Histoire de la sexualité : Les significations du Kama Sutra

History of Sexuality: The Origins and Meanings of the Kama Sutra

Origin of the Kama Sutra written by the priest Vâtsyâyana

First of all, the work Kama Sutra would have been published between the 3rd BC and the 6th century AD by Vâtsyâyana, a brahman, that is to say a high-ranking priest from North India. The title Kama Sutra is in Sanskrit and means “A normative text made up of series or lines of essential rules (Sutra) concerning desire, love, pleasure and sex (Kama). The Kama Sutra book includes a total of 7 chapters, including the one on sexual positions which have been popularized worldwide in the modern world. However, the general idea of ​​the Kama Sutra was not only focused on sexual practices. Basically, this book was written to guide couples in their love life through the different stages of their lives and had no illustrations.

The content of the Kama Sutra and its target audience

The purpose of the Kama Sutra is to ensure that readers can achieve dharma, that is to say, in the ideology of Buddhism, the right direction or its legitimate right. The book chapters address sexuality, seduction, marriage, relationship difficulties, courtesans, drugs or other additions that can improve sexual performance.

In fact, the Kama Sutra teaches pleasure and well-being in a relationship and in one's sexuality by conveying the equality of all. It is a work that was written for a general audience, therefore as much for women as for men, couples, married people or those who seek to fulfill their needs and desires for affection morally. On the other hand, he is treated by privileged and rich lovers like princes and high-ranking people. For example, the Kama Sutra answers questions like: “How to reconcile? How to get sexual pleasure in the absence of a partner? How to succeed in your marriage? We can therefore say that the Kama Sutra was a very avant-garde work for its time.

Translation of the Kama Sutra into English and modifications of concepts

However, the Kama Sutra was translated into English in 1876 by Richard Francis Burton and he decided to spread the manuscript especially to men by cutting out the notions of pleasure and respect for consent. According to Wendy Doniger, translator and Kama Sutra specialist, Burton deliberately deprived women of the text explaining their sexual autonomy.

An example translation from the original version of the Kama Sutra is that "the man tries to force the woman and impose himself on her" to demonstrate the lack of consent to the English version which was translated as "when a man is caught in the throes of passion” justifying sexual assault. Moreover, the chapters that were translated and popularized were the lines that spoke of sexual positions and sexuality only, leaving the rest of the work forgotten.

Place of women and feminist ideologies: original Kama Sutra

The place of women in the Kama Sutra is highlighted especially in the sexuality and courtesans section, including the king's daughters. We can observe the tone of the writing which differs between the young virgin women and the courtesans in the sex education contributions of the book. For example, chapter 3 guides young women to find a husband and have their first sexual relationship. On the other hand, one passage dictates that if women are taken by force by men who have not earned their trust, they come to hate sex. Therefore, according to Wendy Doniger, the Kama Sutra could be seen as a work that fights against sexual violence against women.

Vâtsyâyana also conveys feminist ideologies in her book, for the time, dictating that for a woman the sexual act is not only used to produce children. Also, it does not encourage punishment for women who have sexual relations with a man other than their husband, contrary to traditional ideologies. The author rather questions the infidelity and dissatisfaction of women. On the other hand, Vâtsyâyana seems very traditional when he speaks of the rights of rich men to have all the women they desire and particularly those who have a social status lower than them without necessarily having the consent of the women. We can then say that this contradicts the ideology that the Kama Sutra fights against sexual violence since this passage encourages sexual harassment and rape culture.

Also, in the Kama Sutra when the author addresses the position of the missionary associated with the position of conception, Vâtsyâyana does not place it as a priority and indicates that sometimes the woman will take the place of the man in a position above him. It is dictated that this change in position is equivalent to a change in gender role which is compared to homosexual relationships.

Concept of homosexuality: Original Kama Sutra

The Kama Sutra uses the term "third nature" when referring to homosexuality to indicate a "third form of sexual behavior and it refers to a man of this third nature with a feminine pronoun." It is also in connection with this category that the author will describe the sexual act of fellatio in more detail than all the others. In this passage, a category of “third nature” is brought with a male pronoun practicing fellatio, but also in the company of women, which Wendy Doniger questions as being a bisexual representation.

The Kama Sutra mentions so-called female homosexuality and the solitary pleasure of women as well. He talks about the use in particular of fruits and vegetables or the status of phallic male forms for sexual acts, but also of sexual practices between women. However, the Kama Sutra indicates that these women would have sexual relations with each other since no man would be available, which invalidates the concept of homosexuality and sexual desire of women with each other. On the other hand, the author clarifies that at times a woman will be able to choose a sexual partner, a friend or a servant with whom she will practice sexual activities in a hidden environment.





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