The Kamasutra is the most widely known document within the Kamasastra genre of books in the Hindu tradition. This text deals with Kama, one of the four worthy goals in life, according to Hindus, and how to pursue it. Kama can be described as desire, sensory pleasure, and the fulfillment of sexually pleasurable human needs (Rodrigues 114-117). This goal is to be pursued within the householder life stage to help love between the married couple flourish (Rodrigues 117). The Kamasutra explains many aspects of the sexual experience, as well as other elements that are involved in enhancing the erotic occasion. The first book describes how a single man should behave, the second explains the many sexual positions, and the third clarifies exactly what kind of woman the man should be pursuing (Doniger 20). The fourth book depicts the man’s marriage and how he should live with his chosen mate(s), the fifth details the ways in which the man could woo the wives of other men (Doniger 20-21). Lastly, the sixth book explains courtesans and their place within desire, and the seventh book talks about magic used to enhance the sexual experience (Doniger 21). Book three is the main focus here and this section focuses on a man’s attention being directed toward virgins; mainly discussing how to pick one and what it takes to seduce her. This book, however, does have a small section dedicated to instructing virgins on the techniques to use when seducing a man (Doniger 21).
Book three’s first chapter goes into detail about the qualities a man should search for in a virgin, as well as qualities that should be avoided, and the various techniques that could be used to court the right girl (Doniger and Kakar 75-78). In this chapter, viable virgins are under scrutiny in regard to their looks and other personal qualities. She, for instance, should not be “pimply, like a bull, or promiscuous” (Doniger and Kakar 76) among other unsatisfactory qualities, she must come from a good family, and many of her traits cannot be excessive nor insufficient (Doniger and Kakar 75). The ideal qualities are normally described in regard to what a woman should not be. In this chapter there is mention of the woman being “like any other piece of merchandise,” (Doniger and Kakar 77) and therefore should be displayed as such (Doniger and Kakar 76-77). This union between two individuals is also about the union of two families, so both families should be happy and fully satisfied with the prospective wedding (Doniger and Kakar 78). After presenting what kind of women a man should be looking for, chapter two establishes exactly how said virgin should be charmed and led to trust the man attempting to woo her (Doniger and Kakar 78-82). She must first be able to trust him in order to proceed sexually with him, or else she may begin to feel scared of the entire process and men in general (Doniger and Kakar 81). This chapter explains that a man can provide too much attention and affection, or he can offer too little, and that he should attempt to avoid both extremes (Doniger and Kakar 78-81).
After the virgin begins to trust him, he may begin to make greater sexual advances involving her, like those that are laid out in chapter three (Doniger and Kakar 82-86). These advances include: playing games with her, giving her gifts, impressing her, and having sex with her foster-sister (Doniger and Kakar 83-84). These advancements will lead to responses from her, and those are also laid out in the third chapter to ensure that the man will be able to understand how she is feeling in regard to his actions (Doniger and Kakar 85-86). Many of the advances that a man can carry out are with the help of other women communicating with the one he wants. These conversations normally involve confessions of his good qualities, or their own established love for him, in order to make the desired woman also want to love him (Doniger and Kakar 83). The fourth chapter discusses how consistent a man should be with his particular advances to eventually wear her down, and it also specifies how a virgin can advance toward a man she desires (Doniger and Kakar 86-90). In order to wear her down he has to invest in a regime of touching her whenever possible, especially her feet and toes. He is encouraged to touch her toes enough “so that she eventually tolerates it,” (Doniger and Kakar 87) and then he can continue to touch her feet and eventually the rest of her. The few techniques that he can carry out alone are explained in chapter four, alongside the advances that the virgin can make toward him (Doniger and Kakar 87-89). In this portion of the Kamasutra, the woman is able to become an active agent in the courting process. This is accomplished by the fact that she is able to decide when the man can take her virginity because she is already interested in this event occurring with him (Doniger and Kakar 89).
The second, third, and fourth chapters all develop different features of the courting process, whereby the man uses the methods described in the book to seduce a virgin into marriage and bed with him. The fifth and last chapter entails the devious ways the man can acquire the woman he desires, and help the virgin desire him as he desires her (Doniger and Kakar 90-93). This last chapter is interesting because it defends rape as a viable marriage device in order for the man to get the woman he desires (Doniger and Kakar 93). This chapter is about the methods that a man should employ if he is not winning the virgin over. Aside from rape he can persuade other women to talk to his desired woman about all his good qualities along with the terrible qualities of other suitors (Doniger and Kakar 92). He may also talk to the girl’s mother, or to her brother in order to become the most favourable suitor and stamp out the competition (Doniger and Kakar 92). In all these situations, he will begin a wedding ceremony with the woman he desires, after whichever conversation occurs, therefore creating a circumstance that cannot be avoided or stopped (Doniger and Kakar 92). This is the beginning of a “love-match wedding,” (Doniger and Kakar 92) where a certain fire ritual initiates the ceremony and cannot be taken back (Doniger and Kakar 92).
There are many people around the world who view the Kamasutra as a sex textbook containing only the sex positions and other notions about sex (Doniger 18). This is not entirely true as there is just one book entirely focused on sex and sexual positions, but even that book eludes to other arts besides sex that are necessary for Kama. Book three, for instance, is focused on how to marry the right woman. This is accomplished by allowing a virgin to slowly trust him and any advances that would precede marriage and sex. The third book also examines how these advances could influence the desired woman negatively and/or positively. The Kamasutra was able to lay out and control sexual practices, and allow Hindu people to explore Kama and their erotic pleasures alongside love and Dharma (Gautam 4-6). The Kamasutra as a whole has also been viewed as a text that does not fully explore both genders sexually, especially in regard to women’s pleasures, but that has been disputed through a newer translation release (Doniger 18). This newer translation is able to give a better idea of how women were able to be active in many aspects of Kama, like what is described in sections of book three even when they are being courted.
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND RELATED READINGS
Doniger, Wendy, and Sudhir Kakar (2002) Vatsyayana Kamasutra. New York: Oxford University Press.
Doniger, Wendy (2003) “The “Kamasutra”: It Isn’t All About Sex.” The Kenyan Review 25(1):18-37. Accessed February 6, 2017.
Gautam, Sanjay K. (2014) “The Courtesan and the Birth of Ars Erotica in the Kamasutra: A History of Erotics in the Wake of Foucault.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 23(1):1-20. Accessed February 6, 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.7560/JHS23101.
Rodrigues, Hillary (2016) Hinduism – The eBook: An Online Introduction. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, Ltd.
Related Topics for Further Investigation
Kamasutra Book One
Kamasutra Book Two
Kamasutra Book Four
Kamasutra Book Five
Kamasutra Book Six
Kamasutra Book Seven
Feminist influences on Kama
Cultural influences on Kama
Websites Related to the Topic
Article written by: Justine Fisher (Spring 2017), who is entirely responsible for its content.