A 2017 survey by the dating app Type found that two-thirds of women are more attracted to men with tattoos than without. And you don’t need stats to prove it: it seems like every magazine cover of a male star in recent years is an (extremely convincing) ad for body art. So let’s uncover the reasons behind why men with tattoos are so damn sexy:
Tattoos signal health. Apparently we’re all wildly attracted to this thing called immunocompetence. While this may not be the first box you tick in your dating app preferences, it is something you subconsciously notice when meeting a potential partner. In a 2017 study conducted in Poland, women were shown pictures of men without tattoos, followed by photos of the same men with Photoshopped tattoos. The women rated the tattooed men as being healthier than the tattoo-less men. The authors suggest that because tattoos are the result of a healed wound, men who have them demonstrate a strong immune system, which is, in turn, a signal of overall health, a genetically desirable trait.
Risk-taking is sexy. Interestingly, women in the Polish study rated men with tattoos as being less likely to make good partners and fathers. This may be because tattoos are associated with danger and risk-taking, characteristics which are notoriously sexy for many women, if not auspicious for a long-term relationship. Tattoos may therefore make a guy more attractive as a one-night stand, though less attractive for something more meaningful.
It shows confidence. Another study, this one published in 2012, examined the personality traits of people with tattoos. It found that the inked participants scored higher on extroversion (a trait often mistaken for confidence) and self-esteem than their un-inked peers. It’s no secret that confidence is attractive. Tattoos may therefore signal certain personality traits that are considered desirable, while people without tattoos are forced to convey their personalities in less obvious ways.
It shows uniqueness. The same study showed that the participants with tattoos scored higher on the authors’ uniqueness test. While uniqueness may not always be a good thing (just because someone is different doesn’t mean they’re your type) it does make a person stand out from the crowd. Individualism may also suggest confidence.
It communicates excitement and adventure. Yet another finding of the study found that the tattooed participants were more likely to be experience-seekers. This corroborates the Polish study which found that women viewed tattooed men as being more reckless and less reliable. Adventurousness is sexy. It usually means that a guy has plenty of exciting stories to tell and will liberate your wild side. You may not want to marry him, but you definitely want to have a passionate fling with him.
They signal dominance and masculinity. Another finding of the Polish study was that men with tattoos are viewed as being more masculine, dominant, and aggressive than those without. While these traits don’t seem particularly attractive from a 21st-century perspective, once upon a time, men who were muscular and aggressive offered greater protection to women and their offspring and were therefore more desirable mates. Like it or not, this still holds sway in the primal part of our brains.
It gives a glimpse into his personality. Primal instincts aside, tattoos offer a window into a person’s soul. They’re permanent, after all (and usually pretty expensive). No one would go to the trouble of getting a tattoo unless it meant something to them. That’s why some people get uncomfortable when they’re asked about what their tats mean: it can feel invasive. Whether someone has letters across their knuckles, museum-worthy portraits and landscapes, or something more symbolic, you can learn a lot about who they are from their tattoos.
Tattoos can show emotional vulnerability. I met a waiter one time who had a full sleeve of a fighter plane soaring through pastel-smudged clouds. It was gorgeous, and when I asked him the dreaded question (“What does it mean?”) he told a story about his late grandfather who had been a pilot in WWII. In short, it was touching and emotionally resonant. Tattoos commemorating family, personal struggle, or a favorite line of poetry suggest that the person is in touch with their emotions.
Why Women Are Still Attracted To The “Bad Boy” Type
Given the studies mentioned above, it’s clear that one of the main attractions of men with tattoos is the “bad boy” vibe they give. Here’s why that’s sexy (even to many feminists).
It’s all in the genes. According to research, bad boys are bad for a reason. Dr. Martie Haselton argues that guys who are physically attractive alpha males can afford to be “cads” because they have so many options. They can play the field, leave broken hearts in their wake, and still have women fawning over them because their physical attractiveness makes them genetically desirable. Women are attracted to them despite their behavior because ultimately, our instincts lead us to the best genes. Our logical brain often kicks in after a while to save us from settling down with a bad boy, but that doesn’t mean we won’t lose our hearts to a few of them along the way.
It taps into our wild and liberated side. Another reason behind the enduring appeal of “sexy cads” is that they liberate us. Their recklessness and devil-may-care attitude spark our rebellious streak. They remind us that being spontaneous and irresponsible is exhilarating…at least for a while. Eventually, you’ll wake up at noon with a monster hangover smelling like cigarette smoke for the fourth day in a row and realize you’re not in college anymore and miss the stability and sense of physical well-being that comes with being a mostly-responsible adult.
We want to save them. Some of us also have a savior complex when it comes to bad boys. The fact that we use the word “boy” instead of “man” is telling: somehow “bad man” just doesn’t sound attractive. A bad boy has an element of vulnerability to him. He seems damaged, lost, and in need of nurturing. Plenty of women have wasted years of their lives trying to save a bad boy from himself before realizing that no matter how damaged, a grown man is responsible for his own actions.
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