To my readers......

Mitchell is taking a break, Posting will resume in early October
Your comments are always welcome.

Thanks for visiting mitchmen!

(Sept 15th 2014)

Monday, 15 September 2014

A-Z of Fetish Artists - Tom of Finland - 5

The Sinister Tom of Finland

'The Rope' - A Cop Is Coming

Before leaving Kake I would give a mention to 'The Rope' which though not officially part of the series has many authentic ingredients – a woodland meeting, an authentic gay cruising ritual with the central character overpowered and tied up to become the passive centre piece of a mass orgy. It's spiced by the arrival of the dreaded Policeman, whose appearance immediately scares off all the other revellers, leaving their captive to his fate. 

'The Rope'  - Discovery

The familiar moment of fearful discovery follows. Fortunately this cop is keen to show off his endowment and have some of the hero's ass, the orgy resumes around them and ends in smiles all round. It's an optimistic, nicely balanced and consistently well drawn story that makes light of the inherent dangers of such cruising.

Forbes notion which I mentioned at the end of the Part 3 that “...there is nothing mean spirited or sinister about a Tom fantasy.” probably does apply to 'The Rope', but in general Kake depicts a world full of mean-spirited people, like the opportunist thief (Kake 2), the Police Officers who arbitrarily whip 'streakers' (Kake 3), a spurned woman who takes her revenge by reporting her former lover's homosexual activity to the police (Kake 6), a landowner who threatens a trespasser with a whip (Kake 21) and attacks him for making an indecent suggestion, a 'hero' who metes out a spanking and sexual assault for the offence of bending a photograph (Kake 23)

There's no shortage of the sinister either, we have a hijacker (Kake 8), several men who force frightened victims into sex at the point of a gun (Kake8, Kake15, Kake 23), an Army Officer who arrests and tortures a civilian for making approaches to his men (Kake 14) and several policemen who abuse their authority to satisfy their sexual urges (Kake 3,22) - and that's not even counting Kake's own, less than consensual, approach to sex with strangers, including 2 straight men (Kakes1, 26) and his use of sex as a punishment, or if you prefer, as a reprisal (Kakes 5, 23)

OK, it's all fantasy and fun and Tom usually covers his tracks with ambiguity and last minute smiles but these aren't biff-bash cartoons, there's a dark mind at work here, who thinks this sort of rough play is erotic and he's absolutely right. He taps into our guilty pleasure at seeing someone else get the stick for a change. 

The Bikers Captive (1963)

The sinister in Tom is not confined to the Kake series. This image from 1963 was published in the first Tom of Finland Retrospective with the bottom section containing the petrol can and matches cropped off. It may be that the dishy captive has simply been caught attempting to set fire to the biker's shed but I'm obviously not the only person who sees a more sinister narrative where the bikers are threatening a terrifying initiation/revenge of the sort later depicted so graphically by Sean.

The characterisation of the captive in this drawing is interesting. His white, sleeveless singlet is a rare garment in Tom's drawings. In that era it suggests conventional underwear and clean living to me, but is also associated with shirts-off manual labour, or it may be intended to signify a crude or slobbish, but very male personality. His hairy body, equally unusual for Tom, poses a similar dilemma. Is it the natural look of an uncorrupted, 'real' man or the unkemptness of a beast? Recall there are two villains in Kake who are depicted with hairy bodies, but they are not nearly as handsome as this chap. Your interpretation makes a big difference to the way you view this image.

Even more intriguing is his posing pouch. This is the uniform of the beefcake model of the time but would never normally be seen on a hairy body (too sexual) or outside of a studio for that matter. So is this a lad who secretly wears one and fantasises about being a model - or have the bikers dressed him that way to live out their own fantasies?
(Comments from readers welcome)

Whipped Prisoner (1973)

There are plenty of whipping scenes in Tom's work which most people detached from the world of S&M would consider sinister in it's own right. However, this victim from a 1973 sketch is unusually animated, indicating a very painful experience. In the final picture (which I don't wish to post here) Tom paired him with a torturer who is a German soldier kitted out in the full regalia of the wartime SS. This is Sinister with a capital 'S'. In the years following WWII the SS became synonymous with cruelty, torture and extermination and by this time the extent of their excesses was universally understood.

I'm prepared to allow Tom the benefit of the doubt about Fascism since I've never seen any evidence of it either in his work or the accounts of his life, but he does seem to have been fascinated with authoritarianism in uniform and I am certain that he knew exactly what he was doing in creating this image. It would shock most people (just as an IS atrocity does today), but as we've seen Tom didn't mind being provocative and often paid scant regard to notions of propriety or political correctness. However, in it's time this imagery conveyed forcefully the desperate plight of the prisoner – which was Tom's main purpose. This is a picture about pain and danger. There are plenty of artists around today who use Middle Eastern imagery to similar effect.

The Harshest Cut (1978)

This image from 1978 is also capable of no other interpretation than sinister. Significantly, in the final, published version, the droplets of sweat signifying the terror of the victim are absent and the cruel set of the captor's mouth loses some of it's venom. You can see a lot of serious emotion went into creating this sketch but it's actually not about mutilation, it's not primarily about sex either – the knifeman is fully dressed. It's actually a depiction of fear and what it feels like to be deeply threatened. It's a theme that recurs over and over again in Tom's work, but usually less graphically than these last two works. Check out the other pictures in this article as examples. This is also why I highlighted the subtle but equally sinister, mock-lynching sub-narrative in 'Kake in the Wild West'.

Notice how Tom has drawn this picture in such a way that he can easily substitute a cock for the knife if publishing preferences require it. It's a good example of his pragmatic flexibility and also his thoughtful approach to composition, honed to perfection by years of having to disguise eager cocks in more prosaic situations. Coupled with the censorship story of the biker picture (above), it also makes you wonder what other pictures may have been sanitised for public consumption
 - and how.

Cowboys with Farm Implement

At first sight this is an odd, unexciting picture, a simple ranch scene showcasing some nice, erotic figure drawing, but the characters seem uninvolved and disconnected, which is unusual for Tom. The half hidden rope adds a little frisson of bondage potential, but the three pronged pitch fork to one side seems like a gratuitous bit of added 'colour'. However, if you observe the angling of the fork when transferred to the cowboy's outstretched hand, the picture assumes truly sinister dimensions putting the mound between the reclining man's legs in no less peril than the cabin captive's tackle in the picture above (which was drawn just one year earlier).
This one is all in the mind.

Notice again how the incriminating implement can easily be cropped out to avoid giving offence, the blank space bottom left is equally intriguing!

Woodland  Punishment Ritual

This is slightly different but one of my favourite Tom images, showing two men with their cocks strapped together and being belted by a gang of leathermen. Tom depicted a number of woodland beatings like this but usually the victim is solo and it's clear from his boots etc that he is part of the club and we are witnessing an initiation ritual or disciplinary event.

These two are totally naked and are not obviously bikers at all, one is strikingly handsome and long limbed and this uncertainty over their identity and relationship, if any, to the gang immediately introduces something of a sinister flavour. Their joint punishment with it's sexual element raises further questions – are they buddies, lovers, strangers? Novices, troublemakers, or innocent passers by at the wrong time? All in all it's a potent brew.

This is 1977, well after the Hell's Angels heyday, but Tom's biker gangs with their militaristic, leather uniforms and muscular torsos still look threatening and dangerous, particularly in the isolated woodland setting. There is always an element of doubt about them in terms of intent and limits. Tom underlines this by emphasising the severity of the beating with impact symbols in the manner of comic strips. One of the beauties of the picture is the stoic attempts of the victims to maintain manly composure under this fierce assault, which one imagines is going to continue until they both produce a suitable sexual response. There's a finely judged element of cruelty here.

Forbes 'defence' of Tom is untrue but understandable, Tom was still alive and looking over his shoulder when he wrote it. But that's not to imply that Tom was mean-spirited or sinister. His biographers reveal very little of Tom's real character, a modest man with a drink problem, but the Kake stories suggest a bluff, hearty man, totally unreconstructed, who's been through the mill and certainly hasn't forgotten those lessons (and simply 'moved on' as modern attitudes would have it),
but who has learned to laugh at life, through his work at least, while retaining a streak of gleeful maliciousness against those who wronged him. 
These 'sinister' images give us a glimpse of the depth of those feelings.

To be continued in Part 6
Links to previous articles: Part 1 , Part 2, Part 3 , Part 4

For other artists in the A-Z series click on the label below or search by name.

Monday, 8 September 2014

A-Z of Fetish Artists - Tom of Finland - 4

Kake concluded
Links to previous articles: Part 1 , Part 2 and Part 3
After the explosion of sadism and power-play in Kake 14-15, Tom reverts to vanilla with a series of 'carefree', uncontroversial, casual encounters in Kake No 16, 'Sex on the Train' (with a soldier), No 17, 'Loading Dock' and a linked pair, No's 18-19, 'Pant's Down Sailor' and 'Curious Captain'.
Curious Captain (Kake 19)
These last two feature a black sailor for Kake to get stuck into. There's an echo of the dramatic moment in Kake No1 as the copulating pair are discovered, not by Daddy of course but by an Officer (with a luxuriant moustache). I need hardly point out how significant the fear of being 'found out' is for gay men and back in the 70's being found out in the military was double jeopardy. Tom milks the drama as the sailor is ordered to attention and given a teasing inspection by his superior. Kake relieves the tension by drawing this late arrival into the proceedings and revealing him to be wearing a pair of tight underpants (above) which are very sexy. 
The sailor is the second black character to appear in Kake (after the businessman-dandy in Kake 7). There aren't any more – not even in crowd scenes. Between them, these two feature in 3 of the 26 stories (12%) but represent less than 5% of the characters. This low figure may surprise you, since Tom is noted for his mixed race pictures which make him almost unique among erotic artists (of any colour), they even did a book about it! I will return to this topic in a later article. 
This group of more straight-forward sex adventures for Kake ends with No 20 'Pleasure Park', a reworking of the 'accumulating orgy' theme from No7 and equally unremarkable, but it's worth comparing the two, if only to see how far Tom's cartooning technique has evolved in the intervening years.

Greasy Rider Attacked
After the fetish hiatus of stories 16-20, and a break of 3 years, 'Greasy Rider' (1978) represents a return to more interesting subject matter and a step up in drawing quality. I have my doubts whether this story was really intended to be part of this series, since Kake's normal role of subversive, sex adventurer is seemingly played by a different man, noticeably youthful, with curly, blond hair and wearing a doubtful sweater instead of a leather jacket. The character who most looks like Kake is a wealthy landowner and horse-rider with an aggressive attitude to strangers who trespass and proposition him. He doesn't really fit the mould either, Kake has his moments of aggression and anger but it's hard to imagine him keeping his trousers on long enough to accumulate wealth!

However, this story represents a new direction in more important ways. In previous tales Kake is rolled over by authority figures like policemen. It's the same story in several of Tom's early pictures also involving trespassing scenarios. Young men caught illicitly swimming or sunbathing are rebuked and humiliated by security guards (presumably as a prelude to punishment of some sort though I've never seen a picture showing this). This time it's different, the trespasser mocks the angry landowner, inviting him to sample his dick and when he is attacked for his impertinence, he fights back and overpowers the man, tying him to a handy fence. The rest you can guess.
 Tied to a Fence

There's some fine bondage pictures in this set, skilfully imagined from an elevated spectator viewpoint as though we are watching, hidden in a nearby tree. Tom also completed several of the pictures to his more polished standard so it's an altogether better product.
Greasy Threesome
As usual in Kakeland, someone else turns up to join in, a butch-looking, attractive man, something of a cross between a rough yokel and a scantily-clad, late night clubber making his way home. 
As the action progresses the angry landowner morphs into a more youthful Kake, thoroughly enjoying himself but in awe of this new arrival, a young, blond Adonis who has given him a taste of his own medicine.

 Greasy Water Sports

In the final frame, the landowner's submission is total, but it seems his humiliation is not yet complete, as the latecomer beckons to his stallion which stands in the field watching them and already primed. It's a daring sign-off, a reflection of the increasing freedom of the times, although Tom had already frivolously explored some 'animal moments' in his 'Jungle Jack' series of the mid-sixties. That seemed like a mischievous attempt to shock and amuse, but this time Tom is also clearly exploring new depths of degradation and a possibility of sleaze and sexual excess in his characters which goes way beyond anything else in Kake.
Kake Arrested

There's another gap in time before the next story, No 22 Highway patrol, where Kake finally appears on his motorcycle for the very first time in the saga, (there are two more fleeting appearances in Nos 23 and 24, see my introduction to Part 2 about this). He is approached by two traffic cops planning to use him for some fun. They handcuff him and drag him off for an intrusive and humiliating sexual ordeal behind a roadside hoarding. Kake quickly produces an erection for them but his face doesn't show much pleasure until one of the cops offers him some ass, thereafter all is smiles and routine, 'carefree' sex.

Kake Humiliated by Cops

Notice that these are American cops (for the first time in Kake) and Tom has captured the buffed-up, tight-fit, power look that some US Policemen cultivate. They are far more intimidating physically than their UK counterparts and the latent power to punish, inherent in the Police role, infuses this encounter with uncertainty and danger from the outset. If these two were dressed as sailors it would all seem quite different! There's enough ambiguity and closing clarification in this fantasy to sidestep accusations of forced sex, but as Tom well knew, it is that initial ambiguity, that doubt about intentions, that makes the scenario so erotic especially when compared with the simple 'meet and greet' stories like, for example, No16 'Sex on the Train' and the orgies (7&20) .

This story (1982) comes shortly after Tom's first visit to the US in '78 and all the remaining Kake adventures are inspired by or set in North America, (you might also discern some American influences in the immediately preceding tales too), however the drawing of the cops in this episode is the only example in Kake that seems to reflect something erotic that Tom actually saw on his visits.

Kake himself ages as the series progresses and it's round about this time that the familiar jutting chin and big moustaches start to become dominant features, a development that is destined to split his followers into two camps.

Kake Tackles the Outlaw

Kake's bike makes a second appearance in No23 'In The Wild West' and it all looks like vanilla land as he discovers a saloon full of eager studs. Their revels are rudely interrupted by a be-stubbled outlaw who proceeds to poke the frightened cowboys at gun-point. The new, heroic Kake emerges from hiding to disarm him, he is overpowered and stripped to reveal a deliciously hairy body.

I say deliciously hairy but I guess not all my readers would agree, Tom's attitude is harder to pin down. He rarely drew hairy men which is perhaps not surprising as he comes from the era of beefcake, shorn of all hair to avoid any suggestion of sex. However his occasional depictions do seem to show a grasp of what makes a hairy body attractive, so it's interesting that in this story he uses it for a bad man, creating a beast who stumbles on the orgy and takes the young ranchers at gunpoint (instead of aggressively seducing them as Kake would normally do himself!) You may recall another conspicuously hairy man in the Kake saga who is also a criminal, the man who stole Kake's leathers (see No's 2+5). I suppose this story predates the 'emancipation of bears' but quite why Tom should associate hairiness with wrong-doing I'm not sure.
 The Renegade Led Away For Punishment

The subdued offender is led to a tree outside the town to be hoisted - but only (only!) by his balls. It's erotic in it's own right but despite the humorous slant it there's also a very dark presence from the parallels with Western lynchings. I suspect this is not accidental having seen Tom's liking for hinting at forbidden fetishes (like sounding, fisting and bestiality) and how adept he was at disguising his messages when he needed to.
Strung Up By The Mob

The suspended outlaw is memorably chastened by belt and cock and left hanging, shortly to become an object of interest to a randy American Indian who just happens to be lurking nearby. This suggestive ending is similar to Kake 5 where the compromised and helplessly-cuffed (and also hairy) thief awaits the (probably cruel) attentions of an approaching policeman. Unfortunately, even allowing for Tom's penchant for provocative post-scripts (as in Kake 21) this version involves an unhappy use of racial stereotyping. It's in a similar vein to his depiction of 'natives' in the 1960's 'Jungle Jack', in fact the imagery in this Wild West story seems to be drawn entirely from the comics and films of the 50's and 60's. Even the cowboys don't seem to reflect Tom's visits to America when he had probably seen real ones (who can be just as well built and impressive as the cops in Highway Patrol).

The portrayal of this native American is so dated that it speaks of naivety rather than malice, a miscalculation like the hi-jacker scenario in Kake 8. But at this time (1982), Tom is a mature 60 and culturally we are midway between 'Soldier Blue' and 'Little Big Man' (1970) and 'Dances with Wolves' (1990), so one might have hoped for something more enlightened.

The next story isn't actually set in the US at all. 'Kake in Canada' (No 24) is a nostalgic trip down memory lane for Tom with a friendly, hulking logger providing the entertainment. Tom frequently depicted sexual encounters in woodland settings which are standard cruising grounds for gays (e.g. in Kake 4). However, loggers in forests are quite different animals. They are symbols of male virility, like construction workers, who unselfconsciously display their naturally developed bodies as they work and are frequently admired from afar by adolescent boys (and men who should know better). Coming across one working alone, Kake sees the opportunity to realise a boyhood fantasy and his approach accordingly is more circumspect and respectful than usual, as he confesses his admiration for the logger's physique.

Evening All!

The lonely logger soon catches on and one thing leads to another, but their fun is interrupted when a Mountie (i.e. a Canadian Mounted Policeman) comes knocking on the door, minus horse and seeking shelter from the inclement weather - shades of Agatha Christie and a hundred horror films. Those who doubt my views on the threatening, authoritarian role of Policemen in these stories might like to observe how Kake and his new friend hastily make themselves decent as the Mountie enters. Tom has has dedicated a picture exclusively to this scary moment of 'being found out' and he's drawn it with a care which clearly demonstrates it's erotic significance to him.

 A New Mount

Kake rapidly decides that this brand of copper in his fancy, bum-flattering, red coat is an opportunity not a threat and is soon up to his usual groping tricks. His muscular new friend proves to be of like mind and restrains the shocked Mountie while Kake goes through the contents of his trousers and then conducts an in depth follow up. It seems to be a sweat-inducing, frightening, new experience for the Mountie (above) but an intensely satisfying, shared pleasure for the boys.

Double Cocked

Their enjoyment is short lived however, as the Mountie shows considerable ingenuity in locating his handcuffs and somehow locking both his attacker's balls into the same ring, thus fulfilling the old adage that the Mounties always get their man. He celebrates by baptising their conjoined genitalia with a well-aimed despatch of cum. This scene where the Policeman reasserts his authority and pays back his tormentors is the only picture in the whole story where the viewer can see that he is aroused and therefore can be presumed to be enjoying the occasion. His cock is obscured from view during the preceding events, which is rare enough in these stories to be considered significant, just like 'the dog which did not bark in the night'.

The story tantalisingly ends at this point, all we see is the Mountie departing towards the mountains seemingly savouring the memory of the encounter with the rub of a hitherto unseen, riding crop, - a crop whose sting one might suppose has just been tasted by Kake and his Lumberjack accomplice, thereby restoring him to his customary mid-table position in the hierarchy of Kakeworld.

The structure of this plot is very similar to the 'Wild West' story with an opening, free and easy sex scenario, followed by a rather more fraught middle section and an open ending featuring tethered balls in both cases. It's quite clever how Tom has flipped the characters to produce a very different storyline.

 Can't You Read?

Postal Sex No 25 dispenses with the carefree sex altogether and features another of Kake's red rage moments when a postman/mail-man foolishly bends his photograph while attempting to get it into the mail box. Compare this image with that of the Careless Biker and Careless Sailor in Part 1 and see how Tom's fascination with domination spans the years. Hardly changed, except now it's Kake who's doing the dominating. The rest of this tale perhaps gives an idea as to how those 1963 series might have developed in different times.
I Didn't Mean It Mister!

The Postman is subjected to a stinging spanking and forced to provide sexual services as punishment for his laziness. The 'Do Not Bend' instruction on the package provides a justification for this action and a humorous (but not entirely accurate) comment on it, but Tom allows Kake to exhibit surprising levels of anger and controlling behaviour on occasions. It seems to be completely at odds with his apparently carefree approach to life, but if you think about it, is actually quite consistent with his no-negotiation, 'get on with it' seduction technique.
Kake's Special Delivery

The triggers for Kake's anger in this case are interesting - a damaged picture (no doubt close to Tom's heart) and the Mail-man's disregard for the written instructions. Kake's impatience with a younger man's casual rule breaking is a typical sign of growing older, but more than a little hypocritical. The anger in Greasy Rider (No 21) is slightly more complex, it too stems from a young man's disrespect for 'The Rules' (of trespass), but is also prompted by a direct sexual challenge to the older man (who both is and isn't Kake -see my commentary above). Both stories but Greasy Rider in particular seem to reflect rather neatly a confused resentment of ageing. This explanation can also be applied to the 'Just out of Reach' picture, which I discussed some time ago. That one's from 1970 when Tom hits 50. Now with the Mail-man he's nearly 65 and has just discovered a veritable wonderland of youth and guilt-free sex, but he's too old (and too venerated) to enjoy it fully. Wouldn't it make you feel grumpy?

(Kake's anger in story 5 is slightly different, caused by the theft of his leathers, which represent his 'gay identity' as well as property. Theft was another sore point with Tom and I will return to it later.)
Predatory Punks
Back with the Postal Sex story, the postbox design and 'mail-man' terminology provides a tenuous anchor in the USA but there's not much other evidence of observation of Postal Uniforms or any other aspect of American life, although you might count the two passing punks I suppose. These are two of Tom's more scary creations and become involved in the action. They end up participating in the exploitation of the hapless young postman, feeding him to Kake's dick and then taking a piece for themselves. When he finally escapes, the Mail man is smiling, but it's for the first time in the story - and he's already being closely watched by a sly policeman who clearly fancies a go himself.

Kake In The Office

Kake becomes a chauffeur for his swansong in a big city office but there are no white knuckle rides here. I love Tom's clothing fetish but not always his taste in military uniforms and Kake's gear in this story is almost a parody of Tom's fixation on the buttoned up look and ballooning pants. For once he does not seem able to tap into the subject environment convincingly, nor pick up the potent power mechanisms that make his best stories fizz. Instead he falls back on a roaming variation of the jaded, accumulating orgy theme. If you don't mind skirt, the story is enlivened when he catches out the office Romeo shagging a secretary over a desk, a neat reversal of the gay 'exposed' scenario. Kake takes advantage of Lover Boy's unprotected ass which seems to have the effect of temporarily boosting the (supposedly) straight man's performance with his girl, but he seems rather less unhappy about the after-burn effect (above).


Tom really raised the ante in this final group of stories blending the consensual and non-consensual in an ever more ambiguous manner, with an occasional, tasty topping of the threatening, extreme or bizarre. It's powerful erotica that is loved by millions of fans precisely for it's dangerous perversity and edginess.The series was never simply about a Utopian dream of men giving themselves freely in carefree sex. It's also chronicles what it's like to be gay, how the gay world functions, it's pleasures and it's dangers. 

Kake grows older and changes as the series progresses. His clumsy youthful adventuring transitions into comfortable, mid-life promiscuity until, in Tom's advancing age, he is made to confront his demons again. He doesn't entirely grow up or become sensible and he never quite loses his vulnerability, but he grows in stature and courage, so that by the end he's not just taking what he wants, but confronting what he sees as wrong. 

As the series ends there's a sad sense of job done, game over, as Kake wanders through the totally alien environment of an office, going from one group to another, repeating what has gone before without very much purpose, but still simply enjoying the company of men.
Tom's fans reading these stories instinctively recognise and empathise with the expression of personal gay experiences and feelings that shape these tales, including the resentment, hurt and anger that sometimes simmers just below the surface. That recognition of a kindred, slightly tortured, spirit is just as empowering as the sight of men free to enjoy sex together without guilt and is part of Tom's continuing appeal in more enlightened times.

The innocuous 'joy of sex' terminology beloved of his modern day publishers and attempts to whitewash his career with a superficial paint job of political correctness and arty respectability not only misrepresents and devalues his achievements, but denies the very essence of his work, which is anything but correct and respectable. Tom, I think, was an easy going chap who would go with the flow to achieve what he wanted but I suspect he would be both amused and saddened by the spectacle of spin-doctoring. Fortunately we still have his work and that will always speak for itself and keep the torch burning.
To be continued in Part 5
Links to previous articles: Part 1 , Part 2 and Part 3
For other artists in the A-Z series click on the label below or search by name.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

A-Z of Fetish Artists - Tom of Finland - 3

3 Kake (continued)

Previous articles here: Part 1 and Part 2

Raunchy Truckers
After a strange run of experimental subjects, Tom seems to regain his creative focus in Kake No 10 (Raunchy Truckers). Kake is now working as a truck driver (no motorbike note!). He returns to his old ways by picking up an attractive, young hitch-hiker and assertively seducing him in confines of his cab.

I have a soft spot for this episode of the saga. The hitch-hiker scenario has the adventure of uncertainty built into it (probably more exciting in gay fantasy than reality) and the truck driver directing his mighty machine always seems the essence of masculinity. The cab is his private domain, a man-cave where he is in total control, so Kake does not need to rush the job once the unsuspecting lad is aboard. He overcomes the initial reluctance of his surprised quarry with the assistance of his crew-mate, who contains the young man's initial resistance (above) which inevitably subsides in inverse proportion to the size of his erection. The struggle is gritty enough to raise the temperature, but there's not much doubt by the end that everyone's in the same camp.

The explicit, athletic sex depicted in these books retains it's power to excite and arouse to this day. It can even hold it's head up next to the modern mass of high quality, carefully crafted photographic and video images of real muscle gods having real sex. But when this book was published (ca1970), such material did not exist. Tom's work was hard to find (in the UK police were still routinely seizing anything explicit), but it was uniquely erotic and the liberating impact that it had in a fragmented, lonely and still largely closeted gay world can scarcely be imagined. Tom was not responsible for this 'Gay Spring' but his early suggestive images in Physique Pictorial (see  Part 1) were among the first snowdrops and this Kake series was a flowering of unexpected, stunning blooms that confirmed Summer really was on the way.

Another innocent is lured into Kake's den at home in the TV Repairman story (No 11) and I posted the electric 'moment of realisation' from this story in part 1 (here). This story has a humorous twist as Kake reveals his TV is not broken but just unplugged. It makes you wonder, since hunky and incompetent TV repairmen are not ten a penny, whether Kake's become a stalker.

Service Station

Story No 12 finds our hero working as a attendant in a Service Station where the staff (above) have to wear close-fitting overalls. Tom manages to make them into a very sexy garment (despite the flared legs) and this is more than enough to kick-start the interest of a motorist who calls in to fill up.
As an aside, it's a mystery to me that Tom took so much trouble when he drew motorcycles but never managed to draw a remotely lifelike automobile.
His excitement when he is is invited in to meet two more, equally hunky and sexily-clad mechanics can only be imagined! For me, this modest, uncontroversial four-some (with oil can) is more successful than the free-for-all in Kake 7.
After these two mild, 'carefree sex' stories there's a double-barrelled treat for fetish fans as Kake re-dons his leather jacket (but not his motorcycle) for some sight-seeing, taking in the changing of the guard at what looks like a Central European location. As you would expect, Kake takes up the time-honoured tourist game of trying to make the sentry react or smile, forging into new territory with extreme close-up photography and goosing.
Kake Spanked
The aroused sentry gets into trouble with his superior officer and is looking for pay-back when Kake reappears near the barracks. The resulting brawl ends with Kake being spanked, then fucked and even fisted.

It's quite hard to date the Kake stories but you can see here that we are at the time when censorship barriers are really starting to fall around Europe. Tom was taking a degree of risk depicting fetish elements like fisting here but we shouldn't overstate his role, he was reliant on and probably motivated by publishers prepared to push boundaries, they were the real agents of change. Denmark had opened the door by liberalisation of censorship but there were still legal uncertainties in the rest of the world where the big money was. Fortunately global judicial co-operation mechanisms were still unsophisticated but inevitably the porn publishing field was strewn with unreliable entrepreneurs and seedy chancers and dealing with them was to lead Tom, not for the first time in his life, into losses of work and money at their hands.
The Sounding  of Kake
The rough revenge taken by the troopers is seen by their officer and, in a re-run of Kake's encounter with the police, he is taken into custody as a trouble-maker, stripped and subjected to a dizzying succession of fetish punishments and 'tests'
 - starting with the long anticipated 'sounding' (above).

This is an earthquake for Kake fans, quite unlike anything that went before and in it's way quite shocking. I suspect it is a genuine first in gay publishing possibly pre-dating the milestone 1974 S&M video 'Born to Raise Hell'. The sudden revelation of Tom's deep knowledge of such things must have disturbed some and enraptured others.

It's not clear how great his interest was in dungeon scenes, his biographers give little away in this area, but you can tell from tit bits in other early drawings (which I will come back too) that he was interested in erotic sadism. However, he did not return to the dungeon subject in the Kake series, nor did he bother to develop more polished versions of the imagery, commercial considerations may have played a part in this.

There are few dungeon-like scenes in his later work but his lasting interest was shown in 1989, two years before his death, when he produced a dramatic picture showing a uniformed guard whipping the bare back of a chained prisoner in a dark, stone cell*.
It's drawn in a fluid style with crayons and quite unlike his earlier work.
*See Tom of Finland retrospective III, p174

Kake Rides The Saddle
This is the nearest Tom gets to a 'riding the wedge' scenario (see labels at foot of this post for others). I'm not a big fan of simultaneous multiple tortures (like these examples byTagame), but Tom's approach is at least progressive and he does not jump straight to the end result. In 'Raunchy Truckers' he shows the progressive disrobing and invasion of the confused hitcher, not instant nudity and penetration. The journey is as important as the destination. Here too he shows the stripping, restraining and application of each new torment to Kake's body gradually
 - at least he tries to, but 20 pages is not nearly enough.

The drawing here is not his best but nevertheless this work is still something of a tour-de-force. Producing it was swashbuckling adventurism worthy of Kake himself and you have to wonder how much of Tom's character is reflected in his hero.

Policeman Home Alone

Kake 15 is equally controversial in it's own way as a policeman home after work opens his front door in his underwear to find an armed man menacing him. Neither man appears to be Kake. The invader has a sinister appearance with long hair and a droopy moustache. The policeman is a muscular man with blond hair, suggesting purity perhaps but in virtually every other Kake story blond hair signifies desirability and ultimately submissiveness and passivity.
Humbled Cop
The cop is groped and forced to pleasure his attacker (above) before being cuffed to his own bed. As he gives up his ass to the intruder in a rough reworking of the Kake-1 scenario, Tom pans back ironically to reveal his discarded police trousers and boots and a row of body-building trophies on the side-unit, symbols of his authority and physical strength, which avail him of naught at this moment.

There's no pretence of consensus in this story, unless you cite the policeman's sexual response to the attack on him. The two men could be engaged in a rough role play, but there's no explanatory, rueful smiles to be seen. Superficially it reads like a man acting on a grudge or a sexual predator with a more aggressive disposition than Kake himself.

With these two episodes, the hard edge to Tom's work becomes glaringly obvious and fetish enthusiasts will love it. Dennis Forbes writes in the first Tom of Finland retrospective volume 1:- “...there is nothing mean spirited or sinister about a Tom fantasy”. 
Perhaps he never read Kake 15. It is sinister, but that quality does not derive from meanness of spirit, but from having experienced meanness of spirit. The sort of meanness depicted so melodramatically by the Guardsmen in Kake 14. In these two tales it's as though Tom has suddenly found the freedom to vent some deeply held feelings and he deserves to be heard.

Continued in Part 4

Links to previous articles: Part 1 and Part 2

For other artists in the A-Z series click on the label below or search by name.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

A-Z of Fetish Artists - Tom of Finland - 2


Short narrative picture series like 'The Careless Biker' in Part 1 were a favourite technique for Tom right from his earliest drawings and they eventually developed into the Kake series of picture stories (1968-82) which have come to dominate our view of Tom's work. It's probably the character of Kake that inspires this affection more than the pictures which are simple, unpolished line drawings (the better quality covers are later substitutions). Nevertheless they do contain some gems and a number of extraordinarily erotic sequences exploiting Tom's powers of exaggeration and visual trickery which can never be matched by mere photographs or film. The series conveniently spans most of Tom's career period after he became famous so it's quite instructive to look at it in some detail.

On the Amazon website the Complete Kake Comics are described (presumably by Taschen, the publisher) thus:-

“Kake lived up to this moniker (the word 'Fucker' on his T-shirt), a sort of post-Stonewall, hyper-masculine Johnny Appleseed traveling the world on his motorcycle to spread the seeds of liberated, mutually satisfying, ecstatically explicit gay sex....... Return with Kake to the days when men were men, sex was carefree, and everyone wore a big thick mustache.”

(N.B. Johnny Appleseed was an eccentric folk hero who travelled the US planting apple trees, don't ask me what the connection is!)

Well, everyone's entitled to their opinion, I suppose, including publishers out to make a buck. Actually you'd be hard-pressed to find a motorcycle in any of the Kake stories. Tom uses them in earlier work but by this time he'd joined the real gay world where leather apparel (and bikes) are mostly for show, not riding. I'm nit-picking of course, but as far as I'm concerned, the vision of an altruistic Kake spreading the notion of carefree sex is a very selective misreading of Tom' s work that does him no favours as an artist.

1. The Intruder

There's a narrative link between the first 5 tales where Kake is portrayed as a reckless philanderer who takes other men wherever he can find them starting in the first story with one who is portrayed as straight and young enough to be still living with his father. The lad is forcefully seduced in his own bed after Kake enters uninvited through the window. This story thus combines two near-universal gay fantasies, (a) being taken by an intruder and (b) opening up the horizons (as it were) of a supposedly straight man. Fortunately for Kake, the object of his amorous attentions passes up numerous opportunities to cry out for help or escape, but I'm not sure this would constitute a defence in court. Kake's explorations are abruptly curtailed when the lad's father arrives and brings this carnival of political incorrectness to an appropriate conclusion by giving Kake a taste of his own medicine while his son looks on. 

Tom moves on to safer ground in Kake 2 with a consensual encounter on the beach (which will have been chosen by the street-wise hero for it's known cruising potential). The men's passion evolves out of a shared cigarette, no doubt echoing Tom's youthful cruising experiences (he is approaching 50 years of age at this time). The measured pace of seduction contrasts with first story. Kake regularly suffers some humorous reverse or painful comeuppance in these escapades and this time he loses his expensive, temporarily discarded leathers to an opportunist thief. He is arrested for public nudity (in Kake 3) by a good humoured policeman who escorts him to the police station there to be summarily subjected to a fierce lashing (below) and screwing by all officers present, before being locked up. This unexpected cameo of police brutality comes as a jolt but is highly erotic. It paves the way for the culmination of the narrative in Kake 5. 

2. Cop's Brutality
This scene is grounded in fact. There's no record of Tom being arrested while out cruising but it's quite likely he witnessed it or knew of men who were caught. (If not in Finland, he also visited pre-war Germany and Britain in the 50's). At the height of the witch-hunts offenders were routinely humiliated by the police, harshly interrogated and pressurised to reveal names and assist in the entrapment of others under the threat of public exposure, which might lead to loss of their job, family and friends. Some sensitive and vulnerable souls were driven to suicide by the ordeal but other gay men who lived through these times seem to have enjoyed the thrill of the danger. Most were never caught and if they were strong in character and not in sensitive situations they had less to fear anyway. The actual punishments were usually relatively mild and once suffered, exposure lost it's sting.

Tom seems to be one of these and able to look back and reinvent the unpleasantness as a sexual fantasy, it's probably human nature to sexualise danger and fear but it gives us some insight into his character. He even introduces a more sympathetic (and receptive) Policeman who samples Kake's cock in the cell and lends him his uniform (another gay fantasy) so he can escape.

3. Boys in the Wood

Freed from jail, Kake makes for the woods, a typical cruising ground to this day. Here the magnetism of Kake's borrowed uniform generates another sexual encounter with two young men in the woods. It's a dangerous attraction for them, but Tom shows, step by step, the correct procedure for authenticating intentions. Kake glances backward invitingly after passing them, waits on a bench further down the path, then a mutual show of bulges (above) wraps up the negotiation and kick starts the action. You can always tell when an artist knows what he is talking about.

4. Punishment of the Thief

At the height of the excitement Kake spots the thief watching them in his stolen leathers and manages to catch him and beat him as a punishment (above). The charming, awkward stance of the lad holding the left leg in this picture suggests the quarry is really struggling! This image looks like it's been serially attacked by internet croppers but it's just a result of too little time being available to redraw the scene. 

5. Cuffed to a Tree
Kake uses the opportunity to seed his chastened captive and then cuffs him to an overhanging branch. Interestingly this is the first time the handcuffs get used in this story and it's plainly thoroughly arousing for all concerned. Compare with Tam's similar depiction of arousal during bondage.

6. A Further Lashing for the Thief
 Kake's new friends take their turn at dishing out the punishment. Encouragingly for fetish fans, it turns out the villain is just as aroused by his punishment as his captors are. This sequence is very good.

 7. Doubtful Rescue
In a devious finale the culprit is handcuffed to a bench, seated alongside the borrowed police uniform. He is left to make his explanations as best he can to a policeman who can be seen approaching through the trees. We already know how police in this town deal with public nudity offences but are left to conjecture the consequences of being in possession of a stolen Police uniform. 

Carefree sex eh? You can't beat it.

(Notice there's another veiled allusion to the practice of sounding in this image - see also part 1).

In theses five books, Tom does indeed depict a man who enjoys sex wherever he can find it. But if you waive the humorous gloss, the sex is often non-consensual, Kake simply helps himself and hopes for the best. He is no altruist but a bawdy adventurer in the best traditions of classical literature. The plot line is simple but clever, funny and sexy. The key ingredients are theft and retribution against a background of police dishing out summary justice and incorporates a particularly vindictive revenge twist. This is not mere harmless fantasy, it's much more substantial and interesting than that! To package it up as a heartening fantasy of sexual freedom is selling Tom way short of the truth. 

8. Spurned
At this point in the series (No 6) Tom takes an unexpected direction. The woodland storyline peters out with Kake stealing a muscular Sailor from his female pick-up. The indignant woman storms off to report the matter to a policeman who is seen patrolling in the bushes. We tend to see Tom's cops as a generic fantasy of no particular country but the uniforms are essentially mid-European and the sailor's German-style uniform is a reminder that we (and Tom) are in Europe and this is circa 1968 when gay law reform, let alone liberation has still barely begun, so the woman's action in involving the police is particularly spiteful (and foolish too since she is also flouting the law). As luck would have it it the Policeman likes the look of Tom and his matelot and joins in, lending the woman his truncheon (nightstick) to keep her occupied.

Tom can't have won many friends of any persuasion with this storyline. He experimented with female characters more than once in his career but it seems to have been either at the behest of advisers or simply as a way of imbuing men with the always-alluring “essence of straight”. You can see from his attempts at drawing women that he never saw them as beautiful and he never portrayed them in a positive light either, but variously as domineering, petulant or simply voracious for sex.

In this instance, they are competition, there to be thwarted by Kake, who rescues the sailor from his own folly and continues his systematic exploration of gay fantasies by testing the belief that all men are available for gay sex if offered the right incentive. This myth no doubt gained credence in the years of oppression (when Tom was in his 30's and active) by the necessity for all gays to 'act straight' in public. Most gay men will enjoy seeing the 'conversion' scenario acted out with such a fine specimen and I suppose it must have some confidence boosting, empowering effect too. However, although Sailors are supposed to be more amenable than most in gay folklore, (due to being constantly cooped up with other men at sea), I wouldn't recommend Kake's 'touch and show' technique. 

9. Joining the Daisy Chain

The artistic drift continues into Kake 7 as the hero moves on to a public toilet for a daisy chain orgy featuring an assortment of male stereotypes. It's the first story in the series where the 'carefree sex' tag truly does apply with no dark overtones - unless you count the late arrival at the ball of the Hell's Angel impersonator who 'introduces' himself by ripping apart the pants of the man at the end. The drawings are raunchy enough, but it's an unmemorable, plot-less, pot boiler and with it's array of contrasting characters it inevitably stumbles into the minefield of fleeting fashions in clothing.

However it is notable for it's chronicling of yet another standard gay pick-up place, the 'cottage', probably in the UK judging by the design detail, which might make this the first of Kake's world travels (long promised in the publisher's blurb). This story also features the first appearance in the series by a black man, stereotyped by his cock-size of course. He's also given a showy outfit more likely to have been seen on the streets of Harlem (or possibly Germany) rather than the London of this time, but it does paint him as the most affluent and best-dressed man in the group, so it's not entirely unsympathetic. There's plenty of other material by Tom demonstrating that he found black men attractive and I will return to this in a later article. Notice, however, how this series continually reflects the happenings and issues of it's time, without campaigning or climbing on the political soapbox . I think it's one of the things that makes Tom's work so real to us, even 50 years on.

10. Searching for Contrabrand

Topicality is even more apparent in the next of this odd group of stories (No 8) which bizarrely features an aircraft hi-jacking scenario. It's an attempt to portray Kake as an accidental hero. Picked out by the hijacker to provide some in-flight entertainment, he is escorted to the toilet for private attention, but his sexual performance proves so distracting that he is able to get hold of the hijacker's gun and take him prisoner, thereby saving all the passengers.

This is strange fare. It's pre-9/11 of course. Aircraft hijackings around the early 70's usually had benign outcomes but they were still terrifying experiences for the passengers and never the stuff of light entertainment, let alone erotic fantasy. Earlier Kake stories are politically incorrect but if Tom was courting controversy, this choice of a sensitive and non-sexual topic seems clumsy and foolish. He was pretty prolific around this time with his new found fame so perhaps he just took his eye off the ball.

Ironically, Tom spots the alternative erotic potential of the customs/security search (above) and exploits it for the first few pages of the tale, but then discards it in favour of the hijack subject. It's a shame since there are considerable comic possibilities involving 'searches' at departure and arrival with scope for smuggling, detention and punishment ingredients as a follow up too. (Sigh!)

Tom repeated the 'Kake as hero' experiment more successfully in No 23 'Wild West' and there's another non-Kake example in the “Jack in the Jungle” series.

11. Errant Husband
Story No 9, 'Coq d'Or', marks the last in this seemingly confused group before Tom returns to form with 'Raunchy Truckers'. Kake's plane has landed in France and he makes straight for a seedy waterfront pub full of drunks, down and outs and men and women of easy virtue, both. It's yet another standard gay venue of the time and he manages to capture some of the atmosphere and danger. Kake picks up a sexily-dressed sailor who might be his brother, their faces are so alike (see above". This 'stereotype drift' is a sign that Tom's attention is not fully engaged and the action drawings in this set are not all they might be. However there's an interesting twist when a wandering husband gatecrashing the party is literally hauled out by his angry, unattractive wife and, in a rare victory for womenkind in Tom's land, taken home for retribution. It's a novel humiliation scenario that makes a nice picture for connoisseurs of that particular art form (above).

Continued in Part 3

For other artists in the A-Z series click on the label below or search by name.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A-Z of Fetish Artists - Tom of Finland - 1

The Lasting Appeal of Tom Of Finland

The first male erotic drawing I ever saw was on a cover of 'Physique Pictorial' magazine in a second hand bookshop, when I was still at school. It showed a muscular man, dressed only in jeans and boots, being forced to his knees by a bigger, leather clad companion whose bike he had accidentally damaged. 


Tom of Finland - The Careless Motorcyclist 4 - Chastised (1963)

This erotic depiction of forced submission bowled me over. I had never seen anything like it before. As Valentine Hooven says* Tom's pictures are obviously homosexual and I felt a bit like Robinson Crusoe must have done when he discovered the footprint on the beach - there was someone else like me! So this picture has a special significance for me and I still love it. The artist of course was Tom of Finland and in the years that followed I sought out more examples of his pictures and my interest developed into a lifelong affection and respect for his work.

The lasting impression that this largely non-sexual image made on me was partly due to the subject matter of course. I confess that the erotic juxtaposition of face and crotch was largely lost on me (it was 'hidden erotica' intended for more-knowing eyes than mine), but I was of an age where men fighting men fascinated me and more specifically, good looking men being dominated by others. 

Disappointingly, the wrestling I avidly followed on the television, largely featured fat and ugly men in oversized swimming trunks (this was in the years before American hunks and razzmatazz). The handsome specimens I craved, with fine physiques like those Tom depicted, did exist (e.g. Spencer Churchill and Steve Veidor) but they were few and far between and they rarely seemed to lose or be on the receiving end of any of those humiliating and painful submission holds. But that word 'submission' neatly sums up Tom's scene, for the scolded hunk is only being coerced by a firm hand on his neck and his near-total compliance and humility is what makes this picture so enjoyable. In the story the careless biker's contrition has been encouraged by a spanking from the aggrieved owner (below), but I don't think you need to know that to enjoy his downfall.

2 Tom - Careless Biker 3 - Spanked (1963)

Tom's picture captured and made more real my hunk control fantasy, but it also moved it out of the artificial wrestling arena and into the real world. Hunky, handsome men like this could be seen on the streets and the fantasy of seeing them dominated and controlled thrilled me. The losing man in Tom's tussle was wearing tight jeans, which were everyday clothing and surely the most erotic male garment ever invented. Tom seemed to be able to wring the last drop of sexiness out of the garment. He captured the skin-hugging texture of denim and the characteristic, eye-riveting creasing around body joints. Take the time to savour it in all these pictures here.

It was really this alluring, sensual drawing style that first gripped my attention all those years ago and forms the basis of their lasting appeal. The men's bodies are a beautiful blend of muscularity and litheness and Tom's subtle shading perfectly captures the soft shaping of faces and the rounding, undulations and folded crevices of well-built bodies. The flicks of hair on chest and arms were perfectly calculated to symbolise raw natural manhood, just enough of the beast to excite. You can tell Tom saw men as beautiful creatures and they are unquestionably men not boys. Much of the art of his contemporaries (Spartacus, Art Bob and MacLane, Harry Bush) featured males who were distinctly boyish or in the case of Quaintance, highly stylised, classicised and almost feminised in some cases - and absolutely hairless, due of course to the prudish publishing constraints of the day. 


3 Quaintance – Saturday Night

To give him credit though, Quaintance, whose work Tom admired, did produce sexy depictions of men in jeans, bulges and all, and his picture, Saturday Night, could easily be mistaken for Tom's work were it not for the glamorised, Latin faces and slicked up hair. (Perhaps the gay sexual revolution of the 60's should be attributed to jeans rather than Tom!) 

You can see in this work too a similar seductive style using light and shade to highlight the attractions of the male physique. This painting seems to be partly inspired by the dramatic use of light and shade by classical masters (see example No 1 , No 2), but I believe both these artists were really drawing on something more mundane and much closer to home – the female glamour art of the 40s and 50s. Memorably represented by the paintings on US combat aircraft and advertising campaigns of this era, this art featured beautiful, shapely young women in saucy or alluring poses, in idealised but everyday clothes and in situations which were just about decent but sometimes very naughty. (there's an example here – beware it's female!) Natural endowments were subtly enhanced and the colouring and shading of the picture was specifically designed to highlight those shapely curves, not to introduce drama or atmosphere like the Quaintance above. 
There's a wider selection at Female Glamour Art by Gil Elvgren.

Tom adapted this concept for the male form substituting masculine clothing, traits and characteristics and developing his own pencil version of the figure-flattering shading technique. As it happens, the subdued toning of pencil drawings quite suits the male subject matter and distances the work from the frivolous, female equivalents. By more good fortune also, Tom generally drew clothing - jeans, t-shirts and leather jackets - that is pretty much timeless and I would think an 18 year old today can enjoy it just as I did then. By contrast Elvgren's art remains rooted firmly in it's era and it's original erotic power, deftly fashioned to suit the conventions and fashions of the day has much diminished for modern eyes. 


4 Tom – TV Repairman from Kake 11(1969)

You can easily get a sense of the deadening, filtering effect of time by looking at other Tom images which incorporated fashionable clothing, like the TV repairman (and his Scandinavian space age TV!) from Kake 11. In their day those flares were alluring and highly desirable but now look rather silly and frankly un-Tom-like. (For another scary example try Ringo and the Renegades). 

However, this image is redeemed by it's portrayal of forceful, impertinent seduction. Groped on two fronts, the advance is as frightening as it is unexpected, to judge from the quarry's face. His own submission is yet to come but if the offending flares are cropped out, it earns a place as another Tom classic of dominated manhood . 

As an aside, note also the table lamp design, it adds humour and clarifies purpose (as if that were needed) but not every artist would choose to employ a penis shape in quite such a penetrated way, it seems to suggest Tom had an interest in rather more advanced forms of sexual entertainment.

5 Careless Sailor (1962)

It was some years later when I discovered that the Careless Motorcyclist image which I fell in love with is actually a reworking of an idea from an earlier picture which I have called 'Careless Sailor'. It's very similar in concept and features another iconic stereotype - the sailor in summer whites (sailors enjoy honorary exemption from disapproval of flares!). In this picture the sexual imagery is barely 'hidden' at all, although it's more sophisticated than it seems at first sight – see how the tip of flaccid cock outlined in the blond sailor's trousers is positioned just above the wet stain, it's as though the action has just finished rather than just being started, as you first imagine.

The grovelling, cowed sailor is a beautiful creation and seems to have the same face as the motorcyclist (a continuity that adds the spice of repeated humiliation) but this depiction of him is much more erotic, outstandingly so. His memorable bubble butt is cleverly framed and shaped by side-creases in his trousers but the tightly laced-up waist, contrasted with the glimpse of ball bulge between his open legs makes him seem enticingly unprotected and vulnerable down below. His broad manly shoulders and upper torso add pathos to his plight, the depth of his humiliation, because the sense of him being dominated and forced to his knees, is even stronger in this picture. However, for some reason the pairing of the two men is not quite as successful, the leaning back pose of the top and the more prominent sexual element seems to diminish the sense of anger and threat compared with the biker picture. 

6 Tom of Finland – Careless Motorcyclist No1

These days Tom is often portrayed as a cuddly, father figure and liberationist and in fact the first image in the biker set (above) is a rather heart-warming, mentoring scene in which the wayward cyclist is given instruction in how to start the bike (but unfortunately not how to stop it!). Needless to say the instructor's hand secretly hovers close to an enticing denim mound, but leaving that aside, the affectionate friendship illustrated here (there isn't any obvious age difference) certainly demonstrates Tom's human warmth and his desire to show affection between men as being normal and beautiful. 

Which makes it all the more surprising then that the scene should transition so quickly to anger, spanking and humiliation. Admittedly the final scene (daringly featuring full nudity) does show smiles and suggest reconciliation, but there's a similar paradox in the 1970 picture 'Tethered” (see my recent article 'Just out of Reach' ) where a leather man reacts badly to the efforts of a rather well-hung, young Adonis. Is it just meaningless humour and fantasy? Well perhaps, but Tom is so good at depicting this harder edge that it has to be taken seriously. You can't portray anything well in any art form unless you grasp and know the underlying feelings and motivations. For me it's this harder quality that makes Tom's work great, it's the reason why he appears in this series and I will naturally focus on it, but I believe no assessment of his accomplishments is complete without acknowledging it.

* Quote from “Tom of Finland – His Life and Times” by F Valentine Hooven 

Continued in part 2

For other artists in the A-Z series click on the label below or search by name.

For more articles on 'hidden eroticism' click on the label below