Publication Details

McLelland, M. (2015). 'How to Sex'? The Contested Nature of Sexuality in Japan. In J. Babb (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Modern Japanese Studies (pp. 194-209). United Kingdom: Sage Publications.

Additional Publication Information

ISBN: 9781848606630


There has been a tendency in English and other European-language reporting on Japan to stress the strangeness and otherness of Japanese values, particularly in regard to sexuality. Reports of Japanese immorality go back as far as the sixteenth century when the first Jesuit visitors to the country were appalled by open displays of cross-dressing and male-male sexual relations (Cooper 1965). After the ‘opening’ of Japan in the mid-nineteenth century, Victorian visitors were alternately intrigued and shocked by the government-regulated prostitution that took place in Japan’s many pleasure quarters. Commentators have noted how the figure of the geisha, in particular (albeit geisha do not necessarily perform sexual roles), has been much fetishised across the last century by Western observers (Allison 2000).