Marijn Kruijff
1 min

Why Did Courtesans Make a Certain Sound During Sex?

1 min

The courtesans in ukiyo-e are recognizable by their intricate clothing and even more by their hairpins (kanzashi). The more hairpins, the higher the status. Another distinctive element is the kimono sash (obi), which courtesans wore tied at the front rather than the back.

Fig.1. ‘Kamuro and high-class courtesan‘ (c.1855) from the series ‘Ikuyo no mutsugoto‘ attributed to Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865)


This was not just symbolic; putting on a kimono and tying the obi sash is arduous and lengthy. Off course, a woman who needed to undo her kimono multiple times a day favored the ease and convenience of fastening it in the front.

obi sash

Fig.2. ‘Anal intercourse‘ (c.1821) from the series ‘Manpuku wagojin (Gods of Intercourse)‘ by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

Sound During Sex

In many cases we see the courtesan with tissue paper in her hand or tucked in her obi sash, although, during sex, she may hold it in her mouth. It is said that, to please their clients, courtesans were schooled to make a certain sound during sex, that was best produced with a tissue in her mouth (Fig.2.).


Young maids are sometimes depicted next to the courtesans. These are called kamuro (apprentice courtesan) who are identified by the flower-design pins decorating their hair. Flower pins in general were worn only by young girls.

Click HERE to check out a translation of the monologue by a foul-mouthed courtesan!

Source: ‘Japanese Erotic Art: The Hidden World of Shunga‘ by Ofer Shagan