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The erotic imagery of the geisha
  1. Lesley Smith
  1. Curator, Tutbury Castle, Tutbury, Burton-on-Trent, UK
  1. Correspondence to Ms Lesley Smith, Tutbury Castle, Castle Street, Tutbury, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire DE13 9JF, UK; info{at}

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To see a geisha in real life is an unforgettable experience and one I had only recently when I saw a vision of a perfect white and pink doll face crowned with an equally perfect high dressed and shining black coiffure floating along a London street surrounded by admirers. She appeared very tall, balanced as she was on high wooden shoes that caused her to sway gracefully with tiny steps, and around her body was wrapped a gown of pale green and gold. Her beauty was so extraordinary, almost otherworldly, that I cried out with pleasure at the sight of her.

I, along with others, have heard the stories about geishas once being prostitutes, albeit at a high level. This young woman was about as opposite to any sex worker of the Western world that I have ever met, and I have met quite a few over the years, particularly when I was researching the life of 17th century English prostitutes.

The allure of the geisha lies in the mysterious cool air that surrounds them, which is highly erotic and has no place in hot, raw sex. Writers have described geishas not only as feminine icons but also as highly trained actors, able to weave an atmosphere that enables men to escape from the rushed and stressful world to join the geisha in the play of her making, the word for play being …

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