What Is Stigma: A Beginner’s Guide

For thousands of years, humans have made modifications to their bodies such as tattoos and piercings for a variety of reasons. It is sometimes associated with specific cultural practices, such as Maori and Inuit facial tattoos. Other times, people use tattoos and piercings to share their personal stories and experiences, such as semicolon tattoos for mental health awareness or engagement piercings.

All to say that tattoos are fairly common and have been around for a long time — and it has attracted people who have them. Research has shown that cis women, for example, tend to find men with tattoos healthier and more “masculine” than men who don’t have body modifications. Men with tattoos.

However, some people derive sexual satisfaction from the tattoo (or piercing) itself. What is this sexual preference, and what does it entail? Here’s a look at stigma and how to navigate this sexual preference in relationships.

What is stigma?

If you are sexually aroused due to body modification, you may suffer from stigma. According to Kendra Capalbo, LICSW, a licensed couples and sex therapist at Esclusiva Couples Retreats, stigma is “sexual paraphilia in which sexual pleasure and arousal [are] related to sexual partners having tattoos, piercings or scars.” Paraphilias, in case you’re not familiar with the term, are repetitive and persistent sexual preferences or behaviors that are considered “atypical” by social standards. They are not generally considered a mental health condition, with some exceptions if paraphilia is bothersome to the sufferer or if it entails harming others. (Usually not a case of discrimination.)

A person with stigma may be irritated by someone else’s tattoo or scar, or irritated by tattooing themselves. “[Stigmatophilia] It can be shown by feeling excited at a tattoo shop when seeing people with tattoos, says Lyndsey Murray, an AASECT-certified sex therapist at Relationship Problems Therapy. or know you’re about to get a tattoo.

“[A person with stigmatophilia] maybe someone who just chooses a mate who has art—tattoos or piercings—on their body, or they may be someone who has a lot of body art because it makes them happy if they look that way, “Murray added.

Stigmatophilia originally referred to people irritated by scarring (intentional cutting to create different skin patterns or textures) but has since expanded. “Recently, this definition [of stigmatophilia] Rebecca Alvarez Story, a certified sexologist and Bloomi’s CEO and co-founder, says it has been expanded to account for sexually aroused people with tattoos, piercings and any other modifications on the body, especially on the genitals and nipples.

How common is the stigma?

Research on stigma is limited, but Story says that paraphilias are generally more common in men than women: “Because sex drive is on average higher in men, it may boost motivation to seek out sex. Find a variety of sexual activities, hobbies and interests. partner.” (It’s not clear how that plays out between transgender and non-binary people—not enough data to tell.)

However, some tattoo artists say they have encountered stigma in their own shops. John Johnson, owner of New Flower Studio in Long Beach, California, and online education administrator for the Association of Professional Piercers, has had several instances where his clients became erect. or make sexual comments during the piercing. “I don’t know if this is a specific result of them being stimulated or just a biological response to being handled, cleaned for the procedure and examined,” Johnson said.

“Different people like and appreciate different things about sex, and I think that’s just human.” —John Johnson, owner, New Flower Studio

Johnson also mentioned that couples kissed or chatted sexually during a piercing appointment. However, he’s fine with them creating a sexual environment if it doesn’t cross his boundaries. “I communicate my boundaries very clearly and like all piercers, I maintain control of the piercing room.”

Emmanuel Fortunato, a tattoo artist at Mad Rabbit in New York City, said he has never had a client confess to being sexually aroused while getting a tattoo but understands that tattoos “are something very personal.” where you put your trust and make a compromise for the rest of your life, which is exactly why I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had stronger feelings.

“I will think [stigmatophila] It’s completely normal,” Johnson said. “Different people like and appreciate different things about sex, and I think that’s just human.”

Is stigma ever a cause for concern?

The story reiterates that discrimination “is not considered [a] perversion or mental illness” and not “uncontrollable desires that can only be satisfied by performing sexual acts”.

However, Capalbo notes that if a person requires constant body changes to feel euphoric, their stigma can “reach a level of confusion and thus [be] a legitimate health concern.”

For example, Capalbo mentions that a person with stigma may have an urgent and repetitive need to touch or make some changes to their body. This compulsion can lead to a person “taking the risk of infection and regretting their decision at a later stage,” says Capalbo. (If the tattoo artist does not use sterile equipment, there is an increased risk of developing infections such as hepatitis C or HIV.)

“If someone wants to get artistic tattoos all over their body, that’s fine, just make sure the needles and materials are clean, legal, and not shared with others if you decide to do it,” says Murray. so.

Also, if someone is showing signs of distress or discomfort because of stigma, they should seek help from a mental health professional.

Navigating the stigma in romantic and sexual relationships

If you suffer from stigma, being open with your partner(s) can certainly benefit your romantic and sexual relationships. According to Capalbo, it can “add sexual arousal and pleasure to both individuals and partners and ‘spice up’ their sex lives, making you feel close to like-minded people. and allow them to explore your sexuality.” Sharing these desires, and exploring them with your partner(s), can also encourage confidence, she says.

Story adds: “As with all relationships, it is important for all partners to be honest with each other and express their sexual desires and needs.

Talking about sexual interests can be stressful, but it’s important to be open and honest. “Give some context to your partner about what triggered this in the first place and what exactly you like or dislike,” suggests Capalbo. “Mutual understanding and a direct and honest conversation with your partner will help you navigate through incorporating or not incorporating new elements into your relationship and sex life. “

If your partner(s) can’t accommodate your sexual preferences, Murray says you should “explore other ways to meet your needs, which may include watching pornography together.” Ethical prostitution involves people with tattoos and piercings.

The bottom line: Stigmatophilia is part of a broader mosaic of human sexual experience. If getting inked gets you down, by all means explore it (safely).


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