Wednesday, May 20, 2015
කවි බූන්දි | A Year without Her: Lotus Birth Nurtured upon a Utopian Figment - [Subadra Jayasundara | සුභද්රා ජයසුන්දර]
I’ve been remaking Pietà the other way around:
mother was dead,
the son who wanted to carry her in his arms – segregated,
their skins looked the same.
Having this every day dream started as a ritual.
Then became an ordeal.
Once there was no ache under her breast bone. To end the dormancy, mammary glands
had been prepared for the last lassie stiffness.
And then love,
once transformed into stones and buried anonymously in ancient Gobekli Tepe
where sky burial wasn’t deep enough, reincarnated within her.
Blood she lost in labour and blood she turned to breast milk
gave him a semblance of altruism on that day we met at first.
He fathered my sons. Their scars were made when the navel-string was snipped.
Days later, the stump fell off; shrunken and black.
Scars are neither their center of gravity nor the new skin filling it.
I shed my skin the day she left.
Closed pores on it
deny the breathing.
- May 2015
Subadra Jayasundara | සුභද්රා ජයසුන්දර
Monday, January 19, 2015
වෙසෙස් බූන්දි | Buddhist Jātaka Stories and Human Sexuality - [Dr. Ruwan M. Jayathunga | රුවන් එම්. ජයතුංග]
The Jātaka stories or Jātaka tales are a voluminous body of folklore concerned with previous births of the Buddha which is based as a collection of five hundred and fifty stories. Originally it comprise of 547 poems, arranged roughly by increasing number of verses. There are 547 stories in the Jātaka collection. Some experts say that 550 stories were translated from Sinhalese into Pāli by Rev Buddhaghosa in Sri Lanka (Bunnary, 2004). According to archaeological and literary evidence the Jātaka stories were compiled in the period, the 3rd Century B.C. to the 5th Century A.D. As Professor Rhys Davids indicated Jātaka stories are one of the oldest fables.
Buddhist Jātaka Stories profoundly discuss human sexuality .The first evidence of attitudes towards sex comes from the ancient texts of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism (Chakraborty & Thakurata, 2013). Many centuries before Sigmund Freud, Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing, Albert Moll or D.H. Laurence the Tantric Buddhist monks discussed the wider aspects of human sexuality.
Tantric is often viewed as the third major school of Buddhism, Tantric philosophy has a complex, and multifaceted system of Buddhist thought and practice which evolved over several centuries and encompasses much inconsistency and a variety of opinions (Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism, 2004).
Based on the general definition human sexuality is how people experience the erotic and express themselves as sexual beings; the awareness of themselves as males or females; the capacity they have for erotic experiences and responses. Sexuality varies greatly by culture, region, and historical period, but in most societies and individuals has a large influence on human behavior.
Human sexuality has been described as the capacity to have erotic experiences and responses. Human sexual behavior is different from the sexual behavior of other animals, in that, it seems to be governed by a variety and interplay of different factors (Molina, 1990). A person's sexual orientation may influence their sexual interest and attraction for another person (APA). Sexuality may be experienced and expressed in a variety of ways, including through thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviors, practices, roles and relationships (WHO).
According to Adler (2011) doctors and sexologists increasingly medicalized and pathologized sexual and gender deviance. Foucault's History of Sexuality is based on his view that the discursive practices in the medical community created deviant identities, and produced and regulated sex practices starting in the late nineteenth century (Adler, 2011).
The Jātaka stories view sexuality as an essential component in the human existence. It accepts sexuality as a normal human condition. But the Jātaka stories highlight impermanence, suffering and non-self. In addition some of the stories (eg; Uddaya Bhadda Jātakaya) converse about the true nature of the human body which is impermanent and subject to change in the process of aging and in sickness. Adding up the story of Sirima narrates the impermanence of human body.
Sirima was a Nagara Shobini (sex worker) who lived in the town of Rajagaha. She was beautiful and seductive. Once a monk saw Sirima and immediately felt a strong desire for her. The monk could not concentrate and focus on meditation and his mind was wondering about Sirima. Within a few days Sirima died of a sudden illness. Her body was taken to the cemetery. When the dead body started putrefying the Buddha went to the cemetery with the said monk and other devotees. Sirima's body was bloated and filled with maggots. It was a revolting scene. The Buddha used this moment to emphasize that the physical body is is subject to decay and deterioration. The monk who had a lust for Sirima’s body had a great insight about impermanence.
In the Kama Sutta from the Sutta Nipata Buddha explains that craving sexual pleasure is a cause of suffering. Complete sexual continence is considered an essential feature of the monastic life. Intercourse of a heterosexual or homosexual character is automatically a Párájika offense. A monk who performs such an act is considered to have expelled himself from the Order, and is no longer in communion with the other monks (Walshe, 1975).
Udansani Jātakaya was about the power of sexual seduction. The Bodhisatta and his son lived in a hermitage practicing spiritual activities. His son was very obedient and pious. One evening when the Bodhisatta returned to the hermitage after collecting fruits for supper he noticed that his son looked distressed. He was no longer practicing meditation and other rituals. When the son was questioned he answered that during his father’s absence he met with a young woman and she tempted him. He has had a physical relationship with the woman and it changed his life exclusively. He further said that he needs to go with this woman and live with her and he has no interest in spiritual activities anymore. After the sexual seduction and sexual encounter the son did not want to be with the father in his hermitage. He had different life plans and he left with the woman abandoning his father.
Rādha-Jātakaya indicates the character of an adulterous woman. She was a wife of a Brahmin in the Kāsi country and when her husband travels to another county she gets an enormous freedom and invites different men to her house and sleeps with them.
Takka Jātakaya is a storyline about a treacherous woman who had an increased libido. According to the story once the Bodhisatta was an ascetic on the banks of the Ganges and he rescues a young woman named Dutthakumari (wicked Princess). She was a daughter of a merchant from Benares and she had been thrown into the flood waters by her infuriated servants.
After the rescue the pretty Dutthakumari falls in love with her rescuer and they live together. After some time the Bodhisatta decides to go to the nearest village to sell curd. They travel together. On the way they were attacked by a gang of thieves and they kidnap Dutthakumari. She was taken before the robber chief. By seeing his masculine physique she agrees to have a sexual relationship with him. Hence she willfully lives with him. But she has a fear that her former husband would come to claim her; she therefore scheming to murder him.
Dutthakumari requests the robber chief to capture the Bodhisatta then torture and kill him. The robbers capture the Bodhisatta and he was subjected to torture. While suffering in the hands of his tormentors the Bodhisatta tells the robber chief how he saved her life. The robber chief realizes the ungratefulness of Dutthakumari and releases the Bodhisatta. Then he kills Dutthakumari who betrayed her husband.
Anabhirati Jataka relates to an adulterous woman. She goes after men when her husband is away. Her behavior becomes uncontrollable. Following her promiscuous behavior her husband was unable to concentrate on his work and studies.
Mudulakkhana Jatakaya narrates sexual seduction. In this story line the Bodhisatta was once an ascetic named Mudulakkhana, of great spiritual attainments, living in the Himalaya. On one occasion he came to Benares where the king pleased with his demeanor, invited him to the palace and persuaded him to live in the royal park. Thus he lives sixteen years in the royal park continuing his spiritual work. One day when the king was away Mudulakkhana hermit happened to come to the palace. There he sees his queen and he get an urge to have a physical relationship with the queen. Then he appeals to the queen to satisfy his sexual desire.
This story indicates that repressed sexual urges could come to surface at any given moment. After committing the sexual act Mudulakkhana hermit feels guilty and blames himself for breaking his long term celibacy.
Asatamanta Jātakaya recounts the sexual arousal of an old senile woman. Although it is an uncustomary story it has a profound meaning. In this story a wise and a famous teacher in Takkasila cares for his aged 120 years old mother. He believes that most women are driven by basic instincts and lust disregard of their age. Therefore he decides to demonstrate this factor to his student as a salutary lesson. The teacher instructs his student to massage his old mother’s hands and feet and admire her beauty. Although the old woman is decrepit and emaciated the student provides daily physical care and flatters her. After a few months the old woman is aroused and one day she asked the student whether he likes to have sex with her. Following his teacher’s instructions the student informs the old woman that he would be punished if they were caught. In response she proposes that she would murder her devoted son and remove the barrier. Hence they could be together. The old woman further says that she has a plan and she would kill her son. The teacher knowing the plot made a wooden figure and placed it on his bed. On that night she came to her son’s room with an axe. The old woman with murderous intentions struck the wooden figure with an axe. The student was convinced that sometimes women are driven by basic instincts and lust disregard of their age. The Kachappa Jātakaya (storyline) narrates a homosexual relationship between two Ministers of the King Pasenadi Kosol’s Court. However the Buddhist philosophy does not consider gays as sinners or condemn LGBT people.
In 1952, in the first edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the manual issued by the American Psychiatric Association for the classification of mental disorders, homosexuality was included under the category "sociopathic personality disturbances" – not as a true pathology or disease. The second edition of the DSM issued in 1968 re-classed homosexuality as a "non-psychotic mental disorder", effectively making it a disease (Young, 2011).
Powell and Stein (2014) indicate that the United States has recently made significant and positive civil rights gains for LGB people, including expanded recognition of marriages between people of the same sex. Among the central tropes that have emerged in the struggle for the rights of LGB people are that they are "born that way," that sexual orientations cannot change, and that one's sexual orientation is not affected by choice.
Although the attitudes towards homosexuality have become more liberal, particularly in industrialized Western countries, there is still a great deal of variance in terms of the worldwide levels of homonegativity (Jäckle & Wenzelburger, 2014). Disapproval of homosexuality is the cause of tremendous suffering among sexual minorities (Nguyen& Blum, 2014). Kuyper and Fokkema (2011) point out that minority stress is often cited as an explanation for greater mental health problems among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals than heterosexual individuals. Prejudice and social stress impact the psychosocial wellbeing of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations. It’s significant to know that over 2500 years ago the Buddha had a democratic view and profound understanding about the LGBT community.
In the Jātaka story book -Nalini Jātakaya describes broad aspects of human sexuality. It is a story of a young hermit who lived in a jungle since his birth and never had seen or heard of women. He had not heard of sexual relationships between men and women and when the young Princess Nalini comes to his hermitage, he could not recognize her as a member from the opposite sex. With an erroneous assumption he thought that the Princess Nalini was a hermit like him. The princess deceived the hermit and made him to commit a sexual act. So the young hermit eventually experienced a physical relationship with a woman for the first time in his life. In this story the narrator deeply explore the primal sexual reaction of a human male who was deprived of prior sexual education and sex initiation by a female.
Female sexual arousal has been discussed by various researchers. Traditional models of sexual response reflect a linear approach to desire and arousal (Wood, Koch, & Mansfield, 2006). These models assume that sexual response proceeds from one stage to another in a pre-defined sequential order. According to Basson (2005) linear models do not reflect the reality of many women’s sexual response and female desire can often be rooted in a need for intimacy rather than from physical arousal. Several Jātaka stories including Nalini Jātakaya illustrate female sexual arousal.
Male Sexual arousal is stunningly described in the Haritha Jātakaya. By seeing a naked female body the hermit who practiced sexual abstinence for his life time could not resist the sudden erotic feeling and he eventually commits adultery. His suppressed sexual desires come in to action like a serpent coming out of a den. In this story the hermit’s sexual arousal is extensively described.
Sexual arousal, or sexual excitement, is the arousal of sexual desire during or in anticipation of sexual activity. Oh (2012) and colleagues indicate distinct brain activation patterns associated with visual sexual arousal. For the hermit (in Haritha Jātakaya) it was an unexpected visual sexual arousal. Many years he had practiced voluntary celibacy. His erotic desires were suppressed but when he saw the naked woman’s body his sexual response became overpowering.
Gender Identity Disorder and Spontaneous Sexual Transformation
The phenomenon of spontaneous sexual transformation in human beings is clearly recognized in a wide variety of Hindu and Buddhist texts. The Pali Vinaya records the cases of a monk who turned into a woman and of a nun who turned into a man. Although the Vinaya itself gives no indication of the reasons for such changes, its commentary observes that they occur on the basis of powerful good and bad moral deeds - an opinion shared by several other Pali commentaries. More specifically, transformation from male to female occurs as a result of a powerful evil action (such as unfaithfulness to one's wife), whereas transformation from female to male occurs as a result of the weakening of the inferior karma that brought about rebirth as a woman, accompanied by a powerful good action and/or a strong aspiration to become male (Ohnuma, 2001).
Several medical conditions can result in a natural sex change in humans, where the appearance at birth is somewhat, mostly, or completely of one sex, but changes over the course of a lifetime to being somewhat, mostly or completely of the other sex. The overwhelming majority of natural sex changes are from a female appearance at birth to a male appearance after puberty, due to either 5-alpha-reductase deficiency (5alpha-RD-2) or 17-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase deficiency (17beta-HSD-3)(Cohen-Kettenis, 2005). A relative handful of male to female changes have been reported, and the etiologies of these are not well understood (Khan, 2008).
Gender identity disorder is classified as a medical disorder by the DSM-5 as gender dysphoria. Gender identity disorder (GID) or gender dysphoria is the formal diagnosis used by psychologists and physicians to describe people who experience significant dysphoria (discontent) with the sex they were assigned at birth and/or the gender roles associated with that sex. Evidence suggests that people who identify with a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth may do so not just due to psychological or behavioral causes, but also biological ones related to their genetics, the makeup of their brains, or prenatal exposure to hormones (Heylens, 2012)
Transsexualism first appeared as a diagnosis in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) (American Psychiatric Association, 1980). Transsexualism is when an individual identifies with a gender inconsistent or not culturally associated with their assigned sex, i.e. in which a person's assigned sex at birth conflicts with their psychological gender. A medical diagnosis can be made if a person experiences discomfort as a result of a desire to be a member of the opposite gender or if a person experiences impaired functioning or distress as a result of that gender identification (APA).
The Jātaka tales describe Gender Identity Disorder and spontaneous sexual transformation in a count named Soreiya.
One day Count Soreyya went to the river to have a bath. There he saw Bikku Kachayana who was very attractive and handsome. By seeing this attractive monk the Count Soreyya had a sexual fantasy which later became an obsessive recurrent erotic thought. Soreyya thought: “I wish that monk would become my wife! Or may the color of my wife’s body be like the color of his body. Simultaneously he had immense guilty feelings knowing that Bikku Kachayana is a perfected person who has attained Arhathood. Following self guilt and severe mental conflicts with elevated anxiety the count experienced a sex change.
Jealousy is a universal feeling. The feeling is normal until it is acted upon and the behaviour or actions become irrational. Many psychologists believe that in human males, sexual jealousy is often marked by violence and consistent attempts to restrict the sexual behavior of women.
Staske (1999) views Jealousy as an inherently relational emotion. The common conceptualization of jealousy is viewed as a perceived or actual threat to the exclusive nature of a romantic relationship (White & Mullen, 1989; Bevan & Hale, 2006). Jealousy is an aversive and psychologically stressful condition. Evolutionary psychologists hypothesized that jealousy is an evolved adaptation, activated by threats to a valuable relationship, functioning to protect it from partial or total loss (Buss & Haselton, 2005).
Sexual jealousy functions to defend paternity confidence (Daly et al., 1982). According to Buss (2013) Sexual jealousy is a basic emotion. Jealousy invokes low self-esteem, immaturity or character defects (Bhugra, 1993). Buunk and colleagues (1987) illustrate that sexual jealousy in humans is an emotion of jealousy which may be triggered in a person when a sexual partner displays sexual interest in another person.
The specific innate modular theory of jealousy hypothesizes that natural selection shaped sexual jealousy as a mechanism to prevent cuckoldry, and emotional jealousy as a mechanism to prevent resource loss. Therefore, men should be primarily jealous over a mate's sexual infidelity and women over a mate's emotional infidelity (Harris, 2003).
There are several Jātakaya stories exemplify sexual jealousy in males. For instance in Parvakuthha Jathakaya a King becomes extremely jealous when he realized one of his queens committed a sexual infidelity with a minister. The King is experiencing extreme emotional pain, feelings of betrayal, outrage and fear. His violent outbursts and obsessive thoughts are evident. The King believes that his personal, sexual and romantic relationship with the queen is now being threatened and he seeks revenge. Similarly the Memadha Jathakaya too contains a story about Sexual jealousy.
In Chulla Darmapala Jātakaaya the King Maha Prathapa kills his infant son following sexual jealousy. King Maha Prathapa was infuriated when he noticed his beautiful Queen cared for the infant Prince without paying attention to him. The King perceives mother-infant interaction with extreme hostility. Following anger and sexual jealousy he orders to kill the infant Prince.
The Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD)
In the last 50 years new research into the sociology, psychology and physiology of sexuality has provided an understanding of decreased libido and inadequate sexual response in the form of hypoactive sexual desire disorder. (Studd, 2007). HSDD is defined as “a deficiency or absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity. The disturbance must cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty (APA).
The Jātaka storyteller describes complex behavioural components of a young man named Pinguthara who exhibits firm features of Hypoactive sexual desire disorder. The Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is considered as a Sexual Dysfunction and is listed under the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders of the DSM-IV DSM-IV. It is characterized as a lack or absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity for some period of time.
As described by the Siri Kalakanni Jātakaya, Pinguthara is a young man who seems to have suffered from Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder. He had no interest in his newly wedded beautiful wife Udumbara Devi. He finds no erotic satisfaction in her and the wife becomes a burden to him. He abandoned her and fled due to lack of interest in women.
Borg and de Jong (2012) view Sex and disgust are basic evolutionary relevant functions that are often construed as paradoxical and in general the stimuli involved in sexual encounters are at least out of context strongly perceived to hold high disgust qualities. The young man -Pingutthara in Siri Kalakanni Jātakaya and the hermit in Haritha Jātakaya have two opposite reactions when they encounter females.
Incest and Jātaka Stories
Incest refers to any sexual activity between close relatives often within the immediate family irrespective of the ages of the participants and irrespective of their consent that is illegally or socially taboo. Incest is considered as the oldest crime. During the Middle Ages the meaning of incest was paradoxical: when used literally, the word signified the abominable sin of consanguineous sex; when represented allegorically, it signified a mystical union with God (Donavin, 1993).
A significant number of researchers conclude that there is no demographic profile of incestuous fathers. Rather they are a complex, heterogeneous group of individuals who look like everyone else (Groth, 1982; Meiselman, 1978; Smith & Saunders, 1995). Cohen (1983) believes that incestuous fathers may also have acquired the incestuous behaviour through social learning.
Psychoanalysts contend that incest occurs when the daughter suffers from oral deprivation in the pre-oedipal stage. An incestuous relationship with her father is then established as revenge against her mother, who frustrated her oral needs and simultaneously as a way of satisfying her oral needs. The daughter substitutes the father’s penis for the mother’s breast, which had been denied to her (Dixen & Jenkens, 1981).
Incest may be seen as the other side of parricide, the side where love appears dominant. In parricide, however, underneath or mingled with destructive aggression, there also is a more or less violent, passionate appropriation of what is experienced as lovable and admirable in parents. Similarly, incest does not merely spell love or the urge of Eros to bind together and unite. Incest also contains the exclusion and destruction of the third in the triangle, and often a hateful vengeance perpetrated on the incestuous object that wanted, or allowed and responded to, the rival (Loewald, 2000).
The Seggu Jātakaya of the Jātaka story book reveals the socially forbidden subject of incest. According to this Jātaka story a father takes his young daughter to the jungle and tries to molest her in order to verify her purity. He wants to know whether his daughter had a premarital sexual activity with someone. During the attempt the daughter becomes frighten and cries in fear and shame. She persistently tells the father that she is inexperienced in sexual relations. Finally the father realizes that his daughter is a virgin and then tells her about his real intentions.
Although in Seggu Jātakaya the father’s motives were not to molest his own daughter it raises a numerous questions. What would have been the father’s action if he found that the daughter was not a virgin? Then she would have been subjected to a sexual assault or to honor based killing.
According to the feminists view incest is a forceful act performed by men who control and subordinate their spouses and their children (Barret, Trepper & Fish, 1990). The feminists argue that father-child incest is a product of a patriarchal family structure (Vander Mey & Neff, 1986).
The Jātaka Storyteller was well aware of the social forces existed in his ancient patriarchal society. Nevertheless he did not view women as sexual objects. He shows deep compassion for the woman who is frightened and helpless. On the other hand he intensely describes the complex mental state of the father. The Jātaka Storyteller implies that the father had an underlying motive to molest his daughter if she was not a virgin.
In Maha Paduma Jātakaya, the step mother attempts to sexually seduce the prince Paduma when he enters in to her chamber. This seduction takes place when the king leaves the palace to command his forces in a distant war. The prince Paduma declines her offer and firmly says that you are like my mother and it is a sin to commit adultery with such a person. The step mother does not give up and continues her attempt vigorously. Then the prince leaves her chamber with disgust. The disappointed step mother makes false charges against the prince Paduma when the king returns from war. When the king heard the attempted molestation by prince Paduma he becomes angry and tries to punish the prince. The prince Paduma reveals the seductive nature of his step mother with credible evidence. The king was able to discover his queen’s duplicity and punishers her for the indecent proposal.
Humans show a wide array of sexual preferences and behaviors. Although most humans prefer and have sex with consenting adults of the opposite sex, some individuals have unconventional preferences with regard to the sex or age of sexual partners, or with regard to the nature of sexual activities (Earls & Lalumière, 2002).
A paraphilia is a condition in which a person's sexual arousal and gratification depend on fantasizing about and engaging in sexual behaviour that is atypical and extreme. Stuart (2012) suggests that paraphilia definitions are based on perceived deviations from inappropriate perfectionist ideals of sexual norms. Paraphilias are often comorbid with other sexual, mood, and personality disorders (Seto, et al., 2014).
Silverstein (1984) states that moral reasoning has to be the primary determinant in the diagnosis of sexual disorders.
The German Psychiatrist Richard Von Krafft-Ebing identified paraphilias in 1886. His famous book Psychopathia Sexualis (Sexual Psychopathy) describes numerous paraphilias. Conversely Prior to Richard Von Krafft-Ebing the Jātakaya Storyteller illustrated a number of paraphilias that were found in the ancient Indian society. For instance Baka Jātakaya describes a King who had suggestive features of Salirophilia. The King was attracted to a hideous woman called Panchapapa.
Moreover the Jātaka stories describe Fetishism in a young man named Kehma. Fetishism is a paraphilic sexual disorder characterized by recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges or behaviors involving the use of nonliving objects (Firoz et al., 2014) Oğuz and Uygur (2005) indicate that underlying personality disorders extending through childhood are thought to be the source of the etiology in Fetishism. Kehma obtains sexual arousal by stealing sandals that belonged to a young and attractive Princess. Kehma is attracted to the Princess. But his fears and inner mental conflicts prevent him meeting the Princess. But he gratifies his erotic desires keeping her pair of sandals.
Psychoanalyst Wilhelm Stekel (1930) contrasted what he called "normal fetishes" from extreme interests: "They become pathological only when they have pushed the whole love object into the background and themselves appropriate the function of a love object, e.g., when a lover satisfies himself with the possession of a woman's shoe and considers the woman herself as secondary or even disturbing and superfluous. In Kema’s story his love object becomes the stolen pair of sandals.
Sexual addiction is a form of compulsive sexual behavior in which the individual is unable to control their sexual urges, behaviors, or thoughts (Coleman, 2003). In 1987 the APA’s Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-III-R) added for the first time the concept of sexual addiction as a specific descriptor that might be applied under the more general diagnosis of “Sexual Disorders NOS (Not Otherwise Specified) (Weiss,2012).
According to Wölfle (2010) the phenomenon of sexual addiction as a clinical syndrome is discussed controversially. The frequency distribution of specific Hypersexual Disorder in females has been inadequately studied (Kafka, 2010).
In the past, medical attitudes to female sexuality were grotesque, reflecting the anxiety and hypocrisy of the times. In the medieval world, the population feared hunger, the devil, and women, being particularly outraged and threatened by normal female sexuality (Studd & Schwenkhagen, 2009). The 19th century medical attitude to normal female sexuality was cruel, with gynecologists and psychiatrists leading the way in designing operations for the cure of the serious contemporary disorders of masturbation and nymphomania (Studd, 2007).
The word 'nymphomania', the concept of 'madness from the womb' and the belief in the existence of a behaviour consisting in an abnormally high female sexual drive converged during the second half of the seventeenth century to give rise to a new clinical category which, with minor changes, has survived until the present -e.g., in ICD-10 ( Berrios & Rivière , 2006).
The Jātaka stories describe individuals with extreme desire of carnal pleasure. For example Maha Kunala Jātakaya portrays of a Princess named Krishna who had suggestive features of Nymphomania or Sexual addiction. Princes Sthula or Sthula Kumarika (in Chulla Narada Jātaka) has an insatiable desire for sex. She needs multiple partners to satisfy her erotic craving. The Vennukuna Jātakaya indicates a princess who had an intense sexual desire for a man with an extreme physical defect (attraction to disability). She abandons her husband and lives with a man with hunchback. In Kunala Jātakaya (a sub story) describes a beautiful queen named Kinnara Devi who was fond of having a sexual relationship with a foul-smelling vagabond who had extreme physical defects. She was sexually aroused by seeing the vagabond and his physical defects. She derives satisfaction from being his slave and takes pleasure in physical beatings by him. In addition Bandhanamokkha Jātakaya tells the story of a queen, who had committed adultery with sixty-four men while the king was away. When she approached the sixty fifth male to satisfy her lust he refuses her offer. Then the queen gets extremely angry and seeks revenge. When the king returns she pretends that she became unwell after an attempted rape by the sixty fifth male. The king orders to execute the man. But he reveals the truth and discloses the queen’s true nature. After realizing what really occurred the king banishes the queen and rewards the man.
Bonnie and Clyde Syndrome (Hybristophilia)
Bonnie and Clyde Syndrome or Hybristophilia is a paraphilia of the predatory type in which sexual arousal, facilitation, and attainment of orgasm are responsive to and contingent upon being with a partner known to have committed an outrage, cheating, lying, known infidelities or crime, such as rape, or murder.
The Buddhist literature reveals about a rich girl named Kundala Keshi who was sternly attracted to a criminal when she accidently saw him through her window. The King’s men were taking him to the burial ground to decapitate. His well built physique with rough vagabond look strongly attracted to her. She immediately fell in love with the criminal. She urged her wealthy father to rescue the outlaw from the King’s men. The affluent father bribed the King’s men and released the criminal. He was secretly brought to Kundala Keshi’s house and they become husband and wife.
After sometime the husband with criminal intensions plots to kill his wife and rob her precious jewellery. He takes Kundala Keshi to a mountain to worship a god. When they go to the top of the mountain the bandit husband gets ready to kill her. Kundala Keshi begs him to set her free. But the husband is determined to kill her and take hold of her jewellery. Frightened Kundala Keshi sees no getaway. Somehow she tricks her husband and pushes him over the cliff. The bandit husband was doomed to a violent death. After these shocking events she has no wish to go home. She becomes a Bhikkhuni or female Buddhist monastic.
The term ‘Voyeurism’ refers to the desire to spy on unsuspecting and non-consenting people during their private activities. Voyeurism is considered as a precondition for Voyeuristic Disorder. Voyeuristic Disorder belongs to a group of mental conditions under paraphilic disorders in the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM 5.
According to the Bahiya Jātaka story a king with voyeuristic tendencies achieves sexual gratification by observing a woman in the act of urinating and defecating. After seeing the woman the King becomes sexually exited and fantasizes about her. Then he orders his men to bring the woman to the palace.
Zoophilia is a paraphilia whereby the perpetrator gets sexual pleasure in having sex with animals (Aggrawal, 2011). Zoophilia has lost its character as a severe mental disorder. (Dittert et al., 2005). Earls and Lalumière (2007) describe a case of zoophilia that challenges the widely held assumptions that men who have sex with animals are generally of below average intelligence and come from rural areas. Also they state that zoophilia is not as rare as once thought and shares many features with other atypical sexual interests. Dittert and colleagues (2005) stress that zoophilia shows a variety of manifestations. The subject's desire to be transformed into the animal he or she has contact with can be understood as a narcissistic compound and is not related to lycanthropia.
The famous Kinsey reports on the sexual behavior of the American male and female also include data on sexual contacts with animals. Kinsey and his colleagues interviewed about 5300 adult, white men and 5800 adult, white women about their sexual experiences. Although the objectivity of the methods employed is sometimes criticized, the studies provide important information. Kinsey and his colleagues found that in rural areas about 40 to 50% of the males had had at least one sexual encounter with an animal, and 17% had even experienced an orgasm as a result of sexual contact with animals during adolescence. Amongst all the American men in the study, however, the prevalence was much lower, about 8% (Kinsey, Pomeroy & Martin, 1948; Beetz, 2005).
The Jātaka Storyteller vividly describes the Zoophilia (Bestiality) tendency of the Queen Mallika who had a sexual encounter with an animal. As the King observes from the upper floor his queen is having a physical relationship with a dog. He becomes puzzled and thinks that it was an optical illusion. Later the Queen Mallika tricks the King and convinces him that it was a misapprehension. However the in her death bed the Queen Mallika recollects this event and her final thoughts become impure.
Vinaya proscribes all intentional sexual activity for monks. During Buddha’s time a monk thought it would be no offence to have sexual intercourse with an animal. He had lured a female monkey into a sexual relationship (Lopez, 2009). When this incident became known to others and some monks informed the Buddha about this unusual relationship. The Buddha advised the monk who broke his celibate vows. The Buddha later imposed pārājika rules for such acts. A monk or nun who commits a pārājika offence is permanently and irrevocably expelled.
Pedophilia is a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children, generally age 11 years or younger. As a medical diagnosis, specific criteria for the disorder extend the cut-off point for prepubescence to age 13 (APA). Mohnke and colleagues (2014) state that psychosocial and biological factors have been implicated in pedophilia.
Several Jātaka stories were based on paraphilic subjects committing sexual offenses against children. In Chulla Narada Jātakaya a grown woman seduces an under aged boy and sexually abuses him. After the abuse she plans to take him out of his father’s care. In Haliddhi Raga Jātakaya a male child was molested by an adult woman.
Necrophilia is a psychosexual disorder and is categorized with the group of disorders which comprise the paraphilias, a subtype of psychosexual disorder involving unusual or bizarre fantasies or acts that are necessary for full sexual excitement (Ochoa & Jones, 1997). The most common motive for necrophilia is possession of an unresisting and unrejecting partner (Rosman & Resnick, 1989).
Greek author Herodotus (c.484-425 BCE) stated in his Histories that in Ancient Egypt, bodies of exceptionally beautiful women were not embalmed immediately after their deaths, but only after several days had passed, in order to prevent a recurrence of a case where it was discovered that an embalmer had had sex with the body of a recently dead woman, to the horror and disgust of his fellow workers (Anil, 2010).
The Jātaka Storyteller provides some clues about necrophilia tendencies in a king in Assaka Jātakaya. According to Assaka Jātakaya there was a pretty queen named Ubbari and her untimely death brings sorrow and severe grief to the king. He was devastated and does not allow anyone to bury her body. He preserves her body and keeps it in his bed room for many days. The Jātaka Storyteller does not indicate whether the king had any bodily relationship with the corpse. Though there are no graphic details about what the king did with the dead body, keeping it on his bed indicates some form of physical or emotional connection with the corpse.
Sexual Sadism and Masochism
Krafft-Ebing coined the term ‘masochism. Prior to that Albert von Schrenck Notzing used the term ‘algolagnia’ to refer to sexual pleasure derived from pain. Algolagnia included sexual humiliation, subjection, and the desire to be under the power of another (Walters, 2012).
Sexual sadism and masochism were described in Vatsyayana’s Kama Sutra (Aphorisms of love) written somewhere between the 1st and 6th centuries. Sadistic and masochistic behavior became known in 1498 when the Italian philosopher Pico della Mirandola described a man who needed to be flogged before sex (Farin 1990).
The word sadism came from the life and the writings of the French author Marquis De Sade, such as The 120 Days of Sodom. The word masochism was taken from the works of one of his contemporaries, the Austrian author, Leopold von Sacher Masoch (Grenci, 2006).
In Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) Freud described the tendency to inflict and receive pain during sexual intercourse as “the most common and important of all perversions”, and that both psychosexual tendencies usually occur in the same person. That masochism is a form of sadism against the Self, and that sadism and masochism are manifested variously as “primary masochism” and “secondary masochism”, and as the subordinate forms of “feminine masochism” and “moral masochism”.
Some of the Jātaka stories discuss sexual sadism and masochism. For instance in Andha Butha Jātakaya a young wife derives sadistic satisfaction by hitting her blindfolded husband and also humiliating him while having a sexual intercourse with her young lover. In Sulasa Jātakaya a young female servent of the count Sudattha (Anepindu) was found of being with an aggressive bandit who physically beats her frequntly. The queen Kinnara Devi (in Kunala Jātakaya sub story) had an intense desire to be humiliated and physically hurt by her lover.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection. The first case of syphilis occurred in Europe around the year 1493. Martin Alonzo Pinzon, commander of one of the three ships of Christopher Columbus, is considered as first documented victim of syphilis (Friedrich & Aigner, 2011). However the symptoms of syphilis in its tertiary form were described by Hippocrates in Classical Greece.
The Jātaka stories indicate that in ancient India prostitution was a socially accepted profession and sex workers were called Nagara Sobhini (lady of the land). They were rich, famous and a socially influential group. The ancient literatures describe sex orgies that prevailed in that era. These parties were called Girraga Sammja (Lay Culture). Unprotected sexual practices existed in all layers of the society. Therefore it is reasonable to believe that sexually transmitted diseases impacted some of the sex workers as well as some of the patrons.
Several Jātaka stories underscore individuals that had clinical features of Neurosyphilis. Neurosyphilis is a form of tertiary syphilis infection caused by the spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum. Patients suffering from this illness can present with neurological manifestations such as headaches, seizures, hearing loss, and ataxia (Tso et al., 2008). The typical presentation of neurosyphilis marked by neurological and cognitive symptoms (Kinson & Chan, 2013).
Onset of psychiatric symptoms including personality changes are illustrated in several Jātaka stories. According to these stories the sufferers presented with abnormal gait, sudden blindness, disorientation, depression, seizures, memory loss and abnormal reflexes. These symptoms are largely seen in Neurosyphilis.
Brothers Karamazov, Asthramanthra Jātaka Story and Sexuality
The renowned Sri Lankan Literary genius Martin Wicramasinghe D.Lit. assumed that Fyodor Dostoyevsky may have had some influence by Asthramanthra Jātaka story to write his psycho- philosophical novel -Brothers Karamazov.
There are many similarities between Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov and Asthramanthra Jātaka story. Both stories describe the sexual craving and indulgence in the old age violating social and moral norms. Both stories profoundly analyze the inner mental conflicts reveling the darkest side of the human mind.
The Brothers Karamazov is tale of bitter family rivalries that was written on two levels: on the surface it is the story of a parricide in which all of a murdered man's sons share varying degrees of complicity but, on a deeper level, it is a spiritual drama of the moral struggles between faith, doubt, reason, and free will. In Asthramanthra Jātaka story too there are two levels: on the surface accumulation of sexual urges following seduction and in the second level the murders impulsions of an old mother who wants to kill her son to have a sexual relationship with a young apprentice. Asthramanthra Jātaka story is a spiritual drama of the moral struggles between maternal love, sexual urge, faith, doubt, reason, and social norms.
In Asthramanthra Jātaka story a senile old woman was seduced by a young apprentice in order to assess the sexual urge in old age. The seduction was done with the consent of the old woman’s son and after a few months the old woman gradually develops an erotic desire beyond her control. Following the seduction the senile old woman’s dormant sexual urges come to the surface like an erupting volcano. She is expecting to have a sexual relationship with the young apprentice. Nonetheless she sees her own son as an obstacle to fulfill her sexual desire. In due course she is determined to kill her own son to be with the young apprentice. One night she comes to her son’s bed room with a sward to kill him.
In this Jathaka story the old woman’s sensual feelings, erotic fantasies, inner mental conflicts and murderous impulses were intricately described by the Jathaka story teller. The old land owner in Brothers Karamazov and the old woman in Asthramanthra Jātaka have similar characteristics with regard to sensual pleasures. The Jātaka story teller describes the old woman’s sexually inclined mind as the way Fyodor Dostoyevsky described the old landowner’s lustful mind.
Dostoyevsky points out the dual complexities in the human mind. The Jataka story teller too vibrantly wrote about the complex and dual nature of the human psyche. Asthramanthra Jātaka story is one of the examples of his exceptional talents. In this Jathaka story he deeply analyzed the murderous impulses of an old woman who was geared by onset awakening of sexual urges.
The old woman in Asthramanthra Jātaka story and immoral old land owner in Brothers Karamazov represent the dark side of the human nature and in later years Carl Jung came up with the concept of shadow that portrays the repressed weaknesses, shortcomings and instincts. In his 1938 work "Psychology and Religion" Carl Jung explains the function of the shadow thus.
“Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.”
According to Jung, the shadow is irrational often projects personal inferiority into a perceived moral deficiency. Jung wrote “a man who is possessed by his shadow is always standing in his own light and falling into his own traps... living below his own level” Describing man’s dark covert desires Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote; There are things which a man is afraid to tell even to himself, and every decent man has a number of such things stored away in his mind.
After seduced by the young apprentice the old woman falls in to her own trap and possessed by her dark shadow like Fyodor Pavlovich the debauched land owner who was sexually fascinated by his own son’s girlfriend -Grushenka. Both the characters forget ethics and morality as well as social norms while making efforts to fulfill their desires.
The Jathaka story teller does not judge the old woman like the way Dostoyevsky judged the old man in his book Brothers Karamazove. The Jathaka storyteller modestly shows the extent of craving and its disastrous nature.
Image- Mahajanaka renouncing the worldly life, from the Mahajanaka Jataka. 7th century, Ajanta Caves, India | Image Source: Wikipedia
Dr. Ruwan M. Jayathunga | රුවන් එම්. ජයතුංග
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
May 2009: Nanthikadal Lagoon: an old child of Indian ocean.
Yesterday, we made our safe zone by
hanging saris around us. Being blind to the
outside is a moment of secure feeling.
Today, we have to walk straight and stand
still when needed. Is it true that crows fly
The bridge is lower than before. Under are
people, floating like dead. The war has
made crows into vultures. A brown calf
circles around the mother. Shelling is not a
This water is murky. Smell of the air is
unbearable even for an ape like me. Living’s
breath and dead’s subsiding warmth have
made water unreal. Can the word surplus
be an adjective for people? If we are
dumped to the water, we will walk on it. We
Death is nothing, but the wounds… We
need somebody who is not wounded.
Making a white flag is not that difficult
one out of our own flesh under the skin,
flesh must be paled into white now.
Subadra Jayasundara | සුභද්රා ජයසුන්දර
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
රංග බූන්දි | "Gutikamata Niyamithayi"- A serious indictment on our existence in a desensitized society - [Upali Amarasinghe | උපාලි අමරසිංහ]
The third bell rings. Yet the curtain does not open. Instead, an actor appears on the left of the stage welcoming the audience and engaging in a monologue.
This is how Thilak Nandana Hettiarachchi makes his re-appearance as a dramatist after seventeen years of hibernation plotting his latest play 'Gutikaemata Niyamithai' (loosely translated as 'Destined to be beaten')
Strange as it may seem, the characters of the play are a Beedi Kote (butt of a local cigarette), a Dadiya binduwa (drop of sweat) and a Gulla (weevil). The three characters in their inimitable style bring forth to the audience the tragedy of their lives; the tragedy of being imprisoned inside a loaf of bread. They want to break free but do not know how.
At the outset, they have told the dramatist about their problem and he has suggested presenting their problem to the audience in the form of drama with the fervent hope that the audience would come up with a solution! It is their last desperate appeal to the audience to find a way to escape from the agony of their imprisonment.
However, viewers begin to understand that the border lines between characters of the play and the members of audience are becoming blurred in the ensuing process. Everyone on stage and in the audience seems to have been trapped inside a loaf of bread, the symbol of a smothering system or a structure and the tragedy of three characters of the play gradually begin to be seen as a tragedy of the people in and outside the theatre.
The story is unfolding with the three characters grieving about their lost freedom and the multitude of futile attempts being tried out over the course of their lives to break away from the ‘structure’ of the loaf of bread. They appeal to all deities of the world invoking their super-natural powers. Yet no powers come to their rescue. They question whether all forces in the world are serving the interests of the loaf of bread. They begin to doubt whether their way of thinking is the barrier. In an effort to change their ‘attitudes’, they run looking for ‘factories’ dishing out ‘positive thinking’.
The dramatist at this moment of the play takes the audience to its dizzy heights of satire! He creates a scene where the characters of the play engage in a ‘workshop’ on positive thinking giving individual consultation to probe into the issue and identify a way to break away from the loaf of bread. Next ineffective effort revolves around ‘hypnosis’ to see whether such a technique would help them break away.
Afterwards, a 'company representative' appears promising them the freedom but suggesting them they will be ‘owned’ by the company after they break free. The audience gets the symbolism here. It is as if a society of people cruising through the historical process of both feudalistic and capitalist modes of production. The company man in the play paints rosy picture of the civilized life in the ‘company’. But the characters in the play are in no mood to be freed from one structure to be caged by another immediately afterwards. They realize that they are going to be owned, manipulated and exploited for profit in a different structure.
In the process of the play, they decide to make an international appeal as well. They decide to write to ‘Obama’ since they believe that he has found a solution to live in the best way possible in this world. While they are writing the letter to obama, the loaf of bread gets sold with the three characters inside and is taken away in a shopping bag. Deprived of all prospects of freedom, they even contemplate suicide as a solution to retain their identities.
Finally, they collectively decide to resign to their fate - to live without thinking about their sorry state of affairs. Tilak astutely brings in the philosophical proposition by René Descartes and re-interprets it. Descartes oft quoted saying “I think therefore I am or I exist” is being re-conceptualized in the play as “I do not think therefore I exist”.
The characters of the play seem to suggest that people in this contemporary society of Sri Lanka are desensitized and devoid of rational thinking. And that is how they have ‘chosen’ to live - to live without thinking. The play drives home the point that people have made the choice not to ‘think’ about what is happening around them even if the ground beneath their feet is slipping. They only want to ‘enjoy’ life without coming to grips with the realities of our times. What is being examined here is the moral, intellectual and political degeneration as well as confusion of the people in the society.
The play has a marvellous denouement where dramatist of the play is called upon to stage to be beaten for producing the play! It is because he had produced "an inappropriate play for an inappropriate audience in inappropriate times".
The audience is watching the ‘drama’ laughing about the journey of the lives of the three characters and the absurdity of the request being made to the audience. They could be initially laughing without realizing that they are laughing at themselves! The audience is assailed by the sheer originality of the play. The creativity of the dramatist for encapsulating the reality of our lives through three symbolic characters within a structure of loaf of bread is at its zenith.
Tilak seemed to have been in a long hibernation for good reason. He has done a great deal of thinking germinating the concept of the play over a long period of time since his first play Gabsawa (abortion). The dramatist’s subtle analysis of the development of socio-political history of the Sri Lankan society within the overall globalized economy through seemingly simple story immediately captures the imagination of a real rasika (a connoisseur). Tilak’s play is extremely rich in sub-text telling two stories at the same time.
Tilak is engaging on a quest to reveal inner workings of a structure to which people seem to be inescapably shackled in. The discourse is about how people perceive the structure ignoring its crushing effect on the critical mass and trying to find refuge in unrealistic solutions such as appealing to super-natural powers and engaging in self-deception of ‘positive thinking’. This deliberate evasion is done for the sole purpose their egocentric existence.
In that perspective, the key theme of the play is to blow away the smokescreen and fantasy that we are living in a free world. Tilak creates space for the audience to gain the political consciousness about the inhumanness of systemic powers that govern our society.
The three actors of the play, Sarath Kothalawala, W. Jayasiri, Dharmapriya Dias hold the audience spellbound to the end. All three of them equally make the audience feel the smothering feeling of being held captive inside a loaf of bread. But beyond the symbolism, they bring to life the sorry state of people who are restrained in a system that has blinded them and prevented them from reasoning. Throughout the play, the three actors bring the witty, ironical, satirical and sharply provocative dialogue of the script to life.
Tilak uses alienation effect to the maximum. His way of distancing the audience from emotional involvement in the play through jolting reminders of the artificiality of the theatrical performance is an effective balancing act. All three characters of the play constantly remind us that it is not real life; it is a play. The actors complain to the audience that they are being told by the dramatist to say particular things to the audience referring to the dramatist sometimes in an abusive manner!
In the conceptual development and script writing of the play, I wonder whether Thilak made a deliberate choice to do the play exclusively with male characters. Of course, it is the freedom of the artist to decide the content and the form befitting the theme of the play. Yet, one cannot help notice that representation of women as equal players in this ideological discourse on human existence has been ignored. Don’t they have the same struggle as men to deconstruct the structure, the systemic malaise in our society?
In his subsequent plays, Tilak will hopefully continue to deepen the discourse and provoke thought on these crucial issues from a socio-political perspective in the lively and evocative theatre he has developed over the years.
In essence, the play is a serious indictment on our existence or non-existence in a desensitized society. Upon leaving the theatre, the people in the audience realize that they are being challenged for engaging in a process of 'not thinking' and almost staying fossilised and for not acting against social injustice just for the sole purpose of survival.
The true purpose of art is to dig deep into realities of our existence enriching the horizons of our intellectual and emotional capacities to ‘think’ beyond what we see on the surface. “Gutikaemata Niyamithai” does exactly that. It is a play of extraordinary daring and courage.
Upali Amarasinghe | උපාලි අමරසිංහ
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
වෙසෙස් බූන්දි | Oscar Wilde: the Man who Challenged the Victorian Duplicity - [Dr. Ruwan M. Jayathunga | රුවන් එම්. ජයතුංග]
"There are moments, psychologists tell us, when the passion for sin, or what the world calls sin, so dominates a nature, that every fibre of the body, as every cell of the brain, seems to be instinct with fearful impulses. Men and women at such moments lose the freedom of their will. They move to their terrible end as automatons move. Choice is taken from them, and conscience is either killed, or, if it lives at all, lives but to give rebellion its fascination and disobedience its charm."
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was one of the outstanding playwrights, poets and a Classicist in the early 1890s. His witticism and philosophy reached beyond the shores of England. He was well known for his aestheticism and passion for life. Wilde was a man head of his times. Oscar observed much about human nature, especially his own, in an era when convention was not challenged, knowledge was taught and appearances were everything (Miller, 2013).
Oscar Wilde was overpoweringly influenced by his mother Jane Francesca Elgee who was a poet and a gifted linguist. Oscar attended Trinity and Oxford. He was a bright student with natural curiosity and enthusiasm for art. Oscar Wilde had international cultural influence and he was a product of globalization of the British Empire in the late nineteenth century (Chen, 2009).
Since his young days Oscar Wilde observed the guilt-ridden Victorian society that preached pseudo-morality. He ridiculed the social hypocrisy of the Victorian age, championed the individual, and pleaded for a more tolerant and forgiving society in his many books, plays, and letters (Otolaryngol, 2000). Eventually he became one of the iconic victims of 19th-century English Puritanism (Adut, 2005).
According to Macias (1993).Oscar Wilde produced a work which described his own problems without any ambiguity. Most of his novels and plays represented his inner fantasies, unresolved emotional conflicts and repressed hidden desires. He did not see immorality in these inner thoughts and in his fantasies. Instead he saw a colorful life filled with ecstasy. Each elegant word he wrote was an innate experience for him. His bliss, eagerness, hedonism, obsessions, anguish, disappointments and suffering often reflected through his work. From the dynamic successes and tragedies of his own life Oscar knew that everything worthy of existence is worthy of art, including its ugliness and suffering (Miller, 2013).
Oscar Wilde’s famous novel the Picture of Dorian Gray is one of the modern classics of Western literature. The Picture of Dorian Gray symbolizes Oscar’s profound fantasies and intra-psychic conflicts. Dorian Gray was Oscar’s prime fantasy. He had the fullest desire to live in these fantasies. He was involved in a lifelong fantasy that contradicted with his society’s norms.
According to Lynn and Rhue (1988) Fantasy Prone Personality is a disposition or personality trait in which a person experiences a lifelong extensive and deep involvement in fantasy. Oscar Wilde’s personality could be described as a Fantasy Prone Personality .Throughout his life he was trapped between fantasy and reality and he was shifting and struggling between these two boundaries. The Picture of Dorian Gray reveals Oscar Wilde’s enriched inner fantasies of beauty, endless youthfulness and sensuality. Also it reveals his uncertainties and fear of unknown.
In the Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde wrote.
"I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream -- I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of mediaevalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal -- to something finer, richer than the Hellenic ideal, it may be. But the bravest man amongst us is afraid of himself. The mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the self-denial that mars our lives. We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful."
The novel’s subtle theme -homo-eroticism became a subject of controversy. The Victorian moralists criticized the novel as a work of immoral and spiritual putrefaction. To the critics Oscar replied: “If a work of art is rich and vital and complete, those who have artistic instincts will see its beauty and those to whom ethics appeal more strongly will see its moral lesson”. Also he wrote: The sphere of art and the sphere of ethics are absolutely distinct and separate.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a classic gothic horror fiction. The Picture of Dorian Gray explores the fantasy of invincible vice only to discover that, while justice can be dodged there is no escape from conscience (Fitzpatrick, 2013). According to Carroll (2005) the Picture of Dorian is a psychodrama.
The Picture of Dorian Gray comes across as a very effeminate novel, both in its presentation and in the way the characters are described. (Muriqi, 2007).According to Fitzpatrick (2013) the Picture of Dorian Gray was Wilde’s brutal call for recognition of Victorian duplicity. However a parallel theme can be found between the Picture of Dorian Gray and Oscar Wilde’s tragic destiny (Macias, 1993).
For Oscar the Picture of Dorian Gray was a self-fulfilling prophecy. His belief and behavior became parallel probably due to behavioral confirmation effect. As described by Thomas (1928) if men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences. The three chief male ﬁgures in the novel all embody aspects of Wilde’s own identity, and that identity is fundamentally divided against itself (Carroll, 2005).
The protagonist Dorian Gray is an orphan. He is described as an attractive and handsome blond man. He meets a talented artist named Basil Hallward. They become friends and Basil Hallward decides to paint the portrait of Dorian Gray. Hence Basil and Dorian Gray become very close to each other.
Dorian’s meeting with Lord Henry- a nobleman and believer of the new Hedonism becomes a turning point in his life. Lord Henry is an uncompromising critique of the Victorian society that filled with deception and hypocrisy. Dorian admires his friendship with Lord Henry. Despite Basil’s advice Dorian Gray gradually becomes close to Lord Henry. Under Lord Henry's influence innocent and naive Dorian Gray turns in to an emotionally detached epicurean. He starts perusing sensual pleasures disregarding social norms and customs. Thus the innocence was lost and selfish egocentric creature was born. Dorian Gray is giving up life for internal youth.
The gift of internal youth, his lust and selfish desires corrupts his soul up to the core. His elevated ego, evil mind and self interested arrogant lifestyle gravely hurt many people around him. Gradually he transforms in to a cold un-empathetic unremorseful person who has no respect for life and virtues. Like Narcissus, Dorian Gray falls in love with his own image and ultimately the self love causes his demise.
Dorian Gray admires the artistic talents of a young beautiful actress Sybil Vane. Unspoiled and innocent Cybil falls in love with Dorian. But this love is short lived. Dorian Gray’s coldness, insensitivity and illusory behavior dives Sibyl to commit suicide.
When Dorian Gray is hurting people and heading towards self destruction Basil Hallward determines to confront Dorian’s irresponsible behavior. It was a mortal attempt. During the argument Dorian Gray becomes extremely angry and stabs Basil Hallward to death. The evil that Dorian commits has no impact on him. He has no guilty conscience. Therefore his picture becomes his conscience. It absorbs all the sins committed by Dorian Gray. The portrait grows old while Dorian remains forever young.
Dorian Gray exposes the immorality of self-absorption, as Dorian’s portrait becomes more disfigured with each one of Dorian’s selfish acts. This self-absorption, then, appears to be an inevitable consequence of aestheticism (Duggan, 2010).
Dorian lives according to what Lord Henry professes without hesitation, and what Lord Henry inspires Dorian, through persuasive rhetoric, is an attitude indifferent to consequence and altogether amoral (Duggan, 2010). His hedonist lifestyle corrupts his mind. Nonetheless Dorian is unable to cope with psychological maturation. His narcissism, dysmorphophobia and immaturity become more severe over time. Dorian’s downfall is caused by the narcissistic defenses against time-dependent maturation and intellectual regression.
As Carroll (2005) indicates Dorian’s problem is not merely that he indulges in “excess.” His problem is that he fails to create or sustain affectional bonds. He betrays all the people who are closest to him; he destroys them or leads them to ruin. After many years causing harm to others Dorian Gray becomes tied of his eternal life. He is frustrated and tied of being alive. He becomes a victim of immortality. Guilt-ridden Dorian Gray decides to destroy the picture.
But this murder--was it to dog him all his life? Was he always to be burdened by his past? Was he really to confess? Never. There was only one bit of evidence left against him. The picture itself-- that was evidence. He would destroy it. Why had he kept it so long? Once it had given him pleasure to watch it changing and growing old. Of late he had felt no such pleasure. It had kept him awake at night. When he had been away, he had been filled with terror lest other eyes should look upon it. It had brought melancholy across his passions. Its mere memory had marred many moments of joy. It had been like conscience to him. Yes, it had been conscience. He would destroy it. (The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde)
He destroys the picture and inevitably kills himself. Dorian has a glimpse before his death of the horror of his own soul (Carroll, 2005).
Dorian Gray is often read as an explicit proclamation of the worthiness of living life in accordance with aesthetic values. This is due in part to the flourishing Aesthetic Movement of Victorian England at the time of the novel’s publication, as well as Oscar Wilde’s association with the movement itself (Becker, 2002; Duggan, 2010). The Aesthetic Movement believed that art in its various forms should not seek to convey a moral, sentimental or educational message but should give sensual pleasure (Anderson, 2011). The emergence of narcissism in Dorian and its correlation with his newly adopted aesthetic philosophy is integral to Wilde’s novel as it emphasizes the frequent hostility between aestheticism and morality that Wilde cautions against. (Duggan, 2010).
Dorian Gray embraces the Epicurean way of life. Wilde believed that Epicureanism can liberate one from fears of death and the supernatural. However the philosophy of Epicureanism -an ethic of individual pleasure as the sole or chief good in life was rejected by the early Christianity and some of the Eastern religions. Epicureanism was rejected and considered as a sin.
Most of the 19th Centaury literary critics saw the Picture of Dorian Gray as a work of moral impurity. Some Victorian Moralists tried to prosecute him under the law against obscene publications dating from 1857.Wilde defended his novel arguing;
“Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”
Wilde vaguely discussed homoeroticism in his novel and he implies that there is a gay relationship between Basil Hallward and Dorian Gray. Although Aestheticism can disguise homoerotic feelings between the men, the novel Picture of Dorian Gray does not contain any explicit statements of homoeroticism (Muriqi, 2007). Conversely Basil becomes intimate with Dorian Gray. It was more than a platonic love.
"Don't speak. Wait till you hear what I have to say. Dorian, from the moment I met you, your personality had the most extraordinary influence over me. I was dominated, soul, brain, and power, by you. You became to me the visible incarnation of that unseen ideal whose memory haunts us artists like an exquisite dream. I worshipped you. I grew jealous of every one to whom you spoke. I wanted to have you all to myself. I was only happy when I was with you. When you were away from me, you were still present in my art.... Of course, I never let you know anything about this. It would have been impossible. You would not have understood it. I hardly understood it myself. I only knew that I had seen perfection face to face, and that the world bad become wonderful to my eyes -- too wonderful, perhaps, for in such mad worships there is peril, the peril of losing them, no less than the peril of keeping them… (The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde)
Oscar Wilde takes unique attempts to conceal the homoeroticism in the Picture of Dorian Gray almost certainly to avoid legal consequences. Wild becomes discreet narrating the life of Dorian and his relationships with men. As indicated by Muriqi (2007) Secrecy and shame were significant issues in The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Young Dorian Gray was Wilde’s romanticized gay image and his inner fantasy. He wrote the novel in 1890 and ironically less than a year (in mid 1891) an English poet - Lionel Johnson introduced Wilde to Alfred Douglas. Alfred Douglas or "Bosie" was a young aristocratic blond man and he instantly became Oscar Wilde’s central attraction. Alfred Douglas was 22 and Wilde 15 years his elder. Wilde may have unconsciously perceived Alfred Douglas (Bosie) as Dorian Gray. They became attracted to each other until Wilde’s death.
Wilde was immensely attached to Alfred Douglas and he wrote: "My Own Boy, Your sonnet is quite lovely, and it is a marvel that those red-roseleaf lips of yours should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing.” Alfred Douglas referred to Wilde as "the most chivalrous friend in the world" Oscar Wilde knew that this relationship wracks his marriage and social status. But he was fatally attracted to Alfred Douglas.
Dorian Gray was an orphan without parental affection. Alfred Douglas had stormy relationships with his father and numerous times his mother left home following her husband’s physical abuse. Symbolically Alfred Douglas was an orphan too. He saw a lover and a father figure in Oscar Wilde.
Oscar Wilde was having a double life. He lived like Basil Hallward and Lord Henry of his novel. As Wilde stated “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks of me.
Oscar described his relationship with Alfred Douglas as thus.
"The love that dare not speak its name" in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art, like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo, and those two letters of mine, such as they are. It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as "the love that dare not speak its name," and on that account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an older and a younger man, when the older man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so, the world does not understand. The world mocks at it, and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.
In the novel Basil says that "as long as I live, the personality of Dorian Gray will dominate me". Correspondingly Alfred Douglas’s personality dominated Oscar Wilde until his death. Like Dorian Gray Alfred Douglas became corrupted and at times emotionally blackmailed Oscar.
Although Wilde discreetly expressed the homosexuality in the Picture of Dorian Gray with Alfred Douglas he had an open relationship. They lived in hotels in London. Their affair became a public secret.
Alfred Douglas was mainly responsible for Oscar’s downfall. He introduced Oscar to gay prostitutes who later testified against him. Alfred Douglas dragged Oscar to take legal action against his father -John Sholto Douglas, the Marquess of Queensberry and it was a serious mistake which backfired and Oscar Wilde was charged with gross indecency.
Oscar Wilde hugely challenged Victorian sensibilities. As he discussed in the Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar and Alfred Douglas tried to adjust their personal moral and ethical codes to suit their own needs and desires. But it was catastrophic. Like in the novel Basil Hallward (Oscar) perished after the imprisonment and self exile. Dorian Gray (Alfred Douglas) declared bankrupt and died in 1945.
According to many biographers before meeting Alfred Douglas, Oscar Wilde had homosexual impulses. But he was married to Constance Mary Lloyd and had two children. He was profoundly influenced by his mother. She even ordered him to stay in England and face the trial. Macias ( 1993) was of the view that Oscar Wilde’s homosexuality, his stage sense, his dandyism, as well as his taste for provocation and scandal are seen in the context of an unconditional relationship with a powerful mother whom he attempted to find in his quest for substitutions love objects.
By implication in his other work Oscar Wilde conversed about homoeroticism. His 1895 play “The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People” was recognized as a farcical comedy. He targeted Victorian morality. In this play Oscar reveals some of his life secrets and hidden desires.
The Importance of Being Earnest is an ingenious play, which uses its surface content to garnish a powerful manifesto on the way one should live life- the dandy way (Thacker, 2011). The two protagonists of the play are Algernon Moncrieff who lives in London and Jack Worthing who lives in the country. Both are tired of their tedious lives and explore adventure. Algernon and Jack are dandies who live double lives. Similarly Oscar Wilde was a dandy who lived in hotels in London with his male partners most of the times and sporadically with his family home in Tite Street.
According to Thacker (2011) dandies have to live double lives to escape from persecution by their society; they are in love with themselves, principally their appearance and its effect on others; and they indulge in the high and low extremes of life. Wilde unconsciously exposed his double life using the famous expression that was used in the play - Ernest in town and Jack in the country. Wilde was a Bunbury who made up excuse to get out of his home and to be with Alfred Douglas. In the play Algernon and Jack were bunburying to get out of their homes and responsibilities.
Earnest’s character contains both Jack and Algernon. Earnest becomes their alter ego. A person with an alter ego is said to lead a double life. In this context Oscar Wilde was leading a double life with an alter ego. In psychoanalytical milieu Oscar is maintaining a sense of omnipotence to face the narcissistic crisis.
In his play the Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde confronts Victorian social rules and discusses homoeroticism and sexual liberation in an elusive manner. In a subtle way Wilde indicates the homoerotic behavior in Lady Lancing.
According to the play, Lady Bracknell describes how the French maid made a great deal of change in a very short time in Lady Lancing and after these changes even her own husband did not know her. In reply to her Jack says that “and after six months nobody knew her," Here Wilde indicates that Lady Lancing experiences a dramatic transformation (in her sexual orientation?) after meeting with the French maid and she becomes a new person.
Wilde uses most female characters, mainly Lady Bracknell and Gwendolyn, to represent the pressure Victorian society puts on others to behave and control oneself (Thacker, 2011).In addition Wilde highlights that the Victorians showed little sympathy to illness and death. For instance referring to Mr. Bunbury’s chronic illness Lady Bracknell says: Well, I must say, Algy that I think it is high time that Mr. Bunbury made up his mind whether he was going to live or die. Wilde throws bold criticism on Victorian morals. At the end of the play through Jack Worthing Oscar Wilde declares: It is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Oscar believed that he was telling the truth via his work.
Throughout his life Oscar Wilde struggled with his identity and sexual orientation. He knew that he had an inclination towards homosexuality. For Wilde, identity consists of two main elements, sensual pleasure and moral pathos, and in his moral universe these two elements are usually set in opposition to one another. Sensual pleasure associates itself with egoism, worldly vanity, and cruelty. Moral pathos is sometimes associated with devoted love, but it manifests itself primarily as pity for the poor and as tenderness toward children. Erotic passion allies itself with sensual pleasure (Carroll, 2005).
Oscar Wilde’s sexual orientation was recorded as bisexual. According to McKenna (2003) Wilde was aware of his homosexuality at the age of 16. In developing his theory of male sexual preference, Freud asserted that heterosexual as well as homosexual preferences required explanation, that neither could be assumed to be innate (de Kuyper, 1993). Freud suggests that infantile sexuality is bisexually orientated the final object choice due to repression of either homosexual or heterosexual desires(Heenen-Wolff, 2011).Nevertheless Freud found homoeroticism compatible with normal psychological functioning (Kirby, 2008).
In his other work too Oscar Wilde discreetly indicates his unconscious fantasies of homosexuality. His short story the Happy Prince was first published in 1888. Although it was a children’s story it has a profound gay theme. In this short story Oscar narrates love between a male Swallow and the statue of the late Happy Prince. Although he was called Happy Prince in reality he had never experienced true happiness until he met the Swallow. A strong homosexual undertone could be detected in the relationship between the Swallow and the Happy Prince.
'When I was alive and had a human heart,' answered the statue, 'I did not know what tears were, for I lived in the Palace of Sans-Souci where sorrow is not allowed to enter. In the daytime I played with my companions in the garden, and in the evening I led the dance in the Great Hall. Round the garden ran a very lofty wall, but I never cared to ask what lay beyond it, everything about me was so beautiful. My courtiers called me the Happy Prince, and happy indeed I was, if pleasure be happiness. So I lived, and so I died. And now that I am dead they have set me up here so high that I can see all the ugliness and all the misery of my city, and though my heart is made of lead yet I cannot choose but weep.' (Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde)
The love between the Swallow and the Happy Prince grows. Both of them are content and become closely connected. The Swallow decides to stay with the Prince without flying to Egypt. But he knows that the winter is approaching and his death is inevitable. Finally the Swallow sacrifices his life for the love of the Prince.
The poor little Swallow grew colder and colder, but he would not leave the Prince, he loved him too well. He picked up crumbs outside the baker's door when the baker was not looking, and tried to keep himself warm by flapping his wings. But at last he knew that he was going to die. He had just strength to fly up to the Prince's shoulder once more. ‘Good-bye, dear Prince!' he murmured, 'will you let me kiss your hand?'……..
……….. 'It is not to Egypt that I am going,' said the Swallow. I am going to the House of Death. Death is the brother of Sleep, is he not?' And he kissed the Happy Prince on the lips, and fell down dead at his feet. (Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde)
The Happy Prince was a symbolic story between two individuals who were gay. There are subtle representations of femininity in the Happy Prince and Oscar’s scrutiny implies that the Happy Prince is someone with a female psyche in a male body or a Uranian.
Both never experienced joy in their lives and until they met with each other. Their encounter with each other helped them to discover their true sexual orientation and they become strongly bonded. The Swallow makes the Prince’s life blissful. But the winter (the Victorian social rules and the legal structure) is approaching to swallow their loving relationship. The Swallow had a chance to fly to Egypt (flee from the Victorian society) but the Swallow decides to stay with his Prince and face the consequences. The harsh winter (the Victorian social rules and legal structure) kills the Swallow.
Wilde’s other story the Selfish Giant too was based on his homoerotic fantasies. Although it was a children’s story, allegorically it indicates Homosexualism in the Victorian era.
According to the story the Selfish Giant (the Victorian moralists) built a wall (Victorian prohibition against homosexuality and other social restrictions that led to persecution of the gays) around his beautiful garden (in the English society) to keep children (the LGBT community) out. It was always winter in the garden for no other season would venture there (as Oscar indicates following social restrictions and repression the LGBT community is being persecuted ant they suffer relentlessly and found no joy in their lives). Then one morning, a child (Oscar may be referring to himself) brought spring back, and the giant's heart melted along with the snow (this may be his inner wish that the Victorian society would understand the LGBT rights and end persecution by removing the anti gay laws).
He saw a most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the wall the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches of the trees. In every tree that he could see there was a little child. And the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving their arms gently above the children's heads. The birds were flying about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were looking up through the green grass and laughing. It was a lovely scene, only in one corner it was still Winter. It was the farthest corner of the garden, and in it was standing a little boy. He was so small that he could not reach up to the branches of the tree, and he was wandering all round it, crying bitterly. The poor tree was still quite covered with frost and snow, and the North Wind was blowing and roaring above it. 'Climb up! little boy,' said the Tree, and it bent its branches down as low as it could; but the little boy was too tiny.
And the Giant's heart melted as he looked out. 'How selfish I have been!' he said; 'now I know why the Spring would not come here. I will put that poor little boy on the top of the tree, and then I will knock down the wall, and my garden shall be the children's playground forever and ever.' He was really very sorry for what he had done. (The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde)
Oscar Wilde saw the selfishness that prevailed in Victorian society and once stated: Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live; it is asking others to live as one. In this story Oscar appeals to the Selfish Giants of the Victorian society to have a compassion for the LGBT community who led secretive as well as distressed lives.
Oscar’s internal psychic structures and ego-driven fantasies created invaluable thematic materials in his mind. These psychic representations emulated in his work. Oscar vicariously lived through the characters that he created.
The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan elucidated that the human psyche functions within three orders: the Real, the Imaginary, and the Symbolic. Lacan placed the concept of the imaginary alongside the categories of the real and the symbolic. Hence the essential determination of the imaginary is the primary relation of the ego to the image of the similar (Gekle, 1995). Oscar decorated most of his stories with imagery and symbolic representations. In addition some of the stories like Dorian Gray represent Oscar’s narcissistic fantasies.
As Lacan suggests that narcissistic fantasies are misleadingly seductive because they-in occluding the internal rifts and antagonisms of the subject's being-alleviate his or her anxieties about the contingent basis of existence (Ruti, 2008). Oscar made attempts to maintain a sense of omnipotence and to compensate his transitory narcissistic crisis states. His narcissistic crisis states mainly occurred following social pressures that fell upon him.
Through these stories Oscar Wilde discreetly expressed the homosexual fantasies and impulses that he was struggling to hide from the Victorian moralists. However his attempt was failed. After being convicted of homosexual offences in 1895 Oscar Wilde was incarcerated for two years.
The prison life consumed his health and most of his literal ability. After his release the persecuted genius Oscar Wilde became a social outcast. His native country banished him. Wilde died in Paris in 1900 at the age of 46. The Victorian society could not endure Wilde's outrageous paradoxes. He became a victim of repressive and judgmental social forces. His life was a perfect example of Icarus tale. He flew too close to the sun, and he fell to earth.
As indicated by Di Segni Obiols (2006) since 1895 when Oscar Wilde was put on trial, almost 80 years passed until the beginning of the process that led to delete homosexuality from DSM (APA) and contributed to its despenalization. His aphorism– “We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars was a remarkable expression of his spiritual emancipation. Perhaps Oscar foresaw his destiny and many years after his death he would be considered as a gay martyr and hailed as a hero by the LGBT community.
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Dr. Ruwan M. Jayathunga | රුවන් එම්. ජයතුංග