Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Dorothy Pawluch




This study examines the ways in which the female tattooed body is interpreted by others, and to what degree these perceptions impact the tattooing practices, the behaviour, and ultimately the social status of tattooed women. Broadly speaking, the study focuses on the process of 'meaning making' in relation to female tattoos, and how the various meanings that are ascribed to tattoos and those who bear them are constantly shifting across bodies and time in a manner that renders bodies as either negotiated or resistant.

In examining interpretations of female tattoos, I take a detailed look at how female tattooing comes to be interpreted within the context of sexuality. Discussion on this topic focuses in part on the recent development of the label tramp stamp for women's lower back tattoos. The implications of these various tattoo interpretations are considered and discussed in relation to the symbolic expression of power that is associated with many female tattoo projects.

The thesis contributes to the literature on tattooing, body modifications, femininity, gender resistance, promiscuity, symbolic meaning, and labeling.

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