The Decorated Body As Communication: Tattoos

2175 words - 9 pages

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Tattoos and CommunicationBody modifications such as tattooing, have been around for millennia, and their presence has flourished and declined throughout time depending on the current thinking of the period. Recent increases in body modifications in contemporary western society continue to stimulate interest and debate. Tattoos and other forms of body art have become more pervasive in the last couple of decades with a rise in middleclass, mainstream clientele. The demographics and imagery of tattoos have undergone profound changes and reflect the political and social upheaval that has taken place. New techniques, artists, technical innovation, more professionalism and media attention have helped catapult the frequency and acceptance of body modification in conventional society. Although tattoos are becoming more accepted by the general public, many people still do not understand why others choose to adorn their bodies with the permanency of ink.Many have sought to uncover the underlying issues which motivate individuals to permanently mark their bodies through tattooing. Specifically, what it is about the lived experiences of man that leads increasing numbers of the human race to seek out and participate in practices long considered the domain of primitive societies? Researchers and psychologists alike have determined that this area of study is significant, and that studies show certain issues such as social deviance, sexual perversion and low self-esteem contribute to the motivation that drives people to participate in this form of body modification. Psychiatrist Armando R. Favazza stated, "many people, especially those belonging to nonconformist groups get tattoos to demonstrate their defiance of traditional authority, or to display a stereotyped symbol of physical strength and aggressiveness. Many studies link multiple tattoos with "antisocial personality, an increased incidence of assaultive behavior, impulsivity, and difficulties in heterosexual adjustment" (Gilbert, Tattoo History, 2001), while psychoanalyst Walter Bromberg paired his ideas with Freudian theories and concluded that the most popular tattoo designs symbolize "sadistic fantasies, masochistic fantasies, sadomasochistic fantasies, guilt arising from incestuous wishes, masturbation and repressed homosexual desires." (Gilbert, Tattoo History, 2001). In the past, it had been argued that body art such as tattooing was no more than just attention seeking self-mutilation, in which only heathens and criminals engage.The prevalence and acceptance of tattooing and other body modifications in modern culture would suggest a need to reevaluate these theories in light of current thinking. Societal values change with time and these conclusions may no longer have the same validity during the present time period.The cultural status of tattooing has steadily evolved from that of an anti-social activity (in the 1960's) to that of a trendy fashion statement (in...

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