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Fingers To Scroll And Fingers To Touch: What Erotica Taught Me

illustration showing a woman lying down and reading on her tablet

This article was originally posted in Feminism in India.

I was 14 when I was first introduced to the horrors of porn. With the screaming, and name calling, and ridiculous body standards (A world where every woman had hairless nipples and vaginas, whaat?).

The language, the camera angles, the masculinity only made me want to use my hands to switch off my laptop and not to touch myself. At the age of 17, things changed. I was introduced to the world of erotic literature. Erotic Literature, especially that which involved Fandoms (like Harry potter Erotica, or Supernatural Erotica) opened up a whole new world of sexuality for me. These stories had characters who who were more than “Daddy’s Little Slut” or “Blonde girl does it for the first time“. They were people who were defined by more than just sex and had larger stories surrounding them (and honestly “Harry and Draco doing the dirty after the Triwizard Tournament” sounds far more appealing to me).

Erotica moved from objectifying bodies to seeing people as more than vaginas and penises, there were actual stories and descriptions about why the characters liked what they were doing and what they enjoyed. It moved beyond moaning sounds of random strangers to characters that one could relate to. I could control the images, have sex with magical creatures and Benedict Cumberbatch, read incest and BDSM stories without subjecting a real human being to it, and also experiment with styles and stories till I was comfortable enough to try it with another person myself. There were more positive concepts of body and self with erotica.

I wondered if adults and young adults who read erotica had similar experiences, so I decided to ask them. After asking over 40 people who belonged to a middle-class background, this is what I found out!

Why did you start reading erotica?

“We had speeds of 8 kbps. No other option”

I absolutely identified with the above answer, between slow speed internet and masturbating, you can always find erotica. Though this wasn’t the only reason people started reading erotica. For a girl who used to have horrible sex, erotica was God-like. An old partner made me read it and that is where my romance with Erotica began. For a lot of the women who answered the questionnaire, it began because they were curious about sex (curiosity doesn’t kill the cat, it makes it orgasm.) or because they stumbled across it on the internet.

Have you watched porn, if yes, which do you prefer between erotic literature and porn, and why?

“I hate waiting for porn to buffer.”

This was a hard question (pun intended) to answer for many, and I was absolutely rooting for erotica to win. Some people did prefer watching porn as it was a quicker means of climax, but more than half the people who answered the survey said that they liked erotica more. “Porn is something I try out every once in a while but it’s time-consuming (not in a good way) and degrading (not in a hot way) and I don’t have the kind of freedom I have with erotica.” The freedom with imagination and controlling your characters is a lot more and that allows a larger space for representation and experimentation too.

Erotica for me, has been an outlet to enjoy things on my own, which I do not think I would enjoy with a partner- say for example I would read BDSM but not practice it- do you feel that erotica, for you as well, helps enjoy a narrative that you can imagine but not necessarily want to partake in?

Yes, but not the way they show it in 50 shades of Grey. What a shitty movie.”

Erotica seems to provide, for most women who responded, a safe space to explore their sexuality without having to face real life repercussions or any lasting damage to how they interact with their sexuality. “BDSM, subjugation, anal sex. Either I have tried but not enjoyed these in real life (but continue to read it) or I would never feel safe enough/it is too triggering to try it with a sexual partner. Or even the fact that people I wanted to role play with have been awful actors and it leads to more laugh fits,” said Reva, a friend who answered the questionnaire.

Have you had conversations about erotic literature with your parents – in any capacity?

You must be kidding. Mum’s like Ayatollah Khomenei’s love child!

Talking about sex in my household itself can cause my family to ‘cleanse’ me off my impurities, a havan or puja are not far away if the S-word is brought up. Not everyone had such a terrible experience though. Some said that their parents were fairly liberal to discussing sex and some started the sex conversation well in advance, “I received a Kamasutra instead of a Bible on my 10th Birthday. Whoops,” said Nikita in her response. But largely parents weren’t anybody’s go to people to discuss sex, in fact one person’s reply was “Hahahahahahaha(x10)

This shows how scared we are to approach people about sex and turn to the worst places for sex advice: porn and erotica. The unfortunate part is that this advice caters to men and unrealistic expectations.

What kind of Erotica do you read?

It depends on my mood, really. I’ll read anything. No specific genre.”

BDSM, Incest, Sci-Fi, Taboo were some of the most commonly used genres that people read. The societal blockage of not discussing sexuality in any of these spaces has meant that we explore these places either via stories or via practice. I for example loved BDSM erotica for the longest time before I shifted to reading about older men being with younger women. The importance of this is that erotica provides a space where one can break away from the normative structure of society and engage in all that is taboo, without having to deal with any form of conflict. Romance and vanilla were high up on the list too.

For many of those I talked to/ asked to submit responses erotica meant a positive space where they had far more control over the story, the narrative, and themselves. Erotica allowed them to open up sexually and seemed to cater more posititvely to women than current pornography does.

With the holidays around the corner, this would be a great place to start. Happy holidays and a merry touching to all!

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