arrow_drop_up arrow_drop_down

What Are the Secrets of the Genital Exaggeration in Shunga?

One of the most eye-catching features of shunga is the exaggerated size of the male genitalia. The simple portrayal of nude bodies had little intrinsic erotic force, and so in shunga the sex organs are imbued with extra power through their exaggerated size.

Impossibly Large Penis

Less often acknowledged is the enlargement of the female genitalia: the man in shunga wields an impossibly large penis, but he meets his match in his female partner*.

Genital Exaggeration

A komuso (an itinerant monk) wearing a tengai (a basket-shaped woven rush hat) is exposing his giant genitals to a startled male traveller‘ (c.1830s) by an important member of the utagawa school

Pubic Hair

With the genitalia serving as the enlarged focus of many shunga designs, they are given a tremendous amount of visual detail. The shape, textures, folds and pubic hair of both penis and vulva, as well as the fluids emerging, are all carefully depicted.

Private Sexual Life

In the majority of designs the sex organs are of roughly equal size as the figures’ heads, and serve as a balance in terms of their position within the picture. It has been argued that the equal visual weight given to the heads and genitalia implies the inseparability within each individual of the public life as a member of society and the private sexual life.

Genital Exaggeration

Ejaculating adolescent watching two copulating turtles‘ (c.1830s) by an important member of the Utagawa school

Impossible Angles

This compositional imperative to present the genitalia and faces equally results in artificial contortions of the body, which are another common feature of shunga. The woman’s legs are often placed at impossible angles given the position of her hips, and sometimes abbreviations are made in the proportions of torso and limbs for the sake of visual simplicity.

Genital Exaggeration

Buddhist priest performing some kind of phallus ritual while being watched by two carriers‘ (c.1830s) by an important member of the Utagawa school

Foolish Couple

The exaggeration and fictionality of shunga was acknowledged at the time, however, A contemporary humorous verse can be translated, ‘The foolish couple copy shunga and pull a muscle.’

* The focus of shunga both visually and thematically, is the genitals, and so these are depicted larger than life. However, it is not only the penis that becomes a huge organ, the vagina is also comparably engorged. Here, an older married woman straddles her lover energetically, dislodging her coiffure.

Genital Exaggeration

Mature woman on top of her spouse‘ (c1785) from the series ‘The Sleeve Scroll (Sode no maki)‘ by Torii Kiyonaga

Click HERE and check out some exciting penis close-up designs..!!

Source: ‘Shunga, Erotic art in Japan‘ by Rosina Buckland

About the author
Place comment

Want to learn more on Shunga?

We use cookies