Ink Origins: The Tramp Stamp

We use the term tramp stamp to humorously label a lower back tattoo, but this phrase is also a way to drag down the reputation of women who receive it; illustrating even though tattoos have become more socially accepted, they still hold some negative stereotypes.  

(Fun fact: the British call it a "slag tag").

Demeaning the meaning:

Where "tramp stamp" came from is still a bit of a mystery. What is known is the popular references we've seen in comedy platforms. The expression boomed in popularity after a 2004 "Saturday Night Live" skit. Oh, and who can forget in 2005 when Vince Vaughn’s said it “might as well be a bulls-eye," in the popular film Wedding Crashers. From there, audiences saw, in reality, tv shows, such as Rock of Love, tramp stamps linked to a particular kind of woman; linked to being promiscuous.

Research indicates the phrase was hatched between the mid-nineties and early 2000s, quickly gaining an erotic undertone. Arguably, the tramp stamp was born in California. According to records taken from multiple tattoo studios in California, a large number of women requested lower back pieces in the late '90s echoing judgments from society about feminine sexuality.

Why do women choose lower back tattoos? Because it's one of the few areas that doesn't change much over time, with weight fluctuation or age. Another motive for a lower back tattoo is it's easy to conceal compared to an arm, chest, or wrist tattoo. Lastly, the pain level is low compared to other places on the body.

A recent study showed men found women with tattoos more approachable. But of course, the same men said these women gave them the perception that they had a better chance of sleeping with them. In time it's unlikely that tramp stamp term will go extinct, but there's a good chance that the women wearing them can feel less shamed by society with tattoos growing in popularity. Most won't make fun of a "tramp stamp" if their wives, sisters, Mothers, or Grandmothers have them.

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