I quite recently read a copy of the Kama Sutra. I don’t know whether I had a good translation or not (it was a ‘Penguin Popular Classic’), but I actually liked it more than I thought I would and it also cracked me up more than I expected. And I already expected to be laughing quite a lot, so, there.
Of course; when you read this book you anticipate on (and eventually get) the whole yadayada, the reason most people read it: the sexual positions. But there also were lots of things I had never heard about before:
The introduction is actually wonderfully philosophical in a religious way. It tells you about three, sort of technical, terms – Dharma, Artha and Kama, meaning roughly virtue, wealth and pleasure. All three are said to be desirable in your life.
Sounds nice to me.
Weird stuff throughout: they have a whole range of very specific relations between people. Not necessarily sexual relations, but platonic social relations. I mean things like ‘the daughter of a nurse brought up with you and already married’. How specific is that?
Then, they come with a nice list of arts to be studied, by men and woman alike. It is 64 (!) points long and contains things like:
– Fixing stained glass into a floor
– Playing on musical glasses filled with water
– Magic or sorcery
– Chemistry and mineralogy
– Various ways of gambling
Well… different times, different cultures, of course. And I don’t want to make fun of it anyway: I wish I had learned all those things in childhood! Sounds awesome.
Oh, and it ends with the assurance that, when you are versed in all those arts, all people will fall madly in love with you, you will be respected by the king and (sudden bout of practical thinking) you will always be able to sustain yourself if you wind up in a foreign country.
Other fun thing: they give a list of women a man shouldn’t want to sleep with. In the case of married women, however, they immediately also kick off a list of situations when you totally can. Some of those circumstances come down to ‘I don’t like her current husband’. Easy way out, bro.
Then you get to the listing of sexual positions and actions which for me creepily brought to mind De Sade’s ‘120 days of Sodom’ (the unfinished book where he tries to list all sexual ‘deviances’). Somehow, it feels wrong to see these things in list-format. It’s a very analytic approach to a subject that is almost the opposite of that. I keep picturing people going neatly through the list, all passion set aside. It’s frightening and funny at the same time.
Something like that also happens a bit later, when they try to explain how to interact with a shy girl. They are trying to make some sort of recipe for success, using tactics that seem pretty hilarious to me. (One of them involves the man threatening the girl that he will make marks of nails and teeth on his own body, and tell others she did it…)
All in all, I found the text to be unintentionally silly a lot of the time, and unexpectedly wise and philosophical on other times.
The love-potions sounded gross, though.