Redefining the rules of intimacy

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Redefining the rules of intimacy

Sunday, 23 December 2018 | Najar

Redefining the rules of intimacy

The Arts of Seduction

Author - Seema Anand

Publisher - Aleph, Rs 499

Devoid of graphic descriptions, this book has a scientific approach to sex and shifts the focus back to where it should belong — a basic enriching and pleasurable human experience, writes Najar

Exploring and mastering the art of lovemaking has captured human imagination across civilisations since times immemorial. At its best, lovemaking is a delicate craft involving finesse and immaculate understanding in order to be the greatly pleasurable and mutually satisfying experience that it is meant to be. In these times of instant messaging and dating applications, one would like to assume that love and lovemaking expertise have grown proportionately. However, London-based mythologist, Kama Sutra expert and storyteller Seema Anand disabuses her readers of this assumption early on in her compact introduction to The Arts of Seduction. It helps that Anand is also a recognised authority on the Kama Sutra and has lectured widely on lesser-known aspects of subjects as varied as Eastern Erotology, Tantric philosophy, the Mahavidyas, Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita, among other subjects. The author-bio also informs the readers of Anand’s work on the revival and reproduction of oral literature from India being associated with the UNESCO project for Endangered Oral Traditions. In the introduction, Anand laments how sex is reduced to merely ‘an act of instant gratification’ and ‘overrated sensations’, sans the magic of lingering pleasure to be followed by happiness and a greater sense of stability, security and belonging. While underscoring once again the importance of Indian erotic texts and manuals including the Kama Sutra, Anand points out that Vatsyayan was way ahead of his times, propounding and explicating women’s ability to have for pleasure independent of that of man.

While justifying the need to re-introduce the Kama Sutra to a twenty-first century audience, Anand also emphasises that the language of Kama Sutra is distinctive in terms of its “refinement, beauty and nuanced pleasure” as opposed to the “crudely misogynistic and downright abusive vocabulary” that seems to define sexuality, sexual practices and especially references to female genitalia in urban slang discourse. Anand’s comprehensive research is evident in her comparison of Indian and Chinese erotic treatises, which differ in terms of their focus: While the former deals with foreplay and seduction, the latter concentrate on the mechanics of the actual sexual act. Anand’s convincing theories regarding the arts of seduction include: Comparing male and female desires to fire and water respectively, the purpose of all the rules and rituals of the Kama Sutra as bridges between the two sexes, and suggesting the pivotal role played by Rati after Kama became ananga or formless, burnt to ashes by Lord Shiva. In twenty-two chapters, she offers numerous carefully selected, best techniques of love and sex, “something for everyone” as she says, aesthetically discussing and unravelling secrets. The Kama Sutra abounds in references and materials which have become obscured by the ages and outmoded in these times, the archaic language being another hurdle too steep for a twenty-first century novice to access.  Anand wants to “make the idea of seduction part of everyday life”, “a state of mind” as Vatsyayan states, as opposed to the intensely pejorative and conspiratorial tones attributed to seduction now-a-days: this also in the wake of a global campaign like #metoo, a marked rise in cases of “honeytrapping”, understanding “consent”, and recognition of “marital rape”.

The chapters are titled crisply and at times innovatively, such as: “Secret Language of Lovers”, “The Art of the Curved Finger”, “Paan and the Arts of Seduction” to name a few. The first chapter titled “The Art of Perfuming” plunges the reader into the heart of the matter by talking about what could be called the first step towards making the first move, i.e. through fragrance. Anand explains how as described in the Kamasutra, “Perfume was a way of life. Clothes, bedrooms, bath water — everything was perfumed.” Each chapter is a mixture of selections and details from the Kama Sutra and related stories, and ends with a section titled “My Advice” where Anand doles out practical suggestions. The chapter on “Lovers’ Quarrels” is particularly illuminating: It emphasises the importance laid by the Kama Sutra on lovers’ quarrels in strengthening relationships and increasing passion, especially for couples who share a deep love and trust to “keep their love alive and healthy”. After describing the technicalities of such quarrels from the Kama Sutra, Anand sums it up by adding her advice for the respective sexes to become adept in the art of quarrelling and appeasement without burning any bridges. “Secret Language of Lovers” giving insights into how lovers had to find codes to communicate in scenarios where the kind of privacy granted by text messages was simply unthinkable: lovers had to find codes to communicate while they moved about with families, in the market place, in crowded areas and so on. The chapters on “Erotic Nerves” and “The Phases of the Moon” draw upon ancient scientific knowledge and a deep understanding of the human anatomy to make the best of different times to enhance pleasure and fulfilment throughout the month. “Paan and the Arts of Seduction” reveals how the paan has been the mode of secret “language of lovers for over 2000 years”! The giving and taking of the Paan by both men and women in various combinations relayed different meanings to their lovers and also acted as an aphrodisiac.

The last few chapters delve deeper into the precise sciences of lovemaking, “Sex and Food”, “Therapeutic Sex”, “Gems and Precious Stones” deal respectively with food, health enhancing aspects of lovemaking and gemology combined with astrology, making optimum use of all branches of human knowledge for the purpose of both deriving and providing pleasure to one’s beloved.

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