And if they are, when are they safe?
The short answer is: it depends, which is a good thing.
Some people believe tattoos are inherently unhealthy – because tattoos do what they tell us, no matter what reason we decide they have. Others believe they are healthy because people’s bodies have evolved to make them do so, and so a tattoo that looks bad makes sense. But that doesn’t explain why tattoos are so problematic, from an evolutionary perspective. We do what the skin tells us to do – and that includes tattooing.
It’s not just about appearance. Some people see tattoos as a part of “the body” – even that the ink is a part of the body. To them, tattoos are an expression of “the self” or a type of “masculinity”. And, unfortunately, that’s where evolutionary biologists get their inspiration. If we think of bodies as biological machines then a large-eyed tattoo on the back of the hand is likely to be one of the signals we use to identify you as male. If tattoos are used to communicate sexuality, a very large forehead with the word “fag” on it, to the person who gave you the tattoo, is another.
But that’s how we learn. For evolutionary biologists, it is as if our body tells us we are attracted to people in bodies like our own. It’s only when that body looks bad that we should start thinking differently.
The bad thing is, this type of thinking is what caused the body to change, in the first place.
The reason for changes to our body is not that they are a good indicator of our true sexual desires. Those who are attracted to us simply see the body as a machine, and use it to make life decisions rather than to figure out what we want from life. There are plenty of examples of those who use tattoos to help get into women’s clothing.
Even if tattoos are seen as indicators of our actual sexual desires, the fact remains that tattoos do have a purpose – especially if they are to protect the skin. That’s not because they symbolise sexuality, it’s because they are used to protect our flesh and get that natural looking skin back. So the tattoo shouldn’t be used like a contraceptive.
For some, tattoos are only harmful to those who have not considered and understood the purpose of the natural changes that occur throughout a person’s life, and therefore need them to look better. But most cultures around the world have tattoos
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