Love, Sex, and Other Things That Go Bump In the Night

My wife’s grandmother is a hoot; she’s pushing past a century old, and by the gods, the centuries are not pushing back.

So what advice did she have for her grand-daughter when I asked her to marry me?

Watch out for the Indians. They get into that kinky sex stuff.

*

So I’m gonna talk about Kinky Indian Sex Stuff.

*

Actually, I’m going to talk about the Kama Sutra.

Tantamount to Kinky Indian Sex.

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Kama means desire – in fact, the Vedic/Hindu god of love is named Kama.

कामस्तदग्रे समवर्तताधि मनसो रेतः परथमं यदासीत |
सतो बन्धुमसति निरविन्दन हर्दि परतीष्याकवयो मनीषा |

That’s fancy talk for something I can’t read. But thanks to Wikipedia, I can give you a translation:

Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning, Desire the primal seed and germ of Spirit,
Sages who searched with their heart’s thought discovered the existent’s kinship in the non-existent.

That’s from the Rig Veda, dating to about the 15th century B.C.E.; way older than the Old Testament, let alone any of the Abrahamic faiths (yeah, that means you, Muslims and Christians).

Love, Desire, Temptation, Lust – all as old as the human race.

Now, there have been many a treatise on love; Ovid’s Ars Amatoria being one such tract, dating from the year two of the common era.

That work was seized by U.S. customs for being pornographic in the year 1930, which is a pretty good shelf life for porno – and a fairly good indicator of American prudishness – though, in fairness, the Italians did the same thing in 1497, burning all copies of Ovid’s paean to love.

So love can get you in trouble – but somehow the Kama Sutra survived.

Indians and their damn Kinky Sex.

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Many decades ago, I shared a story with my flat-mate. It had to do with Ganesha, the elephant headed God of Wisdom – specifically how he came to be.

Like most Hindu epics, there were Sex Like Things involved.

She made the mistake of re-telling my narrative to her father, a seemingly devout Hindu.

He vowed to travel nearly 9,000 miles to kick my ass.

In the end, I suppose the air fare was too much.

Thank the Gods I didn’t tell her about the Kama Sutra.

*

That’s the funny thing about India. If you look at the temple art at Khajaraho, located in the Indian state of Madhya Pradhesh, there’s enough sex to make even the most jaded porn star blush.

However, somewhere along the way, Indians got shy.

Hell, they couldn’t really show kissing until the 90’s – as in the nineteen nighties.

This led to an awful lot of cinematic bumping and grinding – but kissing – that was way too dirty for the censors.

I suspect it had something with a bad hangover from the British Empire, and their Victorian sensibilities.

I mean after all, look at what the Brits did to Amun Min.

(I doubt they cared for Ovid, either)

*

In fact, Indian prudishness even extended to the God Shiva, my namesake. The most important symbol for this deity is called a Linga, and if you look at one, and don’t see a phallus, well then please take another look.

However, my grandfather, a devout worshiper of that God (hence my name), found that notion down-right offensive.

Which is funny, since the word for penis that appears in the Kama Sutra, over and over again, is Linga.

So who’s being a dick now (all apologies to my grandfather)?

lingam

*

So we’re entering a new era – one in which pornography is everywhere, and love, on the other hand, has become a depleted commodity, and I use that word intentionally (to quote the Beatles, you can’t buy me love).

But sex doesn’t have to be objectified – the take away from India is that sex can be sacred, a point that the Tantrics took to cosmological levels, making it root of their ontology, their entire world view.

Or to quote Solomon, the Wise:

Please kiss me with the kisses of your mouth!
For your love is better than wine;
your anointing oils are fragrant;
your name is oil poured out;
therefore the innocents love you.
Draw me after you; let us run.
Bring me into your chambers!

What’s the real take-away?

It ain’t just us Indians, after all.


The Complete Illustrated Kama Sutra


The Offense of Love: Ars Amatoria, Remedia Amoris, and Tristia 2 (Wisconsin Studies in Classics)

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