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With every flash of tattooed skin come secrets about her psyche and sex life you can decode. Here’s what you can learn from her tattoos
Beautiful late-summer weather translates into a lot more flesh on display – and with it increasingly frequent glimpses of ink peeking out from under her clothes or displayed for all the world to see. How much of her body has been naked to a needle tells you more about her social habits than even she knows. Here’s how to smooth your approach, according to what’s on her skin.
Hook, Line and Inker
When more than half of her body is covered, it’s not about the image she’s projecting. “It’s about the experience of getting them done,” says psychologist Michael Mantell. She’s addicted to the process itself. Focus on where each one sits on her body, using the guide further down the page to paint a picture of her psyche.
Of all women who go under the gun, 20% choose a tattoo covering around 12% of their body. “Women often use this size of tattoo to enhance their appeal to men, so they’ll feel more attractive when it’s visible,” says psychologist Dr Nicolas Gueguen. “A genuine approach will get the best response from her, rather than anything overly contrived or flirtatious.”
Her body art says she’s a risk taker – research in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that women with tattoos covering a quarter of their body were twice as likely to have had sex at an earlier age. Based on the average skin surface area, this equates to around five hand-sized tattoos, or a single sleeve or lower leg of ink.
It’s subtle, but significant: 85% of women consider a tattoo, but only 30% see it through, found a University of Arkansas study. “She’s likely to be adventurous, but only when she feels comfortable,” says psychologist Dr Paul Wilson. “Arrange to meet her with her friends around to bring out her wilder side.”
Drawn To Be Wild
If more than a quarter of her body’s covered, it’s an indication of a hedonistic lifestyle, found a study of British university students. Women with this degree of body art were more likely to binge-drink or have taken recreational drugs. If you’re after a quiet night, she’s probably not the one.
The spot on her body she’s chosen for her artwork is a map to a cache of personal information. Use our directions to peek into her private life.
The pants-line border is key: “Ink below this line implies she’s sexually liberated,” says Mantell. But a few centimetres to the north and it’s a different message altogether. “Tattoos on or above the hip tend to be devoted to someone, quite often of a nickname” says award-winning tattoo artist Kev James. Look for letters – she may be spoken for.
She knows what she’s got, but she’s saving it for someone. “This suggests she’s a sexual person, but keeps it in reserve,” says Wilson. “The thigh is associated with chastity, hence a garter being worn on a wedding day,” says symbologist Fran Powell. “Any sort of decoration there is likely to be directed at one person and intended to arouse.”
“This was probably the first zone she had done – as it’s easy to hide from parents – but it’s rarely her last,” says James. According to a study in Personality Research Form Manual, women with larger patches of ink around the ribs and stomach tend to be individual, determined and independent. She’s unlikely to hold conservative or traditional values.
Ink here is a statement – clothes won’t cover it up. “We’re encouraged to ask the client to reconsider, as employers take a dim view of neck art,” says artist Paul Franklin. If she’s willing to stick her neck out, it suggests she wants to separate herself from the mainstream as much as possible. Make your move if you want a break from the norm.
Her chest provides the widest canvas, so is often painted with the most outlandish designs. “Expect this girl to have a dark side, as she’ll be covering it up by day and revealing it at night,” says psychologist Dr Reef Karim. “If it’s on her left breast, take particular note – it’s next to her heart so will mean more to her.” Initials or foreign languages point to an important relationship.
Ankle + Wrist
Don’t expect to glean much from either of these spots. They’re generally a mark of a good holiday and a sign she didn’t want to go bigger or bolder. “Safe zones include behind the ear, her lower leg or ankles and other more commonly covered areas of the body,” says Mantell. “The fact she had it done suggests she’s outgoing, but tells you little else.”
This is the final piece of her psychological puzzle. Stars and flowers account for around half of all female tattoos. Here’s how to decipher her design.
One of the most popular tattoo designs, this guide will get you closer to her celestial body:
If you see designs with compass points or anchors, listen up. “These women are seeking direction,” says Mantell. “She’ll respect you for speaking your mind and offering advice.”
The most popular star. “It symbolises something that made a big impact in her life,” says Mantell. “If it’s on the front, it means more to her.”
The least common, but the easiest to read. Expect a spiritual woman. And if in doubt, Google the symbol before you approach her.
These make up 35% of women’s tattoo designs. Here’s our floral glossary:
A symbol of femininity – she’s probably quite a girly girl and a little shy. “Don’t be pushy, but lead the conversation,” says Karim.
“This suggests a woman who appreciates inner beauty over standard ‘good looks’,” says Karim. “If it has thorns, she may have been hurt in the past.”
of the Rest
Brush up on these final styles and you have 75% of inked girls covered:
An iconic symbol that provides more useful insight with a five-second glance than you could glean from an hour of small-talk. It’s all in the detail. A flaming heart denotes an intensely passionate woman; a winged heart suggests her freedom is very important to her. And a broken heart? That shouldn’t need decoding.
This points to a woman with inner confidence. “It’s one of the more obvious designs,” says Wilson. “The butterfly’s life cycle dictates what it means: a metamorphosis into something new. You can expect this woman to be pedantic and judicious, but also a lot of fun.”
This is one of the most versatile tattoos and it’s a sign of a positive person. “They’re popular because they can be drawn in many different ways,” says tattooist James. “I’ve only ever inked people who associate them with a sense of joy.” Let the good times roll.
Tatts that represent an era generally end in regret (doubly so for those in the public eye). See where they sit on our body art timeline:
I’m with the band
You might have forgotten the Eighties, but they can’t. Expect safety pin inkings, band names that look like they’ve been etched with a ballpoint pen (true post-punks shunned parlours, obviously) and “Choose Life”, paired with a dodgy haircut and piercings.
One of the tribe
Tribal symbols are worn by Polynesians to differentiate between families – Nineties celebs used them to identify themselves as part of the same group propping each other up at the bar. Namely the Spice Girls and Robbie Williams.
Would you have your own name or a stirring motto inked on your skin? Probably not. But when it’s in Chinese and you’re fresh from your gap year, it’s absolutely fine. Pity that most of them say “swine s**t” or “chicken and noodle”, not “honour and courage”.
Every song lyric and film quote ever uttered is now available at the touch of an iPhone. Which means using your body as a “motivational” Post-it board has never been easier.
By Mark Sansom