Mention the Kama Sutra, and everyone knows it’s ancient India’s racy sex manual. But given the Kama Sutra’s notoriety, few Americans have ever read it—not even the “good parts,” the sexual positions that made the book famous, but which, in reality, account for only about one-quarter of its content.
Meanwhile, even those few who have read the major English translation have not fully appreciated the Kama Sutra because that translation seriously misrepresented it. It dates from 1883 and was published just once in the U.S., 40 years ago in 1962. Richard Burton, the British army officer responsible for it, altered the text considerably to shoehorn it into Victorian views about sexuality, notably the then-popular notions that only men experienced sexual desire and pleasure, and that women were nothing more than passive recipients of men’s lust. The real Kama Sutra holds much different—and more contemporary—views.
Happily, some 1700 years after it was written, the English-speaking world can now read what the real Kama Sutra says, thanks to a new translation that rights Burton’s wrongs, and reveals the book for what it truly is, much more than a manual of sexual positions, but rather a guidebook for cultivating an eroticized life. It’s “Sex and the City” circa 300 A.D., only the focus is on men instead of Sarah Jessica Parker and her girlfriends (though some of the text is clearly intended for fourth-century Indian women).
In this article:
- Treatise on Sexual Pleasure
- Life as a Play in Seven Erotic Acts
- An Ancient Mirror
2,400 words MORE…