Yoshida Hanbei 吉田半兵衛 (c. 1661-1711)
The Companion Book of Sex
(Kōshoku otogibōko 好色御伽婢子)
Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), 1695
Woodblock-printed book; ink on paper
Purchase, Richard Lane Collection, 2003

While its depiction of courtiers from the Heian era (794-1185), with their erect phalluses echoing the shape of their distinctive kanmuri headwear, is clearly meant to mock Japan’s classical history, Hanbei’s text displays several other agendas as well. To the right, the artist illustrates the stages of a fetus’ development. (In Japan, the length of a woman’s pregnancy is traditionally described as ten lunar months rather than nine months of the Gregorian calendar.) To the far left begins a lengthy, earnest discussion about how to classify men and women’s genitalia according to aspects of their appearance. (Despite the anatomically accurate illustrations that accompany this discussion, the author makes no apologies for the Heian courtier’s grossly ill-proportioned body.)

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