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The older partner, or nenja ("lover" or "admirer"), would be a monk, priest or abbot, while the younger partner was assumed to be an acolyte the relationship would be dissolved once the boy reached adulthood (or left the monastery).Both parties were encouraged to treat the relationship seriously and conduct the affair honorably, and the nenja might be required to write a formal vow of fidelity.Both women and young men were considered normal objects of desire, but outside marriage a man was supposed to act on his desires only with slaves, prostitutes (who were often slaves), and the infames.
This practice, along with clerical pederasty, developed into the codified system of age-structured homosexuality known as shudō, abbreviated from wakashūdo, the "way (do) of wakashū".
In many cultures, bisexuals, especially bisexual women, were never thought to exist.
Sexuality that was non-heteronormative was often not discussed, and only allowed if absolutely necessary.
Tokugawa-era writer Ihara Saikaku joked that since there are no women for the first three generations in the genealogy of the gods found in the Nihon Shoki, the gods must have enjoyed homosexual relationships—which Saikaku argued was the real origin of nanshoku.
Male couple on a futon A man reclines with one wakashū and converses with another.