Erotic art has been around as long as man or his ancestors have been able to draw on things. Some of the most erotic art is Shunga, a Japanese term for erotic art. Inspired by illustrations in Chinese medicine manuals, Shunga could be said to be the grandfather if not the great-grandfather of hentai or at least inspired the world of hentai. Anyone who knows Shunga can see the modern interpretations from the classic The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife by Hokusai in genres of hentai.
Shunga by Utamaro often portrays courtesans (old school prostitutes, modern day escorts) in various sexual relations. He was held in high regard for his level of sensitivity and psychological nuances with courtesans. Back in the day of old, courtesans in brothels were celebrity like, on the par of the Kardashians and such. Those who were courtesans were unattainable because only the wealthiest men back in those times would have any chance of having sex with them. While men looked at them longingly, women looked at them as glamorous fashion icons. The art of Shunga inspired the fetish of courtesan.
As taboo as sex is now in most Asian cultures, erotic art from centuries ago show that it hasn’t always been the custom.
Shunga has shown us the homosexual side through art from Hokusai who portrayed lesbians which was rare as male on male trysts were more common as well as masturbation. Shunga also used symbolism as well to represent things like virginity (blossoms) and ejaculations (tissues).
The non-realism of some Shunga more than likely inspired hentai as Shunga also had over exaggerated genitalia, non-realistic positions, and sex with animals.
If one looks at Shunga today, it may seem innocent compared to today’s erotic art but it was the one that drove the ancient men and women into the land of horniness.