Summary of the Kama Sutra, Part V
Vasyayana now treats the nature of men and women and the topic of adultery. A man may resort to another man’s wife if his love for her is so excessive that he needs to save his own life. The author names ten degrees of intensity of love: attachment by sight; attachment of the mind; constant reflection on the beloved; destruction of sleep; emaciation of the body; turning away from enjoyment; removal of shame; madness; fainting; and death.
While some think a woman’s disposition may be determined by her external looks, Vatsyayana thinks that a woman should be judged by conduct, outward expression of thought, and movements of the body.
Women fall in love with every handsome man, and a man falls in love with every beautiful woman, though he may take no further steps about it. Women, however, love without regard for right and wrong. She may at first shrink, but she will eventually give in with repeated attempts to win her. A man, however, can conquer his feelings through morality and wisdom, even if he is in love. Often, once he wins a woman, he becomes indifferent to her.
The reasons a woman rejects a man are that she may be attached to her husband or want lawful progeny, or there may be no opportunity, or she does not like to be addressed without respect. She may have doubts about the man’s sincerity or stability, or his friends, or that his passion is too great for her. She may consider him to be of low character or incompetent in love. Compassion for his reputation, her own bashfulness, fear of discovery, or disillusionment with the man are other reasons. If a man wants to win the woman, he should try to find out any of these reasons and remove her doubt.
The men who usually succeed with women are those well versed in the arts of love; men who are good storytellers; men who have known the woman from childhood; those who send presents and do things to please the woman; those who have not had many women; men who have been lately married or act as messengers; strong and handsome men; those who know the weak points of women; men who are liberal and like pleasure parties, and enterprising men.
The kind of woman who is easily gained includes women who stand at the door of their houses looking into the street, those who visit the neighbors; women who stare at men or look sideways at them; a woman who hates her husband or has not had children; a woman fond of society and enjoyment, a vain woman or one given in marriage when young, a woman slighted by her husband or not respected by others, or a jealous or immoral woman.
Some men rely on messengers to win the woman, but Vatsyayana says that a man should try to arrange it himself. He should manage to be seen by the woman and should look at her to let her know he desires her. He should be liberal and carry on conversations with double meanings with a child or another person present, thus making his intentions known. He can arrange for her to become friends with his wife or see that their families do business with the same merchants so that they will have to see each other often. After the period of acquaintance, he should try to give her gifts and ask for the flower in her hair. He can give her a flower marked with his teeth or nails. After he has gained her confidence, he should begin touching her and then enjoy her. While he is winning one woman, he should not be courting another, but wait until one affair is finished before starting another. A wise man will be careful about the woman he seduces to retain his reputation.
A man can know if a woman is interested if she listens to him, and if she dresses up for him. If she reproaches him but acts affectionately, he should continue, but if she reproaches him harshly, he should desist. If a woman avoids a man she will be won over with great difficulty.
A woman in love calls out to a man without being addressed by him. She shows herself to him in secret places and speaks tremblingly; she perspires; she embraces him. If she is shy, or if difficult to meet, he may employ a female messenger. The go-between should try to make her hate her husband and praise the woman’s beauty, saying it is a pity she is wasted on her husband. The go-between should praise the lover and his love for her and tell her famous love stories to increase her desire. She can also bring love tokens from the man. Vatsyayana then says a meeting can be arranged but only in a place with a proper means of ingress and egress so there is privacy and no accidental occurrence.
Sometimes the go-between is a woman who teaches the arts of love to the innocent young woman. Female astrologers, female servants, female beggars, and female artists are good go-betweens.
Kings and ministers must get other men’s wives secretly, because they are in the public eye. Yet a king’s officer has the power to recruit female villagers simply by asking them. This class of women is called “unchaste” (118). Men of rank take their pleasure of unprotected women or lower class women as they work in the fields or in houses. The king also gets female servants or his wives to lure women to the palace during festivals. Men desiring the king’s favor also send their wives to the palace. The king should never enter the abode of another as King Abhira and King Jayasana were killed in this way while pursuing women.
In the king’s harem, the women give pleasure to one another as they cannot leave, nor do they often see their husband. Sometimes they smuggle men into the harem in disguise.
Vatsyayana concludes that from this information, it is clear “a man should guard his own wife” (124). Women lose their chastity when they always go into society or are in company with loose women, or the husband is always absent.
Commentary on Kama Sutra, Part V
Although this part seems somewhat cynical and worldly, condoning adultery and dishonesty, Vatsyayana concludes this section piously, “This book, which is intended for the good of the people, and to teach them the ways of guarding their own wives, should not be made use of merely for gaining over the wives of others” (125). He claims that his text is descriptive, rather than prescriptive. This point goes back to Sir Richard Burton’s curious observation in his Introduction that the Hindu texts on love do not moralize but prefer to classify and enumerate instead.
Vatsyayana begins by asserting a man can make love to another man’s wife to save his own life in the case of intense love. This is a very romantic and dramatic view of love as overcoming all social and moral consideration, especially if the man is on the point of death without his beloved. This view of love is familiar in many western stories, which emphasize, however, the tragic nature of such a desperate adulterous affair and the dilemma of passion vs. duty, such as in the case of Guinevere and Lancelot (see also Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina). Vatsyayana does not go into the results of adultery or how it affects the participants and their lives. He just describes how it is done.
Vatsyayana then gives some stereotyped ideas about men and women, such as that women are morally weaker than men and cannot deny themselves if they see a handsome man, whereas a man could refrain from adultery even if in love because he pays more attention to right and wrong. The following examples he gives of how a man gets another man’s wife do seem to show that almost any woman can be won over, but it hardly shows moral superiority in the man. The instructions and descriptions rather give the impression that “all is fair in love and war.”
He tells for instance, of a would-be seducer making friends with the woman’s family, or even getting his own wife to be the friend of the woman he wants to seduce. The man makes pretenses to get into her house and carry on conversations with double meanings as a way to woo her. He gets female messengers to malign her husband and flatter the wife with persuasion and presents. The main point about the meeting place for the sexual encounter, says Vatsyayana, is that it should have proper exits in case of discovery.
Even more telling is the passage on men in power, such as the king and his ministers, who have to appear to be moral in public but can have whatever woman they want if it is done secretly. The village women have no rights whatsoever and can be enjoyed even as they are doing their work in the fields or house. Because they are lower class and have no way of protecting themselves, they are seen as “unchaste” and fair game. They do not count in this manual of sexual etiquette. Vatsyayana also shows what happens in a king’s harem when there are many unsatisfied women locked up together. They will get pleasure one way or another, with each other or with contraband men. Vatsyayana takes multiple wives for granted in his society but does not paint a very attractive picture of polygamy, especially for women. In this way, he does not appear to blame or be surprised by a woman in a household of many wives having a liaison.
Summary of the Kama Sutra, Part VI
Burton introduces Part VI on courtesans by explaining that Vatsyayana abridged it from a treatise by Dattaka written for the courtesans of Pataliputra (Patna) two thousand years ago. Burton applauds the Hindus for respecting the courtesan, like the Greek Hetera, who is an intellectual equal and companion of men, patroness of the arts, and hostess of salons of great taste and wit. He says that Vatsyayana brings out the subtlety of women and their perceptive powers in the following descriptions.
Courtesans maintain themselves from their sexual pleasure. Whether she is really in love with a man or only with him for money, she should always behave as if she were in love because men give their confidence to a courtesan. She should exhibit freedom from avarice and never get money from a patron illegally.
Well dressed with her ornaments, she should stand at the door of her house and be seen. She should form friendships with people who can bring men to her and protect her from being bullied. Those friends are the police, officers of the court, astrologers, powerful men, learned men, teachers of the sixty-four arts, Pithamardas or confidants, Vitas or parasites, Vidushakas or jesters, winesellers, washermen, and so forth. The following men are good customers: men of independent means, young men, men free of ties, men of authority, handsome men, rich men, rebellious men, egotists. On the other hand, she should resort to other types of men for the sake of love or fame: learned men, men of high birth, poets, story tellers, great minds, men of devotion and free from anger, liberal and affectionate men who love good company, those skilled in sports, strong, who like women and sexual enjoyment. She should not resort to men who are sick or who love their wives, or who are mean, thieves, or use sorcery.
The ordinary qualities of all women are intelligence, good disposition, good manners, gratitude, and kindness, but a good courtesan is beautiful, amiable, with auspicious marks, and likes other people. She should delight in sexual union, like wealth, be of firm mind, love the arts and society, and be free from avarice.
Vatsyayana declares that courtesans take up their trade from a desire for wealth, freedom from misfortune, and for love. She should not at once consent to a union but send messengers to the man, such as shampooers, singers, jesters, her Pithamarda or confidant. The Pithamarda can bring the man to her house on some pretense where she will entertain him, and this begins the process of attaching him to her.
When a courtesan has only one man, she lives with him as though she is his wife and behaves chastely like a wife. She should behave as if attached but not really be attached. In order to keep things under control, she should have a harsh mother living with her, or someone to play the angry mother, like a nurse, who always seems to be displeased with the lover and tries to take the courtesan away from him. The courtesan pretends to be upset with the mother’s interference but goes with her. The courtesan can plead that she needs certain things for her “mother” to get more money from the patron.
The courtesan should do things according to the man’s liking, keep his secrets, and praise his sexual prowess. She should hate his enemies and like his friends, and listen to his stories. She should be neither too bashful nor too shameless. She should say she wishes to have a child by him and not to live after him. He is attached to her when he is free from suspicion and trusts her and gives her the money she wants.
Money is obtained from the lover either by lawful means or by artifice. She gets more from artifice, such as saying she needs money for ceremonies or has lost her jewels, etc. A courtesan needs to know the state of her lover’s mind and know when he is waning in interest, such as when he keeps promising things he does not deliver or sleeps in other houses. When she detects he is losing interest, she should get possession of his best things.
If she wants to get rid of a lover she should laugh at him, intimidate him, put down his pride, seek the company of others, or refuse her body to him. She should return to a former lover only if he has fresh wealth. She should avoid fickle men who change partners often and stingy men or evil men. If she has to choose between two men, she should take up with a stranger rather than a former lover who may have already spent his wealth on her.
If a courtesan can get money every day from many lovers, she should not confine herself to one lover unless she can get more from him. Vatsyayana says she should prefer a lover who gives gold over other gifts. If she has to choose between lovers, she should ask the advice of a friend. Vatsyayana says she should choose one who is most attached to her rather than the most generous. Always choose the grateful man because this is better for the future, and future fortune is more important than present gain.
The text tries to judge what is the greatest gain for a courtesan, but Vatsyayana says gains cannot be calculated in a fixed way. He speaks of three kinds of gain: religious merit, gain of wealth, and gain of pleasure. A courtesan incurs loss through weakness, pride, conceit, or recklessness. She may confront doubts about which man to take, or if there will be loss or gain in a certain transaction. The best is when she gains both wealth and pleasure.
The different kinds of courtesans include the bawd, the unchaste woman, a dancing girl, a female artisan, a woman who has left her family, or a regular courtesan. This part concludes with a verse: “Men want pleasure, while women want money” (154).
Commentary on the Kama Sutra, Part VI
This part describes not so much the sexual techniques of courtesans as how they conduct their business and lifestyle. Although a courtesan may take up her profession to find and practice love, the text advises her to pretend attachment to a man rather than actually feeling attached. This is supposedly so she can stay in control. She has a business of making money, and the kinds of employees or friends she needs to protect her and keep things running smoothly are described as the “mother,” who is a sort of official guardian or manager, a Pithamarda who procures the men, and various servants. In addition, she should have a good relationship with the officials in the town who will keep her from being bullied or taken advantage of. She is a woman acting on her own behalf and thus needs her network for safety.
Much of this section is how to choose the best clients who will give the best return. Should she have nightly customers or one long-term man to whom she plays a wifely part? Though the courtesan is manipulative in how she gets and retains men, it is understood by all that this role-playing is part of the art of pleasure. She is skilled in giving the man the illusion of her absolute devotion to him. She makes her living in giving pleasure and knows the sixty-four arts.
Because it is a risky business, Vatsyayana devotes a lot of space to gains, losses, and choices. Is it better to go for a generous man or one who is genuinely attached to her? A wealthy man may be arrogant and fickle, so better to look to long-term advantages. The courtesan must read men to know how to avoid a violent or unsuitable man; she must read when he is bored, so she can get as much money as possible before he leaves. Although she can make money just by being with the man, Vatsyayana advises she will make more if she uses deceit to get more money out of him. Her “mother” needs money for something, for instance, or she has to give gifts or throw a party and has extra expenses. This behavior is treated as part of business practice and is not seen as immoral or cheating. She is earning her living all the way and perhaps giving the man what his wife cannot give him. She has to flatter him, please him, console him and make him feel like a proficient in the sexual arts.
Vatsyayana praises women as having certain qualities that a man is willing to pay for, including her experience and knowledge, her beauty and good company, her appreciation for social life and the arts, which a virtuous wife was forbidden to enjoy. A courtesan had the freedom to circulate in society, while a wife could only go to festivals with her husband or family. A wife may or may not know the sixty-four arts, but a courtesan does. She is gracious and refined and well dressed, witty and a good conversationalist. She seems to earn more respect than the virtuous wife, for she is on a social and intellectual par with the men and their equal in the game of love. In fact, she tries to best them at this game, and the successful ones do.
Summary of the Kama Sutra, Part VII
This last part concerns the use of magic and love potions to get a lover. If a person does not have good looks, youth, and money to get a lover, there are artificial means. Pigments to make the eyelashes dark, ointments for the body to attract the opposite sex, and incantations to bring women are among the items described. This is traditional lore that the author has accumulated.
For instance, Vatsyayana says that using an ointment of emblica myrabolans will subjugate a woman to one’s will. Or, a man can anoint the lingam with a mixture of powders (white thorn apple, pepper, and honey) during intercourse that will make a woman subject to his will. If a man throws the excrement of a monkey on a maiden, she will not be given in marriage to anyone else. Many mixtures are described that will increase sexual vigor, such as drinking milk with sugar and the boiled testicle of a ram or goat in it. Drinking boiled ghee in the morning during spring gives health and strength. Vatsyayana warns that though these secrets are in the Vedas, one should be careful of harmful side effects.
If a man has to excite an elephant woman, he might use Apadravyas (covers like rubbers) with rough surfaces that fit over the lingam. Several types and materials are described. Other people in the south perforate the lingam and pierce it to make it give more pleasure. Others try to increase the size of the lingam by inserting things under the skin or rubbing it with the bristles of insects until there is a permanent swelling. Other ointments can be used to stimulate the yoni, to contract a large yoni or enlarge a small one.
There are ointments to dye the hair, or make hair grow, or color the lips. If food is mixed with thorn apple (datura), the person becomes intoxicated.
Now Vatsyayana concludes his whole treatise, which he calls “a few words on the Science of love” (164). He warns again that one has to pay attention to Dharma, Artha, Kama, one’s own experience, and the teachings of others, and not merely act blindly on one’s own desire.
The science itself (the Kama Sutra) never validates an act, he states. The rules enumerated are only used in certain cases. The author read the works of other scholars and then composed this text for the benefit of the world while leading the life of a religious student “wholly engaged in the contemplation of the Deity” (164).
Commentary on the Kama Sutra, Part VII
The formulas utilizing the excrement of monkeys and testicles of rams in this part of the Kama Sutra to enhance sexual vigor are amusing to read now but surely in the same spirit as modern drugs like Viagra. Lovers without natural beauty are encouraged to use cosmetics, and one who is unattractive can always use ointments and spells to put a woman under his will. The universal desire for love, and the willingness to go to great lengths to attract the opposite sex, are the main points of the last part.
Yet Vatsyayana ends his treatise, as he began it, by trying to put it into a holistic context. It is not to be used as information merely to satisfy desire. The rules are not an excuse for wrong behavior, he implies. They are not rules cut in stone but only applicable in some cases. One must use the knowledge in conjunction with the goals of Dharma or righteous action, Artha or prosperity, and Kama, or pleasure, along with wisdom. He concludes that he composed the work while he himself was a celibate student contemplating God. He compiled the rules by condensing other authors.
This suggests that Vatsyayana is not speaking from personal knowledge of the sexual arts but rather, in the interest of helping others, he is preserving this valuable lore. It is interesting that in his philosophy, he sees no conflict in religious contemplation of God and describing the arts of sexual love, which are a natural part of life.