One’s initial reading of the Kama Sutra (the real Kama Sutra, not those New Age knock-offs) is bound to disappoint. Anyone expecting to be inducted into the ancient secrets of sex gods or chapter titles that sound like the teasers on the cover of Cosmo will be sorely disappointed.
Essentially this work is a shitload of lists with occasional commentary. For instance, listed within are the 64 arts that should be studied in addition to the arts of love. The usual artsy stuff is in there, but there’s also some more unusual items, such as:
- “The art of making beds” (#11)–although calling domestic chores “art” is clever, I wonder how effective it really is.
- “Playing on musical glasses filed with water” (#12)
- “Magic or sorcery” (#21)–just a minor mention. Yeah, and if you could just call down lightning from the sky after making breakfast, that would be great. Thanks.
- “Practice with sword, single stick, quarter staff, and bow and arrow” (#42)–apparently ancient Hindu women (at least courtesans) were expected to be ninjas, too.
- “Knowledge of ways of changing and disguising the appearance of persons” (#52)–see above.
And this is in addition to all sorts of regular arts, like word games, ciphers, carpentry, chemistry, and “fixing stained glass into a floor” (art #10)–hey, could be handy.
It also outlines what kind of women are OK to sleep with and which ones aren’t. Among the women who “are not to be enjoyed” are crazy women and those who reveal secrets. Apparently they thought there were other kinds (I kid! I kid!). Of course some are fairly obvious–if you have to tell someone to stay away from “a bad-smelling woman” or the king’s wife, they probably get what they deserve. Some are a little more questionable. I would assume “a woman who publicly expresses desire for sexual intercourse” to be the one I most likely want to sleep with. The Kama leaves room for debate even within itself, as it provides different schools of thought on the matter:
“The followers of Babhravya say that any woman who has been enjoyed by five men is a fit and proper person to be enjoyed. But Gonikaputra is of the opinion that even when this is the case, the wives of a relation, of a learned Brahman and of a king should be excepted.”
Although I appreciate the useful heuristic of the former, the latter is probably safer.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and they list 13 reasons one can sleep with a woman on the Verboten list. Although carnal pleasure alone is never acceptable, some of these excuses seem down-right counter-productive. Sleeping with someone’s wife is considered OK if you do it to change the husband’s mind about doing you harm, Frankly, if that works for you, more power to you. It would probably be a good idea to have a current last will and testament, just in case. Another reason is in order to kill someone the king has ordered you to destroy. That seems like a bit of a non sequitor to me. Look, I’ve already explained this. The king wants this guy dead, so we have no choice but to bump nasties.
Two memorable quotes from the chapter on Sexual Union:
- “Man is divided into three classes, viz., the hare man, the bull man, and the horse man, according to the size of his lingham. Woman also, according to the depth of her yoni, is either a female deer, a mare, or a female elephant.” Another clue this was written by men: the medium-sized “lingham” is the bull-sized one.
- “as dough is prepared for baking, so must a woman be prepared for sexual intercourse.” Analogies comparing a woman’s genitalia and yeast are not all that sexy.
The chapter on kissing details various types, such as “the ‘greatly pressed kiss,” which is effected by “taking hold of the lower lip between two fingers, and then after touching it with the tongue, pressing it with great force with the lip.” I challenge you to picture a more awkward kiss. Now perform this maneuver on a loved one while maintaining a straight face the entire time. Act like it is the sexiest thing in the world and demand that they return the favor.
Another fun kissing game:
“a wager may be laid as to which will get hold of the lips of the other first. If the woman loses, she should pretend to cry, should keep her lover off by shaking her hands, and turn away from him and dispute with him…and when her lover is off his guard or asleep, she should get hold of his lower lip, and hold it in her teeth, so that it should not slip away, and then she should laugh, make a loud noise, deride him, dance about, and say whatever she likes in a joking way, moving her eyebrows, and rolling her eyes.”
I could have sworn they said something about not sleeping with lunatics.
The chapter on embracing outlines various hugs (man, they thought of everything!). One such embrace is called the “mixture of milk and water”, described as “when a man and woman…embrace each other as if they were entering each other’s bodies, either while the woman is sitting on the lap of the man or in front of him, or on a bed.” I guess “mixture of milk and water” sounds a lot more poetic than “dry humping”.
There are also several embraces based on what is embraced or how. The “embrace of the breasts” sounds like it has potential–until you realize that it is “when a man places his breast between the breasts of a woman, and presses her with it.” WTF?!? And then there is “when either of the lovers touches…the forehead of the other with his or her own, it is called the ‘embrace of the forehead.’” I would call that a “head-butt”, but I’m not writing a millenia-old sex manual, am I?
More recognizable as what is normally found in those New Age-y Kamas/Cosmo articles is a description of various sex positions, although most modern translations have changed the names somewhat. Calling a man having sex with several women at once the “congress of a herd of cows” detracts from the hotness a bit (unless you’re from a more liberally-minded rural community that’s into that sort of thing). Sex standing up (while leaning against a wall, pillar or each other) is called “the supported congress”, which makes watching C-Span much more enjoyable each time the president makes a plea for more congressional support. Now you know what he’s really saying.
Much like the Chinese tradition of forming martial art styles by watching animals fight, the ancient Hindus formed various love styles by watching animals fuck. Admittedly, the way it goes down in the animal kingdom those may not be mutually exclusive events. The animals mentioned include dogs, goats, deer, cats, tigers, elephants, boars, horses, and “the forcible mounting of an ass”–which surprisingly is not exclusive to the prison population. One of the odder bits of advice is that within these animal styles, “everything that is normally done on the bosom should be done on the back.” Unless there are some particularly developed shoulder blades, I don’t think that’s going to work.
The next chapter involves striking and appropriate sounds during sex. At some point the man is supposed to slap his partner in the forehead while making one of three sounds:
- The sound of bamboo being split
- The sound of something falling into water
Ladies, I’ll leave it to you to figure out which one gets you all hot and bothered. At the climax, “sounds like those of the quail, or the goose should be made.” Let that sink in for a moment. How cool would it be to see a Hollywood love scene/adult film end with, “Oh, baby, I’m gonna–HOOOONK! HONK! HONK! HONK!”
Next up is an in-depth look at Auparishtaka, or the “mouth congress”. Largely, there are excuses not to do it. In some places it was illegal for a married woman to engage in it. It carries the stigma attached to it that anal sex does in our culture–something dirty, mostly the province of eunuchs trying to seduce their masters (i.e., gay men, although eunuchs were really considered sexless). It does make a brief mention of women engaging in the mouth congress together, proving that lesbian chic truly is timeless.
Next on the docket: marriage. No chapter on nuptials would be complete without a list of women you shouldn’t marry. Among those on the list are those with a projecting forehead and sweaty palms, but also “one who has fully arrived at puberty.” In other words, if there is grass on the field, it is too late to enter into a contract to use that arena for future sporting events.
But the marriage advice isn’t just for men. The Kama advises poor women to try and snag “a person she thinks would marry her on account of the weakness of his mind.” Not very flattering, to be completely honest. You had best find someone dumb enough to marry you, and never let go. If that doesn’t sound like a formula for marital bliss, I don’t know what does.
There are 10 degrees of love listed in the Kama. In ascending order, they are:
(1) Love of the eye
(2) Attachment of the mind
(3) Constant reflection
(4) Destruction of sleep
(5) Emaciation of the body
(6) Turning away from objects of enjoyment
(7) Removal of shame
One might argue that most us reach level 7 (or even 8) long before we get to some of the lesser ones. On the subject of marriage, it makes note that it is OK to sleep with another man’s wife if it will save your life based on this scale (although I assume the husband in question would rather allow you to achieve level 10, perhaps even helping you along a bit).
But how should the smitten male express his interest at a public social gathering? The Kama includes such sage advice as pulling “about his mustache”, but by far the strangest is using a child as a proxy. “He should…embrace and kiss a child in her presence, and give it the mixture of betel nut and betel leaves with his tongue” (emphasis mine). But what if the child is safely ensconced in her lap? Is it safe from the amorous male? Not even close. “The man should fondle a child that may be sitting in her lap, and give it something to play with.” Did I mention that they liked girls on the young side?
But how is the man of amorous pursuits to know that his lady love is interested in him? Of the many hints listed, the most reliable is “When shampooing him she works with one hand only, and with the other she touches and embraces parts of his body.” Trust me, guys; if your lady love is washing your hair and gives you a hand-job, chances are she likes you. Either that, or you tipped the hairdresser really well.