Are Geisha women even prostitutes?

I used to be convinced that Geisha women were highly paid and trained prostitutes (as well as social entertainers) for wealthy Japanese men. However, in the last several years I have seen two (actually it may have been the same show twice I cannot be certain) specials on A&E or Discover on Japanese Geisha’s. They talked about their tough five year training ordeal, expensive dresses, and necessity to learn artistic or musical skills, but sex was not mentioned. Furthermore, they talked about how Japanese mothers considered this to be an honorable profession for their daughters to go into and how even wives don’t mind their Japanese husbands going to Geisha tea parties.

So is the whole sex/Geisha connection purely pulp fiction? In reality are these just highly paid, and trained socialites?

In Europe, at one time, “actress” was synonimous with “prostitute”.

The notion was the arrogence of the first, & many later, visitors.

Does that mean that they are not and that we (or at least I) have had the wrong opinion of them all this time?

Generally not. That doesn’t mean that no geisha ever had sex with men for money, and it’s true that geisha would sometimes become mistresses, but geisha were generally distinct from prostitutes. The role of the geisha was to entertain, through song, dance, jokes, etc. It wasn’t primarily sexual.

This question is probably best for a forum where there are lots of Japanese posters. However, if a good quick fuck was the idea, WHY would any sane Japanese man pay the sort of money that a woman with 5 years training would demand? Geisha’s must obviously have advanced skills beyond sexually pleasing a man.

So do high priced call girls. There are some men who want to be with women of class, who want to take them to expensive dinners and business functions without being embarassed, and then, perhaps, have sex with them later that night. They pay huge premiums for this. From what I understand, the super-duper call girls have college educations, are trained in all sorts of etiquette, have exquisite taste in clothes, can converse intelligently in many subjects, etc.

I would have assumed that Geishas fall into somewhat similar territory - high priced female companions/entertainers who may also choose to have sex with you for a fee. But never having solicited the services of either a Geisha or a call girl, I don’t know if that’s accurate.

During a trip to Japan a couple years ago, the group I was with passed by what was one of the oldest geisha houses still in existance. Someone asked our guide the same question. The response from our host was that the geishas who go through the formal training do not entertain men sexually. However, a good many prostitutes declare themselves geishas, but have no real training as entertainers.

The way it was explained to me, it seems that profession of masseuse here in the US has the same dichotomy. The professionals wouldn’t think about sex, and the sleazy ones try to associate themselves with the professionals.

I think that in Japanese society there was no legal or cultural bar preventing geishas from having sex with men, or affairs. Since the men they associated with were largely customers for their entertaining/hostess profession, it would be reasonable (in my mind) that when they did have affairs of whatever length it would tend to be with men they knew through work. This wouldn’t mean they were prostitutes, any more than any other woman having sex is automatically a prostitute. However, I could see where such relationships might be misinterpreted by outsiders as prostituion, particularly outsiders from cultures where sexually active women were either wives or whores but there was no honorable role for an unmarried sexually active woman

From what I understand, the author of Memoirs of a Geisha was sued by one of the women he wrote about (or that gave input to the book) over just the implication that the OP had in mind.

So generally, the “real” geisha seem to have an answer in mind, for sure…

The situation today is quite different, but as late as the 19th century geisha actually had a social status lower than a good number of prostitutes. J.E. de Becker’s The Nightless City: Or the History of the Yoshiwara Yukwaku is an interesting account of Tokyo’s offical prostitution district in the late 1800’s. The geisha were the entertainers called in by the brothel owners to dance and play music for the 'tutes and their customers. They typically made a good deal less money than the courtesans, and it doesn’t seem to have been uncommon for them to try and make a little money on the side by servicing customers themselves.

btw, although almost all the books say that the Yoshiwara was permanently closed down in the 1950’s, it’s actually still alive and doing quite well.

Sam, it sounds as if you’re champing at the bit!

Join the line…

Nah, I’m married to a babe. (-:

Well, you had me drawling!

I’ve never met a geisha, but I did meet and speak briefly with a maiko (basically an apprentice geisha) the last time I was in Kyoto. Judging from what she told me of her schedule, I doubt she’d have any time for turning tricks. Between dance and music classes, performances, public appearances, and just getting all that makeup on and her hair done, she only had two days off per month. She said she was looking forward to getting to go to the movies on her next free day.

Pretty much. I mean, geisha are human beings and not sworn to celibacy so naturally they do have sex, but they are not sex trade workers.

They are classically trained performance artists. I don’t think there’s any good Western equivelant, but you might compare them to opera singers or ballet dancers – or perhaps closer to the role such women played a century or two ago. Men of wealth and taste hire them to perform at private parties, either for their own enjoyment or to help them to impress their associates. It wouldn’t be unheard of for a diva or prima ballerina to take up with one of her patrons (for free or for fee), and some outsiders might assume that this happened as a matter of course, but it ain’t necessarily so.

In Japan (and Korea), I’ve been taken to expensive bars and sort-of-private restaurants, where a female escort is assigned to every male (typically a group of businessmen). The deal is that they talk, flatter, pour drinks, and even put food in your mouth - but nothing more. (They also escort you to the men’s room, but stay outside.)

This is a very basic, low-level modern version of what geishas are all about. It gives men whose wives “don’t understand them” a woman they can talk to and who will boost their ego and spoil them. By some cultural standards, such men might seem inadequate. Traditionally, marriages were arranged , which might have had something to do with it.

I’d love to see what a Western woman in Japan on business accompanying male colleagues to these places would make of the experience.

I think that this is a concept that might find a market in the United States at least to some extent.

Strictly in my experience…

Hostesses’ jobs are to make sure people have a good time and spend a lot of money on ridiculously over-priced drinks. (So, in a way, they do screw you.) They are typically very, very good at that, though, and invariably people do end up having a good time and come back.

I’ve been to a hostess bar once with women in the group and the hostesses made sure everyone, including the women, were having fun. Actually, in the end, I think the girls had a better time than the men. (Maybe, because drunk guys weren’t hitting on them for a change.)

Incidently, there are also host clubs that cater to women - same idea, sex reversed.

There are also, though a lot rarer, “new half” clubs, where the hostesses are transexuals. Patrons are both male and female, but from what I heard, there are more women. I mention this because these hostesses are closer to geishas than regular hostesses in that they put on song and dance numbers before entertaining the patrons.