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Kama Sutra: a guide to the art of pleasure

Kama Sutra: a guide to the art of pleasure

The Kama Sutra has captivated the erotic imagination of the west for centuries, but illustrations of spectacular sexual gymnastics are just a fraction of what this ancient Sanskrit text has to offer. Let’s talk about the origin of the Kama Sutra, some notable teachings, and how to explore them today.

Who wrote the Kama Sutra? 

The Kama Sutra was composed in or around the third century by a Hindu philosopher named Vātsyāyana Mallanaga. But Vātsyāyana doesn’t claim sole authorship. In fact, the book is a collection of extracts from other texts written a thousand years earlier. 

In 1883, the text was first translated into English by a British explorer. He found himself particularly captivated by the section on sex positions, largely neglecting the philosophical and spiritual aspects. Thus originated the widespread misconstruing of the Kama Sutra as a sex manual by the Western world. 

What do the words Kama Sutra actually mean? 

The word kama translates broadly to "pleasure", encompassing but not limited to sexual pleasure, and a “sutra” is an instructive text. So together, the phrase “kama sutra” roughly translates to "pleasure manual". 

What is the Kama Sutra about? 

Basically, the Kama Sutra is a guide to leading a pleasurable life. It offers philosophical musings and practical direction to cultivating rewarding hobbies and relationships. Structured in seven parts, the text covers everything from the general principles of Hinduism, to courtship and sex, relationships with friends and family, and even occult practices. 

Is the Kama Sutra still relevant? 

Here’s the disclaimer. This book of advice about social and romantic behaviour constructed more than a millenia ago doesn’t totally hold up against modern values. Among other objections, the Kama Sutra is pretty heteronormative, and focuses a lot on the importance of getting a wife, and the traditional duties she should perform.

That said, considering its timestamp, the Kama Sutra offers an impressively holistic, pleasure-positive vision of sexuality. Plenty of its teachings about life and pleasure are still relevant today. 

What about the sex positions? 

The Kama Sutra isn’t just a book of sex positions, but it’s not lacking in that department either. We won’t go into detail on each of the 64 sex positions and their 200+ variations when the whole book (plus an infinite number illustrated how-to articles) is available online. 

It’s worth noting that the positions in the Kama Sutra aren’t a “to-do” list for all couples. In fact, the primary purpose of the guide to positions is to assist people in finding what works for them, whether that means achieving deeper penetration, greater clitoral stimulation, or enhancing emotional intimacy during sex. 

What can we take away from the Kama Sutra? 

If you’re interested in exploring the Kama Sutra further, we suggest looking for an accurate, modern translation written by an expert in the field. Not every chapter of the Kama Sutra remains relevant, but the overarching messaging of finding joy, pleasure and meaning in everyday life is just as important now as when it was written.

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