UTSA psychology student studies perceived promiscuity of women with tattoos

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Lisa Oakes

Lisa Oakes

(March 4, 2015) - A Pew Research Report shows that the total number of Americans with at least one tattoo is more than 45 million and the amount of money spent on tattoo purchases exceeded $1.65 billion in 2013.

Research on the perception of individuals with tattoos has been conducted for decades, but the findings on how people perceive females with tattoos have been mixed, especially when it comes to perceptions of promiscuity.

UTSA graduate psychology major Lisa Oakes was intrigued with the issue and conducted a study, surveying 221 UTSA students taking an Introduction to Psychology course. The pool of students included 135 females and 86 males.

In the study, Oakes used an image of a San Antonio woman of mixed ethnicity in a grey sleeveless dress with a high neckline. In one photo, the woman possessed no tattoos. In the other three photos, the woman had a small tattoo on her right upper arm. One photo pictured a butterfly, a second pictured a rose and the last picture was a skull and crossbones.

Each participant was shown one of the four photos to rate, and Oakes compared ratings for each photo condition to see if there were differences.

The students were asked to rate the subject’s perceived openness to sex without commitment perceived standards and perceived sex drive. They also provided general impressions on her attractiveness, sexiness, intelligence and warmth.

Oakes found that people viewed the woman as more open to sex without commitment, less selective, and as having a higher sex drive when shown with a tattoo than without a tattoo. However, even with the tattoo, the levels of openness, selectiveness and drive were at levels most people would probably not call promiscuous. And, although the woman was viewed a little less positively on some traits with the tattoo than without, overall, impressions were relatively positive both with and without the tattoo.

“The big reason for doing this research was that findings of previous studies were inconsistent with each other. Some found perceptions of tattooed women as promiscuous and some did not. Future research will help with understanding whether women with tattoos are really seen as worthy of the label "promiscuous," said Oakes.

Oakes plans to introduce more variables to expand the study for her master’s thesis in psychology.

For more information on the psychology program, visit UTSA Department of Psychology.

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