SSN Interview: Ellis Avery
MS: I also found it interesting that Urako’s love relationship with Inko develops without any self-consciousness. Maybe I’m under the false impression that sexual relationships outside the traditional social order were looked down upon or even punished back then, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. How are lesbian relationships historically represented in Japan? Was there a place for them? Were they ignored?
EA: There’s not a lot of material to draw conclusions from. I would say that it looks like they just turned a blind eye to them. There were no religious proscriptions against lesbianism. There wasn’t a medical discourse of perversity—nor was there in the Victorian period in England or America until the 1880’s, 1890’s with sexologists, Havelock Ellis, and so on. And my partner was writing this book about relationships between women in the Victorian period while I was writing my book, so I got to eavesdrop on her research. It doesn’t seem like there was a lesbian sexual identity per se, which meant that there wasn’t necessarily a place in or out of society. Based on that, it doesn't seem too crazy to assume that the way I wrote it is the way it might have happened, especially in an all-female environment like the geisha world. Well, we don’t know, so it doesn’t seem totally impossible.
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