Selling Songs and Smiles (Book published December 31, 2006)


Book Details

Author  Janet R. Goodwin
Publisher  University of Hawaii Press
Publication Date   December 31, 2006
ISBN  0824830970
Pages  224

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Selling Songs and Smiles explores female sexual entertainment ("songs and smiles") during Japan’s Heian and Kamakura periods, examining the gradual construction of a transgressive identity ("prostitute") for women engaged in the sex trade. Over some four hundred years, the character and public image of sexual entertainment was shaped by growing restrictions on female sexual activity and increasingly negative views of the female body―themselves the result of socioeconomic change in society at large. Although it is possible to paint a picture of the general decline in the status of women in the sex trade, there were also ambiguities in how they were regarded by society in the very oldest extant references to them in historical sources. Using essays, diaries, legal documents, stories, and illustrated works, this original and distinctive study unravels social attitudes toward female sexual entertainers and examines changes in their trade and the treatment they received at the hands of the court, the bakufu, and religious institutions.

Compellingly argued and stylishly written, Selling Songs and Smiles challenges several prevailing interpretations, most notably the organic connection posed by scholars between shamans and sexual entertainers. Based on her exhaustive research into multiple types of primary sources, Janet Goodwin views women involved in the sex trade neither as entirely social marginals nor artisans situated within normal societal bounds. What emerges from her study is the complex and often contradictory nature of the Heian and Kamakura discourse on sexual entertainment.

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