The concept of femaleness in ancient India can be inferred from a variety of literary sources. The patriarchal-structured society has created normative texts, law books and treatises to explain female nature and to regulate female behavior. The duality in the perception of femaleness is often present within one single text, however, it becomes even clearer when different texts are compared and analysed. The dichotomy in the concept of femaleness is most obvious in the depiction of the two archetypes in Sanskrit literature: the wife and courtesan.In the thesis, the Daśakumāracarita, which is a novel dated to the late 6th century AD, is read as a text that mirrors the society of the author. The text has been analysed and compared to other texts for the purpose of throwing light on how femaleness is perceived. The method used in this thesis is thus mainly hermeneutic. Because the aim is to reveal information about woman, and also because the male text studied in the analysis may ascribe to a viewpoint of women that primarily serves male goals, the approach is feminist.The analysis is structured around three topics; female nature, the wife, and the courtesan. It reveals the basis for various beliefs and attitudes regarding femaleness, as well as ways patriarchy has employed these attitudes to advance male needs. Although the social spheres of the wife and the courtesan were mutually exclusive, their common objectives were to serve men. The analysis shows to what extent the women portrayed in the novel conform to the role models provided for them, and their options for power over their lives.Female nature is presented as predominantly negative in the normative texts explored in this thesis. It was therefore important for patriarchy to control women, and in particular female sexuality, in order to protect itself from the possible malevolent effects of female behaviour. Marriage was a way to transform the negative traits in women into positive qualities. The wife became a benevolent force due to male control. The courtesan, on the other hand, was beyond male control, and is thus potentially dangerous. The patriarchal dilemma lies in the fact that it needed both types of women.