Artisan or Courtesan? Prostitute or mistress? Opinions...

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Artisan or Courtesan? Prostitute or mistress? Opinions...

Post by IG Team » Tue Aug 23, 2016 6:55 pm

Musashi:

I don't think you can say "a geisha is definitely ***". I'd say, it really depends on what era we're talking about and what level of "geisha-arts". A lower skilled geisha would more likely step towards pillowing with a customer than a higher skilled one. Though, even the star of the Edo pleasure quarters is certainly not immune to this.

Now... let's begin with one example.

Geisha Ichiharu in 1750 at the height of the Edo period. Let's say she's in Edo and one of the stars of the Yoshiwara. A member of the Matsudaira family (they were related to the Tokugawa after all) becomes interested in her. Now, I would say, whether he'd buy her contract or not, wouldn't really matter. She would be foolish to resist someone with the influence and power of a Matsudaira, since it could ruin her career (and once you're on top of the food chain you don't want to leave it anymore).

Would she sleep with him? Most likely yes.

Would she be an artisan with that still? Of course, after all, she's only pillowing with the Matsudaira and nobody else and she'd still do her normal duty as geisha.

Would she be a courtesan wit that? Certainly, but not different than any woman before her who had been the mistress of a man of power (Eva Braun, to name a famous historic example, was Adolf's "courtesan", too, until they married, and I can't consider her to be a prostitute; or take any of those young woman who're roaming around the big guys in the Formula 1 circus (Ecclestone, etc) and who end up in a relationship with them).

It would, however, not necessarily make her a concubine (I consider concubines to be women who are at the same place as their "master" and maybe even his wife (more like a harem)). Some of the Tokugawa shoguns had concubines, who resided in Edo castle. Either that or he would exclusively visit her for the purpose of pillowing (after buying her contract).

Different example (oh I love doing this  :evil: )...

Kyoto 1937. The geisha Setsumi attracts the attention of general Ishikawa Masahiro. He goes ahead and doesn't just buy her contract, no, he goes even farther than that. He takes her out of Kyoto and puts her into a specially prepared house in the suburbs of Tokyo, so that she's exclusively available for him (normal "geisha arts" to show off to other high ranking military, government or industry members and pillowing included). Now that would make her not only a courtesan, but also a concubine, too, since -as luck would have it- the general is married, with children, too. But, she'd also remain an artisan.

Certainly, this is more likely to happen in the feudal times, but... artistic license!

Let's hop on to another example...

Osaka in the late 1860s... Setsuhana is an average geisha, but... she, too, has to make money and compete with the other women in the pleasure quarters. So it happens that, every now and then, and if the customer is appealing to her, she might pillow with him, or, if the money's right, she might pillow with someone who's not really appealing, too.

And because it's so funny, another one...

Kyoto, 2004. Hanako is one of the few throughout the country who work in the geisha profession. Now, would she step over the "border" and pillow with a customer? Certainly, but not for the same reasons as her predecessors. Hanako would sleep with him if she'd find him interesting (or something like that). She'd do it for the same reasons as Satonaka Yuki, who's working for traffic police in Tokyo, or Hatakeyama Aki, who's a teacher on a high school in Matsuyama... That reason is... that she's just human like any other person and humans have certain needs every now and then. Could money be involved? Possibly, though, I'd say as geisha she wouldn't really do it for money today, since she'd make quite a lot with a normal party.

As you see... there isn't really a straight line or border and it certainly depends on the era we're talking about. Things change over time. And it also depends on the people involved.

So basically, I would agree with Tokis-san (and I might start calling you Birdie-san soon, since "Tokis-Phoenix" is long and I'm lazy :P)

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Re: Artisan or Courtesan? Prostitute or mistress? Opinions...

Post by IG Team » Tue Aug 23, 2016 6:56 pm

Ikumatsu:

Hm... well I don't really consider a courtesan a prostitute per-say. I consider a courtesan to be a woman who is in a relationship with one high ranking man such as a king or emperor, and usually not out of choice. The Topkapi harem is a perfect example of this. Courtesans play an important role because they ensure that the king/emperor/sultan will have a son to pass rulership to. When the king dies and there is no successor civil war erupts. Not only that but they were also used to create bonds between various important people. For example a nobleman or neighboring ruler might give a king a courtesan as a gift to solidify his loyalty. Not sure if this is how it worked in Japan.

Any woman who sleeps with various men for money I would see as some kind of prostitute, not a courtesan. There are various levels of prostitutes. Some are classier and choosier and some cannot afford that luxery.

A mistress I see as someone who probably did have some level of choice. A wealthy (ususally) man takes a liking to her and puts her up in a nice place and pays for her things in exchange for a relationship with her. Often times the man is not in love with his wife so he kind of has two wives. One that he married for social/financial/family reasons and one "for fun" so to speak.

I would consider tayu and oiran high ranking prostitutes. Geisha I would consider artisans who have the option of being something akin to a mistress. She may take a danna and give him special privilages but it's not prostitution because he's the only one. I don't consider being with one man prostitution. Many people marry for money but that doesn't make them prostitutes. I consider a mistress-like situation a relationship of sorts. So I wouldn't consider a geisha having a danna prostitution. HOWEVER if a geisha falls upon hard times and sleeps with multiple people for money/gifts that's prostitution. But it seems that most geisha do not do this so I would not consider geisha prostitutes by default.

I hope any of that made sense!

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Re: Artisan or Courtesan? Prostitute or mistress? Opinions...

Post by IG Team » Tue Aug 23, 2016 6:57 pm

littlebird246:

My personal interpretation of the difference is that a Geisha is "free", while a courtesan is basically a "slave", indebted to her patron to the point she may never be free.

I know it's much more complicated than that, but I got this opinion from reading "Women of the Pleasure Quarters".

I'll have to refer to my book again.it's been a while since I read it. I think of a geisha/danna relationship as more of a husband and wife than courtesan/patron. And just for arguments sake( I don't want to offend anyone, REALLY), could you not make the argument that a woman who is financially supported by a man she sleeps with is a prostitute?

Also when geisha appeared, they had many more freedoms than courtesans, and were actually a reaction to the role of courtesan..i.e they could live outside the city in which they worked, blah blah blah. I'm sure this has all changed over the years. Again I will look it up and get back to you...

I just think a lot of this discussion is based on western morality, which is very different than Japanese(apparently).

You should hear how my very conservative Japanese dance teacher speaks of Geisha...she says they are supremely talented artists and entertainers, VERY high class...the absolute cream of the crop. She was very offended at the portrayal of Geisha as "courtesans" in memoirs. I can tell that in her mind there is no hint of scandal in anything a geisha does.

This is PURELY my own opinion! K guys! I don't want to argue, just discuss! I personally do not think that Geisha can be considered courtesans in any way, and that's where I come from. I totally respect your point of view if you feel differently. I do loves me a good debate! :lovelove

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