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The History of Japanese Sexual Liberation!

The History of Japanese Sexual Liberation!

In the annals of human history, the subject of sex has always been intertwined with culture, religion, and societal norms. Different societies have approached this aspect of human life with a diverse range of attitudes, often dictated by the prevailing religious beliefs of the time.

In the case of Japan, a land steeped in rich cultural traditions and ancient myths, the history of sexual liberation is a fascinating journey that reveals a unique perspective on human sexuality.

This blog delves into the intriguing history of Japanese sexual liberation. We will explore how religion, particularly Shintoism, shaped the Japanese attitude toward sex and examine the cultural factors contributing to their open and tolerant approach.

Along the way, we'll encounter stories, customs, and practices that shed light on the Japanese view of sex as a natural and essential part of life.

Japanese Sexual Liberation:

Shintoism: A Religion of Minimal Restrictions

Shintoism, the indigenous religion of Japan, played a pivotal role in shaping the Japanese attitude towards sex. Unlike many other major world religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, which imposed stringent regulations on sexuality, Shintoism was remarkably liberal in this regard.

Shintoism emphasizes a deep connection between the spiritual and physical realms. It celebrated the natural world and saw divinity in the ordinary aspects of life, including human sexuality. This contrasted sharply with the teachings of religions that often regarded sex as sinful or impure.

In the words of a Japanese myth about the creation of Japan,

"My body, formed though it be formed, has one place which is formed to excess. Therefore, I would like to take that place in my body which is formed to excess and insert it into that place in your body which is formed insufficiently, and thus give birth to the land."

This myth exemplifies the Japanese belief in the sacredness of procreation and the seamless integration of sex into the cosmic order.

Sex as a Natural Activity

For the Japanese, sex was not just a means of reproduction but also a celebration of life and pleasure. This perspective led to a remarkably open and tolerant attitude towards sexuality. Regardless of whether the sexual encounters were of a heterosexual or homosexual nature, the Japanese did not stigmatize or vilify such relationships.

The Role of Class and Sexuality

In Japanese society, class distinctions play a significant role in shaping the dynamics of sexual relationships. Men, especially those from the upper classes, were afforded certain privileges regarding matters of the heart and the bedroom.

It was not uncommon for men of noble birth to have multiple wives, concubines, and mistresses. Although not unique to Japan, this practice was tolerated and, in some cases, even encouraged. These relationships were often viewed as a testament to a man's wealth and status.

However, a shadow of historical practice looms over this otherwise liberated perspective. Like the Greeks and Romans, Japanese elites also engaged in pederastic relationships with young boys. While such practices have long been condemned by modern society, they underscore the complex interplay between power, privilege, and sexual practices in Japan's history.

The Edo Period: An Era of Sexual Freedom

The Edo period (1603-1868) it marked a significant era in Japan's history, characterized by relative peace and stability. During this time, the country experienced an unprecedented flourishing of culture and art, extending to sexuality.

One notable aspect of the Edo period was the emergence of the "floating world" (ukiyo), a term that encompassed the pleasure quarters, theater, and entertainment districts. Here, individuals from various walks of life could come together to indulge in sensual pleasures, including sexual encounters.

The culture of the "floating world" celebrated the idea of "ukiyo-e," or pictures of the floating world, which often depicted scenes of beauty, sensuality, and eroticism. Artists like Kitagawa Utamaro and Katsushika Hokusai became renowned for their exquisite woodblock prints exploring human desire.

Geisha and Courtesans

Within the "floating world," geisha and courtesans played a crucial role in providing companionship and entertainment to patrons. While geisha were known for their artistic talents, such as music, dance, and conversation, courtesans offered a more intimate connection.

The world of geisha and courtesans uniquely blended artistry and sensuality. Patrons could engage in intellectual conversations, enjoy refined performances, and, if they desired, partake in romantic or sexual liaisons. These women were often celebrated for their beauty and grace, becoming iconic figures in Japanese culture.

The Art of Erotica

The Edo period also witnessed a proliferation of erotic art known as "shunga." Shunga, which translates to "spring pictures," encompassed a wide range of explicit prints and paintings that depicted sexual acts. These works were not hidden in secret but rather openly enjoyed and collected by individuals from all social strata.

Shunga art was not limited to pornography; it explored love, desire, and intimacy themes. It is a testament to the Japanese view that sex was not a taboo subject but a natural and integral part of human existence.

Modern Times and Changing Attitudes

Japan underwent significant cultural and societal changes as it entered the modern era. The Meiji Restoration of 1868 marked a turning point, as Japan embraced Westernization and underwent a rapid transformation.

With Western values and norms influencing Japanese society, attitudes towards sex began to shift. Victorian-era ideals, which viewed sex as a private matter and promoted sexual restraint, began to make inroads into Japanese culture. This led to a gradual departure from the open and permissive attitudes of the past.

Final Note:

The history of Japanese sexual liberation is a captivating journey through time, revealing a society that celebrated sex as a natural and essential aspect of life. Shintoism's influence, coupled with the cultural practices of the Edo period, created an environment where sexuality was openly explored and enjoyed.

While modernization and Westernization changed Japanese attitudes toward sex, the legacy of a liberated past resonates in various aspects of Japanese culture. Today, Japan is a unique blend of tradition and modernity, where ancient myths and contemporary values coexist, shaping the complex tapestry of Japanese sexuality.

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