The Aesthetics of Female-Likeness

Erotic Abstraction, Attraction, and Aversion
  • Katherine Mezur


Certain aesthetic principles form the basis for the special miryoku (fascination) and beauty of onnagata gender acts. The major onnagata aesthetic principles are yōshikibi, the beauty of stylization; uso, the fiction or lie; aimai, ambiguity and transformativity; iroke, eroticism and sensuality; zankoku, torture; and kanashimi, deepening sorrow. Yōshiki (stylization), or the controlled design of all performance elements, is the fundamental strategy that governs the aesthetic canons for onnagata gender performance. Onnagata are aware of these principles and use them strategically to build a role’s central motif.


Gender Role Male Body Role Type Female Gender Role Male Gender Role 
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    See James R. Brandon, “Form in Kabuki Acting” 65–113, and Samuel L. Leiter, trans. and eomm., The Art of Kabuki:Famous Plays in Perforrnanc (Berkeley:University of California Press, 1979). Both scholars deal extensively with kat and stylized performance.Google Scholar
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© Katherine Mezur 2005

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  • Katherine Mezur

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