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by Wendy Doniger
Sounds True, 2003
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on May 27th 2005

The Essential Kamasutra

For two and a half hours, Wendy Doniger talks about the Kama Sutra.  Doniger is a distinguished Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago, and she explains the historical context of the Kama Sutra, also comparing it with modern approaches to sexuality.  She says little about the most famous part of the work, describing various sexual positions, because now we have many explicit sex manuals that depict those positions very clearly with photographs or detailed drawings.  She explains that now the book is more relevant for its discussion of eroticism, the psychology of preparing for sex, how to keep a partner when he or she is losing interest, or when to use biting and scratching in sex.  Maybe most interesting is the discussion of the morality of sex, featuring such issues as attitudes towards homosexuality and the pleasure of pleasure and sexuality in a well-lived life. 

Doniger does an excellent job of explaining the ancient work clearly and showing how its particular assumptions and references to life in northern India can be translated into modern terms.  These include ways to freshen breath in the morning, leisure activities, or items of clothing, as well as more pervasive differences such as attitudes towards women as the property of men.  Doniger emphasizes that the Kama Sutra is in some ways compares favorably with modern sexual knowledge.  For example, it not only says that women should achieve orgasms in sex with men, but provides ways for men to tell whether women have climaxed and how to get them to climax through stimulation of the G-spot. 

It's not entirely clear who would benefit from listening to this audiobook, since there are probably more modern books that would provide more detailed practical advice about sex and relationships.  However, it is interesting as an introduction to a famous book and Doniger provides a clear and thoughtful commentary that will make the Kama Sutra much easier to understand and appreciate. 

 

© 2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved. 

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.