What Can We *Really* Learn from the Kama Sutra?
First translated into English in 1883 (and kept as part of private collections until 1962) the Kama Sutra has been glorified as an ancient source for ultimate pleasure for decades.
What is the Kama Sutra?
The Kama Sutra itself is an Indian Sanskrit text which was composed somewhere between 400BCE and 300CE. It was then collated in 2nd century CE before getting transcribed to English and (eventually) getting disseminated to a mainstream audience.
Is it all Sex?
When most people think of the Kama Sutra they also typically think of 101 different ways to twizzle into an awkward sexual position. Usually it looks like it might involve yoga or, at the very least, an unreasonable amount of flexibility.
But the Kama Sutra is actually far more intricate (and far less about yogic sex) than you’d imagine.
In the Hindu belief system, there are four elements of life that need to be considered:
Dharma: Also known as the duties of living, including one’s virtues, duties, morals, and similar.
Artha: Which concerns the resources needed to live and focuses on economic and financial security.
Kama: Which concerns all aspects of desire, including passion, emotions, the senses, and what is known as “sense pleasure”.
Moksha: Which is the eventual liberation or release from the spiritual cycle of reincarnation.
The Kama Sutra is one of (believe it or not) a few books that address a harmonious relationship with the sense pleasures of the body and the things associated with them.
This involves a lot of different sections, including 64 different ways a woman should conduct themselves, gentlemanly pursuits, good duties for people in a relationship, adultery, and courtesans; Large swathes of which are not specifically sex related but which still have a lot of benefits for the modern person.
Sure, there are many conventionally sexy ways you can get your jollies with the pages of the Kama Sutra – and there are many articles which can help with this – but the Kama Sutra can offer so many other practical tips for love, relationships, and self.
Here are a few bits of advice from the Kama Sutra that you likely haven’t heard yet:
Don’t Try to Force Chemistry
“A man has dull sexual energy if he is not sexually excited during intercourse”.
This is something that the Kama Sutra describes very early on and is something that we could all do with acknowledging.
If someone isn’t ‘feeling it’ – either in the moment or in the relationship as a whole – then there’s really no point in trying to force a sex session. Not only is that coercion (a big no-no for consent) but, as the Kama Sutra indicates, you’re likely not going to get the response you’d like.
Female Pleasure Matters
One of the very nice things about the Kama Sutra is that it pays strong consideration to female pleasure during sex.
The Kama Sutra is swift to remind those with a male anatomy that, although they might reach a very obvious sexual climax and then not be able to engage in penetration until the refractory period has passed, those with a female anatomy are more likely to experience a slow build up and then an eventual orgasm.
It’s also wise enough to know that women generally take longer to orgasm than men (good ol’ ancient knowledge).
It’s advice? Foreplay matters!
The Kama Sutra urges participants in heterosexual penetration to make sure the woman has achieved a climax prior to the ejaculate period. To not do so is considered to be an unequal experience of pleasure – as the woman has not been gratified.
Nice to know that ancient texts are looking out for the ladies.
But not in the way you might think.
The Kama Sutra divides the size of genitals up quite particularly and uses animals as analogies for different genital compatibility.
Whereas Western pressures on size are often about being large (especially for men) the Kama Sutra takes a more nuanced approach.
It proposes, instead, that sexual gratification is more about the compatibility of size as opposed to needing to be a certain size. For example, if someone prefers a smaller lover for penetration then a partner with a large penis isn’t just incompatible but could actually be painful!
Putting the ‘size argument’ to bed, it suggests that anatomical compatibility is what should be the focus, not an ideal girth or length.
Love Is More Than Just Sex
Not necessarily what you’d expect to hear from a manual known for its sexual positions, but there you go.
The Kama Sutra advises that love comes in four different kinds: habitual, psychological (personal), identification-based, and sense-focused.
Love expressed by words and actions in unison is habitual (and can be focused around sex but also joint hobbies, like running, reading, cooking, etc.). Love that comes from activities without a specific objective in mind is psychological (oral sex and kissing are in this category). Love that is felt at the soul-mate level (“They’re a part of me”) is identification-based, and love that is visible is sense-based (because it can be seen and felt through all the human senses).
The Kama Sutra doesn’t necessarily mandate which one of these four types of love is best (nor that you can only experience one) but it does promote an awareness of them, so that you can best judge and act upon any emotions that you are feeling with regard to love.
This can be especially useful when weighing up those important life choices (such as moving in together, marriage, ending things) where it is often beneficial to think “Well, how am I actually feeling about things right now?” or even just when facing the “What is missing?” question.
I think we can all agree that relationships are better when you have healthy tools to reflect upon your emotions, and the emotions of those you care about.
So There You Have It!
Some incredibly practical bits of advice from the Kama Sutra that aren’t a sexual pose.
The Kama Sutra is a rich and fascinating historical text but it is old, dated, and downright offensive in some places.
Just remember to take is as inspiration and not instruction and you should be fine.
Case in point: These few snippets of advice.
How many will you discover?