An artist tattooing you does not automatically have anatomical rights over your body. The majority of artists are respectful and professional; however, unfortunately there are artists out there who abuse their power to take advantage of their clients and fellow artists.
When booking a tattoo, it’s expected for you to explain which area you’d like it in, as well as information on sizing, colours etc. Your artist may ask you to send across a photo of the area you’re getting tattooed; to give them a better idea of sizing, placement and if they need to wrap the design around any existing tattoos. However, if you are having an intimate area tattooed, your artist should never ask you to send them explicit photos.
During your appointment, any requests asking you to remove clothes unnecessarily, asking for your number or if you can rest against their body instead of the tattoo furniture is completely inappropriate. Artists will often chat to you whilst you’re getting tattooed to help put you at ease, although the conversation should always stay friendly, yet professional. Your artist should never make any inappropriate jokes, bring up any topics that are overtly sexual or ask about your relationship status and sexual history.
Your artist should also never make any comments about your body – whether they’re good or bad, or touch you inappropriately. An artist may sometimes need to rest their arm on you whilst tattooing, but pinning you down, sitting with you on the bed or stroking any part of your body is a big red flag. Any reputable artist will ask for your permission before touching you, regularly ask if you’re comfortable or whether the pressure they’re applying is okay. Make sure you let your artist know if they’re hurting you in any way or touching any part of your body that makes you feel uncomfortable.
Another warning sign is not offering you enough privacy; sometimes it is necessary to partially undress – depending on the area you’re getting tattooed. However, if you do have to remove any clothing, your artist should offer you adequate coverings. Nipple covers, blankets or privacy screens should be offered as standard, it’s up to you whether or not you’d like to accept them.
It is not normal for an artist to message you after an appointment, unless it’s to provide you with aftercare advice or send across any consensual photos they may have taken of your tattoo. Your artist should never slide into your DMs displaying flirtatious behaviour, asking personal questions or asking you to come to the studio after it has closed.
A good way to get an idea of an artist’s character is to ask other people about their experience of being tattooed by them, as well as searching their name online or reaching out to any artists you trust to ask about their reputation. Please leave if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable during an appointment, or ask for the shop manager if you feel comfortable doing so.
If you’re nervous about attending an appointment, you can ask to bring a friend along with you or who else will be in the studio during your appointment. If you have a bad feeling about an artist – trust your gut and don’t book in with them; there are plenty of professional and respectful artists out there to get tattooed by. Your safety is always a priority.
Sheffield Tattoo Festival prides itself on being a safe and welcoming space for all. We only work with reputable and respectful artists, who share our beliefs on boundaries and professionalism in the industry.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the following resources can offer you the help and support you need:
NHS Live Well – Help After Rape and Sexual Assault
NHS Direct Helpline: 111
The Survivors Trust.
Helpline: 08088 010818
Rape Crisis England & Wales.
Galop – The LGBT+ Anti-Abuse Charity.
Survivorsuk – Help For Men, Boys and Non-Binary Survivors of Sexual Abuse.
SMS Text Helpline: 020 3322 1860