“He only knew a drawing was good if it got him hard,” writes Dian Hanson of Touko Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland (1920–1991). I’ve been spending my evenings drooling over “Tom’s men,” as they’ve come to be called—famously erotic, fabulously gay, and achingly virile. Tom’s is a métier that worships the male form. Sculpted, brawny bods dress up in archetypically masculine uniforms—men in uniform were a fetish of Tom’s—and frolic across the page to bone.
Since the late fifties, when a (comparatively tame) drawing of his was featured on the cover of the muscle mag Physique Pictorial, Tom and his drawings have risen to an iconic status—and there’s a whole cottage industry of ToF merch, from fire blankets to anal beads, to prove it. But I, bashfully, have only just found him. I owe much of that to Taschen, who has, to mark the quarter century since the artist’s death, published a handful of books comprising much of his delicious oeuvre—a retrospective culminating in the reissue of the Holy Writ of all ToF books, Tom of Finland XXL. Among the collection is The Little Book of Tom of Finland: Cops and Robbers, one of three in the Little Book series, and my favorite of the bunch.
Small enough to slip into your back pocket, Cops and Robbers is a picture book of erotica from the late sixties onward, nearly two hundred pages of—you guessed it—police-on-felon fucking. Using primarily graphite or ink and pen on paper (as is true for most of his illustrations), Tom accentuates the masculine physique in all its grandeur: bulging biceps, pecs like tits, chiseled abdomens, and cocks the size of forearms. “My whole life long,” Tom once told Rebel magazine, “I have done nothing but interpret my dreams of ultimate masculinity, and draw them.” But Tom’s men are more than men—they’re Grecian-looking gods who indulge, unapologetically and with unwavering stamina, in every kind of sex: anal, oral, orgy; rimjobs, handjobs, blowjobs—you name it.
Tom’s cops are no different. Though their getup renders them the face of orderly conduct, enforcers of law and civil obedience, they, too, embrace their most throbbing desires whenever met with them: in the woods, on the streets, on guard in prison, with fellow officers or with the criminals they pick up. Tom’s cops-gone-wild drawings are perhaps some of the most violent, with force fetishized more outright than before, the chasm between submissive perpetrator and horny dom—an aphrodisiacal power play integral to Tom’s fantasy—wider than in his other drawings, mostly because of the type of uniform donned. And yet, Tomland is a place were men fuck freely, consensually, where cops are hardly ever armed with more than their own erections, where Tom’s miscreants are as hungry to be “punished” as their officers are to punish them, where no ones escapes seduction, not even the men in charge. Which is all to say: Tom’s is a world of fantasy and fetish, where roles are only played and everyone, very happily, gets laid.
Caitlin Youngquist is an associate editor at The Paris Review.