Mythologist Seema Anand: I want to put the seduction back into sex
Mythologist Seema Anand draws inspiration from Kama Sutra to script a handy guide for having great sex and even better foreplay in the 21st century
Reading through the pages of London-based mythologist and narrative practitioner Seema Anand's new book The Arts of Seduction (Aleph Book Company), one gets a sense of loss. While it's hard to put a finger on it, Anand in her introduction, puts it succinctly — seduction has been forgotten. Said to be a handy guide to having great sex in the 21st century, Anand says she was compelled to pen this work, because she realised how banal the act is today.
"A culture that produced the ultimate book [Kama Sutra] on the techniques of arousal and pleasure — the 64 skills of love and lovers and lovemaking — now largely practices mundane, unimaginative sex where a drunken panting grope is our idea of seduction. Pleasure is a slow process, it takes time and thought. It is about bringing every nerve ending tingling to life, about experiencing the tiniest sensations," she says in an email interview. She goes on to explain: "Have you ever sat next to someone, close enough to touch, but not touching — just talking and smiling — till your breath becomes short and every single pore on your skin starts to buzz in anticipation, where even the most feather light touch will make your brain explode? It is mind blowing. And you know what, when you get to this point, instead of jumping into sex, you will find yourself prolonging that 'not touching', because that feeling is so addictive, that feeling of everything being permanently imminent."
Anand, who lectures on the Kama Sutra and is an acknowledged authority on Eastern Erotology, has drawn inspiration from the ancient text to curate material for this book. From describing in detail how the using perfumes stir up your lover's every sense when lovemaking, to why quarrels between lovers is an "adrenaline boost to keep love alive and healthy" and how scratches are not just random marks of passion made in the heat of the moment, but carry different messages, Anand goes back to Vatsyayan's masterpiece to learn lessons in the present.
"There is so much about the Kama Sutra that I wanted to reintroduce to the world," says Anand, who was introduced to it 10 years ago. "I first read it as a scholarly text. It is not an easy book to read. I found the language painfully archaic, the references obtuse and, if you do not have the academic background to understand it, it really is boring and irrelevant. But even with the tedium the one thing that stood out was its attitude towards women. Here was a book that acknowledged the right of women to want sexual satisfaction and more important still, the right to feel pleasure," she says, adding, "If you look at our mythology the one thing missing from the woman's narrative is her right to her own body and sexuality. That is always someone else's property. So I decided to explore these stories, to see what had been silenced."
What stood out for her most was the language of the ancient text. "Nowhere in the book does Vatsyayan use coarse or foul language to describe the sexual act. On the contrary the terms and phrases that he uses almost vie with each other to depict beauty and sublimity. In the Kama Sutra even the specifics of an act are never spoken about directly. For instance, for the sitting position the sophisticated urbane woman perched on the knee and wore a nine-stringed pearl necklace as a sign of her expertise. Vatsyayan is never graphic, he did not talk about her thighs spread wide or her bottom leaning back etc — he doesn't need to. At the very mention of the 'nine-stringed necklace' you knew what was going to happen," says Anand.
The writer believes that the reason she has focussed on seduction, was because it "when practiced carefully it benefits the mind, the body and the soul because it gradually stirs up all the senses and activates the latent energy within us". "Seduction was for harmonising the sexual energy of lovers so that the sexual act became a mutual enjoyable experience. The arts of seduction as prescribed by the Kama Sutra, with all its hundreds of rules and rituals, was meant to bridge the gap between the sexes, to slow the man down and encourage him to take his time over his arousal and at the same time give the woman enough time and motivation to raise her sexual energies and desires," she says. "I want to put the seduction back into sex, with all of its refinement and elegance and beauty, something that we in modern times have lost entirely. And, most importantly, I want to bring back the Kama Sutra's idea of gender rebalancing — acknowledging women and men as equals recipients of pleasure. We have such a dysfunctional attitude towards sex, so much aggression and abusiveness entitlement. I want to see that change because honestly I believe that this is the solution to many of our issues."
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