Selling your skin for tattvertising space – is this modern slavery?


This explains why his snot is always green.

After a Glaswegian lass got a tattoo in order to score free food, I got to thinking – is selling your skin to the publicity machine a modern kind of slavery?

Woman gets tattoo, so her Dad gets free curry for a year.

This headline could be replaced with:

“Struggling restaurant gets publicity it craves.”


“Some people will do anything for free stuff.”


“Free curry for a tattoo? What an idiot!”


“Want to see something weird and gross?”


“Here’s today’s voyeuristic piece of wacky (yes you do get to see the tattoo).”


Here’s the woman and there’s the tattoo. You can barely see it, because of all the other tattoos. She wins.

People get tattoos for all different reasons.  I don’t really like then, but that’s got nothing to do with whether or not I think people should be allowed to get them.

Maybe there needs to be some sort of seven day cooling off period? Where you make the decision and if you still want it, you can get it seven days later.

Maybe seven years would be a more appropriate cooling off period.


I wonder if he got the ‘tears’ at the same time as ‘pussy eater’. I’d be crying forever too, if I did that to myself.

Whatever. It’s your body, you do whatever the hell you want with it, and as long as you don’t make me get a tattoo, or judge me for not having any, I won’t judge you for having them.

Well…I’ll try.


Yep that’s the McDonald’s menu, and for getting that tattoo this kid doesn’t get free anything. Apart from ridicule.

So for me, the compelling part of this story is not that a woman got a tattoo in exchange for free stuff. It’s the concept that lies underneath this exchange.

In a free society, are we allowed to sell ourselves? Or even parts of ourselves?  Is this a form of modern slavery?

It’s a tricky one, and the answer is always changing.

You’re allowed to give blood, but not too much.

You’re allowed to sell your body for sex, but only in some places, under specific conditions.

You’re allowed to sell your body for arguably much more dangerous medical trials, in far more places.

Virginity seems to be one of the most valuable things going around, but only the female variety. I’m pretty sure you could get a man’s virginity for half a warm beer and three tokes on a joint. Or nothing.

Some places allow you to be impregnated with, carry and birth someone else’s child. Some don’t.

You’re not legally allowed to sell your organs.

Real estate on your skin, however, seems to be up for auctioning off to anyone you like.


Don’t google ‘worst tattoo ever’. Or maybe do, but be very careful. You can never un-see.

These rules are constantly changing.

The massive problem is, if you’ve got enough money and you want something, there are so many people on this planet that are so severely lacking, that you’ll always find someone who’s willing.

That’s when society steps in to say, “No. That’s not for sale.”

As reality TV becomes more ruthless in the hunt for ratings, global poverty rises and restaurants (as well as everyone else) need to do more to get the same publicity, watch as the rules continue to change.


Or maybe do.

My prediction?

In less than ten years, you’ll once again be able to buy a person. Forever. To do with as you wish. That’s right, slavery.

Actually, that never stopped being a thing.

Research estimates that 21 to 36 million people are in slavery today. That’s more than any other time in human history.

Why doesn’t anyone talk about that?

Just be glad that we currently live in a first world country where selling a piece of skin is seen as outlandish, and then be as worried as I am about how quickly that can change.


I love that there’s a human being alive on the planet today who thought this was a good idea, and that I don’t know them.

This article first appeared in The Big Smoke:

Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian

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