Understanding the Kama Sutra: Origins, Purpose, and Relevance Today

By ASTROGLIDE Team Sex Tips The Kama Sutra: Origins, Purpose, and Relevance Today

A handful of texts stand out in history, but there’s only one that offers insights into the art of pleasure: the Kama Sutra. The Kama Sutra is an ancient Indian text that has transcended centuries to inspire connection and exploration. It’s also one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted texts in history. Throughout this blog, we’re exploring its history, intimate intricacies, relevance in modern relationships, and more.

Origins of the Kama Sutra

While the exact date is unknown, the Kama Sutra is believed to have been written between the third and sixth centuries, is traditionally attributed to Vātsyāyana Mallanaga, a Hindu philosopher, and is a culmination of information gathered from thousands of years prior. It emerged at a time when ancient Indian society was flourishing in philosophy, arts, and the pursuit of a wholly pleasurable life. During the 19th century, the Western world discovered the Kama Sutra. The early translations tended to emphasize the erotic portions of the text, and Western civilization latched onto the sexual content, including the sexual positions, rather than the bigger picture of human sexuality, Hindu philosophy, dharma, and overall pleasure. Those skewed and truncated versions of the text were key in forming the modern, Western perspective of the ancient Indian text.

Kama Sutra and the Impact on Modern Relationships

What is the Kama Sutra?

The Kama Sutra has been translated into many things, such as “pleasure manual” and “thread of desire,” to name a few. Contrary to popular Western beliefs, the Kama Sutra isn’t just a book of sex positions and erotica. In its original form, it’s a comprehensive guide to life that covers the philosophy of pleasure, emotional fulfillment, social conduct, human sexual behavior, and more. The text is traditionally broken into seven books or sections to help its readers understand the nature of love, finding a partner, marriage, maintaining sexual health, and an overall holistic approach to life and pleasure. The Kama Sutra is organized in a way that reflects the holistic approach to life that was celebrated at the time, and the sections include:

General Principles—The introduction covers guidelines for living a great life while taking dharma (moral values), artha (prosperity), and kama (pleasure) into consideration. It discusses the goals of life, different skills to make oneself attractive, and general lifestyle aspects relevant to the time to set the stage for the remainder of the book.

Love-Play and Sexual Union—The most well-known section that delves into the intricacies of sexual relationships. In addition to positions and physical pleasure, it covers different types of sexual unions, from kissing and hugging to oral sex and more. Each description goes into great detail, which is why it has gained so much popularity in the Western world.

Courtship and Marriage—Going beyond sexual acts, this portion of the text provides guidelines for finding a wife, what characteristics to look for, and strategies to win them over for marriage.

The Wife, Seducing the Wives of Others, and the Courtesan—Sections 4-6 cover how men should conduct themselves when it comes to their wives, other men’s wives, and sex workers. Each portion explores proper and improper conduct, the art of seduction, how to restore relationships, and so much more. Note this is a broad overview of three distinct, complex sections that explore relations outside of marriage while not encouraging infidelity.

Secret Lore, Extraneous Stimulation, and Sexual Power—The final section dives into the art of medicines and how different recipes can be useful for a range of situations, such as improving fertility, increasing hormones and attractiveness. It also discusses larger principles and the importance of dharma throughout life.

What is the Kama Sutra?

Sexual Techniques and Positions

While the majority of the text isn’t focused on sex positions and techniques, we’d be remiss not to mention a few standouts from our resident sex expert, Dr. Jess O’Reilly:

The Lotus—This position is ideal for high-intensity intimacy and eye gazing since one partner sits with their legs crossed and the other faces them and lowers into their lap for penetration. To boost intimacy during sex play, consider taking your time, breathing in sync while gazing into one another’s eyes and caressing each other’s faces.

Envelopment—Enjoy extra friction, tightness, and external pleasure with this position. While both partners are facing each other lying down, the person with the vulva will cross their legs during penetration. The additional sensations come from squeezing and rubbing when partners are intertwined.

The Mare—This is more of a technique than a position because it involves the person with a vulva using their pelvic floor muscles to pump their partner’s penis to orgasm during intercourse. It’s one of the best positions for adding extra clitoris stimulation because both partners’ hands are free to use fingers or a vibrator on the clitoris during penetration. It’s typically done in a cowgirl/cowboy/cowperson style.

Blossoming—For this position, one partner is lying on their back while the other kneels between their legs. The partner on their back raises their hips, which can lead to new sensations and pressure against different hot spots based on the angle of penetration.

Kama Sutra, its intimate intricacies and how its relevant in modern relationships

Impact on Modern Relationships

Although the Kama Sutra is believed to have been written over 1,000 years ago, its teachings still have relevancy to relationships today based on its broader philosophical and holistic approach to human connection. At its core, the Kama Sutra encourages openness and understanding between partners, and there are countless ways its teachings are still relevant. Here are a few key points:

Communication and Understanding—The Kama Sutra puts an emphasis on how important open communication is between partners. Relationships have and will always benefit from honest and clear communication to establish an understanding of each other’s emotional needs, desires, and boundaries.

Emphasis on Consent—Consent is a paramount value and is something the text highlighted over a thousand years ago. It touches upon the significance of mutual consent in sexual relationships and promotes principles of respect and ethical conduct that everyone should abide by.

Fostering Emotional Bonds—Intimacy isn’t limited to intercourse or the bedroom, and the Kama Sutra acknowledges there are emotional aspects of a relationship that need attention and care. Its teachings focused on building emotional connections and intimacy beyond sex are still relevant in successful modern relationships.

Exploring Intimacy—While Western cultures often associate the text with sexual positions, it underscores exploring physical intimacy from a larger sense. Couples today can draw inspiration from the text to explore new acts of intimacy specific to their partner to deepen connections.

Kama Sutra’s Role in Personal Development

The Kama Sutra serves as a profound guide for relationships with others and with ourselves. It’s a catalyst for self-awareness and empowers individuals to create emotional and spiritual connections that deepen their understanding of desire and boundaries. By prioritizing open communication, individuals are learning about their partners, themselves, and those around them while seeking out a pleasure-filled life. The text also recognizes that personal development and growth is an ongoing journey and encourages a commitment to an open-minded approach to relationships and self-discovery.

Misconceptions and Modern Interpretations

One of the biggest myths about the Kama Sutra (one that we dispelled from our own perceptions while researching for this blog) is that it’s a book of sex positions. While there is a portion of the text that outlines sexual techniques, it’s a comprehensive guide to living a pleasurable life while addressing relationships, courtship and so much more. Another misconception is that the positions it covers require back-bending acrobatics. Rather than having a narrow-minded point of view on the types of positions, we should be focused on celebrating the creativity, intimacy, and emotional connections it fosters between partners. In all honestly, we could go on and on about the misconceptions of the Kama Sutra because it’s been misinterpreted, poorly translated into salacious content, and culturally appropriated.

While we are no experts on the matter, we hope to shed a little more light on the original goal and teachings of the Kama Sutra within this blog. If you’re interested in reading the text, we recommend an unabridged version that covers all of the seven sections. Another great resource on this aspect and relationship matters is Neha Bhat, ABT, ATR, Sex Therapist. Has the Kama Sutra touched aspects of your relationships or inspired you to make changes in your love life?