One day I saw an intriguing tab open on the computer screen of a close relative and out of sheer curiosity began reading it. That is how I discovered porn. I was 17.
Being a Gujarati medium student throughout, my access to the English language had been mostly limited to school text books till then. So unlike some young people, I had not discovered pornography through English language sites online. Also, before that day, my introduction to the world of sex had been in more indirect ways.
First there were the stories published in the Women’s Special supplement of a Gujarati newspaper. These usually had some ‘masaledaar’ description of a married woman falling in love with an unmarried male member in her neighbourhood. After a full-on escapade, the woman would eventually repent and go back to her husband. Illustrations accompanied the stories – always a couple, heterosexual, cis-gendered – making out or sleeping together. Today these sketches have been replaced by photographs. Poring over these explicit pictures and words, I would wonder whether people actually do all these things, like kissing and ‘sleeping in each other’s arms all night.’ But these pictures didn’t affect me or turn me on. They were there like any other pictures to me.
Then, there were school biology books. Like in many Indian schools, in ours too, sex education was: Chapter 16 of the 10th grade science textbook, reproductive system, and limited to ovaries, ovum-sperms and coitus. There was only one sentence which remotely acknowledged the existence of the clitoris and its exclusive function of providing sexual pleasure to women. That was all the indication I had to understand that sex can be for orgasm and pleasure, not only reproduction. The textbook, full of English words translated to Sanskrit, could not teach me anything more than how the babies are made.
Last but not least, advice columns of Gujarati newspapers. God alone knows who writes the questions but they were all women describing their problems during sex such as vaginal pain, lack of lubrication, inability to conceive and so on. I learned the word ‘Sambhog’ as the Gujarati word for sex through these columns. While reading these queries, my discomfort regarding my gender assigned at birth would surface. I had been gender nonconforming ever since I remember, a sort of “tomboy”– never wanting to be the stereotypically feminine ‘girl’. These columns reinforced my feeling that being a man is easier because men didn’t seem to have any problems when it comes to sexual intercourse either. I had not heard about things like erectile dysfunction, low sperm counts, etc at that point of time in my teenage. I only understood that men also can have issues when I started reading English newspapers and the Sexpert Mahendra Watsa’s column.
In one such column, I chanced upon a reference to the Kamasutra. In my History textbook, I had also read about Khajuraho and the ‘kamuk’ (erotic) sculptures there. So sex advice column, science book and suggestive stories were my spotty sex-education until I found that open tab!
After I found that tab I discovered the world of porn stories in English. One day I thought to do a search for ‘kam kathao’ on Google Gujarati. Kamkathao literally means ‘erotic’ stories from Kamasutra. Weeding through the many sites that popped up, I eventually stumbled onto a story of a daughter-in-law, mother-in-law and their woman help. This was the first Gujarati porn story I read. It was also the first lesbian story I read as well as the first time I encountered the idea of a threesome, of voyeurism as well as the existence of women who have sex with both men and women. The words used were completely new to me; I had heard some of them only as part of cuss words in films once or twice.
I kept reading, one story leading to another, one revelation unfolding another- a whole world of Gujarati porn. I found a comic strip kind of story-series purportedly from the Kamasutra. There was this prince who was going to get married. So, a woman who has expertise in erotic skills, especially how to please a woman is appointed to teach him the art. She ends up falling in unrequited love with the prince. In the same story, a teacher narrates various “Kamasutra stories” including one where three friends, one of them a prince, meet a group of women in the cave. A princess in the women’s group is given the task of checking the potency of these men. The men rise magnificently to the occasion and get to marry a woman they choose from the group. In another story a woman peeps into the bedroom of the king and queen from a hole in the prince’s room, while pleasuring herself.
I read a story situated in the region of Saurashtra-Kathiawad, known for its feudal history and culture, which described the tradition of a king or prince having sex with a virgin on her wedding night. The colours used in this story were bright and gaudy when it comes to dresses because it is a celebration that a virgin is going to be with the person of a royal family. Surprisingly, in this story this act of ‘deflowering’ is seen as honour and even the newly married groom is happy that his wife is going to be with the prince for their ‘suhaagraat’.
One day, I stumbled upon a ‘3D’ comic series in Gujarati. One was about a boyfriend having sex with his girlfriend’s mother. The other story was situated at a farmhouse of some ‘aunty’ who was ‘fucked’ by two young boys in a threesome.
The strange thing or what seemed strange then but not now – was that I didn’t really feel turned on as other people do. I did feel something weirdly wet happening to me by reading onomatopoeic words speaking of women moaning as they reached orgasm. But that was it. Otherwise, my observations were kind of clinical. My mind was looking at the stories as any other stories, and observing things about bodies, gender and caste.
For example, I noticed that the action largely took place in the seclusion of either a palace or a cave. The stories of royal khaandaans glorified the virility and the potency of men, portraying them as hyper masculine muscular figures, skilled in pleasing women; the women were all stereotypically Indian-feminine with big breasts and plump bodies, fair and gaudily dressed. They belonged to a subordinate caste and class, apparent from the dialect used.
For example, look at this story. A man goes to a brothel and he wants to fuck the head sex worker and nobody else. But he is unable to get a real erection all night, leading to some teasing from her. His masculinity is hurt. In the morning, he decides to anally fuck this woman – but to punish her, do so without any lubrication. After a lot of pain on both partners and much hardship, he encourages his penis saying, “My Thakor can now show his power.” Thakor is a dominant Kshatriya caste in Gujarat. This made me understand how caste and masculinity are connected in porn.
I was simultaneously reading Vellamma’s stories in Gujarati and Savita Bhabhi in English. I noticed that Vellamma and Savita Bhabhi create were a different ideal for a sexually ‘desirable’ woman than in Western porn. Not Barbie thin but more voluptuous, and also, older.
But in 3-D comic stories, the women had ‘size zero’ figures and were fancily dressed, living in fancy houses. Sexual interaction took place in drawing rooms or farm-houses. Men, often younger, would be flabbergasted by this wealth and thought bubbles showed them fantasising about a similarly upper-class life.
By now, I had started also reading and watching English porn, but English or Guajarati the feeling was the same: kuchh hota kyun nahi hai mere body me? I was not “feeling wet” as everything I had read and everyone who used to read told me I should.
Then I discovered Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues. It was a revelation for me.
I realised how little I knew my own body, how much I’ve neglected my most admirable parts. I learnt here what I never actually saw in porn or in any other sex-related thing I had read – that there is something called masturbation which women can and do practice. I had only ever read that men, aroused by porn, masturbate. With the help of Vagina Monologues, I explored the parts which can give me pleasure and thought I should read porn again. Maybe now it would turn me on like it did everybody.
I even found a story about a woman who masturbates with brinjal and a cucumber, while fantasizing about herself with a milkman. But to my surprise – maybe disappointment – I felt nothing but for a kind of shock at how such big objects could get into one’s body!
There was another thing. The way I was not feeling anything while watching porn, I did not feel any kind of attraction and sexual desire for anyone either. I never longed for anyone, nor did I ever feel like touching anyone – I was in fact averse to touch.
Then in my first year of college, I got emotionally attached to a much older woman and my peers called it a ‘crush’. During the four years of this one-sided attachment, only once, after four years, did I even feel the need to touch or hug this person. Being averse to touch, a hug is a big thing for me and still I felt like hugging this person! But only for a few minutes. This feeling remained unrequited and then I never felt anything like it again for that person till date. I have not felt romantic attraction for any person till now.
It was during my post-graduation, that I spoke to a friend and she told me about the asexuality spectrum. I could relate to experiences of people who identified as being from the grey spectrum. Which is to say that; I realised that my sexual attraction is fluid like the proportion of white and black in the colour grey. Feeling sexual for somebody depends upon the extent of my emotional attachment to the person. My inability to fantasise made me realise that having or not having sex with a person does not depend on my ‘mood’ but is just lack of sexual attraction towards people because I am not emotionally attached to them.
But, this absence is something which I would not have got to know if I would not have entered Kaamkathao and read porn and basically realised that I analyse it instead of ‘feeling wet’ by it. If I hadn’t read porn, I also might not have learned much English. And I would have felt lonely if I would not have known English because I don’t have a word to describe my sexuality in Gujarati!
And there was another thing I learned. I followed that slight wet, heavy feeling when I read onomatoepic words and discovered this magical word ‘moaning’. I began searching videos, and what I found appealing was audio porn – the sound of moaning. I had felt the same dampness down there when I had seen Eve Ensler’s performance of a masturbating woman. The climactic sounds, moaning and grunting, shouting, hissing and what not, the very struggle of the human body to reach the climax is something which makes my body reach orgasm through masturbation. The struggle to reach the extreme of sexual satisfaction is relatable and often experienced. My ability to masturbate and climax without anybody else’s help is liberating.
Right now I identify as grey/demisexual and queer intersectional feminist who is pro-porn/ anti-censorship on the whole. But thinking how, for all its revelations, much of porn catering mostly to certain types of straight men, leaves out so much about sex, I aspire to write a porn-erotic story which is feminist, queer-inclusive and has minimal emphasis on bodies; because to an extent, porn, like sex and love, is so much in everyone’s unique head!
So, coming soon!
This Qaju (pen-name) likes cashews, books and has a shade of grey in her!