Women and Lust

by Satyanarayana Dasa


There are popular statements found in smṛtis and nīti sāśtra that women have eight times more kāma than men. For example: 

strīṇāṁ aṣṭa-guṇā-kāmaḥ
(Bṛhat-pārāśara-smṛti)

kāmaśca aṣṭā-guṇaḥ smṛtaḥ
(Garuḍa-purāṇa 1.109.33, Hitopadeśa 2.71)

The word kāma in these statements is often thought of as sexual “lust,” giving the impression that śāstra considers women to be eight times more sexually lusty than men.

History and experience, however, seem to show just the opposite: that men have a lot more lust than women. Throughout history, female prostitution to satisfy the lust of men has been very lucrative. Men are willing to pay for sex. If women had more lust, wouldn’t it be they who pay men for sex? 

The history of polygamy and harems also support the observation that men have more lust. The incidence of sexual crime further supports it. Every day there is news about women being raped by men, but how often do you read that a woman has raped a man? 

Marriage also generally confirms the observation that men are sexually lustier than women. It is usually the wife rolling her eyes because she has to comply with the husband’s need (or demand) for sex. 

These observations do not tally with the idea that women are eight times more sexually lusty than men. So, either sāśtra is wrong or it has been misunderstood. I suggest the second option.

The word kāma has various meanings besides simple sexual lust. It also indicates desire, an object of desire, affection, love, passion, cupidity, semen, an aphrodisiac, pleasure, amorous sport, the male organ, and a mango tree. It can even refer to Balarāma, Pradyumna, and others. In English also, the word “lust” has various meanings other than sexual appetite. It simply indicates strong passion for anything. For example, the famous, positive phrase, “lust for life” (indicating enthusiasm to live).

We therefore have to select the specific nuances of a word meaning that do not make a śāstric statement contradict other śāstric statements, and the verifications of anumāna (logic) and pratyakṣa (experience). Sexual passion is certainly one possible implication of the word kāma, but is that the meaning that tallies with other statements, and with logic and experience? No.

A far more reasonable meaning to select from the possible meanings of kāma is “strong affection.” In other words, this means that the quality of a woman’s love is eight times more intense than that of a man’s. This is supported by a story told that Bhīṣma told King Yudhiṣṭhira (MBh, Anuśāsana Parva, Ch. 12). Yudhiṣṭhira asked Bhīṣma, “Who gets more pleasure during copulation, the man or the woman?” In reply, Bhīṣma related a story about King Bhaṅgāsvana. 

Bhaṅgāsvana was a pious king with no children. He performed the agniṣṭuta yajña to rectify this. A peculiarity of this yajña is that it does not include Indra. Because of this, Indra felt insulted and he planned revenge. 

One day, the king went hunting in the forest. Indra made him confused and lost. He wandered alone and became tired, hungry, and thirsty. Soon, he saw a beautiful lake full of clean water. After taking his horse to drink, he himself entered the lake to bathe and drink water. To his utter surprise, when he entered the water, he was transformed into a woman. 

As he (now she) looked at herself in the lake’s reflective water, she felt bewildered, ashamed and anxious. Her mind became blank and did not know what to do. “How will I ride the horse as a woman? How can I go back to my kingdom like this, what will my people think? How will I deal with my subjects now? As a king I was valiant and courageous, but the qualities of a woman are much different than those of man. Now I feel very soft and weak.” 

Eventually, she mustered the courage to ride the horse and returned to the kingdom. When she arrived, everyone was astonished, because they could see that the woman was the king: riding his horse and wearing his clothes. The king’s wives and sons asked what happened, and she explained. Then she asked her sons to look after the kingdom and retired from royal responsibilities to live in the forest in the āśrama of a hermit. After some time she married the hermit and had another 100 sons with him. 

Eventually, she returned to the kingdom to reunite with her older 100 sons. She introduced the younger to the older, asked them to cooperate peacefully, and returned alone to the forest āśrama. Her 200 sons lived happily together and cooperated peacefully. This made Indra very unhappy. “I wanted to harm the king,” he thought, “but I seem to have done him a favour.”

Indra decided to create an argument among the brothers. Disguised as a brāhmaṇa, he incited the kṣatriya men to hate the brāhmana men. Thus the 200 sons wound up killing each other down to the last, making Indra happy. Their mother wept bitterly and Indra, still disguised as a brāhmaṇa went to her and asked, “O beautiful lady, why are you wailing so bitterly? You are a renunciate, it is unusual for renunciates to cry.” She explained that she was once a king, who had been transformed into a woman and that she had just lost all of her 200 sons.

Indra relished the sight of her weeping and felt satisfied with his revenge. He revealed himself as Indra and explained that the king had insulted him and he therefore took his revenge by having her children kill each other. Hearing this, she fell at Indra’s feet and begged forgiveness. “I did the yajña to get children, and I did it under the guidance of my guru. I had no intention to insult you.”

Indra offered her a boon, “I can revive one set of your sons. Which set would you like me to revive?” The woman replied, “Please revive the sons who were born to me in this female form.” 

Surprised, Indra asked, “Why do you have more affection for them?” “A mother’s love,” she explained, “Is stronger than a father’s.” Indra was very pleased. He revived all 200 sons and offered one more boon, “I also give you the option to regain your male form or you can continue as you are. Which form do you choose?” “I prefer to remain as I am,” she said. “I do not want to become man again.”  Indra asked why. She replied, “I have enjoyed sex both as a man and as a woman. It is better as a woman.” 

This story shows two appropriate implications of the word kāma in the statements saying that “woman’s kāma is eight times superior.” It shows that women love with greater intensity of affection and attachment. It also shows that women have greater capacity to enjoy sexual pleasure. It does not show that they are eight times more sexually agitated, but rather that they have eight times better capacity to enjoy sexuality.



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Many Sanskrit texts have been misinterpreted due to a lack of knowledge or with the intent to malign and exploit women. If one doesn’t know the hermeneutics of Indian scriptures one will misinterpret what they are actually saying. Because of this misunderstanding women are often being labeled as maya based upon the physical body and not by their internal disposition. 

From Taj to Vraj explains some of the ambiguous verses and highlights the deep psychological insight into humanity that is embodied in the Indian scriptures. It discusses the conflict between sexuality and asceticism, misconceptions about the Kama-sutra and the practice of Sati, as well as the power of the divine Feminine. In conclusion, From Taj to Vraj reveals the confidential meaning of ‘woman’ in shastra.

 

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Comments ( 12 )
  1. Haribol……great article. I always thought women had more love…..thx…..Bhima das

  2. Vikas

    Thank you very much Babaji Maharaj. This article debunked the generic statement and related myth.

  3. Vic / Vraja

    I *love* this article. One little comment is that aṣṭa-guṇa-kāma implies, to me at least, that the quality (guṇa) of the “lust” (kāma) is eightfold (aṣṭa). In other words, the *quality* of kāma in women is much higher than the quality of it in men.

  4. Advaita Das

    Vic / vraja, in Sanskrit, Bengali and Hindi guna means ‘ x ‘ times. Multiplication. asta guna = 8x.

  5. Advaita Das

    I’m afraid I don’t fully agree –

    “ Throughout history, female prostitution to satisfy the lust of men has been very lucrative. Men are willing to pay for sex. If women had more lust, wouldn’t it be they who pay men for sex? “

    A man is finished for 2 days after his orgasm, while a woman can have unlimited sex. That’s why prostitutes are female. Male prostitutes can have 1 client a day, female prostitutes can have unlimited clients.

    “ The history of polygamy and harems also support the observation that men have more lust. “

    harems are a social and cultural thing, not a proof of male sexual desires. If socially acceptable, women could use a harem much more. They have unlimited sexual capacity.

    “ The incidence of sexual crime further supports it. Every day there is news about women being raped by men, but how often do you read that a woman has raped a man? “

    Women are the receiving and passive sexual partner, and are physically weaker than men. If they had a man’s strength and organ, would they rape less than men?

    “Marriage also generally confirms the observation that men are sexually lustier than women. It is usually the wife rolling her eyes because she has to comply with the husband’s need (or demand) for sex. “

    Is that the result of a global poll, or the testimony of 1-2 women? My experiences were quite the opposite.

    Otherwise I agree that women enjoy more during sex. Men only enjoy the orgasm, while women enjoy the intercourse throughout. And it is true that women have more feeling for men than vice versa.

    • Malatimanjari Post author

      Advaita ji, I think your experience is exceptional. My own experience during my marriage and that of many other women whom I know is that the man always wants more sex.

    • Babaji Post author

      Advaita ji, I have a response to your comments. You may not agree but this is something to think about.

      > I’m afraid I don’t fully agree –

      “Throughout history, female prostitution to satisfy the lust of men has been very lucrative. Men are willing to pay for sex. If women had more lust, wouldn’t it be they who pay men for sex? “

      > A man is finished for 2 days after his orgasm, while a woman can have unlimited sex.

      This is not true for all men. Some young men have confessed to me that they can have sex three times a day/night. I am not sure if they were speaking truth or just boasting. Moreover, no women can have unlimited sex.

      > That’s why prostitutes are female. Male prostitutes can have 1 client a day, female prostitutes can have unlimited clients.

      Even if they can have one client a day/night, then what is the problem? All it means is that more male prostitutes will be required to supply the need and the charge would be higher. If women were really lusty like men, they would not mind paying a higher fee. But this is not seen in practical life. Again, I would say that some young men can have three or more clients, and no prostitute can have unlimited clients.

      “ The history of polygamy and harems also support the observation that men have more lust. “

      > harems are a social and cultural thing, not a proof of male sexual desires. If socially acceptable, women could use a harem much more. They have unlimited sexual capacity.

      A social and cultural thing also has some basis. It is not baseless. When there is a need, it is made socially acceptable.

      “ The incidence of sexual crime further supports it. Every day there is news about women being raped by men, but how often do you read that a woman has raped a man? “

      > Women are the receiving and passive sexual partner, and are physically weaker than men. If they had a man’s strength and organ, would they rape less than men?

      Your argument supports the article. The article is explaining the current reality. There is no point in assuming what women would do if they were powerful like men and had an organ. They would not be women and we would not write this article.

      “Marriage also generally confirms the observation that men are sexually lustier than women. It is usually the wife rolling her eyes because she has to comply with the husband’s need (or demand) for sex. “

      > Is that the result of a global poll, or the testimony of 1-2 women? My experiences were quite the opposite.

      I have not done any poll and I have no data to support it. I base it on what I have heard from others and have read in some articles. So on this, I may be wrong. But your experience also does not prove or disprove anything.

    • Indira dasi

      “A man is finished for 2 days after his orgasm, while a woman can have unlimited sex. That’s why prostitutes are female.”

      Advaita dasa, your cause and effect theory is false. A prostitute doesn’t reach any orgasms with their clients – they simply do their WORK which is often loathsome. Their sexual and emotional callousness to the ‘needs’ of men is the reason they can entertain many clients a day. Have you ever informed from ex-prostitutes? In general they have come to hate men. Those who ‘enjoy’ their work are rare, or if they fall in love they marry the man, if he truly likes her.

  6. Piyush Desai

    thanks for clarifying that woman has more loving affections than man.it is also shown in the example of Draupadi who did not want to behead Asvathama because of her motherly love.
    this guna can also implicate in the material world more than others.

  7. Also, the response to this article seems to be eight times more enthusiastic than to others 😉 I am very happy to have read it!

  8. Sean

    The fundamental issue here is that there is a dangerous myth that permeates some sections of the Gaudiya world. This myth must be challenged, but doing so requires some devotees to accept that the source of this myth is wrong and the source has grossly misrepresented sastra.

    For many such devotees, challenging the source of the myth is heretical.

    It is clear that fundamentalism is alive, and well, in some groups claiming to be Gaudiya Vaisnavas.

  9. Bhadra Reid

    Great article, Babaji.

    Huge subject, but in a nutshell, by nature men are of purusa mentality and women are of prakrti mentality.

    Prakrti is naturally subservient to purusa. Prakrti enjoys by being enjoyed by purusa.

    While in woman body one certainly has the propensity to enjoy sex of its own accord, the innate drive is to attract and please man.

    In the lower modes, that can take the form of desiring to attract a man to one’s body, have semen flow, prostitution, etc.

    In the higher modes it can take the form of desiring to be a dutiful wife and serve the husband in whatever way he wants, including sex, and enjoying and appreciating the pleasure and satisfaction he gets from that service. For a woman in the higher modes, sexual satisfaction for herself is a secondary thing, a side-effect, a pay-off.

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