Subject: rec.arts.bodyart: Tattoo FAQ 8/9--Misc. info
Reply-to: stan AT cosmo.pasadena.ca.us
Approved: news-answers-request AT MIT.Edu
Expires: May 15, 2007
Summary: This posting contains a bibliography of various sources
available on the topic of tattoos. Anyone who wishes to read/post to the RAB newsgroup, or obtain tattoos should read this first.
Last-modified: December 3, 2006
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This FAQ is maintained by Stan Schwarz <stan-rabfaq AT cosmo.pasadena.ca.us>
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The FAQs are also available on the World Wide Web at
The rec.arts.bodyart Tattoo FAQ is broken up into 9 parts:
2/9--Getting a tattoo
6/9--Care of new tattoos
8/9--Misc. info <---YOU ARE READING THIS FILE
This file is structured as a traditional FAQ in the form of questions
and answers. Questions answered in this file:
Rec.arts.bodyart FAQ Part 8/9: Misc. tattoo info:
Where can I get a Japanese "irezumi" tattoo?
When did tattooing start?
How does a modern tattoo machine work?
How long do I have to wait before I can donate blood?
Tattoos and allergies
Tattoos and MRI
How do I temporarily cover up a tattoo?
How do I become a tattoo artist?
The dark side of tattooing
"Rape by tattoo"
Fulfilling unrequited feelings with tattoos
Getting tattooed in a BDSM scene or relationship
"Property of" tattoos
U.S. laws regulating tattooing
COPYRIGHT AND DISSEMINATION
Under the Berne Convention, this document is Copyright (c) 1997 by Lani
Teshima-Miller, all rights reserved. Permission is granted for it to be
reproduced electronically on any system connected to the various
networks which make up the Internet, Usenet, and FidoNet so long as it
is reproduced in its entirety, unedited, and with this copyright notice
intact. Web sites are included. Individual copies may also be printed
for personal use.
ARE THERE GLOW-IN-THE-DARK INKS OR FLUORESCENT INKS?
Fluorescent ink is not the same as glow-in-the-dark ink. Fluorescent
inks glow under ultraviolet light. Phosphorescents glow after being
exposed to light, and glow-in-the-dark things that glow without any
outside stimulus are almost unknown.
There are no glow-in-the dark inks.
There are no phosphorescent inks.
Starting around 1991, some tattoo artists experimented with
fluorescent inks that glow under UV light. At the time, it was
thought that these could be used to make tattoos that would only be
visible under UV light. As it turned out, the early inks did not perform
as expected. They were not invisible under normal light, and in some
cases turned brown. At the same time, many people reported skin
irritation problems. Apparently a lot of these problems have been
solved over the years, and I have seen some successful UV tattoos
There is a collection of information about these inks at:
WHAT COLORS ARE AVAILABLE?
There are a lot more colors available now than just "Popeye green and
red." Just about every color imaginable can be obtained for your design.
If your artist does not have a pre-mixed color, s/he will mix the colors
on the spot for you. It is not an exaggeration to say that you could
specify your design by Pantone color, especially since many artists have
fine arts degrees and are familiar with the various Pantone shades
[Pantone shades are used by professional artists and are standard
ARE THERE GOLD OR SILVER INKS FOR TATTOOS?
While there are some metallic inks available, these are very rare and a
general answer to this question is a simple "no." If you have a design
that needs to look metallic, a good artist can use other colors to make
it look metallic without actually using gold or silver ink.
My understanding is that artists shy away from metallic colors because
of their toxic properties under the skin.
CAN I GET A WHITE INK TATTOO?
Most artists use white ink to highlight certain parts of your tattoo
design. However, white ink is a special color that requires your artist
to work closely with you. The effect of white ink differs greatly among
clients, and its visibility and retention on the skin has much to do
with the natural coloration of your skin.
White ink seems to work best on very light-skinned people.
Unfortunately, this means people with dark skin would not able to get a
white ink tattoo on their skin to have a "photo negative effect" that
looks like a negative of a dark colored tattoo on light skin. This is
because the ink sits under your skin, and the layer of skin over the ink
is tinted with your natural skin color. So if you have very dark skin,
the white will be overwhelmed with your natural melanin.
Those who have very light skin however, may use white ink exclusively to
get tattoo designs that are very difficult to discern at first glance.
This might be an interesting option for ankle or wrist tattoos, or other
areas where a regular non-white tattoo would show up too easily and
possibly cause problems for the wearer.
Subject: WHERE CAN I GET JAPANESE "IREZUMI" TATTOOS?
Japanese "irezumi" tattoos are often associated with laborers (primarily
fire fighters and carpenters) and yakuza members, who stereotypically
also lack the tips of one or two digits on their hands (to signify a
failed order and to show loyalty--see the movie, Black Rain with
Michael Douglas for an example). An excellent book to to see examples of
traditional Japanese bodysuits is The Japanese tattoo by Sandi Fellman
(New York : Abbeville Press, 1986. 112 p.). For those interested in
getting work of this magnitude done however, the general answer is "ya
can't gets one." This is not only because of the time or costs
involved--there is a sense of the spiritual and of propriety with the
artists, who do not advertise their services in the Yellow Pages.
Your best bet as a "gaijin" (foreigner) is to find a Western artist who
specializes in oriental artwork. As trends go, the young Japanese are
now interested in tattoos of Elvis and Chevies, anyway--the grass is
greener on the other side, I guess.
If you can manage to attend the larger tattoo conventions, some of the
Japanese artists now travel the U.S. convention circuit regularly.
KANJI [CHINESE/JAPANESE] CHARACTERS
One word of warning about getting Japanese or Chinese characters--make
sure that the artist who does this understands the importance of the
shape and form of the letters. Unlike the roman alphabet, the essence of
the Oriental characters is in the proper execution of form. The artist
will have to know where the "brush strokes" of the calligraphy start
and end (since stroke order also counts), as well as how angular some
corners should be, etc. The worst thing would be to sport a Japanese
kanji character that looks like some zygotes. How to tell if the
characters are formed properly? It would help if you know how to read
kanji or if you have Asian friends--otherwise, go with a reputable
artist who is known for it. Beware: I read Japanese, and most of the
kanji flash I've seen in shops are embarrassing to look at.
Brendan Mahoney <phxbrendan AT aol.com> adds:
Even were I to consider getting a kanji tattoo, mere copying just
doesn't cut it (no pun intended). Chinese, like Japanese, has printing
(e.g in books), hand printing (which can be very artisitic) and various
forms of cursive (extremely artistic), not to mention styles--something
like fonts--within each of the forms or writing. The most important
aspect of fine cursive (aside from form and proportion) is what the
Chinese call "flying white," that is, the white streaks created from
moving the brush so rapidly. Creating a tattoo like that would require
considerable shading skill in addition to appreciation for the flying
Paraphrased from the Globe and Mail (Toronto's National Newpaper):
"A 4,000 year old man has been found in Italy near the Austrian border,
(originally it was reported he was in Austria, but both countries now
agree he is in Italy.) Carbon dating will take a few months, but
artifacts found near him strongly suggest that he is over 4,000 years
old...He is also tattooed...a small cross is behind one knee and above
his kidneys there are a series of lines, about 15 cm long."
[Apparently, this account it not quite correct, as later datings placed
the Ice Man's age at closer to 5,300 years.]
Now I knew that the Egyptians tattooed each other, but that was only
3,000 years ago. I wonder how much further back this custom goes?
From "Tattoo You" by Steve Wind (Off Duty Hawaii Magazine, October '92):
"The first Western references to tattoos didn't come until 1771, when
Captain Cook brought the word to Europe after seeing the artform in
Tahiti. Tattoos were associated with the lower class and criminal
elements in Britain and America until the early 1900s when, drawn by a
sense of freedom, decadence and sexual liberation, upper classes began
wearing them as well."
The word "tattoo" apparently comes from the Tahitian word "tatau," which
was onomonopoetic for the sound their tattooing instrument made. The
word was brought back by Captain Cook.
I'd like to thank Fred Jewell <fredj AT ksr.com>, who did this entire
section, except the diagram [which took me some time], and the needle
arrangements, which is by Jesster. Please note that this information
is not for the purpose of teaching people how to tattoo, but to
assist in the public in becoming a more well-informed customer.
The tattoo machine ('gun' is a misnomer) is really a basic doorbell
circuit (you know--you push a button and somewhere in the kitchen this
little arm bangs the hell out of a bell thingie). For you techies out
there it's a DC coil and spring point(s) machine. Both doorbell and tat
machine were invented before household current was available.
__ / \ \ / <--rabbit ear w/ a screw in it _/ /____ / /_/ \ | ( )---\ \ | --- ---\\ \ \/ /_____ \\ \ __ __ ( ) \ \\ \ / \ / \ <--mechanism ============================= ^ ------------ | | | <-contact points armature (| |________________|---\___| bar -> | | _/ \_||_/ \_ / <-This whole thing is the base | | [XXXX]||[XXXX]__ __ \ coils (X)-> | | |XXXX|--|XXXX| \ / \ \ | | |XXXX|--|XXXX| / \__/ | | | |XXXX|--|XXXX| / || / =========================== <-rubber bands =========================== ___| |___|__|__|__|__/ |___((_// / //\ |\- | // | ___________________| \// /___/ --- | |___| /XXXXX\ |XXXXX| |XXXXX| |XXXXX| <--sanitary tube |XXXXX| |XXXXX| |_____| \ / | | | | | | | | | | \_| <---needles
It is essentially in 3 sections: The base, the mechanism, and the
sanitary tube. The base really is the bulk of the metal; a rabbit ear
with a screw in it, bent at 90 degrees to hold coils. In the front
there's a round hole to hold the sanitary tube.
Some people think the base looks like the handle of a gun. The base
houses the mechanism, which consists of two coils of wire wrapped around
an iron core.
At the top of the mechanism is a set of silver contact "points" (like
the end of a wire); one usually on a spring mechanism, the other either
the end, or on the end of a screw.
The spring connects to the base and a bar, which is connected to the
needle arm (90 degrees offset). The needle arm is connected to the
needles (which are soldered onto the bar), and moves up and down inside
the sanitary tube.
The coils connect to a DC power supply (between 6 - 12VDC), via a spring
coiled U-cable. The U-cable is called a "clip cord," designed to move
easily between machines but also stay in place and not fall out and
spark all over the place. The springs hold the cable in/onto the
One side of the coils is connected to the power supply, the other end to
the point on the screw on the bunny ear, which is insulated from the
base. Through the points, the current flows via the coils and the base
of the machine. This causes the coils to become electromagnetic. The
electro-magnet pulls down the bar, which does two things: pulls down the
needles, and opens the points. The points being open turn off the
magnet. The spring assembly brings back the bar, which causes the
needles to move up AND make contact with the points. This causes the
whole cycle to happen again making the needles go up and down.
Most machines have a large capacitor across the coils/points, which
keeps the points from arcing and pitting, and wearing out so quickly. A
capacitor is a device that holds energy kind of like a battery, but
charges and discharges much faster (parts of a second rather than 3 or 4
hours). The capacitor charges while the points are open, so when they
close, the difference in voltage across them is nill. The points are
really an automatic switch controlled by the spring to turn the thing
off and on quickly. In old cars where there were points there was a
condenser (aka capacitor) for the same reason.
The sanitary tube sucks up the ink in capillary fashion, and the needles
load up as long as there's ink in the small portion of the tube.It's
called "sanitary" because of the cutout at the bottom of the tube, which
can be rinsed out.
My understanding is that there are three layers of skin: Scaly layer,
epidermis, and dermis. Tattoo machines are adjusted to penetrate into
the dermis layer but NOT through it (below it is the fat layer of the
When the needles go into the sanitary tube they have a layer of ink on
and between them. The needles make little holes in the skin, and the ink
is deposited into the holes. This is why the skin has to be stretched so
blobs of ink don't stay. Otherwise, the skin will latch onto the
needles, grab the ink from them and generally make a mess.
Ink just put into the scaly layer would be replaced quickly and fade
away. While ink into the epidermis will stay, my conjecture is that the
dermis makes for more ink and perhaps a more vivid image.
Machines are really of two types: Liners, and shaders. They areexactly
the same, but are set up differently. The gap for a liner isaround the
thickness of a dime, and a shader is the thickness of a nickel.
Liner needles are usually arranged on the bar in a circular pattern.
Shader needles are usually straight (like a comb), although Spaulding &
Rogers sells a 15-needle round shader. The needles are small sewing
machine needles, usually made of stainless steel. Liners are in 1, 3, 4,
5, & 7-needle combinations, set in a round configuration. Note: There
can really be any number of them but these seem to be most common.
Shader needles are in a straight row and usually are in groups of 4, 6,
7, 9 needles. The sanitary tubes are designed especially for the
combination of needles, so there's a special tube for each different
number of needles in a needle bar assembly
The following needle diagrams are from Jesse "Jesster" Parent
(jesster AT WPI.EDU).
Single needle 3-needle 5-needle
4-needle 6-needle oooo oooooo
8-needle shaders are grouped so that 7 needles form a circle with 1 in
the middle. There are also 14-needle shaders.
Shaders are mounted on flat needle bars while liners are mounted on
There are two other types of machines. Spaulding & Rogers revolution
(don't know of an artist that uses this one), which is a DC motor that
turns a cam that raises and lowers the needle bar assembly through a
The other is the home-made machine made in prison, using a small motor
from a tape recorder or VCR. Here is a picture showing an actual
prison machine that was found by a corrections officer:
"It's really pretty simple. I'm a Corrections Officer and have come
across many machines in the few years I've been an Officer. Usually
you only find pieces of one, but every now and then you get lucky and
manage to get ahold of a complete machine. After use they break it
down and hide the pieces all over the place. That way if an officer
finds one piece, they only have to replace that one piece."
"I'll explain it using the pic I sent as a reference. It's one of the
complete machines I managed to find about a year ago. It was so nice
I kept it and have used it with some of the academy classes to show
them what to look for."
"In pic "A" you see the entire thing. The needle at the top, the
machine, and the battery. The needle (B) is usually made from a tiny
spring, like the kind in a Bic lighter, straightened out and then they
work slowly to sharpen one end. Usually by placing it between a rock
and concrete and pulling the needle out. This way it's less likely to
bend during sharpening and doesn't become weak."
"The other end of the needle is wrapped into a spiral and the very end
(about 1/16 - 1/8 of an inch) is straightened up and down. That tiny
straight piece at the end of the spiral is fixed to the edge of the
motor's post. (image C (1) ) It's usually soldered on the top of the
post with melted plastic from a toothbrush or plastic fork stolen from
the dining room. Because it's placed on one edge when the motor spins
it caused the needle to perform the stabbing motion in and out of the
"You can easily see how the toothbrush melted and bend into shape holds
the motor and the tube together. In this case they used electrical
tape to fix the pieces to the toothbrush."
"In picture "E" you can see the ink tube from the pen has been cut in
half and placed back into the pen's shaft, which holds the needle more
still in the shaft giving it a straighter, more fluid motion as it
goes in and out of the tip. In picture "D" you can see how the "ball"
was removed from the tip of the pen creating a tiny, tight hole for
the needle to pass through."
"And there you have it. A machine made from less than $3 worth of crap
laying around the house."
"In this case the motor was from a VCR."
"I found this machine while it was being used. And I have to
say... some of the work that comes out of there is amazing considering
the tools being used."
DO TATTOO NEEDLES BECOME DULL WITH USE?
The following information is provided by Uncle Bud <uncbud AT rmii.com>:
Tattoo needles do not dull with age, but instead become sharper by the
repetitive honing motion they experience in the tattoo machine.
This happens because the metal of the sanitary tube rubs against the
needles, and the softer metal (the needles) will wear. The problem with
these sharpened needles is that they sharpen into flat razor-like edges,
and begin cutting the skin instead of piercing small holes.
Since a tattoo is created by the conical shape of the needle
transferring pigment into the skin with the aid of a wetting agent, the
needle's shape is as important as its sharpness. Pigment does not
transfer into the skin as efficiently when the shape is altered, and can
also lead to scarring.
Another problem with needles is the occurrence of burs or barbs when the
needles hit the side or bottom of the pigment caps.
While it is possible to use the same set of needles for more than eight
hours (on the same client, of course), correct needle configuration,
setup, and alignment of the needle and machine are very critical.
The standard question they always ask at blood banks is whether you've
had a piercing or tattoo within the last 12 months. A lot of discussion
has been made over RAB about some centers allowing for exceptions and
whatnot, but it looks like the general concensus is that you have to
wait 12 months. I assume this is to wait out any incidence of hepatitis
Jonathan Allan (news AT rchland.ibm.com) says the Mayo Clinic in Rochester,
MN won't take you if you have had:
Josephine Valencia <jv22+ AT andrew.cmu.edu>, on allergies to certain inks:
The red reaction affects approximately 1 in every 100,000 to 300,000
people. It is characcterized by itching and sometimes swelling depending
on how severe the case. This usually happens 3 to 5 years after the
tattoo, although cases have been reported as early as a few months and
as late as 20 years.
Remedies usually involve OTC lotion or in more severe cases, medication
prescribed by a dermotoligist. No one seems to know what causes it and
is associated usually only with the color red.
About 20 (?) years ago most red pigments contained mercury and the red
reaction was much more common. It was widely believed that mercury was
the cause. Mercury is no longer used in tattoo inks. Red reaction
incidences decreased dramaticlly but were not eliminated.
Dr. Kai Kristensen <tattoodoc AT jps.net>, on other causes for allergic
reactions: Anything that the needles must go through to drive the ink
into the dermis can be carried with the ink into the skin--and some
people are blessed with a high degree of reaction to foreign material.
Most tattoo artists use a petroleum jelly based ointment as a lubricant
on the surface of the skin and tattoo through that layer. In some
persons, driving any of that into the skin sets up a foreign body
reaction with lumps and itching (me, for one). If that is the case,
persuade your artist to tattoo "dry" without the ointment. It is
perfectly satisfactory and no harder on the tattooer or tattooee. I
personally cannot see the need for the "grease" layer as an added
possibility for forein body reactions. [Ed.-Note that some artists use
plain petroleum jelly, while others use vitamin-enhanced products.]
Magenetic Resonance Imaging utilizes nuclear magnetic resonance to
produce detailed images of the interior of the human body. A fairly
detailed discussion of the physics of how this works can be found at
The relevant issue for tattoo enthusiasts is that MRI utilizes a
strong magnetic field and radio-frequency radiation which can interact
with some tattoo inks containing metal salts. Several people have
reported some mild discomfort during MRI. This took the form of heat
in the tattooed areas. The treatment for this was to apply cold
compresses to the areas to absorb the heat. Apparently, this does not
affect the quality of the images recorded by the MRI.
If you are going to a job interview or some other event that requires
you to conceal your tattoos (and clothing is not an option), there are
two cosmetic products recommended:
1. Joe Blasco's line of theatrical cosmetics
2. Dermablend cover-up make-up, which is used by people who have
vitiligo (Michael Jackson's mysterious melanin-loss disease), scars,
birthmarks and tattoos.
For Blasco products, check with your local theater supply store (or your
local theater--they might be able to supply you, or refer you to their
direct number). Dermablend is available at cosmetic counters.
Depending on how it's asked, this question probably receives the most
amount of flames when posted to RAB. The general concensus is that there
is only "one way" to do it, and that is to apprentice, period. There is
far more to be learned about the art and business of tattooing than what
can be obtained simply from a book (e.g. customer service, etiquette,
running a business, dealing with emergencies).
Ever seen Karate Kid where the boy learns his skills through mundane,
seemingly unrelated things like waxing a car? Spending eight months to a
year under a well-established artist's wings can help you to really
learn what's involved in being a professional tattooist, as well as in
how to run your own small business. Just as you would never consider
becoming a professional masseuse or an acupuncturist without proper
training, neither should you try to become a professional tattooist
without the proper training.
Unfortunately, many people consider "proper training" to mean "good at
drawing and used a tattoo machine." If you are a good illustrator, it
simply means you might have a better chance at finding an artist willing
to be your mentor.
As far as I know, there are no reputable schools that offer
instruction in tattooing. There have been a few shops that offered
programs, but they were generally scams of one sort or another. So
once again, you are back to having to serve as an apprentice if you
want to learn tattooing.
The hardest part of becoming an apprentice is in finding an artist who
will take you seriously and let you work in the shop. Having a portfolio
of illustrations will certainly help. You will also end up knocking on a
lot of doors. Not every artist will want to have an apprentice, since
that means extra work for them. To prove your commitment, you may be
asked to put time in without any monetary compensation at all for a
while. And for many months, all you will do might be answering the phone
and mopping the floor. But remember that that is all part of your
training! Wax in, wax out! Expect to devote at least two to three years
to this form of training.
Lastly, think very carefully about your consequences should you decide
not to go with the apprentice route:
o You may have difficulty becoming an established artist.
o You may have difficulty finding people you can work on.
o You may end up with a bad reputation for bad work.
o You may not learn how to run a business, and end up having to
...be happy you're not trying to become a master sushi chef: They take
*12 YEARS* to attain (and it takes five years just to get the privilege
of cooking the rice).
While the bulk of this FAQ looks at tattoos and tattooing very
positively, I need to address the fact that tattooing can be used in
harmful, negative ways. If you have ever been forced to get a tattoo you
did not want, or had someone else take your idea or identity, this
section will be of particular interest to you. Particular thanks to
Michelle DeLio <shell AT pipeline.com> for assistance in this section.
"RAPE BY TATTOO"
"Rape by tattoo" by its definition means that someone violated you in a
personal way by using a tattoo as a weapon. This could be done in two
ways. One could be that you were forced to receive a tattoo you did not
want. The movie, Tattoo, carries this theme to the extreme, with an
obsessed tattoo artist kidnapping a professional model (Maude Adams) and
tattooing her while she is unconscious. The movie in fact, was boycotted
by some women's groups when it was first released.
While genital penetration may not be involved, involuntary tattooing is
an unpleasant experience for the recipient, and is very symbolic of the
use of a penetrating weapon to mark an indelible stain on the victim's
The second could happen when someone chooses to tattoo your name on
their body without your full permission and cooperation. Some may think,
"What's the problem? You should be flattered," However, those who have
had this happen to them have noted a profound sense of loss, that part
of their identity or soul was stolen from them. In one particular case,
a man surprised his girlfriend with a tattoo of her name on him, and
with it began the start of a stalking relationship that terrified her
for years in an obsessive/possessive situation involving domestic abuse.
I am hereby urging the strongest recommendation in the entire FAQ: If
you want the name of your loved one tattooed on your body or your loved
one wants one of your name, 150% open-hearted, voluntary permission must
be given by both parties as a prerequisite. (Exceptions made for names
of the deceased, or of famous people). There should be no "convincing"
or "talking into" involved. If there is the slightest hesitation, please
do not do this.
Those who wish to have their loved one represented in a tattoo should
instead use a symbolic object.
FULFILLING UNREQUITED FEELINGS WITH TATTOOS
There are some lonely people in this world who enjoy inflicting pain on
their bodies (NOT to say all those who enjoy it are lonely!), or have
wish fulfillment dreams that they try to make come true with tattoos.
Michelle Delio tells the following story:
"Back when he was first starting out, Shotsie Gorman says a girl came
into shop--kind of shy and awkward--wanted a name tattooed around her
nipple. Shotsie tried to back off, feeling weird about this, but the
shop owner insisted.
"So Shotsie does the tattoo. He's almost finished when he says, 'Well
you and Xxxxxxxxxxx must have a really special relationship for you to
be getting this kind of tattoo, right?' The girl replies, 'He doesn't
even know I exist.' Shotsie said this made him physically ill. That was
the start of his personal ban on doing names/slogans, because he says
there's too much weirdness connected with it."
GETTING TATTOOED IN A BDSM SCENE OR RELATIONSHIP
There are a couple of concerns with tattooing in the BDSM context.
First, there are many sanitation concerns with regard to tattooing, and
just as with piercing (either play piercing or "real" piercing) during a
scene, it is imperative that all sterilization procedures are correctly
followed. And because of the permanency of tattoos, things such as
designs, locations, and placement should be fully agreed upon prior to
the start of a scene. While this may take some of the spontaneity out of
things, it is a very important step that should not be omitted.
Recipients of the tattooing in a scene should be fully aware during the
procedure, and be able to safe-word out if the scene is not comfortable
Second (and within the frame of the "dark side" theme of this section)
there are some tops who extend the relationship with their bottoms
beyond scenes, and in some instances, bottoms may feel that they have no
choice but to be tattooed (or pierced, branded, etc.) by order of their
While persons may enlarge their relationship boundaries beyond the
actual scenes, it is important to make sure that such permanent things
as tattoos are still fully agreed upon. Just as safe words exist, a
bottom should still be feel comfortable when it comes to a decision to
receive a tattoo as part of the relationship.
The bottom should always have the final say in such matters, if only for
the fact that the relationship may not always last, and because body
modification affects people at very deep levels.
"PROPERTY OF" TATTOOS
There are (primarily) women who have "Property of ______" tattooed on
their buttocks to show that they are "owned" by their partner. This has
been traditional with bikers. Some women have "Property of [name of the
club]" tattooed on themselves after they pass some sort of initiation
(which could be having sex with every member of the club) so they could
join the club (although many times, they join the club as a "hood
ornament" and not as full-fledged members with the same rank and status
Treating women as property is both degrading and insulting. It is also a
sad fact that some women feel that they are not worth as much without
this stamp of approval. Do women in these situations have the capacity
to know what "true consent" is?
Michelle DeLio tells the tale of one such woman, who broke up with one
man and married another: "As a sort of wedding present to her, they
dragged the girl to the local tattooist and they inked 'CANCELED' on her
butt in big black block letters, like a meat stamp (over her old
'Property of' tattoo)."
The popularity of primitive designs has led to people searching
anthropology books for cultural images for their tattoos. It is a very
bad idea to use sacred images of a culture to which you do not belong.
Using clan symbols, shields and other such images merely for visual
effect is nothing short of robbing the soul of a culture. On the other
hand, tattoos inspired by native iconography is both exciting and
respectful. Otherwise, make sure you can lay claim to the image by
checking your geneaology.
Also, remember that some cultures have an extensive tattoo history.
Beyond the images themselves, some tattoos, like the Maori moko, are
considered sacred and limited only to those who are allowed to wear
them. For the Maori, a foreigner who wears a moko without understanding
its significance, or receiving the proper blessings, is nothing short of
This topic was a very hot thread in RAB during the fall of 1995. There
were several differing opinions, but here are the general highlights:
o The use of icons and symbols is a real sore point for people of a
culture that considers the symbols sacred. Examples: Family crests,
patterns indicating geneaological lineage, and religious symbols.
o Many cultural images are not sacred or religious. These should be
available for use by those from other cultures.
o Many symbols of one culture are actually adaptations from other
cultures. From this standpoint, some people feel that the use of
cultural symbols should be okay.
Perhaps a compromise or middle ground is best in this situation. If you
are interested in a tattoo from another culture, it is suggested you:
o First check to see if the image is sacred, and whether "foreigners"
are allowed to wear the image. After all, if you desire to wear the
image because you respect it or the culture, the last thing you want
to do is offend the very people you look up to.
o If the wearing of the image requires some sort of blessing from a
person from that culture, do some research as to how this could be
o Even if the image is not sacred, you should check with a person native
to that culture to make sure the image looks correct. Example:
Japanese kanji characters.
o Above all, be respectful. Do a little research. If you find an image
you like, try to learn a little bit about the culture and the image.
Make sure you are not offending anyone with the tattoo idea you have.
Where available, I have included the information about the laws
regarding tattooing for that state. Note that some states leave this up
to the cities or municipalities. This information should only be used
for unofficial information purposes, and may change by each legislative
session--for accurate and up-to-date information regarding the laws of
your area, contact a professional tattoo shop or the department of
The laws regarding tattooing differ as greatly as there are states in
the U.S. While a handful serve as model states for regulations, most are
completely unregulated, with the exception of some laws on the minimum
allowable age. There is no federal legislation regarding tattooing.
To complicate things however, many states leave these regulations up to
the cities, counties and municipalities. In addition, changes or
amendments to existing laws crop up regularly.
Laws regarding tattooing are listed at the beginning of each state's
section in Part 5 of this FAQ, which is the artists list. You can
view the database at http://1134.org/tattoodb/
If YOUR state changes its laws, please contact me.
Regulations help promote professionalism, and discourage "scratchers."
This is important when considering disease transmission (HIV and
Hepatitis-B in particular). If you think this is a frivolous issue,
consider that some states have banned tattooing altogether.
If state legislators try to introduce regulations on tattooing, make
sure they follow in the lines of the states with the best laws, which
cover points such as:
Artist requirements: Training, knowledge of sanitation, washing of
hands and use of barrier gloves for every new client
Facility requirements: Clean work area, availability of running water
Equipment requirements: Autoclave, disposable needles, covered waste
Procedural requirements: Customers needing to be sober, use of signed
The following are the actual requirements for the state of Hawaii. The
others with regulations follow in a similar vein:
o Building must be clean, in good repair, have adequate lighting
o Adequate ventilation required
o Tattoo establishments many not be used for any non-tattoo related
o Toilets must be provided for customers
o Work area must be separate from the rest of the business, or at
least separated upon request
o Artists should always wash their hands before every tattoo.
o Separate sink (away from the toilet facilities) must be
available for artists to wash their hands
o Artists must dry their hands with single use paper towels or
some sort of mechanical (air) dryer
o Artists with communicable diseases may not tattoo
o Food, drink, and smoking not allowed in the work area
o Smoking prohibited
o May not tattoo in exchange for sex
o Immersion in a germicidal solution as an alternative to
o Use of defective, dull, or rusty equipment is banned
o Disposable single-use ink containers must be used, and with any
unused ink must be discarded after every customer
o All dyes must be approved
o Minimum number of needles and tubes must be kept on hand
o Only sterilized or disposable razors allowed
o Covered waste containers required
o Special storage cabinets for tattooing materials required
o Tattooing materials may not be stored in the restroom.
o Facial tattoos may only be done by licensed physicians
o Injection of chemicals into the skin by tattoo artists to remove
tattoos is illegal
o Customers must be sober
o Signed consent forms required
o Parental consent forms required for minors
o Artists must keep records on every customer for at least 2 years
o Oral care instructions required
o Acetate stencils must be sanitized
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This ends "rec.arts.bodyart: Tattoo FAQ 8/9--Misc. info." This should be
followed by "rec.arts.bodyart: Tattoo FAQ 9/9--Bibliography."