Everything You Ever Secretly Wanted to Know About Kama Sutra
You’ve probably heard of the Kama Sutra before. (Perhaps circa 1999 while watchingAmerican Pie?) But this ancient Indian bible of sex positions offers way more than just a list of freaky moves to try.
Here’s what you need to know about the mother of all sexual manuals.
“Kama Sutra is an ancient Indian textbook used to practice tantra, which means sacred sexuality in Sanskrit,” says Kama Sutra expert Markie Twist, Ph.D., associate professor in the human development, family studies, and marriage and family therapy at the University of Wisconsin, Stout.
Tantra follows two paths of training: Vama Marga (or the left-hand path), which is all about those acrobatic sex positions that would make your mom blush, and Dakshina-Marga (the right-hand path), which is about your energy, emotions, and the non-physical side of sex. So while the Kama Sutra book certainly has some explicit sex descriptions in there, emotional pleasure and connectedness is pretty important, too.
One of the most popular English translations of the Kama Sutra, published in 1883 by Sir Richard Burton, is full of flaws. Plus, the dude inserted lots of his old, crotchety Victorian beliefs all over the place. That’s probably why there’s so much confusion about what Kama Sutra is in the first place. Contemporary scholars tend to snub his book for a translation by University of Chicago Professor Wendy Doniger, Ph.D. So make sure you’ve got the right copy.
Kama Sutra teaches a series of rituals to build emotional intimacy that have nothing to do with penetration. For example, you can try synchronized breathing with your partner (even putting your hands on each other’s chest) and sustaining eye contact for long periods of time without moving. These meditative practices can heighten sensations and make you more aware of your body, which leads to greater arousal later on, says Twist.
Kama Sutra emphasizes female pleasure and makes some pretty modern arguments, considering the O.G. text came from ancient India. For example, the book says that men should put women’s sexual needs first and put their own orgasm on hold so that women can climax (holla!). Also mentioned: Sex isn’t just for making babies and women should be in charge of household finances. Noted. (Spice up your sex life stat with these products from the Women’s Health Boutique!)
“A lot of couples come in to see me because they fear they’re not getting sex right or they have performance anxiety,” says Twist. Tantra gives you a chance to write a different sex script with new ways to become close as a couple. Just try staring at each other without touching—it’s hot! That makes sex feel more like an adventure. Remember, you need specific steps for building Ikea furniture, not for getting it on.
“You don’t want to be having this kind of sex all the time; it’s not ideal when you’ve only got five minutes to make it work,” says Twist. Save Kamasutra for an evening when you both have time to focus on each other and put stressors aside.