- In a study, women rated tattooed men as healthier but not more attractive than men without tattoos.
- Men viewed tattooed men as more attractive but not healthier than men without tattoos.
- Women judged men with tattoos as worse potential parents and partners than men without tattoos.
Tattoos today are a commonly seen form of expression. Body art has become far more prevalent over the years and definitely more accepted. Some people are surprised that blue-suited executives and nice girls in pearls are inked beneath the conservative exterior.
How do people feel when they discover the hidden artwork? It depends on where you have one and what it is. We can probably agree a small butterfly on your wrist will be viewed differently than a painted snake wrapped around your neck. One interesting exploration in tattoo research is to what extent do they make others more desirable? And if they do, why?
Body Artwork Appreciation
Andrzej Galbarczyk and Anna Ziomkiewic (2017) examined whether tattoos made men more attractive.1 In their research, they took photos of non-tattooed men and digitally modified them to add a black arm tattoo of an abstract, neutral design.
They then presented the photos to 2584 men and women and had viewers rate the photos with and without the tattoo in several categories.
Women rated tattooed versions of the men as healthier but not more or less attractive than the men without tattoos. On the other hand, men rated tattooed versions of the men as more attractive but not more or less healthy compared with photos of the men without the tattoos.
Because the study only used heterosexual subjects, Galbarczyk and Ziomkiewic interpreted these findings as showing that men viewed other men with tattoos as same-sex rivals, given their perception that tattooed men are attractive to women. This might have something to do with perceived self-confidence, as the authors note that men gain significantly more self-esteem and body appreciation after getting inked for the first time.
Both men and women rated pictures of the tattooed men as more dominant, aggressive, and masculine. Galbarczyk and Ziomkiewic point out these testosterone-related characteristics are frequently associated with good health, which could explain the female viewers’ perception that tattooed men were healthier.
Tattooed Relationship Potential
Does viewing a tattooed man as healthy create a desire to begin a relationship? It depends on what type of relationship the viewer has in mind. Galbarczyk and Ziomkiewic found that women judged men with tattoos as worse potential parents and partners than men without tattoos. Male viewers did not hold these views.
On this topic, they note that it might seem surprising at first that the women perceived tattooed men to be healthier but not more attractive, but pointed out that their study only assessed general attractiveness, and suggested women might find men with tattoos more attractive when considering short-term relationships, given the link with masculinity. In support of this proposition, they cite a study where women found men who had posttraumatic facial scarring to be more attractive for short-term pairings but not for a long-term relationship.
In the mix, tattoos are only one facet of what is no doubt a constellation of traits possessed by the wearer of the body art. And regarding the impact on relationship potential, many tattoos are, at the very least, conversation starters.
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 Galbarczyk, Andrzej, and Anna Ziomkiewicz. 2017. “Tattooed Men: Healthy Bad Boys and Good-Looking Competitors.” Personality and Individual Differences 106 (February): 122–25. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2016.10.051.