Some desires we can speak about openly and are even encouraged to fulfil, such as a desire to be successful, or to give back to society, or to be a better person (whatever that means). Whatever is socially acceptable can be aired publicly. But what is not socially acceptable has perforce to lurk in the shadows and so we have desires that we may whisper only to ourselves. And others that we keep locked away because they frighten other people, and sometimes even ourselves, too much. That’s why there are so many ‘rules’ around sexuality and the ways in which we may or may not express our sexual desires.
Sexual desire is a potent force – it can and has led to all kinds of mayhem, but at the same time it can be a powerfully liberating and transformative force. In the Issue in Focus, Shikha Aleya weaves together threads from everyday life, law, psychiatry, history and film into the intricate cloth that sexual desire is, showing us how much it can cover and, at the same time, reveal. In a two-part interview, Paromita Vohra talks about desire, pleasure and playfulness in sex, about the possibilities of things ‘being different’ and the work of Agents of Ishq in expanding these possibilities.
Our desires may thrill us or terrify us. In the case of the former, we feel energised, alive, ready to chase our latest fantasy, but in the case of the latter, we may wonder at our own sanity. This often happens in the case of rape fantasies and Vizla Kumaresan demystifies this for us. Erika Moen explains through a webcomic in the Brushstrokes section how sexual fantasies are as common as any other kind of fantasy and can contribute to enhancing our sexual play as well as sense of sexual wellbeing.
Malini Gopalakrishnan’s poem, Jasmine Stains, taking us beyond fantasy, powerfully reminds us that we are far more than the sum of our own and other people’s desires. And Sashwati Banerjee ends her musings on menopause and desire with the claim that many will probably echo: I still want sex! As do the protagonists of the short film “#PuranaPyaar” in our video section.
And, there’s more! Kaustav Bakshi reviews Nacher Chhele: Amar Samakami Ejahar (The Boy Who Danced: My Gay Diary) by Avijit Kundu, released earlier this year that talks about the author’s own experiences. And in the Poetry Corner we have Akhil Katyal’s poems on desire and queer politics. In the Media Corner is Esther Perel talking about how to find the sweet spot between love and desire.
In the mid-month issue we bring you the second part of our interview with Paromita Vohra about sexuality, playfulness and possibilities. The possibilities maybe endless, but because society lays down strictures about what may or may not be expressed, some people get the short end of the stick. Read more about this in the Hindi translation of Geetanjali Misra’s review of two films about forbidden sexual desires as well as another article in Hindi in which the author takes a walk down memory lane. Ketki Ranade’s new book Growing up Gay in Urban India is also about the forbidden. Read Madhu Kewalramani’s review of it here. Growing up gay may be challenging and it may seem as though things must have been much worse several centuries ago, but history has a way of surprising us. In the Blogroll section read an interview with Madhavi Menon, author of Infinite Variety: a History of Desire in India, who has written about the multiplicities of desires and intimacies that existed and believes that there’s nothing straight about desire and never has been. Desire is not exclusively the prerogative of a privileged few and denied to the rest. Read about disability and desire, fatness and desire, questioning one’s own desires and about whether popular culture in India is ready to discuss women’s desire today.
Cover Image: Flickr/ (CC BY 2.0)