To my readers......


Thanks for visiting mitchmen, home of Mitchell's Gay Art

The Caps and Collars/ Flat Cap Gang story at Google Groups has been on a break since January, I hope to resume shortly. (see Group News for link)

Message updated 5th May 2024

Monday 29 December 2014

Vintage Spanking Art

I found these images while sorting through some files over the holiday break. They all seem to have an extra 'something' that lifts them out of the run of the mill. 
I don't know who the artists are.

No1 - Caned Against The Wall
A big boy takes his punishment, hands to the wall. His pert little ass and unkempt hair suggests there's a naive, normal, young man underneath all that muscularity. The floppy hair and oversized hands put me in mind of Adam's work but my readers may know better! The spiky, black shadow behind him creates the impression of severe punishment, of his body pushed up against the wall by repeated blows from behind.

No 2 - Caned in the Bedroom

 This scene is more frank about the sexual pleasure of spanking. There's a sailor in this group (see chair), I'm guessing it's the man with the devotional tattoo who is introducing these young men to the pleasure of pain before sex. Particularly his pleasure, as you can see! It's underlined by his anticipatory forward thrust.

Paradoxically the mixture of S&M, religion, race and disparate ages in this picture probably make it no less startling today than the homosexual angle did when it was drawn.

The hair styles and pose of the boy on the bed look typical of the 50's and the latin looking sailor is very Quaintance-like although I never saw anything else like this from him, it's amazingly explicit for that time. Any suggestions?

No 3 - Caning a Man over a Stool

This example is not as stylish as my other choices and there's some wierd perspectives and positioning (notice the hand appearing to rest on a level surface far right). Still, it's nice to see a spanking picture with all real men. This one has shot his load during a hard caning, reversing the sexual polarity from the previous picture where it's the spanker who seems most excited about it all. The spanker here shows nothing more than a plain bulge, which is coy enough to make me wonder if the cock on the stool was added by a mischievous modifier. Of course it's misalignment and curious shaping may be an attempt at hidden eroticism by the artist, I'd have thought the white, dripping ooze is a bit of a giveaway though! 

The moustaches and body suggest this was drawn in the 80's but who by?

No 4 - Belted on the Floor

An intimidating belt-cum-paddle is the implement of choice for this spanking punishment. No wonder the recipient looks so dismayed and is struggling so hard to escape! It's the energy of the struggle and forceful domination that makes this picture so striking. 

By allowing the victim's legs the freedom to flail around the artist has chosen to forgo the erotic possibilities of a totally undefended ass in favour of the joys of an unequal battle. Because of this the visual sensuality is subtle - the shading of the victim's pecs and the ambiguous, intriguing scribble in the area of his abdomen is surprisingly effective. Also the spanker's close fitting, traditional underwear which moulds to his pecs while the 'key hole' seams in his underpants form a collar around the mound of his growing excitement. This almost qualifies as 'hidden eroticism' but is perhaps more accurately described as 'disguised' 

The figure on the ground could almost be by Adam, but the cleft chin and cheek lines of the spanker remind me of 60's artists like Losarro.

No 5 - Tied and Horsewhipped

Sensuality is definitely the name of the game here as a casually wielded riding crop cuts deep into the buttock of a young man under restraint, tied and blindfolded. His head jerks back as the pain of the lash registers through his nervous system. The lushly shaded, smooth, rounded contours of his body together with the length of his hair are indicators of youthful inexperience. He is recieving this little lesson at the hands of a woman (probably!) who, judging by the scary nails, has much to teach him! (I'm not a fan of female involvement in sexual matters but I confess I do enjoy the idea of straight men being chastised for their transgressions by the so-called weaker sex).

The style of this artist reminds me very much of Toby but again, I'm not sure.

No 6. - Chained and Belted

This extraordinary picture explores the very darkest regions of spanking fetish and asks some awkward questions about what sparks the interest in it. We can conjecture that this is the pick-up that went awry, the curious explorer taken beyond his boundaries or perhaps the experienced top subjected to an unpleasant role reversal.

Suspended in ankle chains with hands tied together round one leg, the subject is entirely helpless. His ass (and backs of his thighs) are completely unprotected from the ferocious assault that is in progress. The wild-eyed rage of his attacker, seemingly out of control, is terrifying and with his head lodged in the spanker's groin he also has a close-up view of his captor's intimidating arousal. It's a nettle that he seems none to anxious to grasp (even if his hands were free to do so!). His suspension position advertises another attractive destination for it and if that is not what he expected or had planned when he met this man, he is neverthless clearly seriously excited by the predicament, the pain and the fear. It's a redeeming detail that allows us to imagine that he will look back upon this encounter as a memorable experience - if not one he wants to repeat in a hurry.

The style of this picture is unfamiliar to me but I think I have seen the the wings on the boot tops before which (if I can find it again) may identify the era if not the artist. This is an original on a folded up piece of paper and so may be an unpublished piece or the work of an amateur but it's technically accomplished and convincing. Details like the spanker's expression and his menacing shadow on the wall convey a darkness of intent to us that is not visible to the victim.


Please leave a comment if you have any information about the origins of these pictures

Saturday 27 December 2014

First Catch Your Rogue - 4 One for Posterity

"Please Mister, I didn't mean no 'arm!
I just wanted a bit of money, like,
to buy a Chrissy present for me Mum, like.
She'll go mad if you 'and me over to the rozzers. 
Please don't turn me in, Mister!
I'll pay for the window, like!
I'll do anyfing. Anyfing!"

Well, I'm not made of stone, so, later.......

(click,...... click,

"This is, like, really weird, Mister",
"I never had my ass, like, shaved like that before".
(click, click) 
"You won't, like, tell me Mum, will you? She'll go mad".
(click,...... click,
"This is soooo weird....
(click, click) 
Hey Mister, whatcha doin'?
(clatter, clatter)

.......tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock.....

" Sorry 'bout that Mister, but your hand was, like, dead"
"....made me jump, like. Sorry"
(click, click)
"Is yer camra alright then?
(click, click)
 "Mister? You ain't gonna show those pictures to anyone.... ?"
".......are you?"

(click, click, click, click, click)
"Mister? Can I have my jeans back now?"
 (click, click)
"Please Mister? (sniff)"
"Please! I wanna go home!"
 (click, click, click........)

For other articles in this series, click on the 'rogues' label below

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Bound Men Await You

 I'm not sure what I like best here:-
(a) chunky man in moderately testing bondage
(b) chunky man in heavy duty jockstrap (skinny boys need not apply!)
The jerked down military shorts fire the imagination.

How can a guy look so cute without showing his face?
His tilted head and well-spread legs suggest complete capitulation, 
but the minimal bondage is simple enough to allow him some modesty as he waits.
The implausible weight of the bindings complements his surprisingly muscular arms and back

Kyle James by Blade T Bannon

Here too, the simplest of bindings and the resignation of a defeated man
who has lost the will to escape.

Dreamboys Heavyweight Bondage 

The metal ankle fetters and padlock are inescapable,
signalling indefinite confinement at his captor's pleasure.
His slumped, arched body acknowledges that reality.

Drake at Bound Guys 

Not a prisoner, but the victim of an opportunist,
who did not reduce him to nudity but ripped open his clothes.
Just enough to reveal and gorge on the treasures within.
The leaving him helpless and humiliated on the floor of the reeking closet.

But it's not over yet.
He certainly won't be leaving that pricey leather gag behind.
No, he'll be back - to take full possession 

Sunday 21 December 2014


Isn't it scary when your nose starts looking like your cock?
Pinocchio would be green with envy!

Actually this a super picture of a young Will Clark, my apologies to him!
He's featured at length(!) in my hunks series article boy to man

For other items in this series, click on the label 'curios' below

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Tagame stripped down

 Tagame - Country Doctor
This is the climactic initiation-cum-wedding scene from Tagame's 'Country Doctor' (Inaka Isha). In my review of this piece, I suggested that Tagame's sound effects and speech bubbles sometimes detracted from the artwork. This thought prompted me to experiment with removing the 'offending' additions to see what the result would be.
  Tagame - Country Doctor (modified) -1
In this version I replaced the symbols and bubbles with whatever I thought was being obscured. The overall effect is not so much to reveal more of the picture, but to remove the distractions. You can decide for yourselves whether the alteration is an improvement of not.

Method: First, I erased all the bubbles and characters electronically.  I electronically copied the coat patterns to fill big gaps and penciled in awkward corners (these are fairly obvious if you look closely but I'm not attempting to fake an original artwork here). Missing lines, hairs etc were also simply pencilled in. 

The replacements required were mostly fairly obvious, but I had to create the tree-top (top right) from imagination. The darkening of the image compared with the original is intentional, partly designed to make my pencilwork less obvious but I also think it looks better.

  Tagame - Country Doctor (modified) - 2

In this second variation I have simply adjusted the Doctor's left ass cheek so it looks a better balance. Ideally the right cheek ought to be reduced as well.

The resulting picture looks as though it would benefit from colouring,
 is that jacket red or gold, I wonder?

If you enjoy my tinkering with other artists work, 
you can click on the 'mitchmods' label below to see more.

Saturday 13 December 2014

Real Men Ride The Wedge -Trey Turner

This scene from Bound Gods combines some favourite themes of mine, not just the wedge and tight rope bondage, but white, shorts-style underwear amply filled out by the delicious Trey Turner, who I confess I never imagined as a suitable subject for torture. His screen persona usually seems too soft and warm for this fate - and his trendy hair adornment would surely not survive dungeon induction! The collar looks great on him though.

The Warm-up. It looks like Trey's being given a relatively easy ride here, with the height of the wedge adjusted to allow his toes to just touch the ground (unlike his unfortunate predecessor in this punishment chamber - Cody Allen, who was entirely unsupported while being worked over by Brad Kalvo*). Trey can relieve the pressure of the wedge between his legs simply by flexing his feet - but that action does give us a fine display of his chunky thighs and calf muscles. In this un-natural position it won't take long for them to be burning.

The wedge is a nice enough, very snug fit here as Jessie Colter begins to warm Trey's ass cheeks with the lash. Trey's excitement shows no sign of flagging.

The Bound Gods photographer hasn't gone out of his way to flatter our Trey in these last two pictures and the accompanying blurb even describes his ass as 'plump'. Hmmm - perhaps that's part of his punishment. However, this image of his balls balanced astride the tip of the wedge with cock jutting out like a glorious ship's figurehead is truly memorable. 
Jessie Colter's treatment is equally double edge, a petulant-looking, jutting chin, but this is a nice snap of his (naturally) tensed midriff.

See more of this production at Bound Gods 
*Note - Riding the wedge for real, especially unsupported, is more dangerous than it might appear. Please don't try this at home!
For more wedge images, click on the label below

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Kajlet's Wedge

Kajlet - Taken for a Ride

Kajlet, who I featured not so long ago, has done a picture on the theme of 'Riding the Wedge'. 
In his version I particularly like the sense of struggle and the indignant protestations of the victim. It's an example of how the build-up can be just as good as the ultimate torment. The arm lock embellishment looks great, it’s very convincingly drawn and potentially an evil torture in it's own right, but I can't work out whether it would increase or ease the action of the wedge.

There's a bit of kitchen-sinking going on here, what with the ball weight, electro equipment and whip marks as well. Perhaps a little over the top!

It's good to come to the dialogue after studying the picture,
"No! No! No! I swear I wasn't speeding! Soldiers can't arrest civilians!" 
protests the hapless victim.
Nice black humour!
Visit Kajlet's blog for more pictures in the same vein.

(click on the wedge label below for variants by other artists)

Friday 5 December 2014

A-Z of fetish Artists - Letter 'T' Round-up

Teddy of Paris - Initiation

It's my custom to pick a favourite artist for each letter but that seems a rather foregone conclusion in this case, my lifelong obsession with Tom of Finland has only been rekindled to greater heights by this review! However, I would not let his elevated status detract from the stunning artwork of Teddy of Paris which would romp home the winner in a less crowded group and indeed might even pip 'ToF' on a more strictly objective analysis.

Tagame - Dungeon 2

The other giant of this group is Tagame of course. He certainly outranks the others in terms of fetish delivery – to the point of discomfort for most people, I imagine. For me, however, his representations of the male form somehow lack an essential sexiness that makes you want to linger and drool, but I expect that many hulk lovers will disagree with me on this (and there's a compelling exception to my own rule at the foot of this post). His story-telling accomplishments are significant too, but hard to weigh in the pictorial context of this series. However, I would hasten to add that I would not want to diminish in any way his importance to the fetish art form. Unfortunately his texts and imagery present serious accessibility hurdles to Westerners that cannot be overcome simply by translation (even if good translations were available!). Tagame's example proves that 'globalisation' is something of an illusion if you want to fully enjoy the products of other cultures. 

 Tam - Staked Sailor

The same is true of Tam's work to a lesser degree, consider the nationalities and service rivalry depicted in this image and you realise there is a level of meaning and context available only to the initiated. (I suspect many non-Americans may have experienced a similar bafflement with the nuances of Ulf's distinctive, cultural identity). Tam's art is not as polished as the others here, but his very British adventures and retro, uniform fetish will always command my interest and affection.

Tom of Finland - Jail Fetish

ToF, Tagame and Tam have all produced large quantities of pictures in their 'careers' and it's not surprising if inspiration flags sometimes. The best erotic art comes from emotional commitment and focus. It's the classic 'more is less' dilemma, so Tom's late 'second flowering' in his unpressured 60's (see original Tom of Finland articles and image above) is a rare glimpse of a level of erotic quality we might otherwise never have seen and confirms his primary position in my pantheon.

Paradoxically, the Letter T group of artists also has it's fair share of tantalising, isolated classics where, sadly, there is no supporting work to flesh out our acquaintanceship with an artist we would all like to know more of. I'm thinking of Thompson, Takeuchi and Tendoji.

The letter 'T' with it's wealth of fetish riches has been a both a challenge and a pleasure for me to review. I have learned much from my research for the series which will probably produce some follow-up articles too. Letter 'U' will follow soon.

 Tagame - Bound Captive in Underwear

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

Wednesday 3 December 2014

A-Z of Fetish Artists - Tsukasa Matsuzaki

I've included these solitary examples to represent Tsukasa Matsuzaki, most of his work is rather more vanilla than this. The domination scene above is from the story 'Team Kuroda', at least it appears on the cover of part 2 of that story but is not part of the action. Presumably it represents a dream or subconscious desire.

Similarly, this tantalising, insect encounter in the Cicada story turns out to be, not the prisoner torment I hoped for, but a allegorical, self discovery reference . 

This genre is not really my cup of tea, but Tsukasa Matsuzaki does butch faces better than many and details like clothing are interestingly drawn. You can easily find his work through search engines.

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

Wednesday 26 November 2014

A-Z of Fetish Artists - Torturepen

1 Well Sprung
Torturepen is a fem-dom artist who depicts fairly extreme punishments of men, often in the form of fairly crude cartoons which don't really qualify on any count for this series, although they contain some interesting ideas for S&M connoisseurs who don't mind the skirts. This opening image (which has not been edited by me) is rather more refined in style than them and sums up the general thrust of the artist's work quite nicely. The venom is softened by a fiendish inventiveness and there's an attention to irrelevant detail, like the elaborate block supporting the candle, that is quite pleasing. 

2 Bad Luck
In this picture there is a rationale for the punishment as the captive man's evil intent is comprehensively spelt out by a bag of traditional burglary equipment, a balaclava hood on the floor and a grappling iron slung over the window sill. Presumably the broken window was a badly aimed first attempt with the iron, which sowed the seeds of his downfall.

The open frame supporting the incompetent felon makes his position seem precarious as well as exposed, and his restraint is designed to focus attention on his balls as the primary object of punishment, rather than his cock or ass which is commonly the case in conventional gay S&M.

You can see in this image that when Torturepen depicts men's heads they are not allowed to be attractive (as is the case with the artist 'Emma'). I suspect the podgy middle-aged physique might have some fans though.

3 Electro Interlude
This is a detail of a larger picture with a similar theme to the previous one and it shares the same interesting styling which is vaguely mediaeval and middle eastern – although the extended restraint position (painful in it's own right) seems distinctly Japanese in inspiration. Whoever cropped this picture had a good eye for composition, the summery garden showing through the window aperture, which is completely unbarred and open, mocks the captive man in his pain.

4 Man-Whipping
My final example features women (sorry chaps!) but I thought it was worth including on it's own merits as a picture and an example of a completely different style.

There is a Torturepen website but it's worth using search engines too.

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

Friday 21 November 2014

Index to Tom of Finland Articles

Tom of Finland - Stable Boy (1985)

I've seen this described as Tom's best picture. 
There's an endearing feeling of nostalgia as Tom's musclebound cop (his 'alter ego'),
extends a hand to the younger generation, each dressed for their own era. Tom was 65 when he drew this and AIDS was at it's height, decimating the gay community, so it seems an appropriate gesture. Note the envious horse!

My article on Tom of Finland
 in the 'A-Z of Fetish Artists' series comes in 9 parts

Careless men, Tom's harder edge, his technique and influences

The classic 'lost leathers' episodes - and some bizarre diversions, misogyny, husbands and hijackers

Man hunting leads Kake to the dungeon - and a story of revenge that doesn't fit

A final flourish of conflict and masculinity ends with a damp squib

The darker themes no-one wants to acknowledge

Stereotypes, sportsmen and the thrill of forbidden fraternisation

A final flowering in maturity

Part 8 - Tom's Thieves
Repeated misfortunes and a lasting obsession.
Part 9 - Tom's Fetish Credentials
Spanking, bondage and leather. Tom returns to the barricades. 

In addition, there are other articles about Tom of Finland here:-

Tom and Fascism - the historical background
The Petulant Leatherman - surprising attitudes and unexpected emotions in one picture
Boot Worship  part of an article on another artist
Bar Predators, Bar Predators Revisited - reviewing and extending a popular series, arguably his best.
Tailors and hidden eroticism - hero worship as a form of submissiveness.
Tom's SailorsTom's Sailors 2
Beards in Tom of Finland - their frequency and significance
Tom's Beard in the Pekka story 'Loggers'  - an addendum to the above,
also the ' Loggers' seduction scene
New unearthed artwork - 3 motorcyclists cavort in mud, from 1959
The Thieving Cowboy - bondage and spanking from 1957

You may find further references by clicking on the 'Tom of Finland' label at the foot of the post or by using the search function (top right, sidebar column)

Thursday 20 November 2014

A-Z of Fetish Artists - Tom of Finland - 9

I will conclude this extended appreciation of Tom of Finland's work by focussing more explicitly on the evolution of his fetish 'credentials'. The first manifestation of these interests is probably this rather odd picture from the 1950's showing a sailor lashing the bare backside of a boy who is stuck halfway though a hole in a wall. The attacker is using a bunch of twigs like those used in saunas to stimulate the circulation. Saunas are part of everyday life in Finland and this erotic interpretation could surely only be imagined by Scandinavian men. 

This picture with it's wonderful, dangling ivy detail has the retrospective feel of a scholarly, historical illustration – like British pictures from this era of boys being spanked - but Tom soon wades into deeper erotic waters.

This depiction of a biker belting the backside of a wrestling man, like a Roman overseer urging on his trainee Gladiator, is both impressive and powerful. It's surprising to discover this picture is supposed to be as early as 1958 (according to 'The Art of Pleasure'). The explicit, erotic content is unusual for this time and the technique is pretty advanced too – successfully generating movement and excitement. The masculinity of the two wrestlers booms out at you, making the sadistic enthusiasm of the spanker all the more arousing.

It is the presence of this third man which makes the picture so erotic. Structurally, the wrestlers form a self-contained cohesive element of the picture, while the spanker is somewhat separate from them. It's as though the artist has observed two hulking men wrestling, enjoying the impressively proportioned and unprotected rear of one of the fighters and has daydreamed of seeing it spanked, then hurrying home has brought out his sketch pad and brought the fantasy to life by adding in himself. He can lay now the lash on his object of desire with impunity while the man's still caught up in the fight, but the unexpectedly forceful application makes you wonder at his motives. Certainly, this level of intensity does not spring from a disinterested creator.

There was something of a vogue for wrestling as entertainment this time (when stay-at-home television was still a luxury). Every town had regular tournaments between grappling heroes. Perhaps Tom was a fan, enjoying the struggles of the half naked fighters as a proxy for more erotic sport. His pictures from this era frequently show men wrestling on some pretext or other and there's actually a proper depiction of wrestling sport in 1960 (significantly, he highlights the upturned ass of one of the contestants in this picture too).

Tom's depictions of rather violent spankings continue though his life and I've already discussed a number of them - including the cop belting in Kake 5, the spanking of the locker room thief and the hyper masculine mixed race paddling of the 80's

The wrestling influence continues to serve Tom well in the sixties - in the careless biker's forced submission, the underwear clad householder grappling with a burglar and the picture above which is another of my favourites. It looks as if a scantily clad surfer has found his way onto a naval vessel and is being 'forced' by a couple of sailors who no doubt consider his slovenly attire (and the casual, laid-back lifestyle it implies) to be an affront to their military viewpoint of how men should be. The perspective of the ship is awry (or arguably, highly stylised, I suppose) but this remains for me one of Tom's most effective, fantasy-stoking pictures and the young surfer in his ragged shorts is one of his most appealing creations. Beautiful, innocent(?), helpless and fearful in the grip of stronger men, he is forced to confront pungent, disciplined manhood.

In a way, Tom is recounting here a young man's frightening transition from boyish innocence to sexual manhood and the special sense of danger which comes from entering into sexual experience with truly adult men for the first time. No wonder he looks anxious, Tom's sailors are not just the previously seen pretty sex objects they are assertive, aggressive sexual beings. (See also my earlier article on Tom's sailors as predators and sex objects). This lad is also playing out the fantasy of being escorted forcefully across that momentous sexual threshold by men who are experienced and firm, but friendly and trustworthy (as symbolised by their uniforms). Of course Tom plants enough bewilderment on his face to make his acquiescence unclear and enough slyness on the watching sailor's face to make their intentions suspect too.

As in the previous picture this third man contributes a vital level of erotic tension, being poised (and clearly inclined) to exploit the surfer's vulnerable state. This time there's an even stronger sense that he's detached from the action (it's accentuated by his odd positioning) and looking on like a 'voyeur'.

(The obvious technical flaws in this picture have inspired me like a persistent itch with the belief that I could do it better but I never have! See Inspired by Tom.)

There's no overt sexual act in this picture, just some lewd bulges and pointing, but pictures like these lit up the pages of beefcake magazines when they first appeared because they showed men with idealised physiques not just posing, but interacting with each other in a muscular way that is essentially male - with just enough light-heartedness to disarm (if you wish) any suspicions about the nature of the scene.

Tom used humour as a cover for daringly erotic interactions in those less tolerant times (see Tailors and hidden eroticism). But sometimes there is a less funny side - like the young muscle boy cuffed to a lamp-post by a leather man, apparently out of spite (see Petulant Leatherman article). It's interesting how often Tom shows youthful beauty and naivety being berated, controlled or punished in his imagery.

The logical conclusion of the 'forceful seduction' theme is realised explicitly in the Kake series and also notably in Bar Predators (1966) where a construction worker wanders into a biker bar for a drink and becomes the object of unsought intimacy from two rough patrons. This is a forbidden fantasy that many men secretly enjoy but it's poles apart from the 'joyful giving and sharing' tag with which some of Tom''s disciples whitewash his legacy. 

The next notable fetish milestone is the dungeon 'mini-series' of 1966 where a group of uniformed men drag a young biker into a dungeon, strip him and whip him as the prelude to a modest orgy of sucking. This 'victim' physically resembles the careless biker and careless sailor and is clearly the prototype of Kake in appearance, but he seems quite different in character, repeatedly made to be the puppet of more powerful men.

Tom reworks this scene in Kake 14 'The Sadists' with less extravagant uniforms and more exotic 'tortures' but the outcome is the same. Even the new, more audacious Kake is forced into sexual service by the representatives of authority.

Tom was depicting bondage in his pictures as early as 1959 (a naked biker roped to his motorcycle). The men are nearly always tied to something, often spread-eagled for maximum access, as in this dungeon scene. There is also an isolated, casually drawn hog-tie in the 'Cowboy Clothes Thieves', but Tom seems to have had no interest at all in tight body restraint or shibari style bondage.
As for gags, they are nowhere to be seen.

Tom also depicted many other floggings, but they are usually conducted, not by cops or soldiers, but by members of the biking community in woodland settings (see 2 boys whipped). These pictures escape from the preoccupation with authoritarian oppression, invoking the Utopian idea of an organised community of gay men, complete with their own rules and disciplinary procedures. Sometimes the victims even look as if they are enjoying it, but that does take the edge off a bit!

We know nothing of Tom's own explorations of the fetish scene but his interest is reflected by references to sounding in the Kake stories and this picture of a rather jolly fisting scene in 1974. The choice of 3 black men to exclusively administer proceedings is an even more remarkable statement by Tom, which he underlines by showing the receiver looking out at us, in wonderment at his own audacity and good fortune. I have to say, though, that this racial element and the improbable 'back yard' setting does not suggest an intimate acquaintance with the real 'scene'. In fact, while there is plentiful evidence in Tom's drawings that he liked gay fetish bars and leather clothing, there is a distinct lack of anything resembling the claustrophobic atmosphere of a leather club – perhaps he didn't like them. His dungeon episodes are generally placed in police or military contexts.

The crate and wooden fence seen here are regular Tom props. The crates act as podiums (altars if you like) on which the captive or passive participant is 'dealt with'. They are therefore strongly associated with sexual action. The fence in this picture provides privacy but it's also a barrier excluding the outside world (apart from a handy voyeur's chink). You may know other Tom pictures where straight-looking construction workers peer over the fence to observe gay intercourse and sometimes reach over to help out. In his late period, mixed race paddling picture, the fence and crate appear again but here the fence is clearly a barrier to an outsider, who is both mature and gay. Is this the 60 year old Tom himself, peering over it wistfully at the intense sexual proceedings? 

In 1976 Tom produced two contrasting mini series, each of 3 images. This one, depicting the disciplining of a biker by 2 darkly portrayed guards, contains some of his best drawing, from the superbly rendered leather uniforms of the guards to the arched hairy torso of the prisoner as he is forced to service his tormentors. Fisting is also featured here but unlike the previous picture there's precious little fun in evidence, it's portrayed as a punishment, forcing the captive into a humiliating ejaculation.

These are not real policemen of course but fetish guards in some fantasy prison, strutting their clinging, soft leather outfits which are disturbingly reminiscent of real, evil regimes. So too their behaviour, there's a distinctly harder edge to proceedings, possibly because Tom's depictions have become more realistic and earthy. It almost feels like gay men copying oppressive practices rather than reinventing them for their own pleasure. This series is from the same period as the Locker Room Thief and it's pervaded by a similar feeling of aggression or anger.

These are admirable drawings, but for me something of the erotic has been lost, though I can't put my finger on why. Whether it's the brooding, evil atmosphere that spoils the piece for me, the absence of any conventional sex, the lack of any emotional response from the prisoner, or is it a stylistic issue, the slightly contrived, balletic centrepiece in which we are distanced from the action by the aerial viewpoint?

The counterpart to this series features a complete reversal of roles as a real policeman is abused and humiliated by two gloating studs. I believe it's Tom's only portrayal of this rather obvious revenge scenario apart from Kake no 15 - Violent Visitor, circa 1970, but somehow it seems like an empty victory as the cop stoically endures his fate while we watch from afar. These feel like important works, the drawing here is almost as good as the dungeon piece and similar in intensity, it's a mystery to me why it just doesn't seem to work erotically.

Tom's well-known lifeguard picture appeared in the following year and it's a complete contrast – as if he's rid himself of his anger and acquired (at the age of 56) a warm parental attitude to youth rather than what seemed like jealousy and resentment in the works I mentioned earlier.

From the mid-70's onwards Tom did numerous studies of posed couples and individuals, most of them more 'academic' than this picture. Tom's portrait period may have represented a faltering of erotic inspiration after a long career or perhaps an attempt to gain respectability and recognition with some 'straight' art. If it was the latter he chose a most difficult course to this end. Small scale portraiture and pencil technique can pay an artist's bills but rarely attract critical acclaim.

I find Tom's portrait art a little bland with a tendency to flatter the sitter or remould him as a 'Tom's Man' rather than reveal his true character. That's a classic dilemma for the portrait artist but it's the subtle insights and honesty that make for high art in this genre (think of Velasquez's Royal Princess).

Tom rightly realised that his 'dirty pictures' were not art gallery fare, but didn't seem to realise that it was precisely this work where his unique qualities lay – and indeed they remain, even if the vulgarity of sexual ornamentation is laid aside. The humanity, humour and sheer gayness that infuses some of his more restrained, reflective and perceptive works – like the stern lifeguard rescuing a secretly delighted young man from the water – that truly is something special. This picture is probably too sentimental and populist for the arbiters of 'Art' ......


.......but if you compare it with Jack Vettriano's 'Singing Butler' (1992) you can see how close Tom might have been to the recognition he craved. (Admittedly even Vettriano's picture is not regarded as 'proper' art, at least not yet.......)


There's more portraiture in the 'Slave Market' series in 1982, which marks Tom's most overt expression of the 'leather lifestyle', but he adds his own distinctive uniform twist. This image is possibly the least well known of the set but to my mind it's the best. By this time Tom was switching his portrait-style drawings away from neo-Grecian beefcake to focus on the leather fraternity and the Slave Market pictures reflect that. However, most of them depict the master-slave relationship as a form of hero worship towards an impassive, domineering, statuesque hunk. This one shows a little more character in the master, it's the sort of artistic insight I was alluding to above.

This series falls in the middle of the period 1981-83 when HIV/AIDS had emerged but it's cause had not yet been identified, it's the 'Gay Plague' era, a time of unexplained deaths, fear and demonisation of gays (again). It's tempting to connect Tom's portraiture around this time to the decimation of the gay leather community, he was certainly close to it and must have been directly affected. The (unrelated) death of his long term partner in the same year cannot have failed to prompt musings on mortality. Whatever the truth, his stoic chronicling of leather men and their lovers in these years is certainly poignant. But that's a subject for another day. 

Surprisingly, this 1984 picture is in quite a different vein. It's not especially fetishistic, but it is truly memorable erotica, capturing the moment when a biker succumbs to the plundering of two wildly randy cops. 'Cops on biker' is a familiar Tom scenario but for once there's no negative overtones of vindictiveness, no undue force or coercion, just a sense of wild excitement and forbidden fantasies fulfilled, as men conjoin with their lust out of control.

This picture and centrepiece of the biker triptych of '76 cover pretty much the same subject but they couldn't be more different. The calculating sadism of the cops has been supplanted by unbridled lust, their scornful detachment turned to avid involvement and despite them being saddled here with some rather ponderous poses, the whole picture seethes with movement and excitement all of which is focussed by multiple convergent lines onto the biker's expectant rosebud.

In this picture Tom has regained his old touch and it comes from an extraordinarily fertile period where he suddenly seemed to rediscover the ability to be sexy, which he had had in the 60's and could now approach with a more developed technique. It's probably no coincidence that in this period gay men suddenly found themselves fighting for liberation all over again as AIDS spread across the world and they were blamed for it. This is Tom's response, shouting from the rooftops that Gay is OK!

This is about the last of Tom's fetish scenes, drawn a few years before he died. The bodily bulk of these men gives the picture an extra earthiness which is absent in earlier works. Muscular pseudo-cops bestride Tom's final pictures, bursting out of their uniforms, confident in their power and sexuality and using both to entrap and discipline other men. They are the final re-incarnation, the final evolution of Kake. How ironic it is, that he is now attired in the uniform of his former oppressors.
Tom's imaginative compositions and sensual style have inspired many artists, it might be said that he made gay erotic art respectable. For example number of his 'fight' pictures were adapted by Tam in his early work, his Jack in the Jungle/Tarzan Totem poles were borrowed by Sergey while Michael copied his work wholesale. The meticulously detailed work of 'Musclemaxx' Chris with it's muscular, mighty-cocked sex-heroes is amazingly Tom-like and yet totally distinctive. You can also see Tom's influence in the faces of Sabian and a pose copied by Rick Hard.

This series of articles has rambled through many aspects of Tom's life and work in an attempt to share and explain my admiration both for him and for what he gifted (almost unwittingly) to gay men everywhere – pleasure, comfort, hope and identity. He seems to have been an ordinary man, mild and modest with a special talent and a burning indignation against injustice which surfaced occasionally in his amazingly detailed chronicle of gay life, couched in the language that we all share – our sexuality.

Tom changed my life and doubtless some of yours. Nuff said.


I want to acknowledge my sources for this article:
"Tom of Finland Retrospective I" (published by GMP 1988),
"Tom of Finland Retrospectives II & III"
(Published by Tom of Finland Foundation 1991 & 1997)
"The Art of Pleasure" (published by Taschen 1998)
"Tom of Finland – His Life and Times” by F Valentine Hooven
( Published by St Martin's Press, 1993)
The Tom of Finland Foundation link is in the sidebar
Links to previous articles: Part 1 , Part 2, Part 3 , Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 , Part 7, Part 8

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