CHENNAI: Erotic literature for way too long has been misconstrued as DIY (Do-It-Yourself) sex guides or as a script of a low-budget soft porn movie. And with some sections of the press promoting a column with a middle-aged sexually charged aunty, the blame clearly rests on the small minds that add a perverse touch to the art of sensual writing. But one look at our Tamil history, we’ve had prolific writers like Andal and Kambar who have written divine romances and intimacy with a spiritual slant.
Charu Nivedita, the author of Zero Degree believes that eroticism is the pulse of life. His works deal with painful eroticism. “The erotic writings of Marquis de Sade and Elfriede Jelinek have inspired my works. Erotic literature finds its roots in the age of Sangam and Kambar poetry. It has been reported that even Avvaiyyar, in one of her poems mentioned that she wanted to sip palm wine with King Adhiyamaan.” Charu is an encyclopedia on erotic literary works. He shares, “Soundarya Lahiri and Andal’s Thiruppavai, belong to the class of spiritual erotic writing. These days, there is a repression of writers who deal with eroticism.” And that really seems to add to the thrill and thereby demand. He also goes to say, “Real eroticism involves appreciating sex. One is branded a ‘porno writer’, even if the piece deals with just eroticism.”
Although sex is still considered a taboo in our society, Kiruba Shankar, a blogger says, “Erotic literature encourages independent writers and it definitely has a more refined readership.” Ranvir Shah of Prakriti Foundation that promotes literary evenings and authors in the city says, “Erotic literature is an integral part of our traditions. The hippie movement of the 60s has cast an overtly sexual shadow on it. We must draw a fine line between erotica and the western perception of porn.” Charu also agrees that the pornification is a result of the influence of Victorian morality. He smiles, “Today, poets write porn. There is no tinge of eroticism in it.”
In our city many bookstores sell erotic literature including those of Catherine Mullet, Vanessa Duries and even Henry Spencer Ashby, but the ones that call out to you on the shelves are the books that fit the stereotypical image of ‘erotic’. Ananda*, a member of a popular book club in the city shares, “Stores and even organizers of literary events only promote sensational books. We are in an era where we are judging a book by its cover, literally.” Shailaja*, a literature student in the city says, “It is no secret that you are judged by the books you read, and the stigma associated with erotic literature ensures that not many people would risk being caught dead with erotica on their shelves or even seen in the “erotica” section of the bookstore that houses such a section.”
Catherine*, a senior manager at a leading publishing house in the city shares, “ It is different from porn in the way that it is less direct and perhaps, less crude. In porn, everything is said and shown, in erotica a lot of it is what you visualize. I have deeply focused on the repression of erotica and it boils down to one thing. It is still considered an underground industry.”
*Names changed on request