Beryl Cook/Tom of Finland review – ‘One’s trying to make you laugh, the other’s trying to make you horny’

Beryl Cook/Tom of Finland review – ‘One’s trying to make you laugh, the other’s trying to make you horny’

Studio Voltaire, London
From Tom’s pert-bottomed hunks to Cook’s curvacious ladies, both artists wanted to give pleasure

‘Hate the politics, love the uniform,” would pretty much sum up Touko Valio Laaksonen’s attitude towards the Wehrmacht soldiers he encountered as a young, conscripted anti-aircraft officer in the Finnish army, fighting alongside the Germans in the second world war. After the war, Laaksonen began signing his commercial drawings for physique magazines with the moniker Tom of Finland, and the very different uniform of the sexual outlaw, inspired by American biker culture (and in particular by Marlon Brando in the 1953 movie The Wild One), replaced field grey with leather and denim, a hyper-masculine look that developed in gay culture from the 1950s onward.

Pert-bottomed and conspicuously well hung, six-packed and nipples erected, poured into their jeans and their leather trousers, Tom of Finland’s groups of hunks and Muscle Marys indulge in all sorts of horseplay. They suck, they rim, they fist, they fuck. They pose and they cruise, they watch and, given half a chance, they join in. There’s a bit of lighthearted BDSM, but not much else to vary the routine. What a tiring round their days must be. Away from the magazine page or beyond the edge of the drawing they might complain, if they had the time, about their onerous moisturising regimes, the daily workouts and depilation routines. Never mind the same old outfits every day, or that as soon as one scene has ended another’s begun. Even when they’re tied to a tree and being thrashed with a belt they seem happy enough, and no one ever screams their safe word.

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