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Medusa Tattoo Meaning: Survival from Sexual Assault and More

Medusa Tattoo Meaning: Survival from Sexual Assault and More

Medusa tattoos aren’t a new thing – many people, especially women, have been painting images of this figure, in a variety of designs, under their skin for decades.

However, in recent years, they have become more popular among women and men as a symbol of survival after experiencing sexual assault or abuse. 

This might seem like a strange leap, because, in your mind, Medusa is an evil, snake-haired monster with green skin and eyes that could turn you to stone. However, you may misunderstood as her story was one of the earliest examples of victim blaming. 

So if you understand this tragic story from Greek mythology, you’ll soon see why Medusa has been adopted as the symbol of their survival by people who have been subjected to the terrible experience of sexual assault. 

Medusa’s Story

According to ancient Greek mythology, Medusa was born a demi-god, one of 3 daughters of primordial sea gods. Medusa was the only mortal of the three sisters, with Stheno and Euryale taking on the immortal qualities of their parents.

They were all said to be very beautiful, with lovely faces and gorgeous long hair, and were coveted by men and gods alike. However, they valued their purity and let none touch them.

Becoming a Gorgon

One day, Poseidon, god of the sea, saw Medusa in Athena’s temple and, believing that he should have whatever he wanted, raped the girl, taking away her most valued possession – her virtue. 

Athena was furious that her temple had been defiled in this way, and punished Medusa for the crime, despite the fact that she was actually the victim. 

Poseidon was of a higher rank than Athena, so Athena could do nothing against him, and she hated Medusa for her beauty and flowing locks. Because of her jealousy towards Medusa’s beauty, the best punishment she could come up with was to take that away from her. 

Athena turned Medusa’s luscious hair into writhing venomous snakes and turned her skin green. She also made her so ugly that just one look into her eyes would turn anyone to stone. The new creature Medusa had become is called a Gorgon.

Remember the Victim

Despite all that had happened to her, Medusa was not evil – she did not actively seek to petrify anyone unless she was defending herself. However, history remembers her as an evil, ugly, snake-haired woman who could kill with a look. 

Yet, Perseus, who eventually beheaded her, is seen as a hero, despite the fact that he had the help of the gods and she had nothing but her petrifying gaze to defend her.

After he killed her, Perseus gifted her head to Athena who had it mounted on her shield, both as a weapon against her enemies – Medusa’s dead eyes were still able to petrify people – and as a symbol of their victory over her. Even in death, Medusa was ridiculed and looked down upon by those who had wronged her. 

This is one of the earliest stories we have of the victim being blamed and punished for the crime committed against them, and sadly, it didn’t end there. Stories like these, both true and mythological, are very common right from Greek and Roman mythology, all the way to today. 

So What Does a Medusa Tattoo Mean?

We live in a world of interesting and diverse individuals, each with our own feelings and beliefs, and those carry through when we choose what to ink onto our bodies. Getting a tattoo is a very personal thing, and a Medusa tattoo is no different, so each person will interpret and assign meaning on their own terms. 

Most commonly, people choose Medusa tattoos to represent the courage required to overcome sexual assault (SA) or sexual abuse. The tattoo can also be worn by anyone who wants to show solidarity with the survivors of these crimes and call out society for its habit of victim-blaming, instead of persecuting the offenders.

People who have survived sexual assault know that it takes strength and courage to overcome the experience and start feeling like a whole person again, and many of them are getting tattoos of Medusa to represent that power. 

Medusa was a woman who was assaulted and blamed for it, but still stayed strong, keeping to herself to avoid hurting people – that took enormous strength of personality and great courage. 

Whatever it might mean to you or the person wearing it, if you see a Medusa tattoo, please spare a moment to think about the victims of SA and how we can make the world a better place.

Other Meanings of Medusa Tattoos

Not everyone who has a Medusa tattoo is a survivor of SA – some people like her story and think she looks cool. Others might wish they could scare people off with just a look.

If you see someone with a Medusa tattoo and you want to know what it means, you can always just ask them. Just be willing to accept their answer if they don’t want to talk about it. 

Here are some other possible meanings of Medusa tattoos:

Art and History

Some people choose Medusa tattoos because they like the intricate aesthetics and beautiful designs, while others choose them out of a love of Greek mythology, snakes, or even just portraiture. 


Some people see Medusa’s change from an innocent girl into a “monster” as a rebirth or transformation. She goes from someone who can be easily trampled to someone who can kill her enemies with a glance.

For people who choose this meaning for their tattoos, Medusa represents their individual journey of personal growth and transformation.


Medusa is the epitome of female strength. It may not have been her choice to become a monster, but she made the most of it by defending herself against her enemies and surviving the terrible things that were done to her. 

Feminine Wrath

In most cultures in the world, even today, female anger is not accepted or tolerated. Men joke about their wives’ anger as if it is something that makes them undesirable. Women who show their anger are described as fishwives and harpies, rather than rightfully angry. 

Medusa is a symbol of the anger that is denied to us, because nobody could deny her her feelings – she could just turn them to stone. 


As with female anger, female authority is something that is barely tolerated in some cultures and completely denied in others. Medusa is often seen as a symbol of rebellion against this patriarchal treatment of women. 


Not only did Medusa survive the assault by Poseidon, but she made the most of her unfair punishment by using it to defend herself from further harm. She is a symbol of strength in the face of adversity, but also, not letting it turn you into a monster inside. 

Protective figure

Medusa can also be seen as a symbol of protection, which probably comes from the original Greek meaning of her name, which is “guardian” or “protectress”. She is said to shield us from harmful influences and negative energies.

When Should You Get a Medusa Tattoo?

If you like the look of Medusa or you think this tattoo is suitable for you, you can tattoo it as you like. You might meet people who make assumptions about the meaning of your tattoo, but it’s your tattoo, and you’re the only person who gives the meaning of it!

If you are a survivor of SA, you can get this tattoo to represent your struggle and the strength it took to overcome. If you’ve never been sexually abused, you can get it to stand in solidarity with those who have.

If any of the other symbolic meanings of Medusa tattoos we’ve listed above rings true for you, you can get your Medusa tattoo with that in mind. 

Why Are Medusa Tattoos so Popular?

The main reason why Medusa tattoos are more popular now is most likely the #MeToo movement. In this movement, many women have spoken out about the atrocious things that have been done to them under the patriarchy – things that they were previously not willing or able to speak about. 

Sometimes, when someone is the victim of a rape or sexual abuse, they are afraid to speak out for fear of punishment. Maybe they think they will be ignored or called a liar, or perhaps they are afraid that they will be publicly humiliated and shunned. 

There is another possible reason for the sudden growth in popularity of Medusa tattoos – social media! After all, that is the fastest way for ideas to grow these days. The Medusa tattoo hashtag is spreading like wildfire, with around whopping 23 million views already in TikTok.


Medusa’s story is one of the earliest examples of victim blaming of women, so her image is often used as a symbol of the strength it takes to overcome adversity. Social media like TikTok and the #MeToo movement have made it a popular symbol of surviving sexual assault.

Medusa was a victim, not a criminal, and yet took the blame for what was done to her. To this day, victims of sexual assault are blamed, ridiculed, or shunned for what has been done to them, so people in these situations get tattoos of Medusa to give themselves a sense of empowerment and strength.

Having said that, anyone can get a Medusa tattoo, and you can assign any meaning to it that you want, or none at all. She is often seen as a symbol of protection, feminine anger, resilience, rebellion, and rebirth. 

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