Challenging Tattoo Taboo


Jake Pehler’s Medusa tattoo.

Iliana Padilla, Staff Reporter

“My body, my choice,” says Jake Pehler, a second-year CLC student. Jake currently has a total of 23 tattoos on the left side of his body and challenges the stereotypes that have led people to treat him differently.

Pehler has made it his mission to challenge himself to show that his tattoos don’t affect his performance. He fights the stigma by working two jobs – he is an intern for the Lake County treasurer and uses the weekends to work at Culver’s. On top of this, Pehler is finishing his associate’s degree at CLC and intends to eventually earn his bachelor’s in business.

Pehler claims that there is a generational divide in how people react to his tattoos and feels that the younger generation is more open to different forms of self-expression. Older people tend to scold him and tell him that he won’t be able to get a high-paying job.

When shopping at a store in Kentucky, Pehler was approached by an older lady. She slapped his hand and screamed, “get out of my store, you felon!” She even went as far as to call security on him. Pehler was shocked by her reaction, as he had done nothing to provoke her besides having tattoos. 

Pehler hasn’t had the best encounters with law enforcement, either. The first time he ever got pulled over by a cop he got scolded for his tattoos. Pehler says people assume the worst in him and give him dirty looks.

He was first introduced to tattoos through a show called Ink Masters, where he learned to see tattoos as art. Pehler explains how he only intends on tattooing the left side of his body because he feels that it is unique and tied to the ideology of yin and yang. 

Pehler was 18 when he got his first tattoo – a lily, for his little sister, Lily. He hid the tattoo from his parents for 9 months. When his parents saw his tattoo, his dad wasn’t happy at first, but after explaining the symbolism behind the tattoo, he smiled. Pehler’s dad told him “your body is a temple,” and Pehler responded, “yeah, and I’m just decorating it.”

“I don’t do it for other people, I do it for me,” Pehler explained. Pehler recognizes that he is the most heavily tattooed in his entire friend group, and all of his friends love his tattoos. Some of his friends even contributed to his tattoos. One of his friends wrote I love you, which he got tattooed. Another designed a playboy bunny, which is now permanently on his skin. Pehler emphasizes that he doesn’t regret any of his tattoos and loves all the stories behind them. 

Pehler also has a tattoo of Medusa on the outside of his thigh, which serves as a reminder of all the abuse he has overcome in his life and encourages him to move forward. For those unaware, Medusa is a common tattoo for survivors of abuse, due to the ancient Greek myth where Medusa becomes her monstrous and powerful self after an assault. The tattoo helps him reflect and recognize the signs of abuse. Pehler mentioned that this was his favorite tattoo of his because of its message. It took three and a half hours, the longest out of all his tattoos.

Tattoos decorate Pehler’s left leg, but are entirely absent from his right side.

According to Pehler, he has a total of $1,750 worth of tattoos. In addition to the Medusa tattoo, he has a peace sign on his knee which was one of the most painful tattoos he got. The peace sign represents how he treats others with respect until given a reason not to. 

Additionally, Pehler has a tattoo has dice with the numbers 7 and 9 which is his birthday, and symbolizes how life is a gamble. He has two faces on his chest; one that is smiling and the other frowning, which is about how emotions can flip at any second. He also has a broken Greek sculpture to remind him that life isn’t perfect.

However, not all of Pehler’s tattoos are as meaningful. Most of his tattoos were done spontaneously, like his Adult Swim logo, or the random face he has tatted. He also has the word Tuesday tattooed on his wrist as an inside joke with his friends. Pehler has done 15 of his tattoos by himself.

Pehler challenges the stigma of tattoos. He encourages us to meet the person, understand why they have their tattoos, and then make our judgments. “Don’t just judge someone just by looking at them. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Learn before you act!”