Behind Closed Doors: What Is the Kama Sutra Really?

June 10, 2017 | Posted in Editorial Features by colette-callaway


Mention the Kama Sutra anywhere, and people automatically think of a sex manual filled chock full of superhuman, erotic positions and sexual mysticism. Though that's not entirely wrong, the Kama Sutra is one of those ancient practices that is completely misunderstood by the Western world - and even in India, its home country. 

Though crazy positions supposedly derived from the text fill the pages of Cosmo, it's important to remember that their are no frozen quarters, grapefruits, or donuts mentioned in the Kama Sutra. I take particular interest in the text as a yogi and meditator, so I am here to dispell as much myth as I can. (And don't worry - it's definitely still worth reading.)

The original is written in Sanskrit and translated into English by Sir Richard Burton

There's always something lost in translation, and who know what might be missing from the original Sanskrit rendition? The different segments that make up the Kama Sutra were written between 400 BCE and 200 CE, making them ancient AF.

It's not all about sex

Actually, only 20 percent of the Kama Sutra is about sex. It also includes quite a bit of love advice alongside what triggers desire, when having said desire might be bad, and what makes for a good partner. 

But it does consider sex to be a normal, healthy part of life

Kama means "desires" or "passions" and is one of the four goals of Hindu life. The others are Dharma (ethics/duty/religion), Artha (prosperity and wealth), and Moksha (liberation or enlightenment). Certain parts of ancient Hindu culture consider sexual ecstasy to be a route toward enlightenment and the experience of the divine, though a great deal of that was wiped out during British colonialization.

It's not a Tantric text

Tantra is entirely different, though there is some crossover. Yoga, on the other hand, does have roots in Tantra.

The same term is used for kama sutra positions as yoga poses 

The word is asana, and it means "seat." 

It contains a little BDSM

Erotic slapping, as well as when it becomes appropriate, is included in the Kama Sutra.

It was compiled in a pretty sexist time... 

Ancient India at the time of the Kama Sutra's conception was still very much a patriarchal society. There are references to women having to serve and submit to their husbands, as well as how it was not OK to marry a woman who wasn't a virgin. The caste system is also referenced - something that Tantra rejected. 

But the man behind the magic, Vatsyayana, was very progressive

Vatsyayana composed the Kama Sutra from other authors' texts and is said to have been a celibate monk who put them together as a form of his own meditation. Even though women were not taught to read at the time, he said that some women learned anyway and that women should be able to study the text. He also countered the acceptance of domestic violence, the idea that women couldn't orgasm, and he said that women should be able to leave their husbands if they weren't physically satisfied.

It says that women should cum first

All about this. Good job Vatsyayana.

There are instructions for different sized penises and vaginas

As well as how different sizes best fit together. Women can have deer, mare, or elephant vaginas, and men are hares, bulls, or horses.

There's a weird part about seducing other men's wives 

Apparently that was OK in certain circumstance. Dunno why. 

There are also instructions for organizing your furniture and schedule, such as: 

"After breakfast, parrots and other birds should be taught to speak, and the fighting of cocks, quails, and rams should follow."

There are 64 sexual positions described

For the flexible and fit, the Kama Sutra really does have some incredible ideas for sex. 

You can pick up the English translation in almost all bookstores - I recommend giving it a read in full. 

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