As an artist, Tom of Finland had his finger on exactly what made homo hearts beat faster. Each of his men was a walking (sucking, fucking) compendium of everything that was sexiest about a man. Other homoerotic artists of the time (Quaintance, Étienne, Harry Bush) drew some very arousing male figures as well, but what made Tom’s work unforgettable to the gay men who saw it was the subliminal message of pride and affirmation. That took it beyond what any heterosexual erotic art could ever be for straight viewers (who did not need the reassurance). By the later drawings, the extra meaning was no longer subliminal. Tom’s men demonstrated for all to see that it was okay, it was even fun, to be gay.