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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The experience and meaning of tattooing and piercing in women who have experienced relational traumas Matos, Paulo Daniel


The aim of this study was to examine the experience and meaning of tattooing and piercing in women who had experienced relational traumas, defined as any context in which two or more human beings interact with one another in which a traumatic event occurs, whether these beings are relatives, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. A phenomenological study was conducted. Seven women, ranging in age from 23 to 52, who identified as having experienced relational traumas, were interviewed in depth about their experiences of tattooing and piercing, and the meanings and purposes these body modifications served in their lives. Six prominent themes emerged from a thematic analysis of the data. These themes are: 1) Remembrance; 2) Connection; 3) Identity; 4) Permanence; 5) Healing, Coping, and Closure; and 6) The Significance of Pain. The findings of this study revealed a great deal of complexity in terms of the reasons why women chose to tattoo and pierce following the experience of relational traumas. A connection is made between these findings and feminist literature that demonstrates the importance of relationships and connections in the lives of women, and how tattooing and piercing may aid in that regard. The literature on self-injurious behaviours, such as cutting, is also discussed, and some consideration is made as to whether tattoos and piercings may be, for some, socially acceptable forms of self-harm. The implications for practice and future research are also discussed.

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