The Good: Unflinching, Direct, Simple to read, Does not insult the reader's intelligence, References
The Bad: Overly vague on some details
The Basics: With an easy-to-read writing style and a clear grasp on Western hang-ups and the liberating aspects of the Kama Sutra, The Complete Idiot's Guide To The Kama Sutra makes sex education fun.
Sex is a touchy topic, pun intended, for most people. It is early in The Complete Idiot's Guide To The Kama Sutra that Dr. Wikoff and Deborah Romaine express and explain just why; Western sex education covers biology and the Dreaded STDs, almost completely neglecting the pleasures of sex. In the "moral climate" of the last few years sex is bad, abstinence is good and if you disagree, you're a sinner and a pariah.
The Complete Idiot's Guide To The Kama Sutra is the perfect antithesis to such claptrap. This is a text that reads much like Cliff Notes, providing a history of the Kama Sutra, an ancient document that explores the intricacies and pleasures of sex, a context for the evolution of the text, a context for the earliest modern translation of the Kama Sutra and then summaries of the intricacies of the sexual lessons of the Kama Sutra. This might best be described as "The Kama Sutra - LITE!" Is it worth it? Certainly. This is a book that very effectively breaks down the barriers to talking about sexual wants and needs and opens the doors to further honest and important sexual discovery.
All that is true, but at the same time, purchasing and reading The Complete Idiot's Guide To The Kama Sutra is pretty much like paying for cable television. Cable television is not a bad idea, but the reason I don't have cable (other than being cheap) is that I object in the most strenuous terms to paying for commercials. If YOU are paying for your television, why are there advertisements on it? Seems stupid, huh? If you can live with that, though, cable is great. Similarly, The Complete Idiot's Guide To the Kama Sutra is a very effective advertisement for the full text of the Kama Sutra to the point that it provides handy recommendations for which translations to go out and buy. And I did (see my forthcoming review on Danielou's The Complete Kama Sutra as soon as I finish reading that behemoth!).
Romaine and Wikoff very effectively sell the full text by providing the reader with just enough to want it, but not enough to have all of the information they need to not get the Kama Sutra. Case in point: at several points in the Complete Idiot's Guide, the writers reference the Kama Sutra's ten-day lead up to intercourse for a newly married husband and wife. They describe the process as an intricate and intimate series of steps that teach the partners to love and trust one another and become filled with desire that only anticipation may bring. But, then they don't relate what happens on each of the ten nights.
They more than make up for it in other sections of the book. The Complete Idiot's Guide To The Kama Sutra has a plethora of great ideas for couples who are just starting out and/or want to enhance their relationships. For example, one suggestion in the book is that a couple sit back to back and take ten minutes trying to synchronize their breathing. It might seem strange, but it's a wonderful idea; that level of connectedness may make one feel . . . well, connected with their partner. Then, the couple is supposed to face each other and do the same thing. One of the nice things about the idea is that the authors emphasize the effects, not just the process. They make a point of encouraging the readers who try this activity to see what feelings the breathing together brings out in each partner. And, equally important, to share those feelings with your partner.
One of the advantages of this book, over the full text, is that it takes adequate time and space to explore the differences between Western cultures (like the U.S. and England) and the philosophies of Eastern Culture (India, where the Kama Sutra is from). This has the effect of opening the mind and disarming the reader of many of the preconceptions many of us are trapped in. The Kama Sutra is an ancient text that openly talks about sex and the joys of lovemaking. In much of U.S. culture, we have a difficult time talking about sex openly and honestly. And, oddly, talking with our partners about our wants and needs in sex is treated as more awkward than necessary. This book gently coaxes the reader in the direction of the importance of openness and honesty in a relationship, especially as it relates to the sex.
It is a welcome change of pace.
And for those who want a quick and easy guide to ideas for sexual positions, this has that in spades. While it does not describe all of the sexual positions in the "Kama Sutra," it does describe enough to give the reader and their partner(s) enough to try for a couple weeks. And, one of the most important things, it encourages readers to be flexible, patient, have a sense of humor and try new things possibly over several attempts.
Love, and sex, brings us closer to another individual than we are likely to be in our life; that may easily lead to being hurt worse than we ever have been before. By advocating patience, humor, repeated trying and above all communication, this book becomes more than just a sex guide, it opens the reader up to what the "Kama Sutra" is all about: relationships. It's all about relating and working things out together.
Who will like this book? Anyone who is looking to spice up or improve their sexual relationships or sexual education but feels intimidated by the process or the full-text Kama Sutra. Who will likely not like this book? Anyone who is repressed about their sexuality or who makes morally absolute judgments about sex. Sadly, they are the ones who could use it the most.
Well worth the price, though it is likely to encourage the reader to invest in the full text "Kama Sutra."
For other books on health and/or philosophy, please check out my reviews of:
Meditations - Marcus Aurelius
The Souls Of Black Folk - W.E.B. DuBois
A Burst Of Light - Audre Lorde
For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2010, 2005 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.