The idea of Jesus’s bleeding side wound being metaphorical female genitalia is both conflicting and corresponding to the traditional ideas of female purity.
Firstly, the blood from Jesus’s side wound is said to be lifegiving. His sacrifice is lifegiving in several ways. Firstly, his sacrifice and martyrdom is what seems to have saved the population. Thus, the blood is physical evidence of his self-sacrifice. On the other hand, his blood had spiritual elements, as people believed that drinking his blood was healing, which already lends itself to images of eroticism. Finally, there are images of his wound physically mirroring female genitalia as a physical person emerges from the cavity,—a birth of sorts.
Corresponding with traditional ideas of female purity one hand, the bleeding side wound is akin to the female genitalia during menstruation. This act of menstruation is proof of a woman not being pregnant, which may suggest that she retains her virginity. In this sense, both Jesus and the woman are showing devotion to God: Jesus who undergoes physical torture and women who must restrain from the sin of lust.
However, the conflicting aspect of this image is quite obvious. Jesus is male. Why would it be necessary to give him female characteristics? Women have the power to give birth to life, and although both parties traditionally need to be present to create life, women are given the role of lifegiver. Whether it’s because of societal standards that force women to be primary caretakers or because the physical visual evidence of childbirth simply creates a strong association with women and life, women seem to be associated with an undeniable power that males cannot seem to take and is actually essential towards virginity and female power. Females, specifically mothers and wives, are responsible for giving birth to create devoted followers and virgins. Despite Margaret’s efforts to remain a virgin and not become a wife, it is important to remember that without her mother, a nonvirgin, Margaret would never have existed.
However, Jesus’s female-like wound subverts the male’s inability to give life. Or… it subverts the idea that Jesus is completely “male.” In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath claims that “Jesus Our Lord refreshed full many a man.” In this context, she is explaining how Jesus fed and nourished men with bread and wine. However, in the old english text, the word “refreshed” was often used in sexual context as well. Hence the homoerotic diction seems to further question Jesus’s coveted identity as a straight, virgin male. In the next few lines, The Wife of Bath compares wives/non-virgins to nourishing wheat bread. This metaphor and its proximity to the perplexing line of Jesus’s “refreshing” could follow the logic: (1) Jesus is feeding/giving life to men. (2) He is feeding women to men. (3) By having some women not be virgins, he is able to retain his virginity and create life at the same time, seemingly overriding the one ability/responsibility that women had over men.
– Cassidy and Donna