The Kama Sutra is justly famed as the most ancient and greatest of treatises on the art of love—but anyone who opens it can see right away that it originated in a culture whose values are radically different from our own. Many of its recommendations, no matter how sensuous and exciting they may seem, enshrine sexism, ageism, abilitism, and looksism. As more and more people find a place for Eastern wisdom in their daily lives, the need for a Kama Sutra that is in line with a postpatriarchal, postcolonial, postgender, and perhaps even postcoital world has become painfully apparent. These excerpts represent a modest beginning, and I am happy to dedicate them to sexually concerned progressives everywhere.
The Kindling of Love
When the lover first meets a new beloved—an earthly goddess with half-moon brows and eyes that glitter like twin daystars; whose divinely formed body swells with the fullness of the tamarind in season; or a second Prince Arjuna whose manly frame seems carved from jade; whose thighs are as strong and supple as carob trees and whose lingam puts the boa constrictor to shame—the lover should ask himself or herself, Is this really a nice person? Does he or she have a good sense of humor? Are our values compatible? What part does body image play in my sexual choices?
If the lover is satisfied on these scores, she or he may then inflame the beloved with honeyed words:
“I’d like to have you help me with my shame.”
“You know, I think a really complicated sexual position would help us with our trust issues.”
“You’re very empathetic for a Brahmin.”
The Shamefaced Tiger
The man encircles the woman’s left arm with his left hand and, raising his right hand in the mudra of Supplication, proposes Union. The woman clasps him around the neck and utters the formula of Acquiescence, biting his earlobe with the Bite of Brahma. The man’s loins grow warm with desire, which as it mounts to his Heart chakra is transformed into an awareness of the history of female subjugation. Rising toward his Eye of Wisdom, the energy deepens into consciousness of his own role in institutionalized sexism. Subtilizing more and more, the energy leaks through the top of his head as pure Awareness of Patriarchal Thought Structures. His eyes widen in the Face of Remorse and his lingam withers. This may be repeated as often as necessary.
The Howler Monkey Embrace and the Bull Elephant Embrace
If the man seizes the woman in the Howler Monkey embrace, when the woman desires the Bull Elephant embrace, she should say so. If the man feels that the Bull Elephant embrace is inappropriate—if it, for example, represents a macho stereotype that he is trying to transcend—he should express this perspective and explain why the Howler Monkey embrace would make him feel more comfortable. If the woman feels that the man’s insistence on the Howler Monkey embrace is an attempt to silence her, she should say so, illustrating her perspective with stories from her childhood. If the woman wishes to take the male role and perform the Bull Elephant embrace herself, she should explain her desire. If this proposal causes uneasiness in the man—if, for example, his lingam withers—he should make his feelings clear—without, however, implying that there is anything “wrong” or “bad” about the Bull Elephant embrace, or any of the other embraces, or any of his partner’s desires. If the lovers cannot come to an agreement about their embraces before dawn gilds the hills, they may meditate, then fall asleep.
Leave the Rabbit Alone
When the lovers decide to join in any of the Animal Embraces mentioned above, and in others such as The Vulture Has Second Thoughts, The Mule Escapes Exploitation, and The Antelopes Form a Support Group, they first enter into deep meditation, facing one another, breathing deeply, and sensing their oneness with all creation. The lovers then call into question the very idea of using animal names to describe human sexual activities. Rejecting this subtle mode of domination of the natural world, they separate, enter once again into profound meditation, then fall asleep.
Of Good and Evil Lingams
When the man is unable to perform the joyful duties of love due to a lingam withered by self-consciousness or low self-esteem—or when a woman wishes to pleasure herself or another woman—an artificial lingam may be employed. Lingams of ivory, polished bone, ebony, and aloe wood produce indescribable pleasure: ripples of ecstasy like all the oceans of the world rolling through the fevered limbs of the woman. Unfortunately, these lingams may not be used, as they are derived from rare and endangered plant and animal species. Instead, lingams made of compressed plastic six-pack binders, kenaf, or recycled paper must be used. These good lingams are beloved of the wise, not only because they help save the planet, but also because they encourage women to have realistic expectations.
Shiva and Shakti in the Garden of Fairness
The lovers imagine themselves to be avatars of Shiva, the Creator, and Shakti, the Female Principle. Swelling with the power of these eternal deities, they embrace one another about the midsection, singing hymns to the God and the Goddess. “I honor you as an earthly manifestation of the Great Shiva,” says the woman. “I honor you as an earthly manifestation of Shakti, Mother of the Myriad Things,” replies the man. As the moment of union approaches, however, their awareness grows that Hinduism, although a beautiful and valid expression of spirituality, is only one of the world’s great religious traditions. Vows that suggest that Shiva and Shakti are “primordial” or “universal” may be deeply offensive to members of other faith communities. In a spirit of profound respect for religious pluralism, they draw apart, the man’s lingam withers, and the woman’s yoni parches.