Cruising in his long johns, take 2

(Men in various states of undress, visibly tumescent while minimally clothed, looking for sex with other men — so not for everyone.)

Yesterday’s mail ad from Daily Jocks, a carefully composed, even elegant, presentation of a muscular young man posing in fashionable form-fitting long johns that highlight his weighty package, while he fixes us with an intense gaze that gay men use in cruising for sex with other men (in another context, it’s the intense, fixed smoulder that straight men use in trolling for sex with women):

(#1) Call him Helgi (it’s Scandinavian and heroic); he’s posing in the trendy bathing room from two other recent appearances of his — on 11/12 in a much cruder pose but still in Helsinki Athletica long johns; and then on 11/3 in very brief white DJX Signature briefs, apparently contemplating the excellent penis contained within

I’ll revisit those two appearances (with notes on the sociosexual worlds of gay men) and then turn to the English garment lexicon, focusing on long johns, tights, leggings, and the union suit.

But first, a bit more about the presentation of Helgi in #1.

(Looking ahead: I would call the form-fitting garment — hugging his buttocks as nicely as his package — that Helgi is wearing tights. Though they look more like dancer’s tights than like men’s underwear tights, which usually have a fly.)

Helgi. Given his looks, he’s probably not actually Scandinavian. In fact, all three photos were taken on the same set, and that set was almost surely in Australia, where DJ is — a long way from Scandinavia. But he’s arrestingly handsome, and the photo in #1 is wonderfully posed, his body slightly turned, so we get his package in outline (beautifully matching the outline of his left pectoral muscle above it), half in shadow half in light (highlighting the curves and planes of his body, and making his belly seem curiously vulnerable).

The photo — call it Helgi3 — deliberately draws attention to Helgi’s really big hands (he also has really big feet, as we’ll see in Helgi1 below), knit together in a gesture I don’t know how to interpret; I’m happy to entertain speculations. I note that what to have the model do with his hands is ever a puzzle for photographers of men’s underwear ads.

I don’t know the model’s name, or the photographer’s, or the name of anyone else involved in putting Helgi3 together, but they all deserve some credit for producing a fine piece of male photography.

Now: interpreting Helgi3. The facial expression is what I think of as a stock cruise face: intense and fixed, unmoving, on his target, neutral mouth and eyebrows, no hint of a smile, nothing threatening either. A dead-serious invitation to approach his desirable body. It’s combined with a half-hard penis, a presentation that many gay men find more inviting than a jutting erection, because it encourages the target to collaborate with Helgi in bringing it to full arousal. So, wow.

Cruising for sex involves both facework and bodywork.

Facework. Facial expressions designed to catch a target’s gaze, hold it for longer than a normal stranger-gaze (so: 3-5 seconds rather than one or two), then to be averted while anticipating the target’s uptake (hopefully, a similar gaze in return), after which the two of you negotiate on how to proceed further; or designed to hold the target’s gaze indefinitely while making an unconditional offer of connection. (The cruising man is usually the dominant one in the latter encounters.)

Only once in my life have I been the recipient of such an unconditional offer from a startlingly handsome man like Helgi — at the gay baths, and he held that stare for a huge amount of time, making it clear that, yes, he really did mean me, not any of the other men moving around in the space. Astounded but gratified, I took him up on his offer, we connected smoothly, he established himself as in charge and his sexual role as top, and we moved on to a pairing that was enormously satisfying to both of us. A dream trick.

More facework below.

Bodywork. The classic position for performing a public cruise is leaning against something: a wall, a post, a tree. Scoring a trick could take a while, so you’ll want some support for your body; and you can then push your crotch forward, or tilt a hip, or whatever will make the message of your body clear. Walls are especially good: no one can come up behind you, and you only have to scope out what’s in front of you. Two exemplars from previous postings on this blog:

(#2) Days in black leather, Urban Cowboy as TorsoMan: he’ll look to the side until he’s sure you’re staring at him as a delicious apparition, then he’ll turn his head, catch you in the public nakedness of your desire, and reel you in

(#3) An indoor variant, using a table for support: Topman 4 U

Helgi2. From my 11/12/21 posting “The long johns, the erection, and the cruise face”, the photo with notes on its contents:

(#4) An aggressive cruise face

… the model’s gigantic protruding erection, which appear[s] to be nearing its terminal moment … a piercing cruising-for-sex face … plus those skin-tight long johns, the lean but powerful musculature (granted, only what you expect in any male underwear model), the luscious golden brown skin, and an assortment of tattoos (whose Hells Angels threat cred is undercut some by the elegant pair of birds)

A much cruder presentation than Helgi3. To start with, Helgi’s penis is just jutting out, like a rocket launched from his pubic symphysis, hardly like a bodypart at all. Then there’s his face.

Back in my 3/31/21 posting “The smoulder”, I looked at an aggressively sexual gaze directed at women by the actor Kevin Smith (as the god Ares in the Hercules and Xena tv series), as here:

(#5) The Ares Smoulder — an intense, narrow-eyed, stare, as in Helgi2 —  plus some bodywork, the display of a muscular manly torso; apparently Smith could turn the Smoulder on and off at will, as a sort of parlor trick

[There are] two more components of the Ares Smoulder: (a) narrow focus: Ares’s gaze is narrowly focused on the object of his attention, not taking in a wider scene; and (b) fixity: his gaze is fixed and unmoving for a significant period of time. The Ares Smoulder shares both of these features with the gay Cruise of Death; indeed, fixity is a major component of gay cruise faces in general, which are held for significantly longer than a normal gaze exchange.

Helgi2 is a pretty good Cruise of Death, while Helgi3 has a flicker of affiliation in the facial expression, echoing the less aggressive display of Helgi’s body in Helgi3 (and Helgi3 is advertising his butt as well as his package).

Other male cruise faces are more receptive, more affiliative, like these two from my 10/17/21 posting  “Two faces”:

(#6) A cruise face I characterized as conveying attraction and interest — a man-to-man flirt face

(#7) A cruise face I characterized as conveying attentive desire — a man-to-man offer of service

Helgi1. From my 11/3/21 posting “An address to his penis”:

A homoerotic pose, with companion poetry [omitted below] set in the world of gay desire … a handsome young man in his white high-rise Signature briefs focused intently on the solidly packed pouch of those briefs and apostrophizing the magnificent penis within:

(#8) Eyes averted, as in the street cruise in #2; otherwise, an elegant composition as in Helgi3, including the half-and-half lighting and the careful matching of the contour of his very muscular left pec to the contour of his pouch

In this photo we see his large (wide at the toes) and quite flat feet; the man is as he is, and he’s not delicate.

Garment time. The high-rise briefs in Helgi1 are a familiar item of underwear on this blog, but the long johns in the other two Helgi photos are, I think, fresh territory here — and appropriate for the season in the Northern Hemisphere. From NOAD, with bracketed comments from me:

pl. noun long johns: informal underwear [for both men and women] with closely fitted legs that extend to the wearer’s ankles, often with a long-sleeved top. [long underwear, thermal underwear, and thermals are sometimes offered as synonyms of long johns] [long johns are often worn as sleepwear / pajamas]

An illustration from the International Jock site: Go Softwear brand Lumberjack long johns (available in black, Bordeaux (dark red), and royal (blue)):

(#9) Lumberjack long johns in Bordeaux (100% cotton, 3-button fly, drawstring waist)

On to tights, leggings, and union suits. All from NOAD:

pl. noun tights: [a] a woman’s thin, close-fitting garment, typically made of nylon or other knitted yarn, covering the legs, hips, and bottom [and typically worn as underwear]: a pair of black tights. [b] a garment similar to tights worn by a dancer or acrobat. [note on [a]: I have worn tights designed and marketed for men; they had a fly; they were clearly intended as underwear]

pl. noun leggings: [a] tight-fitting stretch pants, typically worn by women or girls. [b] protective coverings for the legs.

noun union suitNorth American dated a single undergarment combining shirt and pants. [typically, but not exclusively, worn by men] [union suits often come equipped with a drop seat]

From Merriam-Webster online:

noun drop seat: 1: a hinged seat (as in a taxi) that may be dropped down 2: a seat (as in an undergarment) that can be unbuttoned [note two different senses of seat: ‘the roughly horizontal part of a chair, on which one’s weight rests directly’ vs. ‘the part of a garment that covers the buttocks’ (NOAD)]

Summing up: as a rule, long johns, union suits, and tights are underwear; while leggings are outerwear. Long johns are intended to provide warmth, while underwear tights are essentially somewhat more substantial pantyhose.

Bonus: the etymology of long johnsOED3 (June 2016) under the noun long john offers:

Etymology: < long adj.1 + the male forename John …, perhaps after use of Long John as a type-name for a tall person (attested from at least the early 19th cent.). Applied to various objects characterized by their unusual length. [Wikipedia has an assortment of more fanciful etymologies, some having to do with the boxer John L. Sullivan; or as an approximation of Fr. longues jambes ‘long legs’]

In the following main entry, it lists some South American trees, an oblong doughnut, and then the underwear, with a collection of cites that I give here in its entirety because I find it entertaining:

3. colloquial (originally U.S.). In plural. Underpants with closely fitted legs that extend to the wearer’s ankles, worn for warmth during cold weather; (more generally) long underwear of any kind. Also in singular (chiefly attributive).

1941 Sheboygan (Wisconsin) Press 16 Oct. 7/5 We all hope we don’t get our ‘long Johns’ for a while because it is too warm yet.

1962 W. Schirra in J. Glenn et al.  Into Orbit 49 A series of waffle-weave patches on our long john underwear helps to keep the oxygen moving.

1969 J. Gardner Founder Member vii. 115 Boysie picked up the clothes… A suit of woollen long johns, a pair of heavy calf-length stockings.

1985 M. Parfit South Light (1988) viii. 99 Malcolm bounded from porthole to porthole, looking like a stretched silent-film comedian in his baggy U.S. Antarctic Research Program-issue black trousers and his long-john top.

1994 Camping Mag. Jan. 40/2 Long johns and tops made of polypropylene or chlorofibre are best.

2008 R. Beard Becoming Drusilla (2009) xi. 252 I climbed out of the tent in my long johns and asked the male outdoor pursuits instructors to pipe down.

That last item is Becoming Drusilla: One Life, Two Friends, Three Genders by Richard Beard. From the publisher:

A funny and original story of a friendship between two men and what happens when [while camping together as they cross Wales] one of them announces he is becoming a woman. This book holds a mirror to the extraordinary in seemingly ordinary lives.

One Response to “Cruising in his long johns, take 2”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    perhaps after use of Long John as a type-name for a tall person (attested from at least the early 19th cent.).

    I guess this usage is behind the name of Long John Silver, the principal villain of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (although apparently his given name is in fact John). I don’t recall if he is particularly described as being tall.

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