Years ago, before I got inked myself, I read Robert Heinlein’s classic Stranger In A Strange Land. One of
the characters in the book is a fully tattooed sideshow performer named Patricia Paiwonski. She stands in a tank full of cobras, offering money to anyone who can find an inch of un-tattooed skin below her chin. The problem is, of course, that while she’s naked, she’s got a “fig leaf” in the form of a huge boa constrictor, so there’s no chance of anyone collecting the prize.
“Aunt Patty” is a founding member of the Fosterite church, and the Fosterites, as Heinlein put it, were not celibate. And the people brought into the church by Foster himself have his “Kiss” tattooed on them, so they can be recognized by others like them.
I always thought that was an interesting form of identification. But I wasn’t so sure about Heinlein’s amater psychology, implying that “the syndrome that can lead to full tattooing” is a euphemism for being addicted to sex. Of course, there’s a lot of sex in Stranger, especially the uncensored version, filtered through Heinlein’s misogyny and aversion to homosexuals, so who can tell whether a fully-tattooed person is any more addicted to sex than anyone else in the book?
While I do think there is a difference in body consciousness in multicolored people (compared to those who have no desire whatsoever to get inked) I don’t think we’re displaying the equivalent of Foster’s Kiss just because we’re more decorative than others.
Or am I just displaying my own amateur psychology along with my ink?
photo credit: M.V. Jantzen