The news for cigars

Following up on yesterday’s posting “No cigar”, on a Tom Chitty cartoon with phallic foodstuffs striving to become cigars, two items: You’re no Cigar (Lloyd Bentsen: You’re no Jack Kennedy) and Sometimes a cigar is a lot more than a cigar (apocryphal Sigmund Freud: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar).

You’re no Cigar. Photo, with my caption:


Sir, I smoked with Señor Cigar. I knew Señor Cigar. Cigar was a friend of mine. Sir, you’re no Cigar.

Two things combined absurdly: Lloyd Bentsen on Jack Kennedy; and Stephen F. Dennstedt’s 2014 photo of Señor Cigar, shown here in a gallery:


#1 is in fact a photo of Dennstedt, savoring one of his favorite Cubans.

Of #2, Dennstedt says on his Indochine Photography website:

I photographed Señor Cigar in Trinidad, Cuba, during my visit in April & May of 2014. He was a character, and deserves our help.

[Digression: Dennstedt on his career:

I’m an itinerant American expat traveling the world and taking my pictures. Before I got a life I was a commercial banker for thirty years, and a (very) young Marine Corps Sergeant in Vietnam. I’ve been snapping shutters for over sixty years, and finally turned professional in 2009 founding my company Indochine Photography. I left the USA in early 2012 to pursue my lifelong dream of photographing the world, and interacting with its diverse cultures. Shortly after arriving in Yucatan, Mexico, I spent a year as the staff photographer for The Yucatan Times newspaper, and also provided my photographic services to the Kaxil Kiuic Biocultural Reserve and Puuc Jaguar Conservation. Since I’ve been on the road I’ve adopted the philosophy of: Live Simple, Live Cheap, Live Free.

A high-masculinity guy who’s also an artist.]

On to the 1988 vice-presidential debates, between Senators Dan Quayle and Lloyd Bentsen:

Quayle: I have far more experience than many others that sought the office of vice president of this country. I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency…

Bentsen: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.

“You’no Jack Kennedy” quickly became a tag line conveying reproof to someone who thinks too highly of themselves. And that, finally, gets us to “Sir, you’re no Cigar”, with its alternative reading for no cigar.

Sometimes a cigar is a lot more than a cigar. The background is a quotation — in several versions, which eventually crystallized into the canonical Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar — widely attributed to Sigmund Freud, and intended to convey that cigars aren’t always phallic symbols. No one denies that cigars are sometimes phallic symbols, and the relationship is the source of jokes, like this adaptation of a classic Freud photo, with the man’s cigar swapped out for another phallic symbol, a hotdog:


(It’s all in pink for the sake of a Pink Floyd / Pink Freud joke. See my 9/11/10 posting “Pink Freud”.)

To admit that a cigar isn’t always a phallic symbol is not, however, to maintain that cigars don’t have any symbolic values whatsoever. In fact, they are powerful symbols of masculinity (and masculine sociability and bonding) throughout European culture. There are cigar lounges, with a clientele largely (in some cases, exclusively) male; private cigar smoking groups (almost all, so far as I can see, men-only); and, of course, the social custom of all-male cigar smoking (and “masculine” conversation) after dinner.

But what, you ask, did Freud actually say? The Quote Investigator got on the case a while back; Garson O’Toole’s final report of 8/12/11 concluded, after a thorough scouring of the record, “Freud probably did not make this statement” (Garson frames his assessments very cautiously; on the basis of his evidence, I would have been much more dismissive).

Beyond its symbolic values of masculinity and masculine sociability, tobacco smoking — of any sort — also has powerful psychological value for some people. For some, it’s a sexual fetish, providing pleasure and arousal, known in clinical literature as smoking fetishism or capnolagnia.

[Digression on the term capnolagnia. First element Gk. capno– ‘smoke, vapor’ (also, in an extended use in technical contexts, ‘carbon dioxide’). Second element: Gk. –lagnia ‘morbid sexual arousal’ (as Michael Quinion’s affixes site glosses it), used primarily in technical terms in psychiatry — in (for example) urolagnia (urine, urination), algolagnia (pain), and coprolagnia (feces).]

Okay, you’ve got something that has the symbolic values of masculinity and male sociability and also possible sexual fetish values. What do you expect? Really heavy gay-male sexual-fetish value. And we get it: cigars are a significant element in the gay-male leather world. Just two images from a huge number:



#4 is from the site, a gay-sex site about hunks smoking (cigars or cigarettes) — but also about hunks who are smokin’ ‘first-rate; OR sexually excited’ and about hunks who are smoking (sucking) cock. #5 has a cigar-smoking boy in full leathers; many of the guys in these images are older rough-daddy types or bears.

On the ambiguity of smoking in Smoking Hunks. First, as in tobacco smoking, from NOAD2:

inhale and exhale the smoke of tobacco or a drug

Second, a family of senses for the positive-evaluation and intensity adjective smoking, from Green’s Dictionary of Slang:

[orig, jazz use smoking, technically skilled] 1 first-rate, excellent [first cite 1964, in a jazz context] 2 (US campus) difficult, intense [first cite 1977] 3 (US black) very urgent, very excited, esp. in a sexual context [first cite 1970] 4 (US black) attractive, well-dressed, elegant [first cite 1989]

The guys in #4 and #5 are presented as smoking / smokin’ (but of different body types) in sense 1, and the guy in #4 is also smokin’ in sense 3.

Third, the third verb smoke in Green’s:

(play on n. pipe; note Fr. synon. faire une pipe) to perform fellatio (on) [1st cite 1966 in a collection of adult sex words and phrases] … G. Hasford, Short Timers 10: You queer for Private Cowboy’s gear? You smoke his pole? … [1993 quote] You want to smoke me?

Note that this verb smoke has essentially the syntax of suck ‘perform fellatio (on)’. In particular, its direct object denotes either a penis (Suck/Smoke my cock!) or a fellatee (Suck/Smoke me!).

In #4, the tobacco-smoking smokin’ dude is getting smoked. Smoke it, kid!

(Personal note: I am indescribably not into cigars, gay or otherwise. And I was so even pre-asthma (when I smoked cigarettes). In fact, the idea of performing masculinity over cigars has always chilled my soul.)

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