Since the 1960s, members of the sex positive movement have been working to make sex less taboo. Their thinking is simple: We should be able to talk about—and embrace—something that makes us all feel so good. While the destigmatization of sex has been slow—and there’s more progress to be made—it’s safe to say we live in a world that’s more open than ever before. So, gone are the days when people were forced to share their sexual preferences and pleasures strictly in the bedroom. No more! It’s time for sexual empowerment, which can be realized in many different ways, including through sex positive tattoos like these 13 progressive, empowering, and potentially not-so-safe-for-work designs.
1. This sexy strap-on
The artist behind this blackwork strap-on tattoo believes there’s no reason for sexual subject matter to be taboo since sex is something that everyone enjoys. “Sexual interests and kinks are all part of the natural human condition,” German Ferreiroa, resident tattooer at True Black Tattooing in Dublin, Ireland tells Inside Out. “Everyone has them and should be free to enjoy their pleasure without being made to feel ostracized or ashamed.”
2. This dynamic duo
Ferreiroa’s designs often depict people with tattoos (we like to call these ‘meta tattoos’), which is a wider tattoo trend we’ve been seeing over the past few months. The artist doesn’t only do sex positive and meta tattoos, though. But he loves sex positive tattoos because “tattooing is a beautiful art form that gives us the chance to permanently mark our skin with messages and art that we love, and there is nothing wrong with getting a sex or kink tattoo related to your preferences,” he says. “Embrace what you like and be proud of it!”
3. These leggy ladies
If your aesthetic is more minimal, perhaps this piece by Seattle-based tattoo apprentice, Roache, is a better fit for you. Their simple hand poked limbs aren’t sexually explicit in the slightest, but with just a few perfectly placed fine lines we can nonetheless tell that this couple is having a good time.
4. This lasting love tap
Portland tattooer Brittny Abad is known for her simple black linework and signature, playful pops of color. But that’s not all she’s known for. Her work—like this piece of a light handprint on the posterior of the person pictured—often touches on sex, too. “Tattoos make a statement about who you are or were at a given point in time, and there shouldn’t be shame in using that space to celebrate things you find beautiful and that make you feel good,” she says. “I draw what makes me feel good! No inhibitions.”
5. This hot handful
Even this bicep tattoo includes some slight pops of color—Abad’s signature—on the nipples and lips. Expanding on why she loves tattooing sexual subjects, she says, “I think sexuality, love, lust, romance, are all intangible and infinite things that many people really embrace or find joy or meaning in. There’s no reason for it not to be celebrated, and with a medium so permanent but also so fluid and moving and changing as the body, it’s a perfect place to do that.”
6. A little self-loving
You don’t need a partner to have a good time, and this piece by hand poke tattoo artist MKNZ makes that abundantly clear. The Seattle-based artist is no stranger to sex positive tattoos—she does everything from text pieces, like this tattoo reading “live laugh cum,” to the minimalist piece pictured above.
7. This double fister
Another staples of MKNZ’s work is the way it celebrates the fact that fat bodies are sexy, too—something that many people still consider radical. She also regularly tattoos up-close and personal illustrations of female genitalia. “My content is intentionally loud, lewd, provocative, and extremely dykey. It’s a lot like me, I guess,” she said in 2018 interview with i-D.
8. A babe in bondage
If you scroll through Vancouver-based artist James Lauder’s Instagram feed, you’ll see mostly black and grey designs amplified by splashes of pink, like in this Shibari (AKA Japanese bondage) inspired piece. The Shibari design is actually based on the work of Gengoroh Tagame, a Japanese author and illustrator said to be one of the most influential creators of gay manga.
9. This sultry 69
Portuguese tattooer Patricia Shim has a very unique, colorful signature style. Her work is instantly recognizable because rather than doing her outlines using the standard black ink, she does them using a deep blue hue. Her pieces often make use of geometric elements as well. Colorful circles, specifically—there are three in the piece above—are included in most of her designs.
10. This flexible foursome
When it comes to sex, what’s most important is doing what feels right for you. Whether that’s self pleasure, a monogamous relationship, polyamory, or anything in between. For this client, it seems that multiple partners at once could be their sexual preference—hence this foursome of ladies bent all sorts of ways tattooed by Sinsentido, a Spanish artist whose work mixes the old school American Traditional style with abstract (and sometimes pretty trippy) compositions.
11. This wild orgy
Curt Montgomery, the Toronto-based resident artist at our very own Inside Out studio, naturally had to make this list. Hyper-sexual imagery—like this is back tattoo of an orgy—is a staple of his bold but minimal linework tattoos which are worn by the likes of Halsey, Joe Jonas, and Sophie Turner.
12. The couple from heaven (and hell)
Montgomery started doing sexual designs at the beginning of his tattooing career as a way to stand out—and build a following—on Instagram. It worked, and he credits a lot of his early success to the social media platform. Now clients can’t get enough of his sexually-fuelled art. This angel-devil couple is just one example. Another one of Montgomery’s clients has filled his entire leg with different gay couple designs in just four months, and he’s coming in for even more.
13. The holy grail
The Parisian artist known only as ‘2.0’ practices ignorant tattooing—a style often associated with dry humor and irony. And this ignorant style take on a vagina is complete with a shining halo. Vaginas—along with any other sexualized body parts like breasts and penises—aren’t necessarily inherently sexual, but we appreciate the respect they’re getting here. Plus, if a tattoo like this makes a client feel more empowered and sexy in their skin, we’re definitely here for it.
If you liked our post on Sex Positive Tattoos, be sure to check our our article on how Tattoo Shops Are Taking Important Steps in Being Safe Spaces.