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Doniger, W. (1989). Sexual Doubles and Sexual Masquerades: The Structure of Sex Symbols. Ann. Psychoanal., 17:263-280.

(1989). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 17:263-280

Sexual Doubles and Sexual Masquerades: The Structure of Sex Symbols

Wendy Doniger, Ph.D.

There are many stories about a woman who secretly or magically replaces another woman in a man's bed—or of a man who replaces another man in this way; and there are many stories about a woman who secretly or magically gets another woman to replace her in a man's bed—or of a man who does this. These themes take on many different forms in different retellings throughout the world. I wish to explore a few of the many different variations that different cultures, particularly in India, have played upon the basic theme; and to show how the theme takes on different meanings as it moves back and forth among supernatural stories dealing with goddesses, fairytales dealing with woman who have magic powers, and realistic stories dealing with human women. I will try to take account of both the human, psychological meanings of these stories and the theological meanings, in my attempt to demonstrate a few ways in which we share with Hindus—and perhaps, though by no means necessarily, with other cultures—certain underlying assumptions about the sexual doubling of men and women.

The richest development of this theme in English literature occurs in the comedies of Shakespeare, who made use of many sources, some of them folk sources—indeed, some of them Indian folk sources, perhaps transmitted through Islam.

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