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

By Serinity Young | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12

SEX CHANGE

Aprimary Buddhist belief is that sexual characteristics are fluid; genitals can change in the next lifetime or even in this one. 1 That the belief in sex change was enduring and widespread is shown by the surprising number of sex-change stories that exist and by their incorporation not only into prominent Buddhist texts, but their presence within discussions of central Buddhist concepts such as karma, emptiness, and illusion. The Buddhist creation myth that describes sexual characteristics as a decline from a primordial nonsexual state lends support to the belief that sexual characteristics, being secondary, can drift.

Most of the stories that follow are more expressive of male fears about losing masculinity than of female hopes of gaining it. In researching Afghan stories about women changing into or disguising themselves as men, Margaret Mills found that they are usually told by men, not women. 2 In other words, even though the stories feature women, they reveal male concerns. This is equally true of the stories that follow, which were told by men and preserved in texts controlled by men. These stories represent male views, anxieties, and fantasies. Although a few stories subvert the wholesale negation of women and challenge the basic notion of gender, overall they privilege maleness. Most tellingly, the vast majority of stories are about women becoming men. An important genre of stories that for the most part indicate gender is fixed, that an individual's sexual characteristics remain constant from life to life, are those of the Buddha's past lives. Yet they, too, privilege maleness. As will be shown, gender is understood to be a reward or a punishment, and many texts argue that achieving an advanced stage of awareness precludes one from being reborn as a female.

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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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