Dr. Nabil al-Tasnimi responds to this recent post from Avram Moskowitz, defense lawyer in Duluth:
And so we have these two very different versions of the same Nagai Kafū: to Westerners like Jonathan Crow and Edward Seidensticker, he’s a “whoremonger” incapable of love, while for most Japanese he’s the archetypal kōshoku otoko, or “amorous man of leisure.” With a quick shift in perspective, loveless whoremongery becomes playful dalliance, or vice versa.
These differences in perception become even clearer when one examines how each language deals with, for lack of a better word, “Kafū-esque” male sexual behavior. In Japanese, the words that come to mind are onnazuki (“lady-loving”), onnagurui (“girl-crazy”), irogotoshi (“love doctor”), sukimono (“gallant”), sukebe (“lusty”), uwaki (“playboy”), irogonomi (“amorous”), and so on, each of which is either positive or neutral in connotation.
This isn’t to say, however, that connotatively negative words don’t exist. They do. There’s midara (“lewd”), hiwai (“obscene”), inpon (“wanton”), tajō (“lustful”), inran (“lecherous”), and gyoshoku (“debaucherous”), to name a few. But such terms of disapprobation are usually reserved for sexually unreserved women or reprobates, and are rarely if ever used to describe the more esteemed kōshoku male.
Like Japanese, English too has an abundance of both neutral/positive terms (e.g., amorous, amatory, ardent, randy, etc.) and negative terms (e.g., rakish, lecherous, libidinous, lascivious, concupiscent, prurient, salacious, etc.). Yet for some reason observers writing in English more often than not draw from the set of disparaging terms when describing this Kafū-esque male. (Examples abound, but I’m afraid I haven’t the time right now to dredge them up.)
Wherefore, I ask, is this? What is to account for this radical difference in perception? Why have the Japanese managed to retain a general tolerance for asobi, or play, while such tolerance seems to have eroded in the West? What’s to blame for this erosion? Protestantism? The Puritans? Certainly it wasn’t the Jews. Or was it Marx and Engels and their gender-equality-seeking legions who left us with no room for asobi? I don’t pretend to know, so I’ll conclude with this rather acerbic and not-entirely-related quote from Mr. Kafū:
“Equality of the sexes is all very well as an ideal, but in practice American women are not very desirable. When a woman has really awakened, there is nothing for a man to enjoy dallying with” (Kafū the Scribbler, 22).