Lower-back tattoo

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A woman with a lower back tattoo washes up

A lower-back tattoo (also known as a tramp stamp or slag tag)[1] is a tattoo that became popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s and gained a reputation for its erotic appeal. They are sometimes accentuated by low-rise jeans and crop tops.


Although historically in the western world men have been the majority of tattoo recipients, in the early 1990s the practice gained popularity among women.[1] Prior to the late twentieth century, women with tattoos were heavily stigmatized, and were rarely found in middle-class society.[2] Lower-back tattoos were popularized in the early 2000s, in part owing to the influence of female celebrities, including Britney Spears, Aaliyah, Christina Ricci and Pamela Anderson. The popularity of low-rise jeans and crop tops may have also spurred the increase in lower-back tattoos.[3] Another appeal of tattooing the lower back is that there is little fat there, lessening the chance that images will become misshapen over time.[4] Also, the lower back is often concealed, providing women the choice of when to reveal their tattoo.[2] Although some males have lower-back tattoos, including some celebrities,[3] they are generally not acquired by men.[5]


A woman receiving a lower-back tattoo

Women's lower backs are often viewed by people as an erotic body part, leading to the association of lower-back tattoos with sexuality.[2] Lower-back tattoos are also perceived as an indication of promiscuity by some, possibly owing to media portrayals of women with tattoos.[6] A 2011 study of media stereotypes criticized media portrayals of lower-back tattoos, arguing that they are unfairly cast as a symbol of promiscuity.[7] There are a number of pejorative nicknames for lower-back tattoos, including "tramp stamp", "slag tag", "bulls-eye", and "target".[1] The show Saturday Night Live seems to at least have partially played a role in bringing prejudice and shaming to the placement of the tattoo. For instance, the term "tramp stamp" started gaining widespread popularity after being used in one of their May 2004 skits.[8] In another instance, the show also satirized the practice, describing a "rub-on" tattoo remover marketed at middle-age women who received lower-back tattoos while young.[7]

Medical aspects[edit]

Medical practitioners who administer anesthesia have questioned whether epidural analgesia should be provided to women with lower-back tattoos. Concerns have emerged that epidural catheters may cause tattoo pigment to enter interspinous ligaments and other areas, potentially leading to health problems. There is consensus that epidural catheters should not be placed through irritated or infected tattoos. However, harm has not been clearly documented when placing epidural catheters through healthy tattooed skin; a review in the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Journal concluded that "epidural catheter placement through lumbar tattoos is a practitioner's decision based on clinical judgment".[9] In Current Opinion in Anesthesiology, Frédéric J. Mercier and Marie-Pierre Bonnet state that the evidence for complications when placing epidural catheters is unconvincing, but advocate avoiding the practice owing to the lack of long-term evidence.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Seibert, Justin (November 21, 2007). "Once taboo, tattoos on girls are getting hot". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Fenske, Mindy (2007). Tattoos in American Visual Culture. Macmillan Publishers. pp. 98–9. ISBN 978-0-230-60027-0.
  3. ^ a b Fong, Mei (May 24, 2002). "Hipster Jeans, Crop Tops Boost Lower-Back Tattoos". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  4. ^ Semenza, Gabe (August 16, 2007). "Do Lower Back Tattoo Lead to More Pain in the Delivery Room?". The Victoria Advocate. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  5. ^ Cuyper, Christa De; Maria Luisa Cotapos (2010). Dermatologic Complications With Body Art: Tattoos, Piercings and Permanent Make-Up. Springer Publishing. p. 5. ISBN 978-3-642-03291-2.
  6. ^ Hall, Ann C.; Bishop, Mardia J. (2007). Pop-Porn: Pornography in American Culture. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 65–6. ISBN 978-0-275-99920-9.
  7. ^ a b Salinas, Chema (2011). Paul Lester and Susan Ross (ed.). Images That Injure: Pictorial Stereotypes in the Media. ABC-CLIO. pp. 247–8. ISBN 978-0-313-37892-8.
  8. ^ Hudson, Karen L. (29 March 2019). "Battling Stereotypes About Lower-Back Tattoos". LiveAbout. Retrieved 2019-10-20.
  9. ^ Welliver, Dawn; Mark Welliver; Tammy Carroll; Peggy James (June 2010). "Lumbar Epidural Catheter Placement in the Presence of Low Back Tattoos: A Review of the Safety Concerns" (PDF). AANA Journal. 78 (3): 197–201. PMID 20572405. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-06-08. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
  10. ^ Mercier, Frédéric J.; Bonnet, Marie-Pierre (June 2009). "Tattooing and various piercing: anaesthetic considerations". Current Opinion in Anesthesiology. 22 (3): 436–441. doi:10.1097/ACO.0b013e32832a4125. PMID 19384230. S2CID 35215101.

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