MEMBER ARTICLE: #IamTOF -The modern masculinity of gay Asian men
18 February 2019
'Am I Tom enough?' That is probably the question that almost every fetish man asks himself when reading Touko Laaksonen signature work of homoerotic arts. The sheer amount of masculinity in the images of skin-tight jeans, bulging muscles in tiny shirts and leather jacket, loving brotherhood and freedom of sexual fantasy have been a great inspiration for gay men across generations everywhere.
Asian men are not far from this description. While they are not frequently portrayed in the arts of Touko, they draw inspiration from the drawings to dream, discover and improve themselves on their own journey with homosexuality. However, with the lack of portrayals of Asian men and the higher focus on Western masculinity in Tom of Finland, specifically, and the media as a whole, it is inevitable that there is a feeling of inadequacy from Asian men, and a lack of interest and sometimes even discriminatory sentiment from the Caucasian counterparts. Despite many stereotypes about Asian men, especially their reserved nature, they all yearn to exude confidence in their gear, find love, brotherhood and occasional good, rough fun.
I started like anybody else, I was 11 at the time and our family had just got onto the internet. I had known that I liked men in leather; all those villains and bad guys with their tight leather gloves, leather pants, jackets and biker suits really attracted me. I did a few searches online which brought me to the arts of Touko Laaksonen; I had instant hard-on looking at those leather drawings. I masturbated and ejaculated so much looking at those sexy muscular men in tight leather gear that I wished one day I could be like them; confident and extremely hot in leather.
I did not live my leather life until I started dating my current boyfriend in my 20s. Having him support me in exploring my kink and fetish really helped me understand the community and how things worked. Through my boyfriend, I also met many other Asian fetish guys in the area and region, and by interacting with them, I learned that the main inspiration for their fetish was derived from Tom of Finland art.
It is not hard to understand why Tom of Finland has such appeal for gay men in general and specifically those from the Far East. Every Tom's man is strong and assertive in his own way. He knows what he wants and how to get it, and, almost like a fantasy, he does always get it. Touko had created a utopia where he could escape from cruel reality, where social norms did not allow him to live his life to the fullest. He was not a particularly strong man, constantly struggled with pain from the war; but through his arts, he opened the door to a place where men, including himself, were free to express their innermost self to the public eyes. That was truly a gay oasis, indeed!
Things have changed so much in the past few years; we now have gay marriage in many European and North American countries, and recently, Taiwan was the first place in Asia to legalise it. Gay men can now freely express themselves in the media and gay and fetish prides help to raise the awareness of the LGBT community around the world. However, there are still many countries where LGBT people are still suppressed by conservative families, societies and government. To these men, an inspiration for freedom, fetish and sexuality is important, as it gives them a hope of a more accepting future for them.
Tom's men have been the perfect inspiration for Asian gay fetish men to dream, live and improve themselves. I think these men display more than just sexual freedom, they show what they want themselves to be; no matter what sort of orientation, physical outlook or social behaviour they possess. I think everyone can be a Tom of Finland man as long as he knows what he wants.
The SM dynamics in Tom of Finland has always fascinated me. The submissive gives his trust in exchange for control, dominance and dictatorship from another man, over almost every aspect of his life. He works for, pleases and obeys all the Dominant's whims without a second thought. Some may say such power exchange is one-way, but I always think it's a mutual development. The submissive serves but at the same time he learns to be more disciplined and organised. His life is decided, but his well-being and emotion are taken care of. Each day they learn more about each other's abilities and attitudes, as they learn how to satisfy their needs and become better individuals at the end of the process.
Such relationships require a long time for the two to get to know and become familiar with each other. This should be the foundation for all relationships, not just among gay and fetish men, one built on trust and understanding. Once men know how to trust each other and themselves, they will find it easy to open themselves to love, be liberated from the mental struggles and become who they want to be. They will be more willing to share and help other men that are still finding themselves on their own fetish journeys.
For Asian fetish men - who are not the majority in the gay community, especially where homosexuality and fetishes are not appreciated - brotherhood between same-minded men is ever so important. In the art of Touko, the brotherhood of men is a recurrent theme. They look to each other, not just for the sex, but for company, exchange of ideas and conversation. While the way fetish men carrying themselves today is different from the time of Tom Finland - more types of fetish are emerging, more attitudes can be seen regarding the life of fetish - one thing that still remains is the love and support from many fetish brothers within a community. Younger men can look up to their seniors for advice and outlooks in the scene, while older generation can still find inspiration and new ideas in the youngsters. Brotherhood brings and embraces men together, giving them the courage to pursuit their fantasies with their own kind.
Unlike the western countries where there are a large number of fetish venues and events for the masses, the lack of such commodities in Asian countries means that the fetish men have to organise these gathering events for themselves. And unlike those events in western countries where a large commercial aspect can be seen, the fetish gatherings in Asia seem to be more organic, sincere and cosy. There may be just a karaoke session instead of loud music with famous DJs and dance parties, small but sensual BDSM sessions instead of the wild orgies. For us, those are the opportunities to be in our favourite gear, admire each other and have a little fun behind closed doors, away from the judgement of society.
Perhaps, that set-up is more favourable for the reserved nature of Asian men. Being reserved does not mean we are weak, it means that we think about other men before each individual and we try our best to support the community. We do not look out for attention from the masses, but we wear our gear with pride, and in a way, we create a sexual appeal filled with mystery and wonders, which properly reflects the hunky images of Tom of Finland. In the end, is it not the message of Tom of Finland to be confident and finding love and brotherhood in those who share the same 'skin' with you? I think so…
Tom of Finland shall, for a long time, remain the universal work of art that embraces the love between men. Its impact in the gay community as a whole, and that in Asia, has shaped the fetish landscape into one that is more evolved and colourful than ever before. Tom has shown us that anyone can follow their dreams of freedom, being true to oneself and their own sexuality and orientation. To end this, I would like to answer the question posed in the beginning: every man has a Tom inside of him.
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