Seeing the recent spates of sexual misdemeanors, someone wondered aloud, “Is sex really that strong a lure? And if it is, why not go and ‘buy’ it, instead of behaving like an animal, or just risking some innocent’s life and reputation?”
A very valid question and I wonder, what makes men behave the way they do, especially those that are in a slightly elevated strata of the society. The news is when the predator is a respected, senior and well-to-do person of the society, who is more of an icon, but turns out to be no different from a lout.
Sex has been behind many an episode of misdemeanor and sex outside a legal relationship has always dominated the headlines. Going back to where I seek my answers, forceful sex has dominated many mythologies. Be it by Zeus in Greek mythology, who spared none, be it women or men, or the forced sex by Shiva on Mohini, the gods would always have their way.
But let me take a case here, which is not forced in the physical sense of the word, but forced, in the sense of-not-leaving-any-choice, but to comply. This is also a case of sex outside the ‘socially acceptable framework’ of society. Or was it forced? Decide after you read the story….
According to the epic Mahabharata, Satyavati was the adopted daughter of a fisherman. The story of her birth is as interesting as it can be and you can read about it in an earlier article “The Unwanted Girl Child” http://www.utkarshspeak.blogspot.in/search/label/Satyavati . For the present, it should suffice to say that she was found inside a fish and was adopted by the fisherman who found her. Since she was found inside a fish, a terrible odour emanated from her, due to which she was also known as Matsyagandha, ‘smell of a fish’.
It was due to this problem of hers, that she didn’t have many friends and spent most of the time alone ferrying people from across the Kalindi river. Once her passenger happened to be sage Parashar, a powerful and well-known ascetic. He was smitten by her looks, despite the odour and insisted on making love to her then and there.
Satyavati, a virgin till then, was taken aback, but was unable to decline. She reasoned with the sage, that the terrible smell emanating from her was something that even she detested and under such circumstances, she would not be able to comply with his request. The sage then through his powers, removed her fishy odour and made her smell of musk, and named her Yojanagandha, one whose fragrance can be smelt from yojanas (1 yojana was about 9 miles). Satyavati was still reluctant and said that if they did make love, she would lose her virginity, and he being an ascetic, would not marry her either, then how would she face the world? To this sage Parashar promised her, she would regain her virginity after the act and none would know. Satyavati tried again, saying that she was in the fertile period and if he made love to her, then she would conceive. In such a situation how she would face the world with a child. Sage Parashar, who was determined to have his way, promised that as soon as they were done, she would give birth to a child who would grow up immediately and go his own way, with none knowing about it! Satyavati made one last effort and said that all that was fine, but it was broad daylight and there was a possibility of someone seeing them, which would be bad for her reputation, besides the risk of the boat capsizing. Sage Parashar was beginning to lose his cool and suggested that she take the boat to the centre of the river, close to an island. Through his powers, he created a dense mist and made the boat and them invisible in the dense mist.
All this left no choice form Satyavati, but to give in.
Soon after, they make love, Satyavati gives birth to a child who grows up immediately to be a man, and comes to be known as Krishna (dark) Dwaipanya, one who is born in an island, who goes on to be better known as sage Ved Vyasa. Vyasa goes away with sage Parashar and Satyavati goes back home and when asked about her changed odour, she says that it was the blessings of the sage.
This is an interesting myth, which has two facets to it.
First, is the helplessness of a woman, who makes all efforts to ward off the advances of a man, who as in this case was probably fit to be her father. A powerful man, insists on making love to a virgin, but is clear that he would not marry, and goes out of his way to use his powers to fulfill his desires, is not something that is different from many of the recent instances that we have seen. The girl, who is helpless, makes all efforts to escape, but is unable, as she is in a precarious situation, of being alone, in the middle of a river, which seems quite allegorical in itself. She has no witness to stand by her, as the powerful sage had created an envelope of mist, for none to see, which is the case in many instances, even in modern times – no witness against the high and mighty.
The second aspect is the clever usage of the advances made by a powerful person, as done by Satyavati. She ensures that her odour is removed, her virginity restored and her reputation intact. Some versions even say that she negotiated eternal youth and beauty with the sage. Many might see this as opportunism, or simply put smart usage of the situation by the victim. Mythical times were different from present times, so I am not sure, how this could be utilized today, if at all.
How should the world see this? Was this forced? Was it rape or was it consensual-sex? If one asks sage Parashar, it was consensual, since he did not force himself on her and she had agreed to her advances. If one asked Satyavati, she would say, it was forced as she had no choice and she had no option. The world then never raised a finger on sage Parashar for his act and nor has the world ever bothered to debate this from his angle. Sage Parashar never had to bring this to the public notice, but Satyavati had to bring Sage Vyasya in the picture when her son died without an heir. She had to relate the incident to Bhishma, who supposedly kept quiet about it, but one can imagine Satyavati’s embarrassment in talking about her pre-marital sex and the resultant child.
Have times changed much? Just as sage Parashar went his way after the act, the high and mighty of the present day society too go scot free. The only change if at all is that they do get maligned for a while, if the woman musters guts and courage, but then its business as usual. Court visits, mud-singling on the women’s character, unwanted media-glare, and when all fails; there still is the option of out-of-court settlement.
What do you say?