Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Historical Pubes


So, I agreed to write a novella set in nineteenth-century India for Aphrodisia (in THE HAREM, December 2006). Unfortunately, my knowledge was pretty much limited to The Secret Garden and a variety of misty mini-series.

So I glommed history books on India to get an overview (which I have to return actually. I’m gonna have to mail them at this rate.) I ordered and read “The Complete Kama Sutra” (unabridged and no pictures), which not only translated the text but included two commentaries, one from the Medieval era and one modern one.

Let’s just say I needed my brain scrubbing out afterwards. It’s a book basically about how to seduce a woman, and the bit that really bugged me? Well, if all these sweet seductions don’t work, beat the crap out of her and then she’ll be willing.

*shudder*.

So my heroine, trained in the Kama Sutra arts, makes a comment about it because...ew. One of those cases where a little Western culture needs to be injected into a story essentially about a different culture, otherwise my heroine was going to have to teach the hero how to beat the crap out of her.

Not particularly romantic or sexy. Unless it's purely consensual of course. And you have a "safe word".

Huh. I could've made "East Meets West" more kinky. Oh well!

Fortunately, William Dalrymple came out with an excellent book, “White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-century India”. He’s one of those delightful historians where all the really interesting stuff lives in the footnotes. But there’s plenty in the main body as well. Take his reference of the Persian tourist Shushtari’s opinion on the British. While there were some things he liked about them, he was positively horrified that “neither the men or women remove pubic hair”. Ergo, the Mughal class (which came from Persia, modern-day Iran) must have kept that area clear, and had for centuries, because Dalrymple footnotes the same reported horror in Crusader Syria, where a Muslim came across a Frank who “kept his pubic hair ‘as long as his beard’.” (pg 131)

The focus of the story is on James Kirkpatrick, British Resident of Hyderabad and his falling in love with Khair un-Nissa. It’s a fascinating story of changing to fit the environment.

Oh and cool little tidbits like the bit about pubic hair, of course.

4 comments:

Kate Pearce said...

I read the that book! The romance writer in me got a bit fed up about the way he suggested it was a great love story but it really wasn't. Poor woman.
But I can totally see how it might have helped your research. Not as much fun maybe as the Karma Sutra but certainly interesting.

Celia May Hart said...

That's interesting, Kate, because I came away with a different perspective on it. She definitely wielded her power on Kirkpatrick, even if her kids were raised as Brits.

Jane Lockwood said...

I think the most interesting thing about the Kama Sutra--or at least the bits I've read of it--is that the clitoris isn't mentioned once. Boo hiss! And how did they remove their pubes--must have been thru waxing (winces).

Have you read the Flashman books set in India? Fabulous entertaining stuff.

Eva Gale said...

Did they remove the hair with threading?

I read 1001 Nights, in a new translation and could not believe how misogynistic it was. Very interesting.

I also have a Kama Sutra with footnotes and the editor remarked how "the swing' MUST have been a figment of imagination. Ha! Nothing like a little research before you go mucking up the most known sex treatise!