The Fabulous Cocks of Shunga Art.

The Fabulous Cocks of Shunga Art.

erotic shunga art by senju

My Shunga portrait of the famous Kabuki character “Sukeroku” (from the play with the same name). His cock is very large but this is how male genitalia was portrayed in Edo period Japanese erotic art.

 

The cock in Shunga

There has always been a great deal of surprise, giggles and astonishment surrounding the size of the male genitalia portrayed in Shunga. I remember that one of the first explanations I heard (more than 20 years ago, before I became interested in Japanese art) was that the average size of Japanese cocks are very small. The sizes the penises are rendered in Shunga was of course making up for the inherent inferiority complex that (still, surprisingly) comes with not being hung like the proverbial horse. Hopefully it goes without saying that cock-size confusion has nothing at all to do with the enormous penises in Shunga. One might think that it would have something to do with male gender domination. That the cock conquers all. Hmmm….that¨s not it either. It is true that the almost comical and at the same time erotic art of Shunga was aimed at a consumer group predominantly male. It is also a fact that it was considered really dirty pornography by Japanese people of Edo period days, but if you still think that cock size was important in the same way men seem to think in today’s wester culture then you are paddling in the wrong direction.

If you study a number of Shunga woodblock prints or paintings and look a bit closer you will probably find that the vaginas are equally oversized. Now, why is that? Was there a vagina-size complex going around as well? Of course not. Japanese art should not be viewed with the same eyes (or mind) used when viewing western art. There are many things central to Japanese traditional prints and paintings but what we call “realism” (and revere so highly) is not one of them. In fact, things like showing depth through light and shadow or portrait likeness was not something the artists strived for. The visual language sings a completely different tune. For example, volume in rendering the lavish Kimono of an Oiran was achieved through using varying weight in lifework. The Japanese artists used ink and brush for drawing and this lent itself to highly expressive lines. A skilled artist had no problem using this technique to breath life into his or hers work.

Likewise, keys to unlock the mystery of who was really who in an artwork was usually achieved by using symbols, objects or by placing the character in a context that  was well known to the viewer. This is why all the samurai in Ukiyo-e all look bewilderingly alike when you look at their faces but their armor, clothes and helmets are vividly  and painstakingly designed. When seeing Kato Kiyomasa wearing his characteristic helmet whilst fighting a tiger you can immediately tell that whose legendary exploits you are currently viewing.

So why the oversized genitalia? The simple fact is that they formed the center of attention in Shunga design. The genitalia draws your attention and you can go right into it! This form of erotic art was, as said earlier, predominantly aimed at a male audience and mostly used as visual aid when masturbating. The image needed to be easily read as the user flipped the pages of an arousing book. Little time was needed or desired for artistic contemplation. Who stops to admire the artists genius when you are about to orgasm? So now you know.

erotic shunga art by senju showing an heavily tattooed man holding his erect cock.

In “Otokodate” I show a more realistic size cock.

So what about big cocks?

The size of ones cock really seems to matter after all. At least if I would subscribe to the idea of what a man should be when men as a group defines themselves as sexual beings. This seems to really be the one and only thing. That and the ability to dominate and subdue women and perhaps fuck at lightning speed. Hard. Uncompromising. It starts early. Boys measuring themselves against each other in the school locker room. I remember being teased by the other boys even as high up as in high school. Apparently I wasn’t the “stallion” that was expected of me. Not that I really cared, even if it hurt when the the others called me names and pointed. And not that I was “small” either. In hindsight I think it was my glasses, my complete disinterest in sports and my affection for books and knowledge that served as the real “penis” envy.

When I was 15 the boy in our class that sported the longest slack dick in the locker room was of course very good at sports and not so highly achieving in others areas. And there is of course nothing wrong that. I liked the guy and he was nice. The other boys however could not stop talking about this guy and his cock and for some time he was a hero to them. A real man. Like they all wanted to be. It is just sad that we all had unknowingly bought into the patriarchal structure and hierarchy already at such an early age.

The cock in modern pornography

When I grew into a teenager during the late 70’s and early 80’s there was very little pornography to be obtained. It mostly consisted of small magazines that you would never dare to buy yourself. Sometimes when there was newspaper collecting day in my neighbourhood (people threw their old newspapers in a open container that was later collected by a truck) one could climb up during nighttime and rummage for comic books and the like. Sometimes, very much sometimes,  we found porn of various kinds. This is where we first saw the erect cocks of men (and the vaginas of women) but I recall that the male “actors” was not very heavily equipped. In fact it ranged in between all sizes and shapes.

The internet pornography of today is dealing much more in stereotyping. It seems to me to have very little to do with sex as it is in real life. If the industry can dictate what sex is it can also dictate our urges and needs. It becomes a self serving entity that I see as destructive. Here cocks are big and men are aggressive fuck machines that use women to satisfy their sexual urges and whims. It is also unfortunately where young boys and men learn what is “real” sex and how they should be in order to fit into the contemporary patriarchal norm. There are also adds placed that tells you that; yes, you’re cock is not big enough and that if you buy some pills not only will your penis grow but so will your sexual capital.

The cock in reality

We all want to be close to others. Preferably very close. That is when humans are at their best I think. Forget football scores, going to the moon, waging wars and driving really fast. Love and compassion is what we are actually made for. Sadly we get tricked into believing otherwise by our parents that were tricked by their parents and so on. In turn they were also fooled by culture, society and tradition that life is a tough bastard so we better be prepared, know what is right and “normal”, fear the unknown and smash it in the head with a great big stick.

At least this is what expected of you if you are a boy or a man. And men really fear not fitting into their group. I would dare to say that “normal” hetero men actually values being liked by other men more than they do being liked by women. And of course, if your penis is inadequate it becomes really dangerous. But what is a adequate cock then? Here we should paus and you can all go and read this very good and scientific information on penis size. Done? Good! How do you feel about your penis now?

In reality we all have very different cocks ranging in-between somewhere 13 and 15 centimeters. In every group of 100 men there will be five that have bigger cocks and also some that are bit smaller sized. The extremes are few and far apart. Love what you have and get to know it really well (unless you haven’t already). It is not a weapon or an instrument of terror. It’s a cock.

The Senju Shunga cocks

When I create my erotic works I have come to have very little preference as to what things should look like. Drawing large cocks are fun as are drawing vaginas. I remain true to the idea of the original shunga most of the time but I also deviate from the path when I see fit to. My original idea was to create erotic or pornographic works of art that can reclaim at least a part of what the porn industry are actively stealing from us in order to make millions of dollars at the same time that they are further solidifying the gender roles that makes up the foundation of what is wrong with our human world.

/Senju

For further reading on what makes my Shunga read “Shunga and how I found my artistic voice (finally).”

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Shunga and how I found my artistic voice (finally).

Shunga and how I found my artistic voice (finally).

cock, pussy, shunga, fucking, wooden clogs, geta, kimono, bathtub

The Shunga painting “Asaburo”, which I created during July 2017, is a very good example of how I have come to develop my contemporary view on this form of erotic art.

 

The Edo period form of erotic Japanese art called Shunga (Jap. “spring pictures”) was something I was vaguely familiar with through my daily studies of Ukiyo-e and other Japanese arts in my profession as a traditional Japanese style tattoo artist. After 10 years as a common tattooer creating pretty much on customer demand I had grown tired of not properly approaching my ideas of what kind of an artist and person I was. For various personal reasons and circumstances Japanese art, culture and spirituality increasingly came to play an important role in my life so the decision to become a Horishi (traditional Japanese tattoo artist) suddenly became unavoidable and necessary.

I quickly came to understand that in order to master this great feat I had to study. Very Hard and everyday. So I did just that. I read everything I could get my hands and eyes on. In Irezumi, the traditional Japanese tattoo, the artist usually used Ukiyo-e woodblock prints or paintings as reference for composition, style and content. Most of my clients wanted the images of warriors, heroes or various animals tattooed on their backs, arms and legs, usually combined with Japanese seasonal flowers and a background depicting water or wind.

In the world of Ukiyo-e there were many active artists at any given time during its 250 years of success. Many of these came and went without leaving traces in art history but a few such as Hokusai, Kuniyoshi, Utamaro, Kunisada, Hiroshige and Yoshitoshi ended up changing even the evolution of western art. Hokusai created on of the most recognized pieces of art in global human art history when he designed the famous Kanagawa-oki nami ura, (“Under a wave off Kanagawa”).

Kanagawa-oki nami ura, “Under a wave off Kanagawa” by Katsuchika Hokusai.

 

One thing that all these important artist have in common was that they at one time or another produced Shunga. The time and place in history where they lived and worked was unique. Edo was a “boom town” with a surplus of male inhabitants. Sexual or intimate encounters with females were rare or in many cases unobtainable. So pornography became a commodity of necessity. Images of sex became high in demand for masturbation purposes and the business of Shunga was highly a highly lucrative one.

It was the winter 2012/13. I had been tattooing since 1991. My marriage was since long failing. At the time I didn’t know it but I had been ignoring or postponing the discovery of my artistic voice. I was highly successful as a creator of Japanese tattoos and my popularity was painted in an ever ascending arc of more clients, further recognition and a steady income. Inside I was struggling. I was becoming depressed and  emotionally depleted. I had lost myself in the process it seemed.

A few years earlier I had ventured into book publishing together with another creator of Japanese Tattoos and we were supposed to go to a famous tattoo convention in Milan in order to present and release our latest book. As a tattoo artist it is common to design and print sheets of design, “Flash”, and sell these to other artists and collectors at the event. If these sheets proved popular it usually provided the opportunity for a little extra income during the convention. I had been doing it for years and years. This time, as so many times before this, I was thinking hard in order to come up with something new and unique. It had been a bit of a trademark for me. Since my studies into to Japanese culture and art were so deep and intense and since so many other artist did not really study these things I had been constantly able to present new approaches to the old subject matters.

I can’t really remember why I chose Shunga as the theme this time. Perhaps it was because at the time hardly any other tattoo artists painted or drew any designs like this. Perhaps it was an attempt of self love. In a failing relationship I was just like the men of Edo. Alone and thirsting for intimacy. Also, I had always liked to push boundaries and break taboos. What ever the reasons were I started to create five images doing the best I could with the materials and knowledge I possessed at the time. Suddenly ideas were flooding my creative mind. I found use for knowledge unusable in tattooing. The designs quickly evolved into complex images and each of them became a Shunga painting in their own right. This is how the finished sheets came out.

senju, horimatsu, shunga, erotic, erotica, japanese, japan, umeå, sweden, porn, pornography-1-2

senju, horimatsu, shunga, erotic, erotica, japanese, japan, umeå, sweden, porn, pornography-1-2

senju, horimatsu, shunga, erotic, erotica, japanese, japan, umeå, sweden, porn, pornography-1-2

senju, horimatsu, shunga, erotic, erotica, japanese, japan, umeå, sweden, porn, pornography-1-2

senju, horimatsu, shunga, erotic, erotica, japanese, japan, umeå, sweden, porn, pornography-1-2

I had them printed as a limited edition of 25 sets and put them in a specially designed slipcase and went to Milan. In all honestly they weren’t as successful as I had hoped for but the reactions I received and the many interesting and positive conversations that took place surrounding these sheets during the convention really inspired me. I understood that perhaps I have found that voice.

As a person I am soft spoken but with many words. I experience emotions on a deep level. I am not an aggressive type. Positivity and always rising from the debris of everything imaginable is something I have always done. I am  very serious person yet full of humor and laughter. Emotionally I take my time and stay out of rash decisions but creatively I take leaps of one thousand miles at a time and fear nothing. I do believe in love as the most valuable of jewels of the human heart ( not just romantic love but all types of love). All of the above are perhaps the reason why I lean towards Zen buddhism, non-violence and dialog. Unfortunately this way of being as a person isn’t exactly the easiest path to tread in societies like ours. You can perhaps say I make a very lousy “Man”.  Hopefully a better Hu-Man.

As I continued exploring (I still continued tattooing at full time as well as published books) I found that I already had a strong sense of imagery and how to combine the erotic with things I wanted to say and questions I wanted to pose. Also it was arousing to paint these images. The idea of being horny took on new dimensions and I slowly started to re-discover myself. And heal.

Edo period shunga usually depicts sexual encounters in-between couples, perhaps wife and husband or other constellations of lovers or persons intimate, and is mostly free of body shape ideals or the idea of sinfulness (no God, no Sin). Not many things were taboo when it comes to sex in Edo Japan. Homosexuality for example was not considered abnormal but was rather a part of the sexual society in Shunga. Most of the images are intimate and private, focusing on the encounter and placing the viewer or user as a voyeur. There are of course exceptions to this rule where and sometimes even rape is portrayed but these images are very rare and cannot be seen as even remotely relevant in a discussion regarding Shunga.

A great book to read, and a personal favorite, on the subject of Shunga is Sex and the floating world: erotic images in Japan 1700-1820  by Timon Screech. In this book he shares the conclusion that the imagery of Shunga is one that is strongly linked to the erotic and intimate fantasies of the men of Edo a that specific time in history. Namely that the idea of closeness and intimacy with a person on a romantic / passionate / Intimate level was for most men an unobtainable dream. Another great book on the subject is this wonderful book by Rosina Buckland.

Of course, women in feudal Japan did not experience much freedom, locked away by conventions and gender roles  instituted by the male ruling classes, and their story remains sadly untold to a great extent in Edo shunga, since it was mostly orientated towards male consumers of pornography.

This is why taking the ideas of Edo period Shunga into my own contemporary world, blending and grinding it together with who I am, what I feel and my life experiences works so well for me. What comes out of this union of Then and Now and Me and You can perhaps be the beginning or part of reclaiming the erotic, the intimate, the passionate and the sexual. I certainly hope so.

/Senju

 

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Senju interviewed by KONBINI

Senju interviewed by KONBINI

cock, shibari, kinbaku, bamboo, erection, penis, rope play, bondage, ukiyo-e, shnuga, japanese

I have the pleasurable experience of being interviewed and published on the French version of KONBINI, so if you are at all interested please click here 

The interview is in French so for anyone not fluent in the language please us google translate and you will hopefully have an enjoyable time.

/Senju

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“Aizen Myoo”

“Aizen Myoo”

fellatio, cock, bonji, porn, pornography, cocksucking, blowjob, kimono, shunga, erotic art, erotica, sensual, pleasure

“Aizen Myoo” shunga erotic painting by Senju. A new version of an older painting I created in 2015.

Shunga is here and now. Even though commonly regarded as an artform of days gone by, exploring its spirit and history has provided me with a tool with which to resist the hollowing of heart that seems to be the disease that we as humans suffer the most from. The line separating lust and passion from greed and and consequent suffering is thinner than the razor’s edge. With eyes half closed you easily confuse what is being mercilessly and repeatedly dressed up and presented as “reality” with the real human heart.

Pornography, as it appears to us on the internet and in the constant sexualization and exploration of the female body and of women as objects of mens sexual desires in media and advertising, is not to be confused with “reality” or even “fantasy”. In “pornography” everybody looses out.

Pornography should be snatched away from the traffickers, the oppressors, the power hungry and greedy, the emotionally dumb and blindly devouring industry that re-packages and re-sells the same old ideas, structures and values that enslaves us all. Sexuality, passion, love and lust belongs only to ourselves. By exploring and examining what we discover within ourselves when we look bravely and without fear inside our own hearts, by uncovering falsities and prejudice within us, by nurturing fearlessness of emotions and throwing away all that garbage we have been told is “reality”, then we can create something real for a change.

/Senju

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Shunga and the art of the masquerade.

Shunga and the art of the masquerade.

kabuki, benten kozo, shunga, erotic, erotica, porn, irezumi, japanese tattoo, sakura, cherry blossom, masturbation, cock

My Shunga print of Benten Kozo depicts the lead character in the famous Kabuki drama “Aoto Zoshi Hana no Nishikie”. He is an outlaw in late Edo period Tokyo (then called Edo) and in the most famous act of the play he is disguised as a woman in order to stage an elaborate act of fraud in a high class fabric shop. Only when revealing his tattoos does he transform back into a man in the eyes of the other men populating the stage at the moment.

In my erotic portrait of Benten Kozo I have chosen to depict him when pleasuring himself, still in full female attire. I suspect that the blend of women’s clothing, make up and the erect throbbing cock instantly suggests that the scene would be homosexual when viewed through the normative eyes of western culture. But is this really true? What is really going on when you view this art work?

Our gender roles as well as our sexual identities are predominantly decided by the norm of our society at any given moment in history. There is nothing inherently Gay about this image (and I am not saying that it isn’t), yet it comes across as one. I have noticed that when I share an artwork on social media that depicts a cock that is not explicitly entangled in a normative heterosexual encounter most men that usually like or comment positively suddenly vanish from the scene. The comments I receive are usually not very sexually orientated but rather express appreciation for the beauty of a piece, perhaps even the skill with which I have applied my artistic talents. So why does not the very same comments apply to an image of a man masturbating?

I think it has to do with the fear within the male group. To be seen as a lesser man. To be in opposition to the norm. to be “weak” (because strangely enough Gay is almost synonymous with weakness of some sort). Despite all their hoopla, bravado and talk about bravery men are as a group hopelessly afraid for what other men would think of them. Where did we learn all this nonsense? When liking an image on instagram you usually double tap it. Are men imagining that they touch a penis when they touch the image on the screen? Is the conditioning so great?

We as humans in the western hemisphere play an awful lot of weird little games concerning our emotions and sexuality. Lost in abstractions and ideas inherited through the narrow mind of monotheistic religions we set up barriers built of ideas we didn’t even know we had. We are taught a myriad of things as true and then cling on for dear life to all the treasures of stupidity.

When we view erotica and pornography it works as arousal mainly because we imagine ourselves taking part in the act we are viewing. So a heterosexual (another label) male would upon seeing another man having sex with a woman place himself in that role. Why does it not work when viewing a man masturbating? For me it does. Touching and pleasing myself is most pleasurable and I can easily assume this role when viewing it. If you think a cock looks beautiful, does it make you automatically gay? And to be honest, I never ever heard a man say that a pussy was beautiful.

As adults we have to sift through a tremendous pile of rubbish left us by culture and “norm” in order to obtain the few real pearls of reality that are hidden within. A good way of starting to really live and not merely pretend that you do, is to start asking yourself the simple question of “What do I really feel about it?”

For a more in depth view of how my mind works when it comes to erotic art please go here and here.

Here you can view the famous act with Benten Kozo from “Aoto Zoshi Hana no Nishikie”

 

/Senju

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New prints added to the Gallery Store.

New prints added to the Gallery Store.

cock, pussy, kimono, insertion

The Shunga painting “Entering the Palace”by Senju Horimatsu. Fine Art reproduction on heavy matte paper.

I am currently exploring the path of being an artist in its full sense of the word, and I am enjoying every moment! After 26 years of tattooing the world of my art is finally coming into full bloom. What a tremendous joy to create freely and without any other consideration than what pleasures me. This of course means that new art will be created and that there will be new prints added to the Gallery Store almost on a weekly basis. I have plans for collecting the shunga into hardbound books that in them selves will be works of art, and I have plans for more paintings, textile experimentations such as scarves, tote bags and clothing. There will also be handmade and fully functional sex toys which will blend the worlds of getting aroused by viewing a work of erotic art and then using it for your own pleasure.

I begin this with adding three of my analogue paintings on canvas to the Gallery Store as limited edition prints. Enjoy 🙂

/Senju

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