I'm no stranger to the world of online dating, I was rather ahead of the trend, going on my first online date a whopping 18 years ago. I've used the Internet to meet new people pretty consistently since then, so I'm perhaps more of an expert than most.
Online dating makes your awareness of your own preferences crystal clear; when you're scanning face after face you notice you tend to get drawn to ones that share similar features. It also makes you question who is attracted to you, and why.
As a tattooed woman, I've definitely been on the receiving end of the types of messages that get sent to us online. "Love your ink", and "Your tatts are so sexy", are the tone of messages that have always made me feel like a man's fetish, rather than a potential love match. That somehow my tattoos alone make me attractive.
On Tinder, I regularly see comments in profiles along the lines of "Tattoos are a bonus," like they're a cherry on the cake of me. What is it exactly that makes some people find tattoos hot or sexy? I disagree that it's the same as preferring dark hair and a certain height. I think the fact that we elect to have tattoos mean they stand for something more.
Tattoos send a message to the world, whether we intend them to or not. It seems that some people interpret the messages differently, and some people like what they hear, while others don't. Are tattooed people more likely to share your interests, do they like to stand out, are they creative souls? Are tattooed people more likely to be kinky in bed? There are certainly a lot of people who think all of these messages can be decoded by analyzing a person's tattoo coverage.
Are heavily tattooed people edgier? For women in particular, they're willing to digress from the Hollywood beauty that we're sold in expensive bottles -- so are they more confident? More sexual? More daring? I'd argue not, but I know the myths still survive.
Recently, I discovered that a tattooed woman called Lauren Urasek had been named the most popular woman on dating site Ok Cupid. She's also beautiful, intelligent and seems pretty badass. But online dating can be a shallow place, and I'm not sure all of the 35 messages she received each and every day were interested in her brains.
I asked Lauren whether she felt tattooed women were fetishised by men:
I think it's more so that people without tattoos are the ones "turned on" by them. When you're heavily tattooed. They become a piece of you and they're just simply a part of who you are. Therefore, when I see a guy with a lot of tattoos, I'm not turned on by them (nor turned off) but I do know that he won't fetishize me.
Does she date non-tattooed men?
I don't limit myself to only dating guys with tattoos but there are few "non-tattooed" people that don't bring extra attention to them. I can only hear "nice tats" or "cool ink" so many times in a day without wanting to kill myself so finding someone who doesn't think of me as a novelty is very important.
Whatever it is that tattoos 'say' to others, I seem to be attracted to its opposite. Yes, I'm a heavily tattooed woman who seems to be mainly attracted to un-tattooed men. I feel pretty at odds with my appearance, I'm alternative looking but feel like underneath all the craziness I'm a mainstream soul. However I'm well aware of how hypocritical I'm being. I don't want non-tattooed men to judge me based on my tattoos, yet I seem to judge men on theirs. I guess these judgements only count online; I don't judge tattooed men if I've actually met them, in the same way I'd guess people don't judge me once they've met me in real life. In essence, isn't this the most challenging element of online dating? We have to judge each other on shallow glimpses into each others' lives, because we can't go on a date with everyone can we?
If you're interested in the messages Lauren gets sent, she set up a Tumblr called theyreallysaidthis.com to document them all.