of artwork. At
some point my entire back will be covered."
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Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to email@example.com. You can also hear his
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