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The May 11, 2017 issue of The New York Review of Books had the (full page) photo (above) along with a “review” of an exhibition at the Japan Society (in New York City) called A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Edo-Period Prints and Paintings (1600-1868).
(The photo, of the beach boy,, has no connection to the Edo-Period prints, but I’ll provide a connection.)
Ian Buruma, Professor at Bard, hosts the “review” of the Edo-Print exhibition, and makes a clear point that the adoration of young men in the era under consideration, while having a sexual patina [shudo], is more to do with the aesthetic appreciation of the temporary beauty of boys before they mature (move to puberty).
The Japanese youth [wakashu] pictured and “worshipped” as the exhibited prints show are not depicted in pornographic poses but, rather, are shown to be immersed in activity that mimicked that of geisha.
The boy-love depicted by the Japanese prints illustrates the taboo topic of boy-love in the West, where seduction of youth is criminal. The Edo prints, in exhibition, had no illustrations of shunga, homosexual acts offering, rather, young boys being seduced by older women, generally.
The Japanese shudo is very like that of pederasty in ancient Greece: samurai warriors adopting boy-love much as Greek warriors – Achilles being an example – “adopted” young boys as sexual partners and aides.
As for the photo above – surrounded by a review of Caravaggio paintings, Caravaggio, himself, a homosexual renegade of the Baroque era – is not to be viewed lasciviously but as a paean to youthful beauty.
That the NYRB chose to include this handsome photograph, in context with reviews about homosexual art and artists, is, perhaps, troublesome, although I doubt that many practicing pedophiles subscribe to the Review.
Nonetheless, I feel that the boy photographed is not to be viewed as a sexual object but as an icon of innocent youth, something not to be marred by leering homosexual men (or cougarish women).
(The sources of the Edo prints pictured here appear in the image's JPG title.)