Suitable for 18+

Erotica by women - a first in India

Rosalyn d’Mello
“It’s erotica, so many stories have nothing to do with sex.” Rosalyn d’Mello is editing an anthology of erotica by women writers. It's the first of its kind in India, she says. "There’s fantasy and sensation."

"One story is by a food writer – the way she writes about food is very sensual! Another is about a woman’s sexual awakening watching horse riding.”

Other contributions are more explicit, says the 25-year-old writer.

“There is one quite kinky piece about two women making love. It is set in ancient times, while an empire is falling. Other women are committing suicide, fearing rape.”

Past centuries
Rosalyn picked the authors, none of whom had previous experience writing erotica.

“I know from their style of writing that they have the potential to write erotica. All of them responded positively and needed no further explanation or guidance. Only one writer hesitated. She thought it would be difficult and asked if she could try before committing.”

Twenty authors have so far promised to contribute new works to the book, which mixes prose and poetry. The book will also include poems and extracts from existing publications, some from past centuries.

“We’ve had erotica for centuries in India. In recent times, though, only one book of erotic stories has come out – Electric Feather, published two years ago. A lovely book, but it not specifically by women writers,” she says. “And it was a bit mild,” she adds with a smile.

Rosalyn d’Mello hopes to cause some controversy with her anthology. “Its always good for sales,” she laughs.

“I hope to be able to add an extract from a book by Shashi Deshpande, which deals with a sort of incestuous relationship between two sisters. I guess that would be the most taboo-breaking piece.”

Apart from one Pakistani-origin American and one Bangladeshi writer, all authors are from India. “In terms of context the pieces are definitely very Indian. And some also deal with specifically Indian themes, like a series of poems about the goddess Sita.”

Sex and the City
According to Bollywood movies and the urban media, educated Indian women are supposed to be enjoying a new sexual confidence. But Rosalyn isn’t convinced that this is so liberating.

“Women follow this 'Sex and the City' model. They have more sex, but at the end of the day, they all want a man to settle with. But for these smart women it’s increasingly difficult to find an equal partner. And all the old pressures are still there.

"Take me: I’m turning 26 and I’m sure my mum will ask me, right after congratulating me, ‘When will you get married?’”

With many other Indian women still struggling with problems like dowry, honour killing and female foeticide, the problems of educated urban women might seem tiny.

“But in the end it comes down to the same thing: women have no respect in this country,” Rosalyn d’Mello says. 

“So it does concern me if women like me in a city like Delhi are denied the basic right to be in public spaces, at any time of the day, wearing whatever they like, and be safe from stares, judgements and worse.”

Sexual self
Rosalyn hopes that this book can help more women to express their ‘sexual self’.

“I don’t expect radical change and mainly hope that many women and also men can enjoy this book, but I do believe that writing is very powerful.”

The anthology is due to be published early next year by feminist publishing house Zubaan in New Delhi.

Photo: Rosalyn D'Mello

Read our articles on erotic movies aimed at women.

Can women's erotic writing help to liberate women? What do you think?