Why Finland's Provocative New Stamp Could Never Debut in America


Yes, that is a photo of a man's nake buttocks on my credit card payment.

This September, Finland will release its autumn stamp series which includes the artwork of Touko Laaksonen — better known as pseudonym Tom of Finland — in a release that corresponds with the Postal Museum's exhibition "Sealed with a Secret — Correspondence of Tom of Finland."  

The drawings chosen for the postage represent Finland's style in all his iconic glory: homoerotic masculinity, complete with bulging muscles — among other things — bare asses and uniforms. Finland's service as a second lieutenant in WWII undeniably influenced his use of uniforms in his art work. 

But Timo Berry, a graphic artist who helped to select the drawings, emphasized the sensuality inherent in all of Finland's work. "The sheet portrays a sensual life force and being proud of oneself," Berry said in press release. "There is never too much of that in this northern country."

It's important to note that Finland's rendering of homo-eroticism is not meant as an homage to the more typical sentiment of "gay pride." Rather, it embodies the sexual subcultures of "the erotic" — sensuality, kink and the primal masculine strength of Finland's half-clad male figures.

There is also a tinge of humor and irony in all of Finland's work that distinguishes it from homo-eroticism found in the United States (which will release its own "gay pride" stamp, featuring Harvey Milk, next month). 

Image Credit: Linn.com

While Itella development director Markku Penttinen told the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat the decision to feature Finland "was discussed," the stamp's relatively easy approval process highlight how uncomfortable the U.S. still is with ideas of sexuality and eroticism — especially between men.

It took years to approve the Harvey Milk stamp, a completely innocuous design featuring the smiling visage of one of America's most celebrated gay politicians. And one can only imagine the outcry from such hyperbolic organizations as the One Million Moms if the USPS ever dared to go bare.