Le Male, the men’s fragrance

(Well, it’s about perfumerie, but it’s Gaultier, he’s flagrantly homoerotic, and he’s going to take us to men’s bodies and mansex. So pieces of this posting are definitely not for kids or the sexually modest.)

Tim Evanson on Facebook today, with an image from a pharmacy window in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland:

(#1) Poster for Jean Paul Gaultier’s men’s fragrance Le Male, featuring a decidedly homoerotic shirtless sailor (credit: FotoFling Scotland)

Tim: Goodness, what ARE they selling?!?!?

AZ: They are selling sailors. Drenched in masculine scents. At very high prices.

McDonald Jason Richard: The best cologne for men in the world.

Background: sailors and sodomy. Sailors — virile, physically tough, young men living in very close quarters, traditionally in all-male groups away at sea — are classic fantasy figures of gay male sex, the fantasy being that they would turn to one another for sexual release, especially through sodomy. Correspondingly, in real life, sailors on leave were often cruised for sex by gay men, especially those who wanted to be fucked.

Records are sparse and undependable, but the reality seems to have been that though there was a certain amount of sodomy in various navies, it was never widespread. On the other hand, Hello Sailor! The Hidden Histor of Gay Life at Sea by Paul Baker and Jo Stanley (Kindle edition, 2003) tells the story of a sexual sub-culture of camp and drag on cruise ships:

(#2) caption from the TV Tropes site: “You come up on the poop deck often?”

From the publisher’s description on Amazon:

Estimates of the number of gay staff on cruise ships between the 1950s and 1970s hover around 30-40 per cent, while on some passenger lines (P&O seems to have been the gay-friendliest employer) the concentration may have been as high as 90 per cent.

The sailor-sodomy association then plays a significant role in the homoerotic power of the image in the Gaultier poster in #1. Gaultier thinks sailors are way hot, and he doesn’t shrink from the sodomy connection, but instead (as we’ll see) celebrates it and revels in it

Background: Gaultier and Le Male. On the designer, from Wikipedia:

Jean Paul Gaultier (born 24 April 1952) is a French haute couture and prêt-à-porter fashion designer. He is described as an “enfant terrible” of the fashion industry, and is known for his unconventional designs with motifs including corsets, marinières, and tin cans. Gaultier founded his eponymous fashion label in 1982, and expanded with a line of fragrances in 1993.

(Gaultier is openly gay; his male partner died of complications of AIDS.)

On the fragrance, from Wikipedia:

Le Male is a men’s fragrance created by Francis Kurkdjian for Jean Paul Gaultier in 1995. It has been manufactured by Puig since 2016, and was previously manufactured by Shiseido subsidiary Beauté Prestige International from 1995 until 2015. The fragrance was developed as a counterpart to the women’s fragrance Classique, which was introduced in 1993.

… Le Male is described as an oriental fougere men’s fragrance, a classification which is identified by the combination of “warm, woody, and spicy notes” and aromatic notes. The fragrance contains top notes of artemisia, mint, cardamom, and bergamot; middle notes of lavender, orange blossom, cinnamon, and cumin; and base notes of sandalwood, vanilla, cedar, tonka bean, and amber. Kurkdjian stated that the fragrance was simple to develop because “with vanilla, you don’t have to be as technical, whereas floral fragrances are very complex and very difficult to pull off.”

Kurkdjian described the Le Male bottle, a male torso wearing a marinière [see below], as “a motif to put it in the ‘Gaultier universe'” that represents “[Gaultier’s] idea of what men are about – being seductive, being sexual, [and] being adventurous.” The fragrance is packaged in an aluminum can, a motif Gaultier has used in his collections since 1980

The ads. A Le Male ad with even more naval symbolism, but with the model in a shirt:

(#3) A play on the recruiting slogan “Uncle Sam wants YOU”; note the bottle

The shirt in the ad is not just any sailor-style shirt, but a Gaultier design: La Marinière. From his site (in English):



Gaultier has used a large number of male models in his ads. From Attitude magazine, “A picture-based history of Jean Paul Gaultier’s ‘Le Male'” on 7/28/20

Everyone knows the iconic Jean-Paul Gaultier ‘Le Male’ fragrance bottles.

Emblazoned with the sailor-stripes motif that is synonymous with the designer and his brand, the bottle in the shape of a supersculpted man’s torso has been through many wonderful iterations [beginning in 1995].

Out of all these, the classic Gaultier model surely is the one introduced in 2000, seen in #1 and #3 above and now here:

(#6) (Attitude caption; photo from Jean-Baptiste Mondino): “The designer’s legendary sailor was brought to life by Jean-Baptiste Mondino, who shot many of the Gaultier advertising campaigns and filled them with robust, lusty sailors that made our mouths water.” (note the can)

The thing about Mondino is that he can project a wide range of sexual personas, from the very butch (a robust, lusty sailor) to the openly faggy, as in #6; often he presents himself as metrosexual.

Embracing sodomy. Note that in #5 Gaultier directly connects La Marinière to Fassbinder’s Querelle. From my 8/29/13 posting “Kissing the rose”, which has a section on Jean Genet and receptive anal intercourse (which the novelist  famously craved in real life), including the novel Querelle de Brest, prominently featuring sailors; the novel formed the basis for Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s last film, Querelle (1982).

6 Responses to “Le Male, the men’s fragrance”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    The sailor/sodomy connection may have been further popularized by the quotation attributed to Winston Churchill: “Don’t talk to me about naval tradition. It’s nothing but rum, sodomy, and the lash.”

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      I carefully chose not to quote Churchill, because the famous quote is crude, inaccurate, and derogatory of the actual sailors of his time, who were almost all drawn from the impoverished working class.

      • Robert Coren Says:

        I don’t disagree, but I still regard it as a likely contributor to the popular stereotype. This is not intended as criticism of your decision to omit it.

  2. It started with a kiss | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] on Gaultier and sailors. From my 9/7/20 posting “Le Male, the men’s fragrance”, taking off from a fragrance ad featuring a […]

  3. Fleurs des males | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] is not to be confused with an earlier, quite distinct, Gaultier cologne Le Male, the topic of my 9/7/20 posting “Le Male, the men’s […]

  4. Hello, sailor | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] sailor, you smell fantastic; fuck me. In my 9/7/20 posting “Le Male, the men’s fragrance” (which comes with an entirely relevant section on […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: