In particular prior research suggest important potential relationships between a consumer’s tattoo choices and their Sex, Gender identity, Materialism, Uniqueness, need for Belongingness, and sense of Self-Control.
Literature also stresses an important distinction between the Public and Private meanings that are associated with tattoos and the actual location and type of tattoo.
Respondents provided scales of the above concepts as well as open ended descriptions of their first tattoo, its location, and reasons for getting the tattoo. Key findings included a positive relationship between Femininity and Vow and Personal tattoos; a positive relationship between males and Group tattoos, Materialism and Public display and perception of meanings of their tattoos. The findings would also support the notion that Femininity rather than Masculinity played the more important role in perception of tattoos. Another key finding was that people who had tattoos they perceived to be Art did not associate Personal, Vow, Public or Private meanings with their tattoos. However, in the past five years it seems to have become more socially accepted as evidenced by the appearance of tattoos as the main focus in advertising campaigns, on college and pro athletes, actors, rock musicians and other highly visible people. While tattooing serves to alienate the tattooee from mainstream society, it also has an affiliative effect with other select groups or subcultures (Fox 1987).
The primary sub group includes fellow tattooee’s who share the same experience and distorted relationship to mainstream society.
Other affiliative effects cited in the literature include, "one’s indelible connection to primary associates" (name tattoos) or groups whose members share specialized interest and activities (see Schouten and McAlexander, 1995 for discussion of motorcycle gangs and Sanders, 1988 for discussion of youth gangs). A sense of affiliation comes up many times in the literature, there seems to be a sense of belongingness associated with tattoos.
This study will look at a persons need for belonginess, and how that relates to tattoo location and symbol. Tattooee’s consistently view the tattoo as an expression of self and a way to transmit information about their uniqueness to others (Sanders 1988).
This study will look at self control and uniqueness and there relationship to tattoo location and symbol. Three main types of symbols emerged: (1) "Vow" tattoos-those symbols signifying close emotional ties and or love and commitment (including the name or symbol associated with a significant other), (2) Group affiliation tattoos-military branch tattoos, gang tattoos and athletic tattoos and (3) Symbols such as birth signs, symbols signifying interests, hobbies or occupational activities which symbolize the self concept. Males tend to have tattoos on arms, while women chose to locate their tattoos on breasts, hips, lower abdomen or back.
Males think of the tattoo as primarily a symbol of self concept or self control, functioning as a window into the self for both the themselves and others. Females think of tattoos as decorative symbols primarily for personal enjoyment or the enjoyment of significant others.
Research indicates that tattoos are more stigmatizing for women, so the choice to put the tattoo on a private area allows women to maintain "unsullied identities", when in contact with strangers or casualacquaintances (Goffman 1963). Sanders (1988) showed the importance of considering gender when investigating tattoos, he used the weaker dichotomous definition of gender, so this study provides a foundation to look at the differing views of gender with respect to Materialism, Belonginess, Self Control, Uniqueness and their influence on tattoo location and symbol. Similarly, the literature does deal with public and private locations but fails to investigate meanings. Richins (1994b) tested four hypotheses that are potentially germane to tattoo location and symbol choice with respect to materialism and public and private meanings. For persons high in materialism, private meaning is less likely to deal with interpersonal ties and is more likely to relate to financial worth.
Finally, for persons high in materialism public meanings are likely to deal with success and prestige. For the purposes of this study, the public meanings of objects are those that are intended for public consumption meaning the tattoo is readily visible. This notion is congruent with a tattoo symbolizing attachment to a subculture such as a military academy or a motor cycle gang.
In contrast, Private meanings of objects are those intended for an individual or significant other such as those that might be indicative of a vow and represented by a meaningful name or shard symbol.


In addition the symbol may be classified as a type of tattoo (such as a vow or art) but mean something else to the tattoo consumer.
The basic hypothesis is that variations in the above constructs will impact the reason a person gets a tattoo, what symbol is chosen and what location is picked for the tattoo.
Conversely males are more likely to have Group affiliative tattoos that have Public meanings.
While females and those who show Female identity will not show a need for Belongingness and will not have affiliative tattoos.
The decision process involved in getting the first tattoo is often more involved, and is not impacted by the simple attraction of getting another tattoo (however, there is potential research exploring reasons for subsequent tattoos).
Tattoo location was ascertained by asking the respondents to place a mark corresponding to the location of their first tattoo on a drawing of a person contained in the survey (the drawing contained views from the right side, left side, front and back). The researcher classified the tattoo locations as: Public, Semi-Public, Semi-Private or Private based on how visible the tattoo would be while wearing normal clothing. The responses determined which of four categories of tattoos each respondent fell into:, vow, personal, group or art (Sanders, 1988). Respondents were asked to rate their level of agreement with items concerning their first tattoo (appendix H) with respect to the location (ublic, Private) , and the type of tattoo (Vow, Personal, Group and Art). Appendix A and Appendix B show the results of the factor and reliability analysis on the items relating to Materialism, Uniqueness, Belongingness, Self-Control, Group Tattoo, Personal Tattoo and Private Location.
The Discriminant analysis involving the ten independent variables and the dependent variable, tattoo location, produced one significant root . This pattern would indicate that more public locations are associated with greater Materialism and male identification. The discriminate analysis involving the ten independent variables and the dependent variable tattoo Symbol produced one significant root . The canonical variate is defined by males and those with male identity tend to be materialistic and have a higher need for Belongingness.
The centroids for location indicate that females and those with female identity traits are associated with Personal, Vow and Art tattoos while males and those with Male Identity high on Materialism and need for Belongingness tend toward Group affiliation tattoos. The variate can be described as people who perceive strong Group and Public meaning for their tattoos, as opposed to those who perceive Private Artistic meanings of their tattoos. The location of the centroids indicate that greater public locations are associated with Group and Public meanings.
Two of the sic constructs loaded on root tow; in decreasing order of importance, perceptions of Group meanings and perceptions of Public Locations. The first canonical variate indicates that people who describe their tattoos as emblematic of a Vow to a significant others are likely to want to share them only with significant others by placing them in private locations. The second variate indicates that people with tattoos that are emblematic of Group associations will tend to place them in Public locations.
This would indicate that people with art tattoos are not concerned with the Personal, Group, Public, or Private perceptions of their tattoos.
Both Public and Private meanings were positively loaded with root two.] looked at the relationship between perception of tattoo location with actual tattoo symbol and produced two variates. Both of these Materialism constructs were positively associated with Public locations of tattoos. The open ended questions indicated that group affiliative tattoos in the sample were largely fraternity and military tattoos, and in limited cases, gang tattoos. These findings may account for the signifiance of the Happiness and Success sub-constructs of Materialism in connection with tattoo location. A Sanders research indicated self control and personal enjoyment were important reasons for being tattooed (Sanders, 1988). Females, on the other hand, did not show a need for Belongingness and were not Materialistic, and tended toward Vow and Personal tattoos.


Females tend to have more private reasons for their tattoo consumption such as symbolizing a relationship or a significant event, and prefer to share them only with significant others. Males tended to have their tattoo visible to more people and showed a tendency to have tattoos that represented affiliation with a group. As would be expected the data shows that people who perceive strong Group and Public meanings differ from those who perceive Private Artistic meanings. The more Public the locations become the more the locations are associated with Group and Public meanings.
Interestingly the perception of Art tattoo symbols are linked with Private meanings and actual Private locations.
It would seem that Art tattoo symbols would be associated with public meanings, a symbolic display to the outside world, but in this case it would seem that art is for the owner to be consumed privately. It was found when looking at actual Art tattoos that they were not linked with Public or Private meanings. People with Personal tattoos associate both Public and Private expressions, while people with Art tattoos do not attribute either Public or Private expressions to their tattoos. Conversely, females and those with high Feminine gender identity who are not Materialistic and do not need Belongingness, associate Private meaning with their tattoos.
In this study, if a tattoo was in a Private location, then the person who had the tattoo was more likely to be a female.
If the tattoo was in a Public location, the person who had the tattoo was more likely to be a male.
Both constructs had reasonably high alpha levels indicating good reliability, but in the confines of this study they did not have any effect on tattoo symbol or location. In fact, the results showed that those with art tattoos were not concerned with the issues of Personal, Group symbols or Public, Private meanings. The finding would also support the notion that Femininity rather than Masculinity played the more important role in perceptions of tattoos. Another key finding was that people who had tattoos they perceived to be Art did not associate Personal, Vow, Public or Private meanings to their tattoos. Males tend to find these relationships and bond with each other through affiliation with athletic teams, fraternities, etc.
Fischer and Gainer (1994) argue that participation in athletics teaches males to be male and is their primary means of socialization . This study shows that for males, the group affiliative tattoo is a way for them to express a tie with other men. The tattoo allows them to be emotionally close with other males, while remaining in the socially constructed realm of "maleness" (tattoos have traditionally been associated with toughness, masculinity, power, etc.). As such, it is important to display the tattoo in a public way, thereby creating an outward display of the need for belonginess (through affiliation) which is cloaked in maleness. In a society that does not allow men to openly express their sentimental feelings the strong influence of female identification indicates that these affiliations are relationship-based, and the tattoo provides a safe way to express the relationships.
Symbols , actions and words have taken on a multiplicity of meanings and have become mixed and confused For example one can love a car, or love a spouse, one can be defined in ever changing ways. For females, the vow and personal tattoo is a way to ground them, to allow them to make a concrete statement of love, or self to themselves and intimate others. This notion is Inspired by research that indicates that a major motivation for obtaining a tattoo is a permanent life transition triggered either by external forces or some change within the tattooee. It is possible that getting a tattoo provides an "anchor" of self-identity (or relationship sentiment) , thereby stabilizing one crucial aspect of the self during transition.



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