The Real Kama Sutra: More Than An Ancient Sex Manual
Everyone knows the Kama Sutra is ancient India’s racy sex manual. The very title conjures up titillating visions of smiling maharajas cavorting with bejeweled naked nymphs.
But few Americans have ever read it—not even the “good parts,” the sexual positions that made the book famous. Meanwhile, the major English translation is a travesty. It dates from 1883 and was published just once in the U.S., in 1962. Its author, English army officer Richard Burton, tortured the text to shoehorn it into Victorian views about sexuality, notably the that only men experience sexual desire and pleasure, and that women are simply passive receptacles for men’s lust. The real Kama Sutra expresses much different—and more contemporary—attitudes.
Happily, in 2009, some 1700 years after the book first appeared, Oxford University Press published a little noticed translation by Wendy Doniger, a professor of religious history at the University of Chicago, and Sudhir Kakar, an …