Japan Reclaims Its Tolerant Past

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Queer Voices from JapanQueer Voices from Japan: First-Person Narratives from Japan’s Sexual Minorities
Edited by Mark McLelland, Katsuhiko Suganuma, and James Welker
Lexington Books
356 pages, $36.96 (paper)

 

JAPANESE CULTURE has long accepted the existence of male-male sexual relations and has regarded them as a legitimate erotic outlet for males. By the 17th century, the pursuit of boys by men had become classified as “The Way of Youth” (wakashud), with its own refinements of poetry from the older partner and the gentle bonds of submission and loyalty by the younger. Around the beginning of the 20th century, the public discourse in Japan on male-male sex began moving toward an attitude of disapproval and public avoidance. The Japanese intellectual world was being influenced by psychological and medical theories generated in Europe, where the analysis of human behavior was based on deficit models and personal inner conflict. By the middle of the last century, the lives and loves of people who engaged in same-sex relations had disappeared from society’s view.

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