The “Naked Nun” goes against the limited idea we have especially in this part of the world which is still very conservative.
A woman seems to exist only in a dichotomous situation. It’s the same idea I studied about in my western university. One idea is the holy, virgin, while the opposite idea is Mary Magdalene, the whore. This applies somewhat to men too, I guess, but more to women. I’ve heard the term man-whore or man-slut go around in certain Kathmandu circles lately. Male virgins are also offered to temples and as “pujaris” (priests who perform rituals) as they are considered more pure.
In Nepal, where arranged marriages are still the order of the day, society in general prefer virgins over those who are not (virgins). Someone who has dated, has had lovers before marriage, but has never been paid in cash or in kind for sex is labelled a “whore” or at best, her character will be questioned.
The idea of dating, having boyfriends and girlfriends are VERY taboo, and pre-marital sex is completely overlooked, like it never happens, even though some mornings, the Baudhanath stupa is littered with used condoms. Old grandmothers call them “raincoats” and shy away from talking about their function further, worried only that their unmarried granddaughters might get impregnated and carry bastard children. “Don’t forget the “raincoat”,” she might think inwardly, and then sigh and wonder when her granddaughters might finish their strange sounding degrees and settle down with a nice man, so they can stop the raincoat business and produce offspring for her to play with.
I always joke that these days as the “marriageable” age range keeps increasing upwards as we keep progressing in our so called modern society, so we have many a “40 year old virgin,” like in that movie with the same title. Of course, EVERYONE is a virgin, even those who are clearly not virgins. We have yet to experience a Tracey Emin type person who displays all her lovers for the world to see or like in that film “Four Weddings and a Funeral” when the heroine recounts with so much lightness and mirth all her lovers to date.
We are probably one of few countries in the world that worships a virgin for a living goddess, the Kumari. All parents think their college going daughters are virgins. The sons, well, are allowed a few more liberties because they don’t get a “bad reputation” as a “whore” who is “damaged goods” or “un-marriageable”. But of course if a girl is abused or raped, she invited it or provoked it and is damaged goods. Either way, honor is measured on our bodies, markings of shame are drawn along the lines of our soft breasts. The man who has had lovers is a cowboy, a stud, a playboy, a hero the little boys idolize.
As such, in this society, women ourselves included, seem to cling to either the idea of a nun – i.e. chaste, holy, virginal with vows of chastity and purity, which is seen as the idealized version- or a slut, a whore, which then means someone who is held to lower standards, whose character is questioned, who is to be ridiculed, bullied and treated shabbily. So when people date to marry they never reveal their past relationships, and those who do, suffer the consequences. A liberated man with an open mind is like a diamond in the rough. The body of the female must ideally have not belonged to anyone else before. She must be a virgin, a kumari, a nun, that only he can possess and control.
Either way, both the ideas really focus on the female body – to be desired and owned, beaten, punished, written and projected on.
Naked Nun. But here the idea is that when I am saying naked – I mean not naked physically – I mean naked in mind. But of course we think naked in a crass, sexual way. But a nun who is naked? Hard to imagine, right?
But of course as I am so afraid of my conservative society, I am still worried about the backlash, the connotations etc. especially from people who might not understand.
There will be whispers around the Boudhanath stupa. She must have littered this holy place with all those raincoats. Who else? EVERYONE is a virgin and holier than holy, of course.
Ending this post with this Tracey Emin work