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The act of becoming ‘heavily tattooed’, with its historical association with deviant subcultures, continues to carry a social stigma and evoke negative sanctions. This is…
The act of becoming ‘heavily tattooed’, with its historical association with deviant subcultures, continues to carry a social stigma and evoke negative sanctions. This is especially so for women, who must also contend with gender norms within the highly masculinised tattoo subculture. For women, the experience of becoming heavily tattooed comes to represent an embodied resistance to normative ideals of beauty, against which the participants construct their own alternative gender and beauty philosophies. Besides gender norms, the tattoo world has specific ethos which divides the serious subcultural member from those more casually connected to it. The physical parameter of the subculture finds people gathering in tattoo studios and at tattoo conventions, as well as consuming tattoo-oriented media, such as magazines and television shows. This study draws on in-depth interviews with 36 participants across the United States who consider themselves serious tattoo collectors. From their stories, we learn about the importance of participating in this leisure activity and how becoming heavily tattooed impacts their sense of self, gender and identity.