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Know any philatelic homophobes?

You can blow their minds now. The US has released a commemorative stamp honoring Harvey Milk, which is a great step forward.

But we’ve been totally eclipsed by Finland, which has just created Tom of Finland stamps.

I have to say, though, that Tom of Finland makes me vaguely uncomfortable — not because of the open homosexuality, but because his drawings of men are so objectifying and sexually idealized, and I know that I can not, have not, do not, and never will look anything like them. They are the masculinized version of the airbrushed/photoshopped women’s magazine cover, and I can see how if these kinds of men were as ubiquitous as the plasticized-sexified images of women in advertising, I might feel a bit intimidated.

Comments

  1. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    Back in the ’80s, working in New Orleans, I went to the post office to get some commemorative stamps. None in particular, I just like to use more interesting stamps than the basic ones. Upon showing me a variety of them, the postal employee (a FEDERAL employee who didn’t know me from Adam) pointed to the Jackie Robinson stamp and commented, “can you believe they put a N***** on a stamp?”

    I bought a bunch of them.

  2. says

    I can see how if these kinds of men were as ubiquitous as the plasticized-sexified images of women in advertising, I might feel a bit intimidated.

    I wouldn’t. I find these plasticized, photoshopped women simply revolting. They all look alike, like clones. I react exactly the same way to the men. They are repulsive, and they look like idiots.

  3. says

    @Bart #3 – In western culture, and in the US in particular, the extreme eroticizing of men is extraordinarily rare. Yes, there are isolated examples, such as True Blood and Teen Wolf, but it is not ubiquitous in the same way that you see women used to sell everything from automobiles to airline tickets to farm equipment to hamburgers.

    That is what I find intriguing about Tom of Finland’s art: it goes into a realm where drawings of men simply don’t go. And the fact that it has become mainstream enough for a country to put it on stamps definitely adds to the novelty effect.

  4. kc9oq says

    What about Michaelangelo’s “David”? If that isn’t a gay man’s vision of the masculine ideal, nothing is.

  5. says

    I think the difference between the standard sexualizations of women and the images that Tom of Finland did is that his images were at least partly tongue-in-cheek. There’s a very deliberate element of parody and play that you don’t find, say, on the cover of Cosmo or GQ.

  6. beergoggles says

    @kc9oq: Not all of us go for twinks like David. I’ve always preferred bears and wished Tom of Finland objectified a few husky and hirsute men.

  7. anuran says

    PZ, what you’re missing here is context. Before ToF the popular images of homosexual men both within and without the community were mostly feminized. Tom of Finland presented an alternative, a gay sensibility which celebrated a masculine vision of male sexuality. The “dirty pictures” – Touko Laaksonen’s own description of his art – were very important because they transgressed self-imposed limits of gay male imagination.

  8. kkehno says

    In Finland lot’s of raci… i mean right wing people are yelling that there are more important things to remember like this than silly gays. It’s quite easy to forget that some things are better know abroad than in the country you live.

  9. picklefactory says

    They are the masculinized version of the airbrushed/photoshopped women’s magazine cover

    Yes, they are also drawings. Whereas the magazine covers are presented as photographs of actual living humans.

  10. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @hillaryrettig:

    really good point.

    …that’s what Tom of Finland said!

    =========================

    Chris may have identified an important difference with Tom of Finland works vs. thoughtless objectification, but they still make me uncomfortable. Or at least many of them do.

    Partners and I have joked about objectifying each other, but it only happens in a context where there’s already a secure relationship that clearly values the other person as a human being, a subject. Perhaps that’s how ToF and his fans think of this: “Of course we’re not all about the sexy, but the sexy is fun and it’s both fun and amusing to see it come out in this way that parallels the use of images of women in everyday advertising.” To me, not being a part of gbq men’s culture, I just don’t see a reason to be that sanguine.

    On a similar note, Jay Leno once said that he didn’t understand what women we’re telling him about playboy etc. being sexist. After all, it was just nudity. Appreciating the beauty of women can’t be sexist, can it, he thought. Then someone showed him a playgirl which had some guy naked, squatting so as to dangle, with car tools in his hand looking at some part of his drag racing car he was supposedly going to fix/adjust. Then he thought: that’s ridiculous! You don’t leave your scrotum dangling around hot/protruding/sharp car parts!

    Then he got it that the context of the nudity matters – or at least that’s what he says.

  11. Minnie The Finn, Fluffy Pink Bearer of Loose Morals says

    There’s a petition doing to rounds asking the Post Office to release this set of stamps with the old, lickable glue rather than the sticker type that they use nowadays. Because obvious jokes.

    Of course I signed it.

  12. Pierce R. Butler says

    … Tom of Finland makes me vaguely uncomfortable … because his drawings of men are so objectifying and sexually idealized…

    The pro-Nazi part also bothers some of us.

  13. hexidecima says

    I like Tom of Finland art for the same reason that I like pin-up/nose art, for the simple reason that they *are* idealized and lovely because of that. I certainly know that I don’t and can’t look like that and that is no reason not to appreciate an attractive image.

  14. says

    The pro-Nazi part also bothers some of us.

    It is a uniform fetish, among uniform fetishists there is a subgroup that fetishizes Nazi uniforms, many incorporate it into S&M. It is transgressive for sure, but it does not imply any sort of sympathy for Nazi ideologies or ideas. If you take a look around groups dealing with this you will find plenty of Jewish people, black people, and others that would not be welcome among actual Nazis. Yes, occasionally you will find someone that is sympathetic, or covers it in talks of being proud of their heritage, but that is quite a small minority. I think it is quite a stretch to call it pro-Nazi.

  15. says

    In his own words

    He later attributed his fetishistic interest in uniformed men to encounters with men in army uniform, especially soldiers of the German Wehrmacht serving in Finland at that time. “In my drawings I have no political statements to make, no ideology. I am thinking only about the picture itself. The whole Nazi philosophy, the racism and all that, is hateful to me, but of course I drew them anyway—they had the sexiest uniforms!”

    From Encyclopedia of Gay and Lesbian Popular Culture by Luca Brono (also right there on the ‘pedia page)

  16. says

    kc9oq:

    What about Michaelangelo’s “David”? If that isn’t a gay man’s vision of the masculine ideal, nothing is.

    I’m not sure if you were kidding or not, but for my part, no, David is not my vision of a masculine ideal. That’s probably true for a lot of gay men, as we’re not a monolith with the same tastes.

  17. garlic says

    I’m not sure if you were kidding or not, but for my part, no, David is not my vision of a masculine ideal.

    I think kc9oq was referring to the widespread (but, as I understand it, unproved) hypothesis that Michaelangelo was gay.

  18. says

    My father, the most pacifistic man I know, had a glorious Nazi-inspired leather mantle that was made out of soft, sweet deer(/moose) skin. He wore it with a white corduroy flat cap, I have photographic evidence (hidden in a safe in case I need it).

    Unfortunately I grew out of it around 13 years old and it was remade into a jacket fit for a taxi driver.

  19. anuran says

    @21 garlic

    I think kc9oq was referring to the widespread (but, as I understand it, unproved) hypothesis that Michaelangelo was gay.

    I don’t know if he was gay, but
    1) He had an excellent idea of what men look like with their clothes off
    2) He had no idea at all about women. Seriously, most of his female nudes look like boys with boobs in their armpits.

  20. Pierce R. Butler says

    Travis @ # 18 & Weed(less) Monkey @ # 19 – Yeah, I know about the rationale.

    I even agree that the swastika forms one of the best graphics possible with just a few straight lines., and that its misappropriation by German fascists hijacked a rune with a much more respectable history.

    Still: its use creates a major turn-off in any (attempted-)erotic context.

  21. birgerjohansson says

    The swastika became ubiquitous during the nineteenth century, as it was “rediscovered” from ancient carvings, (East) India symbolism etc.

    The Bad Austrian stole the symbol in 1920 or 1921. By then the swastika was already incorporated as a symbol for many companies, a symbol for Finlands’ air force et cetera.

    Carl Sagan speculated that the symbol appeared around the world ca. 2000 BC after a bright, violently jetting comet was visible pole-on, creating a distinctive swastica-like sign in the heavens. In fact, one of the Chinese glyps representing “comet” was a swastika.

  22. anuran says

    The swastika/sun wheel is a very common design element and symbol worldwide. It’s been that way for thousands of year. Sadly, the Nazis have poisoned its associations.

  23. cartomancer says

    Well this is weird.

    I can’t say I’ve ever found Tom of Finland’s art remotely sexy. Quite the opposite in fact – his aesthetic seems to drain every last drop of erotic potential from the subject matter. The men look like they’ve come straight out of soviet propaganda posters or Conan comics – there’s a kind of harsh, brutalistic vibe to everything and an utter lack of tenderness, sympathy, compassion or human warmth. And there’s nothing sexy about brutality, callousness or emotional indifference.

    I mean, I find leather and uniforms a complete turn-off at the best of times, and I loathe facial hair and body hair on men, but it’s more than that. Well-defined musculature I do like, but the musculature on Tom of Finland pictures is far too exaggerated to be sexy. They look like inflatable dolls, walking sacks of footballs or those pantomime WWF wrestlers rather than real people. It’s very comical in many ways, and far too camp to be either disturbing or erotic. It’d be like finding the Incredible Hulk sexy, or Thrud the Barbarian, or the Spartans in 300.

    Maybe that’s how the airbrushed females in advertising come across to most straight people too – as comic grotesques so exaggerated as to have lost any erotic potential. I’m not sure that’s true though, because if it were then an awful lot of very seriously-pitched products would be advertising on the strength of parodic humour, rather than lowest-common-denominator appeals to the erotic subconscious. Such advertising doesn’t seem to me to be using the methods of satire and parody very much.

  24. David Marjanović says

    The Bad Austrian

    Hee. As much as we’d like to pretend otherwise, way more than one Austrian has been Bad.

    Well this is weird.

    As pointed out above, tastes differ. Pamela Anderson is not to my taste, but she was to the taste of millions.