Pleasure Seeking: A History of Sexuality and Eroticism in Japan (17th to 20th Centuries)
Original title: L’esprit de plaisir. Une histoire de la sexualité et de l’érotisme au Japon (17e -20e siècle)
A fascinating dive into the realm of Nagisa Ōshima and an exploration of a misogynous society, unbridled sexuality, and uninhibited morals by two eminent specialists in Japanese culture.
During the Edo period (1603- 1867), “pleasure-seeking” blossomed in Japan, leading to tremendous tolerance for both nudity and sexual preference, whether that meant love for young boys, who were so dear to the samurai, or for prostitutes. The inventiveness of shunga erotic engravings, the “pleasure districts” where tayû and geisha lived, and truculent kabuki theater — which played fast and loose with both gender and social class — all bear witness to that.
After the archipelago opened up to the outside world, a desire to appear civilized to Western eyes led the Meiji period (1868- 1912) to rein in loose morals, thereby corseting desire, curbing the erotic imagination, and recasting homosexuality as indecent. The Roaring Twenties brought the aesthetics of pleasure back. Emancipated moga (modern girls) became the standard-bearers of a mass-culture celebration of sensuality that lasted until the ban on prostitution in 1958 put a stop to all that, and eroticism became a world of standardized fantasies.