You are sitting in your living room with your family, watching something on your TV and an advertisement comes on. A famous actress is giving a monologue in a sensuous voice. She is imploring you to be patient, because patience has much sweeter rewards. On screen she is waiting for mangoes to get ripe, before plucking them and squeezing the juice onto her thirsty lips. Something about the commercial makes everyone in the family a little huffy-puffy. The sensuous voice, the oozing of the juice from the mangoes, the way the actress is dressed and the background score in the ad tells your brain that this isn’t just about the mango juice. You have had mango juice before, and it’s nowhere near as good as this ad is portraying it to be. Maybe, you are not doing it right.
The advertisement is titled aamsutra, a play on the ancient Indian love guide Kama Sutra. The entire ad, in fact, summarizes a basic principle of Kama Sutra – good sex is not just about the actual intercourse, but a lot about foreplay. And foreplay requires patience. It’s generally the numerous sex positions depicted in the book that gets all the attention in popular media. But more than half of this book talks about the other things that makes sex good. And at least in some techniques, the foreplay can go on for days. Vātsyāyana, the author of the love manual, clearly didn’t expect people to have a 9-to-6 job and then some side hustles.
The book was written sometime around the 5th century. We all know how to have sex. We have our biological instinct to thank for that, as it is the case with all other animals on this planet. The book doesn’t talk about how to have sex. It’s talking about how to have “good sex”. And it’s addressing kings, queens and people of such stature. Imagine the audacity of the author to walk up to a king, hand over a bunch of scrolls, and say, “Your Majesty, you are doing it wrong. Read this to find out how to please the Queen. And if you find the results fruitful, then pass these texts on to your children as well.”
The book was not only accepted by the king but was re-written and improved upon by various other authors of that era. I don’t know whether Kama Sutra is a good book. I had read it more than ten years ago. Some of it had made sense. Some of it seemed outdated. But what can be deducted from the existence and acceptance of this book, and various other sex-positive artworks that it inspired all over the Indian sub-continent, is that fifth century India wasn’t too shy when it came to sex.
Our five senses are primarily available to us for our survival. But over time, we have found ways to titillate these senses to please ourselves - delicious food, melodious music, exotic fragrances, and arguably, 3D movies. None of it is strictly necessary for survival, and yet nobody in society would be uncomfortable talking about any of these things. The biological need for orgasm and sexual pleasure is procreation. But why does understanding our body and talking about taking sexual pleasure to the next level makes us uncomfortable?
Demagogues shout from raised platforms, as they always do, that talking about sex ruins our culture and great tradition. But if our ancient kings and philosophers were maturely discussing about such topics without any shame, and in fact, even writing books about it, then who is really ruining our culture?
There’s a common tradition in football that WAGS (wives and girlfriends) are not allowed to spend the night with the players just before the match. The idea is that having sex would drain the players of energy, and they wouldn’t be able to perform to their optimal level the next day. It looks like a case of controlling someone’s sexual needs for the benefit of someone else. The stakes are very high in such matches and the players are well rewarded for their self-control. But in the real world, at a much larger scale, many people don’t even have the choice. Years of conditioning makes us averse to any conversation about sex - good or bad.
Just because we choose to close our eyes doesn’t mean everyone else will. Plenty of research has been conducted on understanding human psychology, and that knowledge is being employed to manage and govern us. On the one hand, we are being told that we must control our sexual needs, while on the other, sex is being used to sell mango juice to us.
Imagine a society where we could freely talk about sex, physical needs, emotional needs, need for touch, need for orgasm and sexual health issues. Sex is not a taboo in such a society. You could walk into a medical store, ask for a box of condoms or birth control pill out loud, and nobody bats an eye. Nobody! In such a society, the “aamsutra” advertisement would be extremely boring for the viewer. All the subliminal sexual messaging would be useless. There’s no need for hinting at something which is already being discussed freely in the open.
The more you look inwards to satisfy yourself (pun intended), the less useful you are to the society at large. Of course, you should be useful to society and contribute to it in a healthy way. But there should be a balance. And I feel we are skewing way too much towards keeping ourselves ignorant about our own bodies in pursuit of external gratifications. What a marvellous piece of work is the human body. Everything that you need to make yourself happy in a moment is right there with you all the time. And if you have another human that understands you well, then the sky is the limit.
And yet most of us have been conditioned to be ashamed of our bodies, in one way or another. Forget about having an in-depth understanding of our body, most of us are being trained to hate even the surface.
Depending on where you are in the journey of life, you may or may not be comfortable talking openly about sexual needs. Sometimes, you can’t find an entry point to start a conversation around a subject that makes you uncomfortable. The fear of judgement runs pretty high in our society. We often find it easier to talk about something, when someone familiar has already done that. And I hope to be that ‘familiar’ person to you, in case you were looking for a way to start a conversation.
Thank you for reading! Have a great week ahead.
- Big Boo
Below's a link to the advertisement.