The Agents of Ishq Winter Reading List: Books to Help You Do It Better

 

What can you keep you warmer in the winter than a hot book and a warm blanket? Wait, don’t answer that. Don’t tell us. Instead, let us tell you about the hot books you should be reading to get better at that under-the-blanket activity. Here’s a list of tried and tested books that will tell you how to get better at sex. Some old, some new, some serious and some hilarious but all will comfort you with their practical advice.

1)  It’s Normal by Mahinder Watsa (2015, English)

This book is a wonderful collection of advice from India’s best-known sexologist Dr Mahinder Watsa, a man who has been solving the sex dilemmas of the newspaper-reading public for over 40 years. 93-year-old Watsa is famous for his sharp and frequently hilarious advice to questions that seem to never ever go away. Like everyone’s smart great-uncle, he has no patience for time-wasters and is often sarcastic. To the letter-writer who reported that after having sex four times a day, he felt weak the next day, Watsa wrote, “What do you expect? Shouts of ‘hurray’ and ‘I am a champion’ all over town?” On the other hand, he is also non-judgmental and encourages the pursuit of sexual pleasure without moral agonies. To the man who wrote in a panic that his wife had inserted a hair comb inside her vagina and found that a few bristles of the comb were stuck inside her, Watsa suggested a visit to the gynaecologist and the mild suggestion that the wife could have used a more cylindrical object like a lipstick tube. To read these questions and read Watsa’s responses is to see the vast, colourful, tragic and comic carnival of human sexuality. Somewhere in this collection are at least half a dozen questions that you have always wanted to ask someone.

2) Shareer Ki Jaankaari, (1989, translated from the original Hindi)

So many details about this book are amazing. In its nearly 30 years of existence, this handbook has sold over 70,000 copies and reportedly not one of those were sold via a bookshop. The book was first written in Hindi by a group of over 75 women in rural Rajasthan who then took the handwritten manuscript to feminist publisher Kali for Women (now Zubaan). The book contains lots of fun illustrations, simple explanations about the human body and sexuality as well as some exercises. Today, the book is available in English, Hindi, Gujarati, Oriya, Bengali and Marathi.

3) The Muslimah Sex Manual: A Halal Guide to Mind Blowing Sex by Umm Muladhat (2017, English)

Who is Umm Muladhat? No one knows. All she will say of herself is that she is a US-born psychologist. The author says the book was born after meeting a newly married and unhappy relative. Muladhat writes, “Coming from the medical field, she knew all the relevant biology. She could draw and label all the parts of male and female anatomy. She had taken fiqh [principles of Islamic law] classes and knew the legal rulings of menstruation and intercourse. But she didn’t know sex.” Muladhat gave her lots of advice and a month later, “saw her again. This time she had a gigantic smile on her face.” Then came a slim book that encourages Muslim women to enjoy pleasurable sex within marriage. The plainly written tips cover areas from kissing to sexting to bondage and varied sexual positions. The author also tells readers her interpretation of what is allowed or banned within Islamic law. So, she says yes to sexual pleasure but only within marriage, yes to penetrative sex during menstruation, no to anal sex, no also to porn (for being a bad source of knowledge about sex) and so on.

4) The Married Kama Sutra: The World’s Least Erotic Sex Manual by Simon Rich and Farley Katz (2013, English)

This book comes with four-colour, full-page illustrations like many editions of the Kama Sutra but there ends the resemblance. Instead, the positions (and the accompanying artwork) are a painful parody of sex after marriage. Everything you may have heard about married people’s sex lives (or experienced if you’re married too) is brutally described here.  Positions are described in fake ancient scripture style such as The Shifting of the Standards (‘when the man passes gas in front of the woman, without so much as an apology’) or The Interrupted Congress (‘when the man lightly kisses the woman’s neck, and the woman tenderly strokes the man’s chest, and the child runs into the room screaming, because he heard a scary noise, or some other bullshit’)

Should you treat the listed positions as the inevitable truth about marriage to embrace, a bitter present to resent or an unacceptable future to thwart? That we will leave to the philosophers but meanwhile many people in long-term relationships will at least get a giggle out of this book. And who knows what the position Laughing Together might lead to?

5) The Five Arrows of Kama selected and translated by Sandhya Mulchandani (2010, originally Sanskrit)

Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra makes all other Indian books on sex feel like a movie star’s engineer younger brother. You may be very talented but no one knows you exist. Luckily, the brilliant scholar Sandhya Mulchandani has translated five jewels of medieval erotic literature. Just take one of them, the Pururavasa Manasijasutram aka Enter the Mind of the only Human Being who was Hot Enough In Bed to Attract An Apsara. Okay, that’s a very long title for a documentary but this book is like that. It’s attributed to the legendary king Pururavasa’s deep and matter-of-fact knowledge of everything including the desirable depth of penetration and the many erotic spots on a woman’s body to kiss.

Mulchandani also translates four more books, the Narmakelikutuhala Samvadam, Smarapradipika, Manmatha Samhita and Kadambari Swikaranakarika all of which goes places where the Kamasutra didn’t go. As she points out in her inimitable style, ‘these texts make no concession or apology for their explicitness, and do not attempt to couch facts in symbolism and metaphor.’ They discuss dildoes, the G-spot, intoxicants and orgasms. So do read and learn to do it like our ancestors and have yourselves a very sanskari Christmas.

6) Kama Sutra for Women, translated and edited by Sandhya Mulchandani (2006, originally Sanskrit)

This is a vital translation of the familiar book and the first to glean Mr Vatsayana for sexual advice exclusively for women. As the author says, “The most important lesson that this book has for modern society is that anything worth doing – and yes, this includes making love – is worth doing well and that happiness is not restricted to any one gender.” One reviewer described this marvelous handbook thus: “For those who can’t be bothered with the theory, there is plenty of practical advice. For instance, even if you don’t attempt all the 64 positions, it helps to keep your toes clean and sweet smelling.” Because, after all, the infamous sexual positions were only one out of 7 chapters in the Kama Sutra. The rest was about living the good life. This book emphasizes ways to keep interest in sex electric while worried by things like electricity bills.

7) Joy of Sex by Dr Alex Comfort (1972, English)

And now, for a very special book. Dr Alex Comfort’s Joy of Sex. “Sex is the most important sort of adult play. If you can’t relax here you never will,” wrote Comfort and over 10 million readers have contemplated his suggestions in 20 languages since 1972.

The book is somewhat modeled on The Joy of Cooking and organized like a cookbook with sections on starters, main courses and even pickles. The style mirrored Comfort’s then-radical attitude – sex is as natural as eating. He wrote, “if sexual love can be — and it is — the supreme human experience, it must be also a bit hazardous. It can give us our best and our worst moments. In this respect it’s like mountain climbing — over-timid people miss the whole experience; reasonably balanced and hardy people accept the risks for the rewards, but realize that there’s a difference between this and being foolhardy.”

The book is equally famous for its black and white illustrations by Chris Foss. Foss created these illustrations using photographs he took of a matter-of-fact and enthusiastic couple — Charles Raymond, Foss’ co-illustrator on the book and Raymond’s wife Edeltraud. The results were tender, natural and loving. Look out for the latest edition, in which relationship expert Susan Quilliam has updated the book with more contemporary attitudes to gay relationships and also valuable suggestions about sex for people with disabilities. Those illustrations have been replaced with somewhat unexciting photographs though. Forty years on, the book remains full of handy tips, explanations and an idealistic approach to getting better at sex.

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