Review: The Kama Sutra

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Kama SutraThe Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana
Published by Penguin Classics on January 31, 2012
Genres: History, Nonfiction
Pages: 240
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher

A gorgeous deluxe edition of the world's most celebrated guide to life, love, relationships and pleasure.

Little is known about Vatsyayana, who is reputed to have composed the Kama Sutra "while observing a celibate's life in full meditation." In Sanskrit the word "kama" means desire, especially for sensual pleasure, and its proper pursuit was considered an essential part of a young, urbane gentleman's well-rounded education.

Untold numbers of readers are curious about the Kama Sutra but put off by its clichéd image as an erotic Oriental curiosity. This elegant edition offers a compelling modern translation of a classic Indian masterpiece-and a wry and entertaining account of human desire and foibles.

Everyone knows what The Kama Sutra is about. Right? Well, for those of you laughing at me or looking at me askance, maybe you don’t know quite so much as you think you do. Yes, it is about sex, but, more than that, it is a study of pleasure, of courtship. Only one chapter focuses on sexual positions, although the other chapters do include other sexual acts.

This new edition of The Kama Sutra does not have any pictures of how to accomplish the sexual positions. Disappointed? Well, there’s always the cover and the inside flaps. Reading this, I’m a bit curious how the work became known as a book full of pictures of sexual positions. Certainly, Vatsyayana does describe a fair number, but probably not as many as are in the books that have been published. My own theory is that people came up with a bunch more positions while trying to figure out the ones Vatsyayana described, with limited detail.

From a historian’s viewpoint, this was a really neat book to read. One thing I read for particularly was the treatment of women. Now, considering that it’s from roughly the third century CE, women are obviously property. Their role is to be subservient. Still, I was somewhat impressed with two things. 1) Vatsyayana also wrote this with women in mind, and included discussions of how a woman can come to have power over her lover or husband. 2) Vatsyayana openly says that women can have strong sexual drives. This is something that is often denied still today.

On the other hand, some of the advice is spot on, and modern males could still learn from it. For example, Vatsyayana says that “One needs to study a woman’s behaviour when making a pass at her.” Very true. Women are generally going to give off some hints, some signals telling you whether or not they are interested. Being able to read these signals is an art. Of course, his next piece of advice, should she for some strange reason, not be interested is that in some cases “she is available, but by force when they are alone.” Not so good. Oh, ancient value systems.

Despite having been written by a celibate focused on meditation, The Kama Sutra really strikes me as the guidebook of a 3rd century Barney Stinson. Seriously, think about it. Within there are precise descriptions on how to bed women of every variety, along with consideration of sexual positions and how to be attractive. “A paste of rosebay, ginger and dried plum leaves” was probably the old school Indian method of ‘suiting up.’ Or not. Haha. But seriously, it is so much more awesome to read while thinking about this. Additionally, I really think How I Met Your Mother should totally do something with this idea.

Interested in reading The Kama Sutra for yourself, so that you can figure out how to give a proper blow job, to study the historical Indian views of sex, or to see if you can figure out the sexual positions described? Well, you’re in luck! Tomorrow, I’ll be posting a giveaway! You know you want to enter…if only to feel classy/wild when you see it on your bookshelf!

5 responses to “Review: The Kama Sutra”

  1. Kelly says:

    All of your reviews are great, but this one in particular made me laugh quite a bit. Especially the stuff about Barney and HIMYM.

  2. KaylaBeck says:

    This is where lurking is a win! I was looking at your review list, and my family was just talking about this book over dinner the other night. The basis of the conversation – I’ve never been able to get through this book. I’m the only reader in my family that hasn’t finished it. The first time I tried to read it, I stole my mother’s copy when I was younger. I was bored so silly then that I gave up. I always end up putting it down when I try to read it. *shrugs*

    I do agree with you that it is fascinating from a historical standpoint, but the language, oh the language!

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, I got this one for review, so that helped me get through it. I was also a history major in college, so I have some experience with the language of historical texts. Well, also I read the classics.

      You might want to try another translation if you’re still trying to get through it. I’m sure some are more modern. Some translators try only to keep the spirit of things, some try to translate pretty much word for word.

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