I’m interviewed in The Week magazine along with other desi women who write sexily. Click here to read the full article, E-rotica, by Nikita Doval. Tagline: Writing about sex is also a powerful form of dissent for the growing breed of women bloggers.
Here’s the full text of Nikita’s email interview with me.
1) How did you get started on the journey of erotica writing?
I’ve been writing ever since I was a child and that included various kinds of dreams, fantasies, and stories. I never saw a reason to shy away from or shut off any kind of experience.
Sexy writing was a key part of my own sexual awakening; I learned which stories turned me on and which left me cold. I was reading and fantasizing about lesbians and sadomasochism for many years before I ever fucked a girl or felt a whip. I was also lucky to be in a pro-sex feminist milieu where people like Susie Bright and Pat Califia were articulating why it’s important for women and queer people to write our own desires.
The more reading I did, the more I realized I was at least as good a writer as a lot of people whose stories were getting published. So I started putting more effort into writing and finishing the stories in my head, instead of getting, um, distracted along the way!
I write the stories that I myself find hot and want to masturbate to. I also write reflections on things that come up for me in my own sexual life; for example I just wrote and performed a piece called Hurting that talks about different levels of sexual, spiritual, and emotional pain.
As I gain a readership, I try to be conscious of including different gender orientations, races, and body types in my stories, because a lot of porn, whether written or visual, is very boring and stereotypical in that way. The women are always beautiful and light-skinned and skinny with big breasts, for example. Yawn.
2) How do you define erotica writing? Most people perceive there to be little difference between writing about sex and erotic writing. How would you differentiate the two? Some other writers I spoke to thought of erotic writing as a play of words, a play of language while they described their body’s sensations to its immediate environment, its thoughts to what was happening around it. How do you describe your erotic writings?
I do not differentiate. I write porn, erotica, smut, call it whatever you want, as well as stories where the sex is not the main point, and stories that don’t happen to have sex in them. I am suspicious of any very strict attempt to delineate erotica from porn. That stinks of the old “good” vs “bad” sex duality. I subscribe to Advaita (nondualism)!
I guess people say erotica is more about mood. To me, at the end of the day it’s about fucking and whatever gets you hot is just a means to that. Some people are turned on by a candle by the bedside, others prefer their candle to be dripping wax on their nipples. It’s all good; why should there be judgment that one way of setting the mood is “erotic” and one is “pornographic”?
3) We have had a fairly rich history of erotica be it in our bhakti traditions or of course the Kama Sutra but in the modern day and age erotica has all but fallen off our radar. Why do you think that happened? Do Indian writers struggle to find a balance between describing sex and celebrating the body’s reaction to it?
Clearly the cleaning-up of Indian sexuality was a response to colonialist ideas. The goraas came to India and were shocked to see women with bare breasts, men who slept with men, gods who had erotic lives, etc. Indian patriarchs trying to impress the goraas then bought into this and tried to show they were “civilized,” not “barbaric,” by covering up and brushing away certain practices, and trying to make Indian sexuality conform to Victorian morality. Partha Chatterjee lays this out pretty clearly in his influential postcolonial theory book, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories. A lot of queer historians and academics are covering this territory too.
I don’t think people have ever stopped wanting to access erotic images or stories. Bollywood is basically soft porn. Even the tiniest town in India has a semi-secret video counter where guys can go to get ripped-off porno DVDs. Because of patriarchal ideas and the confinement to the home, women haven’t had as much access as consumers of sexual material.
But now, as a wider swath of Indian women have access to the Internet and some leisure time, they’re looking for that material. Not much is aimed toward their tastes, of course, and most women don’t want to look at exploitative videos of semi-starved girls living in virtual slavery who are trafficked in from Nepal to be on sexcams — any more than they want to walk into the red-light districts of the metros. They want stories they can relate to. So the written word is filling that need.
My readers are all over the gender map. Who I really write for is queer and transgender people of color all over the world. But I’m happy if others get their rocks off, too.
4) Two years ago we had an anthology of Indian erotica released. Now Zubaan is working on another one. Urrmila Deshpande’s Slither was released to some good reviews. Erotic blogs are increasing in number and so are their followers (Shameless Yonis being one example), to what do you attribute this movement of erotica in the main-stream?
The internet has always been an easy place for people to access erotica because of anonymity. One of the first widely published internet erotica writers was a Sri Lankan American woman, Mary Anne Mohanraj, who has a number of books out now, some erotic and some not. She’s working on a new erotic collection, DemiMonde, that features South Asian characters in a futuristic world and just raised money for it via Kickstarter.
So the web has always been further ahead on this issue, and Indians are big on the web (thanks IIT!). Visual porn was the first type of business that figured out how to make money as an internet business. Now the print media in India are catching up.
But Indian writing is very hamstrung by archaic obscenity laws. It’s exactly the same problem as Section 377. And the fact that sex toys are not legal, in the land of the Kama Sutra, which explicitly refers to sex toys, is absurd.
These remnants of colonialism are getting weaker and weaker. In practice, you can go into any cybercafe and walk by a guy who’s in a chatroom trolling for sex or looking at porn online. You can buy cheap sex toys made in China or even made in India. You can read Shameless Yonis from the comfort of your own home!
So why not bring it out into the open? Yes, we like sex! There didn’t get to be 1.2 billion of us just like that only. Haha.
I hope that sex writing can play a role in opening up the dialogue about sexuality, and letting people know that they are not alone in their desires. Shame about sexuality is a huge problem for us desis, and that’s why more of us need to step up and be shameless role models, especially women.
5) What inspires your erotic writings? What are they influenced by?
I’m blessed with a fantastic range of personal sexual experience and an even more fantastic imagination. Inspiration is never a problem!
6) Is writing erotica an intensely personal experience or can you separate your writing from your persona?
Sex is an intensely personal experience. Writing of any kind is also intensely personal, but in a different way.
7) What kind of reader feedback do you get? Based on the reactions you get, what is your opinion about sexual maturity of most Indians out there at least when it comes to the written word.
My reader feedback is mostly gratitude, encouragement, and bottomless desire. I love it.
Yeah, ok, there are some guys out there who think they are perverts — but you know what, I’m probably much more perverted than them! So the joke’s on them. I think it’s hilarious when some dude tries to come on to me on Twitter, since (a) what a pathetic pickup medium, and (b) my stuff has BIG OL LESBO written all over it.
8 ) How did you get to be a part of Shameless Yonis?
Kama Spice had the idea to start a joint smut blog by South Asian women after she and I met at a conference. We really clicked, we hooked in a couple of other writers we knew, and more recently, we hooked up with South Asian Sisters which has been producing the fabulous show Yoni Ki Baat for a number of years. The rest is history!
9) Are you open about your identity or do you prefer to keep it a closely guarded secret. Any particular reason why if so.
I like having a different persona for different writing voices. People who are important to me in my real life know my various avatars. At the same time, I do like to keep a zone of privacy around myself and the people I’m close to.
10) Lastly, who are the other Indian erotica writers you follow and why would you recommend them?
I don’t really follow any desi smut writers other than the Shameless Yonis. My erotic tastes are specific, and I have high standards for the quality of the writing, so I’m afraid most of it doesn’t pass the bar. Electric Feather was great, and I’m looking forward to the Zubaan anthology that Rosalyn is editing. There is also a US anthology called Desilicious that came out some time back that was quite good.
I think we need more outlets. Someone should start a quarterly literary smut magazine in India. It would sell millions. Are you listening, publishers of The Week?