Peruse an 1814 sketchbook by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai and eventually you’ll come across a bashful, wide-eyed octopus. You’d never guess that the innocent creature leads a secret life of debauchery. But a few years later, there he is on a woodblock print, still wide-eyed, now presented by Hokusai in a moment of infamous passion�his bulbous head pushed between the legs of a young woman, delivering a rather well-received session of cunnilingis. Hilarious and startling, it’s just one example of the explicit shunga, or “pictures of spring,” in an exhibition at the Museum of Sex surveying four centuries of Japan’s cartoonish pornography.
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