The Kama Sutra is an ancient text, originally written in Sanskrit, that has become very closely associated with the sexual aspects of tantra- rightly or wrongly. There are thirty six chapters in the book, organized into seven parts.
The Introductory section includes a description of the book’s contents, an explanation of the three priorities and aims of life, how to acquire knowledge and the proper conduct for a “well-bred townsman”. There are also notes on “intermediaries” that assist the lover go about his tasks.
The second section, On sexual union, is the part of the book that most people are curious about. There are descriptions on desire stimulation and the different types of embraces, caresses and kisses. There are instructions for the use of fingernails and teeth in sexual activities. Moaning and the positioning of the female body during intercourse are also a topic. Foreplay, behavior during and after coitus are discussed. Sixty four different sex acts are described in detail.
The third section deals with acquiring a wife. The different types of marriage are discussed. Explanations are given on how to relax, obtain, manage and marry a woman. The following fourth section deals with what to do with that wife when you have her. This includes proper treatment and etiquette.
The fifth section deals with the wives of other people. The behavior of both genders is addressed. Etiquette regarding forums and relationships is discussed in detail. The next section is dedicated to courtesans- more specifically, how to choose, pay and retain your sex worker of choice. The last section describes how to attract others through physical attractiveness and a strong sexual confidence.
The text emphasizes what was known as the purusharthas, or the four main goals of life. The first is dharma, or the act of living with virtue. The second, Artha, deals with material prosperity. Kama relates to erotic and aesthetic pleasures. Moksha is liberation through being released from the cycle of life and death. The first three goals can be achieved in every day life and are ordered according to importance (yes, sex is the least important).
The Kama Sutra is not by definition a tantric text as it does not discuss the sacred rites that are meant to accompany those acts. But many who follow tantra do use the book as a guideline or starting point from which they can build their tantric rituals. The sexuality that is included in this book is meant to correspond to that notion of Kama.
Though it does have a religious nature, the Kama Sutra has been translated into virtually every language on earth. Modified versions of the book exist that only include the sexual aspects often including detailed illustrations or pictures to help the reader achieve what is being described. This sort of textual editing does remove the overall point of the book, which is that sexuality- while rightly one of life’s goals- isn’t the most important goal and should be handled with consideration to the goals that come before it.