Questioning The Tramp Stamp

Okay I’ll say outright, this has absolutely nothing to do with writing.

Yesterday was Staff Appreciation Day at our university, and the theme was Pirates and Treasure and such, so they had an air brush tattoo booth.  I got a celtic cross in the center of my lower back since I have a wedding to go to tonight and these aren’t supposed to wear off for a week.  Hubby got a kick out of it, as I knew he would.  He was saying that I should get a real one there.

Now I’ve waffled on getting a tattoo.  It’s a moot point until we’re finished having kids (and we haven’t started yet), as I certainly don’t want something permanent that’s going to get stretched out of whack with pregnancy.  Sensible, no?  But anyway, hubs got his first tattoo last year and is already jonsing for another.  I’m okay with this so long as I have more say in where this one goes.  Two forearm tattoos make me think too much of Popeye The Sailor Man in a not good way.  But that’s neither here nor there.

From the lovely Cari Buziak at

Whenever tattoos come up in conversation, I always come back to this image.  This is what I want if I ever get a tattoo.  The Celtic tree of life.  My family is of Scots extraction, and I love the symbolism.  Plus, it’s just pretty.   I want to get it in the small of my back.  I have several reasons for this.

  1. Easy to hide
  2. Least likely spot to get stretched out if my weight changes
  3. Nobody’s gonna see it unless I WANT them to see it
  4. It feels like my little secret there

I mentioned this plan to a friend, and she said to make sure that it wasn’t in the tramp stamp location.   Well I’ve never been entirely clear on where that is and the google images that came up on such a search seemed to encompass pretty much the entire lower back region, so…this is not really any clearer for me.  It seems like a “tramp stamp” as such would have more to do with the subject matter (like those tacky ass ones some men get of naked women) and dressing like a hooker in order to draw attention to one’s ass, in which case it’s more the attire that would merit the name.  Now the ones that seem to dip down practically to the butt crack, okay, I can see that looking trashy, and I definitely saw some scary ones online while we were looking for DH, but otherwise, the small of the back seems like a perfectly logical place for a woman to get a tattoo.  Particularly a fairly small one.  It can be covered by all clothes except swimsuits.  I’m not seeing where the tramp comes in here.  If I’m not wearing low rider jeans (and with my shape, I simply can’t even if I wanted to) and short cropped tops (and dude, I haven’t done that since college) to show it off, I don’t see how anyone could call a tattoo in that location a tramp stamp.

I am inclined to think that it is non-inked people who perpetuate this ridiculous stereotype.  People like my mom, who would totally have kittens if I got a tattoo because she thinks all tattoos are low class.  I think she’s pretty narrow minded on this issue.  Sure, tattoos can be tacky.  Others can be incredibly sexy or meaningful.  A friend of ours lost a beloved cat last year.  She recently had him tattooed on (I forget where) with paw prints leading to her heart, where he’ll always be.  I thought it was awfully sweet.  I’d be too much of a weenie to have that much ink, but hey, more power to her.

Anyway, weigh in folks.  I am really curious what people think.  Do all lower back tattoos on women deserve the moniker of tramp stamp?

12 thoughts on “Questioning The Tramp Stamp

  1. I’m the same driftsmoke who stalks you on Twitter. 😀

    I’m going to “talk” about the tramp stamp moniker from the perspective of someone who has several tattoos.

    I first heard this term from men who commented that every exotic dancer (or slut) they saw had a tattoo in this location. Of course, the question of why they were hanging out with these women if they found them somehow offensive never came up. And I am so not saying those guys were right or justified in their opinions, so please don’t take it that way.

    Like other hip sounding expressions, the term “tramp stamp” mainstreamed. See: J-Lo, Bennifer, [X]Fail, Bros not Hos, Gitmo, don’t go there, talk to the hand, [fill in the blank]. At first, only a “hip” few who are “in the know” use the term, but it travels like a fart in a car and, pretty soon, everybody is saying it. The original meaning or intent eventually gets lost, and, now, “tramp stamp” is the term used for any woman who has a tattoo on her lower back.

    People like useful terms like “tramp stamp.” It helps them describe something they don’t like and want to make other people feel bad because they don’t like it. Okay, not everybody who uses the term is that way, I’m sure. But there remains the fact that they are using a negative term to blanket describe every single woman who has a tattoo in a certain location. 🙁

    I have three tattoos, all of which I still love after having had them several years. I got them all after I was already 30, so I had plenty of time to think about it before I went under the needle.

    Now the weight gain. Even if you only gain weight outside pregnancy, that tattoo will stretch. Parts of your body you never believed could stretch can and will when you gain weight. I have a tattoo on my stomach and a tattoo on my upper thigh. Both stretched when I gained about forty pounds a couple of years ago. When I lost the weight, the tattoos went back to normal and now look just like they did when I first got them. I have another tattoo on my upper right shoulder. I would say that spot changes in size the least when I gain weight. Now, I would guess you are right in assuming pregnancy would ruin a tattoo anywhere near your midsection or breasts. So, yeah, don’t go there. 😀

    Another thing I’ll “heads up” you about is pain. My cousin has even more tattoos than I do, probably six or seven. She says that her lower back tattoo was hands-down the most painful she ever got. And she has one on her *foot*. Her *foot*, I said. Anyway, she hasn’t gotten a tattoo since she got the lower back tattoo, so I sort of believe her. 😀

    My final advice is go for it if you want it. I think the lower back is a great spot for a tattoo. It won’t get much sun, and, therefore, won’t fade like these unrecognizable blobs of ink you see on people’s forearms and lower legs. You can easily hide it when you want to. Your husband will think it’s ultra sexy. 😀 Ignore the naysayers of the world and go you own way.


  2. Lower back tattoos are often a great choice when you need or want to hide your tattoo. If you have a job where tattoos are not permitted you can easily get a lower back tattoo without anyone knowing about it.

  3. Exactly! I’ve been tossing around this idea for awhile… I don’t want a tattoo where I’m going to regret it later due to gravity… I don’t want it out there for everyone to see. It’s private. Where else but the lower back could I put it?

    I’m considering the middle of my back just above my shoulder blades but then if I wear backless…. I don’t know. : ) That’s why I’m still thinking and not doing.

    1. They say that lower back is most painful location–but I figure, you’ve had five kids…lower back pain from tattoo should be nothing for you!

  4. If you want to know what a commom man would think walking down the road and seeing your tattoo here is a good definition on urban dictionary.

    I’ll give you the same fatherly advice I gave my daughter. It is your body and you can do what ever you want to it, however you need to look toward the future, if you want to look cool 30 years from now, if you don’t get a tattoo, which is what everyone is doing, then you will stand out if you are not inked. If you have to get inked, everyone else is doing it, then looking at it with an anthropological prospective (Ice Princess), your canvas (your body) should be a road map of your life. Hence, you have a child, you almost die in a car crash, something that is a defining moment in your life, then your body of ink will tell a story and not just be a barbed wire arm band or a tramp stamp with oriental letters that are meaningless.

    Don’t forget the bible thumpers, you are not suppose to mark yourself.

    Did my daughter get a tattoo? yes, a small one on her ankle, looks very nice. Your skin does stretch and go back but the image on it is not quite a vector image you may loose some of its original form. I would recommend upper shoulder, start small there, you are young and have a lot to tell yet, save some canvas for defining moments.

    1. I have to say, personally I’ve never thought much of the “but what about when you’re 80?” argument. First, I’ve never met any 80-year-olds who cared that much about their appearance. Not that they were slovenly, merely that at that point they were glad just to have their health, and a tattoo pretty much the least of their worries. Second, I rarely met an eighty-year-old who gave a good goddamn what people thought of said appearance. One of the big perks of aging is no longer giving a crap if other people approve of your life choices or not.

      You’re going to age, and things are going to go awry with your appearance, whether you get inked or not. Obviously, different strokes and all that, but I am a little baffled by the idea of people “saving” the purity of their good looks for late in life.

      Anyway, I think “tramp stamp” is reductionist and vulgar, and people who use the phrase are probably not people whose opinions should hold much value for you. If you want to do it, I say go for it.

  5. Unfortunately here is a case where a term has overtaken what would be an otherwise acceptable tattoo on an amiable person. As a tattoo artist I have seen a wide range of women get a lower back tattoo and the majority of them I would never attach the term ‘tramp’ or ‘slut’ on them. To generalize the entire female population just because of a natural and logical placement of a tattoo is a complete disservice to women.
    Granted that while placing a tattoo on certain body locations has specific effects on the viewer, it should not be broadly demeaned just because of personal ideologies.
    Personally, as a guy, I find certain lower back tattoos that are executed well and of a pleasing subject to be very sexy. Last I checked, very few women have no issues about wanting to look sexy.
    I could make an analogy to a guy getting a bicep tattoo because he wants to look more macho as a “testosterone stamp”, or can we get cruder and call it a “testes stamp”?
    By all means, if a lower back tattoo is what interests you, then go for it.

    P.S. A lower back “tramp stamp” tattoo resides in the area of the small of the back. It is triangular in shape with the lower point being just above the butt crack and the upper base line going along the body’s natural ‘bend’ line at the waist. The width is generally in proportion to the person and on average of 7″ across. The height is determined by the distance from the lower point to the upper base line.

    Good luck

  6. I have tattoos: one on my right shoulder blade, and the other on my left breast. Yes, I know. Stupid me. I was 19 at the time, and thought my breasts would be perky forever. Um yeah. On the plus side, I can hide my tatoos, which comes in handy in a corporate environment. However, back to my original point: I have always wanted a butterfly along my lower back. And then they became popular. Hence the term tramp stamp was coined. I never got that tattoo. Now, fifteen years later, I still want the butterfly, and don’t give a rip what other people think. It simply doesn’t matter. A tramp is a tramp. You are not a tramp, and besides, that Celtic cross is lovely. I say “Go for it!”.

  7. My mum has just had this tattoo done, the tattooist refused to do it on her lower back and instead she has it in between her shoulderblades, she’s a great believer in what this tree represents and is really happy that when she moves her shoulders forward she gets a big tree and back a small tree, she’s had it done bigger than what I thought she would but it’s def better there, btw the yellow doesn’t come out very well so she had them in red.

  8. Whoa. I’ve never heard the term tramp stamp, it must be a US thing. Which is good, because my wife has a lovely tattoo of a dolphin on her lower back, and if some idiot commented that she was a tramp because of a tattoo, I would not be amused.

    I’d be flipping raging, in fact.

    A tattoo doesn’t make you a tramp. Hell, taking your clothes off, writhing round a pole, and having men thrust money in your knickers doesn’t necessarily make you a tramp either. Sometimes it makes you a survivor. Doesn’t actually say anything positive about the guys…

    There’s nothing wrong with tattoos. But think them through. My first tattoo isn’t one I hate, but it isn’t one I love either. I love my second tattoo. I intend to add several more when I have the cash.

    Don’t listen to idiots.

  9. Hi! Can I get you to add some kind of copyright comment to the Tree you’re displaying here, if it’s not too much trouble? 😉 I’m the original artist for it, and twice now I’ve had people point me to your blog as the place they found my Tree, and then they began using it on products without my permission. 😛 I’m thinking that if the dummies see the copyright comment by the image, maybe they’ll put 2 and 2 together and use their brains? 😉 lol

    Thanks so much!!! 🙂
    PS… I vote for getting the tattoo there if that’s what you want. Most folks who get tattoos are more the type who define their own lives rather than letting others decide it for them anyway, so why start there? 😉 Just my opinion. 🙂
    – Cari Buziak

    Copy of my tree as used on my website (, and some licensing instances:

    (my credit appears right in this product catalog, if you read below the pendant description):–TPD643.html

    (this is probably where you found the version of my tree, from my stencil client’s catalog):

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