Date of Award

Spring 2022

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Master of Arts

First Advisor

Rebecca Glauber

Second Advisor

Rebecca Glauber

Third Advisor

Cliff Brown


Previous research surrounding tattoos and gender has shown that cismen and ciswomen’s tattoos often differ in size, placement, and design, but little research has investigated why these differences persist. Furthermore, studies on tattoos and gender remain limited in scope as they mainly focus on the lived experiences of cisgender men and women. The current study seeks to expand previous research by including a more gender-diverse sample to investigate how the social construction of masculine and feminine tattoos occur, and how participants across the gender spectrum perform gender through tattoos. For this study, I conducted 20 semi-structured in-depth qualitative interviews with eight cismen, eight ciswomen, and four gender-nonconforming individuals, three of whom were nonbinary, and one who was a transman. Across the interviews, participants constructed unified notions of masculinity and femininity within tattoos, and cisgender individuals performed gender by upholding hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity. In contrast, gender-nonconforming individuals embraced their nonconformity through tattoos. Ciswomen and gender-nonconforming individuals also reported negative experiences in male-dominated tattoo spaces marked by discomfort, intimidation, and sexual harassment. No cismen reported negative experiences of this nature, indicating that gender impacts the client-tattoo artist dynamic and the tattoo experience. This qualitative study underscores the salience of gender in the lives of tattooed individuals. However, further research is needed to understand how those who are gender nonconforming and those with intersectional identities may perform gender and experience life differently as tattooed individuals.