Stick and poke tattoos an outlet for self-expression

Sascha Wolf-Sorokin, Staff Writer

You head to CVS with some friends and you walk out with some India ink and a few needles. A few hours later, after some pain, you have yourself a brand-new tattoo.

There are many reasons that students at the high school might consider getting a stick-and-poke tattoo: To gain control of their own bodies, express oneself, or even rebel against typical culture.

A student who wished to remain anonymous, who has two stick-and-poke tattoos, said that stick-and-poke tattoos help give students a sense of control over themselves.

“You’re coming into yourself and you feel like you should be in control of your body: what you put in your body, what you do with your body, what you do with your mind or whatever,” she said. “You feel like you should be in control, but it feels like other people are controlling you: adults, teachers, parents. And to be able to change your body in a way, to pierce yourself and give yourself a tattoo is kind of a form of power. You’re taking control over your body.”

Senior Emilia Morgan, who has a stick-and-poke tattoo, said that although tattoos can be a creative way to express oneself, they do not necessarily need to have a deeper meaning.

“I think it can have meaning, but also it can just be, ’Oh this is pretty,’ which I never used to think before,” Morgan said. “I thought tattoos had to have meaning because they are permanent. But I think if you like something, and you like the design or idea of it for a very long time, it can totally be a way of expressing yourself on your body. It’s a really powerful idea because it is permanent, which is kind of scary.”

Junior Ian Roberson, who has a stick-and-poke tattoo, said that both stick-and-pokes and professional tattoos can help with creative expression, but professional ones can be more versatile in their results.

“I wouldn’t call myself or people who do stick-and-pokes an artist per se, but I do think there is an art to doing tattoos,” Roberson said. “Especially with more professional ones, I think that’s a much more creative way to express yourself because there is so much more you can do with it.”

According to Roberson stick-and-poke tattoos are generally in contrast with the typical culture at the high school.

“With stick-and-pokes, especially at the high school, it’s an edgy kind of hipster thing to do,” Roberson said. “Professional are safer, but the culture surrounding that is much larger, whereas stick-and-pokes is more counter-culture.”

Morgan also said that tattoos potentially contain cultural appropriation. According to Morgan, White students sometimes want a symbol because they think it looks cool but do not understand the cultural history behind that image.

“I also have friends who are students of color who want something that represents their heritage and where they’re from, and so that is definitely not cultural appropriation because they’re from that culture and they understand the history,” Morgan said. “I think tattoos, fashion and dress definitely can turn problematic because of cultural appropriation and the lack of understanding of marginalized cultures.”

The anonymous student said she got the tattoo at the spur of the moment, and that many students have also gotten stick-and-poke tattoos in a desire to rebel.

“It probably was rebellion to a certain extent, although I don’t think I felt that way,” she said. “I really just thought it was super cool, and I wanted to be cool.”

Morgan said getting a tattoo can be a powerful experience, even if the person who got it is unhappy with the outcome.

“Once you’ve made that decision you’re going to have to live with it, and if you don’t like it, that’s a teaching moment about responsibility and decision making,” Morgan said. “Even if someone does it out of rebellion, and they don’t like it, it’s still a moment that they are going to learn about decision making and choices. You need experiences where you make mistakes and then you learn from them.”

The viewpoints in this article are not connected to The Sagamore, which acknowledges the potential risks associated with getting a stick-and-poke tattoo.