Courtesans and Tantric Consorts: Sexualities in Buddhist Narrative, Iconography and Ritual

By Serinity Young | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11

WOMEN, MEN, AND IMPURITY

FEMALE SEXUALITYAND POLLUTION

To be in a state of impurity means that one has been exposed to pollution or has been involved in sexual activity. Culturally and religiously, South Asian women are represented as excelling at both, which allows men to claim purity for themselves. The very nature of this discourse endows men with purity in that it focuses on women, not men, or if men are the subject it is as victims of women's sexuality or pollution. In contrast to the exploration of women's auspiciousness in previous chapters, what follows are these two very different but equally important themes in the lives of South Asian women. As we shall see, fantasies about women's voracious sexual appetites and perceptions of female pollution are the reverse side of the female coin.

Asian ideas about pollution involve many features of everyday life, such as death and contact with other castes. 1 My interest here is on female pollution, which in many cultures focus on menstruation and childbirth. 2 Having arisen in South Asia, Buddhism accepted the widely held belief that a menstruating woman, through the most casual physical contact, can pollute men, especially monks or high-caste males, as well as temples or other sacred places. According to the law book of Manu:

Even if he is out of his mind (with desire) he should not have sex with a woman who is menstruating; he should not even lie down in the same bed with her. Aman who has sex with a woman awash in menstrual blood loses his wisdom, brilliant energy, strength, eyesight, and long life. By shunning her when she is awash in menstrual blood, he increases his wisdom, brilliant energy, strength, eyesight, and long life. 3

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Courtesans and Tantric Consorts: Sexualities in Buddhist Narrative, Iconography and Ritual
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Advance Praise for Courtesans and Tantric Consorts ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Note on Transliteration xix
  • Introduction xxi
  • Chapter 1 - Rejection and Reconciliation 3
  • Part II - Parents and Procreation 21
  • Chapter 2 - Mothers and Sons 23
  • Chapter 3 - Medical Excursus 57
  • Chapter 4 - Fathers and Heirs 67
  • Part III - Sexualities 81
  • Chapter 5 - Wives and Husbands 83
  • Chapter 6 - South Asian Courtesans 105
  • Chapter 7 - Courtesans in Buddhist Literature 121
  • Chapter 8 - Tantric Consorts: Introduction 133
  • Chapter 9 - Tantric Consorts: Tibet 149
  • Chapter 10 - The Traffic in Women 165
  • Chapter 11 - Women, Men, and Impurity 179
  • Chapter 12 - Sex Change 191
  • Chapter 13 - Other Lands/Other Realities 211
  • Conclusion 231
  • Bibliography 233
  • Index 249
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