To my readers......


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

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Message updated 25th June 2023

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.

Friday 31 October 2014

A-Z of Fetish Artists - Tom of Finland - 8

Part 8 Tom's Thieves
Tom of Finland - The Shoplifter

Theft is a recurring theme in Tom's early work. This shoplifter from 1958 must be one of the earliest examples and casts the clumsy felon in a fairly sympathetic light - more young rascal than villain. This is another 'being found out' scene and although it's rather different in character to the examples involving illicit, sexual dalliance that I pointed out in Kakes 19 and 24, it involves the same ingredients of exposure, embarrassment and anxiety for what may follow. Most gays will relate to the fear of exposure and this young man's state of undress compared with the other characters serves to emphasise his suddenly awkward predicament. There is no follow-up image but those skimpy shorts seem to cry out for a spanking.

Note the contrasting treatments of the two authority figures here, the unpleasant, sneaky woman (as usual for Tom) versus the improbably suave, male shopkeeper who, far from being angry, seems to be contemplating with satisfaction the opportunity provided by the young thief who has delivered himself (gift-wrapped you might say) into his power. Judging by the notice on the counter, one suspects he isn't going to pass up this opportunity by simply calling the police. Tom uses gay underground language here to slip some 'hidden eroticism' past the straight censors but it also introduces the possibility that the young man's apparently inept efforts at thievery are more calculating than they seem and that in fact the two men are sharing a secret joke from which the woman is excluded.

Bear in mind that Tom was already 47 when he drew this and it seems more likely that he identified with the older figures in these drawings sadistically enjoying the discomfort of the young.

Tom of Finland - The Saddle Thief (1958)

Tom's thieves always get caught in the act. In the same year he drew a series of pictures where a leather-jacketed, equally young biker is caught, apparently trying to steal a cowboy's saddle (to sniff?). Unlike the shoplifter he attempts to escape and is first spanked for his impudence, then tied spread-eagled for a more painful lashing with his own belt. In this picture his captors take the chance to loosen his jeans while he is defenceless. You can see something of Quaintance's lanky Latino's in the way Tom has drawn these men

Tom could not publish pictures with full frontal stripping at this time but the way the captive seems to be shrinking away from the invading hand is pretty erotic in it's own right. The explanation is that this series was intended for sale by mail order. It consists of around 20 drawings and you will find examples with the images numbered. Magazines like Physique Pictorial could publish the innocuous initial images as a 'come on' for the meatier items in the full set which readers could discreetly buy through the post. This was the way erotic/gay publishing got round censorship restrictions. (Photographs delivered through the Post actually feature in the storyline of Kake 25).

Tom actually played it pretty safe in this set. As the belting gets under way the would-be robber's unbuttoned jeans slip down, suggestively exposing just the upper part of his buttock to the lash. By the time he is eventually freed in the final picture, his backside (comprehensively saddle-sore) is completely uncovered but it's discreetly facing away from us as he makes his escape, hindered humiliatingly by the sagging jeans. It's enough to imply that he has experienced a fully bare ass beating - and maybe something more. In his haste to get away he leaves his precious leather jacket behind, adding a very traditional moral to the yarn.

The calculating nature and severity of the punishment meted out in this story is quite striking. Popular imagery of this era was routinely violent (after all this is the hey-day of cowboy and war films) but it was not usually explicit or cruel. 

Tom of Finland - The Cowboy and Thieves 1
Tom produced another series with a cowboy in 1960 but this time the bikers attempt to steal his clothes while he is still wearing them. This results in a memorable 'forcible stripping' image which makes the erotic intent rather more obvious, particularly given the 'glamourised' tough guy treatment of the T-shirted assailant.

As it turns out, the rogues seem totally uninterested in their captive once they have stripped him to his underwear and tied him up. If there were any more suggestive images in the series they seem to have disappeared. Instead they fall out over who should get the gun (which could be read as a deadly dispute over what should happen to the cowboy and another possible contender for my 'sinister Tom' collection). While they fight the cowboy manages to escape from his bindings and turns the tables on them. 
Tom of Finland - The Cowboy and Thieves 2

The cowboy's clothes which are the basis of this story are similar to those seen in the previous example. They reflect the fashions of the time - perhaps a little too closely for lasting appeal. They also seem to be suggestive of wealth and a 'flamboyant' character. However, in this era cowboy heroes seen on film and TV, like Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey were always immaculately dressed like this and invariably stood for high moral values. This rather nice double bondage finale thus symbolises the (rather smug) triumph of good and decency, which tells you quite a lot about Tom's character at the age of 47. 
Robert Fuller - star of Laramie
The grittier, earthy cowboy hunks of Rawhide and Laramie were just over the horizon in 1960
 but even in the 80's Tom's cowboys were still very neatly dressed.
Tom of Finland - Night Visitor
1961 sees one of Tom's most memorable pictures as a jockstrap clad young man tackles a rather nasty looking intruder, whose torn T-shirt echoes the unscrupulous tough guy in the 'cowboy roped' series above. As with the shoplifter image there's a degree of ambiguity about the purity of intentions of the householder, indicated by his knowing determined look and the yawning dishevelled bed behind him. The intruder might well be similarly inclined judging by his carelessly groping hand which makes a matching fit - Yin and Yang - with the artfully highlighted bulge in his attacker's jock. Or perhaps that just fortuitous. Another example of Tom's talent for tantalising, hidden eroticism.

The overpowering of the villain is an important element in all these theft scenarios and Tom makes it the sole subject of this one. You might pleasurably speculate about who is straight and who is gay here, but there's also a message in this picture about standing up for yourself against villains, no matter how vulnerable your opponent might imagine you to be and no matter how audacious he is in invading your most private space. So a picture about 'overpowering' is itself 'empowering' and that is why we connect with it so strongly. You may recall I mentioned this image as an influence on Takeshi Matsu.

This is a prime example of Tom's craft at a particular moment in his life when he was gaining wider and wider acceptance as a gay man through his art. It's good that Tom chose relatively timeless styles for the setting and clothing of these men because this picture's message continues to be relevant today. Gay men, who no matter how liberated and how much accepted they are, will always be a minority and always obliged to assert their distinctive identity and special brand of masculinity amidst a sea of remorseless heterosexuality. Tom is one of our cheerleaders.
Tom of Finland - The Leather Outfit Thief 1
Also in 1961 Tom drew a series which opens with a young man covertly watching a muscular biker strip out of his leathers in preparation for sunbathing. Tom uses a novel, close-up view to enhance the erotic appeal of this majestic specimen of manhood and the watching youth is probably a reminiscence of his own teens. Most of us will have had this experience. As the god-like creature settles down for his sun-worshipping the furtive watcher homes in on his bike and leathers. 
Tom of Finland - The Leather Outfit Thief 2
This thief lingers to try on the outfit and is spotted by it's owner who gives chase and punishes him with a spanking. I say thief, but to be fair there is a degree of ambiguity in this story, where the offenders guilt is implied by him bolting when challenged. His terrified flight from the naked man he was admiring but a short while before is a masterpiece of irony and full of overtones about acceptance of one's sexuality and discovering the true nature of man to man sex.

The poor lad might claim that he only wanted to try the clothes on – a lesser offence in legalistic terms but not necessarily much less offensive to the owner. Trying on someone else's clothes as though to borrow ('steal'?) their envied qualities is a surprisingly powerful urge but this chap has not realised there's also a reverse effect whereby the borrower becomes more like the clothes' owner and therefore more attractive to him, one of the gang if you like. It's one of the more subtle effects of uniforms in the military as well as the leather scene

Tom of Finland - The Leather Outfit Thief 3
The setting for this scene is a beach fringed by a wood which invokes a typical gay cruising ground and the easy pickings of unattended belongings in these places frequently attract thieves. The dunes in Gran Canaria have their own resident thief who regularly appears to steal the bags of men engaged elsewhere. We can only speculate as to whether Tom ever experienced this himself but interestingly this same storyline is revisited by him later in the 60's and developed further for Kake 2&5.
Tom of Finland - Biker Captive

There are plenty of pictures by Tom where punishment is being inflicted but it isn't clear whether thievery is the cause. In my article on black characters I speculated about one from 1962 and this is it's companion picture showing the offender struggling impotently with his bindings while his captors gloat over his arousal. 
Tom of Finland - Crate & Crowbar
This crowbar and crate picture from 1963 is an equally intriguing possibility, but the 'Thief' pictures are really a subset of a wider group of 'offence and retribution' scenarios reflecting Tom's observations of unsatisfactory male behaviour and which would include, for example, the photograph-bending Postman (Kake 25) and the Cowboy-bending Outlaw (Kake 23), also the Motorbike-bending Cyclist and the coffee-spilling Sailor from article 1.
Tom of Finland - The Motor Cycle Thief
Tom changes tack in 1964 slightly where a biker's motorbike, parked next to a roadside snack trailer is stolen while he's having a drink. There's absolutely no ambiguity about the intentions here and as always the felon is spotted in the act and even with the help of a motorbike he is unable to outrun retribution. He is tied to a tree and belted on his bare backside. You can see how Tom's sensuous style continues to develop in these years and the figures begin to fill the frame drawing us into the erotic intimacy of the scene.

Tom of Finland - Leather Thief (Kake 5)
Later on in the 60's Tom revisits the theft of unattended leathers from a raunchy gay beach (in Kake 2). Again there is no ambiguity about the crime, nor significantly is there any doubt about the sexual orientation of the perpetrator, he is gay. The thief/voyeur is caught later (in Kake 5 )when he returns to the scene of his first offence wearing the very same clothes he stole previously. Ironically, Kake is also wearing 'borrowed' clothes at this point and appropriately enough it's a policeman's uniform. He gives chase and overpowers the felon, a struggle which Tom depicts in some detail across several pictures attracting as much effort as his punishment.

There's more than enough justification here for stripping the captive of his clothes and Kake is assisted by two men he's just been playing with, which gives the ritual a little more edge and foreshadows a multi-pronged punishment as, for the first time, Tom supplements the mandatory belting with an explicit sexual humiliation - the guilty man is penetrated singly and severally before being discarded, handcuffed to a bench to await the approaching policeman . As I remarked in my original Kake 5 article, there's a considerable degree of venom in the punishment, which is erotic but also suggests a significant degree of emotional involvement on Tom's part.


Why was Tom so preoccupied with this scenario? 
Obviously at a superficial erotic level it gives plenty of seemingly legitimate scope for depicting man to man struggle, forced stripping, bondage and spanking (but not sexual invasion - that's a different thought process altogether!). However his repeated returns to the subject suggests there may be more to it than that, perhaps in his own life experience.

Clothes, which feature prominently in these stories, were important to Tom. Hooven tells us he was something of a dandy in the 40's (his late twenties). He designed his own clothes including leathers which would have been a very personal (and expensive) expression of his individuality and sexuality. It's entirely possible he may have experienced the loss of them perhaps during a casual gay encounter such as he depicts in these stories. The clothes may also be a metaphor for something else equally personal and precious such as his own drawings and we know he lost a suitcase containing both of these things during a traumatic visit to Berlin in 1954. This was a loss of something which was intensely personal and secret , an irreplaceable record of his youthful sexual feelings which his orientation had prevented him from enjoying to the full. He surely would have mourned it's loss for the rest of his days.

In fact, he was destined to suffer repeated losses connected with his drawings later in life, when originals submitted for publication or for exhibition were neither paid for, nor returned to him and also when his early Kake's were pirated without payment of royalties. Once such incident in the mid-70's may well have been the trigger for his return to the Thief scenario in 1977. It's also not impossible that Tom's feelings in these drawings reflect the cumulative effect of other painful life experiences beyond his control which also entailed a loss of 'innocence', such as normal bereavement of course, being gay, his enforced war service (where he killed a man) or simply growing older – Tom was 56 in 1977.

Tom of Finland - The Locker Room Thief 1
Tom's 70's output (with some notable exceptions) mostly consists of arty explorations and innocuous sexual encounters, including most of his middle series Kake (Nos 10-20), but in 1977 he produced the 'Locker Room Thief' series. Once again it's leathers being stolen but the intimate setting of a changing room gives the robbery the same deeply invasive character as the bedroom-burglar scene above, rekindling the same sense of affront and vulnerability. 
Tom of Finland - The Locker Room Thief 2
The naked owner emulates his 60's predecessor, having no hesitation in tackling the fully-clad thief and making sure he doesn't stay that way for long. What follows is a ferocious belting and sexual humiliation before the offender is contemptuously cast out onto the street, into the gutter, with his jeans flung after him – not even kept as a souvenir by the intended victim. It's a powerful expression of anger and contempt, but interestingly, for this very reason it does not quite achieve the same inspirational impact as the 1961 picture. What it does do, is to hammer home the good vs bad morality which I pointed out for earlier works in this article.

Tom of Finland - Punk in the Locker Room
The Locker Room Thief seems to have done the trick in clearing Tom's obsession, or perhaps his life simply settled on a calmer course. Soon after this, in 1982, his long term partner died which would temper most people's anger. Whatever the explanation, there are no more thief scenarios after this, apart from (possibly) this Black-on-Punk imagery from his final years which substitutes cheerful confidence and assertiveness for rage and contempt.

In some ways Tom seems to have been very worldly wise - his international travelling and sexual adventures, his war service, his astute targeting of subject matter for his drawings, his talent for hidden eroticism and knowledge of arcane practices such as sounding all point to this. Yet he was also quite na├»ve in other ways, like incorporating stereotypical African 'Natives', Hijackers and Nazis into his images and not least keeping his precious drawings in his travelling suitcase and showing them to casual pick-ups. He was a repeat victim of people he trusted with his drawings which were something immensely precious and meaningful to him. This repeated experience of betrayal must have been very dispiriting for him, probably more so than the financial loss involved, since time and time again it was other gay men who did this to him and it must have made him doubt on his own judgement and stoke his resentment against the unfair laws which drove him into the arms of these unscrupulous individuals as the only outlet for his work. 
An expression of frustration and rage was an understandable response.

Tom's later associates bemoan the fact that Tom lost out on income through piracy, theft and simple exploitation and this unquestionably must have rankled with him as it would with anyone else and yet he also seems to have been quite fatalistic about it and lukewarm about pursuing the issue on his own account. The trouble was that Tom always wanted to share his work and inspire other gay men with it and he knew that conventional publishing channels limited what he could do and who he could reach. The 'betrayals' helped make possible the spreading his work more widely, and ultimately more successfully than he could ever have imagined. He actually died just before the internet began to change the world of publishing and make 'pirates' of us all but I expect he would have been comfortable with it, deploring and approving it in similar measure, not least because it has both enabled and forced his modern day heirs and custodians to continue to share it and not hide it behind museum walls.

To be continued in Part 9
Links to previous articles: Part 1 , Part 2, Part 3 , Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part7

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