By: Michael Zivick

Often the worse the tragedy, the closer we have to look to find possibilities for redemption in it. Maybe sometimes there are none. 44 million people in one country living with HIV/AIDS is a tragedy that almost makes you want to stop looking, period. Officials in India, however, have their eyes on an intriguing idea for curbing that country’s rate of infection. I hope it works. Maybe one day my kid will meet and fall in love with someone who’ll be spared by the Indian initiative. In the meantime, I can at least appreciate how the measure is a lesson in unintended consequences for hard-right dildos, from Phyllis Schlafly to Tom De Lay.

With around 12 million people, Calcutta is India’s most populous metropolitan area. Over half of the country’s 40,000 brothel-based sex workers are there. Unprotected sex is India’s Number One means of HIV transmission. A major factor is men who refuse to wear condoms when hiring prostitutes. These men then spread the virus to their families, and among prostitutes. It is in the nature of a capital-based economy that people will succumb to financial pressure in sufficient numbers so as to create problems for society. No system is wholly beneficial.

Rajyashree Choudhury is the chief of India’s Institute for Social Development. “The prostitutes have to give in or lose the customer. This increases the risk of spreading HIV among the girls if the give in, and also to men when they find someone who will agree to unprotected sex.” You can blame people for being human if you like, but you might as well blame a cockroach for not being a Hershey’s Kiss.

Instead of casting blame, India is attempting to deal with a sort of shame–the shame of Indian men who mistake their inability to accept the condom as a matter of pride. Pursuing a variant of the Safe Sex Or No Sex determination, India will begin training prostitutes in the ways of the Kama Sutra. Choudhury says the ancient techniques for the advancement of sexual relations will help workers whose clients insist on unprotected sex. “Since 88% of HIV/AIDS cases come from unsafe sex, the various ways laid down in the Kama Sutra can be resorted to by prostitutes to help their customers achieve pleasure.”

I bet Bill Bennett would jowl serious disapproval at a State that teaches adultery skills to its citizens. Puritanical mores imposed by conservatives like Bennett often burden the economic and fiscal relations between the US and countries like India. In that red light, I see the super sex-ed as blowback from right-wing opposition to the promotion of birth control. Hand-Job High also seems like come in the face of another preference of those same conservatives: economic barriers to AIDS drugs.

But before I had a chance to wipe my member across Ann Coulter’s chin (you can picture Tucker Carlson, if you’re into bow-ties), the petals of a sumptuous lotus blossom began to open atop my mind, dripping onto it, like heady pearls of pleasure, several deliciously moaning questions, biting suspicions and softly swirling doubts.

As anyone with a Third Eye can plainly see, the Kama Sutra is mostly not about how to have sex; it’s about why to, and how to think about how and why. Some of its most interesting verses do regard prostitution, in fact; however, very few of these are physical instructions for bringing a man to climax. Consider Verse 47 from the chapter, “Profits and Losses.” “When they argue about sleeping with the girl, she arranges matters to her advantage. By provoking quarrels, she makes her profit.” (Hard to believe the Kama Sutra was written sometime between the 1st and 4th Centuries C.E., and is, at that, a condensation from an earlier condensation of material that may go back to the 8th Century B.C.E. Like old quarrels, time-tested profits die hard.)

The bulk of the Kama Sutra notwithstanding, what sort of lessons can prostitutes take from the text? How about Verse 3 from the chapter, “Blows and Sighs”? “There are four ways of hitting: with the side of the hand, with the palm wide open, with the fist, with the ends of the fingers joined.” We won’t even go into the Hanging Posture, with its ropes and pulleys and bound hands and feet. For, as sacramental as that sounds, more of the Kama Sutra is like Verse 50 from the chapter, “Behavior of Woman and Man.” “Generally, the characteristics of a successful man are as follows…He does what he is asked. He speaks well. He knows how to make himself agreeable… He is popular with the servants… He likes strolling in the garden…” Or Verse 48: “He contends with the effects of his mistakes by humility.” Maybe if more Indian tricks studied the Kama Sutra, there wouldn’t be such a stink about condoms.

For many people, women in particular, the Kama Sutra is less about how to please a man than it is about how the pleasures–and responsibilities–of sex can be shared–and heightened–equally, maximally, between men and women.

“The girls are quite responsive,” Choudhury says about the idea of teaching them how to get a guy off without intercourse. But if the problem is the pressure on women to accede to the demand for a bareback ride, the crooks of knees are unlikely to take the cocks of Calcutta by monsoon.

The world of the courtesan in Year Zero is (Surprise!) not the same as the world of the 21st Century urban prostitute, and the difference can be summed up in this meta-position of the Kama Sutra: “No sexual position is worthwhile unless it facilitates kissing.” Still, you have to have a warm pucker for anybody willing to give the idea of the unscrewable prostitute a shake. It’s certainly better than a joined-finger blow to the genitals.


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