Recalcitrant or Obedient? Same-Sex Love and Female Students

Same-sex love was a discernible feature, a fad, among female students during colonial Korea. Intimacy between female students, as long as it did not involve sexual acts, was considered a healthier form of love than intimacy with male students. Some archival sources from the era go as far as stating that most female students had experienced same-sex love at some point in their school life. Even those female students who disclosed their same-sex relationships in the newspaper and magazine, upon graduation, would pursue heterosexual marriages and dedicated themselves to the making of a “sweet home.” That is to say, same-sex love was not necessarily tied to sexual identity (although we cannot eliminate the physical dimension altogether), but rather, it was more of a socio-cultural phenomenon. By engaging with newspapers, magazines, essays, and literary texts during colonial Korea, this paper seeks to examine the social and cultural meanings of same-sex love among female students. Recent studies in disciplines such as women studies, anthropology, and sociology indicate that same-sex love was rampant across gender, age, and class, and it was largely overlooked without any stigmatization or restrictions. I contextualize same-sex love within the imposing feminine ideals of the era which centered on virginity, chastity and the prejudices against free love stemming from feudalistic oppression. That is to say, same-sex love was driven by two irreconcilable impetuses: while defying the heteronormative ideals, it was an offshoot of feudal ideology that upheld virginity and chastity as women’s foremost important virtue and duties.
The Asian Studies Conference Japan
Issue Date

The 21st Asian Studies Conference Japan (ASCJ 2017)

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HSS-Conference Papers(학술회의논문)
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