Bumper sticker. Bullseye. Butt antlers. Though it has many names, we all know one when we see it. You know what I’m referring to: the infamous lower back tattoo. Although slang terms abound for this popular tattoo, most of us know it by the most popular of its many vulgar and misogynistic terms, “tramp stamp.” In fact, if you were a teenager or young adult during the late 1990s or early 2000s, you may not just know of them—you may have one of these relics from the past.
Do Gen X Women Really Regret Their Lower Back Tattoos?
We recently put a call out to our Facebook friends to hear firsthand from women with lower back tattoos. We asked a series of questions: Do you like your lower back tattoo? Do you regret it? How do you really feel about it? Many of our friends responded. Although each woman is part of Generation X, they all had various opinions about their tattoos.
One of our friends, Pamela, has several tattoos. When asked if she received a lower back tattoo in the ’90s, she immediately admitted to it. She went on to say that she doesn’t usually see it. “But when I do……!!!!! Actually thinking about getting it removed.” Although Pamela has a lot of body art, the ink on her lower back is the only one she mentioned wanting to have removed. Another friend, Sarah, responded to Pamela’s comment and said, “Same. I forget I have it and then slightly curse my 18 [year-old] self when I [remember].”
Other women had a slightly different take on their lower back tattoos. “I got one in 1998 I think,” shared Sonia. “I’ve regretted it at times, but I’ve come to accept it. People always ask what my tattoos mean, and well, for the most part the tattoo doesn’t mean much. It’s the moment in time. My lower back tattoo was my first tattoo and it was when I first moved away from my parents. It was a momentous occasion of feeling free, yet vulnerable.”
Though many people responded that yes, they have a lower back tattoo and yes, they regret it, not all women agreed. Women across the country not only like their body art, but they’re proud of it. In fact, Chandler remarked, “I actually got mine in 1997…as soon as I turned 18 and could show the world what I thought. It’s actually right off-center on my upper right butt cheek. I left it there alone for 20 years and then just last November I added on to it and even expanded into a full blown sleeve on my left arm…I wanted to show my children that’s it’s ok to be your authentic self at any age.”
Why Did So Many Women Ink This Body Part?
Why were lower back tattoos so popular for women in the ’90s and early ’00s? Just as the 1990s were a time when many taboo issues and topics became more culturally accepted, women having tattoos also became more mainstream.
The lower back became a prime spot for women to ink during this time for several reasons. The lower back is one area where there’s little fat, which makes it an ideal place for a tattoo not to stretch over time (think pregnancy and childbirth). It’s also a body part that is often covered by clothing, which is nice if you don’t want your ink visible everywhere you go.
Even celebrities hopped on the trend at the time, with everyone from Britney Spears to Khloe Kardashian and Amy Schumer getting their lower backs inked.
From Mainstream To Misogynistic
Although women loved the new mainstream acceptance of getting tattoos, misogyny still reared its ugly head. If women had a lower back tattoo, they were immediately thought to be promiscuous. Sexist language began being used to describe the ink. “Tramp stamp” became one of the most well-known phrases thanks to a May 2004 Saturday Night Live skit.
The next year, Hollywood followed the trend in Wedding Crashers. In the movie, Vince Vaughn’s character remarks of a young woman, “Tattoo on the lower back? Might as well be a bullseye.”
Some women began hiding their lower back tattoos because of the media’s response. In fact, one of our Facebook friends, Julia, admitted that she “narrowly avoided getting the so-called ‘tramp stamp.’ I think hearing that they were called such dissuaded me.”’
High-profile celebrities were eventually deterred by the sexism as well. Khloe Kardashian referred to her lower back ink as a “tramp stamp” in 2015 and had it removed.
In 2016, Amy Schumer wrote a book about her many mistakes in life and appropriately titled it The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo.
Although chauvinistic remarks and promiscuous terms came to define the lower back tattoo for a generation, Gen X women and even Gen Z women have had enough of the criticism. Just when we thought the lower back tattoo would never see the light of day again thanks to high-waisted pants, some people are revitalizing the lower back tattoo and leaving behind the “tramp stamp” connotations. Could lower back tattoos be making a comeback? Just search #lowerbacktattoo to see for yourself.