In tattooing, consent is an ongoing, voluntary, and informed agreement to participate in the tattoo procedure. Consent is required by both artist and client for the tattoo to continue. Consent can be revoked at any time, for any number of reasons.
Consent cannot exist unless ‘no’ is a safe option. Coercion or pressure to comply voids consent; neither party can force the other to continue with the tattoo.
When you’re the artist, you are already in a position of authority, so it’s your responsibility to create a safe environment for your client and demonstrate to them that their choices will be respected.
Artists and clients have a duty to provide all information necessary to make informed decisions about the tattoo. This could look like;
- The artist/shop providing information on their website.
- The artist explaining the tattoo process and pausing for questions.
- The artist letting the client know how to ask for a break, like creating a hand signal.
- The client disclosing medical details that could impact their ability to heal the tattoo safely.
Although the artist is providing a service and must be a good leader to provide a safe and successful tattoo, the client's participation in decision making is needed. This could look like;
- The client expressing their preferences and styles they are interested in either verbally or through a form they fill out.
- The artist asking the client their opinion on tattoo stencil size and placement, and having them look in the mirror before starting.
The ability to make choices is critical to ongoing consent. This could look like;
- The artist providing modesty options for the client (private changing area, room dividers, covering, etc).
- The artist checking in with the client to see how they are doing and if they need a break or water.
- The artist and the client being able to stop the tattoo at anytime if they require a break, feel unsafe, are in too much pain, are uncomfortable, or for any reason they see fit.
Together, we can build and uphold better standards to ensure that tattoo shops are safe places for everyone.