Musk, leather, and the lumberjack forest

… the smell of men fucking

(Clearly not suitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

The story begins with the Etat Libre d’Orange fragrance Tom of Finland:

(#1) Aromatic, woody, leathery ($149 for 100 ml, $98 for 50 ml)

From the perfumery’s site, with a certain amount of perfumer-talk:

An ode to masculine beauty, Tom of Finland is the namesake of a notorious, homoerotic artwork series. The clean leather scent starts with the fresh shave of lemon and aldehydes met by quintessential masculine notes of a lumberjack forest of birch and pine and a leather jacket of suede, musk, and ambergris.

Created in collaboration with the Tom of Finland foundation, Tom of Finland is the pseudonym of a Finnish artist known for homoerotic drawings that [have] played a very important role in … sexual liberation and [the] development of pop culture.

The customer reviews are entertaining. From Mark L.:

Smells like beefy sexy leathery men

And then from a female reviewer (Robin Savannah Carver):

Absolutely stunning, makes me feel like a dyke queen.

… my favorite part of my morning is spritzing this chemically leather-and-sex with undertones of warm vanilla onto myself. This perfume makes me feel like I could dance in a cage or join a motorcycle club. It makes me feel like I lift weights. When I smell this on myself I don’t feel pretty, I feel powerful and mysterious, like I’ve grown up into the kind of transsexual dyke menace that my parents would’ve run screaming from.

5 stars through the roof. I want to smell this powerful for the rest of my life.

While other reviewers find it subtle. Each to his own taste, as they say.

Tom of Finland. Touko Laaksonen, who published his drawings under the pseudonym Tom of Finland (ToF, for short). There’s a Page on this blog with list of my postings, annotated, on the artist and his work.

The drawing on the fragrance box in #1 is this one:

(#2) A classic hypermuscular, scruffy, intense but approachable (almost smiling) ToF man

Though ToF drawings abound in huge hard cocks, they often conceal them — originally, to avoid running afoul of US law; but then to heighten the tension for the viewer by elaborately hinting at them. In this case, we’re sure that the hunk’s cock is just below the picture and, in fact, that he’s playing with it with both hands. In place of his big boner we get a substitute, a single, almost painfully erect, nipple.

Note on the physical context of the men in ToF’s drawings. His men mostly have sex or display themselves outdoors, especially in the woods; or in a backgroundless space of pure sex (as in #2); or in an interior gay space (like a gay bar) or high-masculinity space (like a barracks).

But is it art? In my 7/21/20 posting “But is it art? Two cartoon takes”, I observe that this is

A perennial topic on this blog, since the label of Art is so often used invidiously. The label is associated with a (relatively) modern ethic of Art for its own sake, not just some function — which highlights the artist’s intentions, and also the artists’ location within a loosely organized art world, embracing galleries, dealers, museums, and art criticism, plus elaborate social networks of artists.

… [with] an inventory of some postings of mine on Is It Art?

Some works are dismissed (at some time and place) as Not Art because they fall outside the art world’s understanding of what constitutes a legitimate art form, but these judgments can change. Warhol’s work, and Koons’s, and conceptual works once were Not Art, but now they’re Art.

There are blanket exclusions for all works that can be seen as utilitarian. Illustrations and the design of objects are Not Art on this ground. So are cartoons and comic strips, because their function is to entertain or to advance political or social criticism or to advertise goods or whatever. So is pornography, because its function is to provoke sexual arousal (and, ideally, orgasm). ToF works are then Not Art on two grounds: they’re cartoons, and they’re pornography. Laaksonen never denied either of these descriptors; indeed, he embraced them (some ToF drawings are wryly funny, and were meant to be; and he once observed that if working on a drawing didn’t give him a hard-on, it probably wasn’t very good), and in fact also moved from treating his works as a vehicle for his own gay awareness and personal liberation to accepting that that he was advancing awareness and liberation as political goals, speaking to gay people (his primary audience) but also for them to straight people. So he became a public gay figure — and his works were then triply utilitarian (as political pornographic cartoons) and, in principle, triply Not Art.

But as I said above, these judgments can change. Over time, ToF works went from being dismissed as mere pornographic cartoons with a political agenda to being celebrated (especially in Laaksonen’s native Finland) — as homoerotic art of significance. Encouraged, no doubt, by movements to take both cartooning and pornography more seriously than before, by substantially shifting the border between Not Art and Art. ToF was both a benefactor of these movements and a contributor to them. Eventually his work became the subject of exhibitions, book collections, and art-critical analysis.

But he never wavered in his belief that a central feature of his work was its function of providing pleasure — just as Maurice Sendak and Edward Gorey continued to see their work as centrally aimed at entertaining an audience, even as exhibitions of their illustrations were mounted at art galleries and museums.

The Art of Pleasure. The subtitle of Tom of Finland: The Art of Pleasure (1998), a collection of representative ToF works from the 1940s through the 1980s, with an introduction by Micha Ramakers (an art historian based in Belgium):


The subtitle comes from the ancient Indian guide (in Sanskrit) to sex and eroticism, the Kama Sutra: A Guide to the Art of Pleasure — a subtitle borrowed for many other purposes.

In a succeeding book — Dirty Pictures: Tom of Finland, Masculinity, and Homosexuality (2000), Ramakers provides analysis to go along with the pictures. The publisher’s description, from


In this groundbreaking study of the art of Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991), better known as Tom of Finland, Micha Ramakers explores the incredible and defining impact Tom’s work has had upon the culture at large. It is work whose erotic and emotional power remains unabated to this day. Lavishly illustrated with drawings and photographs, Dirty Pictures is a lively and entertaining book encompassing the rise of the gay movement, the world of fine art, and the function (and the functioning) of pornography. For the millions of fans of Tom’s work throughout the world, as well as readers unfamiliar with his work, this study brings uncommon insight into Tom of Finland’s decidedly uncommon work.

The Publisher’s Weekly review fixes on two aspects of his work. Its conclusion:

Ramakers makes a convincing case for viewing Tom of Finland’s work as highly political, anti-homophobic pedagogy as well as sex-positive erotica.

The pornographic cartoon endures. Pursuing ToF through the Ramakers material led me the Kake comic books. Kake is the ToF Everyman and the essence of butch. But I hadn’t encountered the comic books before. Turns out that Dian Hansen assembled the whole set of them, in Tom of Finland. The Complete Kake Comics (2008). From the publisher’s description, on


In 1965, Tom of Finland began flirting with the idea of an ongoing character for his panel stories, the ultimate Tom’s Man. He tried out a blond named Vicky ― a common male name in Finland ― followed by a Tarzan-inspired Jack. Then in 1968 Tom settled on Kake, a dark-haired, mustached leatherman who often wore a tight white T-shirt bearing the motto “Fucker.” Kake lived up to this moniker, a sort of post-Stonewall, hyper-masculine Johnny Appleseed traveling the world on his motorcycle to spread the seeds of liberated, mutually satisfying, ecstatically explicit gay sex. Tom lived out many of his most personal fantasies through Kake, and Kake’s international fans made him the template for what came to be known as the gay clone look of the 1970s. Between 1968 and 1986, Tom published 26 episodes of Kake adventures, most as 20-page booklets. Tom of Finland – The Complete Kake Comics collects all of these stories in one volume. Return with Kake to the days when men were men, sex was carefree, and everyone wore a big thick mustache.

In particular, I came across Kake: Tea Room Odyssey (Kake magazine number 7, 1969), whose subject matter (t-room sex) and cover art (showing a fairly tricky position for fucking) both caught my attention:

(#6) The cover has been carefully edited on Amazon, to eliminate Kake’s gigantic (though still human-sized) erect penis, making it look like his cock is still somehow tucked in his pants

Note the relatively uncommon sex position: a standing fuck, but with the fuckhole standing straight up, with the fucker leaning far back (therefore using the fuckhole as his balance point) to manage the angle right for fucking; usually, the fucker is standing straight up and the fuckhole is bent forward to get the angle (so that the fuckhole is using the fucker as his balance point). The fuckhole is then he powerful man in the encounter — the fucker is providing him with pleasure, the pleasure of taking a cock up his ass (The Joy of Getting Fucked is a recurrent ToF theme) — and these roles are echoed in the men’s facial expressions: the fuckhole is an intense Man at Work, while the fucker is a smiling Good Buddy.

On the positions (with both men on their feet), see this passage from my 2/12/16 posting “Sex positions for gay men”:

(5) bottom standing and bending over at the waist, offering his ass for another form of Rear Entry (a flectional fuck)

… (8) bottom standing upright (an erect fuck): yet another form of Rear Entry, in which the bottom doesn’t bend over but stays standing

In both Rear Entry positions where the top is standing — (5) and (8) — one or both of the partners will usually have to stabilize the couple (the bottom using some support, for instance a vertical surface or a tree or whatever — getting fucked against a tree in the woods is an evergreen scene in gay porn [ToF was very fond of it]); the top clasping the bottom’s hips or embracing him).]

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