Why everyone’s writing about our sex lives
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From his studio in his lovely Goa house, surrounded by old mango trees, Aman K (his pseudonym) conjures up a world of sexually unfulfilled Indian women. Or, to quote the titles of one of his six self-published mini e-books this past year, Married But Looking: Confessions Of An Indian Housewife. It’s the urban Indian reality as he sees it, and translating it into erotica comes easily enough to him. His protagonists are married women stuck in a rut, seeking appreciation and attention.
Aman has always found it easy to be around women and to get them to share their stories. “The problem with Indian men is that they treat their woman like a slave in public and a queen in bed. It has to be the other way around if they truly want to be happy,” he says.
Any long-term monogamous relationship, he believes, eventually becomes about the minutiae of shared experiences—the loans, the children, the recurring leak in the kitchen. “You’re never in the present moment with your partner, the fun factor goes down,” he says.
All the Indian women in Aman’s books are in search of this fun factor. Their sexual awakening is a recurring theme. Most of the 6,500 to 8,000-word stories unspool from the first time a woman decides to cheat (although he doesn’t like the judgement implicit in that word). In Indian Army Wife, one of his more popular books, a brigadier’s spouse “explains how she became an exhibitionist at a young age and then how she became a shared hotwife (a woman who has sex with other men with her husband’s approval) in order to accelerate her husband’s career.”
Perusing this book on Amazon.in opens a portal to the underbelly of Indian erotica. One title, First Times With Dinesh, Manoj And Virat comes with a statutory warning: “This is a very explicit story set in a modern India, featuring a variety of sexual acts.”
Arup Bose, proprietor of Srishti Publishers and Distributors, says the stunning success of 50 Shades Of Grey changed the way we view erotica. The franchise has sold about 600,000 copies in print and e-books in India, according to publisher Penguin Random House. “It’s a really interesting genre that’s starting to get its due in India,” Bose says. His brief to writers is simple: “Ensure there’s a plot, don’t just go from scene to scene. Maybe even add elements of a thriller or a whodunnit.”
Srishti author Shanaya Taneja’s (an advertising industry professional who writes under this pseudonym) first erotic novel was printed in a pocket-book size that made it easier for the reader to tuck it away. Now e-readers and the mobile phone have revolutionized the way the world consumes erotica and pushed sales higher across book markets.
These days everyone’s interested in our sex lives. From the big two of this genre—Sreemoyee Piu Kundu and Madhuri Banerjee—to the growing club of first-time authors who write under pseudonyms (sometimes picking a name of the opposite gender) before self-publishing on digital platforms such as Amazon, everyone’s picking a position.
It’s easy enough to tell which digital titles you should avoid. The blurb of Alluring Curves by Deepak Kumar, for example, reads: “I made a circular motion with my fingers around her navel. She didn’t show a single sign of being disturbed which was giving me courage to feel her more…I was panting with excitement mixed with fear while she was enjoying her sound sleep.”
Women are Aman’s main readers. “Men are more visual. Women want to get their imagination going with reading,” says the 36-year-old who became a stay-at-home dad after he sold his business a few years ago and took an extended break from work. He usually writes when his two children are at school, his wife is out and the house is quiet.
One difference between the married women in his stories and the married women he interacts with in real life and on websites such as Experienceproject.com and Wifelovers.com is that in the fictional version, their husbands are enthusiastic participants/voyeurs. “You’ll be surprised how many guys fantasize about seeing their wife with someone else,” he says. “Women are less comfortable about experimenting with their husbands. They worry about being judged and being looked at differently.” Though Aman’s books all have female protagonists, they are essentially male fantasies.
At digital first publishing start-up Juggernaut Books, where I work part-time, love, sex and romance editor Trisha Bora is always asking people to write erotica. With the recent success of Swipe Right For Boss, part of the Office Quickies series written by journalist Sanjana Chowhan, Bora just had a eureka moment. “Successful erotica caters to a reader’s specific fantasy. The reader doesn’t want to go through all kinds of scenarios to reach the one that turns him or her on,” she says.
Fantasies, as you know, are pretty unambiguous. Amazon has a series of erotic books just about sheikhs, the 50 Shades trilogy was all about BDSM and in Aman’s books, the woman is always an exhibitionist wife. My favourite discovery about what turns readers on, courtesy Bora, is Dinosaur Erotica. In Taken By The T-Rex, for example, “when the angry T-Rex corners the huntress in a box canyon, it seems more interested in her wet womanhood than in her flesh”.
For Aman, getting published was something to tick off his bucket list. Yet for a boy who grew up in a joint family with an extremely religious grandfather, it remains an undercover fantasy. It felt great finally talking to someone about my work, he messaged after our first phone conversation. What do you mean? Don’t you discuss this stuff with your friends? I asked.
No, not even my wife.
Priya Ramani shares what’s making her feel angsty/agreeable. She tweets at @priyaramani and posts on Instagram as babyjaanramani.