Reading the Kama Sutra – 7

Part the Sixth is titled simply “About Courtesans”. In six chapters, it covers – in great, broad swaths – the professional sex worker. Not just your basic everyday prostitutes, but any woman who trades sex and / or the “appearance” of love for money or goods. The high-class call girl, the “gold digger”, the “kept woman”…. All the ways women make a nice living with their beauty.

I can’t tell if this is a “How To” guide, a “What to Watch Out For” warning, or even the usual “This is How It’s Done” overview. The tone wanders all over the place, and the topics don’t seem very organized. The modern commentary notes that at the time the original texts were written, there were places where sex work was not only perfectly legal, but regulated by the government. So it makes sense for the Kama Sutra to devote some words to the “oldest profession”.

There isn’t really much of interest here. It’s very general and repetitive. Why a man might patronize a courtesan, what a courtesan looks for in a good “customer”, how to break off a (business) relationship, juggling more than one “client”, keeping up appearances in society, and all that.

I suppose that for the sake of completeness, a work on the Arts of love, sex, and seduction probably should have a section on sex workers, but the tone of this part is so different from the others that it seems like an afterthought.

Part Seven, the last one, is titled “Occult Practices”. An appendix that was a later addition to the main text, It covers all the little tricks and concoctions one can use to help you get a partner, as well as satisfy them when the body is tired or otherwise unable to properly respond. There’s also some mention of sex toys, as well as some methods that are supposed to enlarge the penis. They look rather uncomfortable, to put it mildly.

This edition concludes with thoughts from the modern commentary, which are pretty much in line with my own concluding thoughts.

The Kama Sutra is most decidedly NOT an instruction manual for having mind-blowing sex, nor is it to be taken as a license for promiscuity. It is also quite culturally specific and dated. It’s important as well to remember that it’s a collection and summary of other texts, some of which were centuries old at the time. So, yes, it’s from the male point of view, and women are occasionally treated like property. One can think of it as a Playboy Guide to Love, Romance, and Sex – for India circa 500 CE.

There are still a few things that come across as good advice.

It’s very important to please your partner when making love. A stable and happy marriage requires that the couple have similar backgrounds and interests. Human sexuality is diverse and complicated.

Common sense, right? But that’s the sort of thing that’s the opposite of what people think the Kama Sutra is about.

Maybe they should actually read it, and not look at any pictures.

It’s still rather boring, though.

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