Whether gay or straight, tattoos have become increasingly popular, and some guys carry them really well. As ancient tribal markings, rites of passage, signs of gang affiliation, pure artistry, fashion accessories or deep meaningful statements, many gay men find tattoos a homoerotic delight. Anyone getting one for the first time prompts a mini-celebration in the tattoo parlour as they become one of the inked fraternity. For gay men it means joining a brotherhood within the exclusive brotherhood we already are.
One of the most famous books ever written, Moby Dick by Herman Melville (1851), has the unforgettable scene where the narrator Ishmael has to share a room and a bed for the night with Queequeg, a South Sea Island harpooner, who is covered in elaborate native tattoos all over his face and body:
“Upon waking next morning about daylight, I found Queequeg’s arm thrown over me in the most loving and affectionate manner. You had almost thought I had been his wife…..though I tried to move his arm - unhook his bridegroom clasp - he still hugged me tightly, as though nought but death should part us twain.”
Melville (whose last work was about the handsome young sailor Billy Budd), makes much of the profusion of strange tattoos covering the islander’s arm, which he can hardly distinguish from the busy pattern of the conterpane. Many a gay reader must have felt the erotic charge of Ishmael’s account. Read the rest of this entry