I’ve always been fascinated by society’s obsession with a woman’s so-called promiscuity, how many men she has slept with, her purity, chastity, virginity, etc. There is a stigma associated with so many things when it comes to a woman’s sexuality – if she has had sex outside of marriage, has chosen a lifestyle that others disapprove of, or is a victim of rape or sexual assault. From ancient times to modern day, this theme continues. I have a great interest in the Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana in particular, but really everything from the Shiva Purana to the Vedas to the Bhagavata Purana. In the Ramayana (Rama’s journey), Rama’s wife Sita is asked to walk through the fire to prove her purity, which she does, emerging unscathed and untouched and yet it is not enough to appease the doubters, because the doubts in people’s minds cannot be assuaged if they choose to remain doubtful, corrupted, always unsatisfied, thinking that unless every last doubt is erased from their minds, then it must be the woman’s fault.
The word ‘loose’ normally has negative connotations, but really what could be better than being a loose woman? A woman that is free, unbridled, uninhibited, wild, one who roams this earth, rides into the wind, spends time with her soul, moves to her own rhythm.
One such woman is Radha, the lover of Krishna. She was the ultimate loose woman. She didn’t care that society shunned her, that she was breaking her marriage vows, she didn’t care about anything but pure unconstrained love. She had wild eyes and thick eyebrows and only had eyes for Krishna. He drove her mad, as she did him. Yet they found ultimate liberation with one another that carried through even during their separation. Krishna, Radha, and the gopis would dance frenetically in a dance called the Rasleela, losing all sense of themselves, and joining in the wild dance of life, becoming one with the universe and all of existence. Some would call it madness; others call it enlightenment. Either way it was an awakening.
One of the herbs that I take is called Shatavari. In Sanskrit it can be translated to “She Who Has One Hundred Husbands.” Should I be so lucky?! This herb is critical for libido and longevity. As most people know, in many societies around the world it is common for a man to take multiple wives, but a woman with multiple husbands is unheard of.
But then there is Draupadi, the heroine in the ancient story the Mahabharata. This tale is haunting and gruesome, enlightening and majestic, and reading it will take you to the centre of your soul. She enters into an arrangement to marry the five Pandava brothers, mostly because of a technicality. She initially marries only Arjuna, but when he brings her home, he says to his mother, “I have brought something home that I would like for you to see” and his mother responds “Well whatever it is, make sure you share it with your brothers”. Uh oh! Of course, in those times, you must take your mother’s instructions literally, and so they decide to share Draupadi among the five brothers. Initally she is outraged, but eventually comes to rather like the arrangement. She spends a year with each brother, and during that time none of the other brothers can look at her or think of her impurely. And there is a special arrangement by which she magically becomes a virgin between the hand-offs. So you can only imagine the way Draupadi is regarded by society – she is called everything from a whore to a prostitute, and of course, a loose woman. Yet she is the most powerful woman of them all, and her actions and indomitable spirit change the course of history.
In Afghanistan, a woman can be considered loose and impure for many reasons – even just looking at a boy could brand her this label. In The Underground Girls of Kabul, Jenny Nordberg uncovers the stigma that girls face when they verge on inappropriate behaviour.
A teenage girl should not be anywhere near teenage boys, even in disguise. She could mistakenly touch them or rather be touched by them, and be seen as a loose or impure girl by those who know her secret. It could ruin her chances of getting married, and she would be seen as a tarnished offering. The entire family’s reputation could be sullied.
She talks to a woman named Nahid, who chooses to leave an abusive relationship and is supported by her father who gives the husband all the family money so that she can keep custody of their three children. “As a divorcee, Nahid was seen as a loose, available woman, risking threats and violent approaches by men, as well as plenty of direct and indirect condemnation by other women. As a woman with two sons, however, she is considered a slightly more respectable creature.”
Well after reading all of this (or should I say writing it) I am inspired to be even more loose than before. I stand with all the so-called loose women of the world, and I think we should loosen all the way!