One encounters sexuality everywhere; thus in anything one is involved, their sexuality will appear too.Carl Gustav Jung
Kamasutra or the Aphorisms of love, is a renowned guide on the way of living. Though many elements of this book were lost in translation, Vatsayana’s Kamasutra is much more than coitus, all the while centering itself on sex and sexuality. Of the seven books, book 1 in Kamasutra deals with general principles.
Vatsayana’s Kamasutra was preceded by many other works. However these were individual texts. The existing compilation by Babhravya was complex and large. Vatsayana compiled these and presented the essence in a simplified manner.
Vatsayana suggests that the 3 major practices – Dharma (duty), Artha (material indulgence) and Kama (sensual indulgence) are supposed to be harmonized throughout one’s life. Kamasutra urges one to strike a balance. Vatsayana didactically details the various ways in which one can harmonize the three at various stages of life.
Vatsayana details the importance of sex education. He says that the act of sex, even practiced by brutes, must be learned so as to make it mindful. He argued that women must learn Kamasutra at a time when all sciences were denied for women. He proposed that women learn it through a confidante – a daughter of a dhatri (nurse) or a sanyasini, thus encouraging open conversations on sex.
Vatsayana enlists a series of complementary arts ranging from culinary and housekeeping to alchemy and magic. He recommends exercise and verbal-linguistic intellectual pursuits. The complementary arts, aside from primarily enhancing the pleasure, helps boost appeal for both sexes. The past times increases eloquence, physical and mental well-being. Both men and women engaging in these might aid in mate selection, given that humans are half tournament- half pair bond species.
This infusion of gender, sex and multiple intelligences as Gardner might call it, also acknowledges a mutuality between the individual and the society, such as the one echoed in Labov’s gender paradox. Though it sticks to a binary it vaguely hints at how there could be masculinities and femininities.
It’s interesting to compare the 4 types of men presented by Vatsayana to more modern conceptualizations of masculinities. The Nagarika Nayaka is the conventional hero. The other 3 are complementary to him and are treated with lesser significance in the text. A similar classification of women is also given. It is interesting to note how this taxonomy is based on sexual and courting behaviors. It touches upon the psychoanalytic idea of the pursuit of love, that every love has two orientations- how one loves (subject) and how one is loved (object).
Vatsayana urges to avoid sex with women who are lunatic, unkempt, nymphomaniac etc. Among the 4 types of women, the last category of women falls into a strategic nature. This is where sex is becoming something more than pleasure.
Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.Oscar Wilde
The special purposes for which a man approaches such women, who may or may not be married, include:
- Revenge against the woman’s husband, who might have seduced the man’s wife.
- To acquire the wealth of the woman’s husband.
- To get into the good books of the woman’s powerful husband through the woman.
- To reach another woman
- To kill an enemy.
- To avoid ruining reputation, in case the woman knows the man’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
The idea of using a woman’s sexuality can be seen elsewhere, such as in the story of Abraham where he lies that Sarah, his wife is his sister and ends up acquiring wealth from the pharaoh. Though it might come across as sexist, it carries with it, layers of meaning pertaining to the intricacies of human sexuality. Book 1 concludes by narrating the qualities of a wingman.
The man who is ingenious and wise, who is accompanied by a friend, and who knows the intentions of others, as also the proper time and place for doing everything, can gain over, very easily, even a woman who is very hard to be obtained.Vatsayana