Continued from previous post
It is worth saying at the outset that sex was assumed to be a major part of the relationship with the concubine and the mistress, but not the only thing. As in Europe until very modern times, marriages were political and for procreation. They were not necessarily endowed with mutual lust, love and desire. It should be said, by the way, that sexual license did not extend to the wives of the samurai who were expected to be extremely monogamous. The costs of not being so were immediate and as violent as you would expect.
But, in this context the women of the Willow World were expected to be entertaining and charming as well as sexually pleasing and active. There was a strict hierarchy and price scale depending on elements such as beauty, elegance, musical talent, wit and sexual prowess. The movement from one level to the next was controlled by a guild.
|A samurai sharpening his weapon|
As you will have gathered, in Japanese culture there was not (and is not to this day) any of the Judeo-Christian bullshit morality about sex. Sex was seen as a pleasure that was also necessary for mental and physical health. Both the yin and the yang needed regularly exercising and exorcising if someone´s health was not going to seriously suffer.
Pillow books of sexual technique were widely available, any and every sexual practise was permitted, with either sex, and sex toys were commonly used among every type of person.
When the Tokugawa shogunate began in 1603, and organisation, control and structure of society became an even greater obsession (mainly so things could be taxed!) then the Willow World became more hierarchical as well. All of the brothels and tea houses moved into special entertainment areas (which is echoed today in places such as Ginza) and a new division was established between prostitutes and geisha. Prostitutes sold sex and might also sing, play music and tell jokes. Geisha entertained, sang, played music and might sell sex. But only to very special clients and only for prolonged periods of contract.
That might not sound like much of a distinction, but it was seen as crucial. And, by the way, it has to be said that the very few remaining modern geisha are not in any way prostitutes. Their culture has moved away from that since the second world war, which is when this whole system effectively fell apart. It had survived an industrial revolution, the move away from a feudal society and movement into big cities from the country. But it would not stand the arrival of the United States Army.