This is where you can read the manhwa. https://www.lezhinus.com/en/comic/painter But be aware that this manhwa is a mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes. If you want to read more essays, here is the link to the table of contents: https://bebebisous33analyses.wordpress.com/2020/07/04/table-of-contents-painter-of-the-night/
In this essay, we will try to answer what the characters have been seeking during their intimacies. Did they want sex or love?
If we look at the first sex session, it becomes clear that Seungho was looking for sex, or more precisely speaking, for excitement and arousal. He wanted to see a new erotic painting so that he would get aroused from it again. That’s the reason why in the chapter 1 he asked to the painter while taking care of the noble:
This truly reveals that sex as such didn’t create much pleasure in his sexual life. The paintings Baek Na-Kyum created were the only tools that could arouse him. On the other hand, Jihwa has always been longing for Seungho’s love, but used sex as an excuse to get closer to him. He even hoped that at some point his childhood friend would come to fall in love with him. In other words, for Seungho the sex session was more for sex, more precisely for sexual stimulus, while it was love that motivated Jihwa hence he made love to Seungho.
Yet at the pavilion, this situation somehow changed. Seungho showed arousal without any external (chapter 3) stimulus, his phallus was still erected after Jihwa’s first climax. It looks like Seungho was attracted by Jihwa… so much that his appetite couldn’t be satiated. This gave Jihwa the impression that something had been triggered in Seungho. He was finally appealed to him, this gave him the illusion that his dream had come true. He mistook the excitement as a sign of “love” making him believe that he had now more privileges than the other sex partners. In his mind, the sex at the pavilion was love and even love for him, while in reality for Seungho it was just the discovery of real pleasure in sex. He had finally come to love sex with men. Since he kept seeing the painting in his mind, it was as if he was making love to himself. Hence I interpret that for the powerful noble the sex at the pavilion is a mixture of sex and love. He finally comes to love sex with men and to love himself as a seme. He feels his own attraction.
That’s why he says: “I can’t think of anything else”
These words truly expose that he isn’t paying attention to Jihwa’s needs and doesn’t focus on giving him pleasure. It was all about his own ecstasy and sexual enjoyment. But since Jihwa is used to Seungho’s selfishness, he didn’t pay too much attention. He was just happy that Seungho had now become a real homosexual and even felt enticed by him. That’s why he acts as if he was a lover after the sex session at the pavilion. Now, imagine his disappointment. In chapter 5, Jihwa comes back only to discover that the attraction and excitement was so short-lived. He can’t focus on him because of the painter, hence he sends the noble away:
“In any case, I am not in the mood today. You may leave”. (chapter 5)
Then later, the young noble is reminded by Seungho that he was just looking for sex and nothing more, while we know for a fact that Jihwa has been longing for his love all this time.
Here, it becomes clear that Jihwa never really understood Seungho’s true motivations behind the sex parties. He really thought that the rich noble was just looking for sex as a diversion and entertainment, while there was another motivation behind all this: the revenge against the father. He never imagined that Seungho was not a homosexual for the start. He must have explained the issues with the arousal that Seungho had no deep feelings for the sex partners. However, deep down, the powerful master was longing for something else: genuine love.
Then we have the “wedding night” in the painter’s chamber (chapter 20-21). During that night, Baek Na-Kyum confessed his “love” for the learned sir. He was longing for his love because he had been rejected by the low noble before (chapter 19). The drunkenness allowed him to express his love based on an illusion and manipulation. That’s why we see him kissing Seungho so tenderly and even embracing him while caressing his back: (chapter 20)
On the other side, the lord was rather looking for sex. He had been wanting to taste the young man and Jihwa’s words
“Yoon Seungho has fallen into sodomy that he is now reaching for a low-born” (chapter 18)
gave him another justification for this move. Since people kept saying that he was interested in the young man, why shouldn’t he do it for real? That’s why after the long kisses, when he noticed the sexual desires and ecstasy on the low-born’s face due to his blushing and moaning,
the lord suddenly pulled up this butt and removed the artist’s pants quite violently.
These simple gestures reveal his strong desire to have sex with the young man. He is so impatient, he is only focused on his own needs. He has finally the opportunity and is even able to create some arousal in the low-born. He is definitely looking for a good sexual experience with him. However, the long kisses mixed a certain tenderness before are demonstrating that Yoon Seungho was definitely feeling more than sexual desires. The foreplay did last quite some time which was unusual for him. He didn’t even realize the lack of inexperience in the commoner, although he should have sensed it with the innocent confession and kiss. But he is stopped by the commoner who finally concedes to be a virgin. Striking is that Baek Na-Kyum puts his hand on Yoon Seungho’s shoulder while crying,
he is even sitting on his lap. Both are facing each other, their bodies are so close touching each other. Strangely, the noble is not angry at all. He is a little annoyed that his “appetite” has not been fulfilled, yet he doesn’t get angry or violent.
This closeness and the hands on his chest have a calming effect in my opinion that’s why despite his comment showing a certain annoyance, he accepts the tears and the break. Furthermore, this marks the pivotal moment during their “wedding night”. For the first time, Seungho is forced to pay attention to his partner’s needs leading him to create pleasure. Because Baek Na-Kyum spoke about his fear and about being a virgin, Seungho has no other choice to be more careful. And from that moment, if you pay attention to their conversation, you’ll notice that Seungho keeps asking about the well-being of the low-born:
“Why are you so quiet?” / “If you do not tell me… I cannot help you“
He makes sure that the other feels comfortable and even comforts him, when he feels pain after the first penetration. And notice that he is hugging the young man, while kissing him. His gaze has totally changed. While in the first part, you could sense pure lust in his eyes, now his gaze is much softer and oozing warmth. He makes sure that his partner takes pleasure and feels good during their encounter. This contrasts so much to the sex scene at the pavilion with Jihwa, where he ignored Jihwa totally and was only focused on himself and his urges. He even apologizes for taking the low-born’s virginity which was preserved for someone else. (chapter 21)
Here, he is smiling and his gaze is full of warmth. For the first time, he has experienced how to make love. He came for sex but found love. By giving ecstasy in his partner, it made him feel good. But this is not the end. Baek Na-Kyum hugs him, which Seungho likes very much. He is feeling warmth and tenderness. Yet, he has to hear the name of the loved one which bothers me. However, he decides to return the huge despite the “misunderstanding”, he wants to give the embrace Baek Na-Kyum is longing for. Therefore he puts him on his lap.
Simultaneously, he asks to be called differently, to let him know that he is not sir Jung In-Hun. He definitely hopes that Baek Na-Kyum will remember calling him “my lord”.
And he kisses the young man with such a gentleness. He is no longer looking for sex but love. That’s why when the low-born confesses that making love to him made him so happy, he can’t help himself to kiss the eye and the tears again.
This gesture shows tenderness and love. He has never heard before that he could make someone happy. He, who has felt so miserable for so long and only saw himself as someone repulsive and terrible, is finally able to evoke genuine happiness. The sincerity moves the lord so much. The tears, the hug, the words have reached his heart. And the climax of their wedding night is when Baek Na-Kyum admits that he likes him by whispering it into his ear, a very sensitive place.
This gesture and the simple words have an impact on him. So far, he has never been confessed before. All his sex partners were just interested in his body and wealth, even Jihwa, who loves him, was too scared to confess his love for him out of fear that Seungho might reject him for good. For the first time, he felt loved and made someone happy. While he was looking for sex in the beginning, he found love in the end. All this time, he could never connect sex with love. But since he could pleasure the young man so well, he believes that once the man is sober and remembers, he will remember the ecstasy he felt thanks to him. That’s why Seungho believed that the commoner wouldn’t reject him, besides he is used to be sought out. He is well known for his good performance in bed. He thinks that the pleasure felt can move the young man’s heart so that he can switch his place with the teacher. His gestures contrast so much to the first part where he was brutal and rough… in the second part, he is gentle and sensitive. He listens to the low-born’s whispering and sees the tears. His behavior stands in opposition to his attitude at the pavilion with Jihwa where he was blind and deaf. He could only think of his own image from the painting.
Now, if we analyze the sex scene at the pavilion in the chapter 25, we come to realize that here Seungho was expecting to find love. He had imagined that the painter had remembered their night together as Baek Na-Kyum had mentioned that he was keeping something embarrassing in his belongings. Imagine his surprise, when he discovers that the painting was about the masturbation. For Seungho, their first night together was unforgettable hence he is annoyed that the artist has not remembered it. That’s why he tries to repeat the same gestures from that night. He kisses him (chapter 25
and explains his actions hoping that this would trigger his memories and their love making would be renewed. But none of this happens because he is rejected by the uke. He never expected a violent rejection. He never imagined that pleasure and love are not the same thing. That’s why he decides to force himself onto the poor artist. He really thinks that his performance will convince the young man to accept him as his partner. So he went to the pavilion in order to find love but it ended up in a violent sex session. Notice that unlike in the chapter 3, he pays attention to the low-born’s reaction. He wants to witness the sexual enjoyment but he only hears and sees pain. He hugs him trying to mimic the same gestures from that night . But he fails and for many reasons. First, he didn’t face the uke but took him from behind, just like he did with Jihwa. So this position doesn’t create intimacy, furthermore he believed that sexual performance was the reason why Baek Na-Kyum cried out of joy during their wedding night. He never thought that feelings play a much bigger part. Actually he has been in love with the low-born right from the start (a growing attraction was there) but since he has never felt anything before, he can’t technically recognize these feelings as love. The low-born went to the pavilion with no expectation and experienced raw sex with such a violence that he couldn’t love the noble. However, like I described it before, the wet dream from the chapter 2 reveals that Baek Na-Kyum desired Seungho so much. He wished that he had become Jihwa and even replaced him. As a conclusion, it started with love and became raw sex for the master, while it was just violent sex for the painter.
In the chapter 31 and 32, it is quite clear that this was all about sex. Seungho wanted him to accept his true sexual orientation, to witness his own sexual enjoyment by seeing his own facial expressions. At the same time, Seungho was still longing for love. That’s why he kisses the man right in the beginning. Sure, he wants to be the cause of his arousal, hence he ensures that he provokes an ejaculation.
Therefore he uses his hand and says this: “This time I will see you get hard for me.“
This is again brutal sex but unlike in the chapter 25, his goal is to give sexual enjoyment to the young man. He has to because if not, the artist would never been able to admit his homosexuality. Hence we can say that the master has learnt his lesson from the rape. He can’t force himself like that, yet he is still quite rough.
On the other hand, Baek Na-Kyum has to accept everything from the master. He can’t reject him as he had promised to do everything he wanted. So the sex with the lord is like a task, an order but at some point, he experiences pleasure in the sex. Furthermore, the noble hasn’t given up on his own sexual needs hence he is not satisfied with one session. This sex marathon is a mixture of love and sex… deep down, the noble is looking for love but he has no idea how to get it. If he is able to evoke ecstasy in the commoner through sex, then he thinks that he will be accepted by the young man. So his sexual performance which made him quite famous becomes his “hindrance” which he doesn’t realize. Besides, he is still quite selfish… it is only, when Baek Na-Kyum has collapsed that he realizes his mistake. And here, it ends with a gentle kiss announcing the change in Yoon Seungho. He can no longer be proud, act like a master. He has to lower himself therefore the kiss marks a pivotal moment in the noble’s life. (Chapter 32) He has realized that his behavior has not been normal. He is confused hence he doesn’t get angry, when he is criticized by the doctor later. He knows that his emotions made him blind so that he somehow endangered the painter’s life. He must definitely feel guilty but he sees it as his duty to make sure that Baek Na-Kyum can recover.
During that time, he starts sleeping elsewhere. He visits his sex friends and even participates in sex orgies. Here, it is quite clear what the protagonist’s real intention was. He was looking for sex in order to understand what led him to act like a crazy person in the presence of the painter. What was he looking for? During the separation, he makes a huge discovery: sex is not his true motivation, he gets aware that he has been longing for the painter’s attention and affection. Besides, due to Min’s words, he gets aware that he wants Baek Na-Kyum for himself. He is “his”. He knows that now but he has no idea how the artist will react after his recovery. He could definitely blame him for his illness and the sex marathon. Little by little, the main lead is learning to differentiate sex and love. What I mean is that he has learnt that sex is a way to express love, making the partner feel sexual enjoyment and pleasure is making love. It is about to give and not just to take. That’s why from that moment, the seme is focusing on pleasuring the artist. He feels that he needs to wait so that Baek Na-Kyum will come to fall in love with him and will express the need to have sex with him. So he is definitely waiting for Baek Na-Kyum’s move.
But unfortunately, it doesn’t happen like he expected it. Instead of being a love confession like during the first night, the artist is crying. He is so sad and upset that at the end he asks to be hold.
Striking is that Baek Na-Kyum is asking for comfort and love because “being hold” indicates that he wants to be embraced. This is the proof that he is longing for love, yet his mind is very confused. What does he want? Sex or love? The gestures stand in opposition to the words.
On the other hand, the lord is well aware that Baek Na-Kyum can not have fallen in love with him just like that. He knows how deep his love for the low noble was. That’s why he is still hesitating. He doesn’t want to be a replacement, a surrogate like during their “wedding night”. He wants to make the things quite clear.
He will be his sex partner, his lover, the one who embraces him. He feels the huge difference from the love confession in the chapter 20, besides he sees the drawing with Jung In-Hun and he is so turned off. First, he feels the lack of passion and love in the kiss which can no longer be explained by the lack of experience. Besides he realizes that this is related to Jung In-Hun. That’s why he gets jealous and grabs him by the hair.
He is just like during the “wedding night” as his rough side emerges again but this time for a different reason. He is not looking for sex, he wants love but feel that Baek Na-Kyum isn’t giving what he wants. He acts more like a prostitute, someone who is forced to do something. He grabs the Seungho’s phallus without passion, he is just about to be penetrated without any preparation. This contrasts so much to their first night, where Seungho had to be patient and was listening to the uke’s words and moans. So in the noble’s eyes, the young man is looking for sex. Yet the words are reflecting something else which the lord doesn’t realize. All this leads him to think that Jung In-Hun asked him to sleep with him for a favor.
While the lord longed to hear that he was admired and pinned by the young man, he has to listen to a different confession:
“That night I spent with you, my lord, that too… My lord, you… you scare me so much, my heart starts pounding…“
He finally admits that he remembers their first night together and did it willingly but at the same time, he confesses how scared he is in front of Yoon Seungho. As you can observe, the parallels with their first night are so obvious. He holds the lord again begging him to embrace him, while in the chapter 20 he pleaded the lord to be more gentle. Back then he explained that he was scared because he was a virgin. The hug, the tears, the plead are repeated in the chapter 42 but they are triggered by something else: the huge pain caused by the teacher. The teacher is no longer admired, Baek Na-Kyum wants to be hold in order to overcome the rejection and abandonment. Notice the opposition, in their first night he was so pure, a virgin, and now he has become a prostitute. He has been so hurt that he can’t even say the word “prostitute”. He is accepting his homosexuality and is even accepting the lord as his partner because he has no one to turn to.
Striking is that the noble has a similar reaction than in the chapter 21. He is annoyed but no longer angry. At least, he has been able to obtain something. He is no longer rejected but you can feel his dissatisfaction. He would like to be loved and admired like Jung In-Hun, but this will do now for him.
And notice that now they are facing each other, Seungho is no longer taking him from behind. This underlines Baek Na-Kyum’s acceptance and willingness. Furthermore, it outlines their closeness and intimacy. While having sex, Baek Na-Kyum can’t help himself taking the hand of the master and puts it on his stomach. “So it’s all the way in…”
Here again, there is a huge difference between the words and the gestures. He speaks like a “prostitute” or someone looking for sex, while with the hand, he shows gentleness and warmth. This time, Baek Na-Kyum is calling Seungho “my lord”. The noble has finally been able to take the teacher’s place for real. And what caught my attention here is that during the wet dream, Baek Na-Kyum wanted to switch places with Jihwa, while in reality the opposite happened. Seungho wanted to switch places with the teacher and become Baek Na-Kyum’s lover. Despite the raw sex which bothers the protagonist, Seungho can’t help longing for love that’s why at the end, he hugs him and kisses him. (Chapter 42) Here, there is a mixture of tenderness and passion. He is attempting to evoke other feelings in the uke. He actually shows his love for the commoner. While during their first night, the artist cried out of happiness, here the tears are expressing immense sadness and pain. This is the reality: he had never been truly accepted by the low noble. He always saw his social background, a low-born raised at the brothel. He is admitting his sexual orientation which he is now connecting to prostitution. The painter doesn’t see the love in Seungho’s gestures, too immersed in his own suffering. In other words, the lord wanted love here but only got the opportunity to have sex, while deep down Baek Na-Kyum was longing for love but just asked for sex. However, Seungho attempted to shower him with love at the end but the painter didn’t see it, just like during their first night.
As a conclusion, in his mind the lord was seeking for sex and ended up finding love, while Baek Na-Kyum was longing for love and ended up having sex, unaware that his dream of being loved had come true, but he never expected that Seungho would be the one who would come to love him.
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