What is ‘Heavily Tattooed’?

When I started to write my PhD research proposal, I knew I wanted my research to focus upon “heavily tattooed” women. So I wrote this into my proposal, and knew that there would come a time where I would have to actually quantify what I meant by ‘heavily tattooed’ – did I mean 50% body coverage? 60% 70%? Or did I mean visible ink? It was a difficult decision to make, and one that I avoided thinking about.

Last week I was lucky enough to be put in touch with somebody who might want to take part in my research – I was told by our mutual contact that she was heavily tattooed. When I met with the possible respondent, she laughed that she had been deemed heavily tattooed and told me she didn’t consider herself to be. I don’t know if I would deem her to be heavily tattooed, I didn’t see any of her tattoos – we just talked about ideas and some brief experiences of being a tattooed woman, and it really wasn’t necessary for us to share our ink on any kind of visible level.

This got me thinking about the term ‘heavily tattooed’ and my difficulty in quantifying what it is, and what it isn’t. One person’s heavily tattooed is not another person’s heavily tattooed. One person’s minimally tattooed, is not another person’s minimally tattooed. I don’t know if there is a difference between how tattooed people categorize fellow tattooed people, and whether non-tattooed people categorize tattooed people differently. I just don’t know.

As a researcher, do I have the right to categorize the level of body coverage somebody has and to deem her heavily tattooed or not?

I’ve decided to include this question/issue/dilemma in the actual research process  – I’ll pose it as a question within the focus groups and interviews. Do you consider yourself to be heavily tattooed? What is heavily tattooed?

I think it might spark some interesting discussion around how people categorize themselves, and others.  It also allows the participants to categorize themselves for the benefit of my research – which goes someway to empowering the respondent within the research process, I hope.


11 thoughts on “What is ‘Heavily Tattooed’?

  1. christiebea29 says:

    As with everything, everyone’s interpretation is their own. I would say someone is heavily tattooed when tattoos are no longer “individual” but the skin has become their canvas. Kind of like the difference between having pimples and acne. I consider myself a heavily tattooed person, (and would tattoo every part of my body except my face if it was an easier thing to do, pain and cost being not easy). Right now it has been 18 month since I have been inked. I guess I am taking a break. I have sleeves that kind of go onto my chest. Several tattoos on my back and legs, as well. So in reference to above, my arms and chest are heavily tattooed, and my legs and back have tattoos. I have a photo of me on my blog if you’re interested.

    • emmacbeckett says:

      That’s really interesting – thanks for your comments. I always find it funny/odd when somebody (usually not tattooed) asks me “how many” tattoos I’ve got – because, like you I have a full sleeve which links with a chest piece so can’t quantify my ink by numbers as such. Which I suppose it why I thought of quantifying it by percentage of skin coverage.
      I have got a single piece on my leg, and back though so might say “I’ve got one on my leg”….
      I do think there is a difference in how non-tattooed people talk about tattoos, and tattooed people talk about them, and the language/terms we use to describe tattoos and the process…..

      • christiebea29 says:

        Most definitely! Like it’s a secret club- haha. I am sure you have seen this before but I remember a sign hanging in my second visited tattoo shop (which was a long time ago): “The only difference between tattooed people and non-tattooed people is tattooed people don’t care if you are not tattooed.”

  2. tattooedtoff says:

    I do consider myself heavily tattooed but then I am a very obvious case. All of my torso has 100% coverage plus my upper arms, hips and now work has begun on my upper right leg. I progressing towards a bodysuit.

    However, I considered myself heavily tattooed quite a long time ago, once I started joining everything up. Any definition has to be arbitrary as one constantly changes one’s perspective on the journey of tattoo coverage.

    • emmacbeckett says:

      good point! I suppose it depends on the situation or context you find yourself in too – I might consider myself heavily tattooed when stood next to a non-tattooed person… but stood next to you, I wouldn’t call myself heavily tattooed.
      Another interesting point… Thank you 🙂

  3. vampyremage says:

    I don’t feel heavily tattooed but I suppose according to some that’s what I’d be considered to be. I have around 55 hours of work done including a full sleeve, half sleeve, part of my neck and soon to be part of my face. I’m not sure what it would take for me to consider myself heavily tattooed because my tattoos and other modifications are so intrinsically part of who I am that they feel completely natural.

    • emmacbeckett says:

      ” I’m not sure what it would take for me to consider myself heavily tattooed because my tattoos and other modifications are so intrinsically part of who I am that they feel completely natural”….. I like this comment 🙂 It’s the old scenario where you’re walking down the street and somebody is staring at you, you wonder what they’re staring at and then realize you have tattoos on show…. and you’d completely forgotten about them.

      (sorry it’s taken so long to reply – I didn’t get any notification that a comment had been made)

  4. Vanessa says:

    I consider myself heavily tattooed. I’m a 29-year old girl, I never liked tattoos on my self but do love them on guys. My ex-bf is almost fully suited (sleeves, legs, chest, back, ..) when I met him I had no tattoos. Slowly, becaus he likes tattooed girls, I got tattooed. I now have both arms sleeved, my left leg covered from my foot till hip, several other small pieces, incl. some small facial tattoos. consider myself very heavily tattooed. Our relation stranded about 7 months ago and I’m stil single, becaus off my tattoos. I always cover up my tattoos, clothes and make-up. I wish I never got tattooed although I still feel very attracted to heavily tattooed men.

  5. meeepcosy says:

    I don’t consider myself heavily tattooed at all. I would say I have about 35-40% of my skin covered. I can get that some people would think that I am (I’m tattooed in pretty visible places, feet, legs, chest, arms) but they don’t really get to see the parts that aren’t tattooed. I think the term “heavily tattooed” is a title you need to earn, just like you need to earn facial and/or neck and/or hand tattoos. It’s thrown around too easily these days by people who don’t really get the art. But I’m working up my way in the ranks slowly but surely. Covering my legs currently, maybe in a year’s time I’ll br able to start with the rest of my torso. Destination: Heavily Tattooed. 😉

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