There’s a new form of harassment and although people with tattoos have dealt with it for years, it’s finally being recognized. The type of harassment I’m talking about is being called “tatcalling” and it happens every day.

Having visible tattoos often comes with the same questions – “Did that hurt?” “What does it mean?” “How much did it cost?” “Do your parents hate your tattoos?” And while none of those questions are anyone’s business, I politely answer one or two and go on my way.

Tatcalling is far more common than we’d all like to think. Being harassed while walking down the street has changed from “Hey baby!” or “You should smile.” to “Nice tats!” or “Can I see your tattoos?” and more notably – “I wasn’t looking at your boobs, I was looking at your chest piece.”

Really? Is that supposed to make me feel more comfortable? Should I be happy that you’re not staring directly at my chest?

So when is enough enough? Where do we draw the line?

Like many women, I answer questions or acknowledge people because I want to be polite, but as I get older, I’m realizing that “compliment” was actually harassment and I don’t have to be polite. I’ve been told I’m “rude” and that I should “learn to take compliments” and even that I’m “stuck up” but it’s time that men learn to stop harassing women.

I understand that you are curious, but my body is not for your curiosity. All women want to be respected and when you openly point at my legs or chest, I lose confidence and gain fear.

For those of you who don’t think fear is needed, put yourself in our place. It’s uncomfortable having strangers come up to you and point at your body parts like choosing a piece of meat at a butcher shop. People think they’re harmless and that women shouldn’t be scared when they come up to us to talk about our tattoos. I mean, that’s why they’re there, right? But we are. Why, you ask?

Because people lose their boundaries when they’re curious, even if it’s a complete stranger.

I remember vividly one of the worst times I’ve been tatcalled which put me in constant fear even today. I studied abroad in London a couple years back and like any foreigner, I was a little turned around one day. Confused, I stared at my map and then looked up to see a vendor. I walked over to him so I could ask for directions when he turned around and the all to familiar wide-eyes staring at my chest occurred.

He was an older man so I expected as much which isn’t something I should be used to. That was until he took his hands and opened my shirt to look at my chest.

I was frozen. I had no idea what to do.

My mind was blank as I stepped back away from him. I stuttered to ask him for directions, he cut me off and said “what were you thinking?“

What was I thinking? What was HE thinking?

There is absolutely no reason someone should touch another person without their consent, especially a complete stranger.

I quickly turned around and walked away while trying to figure out what I did that would provoke such an action only to realize I didn’t do anything. He invaded my space and treated me inappropriately and with incredible disrespect.

This wasn’t the only time I was touched by a stranger and unfortunately it happens to more than just me on a daily basis. Within seconds of meeting some people, the harassment about how many tattoos you have or where are your other tattoos and even touching tattoos begins. Most people think they’re being friendly and they start showing you their tattoos or talk about what they want, but it’s not ok. What may seem like simple conversation or an honest compliment can actually be regarded as the same dynamics of catcalling.

It’s not to say that everyone complimenting your tattoos is tatcalling, but in my experience, being tatcalled and catcalled are extremely similar.

If you think this article is an overreaction or that I should just ignore people calling out to me, know these things:

  1. My tattoos are for me, not for you. I didn’t get tattoos for people to come ask me about them or comment on them. I have them because I genuinely like getting and having tattoos. I honestly don’t care whether or not you like tattoos on women or you think they look trashy. My body is not for you to judge just like your body is not for me to judge.
  2. Tatcalling is an invasion of space. Whether you come up to me to talk about them or if you’re yelling “sweet tats” at me on the street, you are invading my personal space. Again, my body is not for you to judge and by shouting at me on the street, you are taking my time and confidence away from me and you’re making me feel uncomfortable in my own body.
  3. I did not get tattoos to be hit on or for an easy way to start a conversation, but I will talk to people that seem actually interested. But if the only thing you can muster up when deciding to talk to me is “did your chest piece hurt” or “how many tattoos do you have” then don’t bother talking to me. Our bodies should be the very last thing that someone should bring up in a conversation because it’s our body. We don’t ask you what size your waist is because you’re wearing pants and we don’t care. Don’t ask us about our tattoos if you have nothing valuable to say.
  4. Tattoos are part of our bodies. They are part of who we are. Like most people, we don’t openly talk about our body because it’s a personal thing. When you bring up our tattoos, you are talking about our bodies openly without our consent. You’re judging us in a public manner and it’s makes us uncomfortable. Treat us with the same respect you’d treat someone without tattoos and avoid talking about our bodies like they’re different than everyone else’s.

Whether you agree with it or not, tatcalling is just as real as catcalling and it needs to be stopped. Nobody goes out hoping that men yell at them while they’re walking down the sidewalk. So please, think before you speak and avoid invading personal space.

We all want to feel comfortable with ourselves. Don’t ruin someone’s confidence with what you feel like is a compliment.