Can a narcissist be interested in tattoos?

New study on body modificationPsychologist: "Narcissism of small differences"

Juliane Reil: Tattoos and piercings - originally they were associated with sailors and dodgy characters from the red light district. Today, the nose ring and tribal have long since become socially acceptable and a mass phenomenon. A current study by the University of Leipzig shows how heavily tattoos and piercings are still in trend. Ada Borkenhagen is a psychologist and co-initiated the study. Welcome to the Corso conversation, Ms. Borkenhagen.

Ada Borkenhagen: Yes thank you.

Reil: According to your study, every fifth German is tattooed. Women in particular can be enthusiastic about this body jewelry. Around half of all women between the ages of 25 and 34 have tattoos, I was able to read there, 19 percent more than in 2009. How do you explain this increase?

Borkenhagen: Yes. First of all, one can say that this increase is certainly an indication that body modifications and above all tattoos are still in trend and are increasing, and that it is especially attractive for women to get tattoos.

The psychologist and psychoanalyst Ada Borkenhagen. (picture alliance / dpa / Horst Galuschka)

Reil: Why do you think this is a special attraction for women?

Borkenhagen: I think that it has become a legitimate and very accepted form of female body jewelry, the form of being able to adorn the body as well. And self-aestheticization is still something that is more used by women in our culture than by men.

"The type of tattoos has changed"

Reil: Your study also shows that women are way ahead of men in this regard. So more women get tattooed, so that you think, actually, yes, this is really becoming a female phenomenon, which at the beginning of the history of tattoos, when you look back, it was not sailors, seafaring, etc.

Borkenhagen: I think that has something to do with the fact that something like a culture has developed within this tattoo scene. That means, we also have a fashion, the type of tattoos has changed. Nowadays tribals are not so much in as there is more motif tattoos and it has become so fashionable and I think the tattoos are more artistic too. For one thing, that's something you can observe in the scene. If you ask tattoo studios, it is very clear that certain motives are really out. The famous 'ass antlers' is, so to speak, what was very much in vogue in the 90s, is hardly in demand today.

Reil: So originally you got a tattoo - or at least I could imagine that it is a motivation - to emphasize that you are traveling individually. But now it's a mass movement. Does that mean that the individual moment has actually become obsolete?

Borkenhagen: I wouldn't say that, but an individual tattoo is still suitable for expressing and underlining your own individuality. I think it's more about the small difference, so to speak, the narcissism of the small differences, what kind of motive I let myself be applied to my skin.

"The modification of the body has become more important"

Reil: Does this narcissism fit in well with our time?

Borkenhagen: I would say. The body and the modification of the body has become more important these days. The appearance of the body in general is more important for how I feel as an individual and how I present myself as an individual. Today I do that much more through my body and the appearance of my body than in earlier times through certain clothes or a certain habitus. We could clearly see that the young women get a lot of tattoos, so that has really become a fashion trend for them.

Reil: But that's interesting because the fashion trends are really such a sapling change. The ideal of beauty changes constantly, flawless skin is actually also an ideal of beauty. How do you explain such a current trend - which I have identified for myself - that it actually goes towards large-area tattoos.

Borkenhagen: You are quite right to say that we do have flawless skin as an overarching trend. But that doesn't mean that I can't get a tattoo. Because the tattoo is something wanted and the flawlessness of the skin primarily relates to unwanted blemishes, for example something like wrinkles or scars that are really not wanted, i.e. not decorative scars.

Reil: In principle, the tattoo has long since left the realm of the private, into the museum and art collectors are also interested in tattoos. There is one case of this Swiss man who had his back tattooed and then sold it to an art collector. Does that mean the tattoo is really socially acceptable now?

Borkenhagen: I think it's really socially acceptable for broader sections of the population.

Reil: The psychologist Ada Borkenhagen from the University of Leipzig. Thank you.

Borkenhagen: You're welcome.

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