Okay, so I now have at least 6 usable sources for my paper. Possibly up to eight. And yet, I have not yet actually just sat down and started figuring out what to use as citation material, what exactly my thesis is, and all of the things I want to argue to support it. There's really not much you can do without a clear thesis. On the other hand, my general subject is fascinating: the characterisation of different [sexual] relationships during the Edo period by society/art/etc in Japan and how everything catered entirely to the male gaze... I guess there is a fraction of a thesis somewhere in there. I must have saved nearly two dozen unrelated PDF articles by now simply because searching for articles for my topic turned up so many interesting articles--unfortunately I can't allow myself to actually read them right now, because obviously that would be ridiculously counterproductive.
Plus, digging into this one little corner of Japanese history has made me ravenous for more--the floodgates are open and now I just can't seem to stop the questions pouring out of me. I'm itching to know more. Anyway, back on topic.
What I have been pondering is the way relationships functioned in the Edo period.
Men and women got married, but the wife was often seen as a duty and the husband would often pay visits to his favourite prostitutes, both male (usually younger--or at least pretending to be younger) and female. Having male lovers was not seen as weird, sinful, or wrong (this in direct contrast to how it was percieved at the same time in the west) though of course marriage between two men was completely out of the question. Marriage was a duty, remember? Not usually about love--about connections, procreation. Sex between men was about lust, or even love. Where do women fit into this equation? Good question. What about lesbians? Better question. There was plenty of representation, in erotic art, of 'lesbians' pleasuring each other, always with some sort of outside instrument (usually a dildo, but it could be other things too), never with each others bodies alone--in other words, these 'lesbians' in the art were meant entirely to please the male gaze, and that was society's idea of a lesbian, too. Yes, by all means, the 'younger' partner in the homosexual relationship was there to please the other male, but in the lesbian 'relationship', both partners were seen as being there to please the male, not each other. Instruments, really.
Fast forward a couple dozen years. There is a publically-reported instance of 心中 (double suicide)... between two lesbians in love (who were harrassed because of their relationship). People write in to newspapers mocking them, making fun of the whole thing. A double suicide happens between a man and a woman who were to be married off to different people? Those writing in express sympathy and awe at how strong their love must have been, to not want to be parted from each other--it is lauded as a sad and tragically romantic act. It is remarkable how stark a difference it is. And one of the main reasons that there is such a difference is that people did (and some still do) not view the lesbian relationship as a "real" one, because it had no 'male' element in it. They weren't catering to the male gaze--so how, society felt, could their relationship have any value or depth?
This can be further illustrated by pointing out that monks would vow never to have sexual contact with females I suppose to keep themselves "pure"... yet found it perfectly acceptable to have sex with each other [other men]. What does this say? Well, basically it says that a female is impure or that a female lacks depth (spiritual depth, for instance), which is why it was acceptable to love or have sex with their fellow male monks, but that doing so with a female was reviled. So women having sex with women was like a double negative. It couldn't have any [emotional, spiritual etc] depth, and it couldn't really have much value. Isn't it infuriating?
Goddamnit, I was enjoying all my rambling, and then I realized that I still don't have a thesis.