It refers to ‘women who act like men‘ and ‘men who act like women‘ and from the context it is clear that both male and female same-sex relationships were known about and were generally accepted.
It is a given, in the Kama Sutra, that feelings towards a partner will change over time, on either side. Women, having given birth, might not be interested in sex anymore, whether short term or long term. Men, as they age, might lose their fiery libido, leaving their female partner high and dry. Therefore, the text details ways of breaking up with an unsatisfactory lover.
There is a large section on courtesans: how to find and engage them, how much and when to pay them, and what to expect for your money. Although this could be construed as a misogynistic chapter, the text recommends being polite and respectful to the courtesans for no other reason than civility and good manners. Courtesans are not at all looked down on for their career choices, instead, they are mentioned as being providers of a vital service.
Before going on to detail the many forms of touching and sexual congress, the text gives a list of women who should not be considered as suitable partners: these include female relatives, close female friends, lepers, women who smell bad, a mentally ill woman, women who are too fair or too dark-skinned, and the wives of kings, friends, relatives and aristocracy.
The Kama Sutra goes into great detail about ways of touching a potential lover, from a woman putting a hand on a man’s chest, all the way to full intercourse. The text says there are four types of embrace, each to be used at different points in the relationship. The four types of embrace are:
Piercing is not, as one might assume, referring to sexual penetration. Piercing, according to the work, is when a woman presents a man with a clear view of her breasts, and he takes hold of them. Piercing and touching are the only two ways in which people unknown to each other might be able to interact physically.
Rubbing is what we might call a full-body embrace, such as when lovers are kissing and press the whole length of their body against their partner.
Pressing is when the whole weight of the active partner (usually, but not always, the male) presses the other against a bed or pillar. Rubbing and pressing embraces are often combined with sexual intercourse, or precede it.
The text goes on to acknowledge that it is not the last and only word in the matter of sex: ‘even those embraces that are not mentioned in the Kama Sutra should be practiced at the time of sexual enjoyment if they are in any way conducive to the increase of love or passion.‘
Pleasure and Spirituality
It has long been acknowledged that there is a link between sex and spirituality, with a fulfilling sex life improving mental health and keeping one’s mood balanced and serene. Some ancient cultures believed that at the moment of orgasm, the mind emptied of all petty worries and thoughts, enabling the person to truly connect with the divine.
The Kama Sutra makes no such sweeping claims, but it certainly acknowledges the physical and mental health benefits of consensual and orgasmic sex. The text even argues against objections by the more prudish of the time when it was written, who claimed that sex for pleasure’s sake was surely sinful. The text responds that pleasure, especially sexual satisfaction, is as much a need as the need for air, food, and shelter.