Earlier this month, I conducted a workshop on Erotica Writing. I’ve explained how and why I decided that I wanted to write more naturally and with less abashment about sex and sexuality. But my journey with ‘real’ erotica reading probably began with 50 Shades of Grey, a story that I had a vein-bursting reaction to. When a friend suggested that I was probably responding to the bad writing rather than the genre itself, I decided to explore the theory. And sure enough, I ran right into Anais Nin and fell in love with her writing, her mischief and her spirit.
I’ve read other stories since then, picking them along the way along with my usual diverse fare of children’s fiction, chicklit, literary fiction, nonfiction, personal blogs, graphic novels, bestsellers and classics. But since the workshop, I decided that I wanted to be more up-to-date on the Erotica genre. And I set out to build myself a collection of excellent works in the field.
I ordered a whole bunch of books which included classics, once banned books and a single one from a recent Top Erotica Reads list. This is the one I started with, first, figuring I needed to get with it as soon as possible. In Too Deep by Portia Da Costa turned out to be such a disappointment that I gave it up midway, disgusted.
I was so disheartened I might have given up the genre and indeed, whatever I had started with the first workshop too. What good luck that I had bought other books too, which I felt compelled to finish. And I picked the next one up with a heavy heart. Once again, to my great fortune, it turned out to be this one.
For one, I’ve been very taken in by this look — the finger curls, the asymmetric, tight bob and the red lipstick. It can’t have escaped your notice, my look in the past few months. Then I opened the book and began reading. And within a few words, I was transported into that world of marvelling at how a phrase could be turned. I’ve been reading so much garbage lately that I keep forgetting how a book can be — should be — art.
And as for erotica? That really is the difference between erotica and porn, isn’t it? Erotica, like good sex, makes you fall a little in love. With yourself, with an idea, with the universe that makes it all possible. Bear witness to these lines:
“The two girls, therefore were from an early age not the least daunted by either art or ideal politics. It was their natural atmosphere. They were at once cosmopolitan and provincial, with the cosmopolitan provincialism of art that goes with pure social ideals.”
True, a passage like this makes me go tingly because I have to ponder each word and not everyone gets off on that. But listen to this:
“The arguments, the discussions were the great thing: the love-making and connexion were only a sort of primitive reversion and a bit of an anti-climax. One was less in love with the boy afterwards, and a little inclined to hate him, as if he had trespassed on one’s privacy and inner freedom.”
OH MY GOD, I thought, that is what I was trying to say, so very inarticulately in my spoken word performance titled Baby Invisible.
And that’s when it struck me. Sex is at once a basal and a higher order experience. It is spirituality and divine graces available to every single life form on Earth. It changes or should change something inside you, not just in muscles and blood vessels, but in the way you feel and think. Things should go bump and creak inside you when you experience sex, either in action or in thought, via fantasy or reading. Good sex and good writing should both leave you moved and forever changed in ways that you spend the rest of your life, learning to be at peace with. That is what life is about it, isn’t it? Constant change and our trying to find our balance with every new shift and turn. Shake my mind, my ideologies with even a tenth of the force with which you can jar my body and I promise you the body and everything that’s in it, will follow.
We seem to be in an era of terrible writing and godawful things being done in the name of sex. That a book like 50 Shades of Grey attained the status it did, is testimony to the fact that most of our world has lost access to the true magic of sex.
But I take heart in the thought that this world, a vast, big library also contains works such as these whose words seduce me (rather than throw me over their shoulder and drag me into the woods, in the style of In Too Deep or 50 Shades) and grow my senses.
My Prince Charming truly, is a book.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —— —— — — — — —