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11 September 2016 

Voyeurs, Homoerotic Encounters and Ugly Rapists in Shunga

Voyeuristic

The vast majority of sexual liaisons portrayed in shunga are heterosexual. Of these, it appears that favorite scenarios were voyeuristic in nature, with both male and female voyeurs often masturbating or involved in sex with one or more partners. Compositions generally depict a man enjoying the company of any number of women. A woman making love to two men appears only occasionally and then almost exclusively in shunga antedating c.1760.

Lesbian couple making love by using a harigata (dildo)

Fig. 1.  ‘Lesbian Couple with Harigata’,  ‘Shiki no sugatami (Viewing Forms in the Four Seasons), Utagawa Kunisada, c.1842

Homoerotic

Male-male intercourse was not an uncommon subject up until around the 1780s; it virtually dissapeared in nineteenth-century shunga (see Ellis Tinois’ The Representation of Male-male sex in Japanese Erotic Books‘). Some homoerotic scenes are in fact bi-sexual scenes, an older man is having anal intercourse with a younger male who in turn is having sex with a woman (see Fig.2).

Lesbian

Love scenes between women were relatively rare (see Fig.1) while male-male fellatio and female-female cunnilingus was not included in the shunga reportoire. Scenes of humans having sex with animals, usually with dogs, foxes and octopuses, were not unheard of.

Gay Couple and Female having intercourse

Fig.2.  ‘Homoerotic couple and Female’, c.1825. Yanagawa Shigenobu (1787-1832)

Ugly

Rape scenes occur throughout the history of shunga, but the greater number of surviving compositions in nineteenth-century enpon hint at an increased popularity at this time. The men in rape scenes are often presented as excessively lecherous, ugly, hirsute and therefore low class. It is difficult to know what kind of conclusions should be drawn from this, however. Perhaps social convention dictated that the ugly could only gain the favours of a woman by force (see Fig.3).

Gruesome Rape scene in an abandonned forest.

Fig.3. ‘Gruesome Rape in a Forest‘. From the ´Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter: Prospects for the Four Seasons‘. Kunisada, c.1829.

The following video (not visible on Youtube!) explores more shunga designs featuring violent rape scenes:

Mijn film (Unvoluntarily)

Source: ‘Japanese Erotic Fantasies, Sexual Imagery of the Edo Period‘ by Chris Uhlenbeck.

Which subject within shunga fascinates you most? Leave your feedback in the comment box below!

 

About the author
Marijn is the founder of shungagallery.com. With more then 20 years of experience within the sensual and erotic art of shunga he is an authority in the genre. During this time he served many customers with complementing their art collection.
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