Kama Sutra

Kama Sutra Summary and Analysis of Book 5


Before a man consorts with another man's wife, he should consider a number of things - the possibility of actually making the woman his wife, her fitness for sexual congress, the danger that the union might pose to himself, and the future effects of this union. Indeed, a man may see that he needs the wife of another in order to preserve his own life, since his love for her far exceeds his love for his current wife. If a man finds himself besieged by attachment of the mind, constant reflection, emaciation, loss of will, turning away from pleasure and enjoyment, shameless behavior, mental imbalance, fainting fits, or even no will to live, then he should pursue the wife of another.

Ancient sages argued that a man could tell the character of a woman from her body and movements, but Vatsayayana believes that making these judgments will likely lead to terrible errors, and that women should be judged mainly by their conduct, the outward expressions of their thoughts, and the movements of their bodies. Men and women, moreover, differ in their psychological approaches to love. A woman loves "without regard to right or wrong" and will naturally shrink from a man, until she is repeatedly courted - at which point she will consent. A man, however, will become indifferent whether his advances are rejected or not, as his feelings are easily dispatched.

A woman will reject a man if she already has a husband, is angry about their differences with regards to social status, doesn't like his cleverness, thinks the man is too devoted to his friends, or is fearful of his strength or political position. If a man senses that any of these are possible reasons for a woman's disdain, he should seek to comfort her and let her know that these perceptions are in error. For instance, if a woman thinks that a man is of low character, he should remove this perception by showing his valor and his wisdom. If she is afraid of him, then he should give her proper encouragement and comfort.

At a first meeting, a man should be careful to look at a woman in a way that makes his mind known to her, but at the same time he should listen to her with indifference in order to inspire her desire. He can even go so far as to subtly show off to her by engaging a third person in conversation about subjects he knows she will want to hear about. Indeed, it wouldn't be out of place to embrace and kiss a young boy in order to send covert signals to the woman. Once he has engaged a woman, there is a complex set of steps he should take to slowly make her acquaintance. He should gradually increase his visits to her, first engaging her on a business level and then on a more personal one, before initiating physical intimacy or voicing his desire for marriage. A man should only seduce one woman at a time.

There are several ways for a man to determine the "fitness" of a woman's mind. If she meets him once, and then comes to their second meeting better dressed than she was before, he can be certain that she is capable of "being enjoyed by the use of a little force." If a woman avoids the attentions of a man, and on account of respect for him or herself will not meet or approach him, a man can get her to surrender either by persistence or by using a friend as a mediator. If a woman reproaches a man for his advances, she should be ignored completely (unless these reproaches are done flirtatiously).

Vatsyayana now turns his attentions to the behavior of the nobles. A king, for instance, is constantly watched and imitated, so his behavior must be beyond reproach. A king, after all, has numerous wives, so when he desires a woman, it is best if his wife introduces her to him - perhaps by inviting her to the royal palace so that she might see the practice of the art that she has been invited to perform with the king. A king also has powers of force, so if the woman desired by the king is living with a person who is not her husband, the king can have her arrested and made a slave.

The women of the royal house cannot see or meet with men because they are guarded, and must deal with the dissatisfaction that inevitably arises when one's husband is shared with many wives. As a result, the women of the royal house must learn to give pleasure to each other. In dire circumstances, they can have young men delivered to the palace dressed as girls for them to enjoy.


This book again emphasizes a woman's behavior, not her external appearance, which is one of the hallmarks of the Kama Sutra. Vatsyayana lays out a series of prescriptions for a man's approach of a woman, and delineates what he should do in each case of behavior. In general, the author sees woman as eminently conquerable, believing that they are biologically wired to submit after multiple advances. This does make sense to some degree, as the book subtly implies that women must be quite sure of their mate before they relent. Only a man who repeatedly shows dedication and commitment to a woman will inspire her to relinquish her power.

At the same time, however, men tend to be indifferent after rejection, and thus the Kama Sutra is a necessary guide to ensure that men stay persistent after women spurn them. Vatsyayana writes that it is a man's nature to give up and a woman's nature to resist, and without this understanding of each other there will be no ultimate victory, only a settling of scores that leaves both parties dissatisfied. The only reason to give up on a woman after her initial rejection is if she reproaches a man without any sign of love; then it is not a match.

Some of the ways Vatsyayana suggests a man should win over a woman may sound ridiculous to modern ears (for example, kissing young boys in front of her in order to arouse her!), but he is simply referring to man's age-old tendency to show off for the women they desire. Indeed, what is so remarkable about the Kama Sutra is that it does not see love as a holy act of union that requires patience and endurance, but rather as an art of manipulation, pride, and even deceit. Like birds that puff up their chests in preparation for the mating game, Vatsyayana encourages men to pursue their women like warriors - with their full attention on the battle ahead.

Submission is a word that appears repeatedly throughout the Kama Sutra, and it is one that seems to have biological resonance. The more advanced a species is, the more complex its mating rituals. Many mammals are notably finicky about their mates, but the characteristic of a female submitting after many advances is quite consistent - and it would make sense that a female, when pressed repeatedly, will submit to a man who pursues her and persuades her that they are meant to be together. The concept of the Casanova seems to emanate from this line of thinking - the lover who is so good with words and the dance of courtship that no woman can resist his charms.

While ordinary mortals must rely on courtship, the king has to deal with his own set of codes. As he is a model for all of his subjects, he cannot do anything prurient, and is thus encouraged to rely on go-betweens and his wives to acquire new women. Little is said about the practice of polygamy, but we must assume that kings are permitted (even encouraged) to take multiple wives in order to ensure the maximum number of male progeny. The king certainly can use his power to squire a girl, and Vatsyayana suggests that if he can't acquire a girl because she is already married, that he should simply use force to imprison her and bring her into the worldly court. This may seem malicious, but the suggestion is merely an extension of the larger theme of this book: a male must pursue the object of his desire relentlessly until she finally submits, ultimately loving him the more for his unflagging determination.