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Covered in Ink"Tattoos, Women and the Politics of the Body"$
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Beverly Yuen Thompson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780814760000

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814760000.001.0001

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Sailors, Criminals, and Prostitutes

Sailors, Criminals, and Prostitutes

The History of a Lingering Tattoo Stigma

(p.21) 1 Sailors, Criminals, and Prostitutes
Covered in Ink

Beverly Yuen Thompson

NYU Press

It is undeniable that tattoos are popularly associated with criminal behavior. Where did these associations develop? Often, the stereotypes that tattooed individuals encounter today are based on associations often outdated and irrelevant: sailors, gang members, criminals, the mentally ill, and sexually deviant women. This chapter outlines the history of early tattooing—the encounters between sailors and tattooed indigenous people, the first costal tattoo shops, sideshow performers, the adoption of tattooing by criminals, and the association of women with criminal men and/or sexual deviance. It explores the association of criminality with tattooing by incorporating theories of critical criminology as well as labeling theories, and it examines the literature associating tattooing with mentally ill populations that are labeled as violent or criminal.

Keywords:   criminality, sailors, mentally ill

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