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Throughout history, tattoos have been condemned as marks of degradation and disapproval. Tattoo in the English language has its own negative definition. “The Latin word for ‘tattoo’ is stigma and the original meaning is reflected in modern dictionaries. Among the definitions of ‘stigma’ listed by Webster are a ‘prick with a pointed instrument,’ . . .’ a distinguishing mark cut into the flesh of a slave or a criminal,’ and ‘a mark of disgrace or reproach" (Gilbert, 15). Tattoos were used punitively in early western history, whereas in recent history to present it is more a matter of self expression. The people who have excessive tattoos exhibit more deviant behavior than those who do not. The legacy of deviance and negative connotation surrounding tattooing persists to this day. To understand why having a tattoo was and still is perceived so negatively in the western culture, we must begin with its origins. Many historians who studied the topic of tattoos in ancient times have found that tattooing was primarily a way to brand criminals and slaves. Juliet Fleming, a lecturer at Cambridge University, points out that “The tattoo was first and perhaps foremost a brand of criminality, a sign of shame that goes back to the biblical account of Cain” (Rothstein). In the Book of Genesis, God marked Cain after he killed his brother to identify and shame him. To those who may want to exact vengeance against Cain, the mark was a reminder that God was watching. “And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him” (King James Bible, Cain. 4:15). The bible is one of the most globally read and trusted books that inf... ... middle of paper ... ... the people that exhibit illegal tendencies and having tattoos. This study was coupled with the idea that deviant behavior is also linked to emotional distress and getting body modification because of this. “Obtaining body art may be one manner in which individuals attempt to cope with distress or attempt to clarify their sense of self when they have depression” (Owen, et al.). As many of the students in this study affirmed that they got a tattoo when they were feeling a loss of self-identity and that this was a way to become unique. Unfortunately, while getting tattoos is one approach making them different from other, so is deviant behavior. Tattoos themselves have evolved into a form of social deviance. Despite the recent gentrification of tattooing, there is much evidence to support the fact that tattoos still appear to be associated with risk-taking behavior.
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