Polygamy in the Heian Period Polygamy in the Heian Period

A Heian woman's goal was to keep a man interested in her, no matter how many nubile concubines he might retain, so that she would always be financially secure in a polygamous society. A man was often quite content to have at least one woman love him unconditionally in his lifetime; whether she becomes first wife or second concubine made little difference to his emotional well-being.

This period accepted various degrees of sexual freedom for both men and women, varying depending on rank. Virginity, except perhaps principal wives, was not a requirement before marriage, and casual affairs were very common. Polygamy, with principal and secondary wives, official and unofficial concubines, regularized a wide variey of relationships in addition to the casual affair. Genji conducts his love affairs in this system.


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