Indian literature is a mirror to Indian culture. It weaves in elements of our country that make it feel like home. Whether it’s the noisy, crowded streets, gossiping over cutting chai or getting compared to Sharma Ji’s son, Indian literature has it all. However, what it doesn’t have is sex. Sex in Indian literature is hard to come across (surprise surprise). It is an element of our history that is casually left out as well. Did you learn about the Kama Sutra era in your history books? Didn’t think so. Sex doesn’t make books vulgar, but can add expression, freedom and even female empowerment! We got in touch with Trisha Das, the best-selling author of Ms Draupadi Kuru: After the Pandavas, The Mahabharata Re-imagined and Kama’s Last Sutra.
Sex is important in Indian literature because we need normalise it and make people comfortable with it. We can’t begin to address the plethora of sex-related issues in our country – from hygiene to child marriage to rape – without learning how to talk about sex openly.
She also adds that when we weave sex into Indian literature, we can start a conversation about it and all the stuff that comes under it. Like orgasms and the fact that 80% of the women don’t have one during intercourse! It will take away the taboo associated with it and lessen the shame it brings. When we read about sex, we connect to our own sexuality and it even helps us explore it!
By talking about sex and sensuality, we boost female empowerment. As women, we have grown up in a society that associates the enjoyment of sex with shame. Because shame is an excellent, sophisticated tool of control. Trisha says,
If a woman is a virgin on her wedding night, if she considers extra-marital sex a sin, if she is ashamed of exploring sexual pleasure, then chances are she’ll only ever have sex with her husband. Thus, ensuring that any children she bears will be from his sperm, family land and property will stay within his bloodline and his ‘honour’ will be preserved.
This patriarchal and degrading perspective is so ingrained in us that we fail to see past it. Using Indian mythology is also a great tool to bring about a change in this attitude, and that is something Trisha has nailed.
We all know how unfairly women are portrayed in Indian mythology, just to suit the male gaze. Trisha says,
Women play second fiddle to men not just in our mythology but in any kind of story, past or present, across the world. They’re the evil vixen and the deific mother, the frightened virgin and terrifying hag or the sacrificing wife. It’s about time the women in our mythology start standing up for themselves, like real women are doing all over the country.
Trisha wrote Ms Draupadi Kuru: After the Pandavas in an attempt to change this mindset. Draupadi was an intelligent, brave and vivacious being who was reduced to a weak, abused and subdued woman. A woman who didn’t fight back. Trisha thought it was miserable treatment for someone who had such potential, hence she wrote her book, and personally, I find it incredible. Additionally, Indian mythology is home to a lot of modern sexual notions that are overlooked under the garb of holiness and purity. The sexual side of Indian mythology normalised different sexual expressions and acts, and if they had not been ignored, maybe our view on sex would not be so conservative. Hence, it’s up to us now to change this narrative and give them the power and sexual empowerment they deserve!
Many times, when a book has sex scenes in it, it is considered “for females only” or “another Fifty Shades of Grey wannabe”. Das adds that sex scenes tend to dominate the conversation around a book and other important themes and messages are ignored. Another factor is that Indian male authors don’t tend to write about sex. She says,
The unfortunate truth is that male readers mostly prefer to read books written by male authors. This is why many female authors only put their initials on their book covers, like J K Rowling.
If more male authors wrote about it, there would be more sex in Indian literature and maybe that would normalise it!
If you want to write about sex in your literary work, go for it! She strongly advises including sex in Indian literature, especially Indian mythology.
The epics might be very old, but many of the ideas expressed in them are very modern and open-minded. Far, far more open-minded than our conservatives today. I’d encourage authors to explore them without judgement. And be ready for the brickbats when they come.
We’re living in 2020, and it is high time we made sex mainstream. We need to challenge these rigid ideas about sex and stop associating it with shame, promiscuity, vulgarity and stupidity. Sex is empowering and it’s fun and we don’t need to fear it.
Which is the sexiest Indian book you’ve read? Share it with us in the comments below.