it to a Brit to bungle the world's most famous sex manual. Explorer
and scholar Sir Richard Burton's 1883 translation of the Kamasutra,
says Wendy Doniger, contains "lots of little errors that
really start to add up." Burton mistranslated passages on
the G-spot, downgraded women's role in sex, and diminished the
importance of their pleasure, argues Doniger-who sets the record
straight this spring with a new translation from Oxford University
Press, co-translated with Harvard University's Sudhir Kakar.
text is padded out and makes a lot of assumptions," the Mircea
Eliade distinguished service professor of the history of religions
told the London Independent. "He often fudges elements
of the original. Things were added to make it easier to understand,
but sometimes they were wrong." Part of the problem, she
argues, was that Burton depended too much on a 13th-century commentary
by a scholar named Yashodhara and not enough on Vatsyayana Mallanaga's
original third-century Sanskrit text.
text knows all about the G-spot," she says. "It was
always there in the Sanskrit, but a combination of misunderstanding
from Yashodhara..., and [from] Burton himself, means that his
translation gets further and further away from it." Burton's
text instructs men to "always make a point of pressing those
parts of her body on which she turns her eyes." That's not
the way to find the G-spot, responds Doniger. "What the text
says is that when a man is inside a woman and touches her and
when her eyes roll around, he should touch her more in that place."
original text also gives women all sorts of "privileges,"
she says, "that have been eroded from the Burton translation.
Burton muted the importance of women's pleasure, he blurred it,
chipped away at it."