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Writing the irogonomi: Sexual politics, Heian-style

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Author(s): April Sprague

Journal: New Voices : A Journal for Emerging Scholars of Japanese Studies in Australia and New Zealand
ISSN 1833-5233

Volume: 5;
Start page: 64;
Date: 2011;
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Keywords: Japan | Japanese literature | Heian period | male sexuality | literature | irogonomi | Genji

ABSTRACT
Promiscuous “connoisseurs of love” (irogonomi) such as the fictional Genji and the semi-legendary Ariwara no Narihira have come to define popular perception of Heian period sexual politics; that is, their names have become shorthand for male privilege over women. In this article I will complicate established ideas regarding male promiscuity and privilege in the Heian period through an examination of Tales of Ise, Tale of Lady Ochikubo and Tale of Genji. I argue that, although women’s status as linchpins in the practice of “marriage politics” rarely translated into women’s individual empowerment, men’s reliance on marriage politics placed restrictions on men’s sexuality in ways that are rarely acknowledged by modern scholarship.

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Tangokurs Rapperswil-Jona

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