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Seminal Truth: A Modern Science of Male Celibacy in North India

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Abstract

Many scholars have noted that brahmacharya (celibacy) is an important concept in Hindu notions of male identity (cf. Kakar 1981, 1982, 1990; Obeyesekere 1976, 1981; for comparison, see Gilmore 1990). Although the psychological basis of this concept has been studied, there is very little in the literature on the "medical mechanics" of being and becoming a brahmachari. Nor is there a comprehensive account of the precise relationship between sex and the meaning of physical health in modern urban India. Through an examination of the popular Hindi literature on brahmacharya, interpreted within the context of therapeutic celibacy as put in practice by a modern yoga society, this article shows how a discourse about sex, semen, and health is conceived of in terms of embodied truth. Using Foucaulfs critique of Western sexuality as a contrasting frame of reference, I argue that the "truth" about sex in modern North India is worked out in somatic rather than psychological terms, in which morality is problematically defined by male physiology and gendered conceptions of good health, [celibacy, sex, yoga, health, semen, identity, North India]

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