I don’t have any visible tattoos that you might notice at first glance. I do, however, have some large tattoos in intimate places on my body that one can only see if I consciously wear clothing that shows them off. I did not, and I cannot stress this enough, get these tattoos done so that other people can see or worse, touch them.
Consider this: I have a tattoo on my thigh that peeks out slightly if I wear shorts or a skirt. It’s only a few months old, and I got it done during winter so very few people have seen it to date. However, during a particularly unnaturally warm day a few weeks ago I found myself in a public place wearing a skirt that revealed the slightest bit of ink on my leg. Of course, I didn’t think anything of it because my tattoos are an inextricable part of my body, but it would seem that certain people still think they are a novelty akin to communal artwork. I was made acutely aware of this when I ran into a friend of mine walking with a group of people I didn’t know, and, while talking to my friend, felt my skirt being lifted up my leg. His friend, someone I have never met before, apparently wanted to have a closer look at my tattoo and thought it completely acceptable to touch my leg and lift my skirt up to reveal my thigh to the entire world.
I slapped his hand away as soon as I noticed what was going on, yet he stilled seemed shocked at my reaction when I told him what he did was completely inappropriate.
“It’s such a nice tattoo, I just wanted to look at the whole thing to see what it is. There’s no need to freak out so much, just calm down.”
Just calm down? I felt completely violated and so disrespected that I could barely contain myself. Here was this stranger who thought I was overreacting to him touching my body without my consent, and I was suddenly the bad guy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to talk to you about my tattoos and I love receiving compliments about them, but if you violate my personal space or put your hands on my body you are no longer simply appreciating my artwork. I don’t know if there is some sort of gender bias at work here, because I’m a womxn and popular culture has taught men that they are entitled to womxn’s bodies, but what I do know is that touching someone anywhere, especially in an intimate and private place, is completely unacceptable regardless of gender.
If I didn’t have a tattoo, what that man did could be considered sexual assault, but since he was just ‘admiring’ my ink his actions suddenly became ok.
Well, here’s what I have to say to you, random stranger: you are not entitled to touch my tattoos. You are not entitled to lift my clothing. You are not entitled to expose me for your viewing pleasure. You are not entitled to my body.
You are not entitled to my body.