Genital tattoos always conjure up a load of questions among newbies and tattoo enthusiasts alike. With the right design and placement, these tattoos can be bold and empowering, and even a little rebellious. However, there are some very serious considerations and risks that you need to think about before hopping into the tattoo chair.
Genital Tattoos: A Private Affair
While tattoos are becoming more mainstream in society, genital tattoos still have a certain taboo surrounding them. In some ways, it's easy to understand why. This is a very private part of your body that is typically kept very in the dark, so to speak. However, it can be very empowering to tattoo your sex organs. You are taking something very personal and intimate and turning it into a work of art. And honestly, it's really nothing new.
According to the Journal of Urology, genital ornamentation through tattooing, scarification, and piercing has been around since Paleolithic times. Additionally, certain tribes have used genital tattooing as part of ceremonial customs. So, if you are thinking about a genital tattoo, don't let taboo stop you. Instead, weigh the pros and cons that come with getting a tattoo in your genital region.
Placement and Designs
While it's important for all tattoos to be thought out, this is especially important for genital tattoos. Not only is this a very intimate area, but you are working in a tight space, design wise and for the artist to work. When planning out your tattoo, you want to consider where you want it. It might not seem like it, but there are several different areas.
It is also important to take into consideration the type of artwork that you want. These can range from full pieces that take up the entire genital region and lower abdomen to a small piece in a specific area. Below you can see some aspects of each region to consider and some common designs.
The most common area is the pubic area (also called the mons pubis), which is the skin overlying where your pubic bones join. Given the fatty tissue underneath and the relative smoothness of the skin, designs here are fairly limitless. Your only limitations are space and imagination. For example, common designs for women might include nautical designs, flames, butterflies, flowers and wording. Male designs are more varied but common ones include eyeballs, skulls, demons, firearms, and wording.
There is also the option to include the anterior vulva and penis in the design, which allows for more varied designs like dragons, elephants, lions, tigers, etc. Depending on your openness to designs, tattoo artists may be able to coordinate a design that really fits the area.
Penis and Scrotum
The composition of the skin of the penis and the scrotum are inherently different from other skin, making them much more difficult to tattoo. Additionally, the level of friction that this area receives will make the tattoo fade faster, much like a tattoo on the palms of your hands or soles of your feet. However, with the right artist, there are several design options available especially when you consider the surrounding skin. The best designs, however, try to work with the shape of this area, so abstract designs, tribal tats, wording and candy cane designs fit this space well.
When considering a tattoo on the labia or vulva, the shape of the area, space and skin must be taken into consideration. With the natural line that this area creates, butterfly and flower designs work well. If that's not really your thing, you can try star, tribal, or wording designs.
Now that you've seen some of the placement and design issues, it is important to examine the risk factors associated with getting a genital tattoo.
At any given moment, your skin is covered in microscopic bacteria. Anytime that you puncture the skin from a scrape on your knee to a tattoo, you are letting bacteria in. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that skin infections and allergic reactions are among the most common complications from tattooing, according to the Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management.
While there isn't any conclusive evidence that states genital tattoos are more susceptible to infection, it's always a concern. Symptoms of an infection at the tattoo site could include inflammation, rash, fever, crusting, and oozing.
To lessen your chances of getting an infection:
- Ensure that the facility you use is reputable and clean and in compliance with all state and local laws, especially in regards to sterilization techniques.
- Additionally, ensure you follow all the aftercare recommendations given by your artist, such as keeping the area clean (with antibacterial soap) and dry, using a sterile bandage or covering if possible, and applying the recommended ointment several times a day.
- Lastly, given that this area is sometimes difficult to monitor and care for, it may be necessary to use a mirror or have a trusted individual aid you in ointment application or infection monitoring.
All tattoos can scar, depending on your body or the depth of the needle. However, the genital skin can be very thin, especially on the penis, which can lead to easier scarring. While this can be a problem from an aesthetic view point, it might also affect the sensitivity and function of the genital area.
In simple terms, ischemic priapism is a nonstop erection, which can be a side effect of a penis tattoo. An ischemic priapism affects the blood flow to the area, making it impossible for the blood to leave the area. This is considered a medical emergency, and in some cases, surgery is required to correct it.
Genital tattoos can be very bold and beautiful, making a very important part of your anatomy unique. However, it does take a certain kind of person to lay it all out on the table, so to speak. Not only must you be able to handle the pain of a needle poking this very sensitive area, possibly hundreds of times, but you need to ensure that you'll be comfortable with the artist touching you in the area that is being tattooed.
Pain and tattoos seem to go hand-in-hand. As with other areas of the body, tattooing the genitals requires pulling the skin taunt and placing a needle into the skin, about 1/64th to 1/16th inch into the dermis. Along the pubic bone, as well as the penis and vagina, are some of the most painful places to tattoo.
Therefore, a genital tattoo is not suggested for your first tattoo. Getting a tattoo in other places first can ensure you understand the pain involved and the length of the tattooing process. Depending on the size and intricacy of the design involved for your genital tattoo, it might be helpful to talk to your tattoo artist about scheduling several sessions.
There is no getting around it, with a genital tattoo, there will be touching involved. From the placing of the stencil to the actual tattooing, a tattoo artist, possibly a stranger, will be touching you in a very intimate place. Tattoo artists will be required to manipulate the area to get the right angle and position for tattooing, and this will not always be gentle.
This can be an especially sensitive issue for men. To pull the skin taut and position the needle correctly, the penis will need to be flaccid. However, given the sensitive nature of the area, erections can and do occur. Just remember to relax; your artist is a professional.
A Lot to Consider
While genital ornamentation has been around for millennia and can make a very bold, powerful statement about your body, there are some very real concerns that you should take into consideration when thinking about that genital tattoo. If the risks outweigh the benefits in your mind, go for it. With an open mind, self-confidence, and a touch of humor, you can turn your personal space into a work of art.