If you know me, you know how much I like smut (just one look around this blog and voila! You can confirm it) and it just happens that this book had been on my nightstand for months before I was able to crack it open and read it. Nope, it's not erotica. Even though I really like erotica, this time it was a book that called my attention while I was out shopping for a gift. I found it at some Barnes and Noble. I loved the face of the clerk who rang it up. He didn’t even try to make small talk. So this book is not really about smut, in this case it's more like a monograph, written about one of our favorite subjects: homoerotic drawings. Yeah, I know. I'm geeky. And smutty.
One of the good things about smut is that people write both one handed literature and interesting stuff about it. It can get you off and turn you out to new things at the same time. It can help you see things that many people consider, well, dirty under a totally different light. Ramakers explores in this book the work of our dear Tom of Finland (I see you, Maddie!) one of the premier homoerotic illustrators in this century. Tom’s men are inexorably linked to gay culture, those buff, luscious, hypersexual avatars having tickled our fancy more than once. This book takes a look at where they seem to have come and the references the artist pulled to make his art both memorable and enjoyable. And I agree with the author that looking at Tom's work and analyzing its impact in both media and art is also looking at the history of the gay movement in the XXth century. For more than fifty years, Tom’s men have been linked to gay men and the way we see and enjoy erotica.
Pornography (because of course Tom's work has been considered pornographic) and art are surprisingly not too far away from each other and this author sees the connections between the two and how the homoerotic illustrations of Tom blurred that line. It's undeniable that erotica (and therefore its smutty cousin, porn) goes straight to the point: it arouses us. But most importantly, smut can help us become more political, it tames down that internalized homophobia some still harbor and it helps us become more sex-positive. I certainly would like some sex positivity after eyeing some of Tom's work, that's for sure.
Yes, Touko Laaksonen made smut that intersected masculinity, sexual expression and art. It created a blueprint that many have followed and many, many more have enjoyed. His men gave birth to the clones of the seventies and eighties and even now we see them in coffee table art books and everywhere from tote bags to t-shirts. Would I recommend it? Absolutely. Can it be a little stiff and scholarly at times? Yes, but that's part of the the fun of it all. So if you can pull your hand away from your crotch for a few hours, pick this book up. Or if not, well, just keep enjoying the artsy smut of Tom.
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